Over the last year, I have lost just over seven stone, found a new love for exercising, built muscle and strength and dropped six dress sizes. More importantly, I have been happy with my progress. I've not chastised myself for not losing weight faster, for indulging when I want to or not being able to fit into my goal dress (I've realised that my boobs are NEVER going to fit into that dress).
I've watched my body go through a huge number of changes and I've pushed myself to do things that I didn't think I could do. I feel like a totally different person than the woman who walked into hospital at 6.30am this day last year.
When I was in the middle of my four-week liquid diet after my operation, I thought that would be the toughest part. I was wrong. With the band, I can't tell that I'm unable to eat something until I've eaten it, it gets stuck and I end up being violently sick. When you have a plastic band around your stomach, this can be painful and even dangerous. Even eating too fast or not chewing quite enough can cause problems and it has been a steep learning curve that I am still working out.
On top of this, there have been the people who look down on me because I took this step. I've been honest about my gastric band from the start and volunteer that I've had it done when asked about my weight loss because I didn't want anyone to think that I did it all myself when that isn't the case. While the majority of people have been incredibly positive and supportive of my decision, there have been a few who have made me feel really awful for choosing the surgical route.
After all, I should have just eaten less and exercised more or gone vegan or gluten-free or tried the macro diet or gone paleo. Luckily, every time I've had someone say something like this to me, putting across their view that I took the easy way out, I've had my husband, friends and family remind me that this was not an easy decision and it is definitely not an easy process.
As my husband tells me, I tried so many things before having this operation, even turning down having it a few years ago so I could try and lose weight on my own. He's seen me make myself so ill trying to lose weight and he is happy I chose this route after watching me struggle with every other thing I've tried. Whenever someone makes me feel bad for having a gastric band, he reminds me that this is the first time I've managed to lose weight without looking and feeling awful for it. I haven't struggled with maintaining my energy levels, I haven't looked unhealthy and I haven't collapsed at any point, all of which are big changes to previous drastic options.
I do still want to lose three more stone, but this is purely for health reasons as I want to reduce strain on my body, especially as we are hoping for a baby. Otherwise, my health has improved a lot, not only in terms of having even better blood pressure, cholesterol levels etc (these were all fine in the first place but they've still seen improvements), but also in regards to my asthma and joint pain. I don't get the same level of back and knee pain, which in return lets me be a lot more active.
I've been able to walk a lot more - I can now hit eight miles and 21,000 steps on a work day with no issues - I'm happier going to the gym and have been able to create a routine and push myself to lift more, and I've improved my swimming to the point that I can swim around 300 metres more in a 20-minute period than I could in January. I like being active, which means I get out of the house more and make plans to do things with people regularly.
However, the biggest change has been to my mental health. Last March, I really wasn't well and I hadn't been for a while, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. Taking a break from work and getting on track to get my surgery really helped as I had something big to look forward to. The last year has changed how I've seen myself and has helped me to develop better coping techniques for my depression, which has meant that I have fewer bad days - although it is never gone completely.
While my anxiety still causes issues on a daily basis, being able to do things I never thought I could and having a more positive view of my body has meant that it isn't as big a problem as it was this time last year when my GP wanted to medicate me because it of.
I had my surgery to lose weight, improve my health and help me and my husband have a baby. It has done these things and so much more. I am not lying when I say it has totally changed my life and even on my worst days, I know I would do it all over again if I had to. I'm excited by how much I've achieved in just 12 months and I can't wait to see what happens in the next year.