'I'm 23 and I'm considering weight loss surgery. This is what I want you to know.'

Listen to this story being read by Shannen Findlay, here.

If you had asked the 10-year-old version of me how I imagined myself to be in my 20s, I would have used three words. 

Pretty. Successful. Thin. 

If you had asked 16-year-old me the same question, the answer would have been much the same. 

But if you ask me now - at 23 - what I imagine for my future, I have just one word for you. 


Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Story continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

To my friends, I am doing well. I have the type of job that makes me excited to go to work. My parents are mostly proud of me. I live in the city. I'm independent. I'm still young and fun and I am, in many ways, happy. 

But I am not healthy. That simple fact keeps me awake at night. Not the back pain, or unrelenting insomnia (which also happens to be health-related), but the fear that I might not get to live the best life imaginable since I am not healthy. 


I used to dream of travelling the world when I was a kid. I imagined I'd be able to run. Far and forever. I'd swim when I felt like it, send selfies to my mum on top of large mountains and I'd ride on the back of a stranger's moped because I could afford to be stupid.

Maybe I'd be broke, but my god I'd be happy. Maybe I'd be a "failure", but my cup would be full. 

Read more: 'I walked into a shopping centre as a size 26. There was nothing for me to buy.'

Based on looks, people have already made too many assumptions about me. But my health realisation didn’t dawn on me until I looked through my medical records. I had done some blood tests, and the information was there. In the middle of a random paragraph, far down on the page. I probably would have missed it if I hadn't been reading carefully.

"She has arthritis, brought on by weight... she has been overweight for many years."

The moments after reading that are too blurry to recall. I can't articulate in perfect clarity what came over me, but I do know that when I went to bed that night, I cried enough tears to wash away any delusions I'd ever had about my health.


I was basically born fat. At first, it was cute, and then it was unsettling. Eventually, the creased furrow in my mum’s brow stayed unmoving whenever she looked at me. She was worried. 

By my mid-teen years, I was all thighs and belly. I didn't move as quickly as I used to as a kid. If there was an option to stay home, I took it. I liked photos where I could hide behind my thin friends. I was loud to divert attention away from a body I had fed with bad food and even more vitriol.


Every diet was one failure after another. Nothing worked, no matter how many times we reinvented the sad-looking salads on my plate as a 'lifestyle change'. My father’s futile attempts to get me to the gym at 3:30 every morning worked - for a few months. 

One kilo lost would just mean three gained down the road. That road was lonely. Inexplicably, desperately lonely.

Image: Supplied.


A movement was happening though. One where women as big and bigger than me posed in bikinis and dared the haters to try to hurt them. One where fat women asked to be looked at and welcomed the attention. 

I developed a fondness for my body not many could really understand unless they are fat too. I started to like the softness and the tenderness. I liked how my body looked in the mirror and how I smiled with my whole face. My breasts, my stomach, my legs - it was good, great even. 

I started to relish being in photos and would ask my friends to take as many as possible. I shared pictures of me showing my full body. I had a confidence that was unparalleled to the child that could only walk if she was looking down at her shoes.

I owe my life, my mental health and every good feeling I have about myself to the body positivity movement.

But then I gained more weight. I wasn’t just a big girl anymore; I was the biggest in any room. People noticed that I needed a chair without sides at restaurants. Kids pointed me out in crowds. Mums shook their heads with disapproval. My family watched with big eyes whenever I entered the room. There was no missing me. 

Walking became harder. So did dancing and even sitting for long periods of time. So did talking while standing and brushing my hair when it was particularly knotted. My brain became foggier. Staying focused became extremely difficult. Being good at my job depended on whether I’d fallen asleep on my back or my stomach. Being kind to my best friend depended on what part of my body was hurting that day.


My sister saw it through FaceTime calls. She’d see me stand up and sit down and try not to mention how out of breath I was. My best friend watched me cry when my wardrobe became too tight and cried with me.

My mum though: she got me. She commented on my size, with a tenderness that made me furious. She would ask what I had eaten that day, if there had been some colour on my plate. 

Then she offered to pay for a weight loss surgery consultation. It would be easy, she told me. I’d just have to show up. 

She offered, again and again, until it was no longer an option. She was booking my sister a flight to see me and she was taking me to visit a specialist. Whether I liked it or not. 

The doctor was kind enough. He asked questions he already knew the answers to. How far I walked, what difficulties I had, if it hurt to move, if I am okay. 

It hurts to walk, doctor, I told him. 

I can’t breathe sometimes, doctor. 

No doctor, I don’t think I’m okay anymore. 

Just to be clear, I love my body still. It’s still beautiful to me. I still feel attractive. People still love me, I am still valuable. Reader, do not mistake this for an anti-fat story. If I am healthy by the end of this journey - and still fat - that won’t be an issue for me. 


Because when I was younger, thin was the goal. A boyfriend with a six-pack was the goal too. So was being rich and unemployed. I had a lot of futile ideas about what 'success' looked like, but not anymore. 

Success to me now looks like someone who is getting the job done, somehow. Someone who is happy often enough. Someone who is trying their hardest to be better most days. Sometimes we can’t always be successful, but I think trying is good enough too. 

The surgery hasn’t been scheduled yet. Everyone’s a little strapped for cash. But it's coming, and I am preparing. 

There are so many more knobbly details to mull over. So many foods I have to stop eating, so many nights of binge drinking I have to start saying no to. So many things to do with a timeline that feels impossibly short.

In all honesty, I don't know if I'll be okay when all of this is over. I wish I had an ending to this story that would leave you, the reader, a little more satisfied. I wish there was an ending that would leave me a little more satisfied.

The only thing I do know for sure is that wherever I end up, in whatever body I'm in, I did try, and I am still, above all else, trying.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Do you have kids with allergies or hay fever? Complete this survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.