A previously 34 stone woman who shed more than half her body weight told of how she has been left with a six stone apron of excess skin.
Emma Lovell, 35, said her confidence now is even lower than when she was at her heaviest.
Now, despite losing 21 stone, she still has to wear clothes four sizes bigger than her 13 stone frame.
“I have more body issues now than I did when I was big,” said Emma, an administration assistant from Townsville in North Queensland, Australia.
“When I was heavy, I thought I’d never change and that I’d live with that body forever, so I just accepted it.
“Before I was outgoing, but now I’m much more of a recluse. I even feel self-conscious taking my clothes off in front of my partner Douglas Murray, 22.”
Having been big all her life, Emma weighed 28 stone by the time she was 17.
At school, she was teased mercilessly by her classmates, who would follow her through the corridors mooing at her.
The bullying got so bad that she found herself unable to focus during lessons, and had to repeat year 11, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it enabled her to find a new group of friends.
After leaving school, Emma gradually grew more confident.
But however accepting she was of her size, she couldn’t understand why she kept gaining weight.
She said she ate a balanced diet, rarely gorged on junk and got regular exercise by riding her bike everywhere she went.
Then, after repeated visits to doctors, it was discovered she actually had a rare syndrome that meant she was intolerant to carbohydrates – a huge part of her former diet.
It is now believed that this contributed massively to her eventually ballooning to 34 stone.
At her biggest, she made her own clothes so isn’t sure what size she was – although she recalls getting one outfit made in a size 32.
“Even at my heaviest, I still think my diet was varied. I’d often skip breakfast. For lunch I’d have a pie and a can of coke then I’d always make dinner at home.” she explained.
“I never got takeaways. Instead I would make things like vegetable or pasta bakes, lasagnes and stir fries.
“I never went back for seconds or thirds. I genuinely didn’t consider myself a big eater and couldn’t understand why I kept gaining weight.”
After being diagnosed with the intolerance three years ago via a blood test, Emma has now virtually cut carbohydrates out of her diet.
She continued: “Doctors have now told me that my biggest problem wasn’t that I was eating fatty foods, it’s that I was eating carbohydrates without realising I was intolerant to them.
“Had I known this, I would have tried to lose weight naturally rather than having gastric surgery.”
Emma finally decided to do something about her weight when she wanted to start a family with her now ex-husband, but was told by doctors there was no way she could do so at her current size.
From there, she was put on a wait list to undergo a gastric bypass at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
However, it took almost five years before she was able to have the surgery.
Three months before the operation took place, she was called in for a consultation and asked to lose between 10 and 20kg.
So, she “basically stopped eating except for vegetables and shakes.”
As her April 2010 surgery was done using keyhole methods rather than a full operation, recovery time was quick – and the results even quicker.
Within a week, she had shed 11 pounds, and by the time a month had passed, she’d lost just over three stone.
However, shortly after the operation, she began to feel constantly sick.
“I was told to expect some nausea, but I knew this wasn’t right. I couldn’t even keep down water – I just threw everything back up,” she said.
“Eventually, I was rushed back to hospital where they discovered the hole that joins my stomach and intestine had closed over.
“As I’d been so big before, my body could handle the dramatic weight loss otherwise it could have been really dangerous. I was also very dehydrated as only tiny amounts of water had been able to trickle through.”
For the next three months, Emma had to make the trip back to Brisbane every two weeks, where doctors put a balloon down her throat to expand the hole.
The enormity of her weight loss has left her with saggy skin on her arms, stomach and legs.
Currently, she is fundraising for surgery to remove the folds but, as it’s classed as a cosmetic procedure, she must pay for it herself.
In order to help with costs, she has set up a GoFundMe page called ‘weight loss surgery skin fund.’
“My excess skin makes me so self-conscious,” said Emma. “I’ve gotten it trapped in car doors before which is very painful, and can’t even go for a run because it moves and pulls so much.
“Even though I’m technically a size 12/14, I’m wearing size 20 trousers just so my skin isn’t hanging out.
“Skin surgery would help my self esteem dramatically. I could wear something pretty in size that fits me rather than just what covers everything up.”