My sisters are fan-gastric!

We've stuck together through thick and thin...

Published by: Stephanie Buscher and Amy Thompson
Published on: 28th April 2010

Have you ever walked down the street wishing you could disappear? I certainly have.
I’d always been a big girl, I was used to the name-calling and funny looks. But I’d considered myself lucky because I didn’t suffer alone. My sisters Georgina, 38, and Sharon, 30, were hefty, too – both tipping the scales at more than 20st.
As teenagers, we’d gorged on Mum’s hearty dinners and fought over leftovers. Seeing each other pile on the pounds had made it easier to make excuses, though.
‘It’s genetic,’ Georgina always used to say. ‘We’re naturally big.’
And when we’d got pregnant within a few years of each other, that was another excuse for
our expanding tums.
‘All women put on a couple of stone when they’re expecting,’ I’d reassured myself after my son Peter, now nine, was born. My weight spiralled from 16st to 27st.
Besides, my boyfriend Chris was always telling me how much he loved me. My size didn’t bother him. Still, we all know a girl can’t go long without having
a go at the latest fad diet.
And now, with me and my sisters fast approaching our 40s, we were all trying to get one over on old age and shed a few pounds…
‘I’m on the cabbage soup diet,’ Sharon announced one day.
‘Please tell me that’s not what I think it is,’ I chuckled, reaching for a celery stick. I’d just whipped up a salad from my 1,000 low-fat salad recipes book!
‘Yep,’ she said. ‘Nothing but cabbage soup, it’s easy, and the pounds drop off like that.’
She clicked her fingers for effect.
‘Well, good luck,’ I smiled.
Just as I’d suspected, it was only a couple of weeks before the sight of cabbage made her gag. And my salads were wearing thin, too.
I’m not lying though when I say we tried every diet going, even slimming pills prescribed by our doctors. We lost a few pounds to start with, but nothing worked long-term. Then Georgina had the next plan of attack.
‘It’s not about what we’re putting in our mouths,’ she announced. ‘Exercise is the key. We need to stay active.’
So, on yet another crusade to fight the flab, the three of us bought exercise balls – you know the ones, they look like space hoppers, but without the handles?
None of us was confident enough to join a gym, so we thought they’d work instead. We could use the blow-up exercise balls in the comfort of our own homes. It was the perfect solution.
At least, it might have been if hopping up and down on them didn’t make me so dizzy.
‘I’ve decided against the exercise ball,’ Sharon told me a few days after we’d bought them.
‘Did it make you dizzy, too?’ I asked.
‘No…’ she started, quietly. ‘I got a little carried away and bounced on mine too hard. The ruddy thing burst right under me!’
I couldn’t stop laughing!
‘I’m clearly not cut out for exercise,’ she grumbled.
‘You and me both,’ I chuckled. Oh well, we’d tried.
Weighing in at 24st, I talked myself into being happy with the way I was. Fat chance I had of ever getting slim, so why fight it? Okay, I got puffed out climbing the stairs, but I could live with it.
Only… when me and Chris started trying for another baby,
my doctor had bad news.
‘Pauline, your blood pressure is too high, and your weight’s affecting your chances of falling pregnant,’ she said, gently. ‘You stay this big, and it’s unlikely you’ll fall pregnant.’
It felt like a punch in my flabby stomach.
I was used to my weight stopping me from doing certain things – I couldn’t go for long walks or stand for very long – but having a family was what I’d always dreamed of.
I loved having my sisters around, and I wanted Peter to have that bond with a little brother or sister of his own.
Devastated, I turned to Georgina and Sharon for support. I’d expected them to comfort me, tell me it was okay, and at least I’d done my best to shed the weight. Sharon had other ideas, though.
‘I went to my doctor the other day,’ she admitted. ‘I mean, how many 30 year olds do you know who get out of breath bending to tie their shoe laces? He’s referring me for a gastric band.’
‘A gastric band?’ I cried, horrified. ‘Isn’t that dangerous? They chop up your stomach and…’
‘What’s the alternative?’ she sighed. ‘Wait until my weight kills me? Besides, you get a medical check first.’
Me and Georgina stared at her, stunned. ‘Well,’ Georgina began slowly. ‘We’ve tried every other diet together. Why don’t we all go in for this?’
Go under the knife just to lose a few stone? No. But Sharon’s words haunted me: ‘Wait until my weight kills me…’
Our fat was a death sentence. I already had high blood pressure, I couldn’t get pregnant…what else was it doing to me? This wasn’t just about looking good, it was about being healthy.
I thought about how much more I’d be able to do – play in the park with Peter rather than watch, go for walks with Chris… fall pregnant.
‘Okay,’ I nodded. ‘I’m in.’
Me and Georgina had medical checks, too, and we were referred to hospital by our doctors.
We talked for ages about who’d have the op first. What if one of us had it, then the other two chickened out? But when the hospital surgeon called, he had a great idea. ‘We can do all your ops on the same day if you like?’ he offered. Perfect!
In February last year, the three of us were prepared for theatre. ‘Good luck,’ I said to Georgina and Sharon, as I was wheeled in first.
I should have been terrified, but having my sisters there made everything much easier – especially when I woke up from the op, groggily turned my head, and there they were! ‘How are you feeling?’ I asked Georgina.
‘Like someone’s sitting on my chest,’ she winced.
‘The pain’s not as bad as I expected, though,’ Sharon added.
That was true. Instead, the real agony was still to come.
Our stomachs were now the size of a small egg – just a few spoonfuls of food were enough to fill us up. It didn’t stop us having eyes bigger than our bellies, though.
We tried snacking on more food than we needed at first, but it made us sick – there was no way of cheating. As the weeks rolled by, we all noticed a massive change.
‘I’ve lost a stone in a month,’ Sharon told me over the phone. Me and Georgina weren’t far behind. The three of us even plucked up the courage to join a gym!
The transformation was amazing. In just over a year, we’ve each shed about 10st. I dropped from 24st to 13st, Sharon went from 22st to 12st 4lb, and Georgina has shrunk from 21st to 12st 8lb.
We celebrated with new wardrobes, helping each other pick out clothes to show off our new figures. The best part happened a few weeks ago, though – I discovered I was pregnant!
I thought I’d be too fat to ever conceive but, thanks to my fantastic shrinking sisters, the only thing expanding now is my family.

Pauline Johnson, 36, Ashington, West Sussex