Emma Baldwin, 26, had enough of being a secret eater. It was time to announce on Facebook just how big she really was…
Parking up in a quiet, dark corner of the car park, I switched off my headlights and grabbed the takeaway bag from the passenger seat. Scoffing a creamy chicken korma with a nan bread wasn’t enough – I followed it with a selection of chocolate cakes I’d just bought from the supermarket. But it was okay though, because no one had seen me buy the cakes and no one was seeing me eat them – so it didn’t count, right?
I dropped the evidence of my feast, all the wrappers and plastic cutlery, in a bin in the car park before I headed home. Later that night I sat down for a big dinner with my family as if nothing had happened. I’d always been a curvy girl. I used to take sweets to school and I could easily eat two giant bars of chocolate a day, but it wasn’t until I got my first car age 17 that things started to spiral out of control.
I just loved that I had my own space – somewhere I could eat in secret. My weight crept up. At 5ft 10in, I was soon wearing a size 32 and weighed 23st.
I’d go to a supermarket late at night after my shift working for the National Rail finished. I’d put 12 assorted mini cakes in my basket then think of an excuse as to why I was buying them, just in case the check-out assistant asked. ‘Is it someone’s birthday?’ they asked once. I was ready with my lie: ‘Yes, it’s my mum’s birthday.’ As long as I had an excuse ready, it didn’t matter that the truth was the cakes were all for me.
When I was 21, I went to Cuba with a friend. I spent the entire holiday with a headache, brought on by being so out of shape in such a hot country. On the plane home, the man next to me huffed and rolled his eyes as I sat down. I could tell he thought I was taking up too much of his room.
After we got home, my friend put holiday pictures up on Facebook, tagging me in them. I saw the pictures come up and immediately de-tagged myself. I did not need to be reminded of what I looked like lying on a beach. And besides, I was busy deluding myself that it wasn’t that bad. I may have been a size 32 but I told myself I was a size 16.
A year later, I was beginning to realise how big I was. I didn’t want to eat myself into obesity anymore. I went to the doctor for help. ‘The way you’re going, you’ll need a gastric bypass soon,’ she said. Because I seemed to have no self control, it could be my only option.
‘No, I have to do this myself,’ I said. I had to change my ways, my way.
I was the ‘bubbly’ girl. No one knew how unhappy I really was. Like most of my friends, I only posted pictures on Facebook of the good times – I never uploaded vulnerable pictures, pictures that showed the real me. Pictures of me eating in my car all by myself or hiding wrappers in car park bins. No one knew about that side of me.
I realised I was never going to stick to a diet unless I stopped lying to myself – and everyone else. It was time to tell my world the truth. I had to make myself accountable for every pound. I logged on to Facebook and nervously wrote a status update: I’m 23st. Slightly on the larger side! I’ve set myself the challenge to lose weight and I’ll be updating you regularly on my progress. 23st. How had I let myself get so big? I felt sick as I clicked ‘publish.’
I expected people to tell me I was fat. But the comments were so supportive. ‘You can do it Emma!’ everyone wrote. ‘We are here for you!’ I joined a gym and after printing out my weight on the gym scales, I took a photo of the receipt and posted it on Facebook. ‘A long way to go!’ I said – as friends and family ‘liked’ it and encouraged me. Slowly, sensibly, over the next four years, the weight came off.
I charted every step of my progress on Facebook. If I lost a stone, I’d celebrate it on Facebook. If I put on a few pounds, I’d be honest and admit it on Facebook. ‘I need to refocus!’ I’d say, as the supportive comments came flooding in. I’d take pictures of my dinner on Instagram and post it on Facebook to show how healthy my meal choices were. I’d gone from secret takeaways in my car to a dinner of roast chicken, cottage cheese, peas and avocado.
My average day’s calorie count went from 10,000 to 1500. And I could see why – I used to eat a double sausage egg muffin and a pancake with sausages and two hash browns for breakfast. I’d tell myself I was ordering for two people but I knew the truth. Throughout the day I’d have eaten a giant chocolate bar, a pasta salad, profiteroles, crisps, chocolate cake, Indian takeaway and more chocolate bars.
I ate because I felt guilty and I felt guilty because I ate. Now, I start the day with a bowl of All-Bran and skimmed milk with almonds and raisins. For lunch I have a jacket potato with beans and salad. Dinner is salmon with peas and avocado. I’ll snack on nuts or oatcakes.
I love spin, body pump and body combat classes and attend five a week.I remember buying my first size 18 jeans. ‘I’d like to introduce you to… size 18 SKINNY jeans!’ I posted on Facebook. 21 friends hit ‘like’ and I loved reading 17 encouraging, lovely comments. ‘You really are an advert for hard work paying dividends,’ my friend Chris wrote. You are looking so good Emma. An inspiration to so many of us,’ my friend Tina added.
‘Amazing! This is where I get my motivation from!’ said my friend Alena. The encouragement came streaming in, on every picture. It felt like I wasn’t alone.
Facebook became my lifeline – every time I lost weight I’d put a new picture up and I loved reading the supportive comments. It was such an ego boost and spurred me on. I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to show my friends and family the new me, every week. I knew that if I went quiet, people might think I was back to my old ways – it was an incentive to keep going.
By publicising my weight loss journey, I knew I was less likely to slip up -I had 650 people watching me.
My only problem now is saggy skin on my belly. I knew it was going to happen – it’s a side effect of massive weight loss. I can’t get it removed on the NHS, nor afford private surgery here in the UK, but I am saving up £3500 to have it removed with Secret Surgery
in Poland in March 2014. It’s a lot of money but it’s the final step in my journey. After I’ve had my lose skin removed, I can close the book on that chapter of my life.
I’ve thrown away all my size 32 clothes now – except one xxxl shirt that used to be tight and is now a baggy night dress. I now weight 14st 4lbs and wear a size 16.
I still carry around in my purse, the picture of me on the beach in Cuba. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come. I never would have been able to lose all this weight without my Facebook – every single friend spurred me on.
My car is no longer where I feast. My gym kit lives in the boot and I have snacks like almonds and walnuts there, if I get hungry. The days of stashing five cakes in the back of the car are gone – all thanks to my Facebook diet.
If you are considering surgery abroad and want to chat with Emma or any of our other patients about their personal experiences please contact us.
For more information on any surgical procedures abroad please call 0843 289 4 982 or visit: http://www.secretsurgery.co.uk/
CREDIT: Kim Willis www.phoenixfeatures.co.uk