12 July 2019
Up until her weight-loss surgery, East Grinstead mum Ceely Shakespeare says she spent her life over-compensating for being fat.
"I wore bright clothes and lipstick to distract from my size and was always very loud. I was the funny one, always getting in first with comments and laughing about myself. Fat people are meant to be jolly, right?"
It was a personality trait she developed from an early age, because she "felt different from other children", and perfected as she went through secondary school.
"I felt that I had to work so hard for every friendship, every laugh, always over-compensating to get people’s approval."
It still didn’t prevent bullying remarks about her weight. When her large bust caught the eye of teenage boys at school, girls told her "you only have boobs because you are fat". And comments such as "put the fork down fatty" led to Ceely avoiding eating in public.
"I felt people were looking at me and thinking I was greedy. I would make the excuse that I can’t eat and drink at the same time, so chose not to go out for meals with friends."
At the age of 11 and about to start secondary school, Ceely had to buy a size 14 skirt from a high street retailer as the school shop did not have a uniform skirt to fit her. "I remember feeling pretty devastated."
The weight continued to pile on in her late teens and early 20s. Ceely tried every diet going - the Cambridge diet, the 5:2, the 80:20, Slimming World, even the maple syrup diet, to name a few.
"I would lose a few pounds then gain it all back and more. The diets made me light-headed. I wouldn’t be able to sleep and felt anxious - all because there weren’t enough nutrients going into my body. The diets just made me feel like a loser."
Ceely felt too embarrassed to take part in exercise and even if she had, she couldn’t find sport bras for her 42GG bust.
Her weight was increasingly affecting her health. She slept poorly due to acid reflux and sweated profusely - even during the minimum of exertion.
"I was known for turning up to appointments and socials very early – people didn’t realise it was because I couldn’t rush as it made me really sweaty, so I always left plenty of time to get to venues."
The sweating led to painful abscesses in her arm pits (a condition called hidradenitis suppurativa) and between the ages of 22 and 24, Ceely had to undergo several operations to remove them and have skin grafts.
When her son Harrison was born six years ago she continued to gain weight, foregoing regular mealtimes for constant snacking.
"While I was making Harrison’s dinner, I would eat half a sandwich. I would then eat his leftovers, then cheese and biscuits later. My husband worked away during the week so I would have friends round for wine and crisps in the evenings."
When Ceely inherited a small amount of money in 2017, she decided to have weight loss surgery because "I didn’t want to be fat forever." At that point, she was a size 24-26 and weighed over 20 stone.
Originally she had planned to go to Lithuania to have the operation but pulled out at the eleventh hour as she realised there would be no aftercare. Instead, she decided to have a gastric bypass operation at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley under the care of consultant bariatric surgeon Mr Simon Monkhouse and the weight loss team which includes a specialist bariatric nurse, a psychologist and a dietician.
The operation took place on 15 January 2018 and before the procedure Ceely had given up smoking and had lost 8lbs following a strict two-week pre-op liver reduction diet.
Within a month of her operation, Ceely had lost 1.5 stone and says she started to feel good about herself. Members of the East Grinstead Mums Facebook group asked her how she was losing weight and she decided to be honest about her surgery.
"I am not ashamed to say that I have had it. I had spent my entire life until now always feeling hungry and then feeling angry with myself for eating."
Now a size 12 having lost 10 stone, Ceely is proud of her weight loss – so proud she bravely appeared on BBC’s The Naked Truth series in January talking about her lifelong battle with weight.
She has also become the founder and administrator of a closed Facebook group called Gastric Fantastic where weight loss surgery patients share their highs and lows, advice and recipe tips.
"People think weight loss surgery is easy as you can eat what you want – but you can’t. At first I lost my appetite completely and didn’t enjoy eating. Now I watch what I eat and must avoid sugar as it can make me feel very ill. But the surgery definitely changes your mindset."
Ceely now enjoys cooking from scratch and says it takes her ages to go food shopping because she studies all the nutrition labels, carefully selecting fresh, unprocessed foods and avoiding anything which contains sugar.
She has discovered a love of gardening and, for exercise, joining in boot camps and going running several times a week. She even does her squat exercises while washing up. And she is delighted that she now weighs less than her giant Bergamasco Italian sheep dog, Gio, who she walks daily.
"I couldn’t do what I do now at 20 stone – it would be physically impossible. I feel like I have a spring in my step and the confidence shines through. I don’t have to arrive at social events and be loud - I can just turn up and be Ceely because I feel good on the inside."
Spire Gatwick Park Hospital’s weight loss surgery team includes a surgeon, a bariatric specialist nurse, a psychologist and a dietician and together they assess every patient to see if they can proceed with surgery. The patients are then supported before and after the operation for up to two years, both emotionally and with practical advice. The weight loss team is contactable 24/7 and patients are invited to become lifelong members of the weight loss support group which meets regularly. If you wish to seek advice from our Weight Loss Surgery Team or book a consultation with Mr Monkhouse, please call on 01293 778 906 to find out more.