Saturday March 12 2016

A weight loss journey that called for surgery

BEFORE AND AFTER:  Hadassah Were shed about

BEFORE AND AFTER: Hadassah Were shed about 60kgs. After extreme weight loss through exercise and adjustment in diet, Were needed surgery to tighten sagging skin on some parts. PHOTO BY RACHEL AJWANG. 

By Mathias Wandera

I don’t know about you, but I think plastic surgery is for the daredevils. People who wake up, stare in the mirror and for the first time realise their nose isn’t as pointed as they would wish.

Then they proceed to walk into a surgical room that afternoon to have it re-positioned! Such fearlessness! You have to be a daredevil to fall under a knife in the name of a better-looking nose, firmer breasts, fine-tuned face or more pronounced hips.

But even then, aside from the daredevil spirit, I believe there is more that pushes people to go for these surgical procedures that many might regard extreme. What is it really? Is it, after all, right to say that when your self-esteem goes to the pits, plastic surgery is what you find at the bottom? What motivates people to ignore evident risk and sign up for a face lift, or a nose job? What triggers this thought in the first place and better still, as you make such a decision, what goes through your mind at that moment?

All these and more, are questions I have always desired answers to. So, a few weeks back, when I received notice of a certain lady here in Kampala who had had plastic surgery and was ready and eager to share her story, and even have her face out there, I was thrilled.

Finally, someone would be shading some light on why they would opt for the knife for fuller lips perhaps.

As more details trickled in, however, I soon realised her’s would not be a tale of a mere nose job. Forty-year-old Hadassah Were had not just had surgery to fine-tune her face; she had braved the knife to lose weight, or so we were told.

The kinds of surgeries undergone to lose weight are even more extreme. Liposuction, for example, is a surgery with which the body is rid of unwanted fat from areas such as the abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms and chin.

Surgery to lose weight comes off like a short-cut for people who are simply lazy, or medically unable to lose weight the natural hard way and would rather go to the theatre and be done with it already. So why did Were decide to lose weight by surgery? That is a question we hoped she would answer.

A small twist
It turned out Were had surgery alright, but it was not to lose the weight. It only came as a final stage to an immensely successful weight-loss journey, one she is not only proud of but presently inspired to share with others too.

On the morning we get to meet, Were seems to be in high spirits. There is a certain jubilant spirit about her, perhaps a result of the joy and pride she draws from her weight loss success story that she intends to share with us.

The light-skinned mother of six could easily lie about her age and get away with it. This is one of the benefits you get from living a healthy lifestyle, such as Were’s.

“I’m on a strictly-protein diet. I work out often and take lots of water,” she says, a glass of water in hand. “I take between two to three litres of water a day. There is always a bottle of water in my car.”

At 85kgs, she seems and actually looks to be in perfect shape. And much as she says her dream is to hit 75kgs, a feat she is yet to attain, Were is happy and proud of her present success. “At one time I weighed 145kgs!”

That was the heaviest mark she remembers hitting on the scale. And if you do the math, you realise that to come to her present weight, Were has had to shade off a staggering 60kgs!

A long and tiring journey
Were’s weight issues did not crop up yesterday. Jogging her memory, she remembers first gaining weight around 2000, shortly after having her first born. She did not work on cutting that weight, or bother to do so. Then came her second born, and more weight. And just like that, her place on the weighing scale went awfully past the ordinary.

“I was careless!” she notes, sighting her eating habits then and her lack of the zeal to do anything about her escalating body weight. “I would have breakfast at 11am because I would wake up late, having slept at around 1am in the night, watching movies and snacking on junk!”

All her meals, which she confesses were many and spontaneous, were never made up of the usual food such as matooke and beans. She preferred the fried and sugary foods. “It was always pizza, sausages, cakes, fries and other foods in that range.”

Food, as she puts it, was some sort of addiction, although she did not seem to realise it then. She did not freak out about her abnormal weight, not even when family and friends continuously waved the red flag.

Her husband had continuously paid gym membership for her, hoping it would help her cut the weight. And true to his wishes, she would attend the gym sessions but with no success.

“You see, gym alone does not help. In a weight loss journey, gym and general workout contributes only 20 per cent. The other 80 per cent comes from your food choices when shopping and what comes out of your kitchen. If you consume 1,500 calories at breakfast, another 1,500 at lunch and more for supper, but only work out to burn 100 calories, there is no work done.”

Serious red flags
Just like that, her weight only got worse, and it never bothered her at all. She had started getting trouble walking. She had breathing problems, constant headaches, trouble sleeping and even life-threatening breathing complications and a risk of becoming diabetic.

But none of that got to her. “I also had self-esteem issues. Nonetheless, none of that pushed me to do anything to change that. I would lay out weight loss as a resolution every year, only to fail at it, repeatedly.”

The turning point
On May 6, 2013, which is one of her sons’ birthday, Were had gone to Agha Khan school, her son’s school to drop off his birthday cake. There was a school function where other parents were in attendance. Parents, including Were, were ushered in and given seats. Unknown to her though, Were’s weight was beyond what the availed seat could hold. And moments after she had rested her body into the seat, the plastic chair broke!
“It was a very embarrassing moment, not really for me but for my 12-year-old son. I remember looking at his face when other children were choking with laughter and realising how embarrassed he was. Teachers tried helping me up but they were also just falling. I was embarrassed for my son. That is when I made the decision that I was going to lose the weight, not just for me but for him. I wanted to make my son proud,” narrates Were.

The winning formula
True to herself, she embarked on a fully-fledged weight loss journey starting August 2013. She had earlier read a certain article in a local magazine about Avane, a Cosmetic clinic and Medispa in Kololo, which among many services, offers professional weight-loss advice and guidance. Following her decision to lose weight, she approached them for help. There, she was educated about the kind of diet and workout sessions that have seen her shed off the weight.
“The procedure is basically hinged on diet. They put me off all forms of carbohydrates and I turned to a protein diet of mainly vegetables and fruits and also adjusted my eating time,” Were says.

She also embarked on a vigorous workout experience, joining Andex Gym in Kiwatula in search of an aggressive workout.

“We would lift jerricans and tyres, jog, and do squats and boxing. I even joined a running group at the gym where we run every Saturday morning starting around 5.30am between Naalya and Namboole, to and fro.”

By the end of August, after just one month, Were had lost eight kilogrammes. She went ahead to lose five kilogrammes for each of the two subsequent months. “I was a success story already. After three months, I had lost 18kgs! And that was just the beginning. I have not looked back since.”

Body contouring surgery
Following her extreme weight loss, there was sagging skin on her arms and tummy. Per the advice of her doctor at Avane Clinic, Were agreed to undergo surgery to have the extra skin removed. She began with the arm reduction surgery in September last year, then a tummy tuck in October. “The surgery did not bring any complications. I was not scared because I trusted the medical team in charge. Of course there was the pain that followed, but it did not last long. By around the 5th week I was on steady recovery. And I love the result,” narrates Were. Both surgeries cost her $2,500, an amount she says was subsidised.

Life with a new body
Today, Were is a self-appointed weight loss ambassador. She is always engaging young women on the significance of a healthy lifestyle. “I share my story with many and inspire them to make some changes. You do not have to wait for your weight to get out of hand. My message is for people to start living healthy right now.

Eat right and work out. That is what it takes.”
And for those that are already over-weight, Were believes they can always lose the weight. “You just have to begin the journey and have the right discipline. Also, have the right support system.

“For my case, my husband and children were very supportive, which was important for me. I also had motivation. I wanted to make my son proud and that pushed me forward,” shares Were.

The truth about weight gain
Often, there are people who gain weight only to swear they do not know where it is coming from.

But Dr Chiraag Kotecha, a medical director and aesthetician at Avane Medica Clinique and Medispa insists there is no rocket science to this.

“Weight gain is basically about the calorie intake. The moment you take in more calories than you burn off, the extra calories will eventually translate into more body weight. However, in some cases, genetics play a role.” Dr Kotecha explains.

The body has a hormone called leptin which is produced by our fat cells. Due to poor eating and general lifestyle habits, this leptin does not work properly and cannot control the fat accumulation in the body.

“That is why when someone is over-weight, we usually supplement the leptin in their body by introducing more leptin through injections.”

Dr Kotecha advises that people start working out and turn to the right diet if they are to shade off weight.
“Eat more of proteins and work out more. Also, it is bad to eat beyond 9pm in the night. Always make sure there is a space of at least two hours between your last meal and the time you go to bed. If you eat and go to bed immediately, the body will not burn those calories and they will only turn into fat.”

From Dr Kotecha’s experience, women usually lose an average of 5kgs a month, and men tend to lose twice that. “The breast and the hips are the hardest places to lose weight, which is why women lose less.”

The weight loss advice and guidance services by Avane Clinic go for Shs1.5m per month and usually run for three months.