Here, Cassandra Sheldon, 27, tells the story in her own words.
T￼ying a sweater around my waist, I shifted uncomfortably in my heavy clothes. Even though it was over 40 degrees in the middle of summer, I was already wearing a baggy T-shirt, jeans and a jacket.
I hope the sweater covers it, I thought, craning my neck to look at my bum.
Tipping the scales at 147 kilos, I was dangerously close to being morbidly obese for my 170cm frame. I had to squeeze my body into a size 24 and I could barely walk to my car in the parking lot without getting puffed.
Even from the age of seven, I’d always been a ‘big girl’. One day, a school friend called me the F-word.
‘You’re fat,’ he said casually, as if he was pointing out the colour of my hair.
My cheeks burned red with embarrassment.
He’s right, I thought sadly. I didn’t look like all the other little girls, with my pudgy cheeks and dimpled thighs.
From then, I yo-yo dieted for years. At 15, I hit my lowest point. Puberty forced me to hate every part of myself, especially my weight.
While I couldn’t resist the temptation of food, I turned to throwing up to try and drop the kilos, sneaking off to the bathroom after meals. It became a daily routine, yet my family had no idea.
Knowing I was bulimic and it was a serious psychiatric illness that I needed to stop, I forced myself to eat normally.
But by my early 20s, I’d slipped back into my bad habit – overeating.
After loading my plate with pasta and garlic bread, I’d creep out for a late-night Macca’s run three times a week. Soon I’d ballooned back to over 140 kilos thanks to binge eating.
Though I hated how I looked, it was easy to pull the wool over my own eyes.
Avoiding mirrors, photographs, changing rooms and even the scales, I could pretend I was okay.
In truth, I was a prisoner inside my own body.
My happy place was in front of a plate of cheesy pasta.
By the age of 26, my heavy frame was causing me severe back pain and I couldn’t sit in my car without my belly hitting the steering wheel.
I visited my doctor, who gave me a stark warning.
‘You’re looking at heart disease and diabetes by your early 30s if you don’t do something now,’ he said.
Haunted by the idea of eating myself into an early grave, I made a vow.
I’m going to lose weight permanently, I told myself, determined.
After trying every diet shake, meal plan and pill under the sun, I felt like I had only one option left.
‘I’d like to book myself in for a gastric sleeve,’ I told my doctor on the next visit.
He looked over my medical history, before agreeing it was a good idea.
After saving money and doing research for two years, I was finally assigned an extreme ‘pre-op’ diet consisting of meal replacement shakes, a tiny amount of protein, and vegies.
In a month, I lost 10 kilos, enough to have the op and was so excited about my new life ahead.
After getting the gastric sleeve, I woke up already feeling like a brand-new woman.
Sipping on soup for the first few weeks, my stomach was slowly able to accept solid foods.
Even though I didn’t have an appetite, I couldn’t shake my ‘fat girl brain’.
Oh I’d love a pasta right now, I daydreamed.
But by following a strict diet and eating less, I lost 20 kilos in less than two months.
It definitely wasn’t the ‘easy way out’ – the diet was a nightmare.
But with the help of a dietitian and exercise, I steadily dropped 1-3 kilos a week, until I reached my goal weight of 75 kilos.
Standing on the scales and seeing that number felt like a dream. I’d dropped an incredible 72 kilos!
A size 10, I could fit into a small or extra-small at the shops. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
‘You’ve lost my entire body weight!’ friends said in awe.
Luckily, I only had a bit of excess skin around my thighs and tummy.
To celebrate, I’m travelling to Bali with my best friend Bonney in July. I’m worried I’ll be stopped at customs, as my passport photo doesn’t even look like me anymore!
Losing half my weight has changed my life. My confidence has soared, I feel healthy and happy, and I don’t sulk in the shadows when strangers look at me.
Deciding to bite the bullet and have surgery was the right decision for me.
There is a stigma around gastric sleeves, but for some people it is the only option.
I wouldn’t change it for the world. Don’t waste your life hating your body.
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