I've lost 11st after gastric band surgery and now people treat me like a normal person not a freak

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“It was like I was in some kind of freak show.”

A woman lost 11 stone after feeling embarrassed to ask for a seatbelt extender on a plane - and says people treat her like a "normal person" now she is thin.

Sarah Speight, 35, weighed 25st and 1lb and was a size 28 at her heaviest. She lived off junk food such as pizza, chocolate cake and McDonald's and never exercised. Sarah decided to make a change after feeling too embarrassed to ask for a seatbelt extender on a plane - and had to pretend it was fastened.

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She tried "every diet" before opting for a gastric band and spent £11,000 to go private to avoid the NHS waiting lists. Now a slender 13st 8lbs and a size 14, Sarah feels "amazing" but has noticed a difference in how people treat her.

Sarah Speight, before she lost 11.5 stone.Sarah Speight, before she lost 11.5 stone.
Sarah Speight, before she lost 11.5 stone.

Sarah, a fraud investigator, from Stalybridge, said: "I got a feeling that people would walk past me and say ‘look at the size of her.’ It gets in your head. People would just stare at you and wouldn’t say hello or anything. It was like I was in some kind of freak show.

"People tend to smile at your more [now she has lost the weight]. They say hi, I feel like you’re treated like a normal person. I find that people interact a lot more with me. They’ll talk to you and let on and smile at you, whereas before nobody batted an eyelid. The more people notice just makes you feel so good about yourself. And it's something I'm not used to because I've never had that.”

Sarah says she had struggled with her weight all her life, and "always knew" she was "big", but she started to pile on the pounds when she was in her 20s. She spent years trying diets but nothing stuck, she says.

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She said: “Vegetables weren't really my thing, it was always always junk and I just couldn't stop. It was a massive addiction that I had. In most cases I could probably quite happily eat a full pizza in one go and still not be full.

"I was never one for the gym, the thought of exercise terrified me. I hated the thought of going out, or going shopping - I'd rather stay in on my own.

"I had to look at shops online where they cater for bigger sizes and didn't have much choice in what I wore. I had to go for whatever would fit me as opposed to what I liked. I didn't really have a life to be honest. I hated going out, I would avoid all social situations.

“I lost a lot of friends through it because I'd never made time to bother with anybody. I would literally just sit on my own in my room at home just avoiding contact with anyone.”

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Sarah Speight, after she lost 11.5 stone.Sarah Speight, after she lost 11.5 stone.
Sarah Speight, after she lost 11.5 stone.

Sarah decided to make a lifestyle change in January 2023 while on holiday in Iceland.

She said: "I was going to Iceland and had to sit near the window because I was so embarrassed to ask for a seatbelt extender. I had to pretend that my seat belt looked like it was fastened when it wasn’t.

"I had to hold it over me and pretend it was fastened when the flight attendant came past. It was absolutely awful because I thought - I’m the only one squished into my seat. I couldn’t move my legs. I was spilling into the person’s seat next to me and I just remember thinking this is so embarrassing I can’t do this anymore."

Sarah was also told she needed to go on pills for her blood pressure at aged 34 and decided to look into surgery.

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She said: "I saved up for surgery. I paid for half of it with my own money and then financed the rest of it with the hospital. So I paid them back each month."

"I probably could have got it with the NHS, but the waiting list in my area was at least five years. You have to lose weight beforehand which I couldn't do, and you also have to attend appointments every week with work which I couldn't commit to."

She underwent gastric band surgery in February 2023 at Alexandra Hospital, Stockport, and has lost 11st 7lbs in a year. She has changed up her diet to a balanced diet and hits the gym twice a day. Now Sarah is 13st 8lbs and a size 14 and feels "amazing" and "a lot more confident".

She said: “It's completely changed my life. I've now got new friends and a new love for the gym which I never thought I'd say.

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“My confidence is now through the roof. Everything is just amazing. It's the best money I've ever spent. And I would still really recommend it. If anybody's in the same situation as me, it's 100% of the best thing I've ever done and I've got no regrets whatsoever.”

Sarah’s diet before

Breakfast - Bacon sandwiches, bread. Lunch - Pizza, ice cream cake. Dinner - McDonald's, chocolate cake, crisps. Snacks - Crisps, biscuits, cheese, chocolate. Drinks - Full fat coca cola, lemonade.

Sarah’s diet after

Breakfast - Cheerios, Weetabix or porridge with blueberries. Lunch - Small tuna sandwich. Dinner - Chicken and vegetables. Snacks - Low fat yoghurt, one slice of cheese. Drinks - Protein shake, water.

Sarah’s exercise regime

Three hours of exercise every day. Morning, one hour of ‘freestyle’: stairmaster, the rowing machine, the treadmill and the cross trainer Evening, two hours of classes.

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