Close siblings have had matching gastric surgery after the brother was so impressed by his little sister’s 9st 8lb weight loss that he booked in for the same £12,000 bariatric operation.
Devoting 60 hours a week to her two jobs as owner of a nail salon and a recovery support worker for adults with addictions, while mum-of-two Donna Carter, 45, had been a “chubby child” her weight sky-rocketed after glandular fever at 21 which she says ruined her metabolism.
A 24st 4lb size 24 at her heaviest, 5ft 10in Donna’s body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight, was nearly double the top of the NHS’s 18.5 to 24.9 recommended range, making her obese.
Donna, of Horley, Surrey, whose support officer brother Jason Smith, 51, was also obese, reaching 24st 3lb at his heaviest, admits she matched her production manager husband Mark Carter’s portion sizes, despite the fact he “could eat anything,” saying: “Surgery became my only option, so I had a gastric bypass in August 2020.”
“Jason and I were both big. I tried to encourage him to do healthier things with me over the years. We got a personal trainer together for a bit but that didn’t last long.
“And I just couldn’t keep the weight off.
“At first, Jason was supportive but wasn’t keen on the whole idea of surgery, so I was shocked when he said he was going for it too.”
Running her Surrey business Perfect Ten Nail Studio as well as doing her recovery work and parenting her children Spencer, 14, and Ruby, 12, with her husband Mark, 49, means Donna is never idle.
But she says glandular fever impacted her health and metabolism for many years after she caught it.
A size 16, weighing 14st 10lb and with a BMI of 29.5 since surgery, she said: “I’d push myself through the working week then collapse at weekends.
“I didn’t have the energy to do anything. But all the while I was just getting bigger.”
Until that point, she felt her height had helped her to carry her weight well.
She said: “When you’re a taller person, even as a child, I’d have people telling me I could carry a bit more weight as I was big-boned.”
But, meeting Mark who “could eat what he wanted” when she was 17 was another killer, as she would match his large portions.
And when glandular fever also took hold, her weight sky rocketed.
She said: “My eating habits didn’t change, but after getting ill I just couldn’t lose any weight no matter what I did.
“I’d go on some dramatic diet, lose 10lb and put 11lb back on. My friends would tell me I didn’t deserve to be so big as I didn’t eat as much as they did.”
Despite going to the gym regularly, Donna’s weight reached its peak in 2019 and she began to investigate bariatric, or weight loss surgery.
She said: “I’m not a nervous person and so started looking at going to have it done in Turkey. It was around £7,000 cheaper than the UK.
“But my mum got wind of it and said she’d rather pay for me to get it done in the UK and be safe.”
With the support of her family and her mum’s financial help, Donna decided to use Simon Monkhouse, a bariatric surgeon based at the Spire Gatwick Park private hospital.
After delays due to the pandemic, she had a £12,000 gastric bypass operation there in August 2020.
Surgical staples are used during the procedure to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach, which is then connected to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach and meaning less food can be consumed.
Donna said: “When I first told Jason, my only sibling, about it he said, ‘I’d never do that. That’s too invasive, too restrictive.’
“Then, having seen how easy it’s all been for me, he suddenly pricked his ears up to the idea of having it himself.”
Donna’s recovery was so good that the surgeon offered her the option to go home the very next day.
She laughed: “Simon came to see me at 7.30am the morning after my op and told me I could go home as my recovery had been so remarkable. But I refused. I said, ‘I’ve paid for two days here. I’m having two days.’
“There was no one in there calling me Mum!”
And, without doing any exercise, she lost 8st in a year, while she is now 9st 8lb lighter.
Following the procedure, Donna can only eat much smaller portions – opting for a kids’ meal or a starter if she eats out.
Her diet previously consisted of toast with butter for breakfast, a sandwich, cereal bar and crisps for lunch, large portions of homemade dinners and snacks such as tea and biscuits or bread throughout the evening.
Since the operation, she focuses on protein and has protein porridge for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch and meals such as a small portion of chilli with no rice for dinner.
She said: “The operation has changed me immeasurably as a person.
“I’m more chilled now. Not as prickly. I’m so much more active with the kids too and have more energy.
“People treat me differently as well. It’s strange. I get more unwanted attention from men, people let me out more at roundabouts. It sounds silly but it’s true.”
Having extolled the virtues of the surgery and transformed before the eyes of her loved ones, Donna said she was still surprised when Jason told her he, too, would be having an identical op with Dr Monkhouse earlier this year.
But she was in a great position to answer any questions and calm any of his fears, saying: “I was glad I could offer support and advice about what he could expect.
“I knew he wouldn’t regret it. It’s the start of a whole new life.”
Jason, who is 6ft, was a size XXXL-XXXXL and reached over 24 st at his heaviest. After a pre-operative diet, he reached 21st 7lb and had a BMI of 42.1 prior to surgery on 8 March. He has already lost 22lb since the operation and now weighs 19st 13lb.
He said: “I think men look at weight issues in a very different way from women. I know that in my case I hadn’t even considered anything like gastric surgery.
“But, hitting 50, doing shift work and having a lack of exercise, I found myself at twice my ideal weight.
“Now I’m four weeks post-surgery and am training every other day. My relationship with food has vastly improved, I don’t ache, I can put a pair of socks on without holding my breath, my balance is better.
“This is the best decision I ever made. I just wish I’d done it sooner!”
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