Body

Lifestyle blogger Sera Lilly on fitness at any size and the unlikely post-caesarean complication that saw her rushed back to hospital

'Healthy over skinny' is my mantra now, as there are enough things in the world to worry about already without getting stressed over a fitness ideal.

By Sara Bunny

To say that last year was harrowing is an understatement for Sera Lilly.

Complications following the birth of her fifth child almost cost her her life, and the road to recovery has been a test of her strength.

But Sera doesn't want to dwell on the negatives.

Having learnt first-hand that health is wealth, she's returned to her love of fitness, developing a healthy lifestyle app (Fit with Sera Lilly) that caters for women of all shapes and sizes, and wants to spread the message to women that their wellbeing is worth putting first.

Sera shares her story

"It was a day or two after my caesarean section that I started to feel really unwell. My stomach was huge and really distended, I couldn't keep anything down and I was in so much pain.

A specialist said it was fine and I was discharged. But the pain and distention increased, and my mum, a former intensive care nurse, insisted I go back to hospital.

Eventually I was diagnosed with a rare complication called Ogilvie's syndrome and I had bowel decompression treatment. I was allowed to go home, but six hours later I was in extreme pain and my daughter called an ambulance.

I was taken to a different hospital, and by this time I was screaming in agony. Unfortunately, my bowel had perforated, but it was not picked up by any of the doctors.

By the time I was transferred back to my original hospital, I had spent 12 hours with an untreated ruptured bowel and had developed peritonitis.

I had emergency surgery and part of my bowel removed, and I was later told that if I had not arrived at the other hospital when I did, the outcome may have been very different.

I'm very thankful that the surgery went well, and that I was able to avoid having a colostomy bag.

What upsets me the most is how much I had to fight to be heard. I believe women know their bodies, we know when something is not normal, but I really had to keep pushing for someone to actually listen.

The recovery was hard; I was in hospital for weeks and attached to catheters, feeding tubes and pumps.

It was all a huge shock; it really brought home to me that what is most important is our overall health, not just the physical, but mental and spiritual health as well.

It's so vital because if you're not in a good place mentally, you can't look after yourself or others.

Sera with her five children
Sera with her five children

Sera's new direction

I always wanted to launch a fitness app, but as I'm not the typical person that people associate with fitness, I was scared I would be mocked.

But the key message is that fitness is not a number on a scale or a clothes size – it's about being the best version of yourself, whatever that looks like.

I went back to study as a personal trainer, I was the biggest and oldest in the class but I just don't care about that sort of thing any more.

When I started filming the videos for my app, I was at my heaviest. I have to admit I've cried looking back at myself on film!

There's rolls of fat and cellulite, but I think we don't see that enough in fitness.

I know there's a lot of women who are too scared to go to a gym, as it feels like you have to be in shape before you can set foot in the place.

I have a massive scar from my surgery, and one day I want to do a video in a crop top. I think if it makes just one woman feel okay about herself, then what I'm doing is worth it.

I think for many women it's about working out with someone who 'gets it' – I know what it's like to exercise when you're bigger; getting down on the ground is hard, getting up feels embarrassing.

I know it can be hard to make a start with exercise, but I also know that after you've done it, you feel amazing.

My own goal is to lose 30kg. I refuse to weigh myself, as I find that a number on a scale can put me on a downward spiral.

Over the years I've tried numerous popular weight-loss programmes, but these days I don't do any particular diet, just healthy wholefoods.

I still have ongoing bowel issues and need to look after my health.

As someone who has suffered depression, I know that healthy food and exercise are so good for my mental health.

I've also developed a supportive, non-judgemental online community around the app, as talking things through, even with strangers, can be really helpful. I feel as though I'm on a health journey with them.

'Healthy over skinny' is my mantra now, as there are enough things in the world to worry about already without getting stressed over a fitness ideal.

I want to help women feel better about themselves, and to do that we have to support each other.

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