Here, Vanessa, 29, tells the story in her own words.
B￼eads of anxious sweat trickled down my face and began to saturate my blue scrubs.
With each stride down the hospital corridor, it became more of a struggle to walk. By the time I made it to my next patient’s room, I was completely breathless.‘Um, are you okay?’ the petite young woman asked me from her hospital bed, as her eyes wandered over my enormous frame. ‘How can you be a nurse when you’re so unhealthy?’ she taunted. I could feel the tears welling up behind my eyes as I tried to process the hurt and humiliation. Although I was filled with guilt and shame, the truth is she wasn’t the first patient to make snide remarks about my weight. After all, who would want to be given health advice from someone who was so morbidly obese?
There I was, only in my 20s, and already on the verge of death, as my 152 kilo body struggled to survive. Deep down I knew my weight had spiralled out of control but I was in complete denial about the depths of my fast food addiction. I had always been a bit of a chubby child, but I really started to pile on the kilos once I started working at McDonald’s. Only 18, I needed the extra cash while I trained for my dream job of becoming a nurse.The smell of the greasy burgers and freshly cooked fries was intoxicating and I would graze on the unlimited fast food on my breaks. And I’d always have a large Coke next to me to guzzle throughout my shift.
By the time I graduated, I had ballooned to a mammoth size 26. How could this have happened? I asked myself. The harsh reality of my obesity slapped me hard in the face when I landed my first nursing job.I was so excited to get my uniform so I could proudly wear it on my very first day. But after rushing to the uniform outlet at the hospital, I was met with a blank stare from the lady at the counter. ‘We don’t have scrubs in your size,’ she said coldly. ‘Maybe you can find them online.’
Sitting at my computer later that night, I couldn’t believe I had let myself get so big that I was forced to buy 5XL scrubs. It was a nightmare.I’d tried a few fad diets here and there and lost a few kilos but eventually they always came back. Food was the only thing that made me happy – and I had a relentless desire to just eat more and more. Often, I’d sneak out at night to buy junk food and scoff it all down by myself. There was something about bingeing in private that somehow made it okay. My final wake-up call came when I was forced to wear a seatbelt extension on a plane. I’ll never forget the slender flight attendant struggling to attach it. I’m going to lose this weight – and for good, I thought, feeling mortified. And at 152 kilos, I had a lot of weight to shift.
Joining my local gym was very hard at first because of my size. I only ever walked slowly on the treadmill for about 20 minutes, spoke to no-one and went home. But I never gave up and over time it became easier. I did a total overhaul of my diet and the first thing to go was fast food and fizzy drinks.
It was difficult to go cold turkey, and I missed my comfort foods. But I felt so much better after I began fuelling my body with a healthy diet of lean meats, eggs, vegetables and salads. I worked hard and managed to lose 25 kilos in the first year and even managed to complete an eight kilometre run. People really started to notice what a vibrant and happy person I became when I began losing weight.
Carrying on with my mission, after two years I met a guy called Nick, 32, online. Every time I saw him, he told me I looked beautiful and he made me feel like the prettiest girl in the room. With his support and my determination, the weight kept falling off. ‘Look at how tiny your waist is!’ friends would say. Compliments like that kept me smiling all day.
When I was obese, I felt so ashamed and was embarrassed to talk to people about their diet. But as I slimmed down, I felt better placed to help others, as I know what it’s like. It took me six years to lose 72 kilos. ‘How did you do it?’ I’m often asked. I tell them you just need to believe in yourself and have that fierce determination to want a better life. Now I’m down to a size 12 and 80 kilos and I’ve never felt better about myself. I can finally strut down the hospital corridors and rock my scrubs with confidence!
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!