Abbie Stevens is only 23, but she’s already spent seven years of her life desperately trying to lose weight.
She started trying to shed the pounds when she was just 16 ahead of her school prom, swapping her meals for shakes in what she describes as a “torture” diet.
Since then she’s yo-yo dieted, trying Slimming World, Herbalife and many other plans in a bid to drop a few dress sizes.
Even though she would lose some weight, it would quickly pile back on and she weighed about 16st.
Abbie – a size 18 – admitted she used to eat cornflakes with ‘heaps’ of sugar for breakfast, followed by a Mcdonald’s ‘quick and easy’ lunch and head to the chip shop for dinner.
She would also snack on chocolate, crisps and five cans of coke every day.
Abbie, who is mum to two-year-old Florence, dreaded going on holiday as she avoided bikinis and hated getting up from the sunlounger to get in the pool as she felt people were judging her size.
Unable to lose the weight through the traditional methods, Abbie decided to take drastic action and booked to have gastric sleeve surgery in Turkey for £3,000 in June.
The NHS states that such surgery should only be considered after a long period of trying to lose weight through exercise and diet, and anyone looking into it should contact their doctor first.
She said: “I weighed 15st 13lb before my surgery. I started to put on weight in 2015 – I was in a relationship and was eating and eating without realising.
“Then I fell pregnant in 2017 and was eating throughout my pregnancy. Then I had my daughter and I continued to eat. I was just oblivious and thought I looked okay.
“Unfortunately the relationship I was in was unhealthy too which led to depression and I would eat to block it out.”
Within just two weeks of booking the appointment she was on the plane.
Eight weeks after returning to the UK, Abbie shed nearly three stone and weighs 13st 8lbs and is a size 12/14.
She said: “For years I have struggled with my weight. I’ve done Slimming World, Herbalife and all those liquid diets but nothing worked.
“I looked into weight loss surgery but it was such a long waiting list and also so much money in the UK.
“If you had told me two years ago you can go to Turkey and have surgery I would have laughed and said never in a million years.
“But after a lot of research and speaking to people who had been there I just knew this was for me.”
Abbie used her savings to pay for the op – and said she wouldn’t have been able to afford the operation in the UK due to its hefty £9,000 cost.
She said she ‘couldn’t fault’ the amazing care in and while her keyhole surgery took just one hour to complete – she was back home in the UK in just five days.
Upon arrival Abbie had her bloods taken in preparation for the following day’s pre op tests which included a heart test, ultrasound and an endoscopy.
She said: “I was all gowned up and ready to go – I got on my bed and was taken to theatre – at this point I was worried and nervous.
“Once I got into the theatre room all the surgeons were lovely. My surgeon was already in the theatre waiting for me, I had previously met him the day before so I knew who he was.
“I was put under anaesthetic and the next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room where I spent three hours.
“The following day I did wake up and think “what have I done?” as I felt like I had been run over.’”
Abbie had keyhole surgery which consisted of four tiny holes in her stomach and dissolvable stitches.
After waking up in her room Abbie experienced gas pain – which she was told to expect – in her shoulders and back but found slow walking eased the pain.
She recalled being told that ‘every day and every minute will get better’ and Abbie admitted this rang so true.
However she wasn’t allowed to drink water for 24 hours after surgery so remembers feeling extremely thirsty.
She said: “I was hooked up to an IV drip and after 24 hours, I had to drink blue water for the leak test.
“Three days after my op, I was given apple juice! I can tell you now that was the best drink of my life.
“I was then on my final day in the hospital and still had my drain in, but the following morning the doctor took it out within seconds and I didn’t even feel it.”
Three days after her operation, Abbie was given chicken broth to eat and was advised to have just liquids for two weeks followed by a further two weeks of just pureed food in the UK.
She was on a flight home within 5 days and found the recovery process ‘absolutely fine’.
She is now two months out of surgery and has started eating normal food again – little and often – which she thinks is great as she didn’t know when to stop before.
She now enjoys Ready Brek for breakfast followed by a protein-based lunch and dinner and she has also ditched her cola obsession for sipping water.
Abbie said: “I eventually came to the end of those four intense weeks of making sure I stuck to the food rules then I was able to start introducing normal foods again.
“I can’t eat a lot, but I have to eat little and often which works for me!
“I now weigh 13stone 8lb – which to lose that much weight in 8 weeks is unbelievable. I still have a way to go to my target but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Abbie finally feels confident in the clothes she had stuffed in the back of her wardrobe and she feels comfortable to have photos with her daughter – which she has always wanted to do but previously hated photos when she looked back at them.
She said she has lost weight on her legs, her face and her ‘mum tum’ and has been left so impressed by the results she wishes she had gone to Turkey and had the surgery sooner.
She added: “I was very unhappy with myself before. I had to keep buying bigger clothes which made me feel awful.
“You don’t see results straight away but already after one week I had lost over 13lbs and then the following week another 10lbs dropped off. I just keep losing every week now!
“My family and friends were supportive – they had their concerns – but they knew it was going to make me happy so I had to do it.
“I feel so much more confident now, I go out and I can actually have photos taken which I always avoided before. I never wanted to go out and I hated looking at myself in the mirror.’
However Abbie believes there is still a stigma attached to going abroad for surgery and admits that two years ago, she would have felt the same.
But she is now advocating her experience – and truly believes the care she received was ‘unbelievable’ and ‘unlike anything you would get in the UK.’
She said: “I’m so glad I chose to go to Turkey. If I was to ever have surgery again, I would be straight on that plane back out there.
“I couldn’t fault them one bit as my experience was above and beyond amazing. I’m now two months out, almost 3 stone down and I couldn’t be happier.”
The NHS website states that weightloss surgery should only be considered after the person has tried extremely hard to lose weight through diet and exercise.
It states: “Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric or metabolic surgery, is sometimes used as a treatment for people who are very obese.
“It can lead to significant weight loss and help improve many obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.
“But it’s a major operation and in most cases should only be considered after trying to lose weight through a healthy diet and exercise.”
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