Walking into the community hall, I wasn’t holding out much hope. I’d gone there to join Slimming World, but I was sure the medication I took meant I’d never lose weight. As I chatted to the Consultant, Jenny, she reassured me that there were ways around the comfort eating that I felt so powerless to stop. ‘Anyone can lose weight with the right support,’ she smiled, ‘and I promise you’ll find out if you try...’
As a child, I’d been fit and healthy, then everything changed after my dad died when I was nine. My personality began to alter and my behaviour became erratic – then I began self-harming. Mum took me back and forth to the doctors then, when I was 16, I tried to jump out of a window. Thankfully, Mum was there to stop me and, after a psychological assessment, I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and placed in a specialised unit where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Although I was now getting the help I needed, the diagnosis came as a huge shock. I was living in a hospital, coping with a lifelong disorder that, without treatment, can in some cases lead to psychotic episodes. Food became my comfort and I ate whatever I could find: buttered toast, cakes, crisps...
I’d been a size 8 when I was admitted, and when I went home six months later, I barely fitted into a size 24.
I’d been told the medication I’d been prescribed had links to overeating, so I believed my insatiable, compulsive appetite was something I just had to accept. I started college and went out with my friends, determined to try and get my life back. But I was so desperate to lose weight, at one point I stopped taking my medication. It was during that unsettled time that I met my future husband, Charle. The hardest moment was telling him that my medication meant I couldn’t have children, as it could cause severe abnormalities in babies. Charle assured me it didn’t matter, he was just happy we were together.
After we got engaged, I stopped taking my medication again in a bid to be a slim bride, which led to an episode where I threw the bathroom scales out of the window and began shouting at strangers. I started taking my tablets again, and by the time Charle and I got married in Turkey, I was in a better place. I went back to work at a coffee shop, often having cooked breakfasts and cakes. As I got bigger, I was sure it was down to my medication, not realising there were other, healthier ways to satisfy my appetite.
Then, in 2008, during a check-up, my doctor asked: ‘Are you thinking about having children?’. ‘I thought I couldn’t,’ I replied. He explained he could gradually swap my medication to one that would allow a safe and viable pregnancy. I was overjoyed when I fell pregnant, then I had two miscarriages within months of one another. And, just like I always had, I turned to food for comfort, until four years later, when our first son, Ahmet-Zeki, was born.
When our next son, Diddy, came along, then our daughter, Meryem-Esra, we felt so blessed. But my health wasn’t at its best – with each pregnancy, I’d get gestational diabetes, and now I often felt out of breath and overheated. Then, when Ahmet-Zeki was four, he ran out of the school gates over to me and innocently asked if I was ‘fat’. As we’d never used that word at home, I was worried his classmates had commented on my size. My mind was made up. I was going to lose weight, and not by risking my mental health.
Mum agreed to join Slimming World with me, keen to lose a couple of stones herself. After a week of satisfying my appetite with meals such as pasta bolognese, made with lean mince and lots of veg, I’d lost 5lbs. That was concrete proof that I could lose weight on my medication – and week after week, the numbers on the scales continued to drop and my self-esteem grew. I gradually felt like I could make positive changes to all areas of my life. There were weeks when I slipped back to my old habits – if the children hadn’t slept, I automatically reached for chocolate – and I’d tell Charle how disappointed I was in myself. He’d remind me that it was a blip and as I got back on plan, the guilt would fade away. Over time, I felt ready to confide in the other members at group that I had bipolar disorder. Their warm smiles and words of encouragement were just what I needed to remind me that, with support, I could handle anything.
Last year, on a holiday to visit Charle’s relatives in Turkey, I put on a new, slim-fitting, size-10 outfit to meet them.
They hadn’t seen me since I’d begun my weight loss journey and, greeting them, I couldn’t help feeling pleased when each of them did a double take.
This autumn, we welcomed our second daughter, Asmin-Melek into the world. Thanks to all the weight I’d lost, this was the first time I didn’t suffer from gestational diabetes. There were some other complications, and Asmin and I had to stay in hospital for a little longer than planned. But we’re both on the road to recovery now. My Consultant, Amanda, was amazing through my pregnancy and lockdown, staying in regular contact when group was closed and while I was too ill to attend.
I have a little baby weight to lose once I’m fully recovered, but I’m never tempted to risk my mental health for weight loss now. These days, I know there’s a much safer way to stay healthy for my family – for good!
*Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose.