WEIGHING 20st, Amy Harris’s weight was taking its toll on her health as she struggled to walk under her bulk.
But despite this, the 35-year-old couldn’t help herself when it came to her favourite takeaway, ordering McDonald’s four times a week, which included two burgers, nuggets and chips every time.
At a size 28, the development adviser was eating 3,000 calories a day and was desperate to lose weight.
But every diet Amy tried, she would succumb and pile on even more pounds.
Amy says she had often considered weight loss surgery, but knew she couldn't foot the bill.
So when Amy, from Manchester, came across a competition on Instagram to win bariatric surgery worth £11,500 at a private London clinic, she didn't hesitate to enter,
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And she was shocked when in December 2021, Amy, who had always been a “bigger girl”, was selected as the winner – and just weeks later in she was going under the knife having a gastric bypass.
The results have been life-changing, with Amy losing nine stone in 10 months and now wearing a size 10.
Amy said: “Winning that competition was the best Christmas present I could ever receive. Losing weight has changed my life.
“Christmas this year marks two years since I won my new body and I can’t wait to show it off in a gorgeous sparkly number.
“This year, I’ll enjoy a Christmas dinner – but on a much smaller scale!”
Slim fast in the school yard
Growing up, Amy had always been bigger than her friends.
At 14 in 2002, she started drinking SlimFast shakes in the playground to lose a few pounds.
By 17, she was buying her school uniform in the plus size section.
At college she would binge on KFC or chips and gravy at lunchtime, McDonald’s on the way home and pizza for dinner.
She tried diets but would only last three days before gorging herself to sickness because she felt like she needed an adrenaline rush from food.
She said: “The more I was told to avoid sweet treats and junk food, the more I rebelled and reached for it.
“Food was my comfort for every emotion – happiness, sadness, anger and grief.
“At 19, I started a desk job in May 2007 and everything went downhill.
“I’d eat breakfast butties every morning, chippy dinners at lunchtime as well as crisps, cakes, chocolates and picky bits then I’d go home and eat junk food for dinner.
“Within three months I went from a size 14 to a 16.
“I tried Slimming World, Calorie Counting, PT sessions, Weight Watchers and the Cambridge Diet but nothing worked.
“And if I lost the smallest amount of weight, I’d celebrate with a Chinese.”
Amy met her husband Chris, 51, a car parts delivery driver, when she was 22 in 2010 and a size 16 after being introduced by work friends.
By the time they got married in October 2017, Amy weighed 16st, and wore a size 18/20 wedding dress. Chris said he loved her regardless of her size.
She said: “I’m only 5ft 3 but weighed 20st 7lbs.
“I’d buy a packet of chocolate biscuits from the corner shop every day and I’d order a McDonald’s delivery four times a week – I’d eat a meal that would feed three people.
“My go-to order was a McChicken Sandwich with large fries, chicken nuggets and a hamburger. I’d bury the wrappers at the bottom of the bin so Chris wouldn’t find out.
“When he got home, I’d eat dinner with him, typically a spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread. Then we’d sit in front of the TV eating sweets and crisps.”
Amy’s weight began to cause pains in her joints and she suffered with breathlessness.
Christmas this year marks two years since I won my new body and I can’t wait to show it off!
In June 2019, when she was 31, her GP explained that her BMI was over 50 – a healthy BMI is 25 – and she was on the verge of type 2 diabetes. He urged her to lose weight.
Amy said: “I’d tried and failed at dieting in the past, so I searched online for weight-loss surgery and came across a clinic called Tonic Surgery.
“They offered a gastric sleeve, where a large portion of the stomach is removed so you feel fuller sooner. But it would cost £11,500, which I would never have been able to afford.
“I tried dieting again, but I had no will power. I felt really low and had no confidence.”
When lockdown hit in 2020, Amy spiralled into depression and only got joy from eating.
She ordered more takeaways because she couldn’t be bothered to cook and after dinner, she’d indulge in share-size bags of crisps and sweets. Before she knew it she was 20st 7lbs.
She said: “Lockdown was the start of my secret eating – Chris and I would go grocery shopping but what he didn’t know was I was ordering McDonald’s four times a week, and munching my way through chocolate digestives every day.
“Dinner alone was 2,000 calories – pizza, chips, big portions of pasta with cheese, a pork pie or a high-calorie takeaway and my health started to suffer – joint pain, bad posture, breathlessness and trouble walking – became the norm.”
In September 2021, Amy checked back on the Instagram page of the clinic she had found online, and saw it was running a competition for their ‘Giving Back Lives Award’.
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She explained: “The prize was life changing weight-loss surgery. I thought about how that would make the most perfect Christmas gift – it’s certainly all I wanted.
“To apply, you had to tell them why you needed surgery. I entered on a whim, writing a few paragraphs about how this was my last chance. I didn’t tell a soul I’d entered.
“I said that every emotion I felt, I ate for it, and I needed to change. I said I needed to do this for me, to finally feel good about myself and improve my health.
“All I wanted was to walk into a room and not be ‘the fat one’ and to sit at the table and be able to cross my legs.”
A month later, the clinic revealed they would be announcing the winner live on Instagram so Amy tuned in and was shocked to find out she’d won.
For two weeks before her gastric sleeve surgery in December 2021, she went on a pre-liver diet which took her from 20st 5lbs to 19st.
She said: “Within a week, the clinic had assigned me a psychotherapist for my emotional struggles and a dietician advised me on a healthy diet for after the surgery.
“I had my consultation two weeks after winning and speaking to the doctor was like 30 years of therapy.
“He made me understand that obesity is a disease and it’s not as easy as having willpower or moving more and eating less. Within 10 days, my date for surgery was booked.
“The clinic’s consultant recommended gastric sleeve surgery as the best option for me.”
Her surgery was booked for 23 December 2021 at Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle.
Her operation took 40 minutes and she was home recovering the following day.
She said: “I wasn’t worried, the operation felt like a fresh start. The last thing I remember is joking about how it would be a different Christmas as I drifted off.
“I woke up from the op and felt sore but fine. After a day in hospital, I was discharged and returned home, feeling as though I’d done a serious tummy workout!
“In the days that followed, including Christmas Day, I traded my turkey for diluted fruit juice, Christmas pudding for protein shakes and sprouts for soup.
“A few days later, I moved onto pureed food and then soft food, before introducing normal foods back into my diet. I ate five or six small meals a day and the weight fell off.
“Within 10 months, I’d lost nearly 9st. I exercised three times a week, and my energy levels soared.”
Amy said the award has given her back her life and nothing is off limits.
Her first ever size 10 purchase was for her work’s Christmas party last year – the smallest clothes size she’s ever been able to buy.
She now eats five or six small meals a day including a protein shake for breakfast followed by a mid-morning snack of fruit or a handful of nuts. She enjoys a chicken salad at lunch, a meal from the Gousto website for dinner and a protein yoghurt in the early evening.
She has so much more confidence – never wears black anymore – and loves shopping for new clothes including little skirts and lots of bright colours.
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She’s learned about the ‘new Amy’ and doesn’t feel the need to be super loud like she used to.
She’s gone from a size 28 to a size 10. She’s half the woman she used to be – with double the confidence and she shares her journey online with her Instagram followers.
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