Hypothyroidism Sufferer Says Gastric Surgery Dropped 16 Clothing Sizes
Two years ago, the trajectory of Orla Ní Eochagain’s life changed forever.
fter enduring the heartbreaking loss of a loved one, the 30-year-old has embarked on a path to health and wellness.
In eight months, she would lose 11 and a half stones.
“I have never felt better physically and mentally in my entire life,” reveals the Dubliner who underwent bariatric surgery last year.
“I’m incredibly proud of my old self because she was the one who made the decision and she was the one who persisted. I always call her another person because she was the one who endured the hard times – it’s very hard to be overweight because people are watching and commenting.”
Suffering from severe hypothyroidism, a condition that can increase the risk of obesity, the dedicated teacher struggled with her weight for years, despite living an active and healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve had hypothyroidism since I was 11. The doctors said it was one of the worst cases they’ve ever seen. My siblings are all thin, but I’ve always been more heavy – I was the most outlier.
“Two and a half years ago someone very close to me died. When she died I went to my GP to have my blood pressure checked and I started crying. She told me “Can you please take time off next week?” Do something you enjoy and relax.
“I decided to join the Westwood gym. That was two and a half years ago and I have been going to the gym four to five days a week every day since. I also made the decision to quit smoking and drinking. I made all these amazing lifestyle changes, but I still wasn’t losing weight.
“A year ago my sister who is an anesthetist said to me, ‘You are so healthy and doing a great job, but would you think about surgery?’
“She was extremely kind because it’s obviously a very sensitive subject to discuss with someone.
“I said ‘no’ and two minutes later I asked ‘What would that entail?'”
Having embarked on gastric sleeve surgery at the private Mater Hospital in Dublin, with a team of specialists including a dietician, endocrinologist, psychologist and pulmonologist, the operation exceeded d ‘Orla.
“My medical team expected to lose five stones in two years, so for me to lose 11 and a half stones in eight months was indescribable,” she says.
But for anyone who thinks surgery is a quick fix, think again.
“It’s not an easy option,” warns Orla. “There is no easy option. There is a sacrifice to be made, but it is worth it.
“I found the two-week pre-op diet which is designed to shrink your liver before surgery to be very difficult. I had to cut out every bit of sugar, even the sugar in fruits and carbs. I lost 30 books.
“It’s keyhole surgery so they came in and removed 80-85pc of my stomach. I had two weeks on just liquid and two weeks after that on a mash diet.”
A fortnight later, the fitness fanatic, who continues to share her journey through her social networks (@onieochagain), was back at work.
“All of my co-workers were so supportive and kind,” she recalls. “I remember I was in the staff room and a girl had a pizza and she said, ‘Orla, I’m so sorry, do you want me to eat that somewhere else?
“I switched to soft foods, then after talking to the experts about my nutritional needs, I now have a regular diet.”
Having just turned 30, Orla describes her mental and physical metamorphosis.
“It has completely changed my life. I have never bought more clothes in my life, I celebrated my 30th birthday this month and I never wanted to take more full-length photos.
“Sometimes I look at myself and say, ‘Who is that?’ I lost 16 dress sizes.
Speaking about society’s pervasive fat phobia, Orla hopes people will unlearn their prejudice against people living in larger bodies.
“Before, it was really hard to have people staring at you everywhere you went,” she admits now.
“I went to eat and had strangers next to me commenting on what I was eating.
“Maybe it made me resistant, but something that frustrated me was the perception that I was lazy. I’m the busiest woman in the world. I never stop. The lazy narrative has to be stop now.”
Highlighting research that has confirmed that a person’s height is not an indicator of their overall health, Orla adds, “I would go for blood tests before I lost weight and they would come back just fine.
“My blood pressure was high, but I was living a healthy lifestyle and going to the gym all the time. I walked the women’s mini-marathon.”
Since losing weight, Orla is still discovering her new body.
“It was like I was carrying an extra person,” she explains. “I used to take two pills for blood pressure and now I take absolutely nothing. It’s been huge.”
The surgery costs upwards of €13,000 with more competitive rates available overseas.
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