‘Help! I’m addicted to carbs’

Help I'm addicted to carbs

by take-a-break |
Updated on

I helped people struggling to beat drugs and booze issues, but I was fighting a secret battle of my own. By Emma Docherty, 41

weight loss surgery saved my life

As I walked past shelves packed with crisps, biscuits and other treats, my mouth watered.

‘Come on, love,’ my mum Janette said, taking my hand. ‘It’s time to go to the till.’

I was just five, but I couldn’t think of anything better than going to Tesco with Mum to do our weekly shop, and being surrounded by food.

Back home, once Mum had unpacked the groceries and left the kitchen, I opened the cupboard and pulled out some crisps.

Then I chomped my way through as many as I could before moving on to my next target — the biscuit jar.

Nothing made me happier than having something delicious to munch.

But as I got older — and plumper — the kids at school began turning my joy into a source of deep shame.

‘Here comes fat Emma,’ they’d jeer, as I headed to the classroom, my cheeks burning.

But rather than putting me off food, their jibes just made me eat more as my favourite treats became a source of comfort from the cruelty.

'Here comes fat Emma'

As well as snacking, during meals I’d fill up on bread, pasta and potatoes — I just couldn’t get enough of them.

It was only as I hit my teens that I realised my weight was fast catching up to my age.

By the time I was 18, I was utterly sick of feeling fat and unattractive, so I booked an appointment to see my doctor.

‘I need help,’ I told him.

He prescribed me some diet pills and I was thrilled when they started to work.

Over the next year, I shed five stone and felt so much better about myself that I was determined to stay slim.

But the moment I stopped taking the pills and tried to go it alone, the weight piled back on.

After that, I just got bigger and bigger. Whenever I felt stressed or low, I’d binge on crisps and carbs like they were going out of fashion.

weight loss surgery saved my life

It wasn’t just the food, it was the sensation of eating that I craved. It excited me and then as soon as the crusty rolls, pizza or my favourite chip butties passed my lips, I felt so much calmer.

However, I soon became unhappy with my soaring weight again.

When I hit 20 stone, I decided to try the Atkins diet. I lost an incredible six stone and it helped me curb my cravings for carbs too.

As I continued to maintain that healthy weight, I felt great, and I thought this time I’d finally cracked my weight problem for good.

Only then, I got together with a guy who was overweight. Our relationship and social life quickly began to revolve around food.

When we got home from work in the evenings, he’d turn to me and say: ‘Takeaway?’

‘Sounds good,’ I’d reply, picking up the phone to place our usual pizza order.

Before long, my weight began to spiral again.

What made it worse was that despite his own weight issues, my partner kept making nasty remarks about my body.

‘You’re fat, aren’t you?’ he said, looking me up and down.

I couldn’t stop the tears from welling in my eyes. His cruel judgement somehow stung more because he was so big himself.

The nasty comments transported me straight back to how I’d felt when I’d been the school bullies’ favourite target.

weight loss surgery saved my life

Trapped in an unhappy relationship, I began overeating to ease my sadness. Only the bigger I got, the worse I felt about myself.

Soon, my weight had ballooned to 22 stone. Although at 5ft 10in I was tall and could carry a bit of weight, this was more than just a bit.

By now, I was working in addiction services, which meant that most days, a client would open up to me about their problems with drugs and alcohol.

As I listened to them talking about the high they experienced from drugs or alcohol, I began to realise something about myself. It was the same thing I felt when I tucked into spag bol or a chip butty.

One day, feeling stressed, I started thinking about the bread I’d bought. Before I could stop myself, I was at the toaster popping in slice after slice.

I slathered each one with lashings of butter, sighing with pleasure as I munched my way through almost half the pack.

When a sense of calm descended on me, what I’d been realising over time really hit me — I was an addict too, only my drug was food.

Since I was a child, I’d been eating to soothe any negative emotion, stuffing down my feelings with food.

'Your dad and I will support you'

While it meant I could empathise with the people I helped in rehab, it also made me feel like a hypocrite because I was struggling to deal with my own addiction.

It was only when I finally left my partner that the fog started to lift and I began to think about what I could do to change things.

Away from the negative comments I’d put up with, my confidence grew and I joined Slimming World, where I lost a stone.

However, it didn’t last and as I approached 40, I knew I couldn’t go on like this.

‘I’m 22 stone and being obese in my forties is going to kill me,’ I told Mum.

Only having tried and failed at so many diets, I knew it was going to take something more drastic, so I began looking into weight loss surgery.

When I mentioned that to Mum, she said: ‘Your dad and I will support you.’

After doing my research, I opted for a gastric sleeve procedure in the Czech Republic, costing £5000.

‘I’ll come with you,’ my dad Louis said.

weight loss surgery saved my life

It was a relief to have him with me as I flew out there.

During the operation, surgeons removed a large section of my stomach, limiting how much I’d be able to eat.

It all went well, and back at home in Glasgow, I started going to the gym every day too and a year on, I’d dropped down to 16 stone.

But when the Covid-19 lockdown hit and the gyms closed, my routine went out the window and my weight crept up to 18 stone.

After I’d confided in a friend, she said: ‘The op obviously isn’t working. Why don’t you get a gastric bypass instead?’

Part of me felt ashamed that even a procedure as drastic as a gastric sleeve hadn’t stopped me eating.

But I really felt my friend was right and that a bypass was the answer I was looking for.

My weight had been a lifelong problem — now it needed even more drastic intervention.

It helped that Mum and Dad were backing me all the way too.

weight loss surgery saved my life

This time, I flew to Latvia for the operation, which involved having surgical staples put in to create a small pouch at the top of my stomach.

It did the trick and later that year, after shrinking down to 13 stone, I went to Turkey for a boob job and tummy tuck to tackle the excess skin I’d been left with.

All-in-all, I spent around £15,000, but it was worth every penny because I’m so happy with the way my body looks now.

I’ve since lost more, so I’m down to 12st 7lb, and I love browsing in charity shops for size 12-14 clothes.

I walk, swim and work out every day and my diet has been transformed, too. I’m no longer addicted to carbs.

Although I still enjoy food, I stick to healthy options like eggs, fish and leafy veg.

I’m so glad I decided to have the surgery. I believe it saved my life. It’s taken me a while, but I no longer feel ashamed that I had to take such drastic action.

Instead, I feel proud of myself for turning things around. I’m fitter, happier and feel more alive than ever!

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