WHEN her doctor first warned she needed to be put on a diet, Kathryn Rogers was just four.
It turned out to be the first of hundreds she would try – and fail at – before scraping together a small fortune to pay for radical stomach surgery.
“My mum and I were always overweight, my dad and sister Sue always slim; I grew up fighting fat,” says the 51-year-old from Firth Park.
“That first diet didn’t last long because mum felt she was being cruel. I went on my second at the age of 12 when I realised how much I hated the way I looked. I ended up bulimic and addicted to laxatives for a year in my early 20s. I binged and starved, binged and starved.
“Mum called the doctor and he told me I would kill myself if I carried on. That was the extent of the support you got for eating disorders in those days.”
As Kathryn’s career grew from care assistant to council office worker and eventually fully-fledged social worker, so did her size.
Her health began to suffer; she developed severe endometriosis and when she started hormone treatment, she ballooned more.
She ended classified as morbidly obese and trying desperately to squeeze herself into a gigantic yet too small pair of size 30 trousers.
She needed a hysterectomy but surgeons said an operation was too risky.
Kathryn decided the answer was to find £10,500 to pay for gastric surgery.
“I took out a loan and had my stomach stapled at Sheffield’s private hospital, Thornbury, eight years ago. I went into the operating theatre with no fear; I couldn’t wait for my life to change,” she says. “I was convinced all my problems were over; it was going to cure me of my over-eating and make me slim forever.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though; there was a life-threatening complication while she was still in hospital. Blood was leaking into her bowel because a staple had failed.
“I could feel my life draining away from me, but another operation put things right and I went home and lost eight stones in six months,” she says. “I was ecstatic, even though I was sick every day and my hair was falling out because on the 300 calories a day I could manage to keep down, there weren’t enough nutrients. For the first time in my life I was losing lots of weight.”
The rapid weight loss gave her gallstones and she needed keyhole surgery, but within two years she was a size 10.
She had stretched her stomach enough to be able to eat normal-sized meals, settled at a size 12 and kept trim by walking the dog and going to the gym three times a week.
For two years, she says, life was great. She looked how she had always wanted to and treated herself to beautiful new clothes,
“Like so many people, I thought it as the quick fix – and the op will prevent you from ever eating like you did before. But it’s not. The operation deals with your stomach but not your head; it doesn’t solve any of the deep-rooted emotional issues and food habits you have. That’s down to you.”
Kathryn thought she had dealt with her own bad eating habits and compulsions. She had worked out that over-eating, plus her cravings for sweet and carb-laden foods, had given her a comforting high for as long as she could remember. And that high is something she describes as almost addictive.
But it was back to those comforting, indulgent foods she turned when, after taking redundancy form her job with Rotherham Council’s Social Services, she took a post in Wales. It meant living away from home in the week and a long commute by car.
She says: “It was a hard time. I felt tired and lonely, away from home and my husband Allan. I started eating to cheer myself up. I had sweets in the car to help the journey pass. The office always had a supply of cakes and biscuits and I’d dig in. And after a long day I’d go back to my little flat and treat myself with fattening foods.
“My size 12 clothes began to feel tight; so did size 14s and then 16s. When I was back in a size 18 pair of trousers I fell into this spiral of self-despair.
“I could see my size 32 trousers looming and I felt so much shame and guilt. I’d paid all that money for the operation. I’d gone through so much, and I’d ruined it all by stuffing food into my mouth. I was disgusted with myself and felt a total failure.”
As she got depressed about her size, she ate more. She no longer went to the gym; she felt too embarrassed to wear her gym gear. Her appearance changed; she started buying cheap clothes, telling herself it wasn’t worth buying nice ones.
“New Year’s Eve 2011 was the big kick up the backside: I looked at myself in my dowager duchess evening dress and I knew I had to sort myself out or go back to the size I was. I had some hypnosis to help me focus and I analysed why I was over-eating. I tried to listen to what my body – and the stomach staples – were telling me.”
She made changes to her working life, went back to the gym, cut down the size of her meals, had big, healthy breakfasts and substituted bad snacks for frozen raspberries and a handful of almonds.
Slowly but surely, the weight went. “It’s hard for very overweight people to believe that small changes will make any difference, but they do,” she says.
Kathryn s looking for a dozen local people willing to change their weight and their lives. She is offering them the chance to enlist for free to her first Reshape Your Life seven-step programme.
She needs 12 volunteers to take part in the launch. Participants must have two or more stones to lose and be willing to be photographed and interviewed.
They will need to be available to attend three group meetings in 90 days – at the Garrison Hotel, 9.30am to 12pm on Saturday February 9, March 16 and May 11. Contact Kathryn on 0114 2420724 or 0772 7086770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org