Rebecca Kerr had four growing sons, a loving long-term partner and a burgeoning business when she was told she probably wouldn't live to 50. The only option for the morbidly obese 43-year-old was gastric bypass surgery.
At the time, the South Canterbury mum weighed 159kg and was prediabetic, plagued by sleep apnoea that sucked her of energy and motivation. Despite often collapsing into a chair after work and even nodding off during coffee with friends, she was in denial about her dangerous size.
"It wasn't until my doctor told me I'd get diabetes and die that I realised my weight had got out of hand," admits Rebecca, the owner of an online fashion boutique.
"I'd gradually got bigger after having my sons and I actually wasn't OK. My breathing was bad and my blood-sugar levels were creeping up."
Having failed dieting attempts, gastric bypass surgery was her last hope. She tells, "It's scary because you think you won't see the kids grow up or meet any of your grandchildren."
After being told by a surgeon there was an almost 100% chance the procedure would stop her getting diabetes, Rebecca had the stomach-reduction surgery in February 2017.
One and a half years later, with the support of her partner and high-school sweetheart Kevin Dobbs, she has lost the equivalent of an entire person.
"I feel like a completely new woman!" beams Rebecca, now a whopping 62kg lighter. "I used to be in size-28 jeans and now I'm in a 14. I can walk into most stores, try something on and think it looks good."
The healthy mum to sons Ben, 21, Sam, 18, William, 16, and Daniel, 14, is no longer at threat of diabetes and amazingly, her sleep apnoea has disappeared.
"I'm more energetic and actually want to go on walks after work," she enthuses.
"I used to get home too tired to even want to make dinner. I can do lots more with the boys, like go to their rugby and league games, so it's an all-round bonus for everyone."
Her dramatic weight loss has come with its sacrifices, including saying goodbye to her favourite salads at summer barbecues as the fibre in raw vegetables can cause digestive disturbances.
"Now I can only eat a small butter plate-size meal, but I've accepted it," says Rebecca, who makes sure the minimal food she does eat is full of protein.
"I eat things like seafood and chicken, and because I'm no longer eating lots of leafy greens, I take vitamins and will have to for the rest of my life."
She laughs, "I have to be careful of the capsules I take because some are too big to stomach."
Rebecca is also put off chocolate shakes after having to drink tasteless weight-loss blends in the two weeks before her surgery. And she always needs a few tissues nearby.
"A friend who'd also had the operation told me your nose runs when you're full and I thought it was rubbish," she tells. "But it does happen and my sons are always asking if I want a tissue!"
After adjusting to her new stomach by eating thin broths and soups, followed by baby food and the gradual reintroduction of textured foods, she's now able to consume almost anything.
Rebecca admits that dining out can be embarrassing when waiting staff assume something's wrong with her barely touched meal, so she'll usually opt for an entrée.
"If the staff seem nice, I'll explain that I've had surgery and can only eat a small amount," she says.
"I can't force it because one extra mouthful can be the difference between it coming back up. I compare it to the feeling you have after eating too much on Christmas Day!"
But the businesswoman says the benefits of her surgery outweigh the bad, even crediting it for helping to boost the busy online boutique store she started eight years ago.
"If I didn't have the operation, I don't think I'd cope with being so busy and tired because sometimes I'm at work until 11pm."
The keen gardener and lawn bowler encourages others who are overweight to book in for a chat with their doctors about gastric bypass surgery, which was fully funded because of her prediabetic diagnosis.
"Having the surgery completely changed my life," Rebecca enthuses.
"I love having this kind of energy and enjoyment because I never thought I would."
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