So fat I couldn’t tie my shoes
Every morning Josanne Cassar would put on her shoes before her five children left for school so one of them would tie her laces – since she could not reach her own feet.
Weighing 140 kilos, she hated herself for being a mother her children should be ashamed of. It was a vicious circle – she despised her morbidly obese body, felt depressed and comfort ate.
But five years ago, the promise of help and support changed her life when she was selected to be the first person to undergo gastric banding surgery that helped her shed the kilos and gain confidence.
“I only weigh 50 kilos now,” the radiant 50-year-old woman says as she slides into a chair tucked in a corner of the coffee shop where she tells her story.
Her problems started with her first pregnancy, when she was 30, and gained 20 kilos. It was a stressful period. Two months after setting up his own business, her husband was in a traffic accident that left him bedridden for several weeks. She had to take over the business.
As she moved from one pregnancy to another she kept gaining weight and, by the time she had her fifth son, she weighed 140 kilos.
“I was constantly depressed. Whenever my husband told me he loved me, I asked him: ‘How can you love someone like me?’ To myself I was hideous,” she says.
She hid herself from the world. She did not go to school meetings and her husband, John, bought her clothes – which she describes as “tent-like”.
“I am a Maths teacher. I used to be scared stiff that I would drop a marker in class and not be able to pick it up…
“Weight management was the only equation I couldn’t solve,” she smiles as she also recalls she could not fit into a seatbelt.
But life’s circumstances helped her solve it. She had high blood pressure and refused to take pills for the rest of her life.
Meanwhile, her mother, who did not control her diabetes, died.
“That was really scary for me. I thought: ‘What’s the point of having five kids and not being around to enjoy them?’,” she says adding she then realised she needed help.
Five years ago St James Capua Hospital issued a call for anyone interested in benefiting from their free weight loss programmes.
Her husband encouraged her to sign up and she was chosen to be the first person to undergo gastric banding.
This involved attaching an adjustable band to the top part of her stomach to control food intake. Throughout the programme she was followed by a nutritionist, psychologist and trainer.
After surgery she started losing weight immediately and kept up the exercise until today. This left her with lots of loose skin, which she removed during a tummy tuck two years ago.
Now the only down side is that Josanne has to limit herself to eating liquids and soft food and cannot enjoy a Sunday roast with her family.
But she sees this is a small price to pay for a healthy future.
“I wish to see an obesity clinic. Morbidly obese people should be offered this type of free surgery… Now I feel feminine.
“I feel happier. I don’t want to hide anymore. Others deserve this,” she says.