Mum-of-two Gabrielle Pannaman had been slim all her life – until she hit 40.
As the pounds started to creep on, Gabrielle struggled to shift the weight and before she knew it she was classed as obese and had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
But it was following a “mortifying” routine trip to the dentist that Gabrielle realised she needed to take drastic action and is now unrecognisable after shedding weight.
The busy mum paid £11,500 for a gastric bypass after she found it “physically impossible” to sit up to spit and rinse at a dental check-up.
She said: “I’ve always hated the dentist since I was a little girl, but this visit was particularly painful.
“After the examination, I was given some pink mouth rinse to swirl around before being told to lean forward and spit into the sink.
“I found it physically impossible to do. I realised then I couldn’t carry on like that.”
Gabrielle had also been a size 12 but noticed her waistline expanding when she turned 40.
Her clothes were getting tighter and tighter, and by the time she turned 41 she was two stone heavier and squeezing into a size 14.
She said: “I’d never really had a problem with food, but all that changed as I hit middle age.
“As I got heavier, I was feeling really tired and not like myself at all.”
By 2013 she was constantly feeling sluggish and tired and blood tests showed she had Type 2 diabetes.
It was recommended that she try a low glycaemic index (GI) diet – foods that are broken down more slowly by the body, leaving you fuller for longer.
Gabrielle said: “I tried it for a month, and if anything, my weight went up – not down.”
She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2013 and Gabrielle began taking daily shots of a drug that stimulates the release of insulin.
But she claims the medication she was prescribed led to yet more weight gain and by 2017, the 48-year-old housewife of Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, reached her heaviest – an 11st 11lb and size 16.
At just 5ft 1in her body mass index (BMI) was 31.1 compared to the NHS recommended range of 18.5 to 24.9, and she was classed as obese.
Whilst she found she was feeling better in some ways, such as her energy levels, she said her weight was still steadily increasing.
She tried everything from “fad diets” to vigorous exercise – including taking up with a personal trainer – but nothing seemed to be doing the trick.
Gabrielle, who would skip breakfast, have a sandwich and crisps for lunch and an M&S ready meal for tea, said: “I was absolutely soul destroyed.
“I couldn’t be bothered to even try anymore – I hated the world. I was trying my best, and nothing was working.”
According to the NHS, weight gain can be a common side effect of some forms of treatment for type two diabetes.
Gabrielle said: “In early 2017, I went back to the doctors. They explained my body was absorbing blood sugar as it should be but, as a result, the cells in my body were storing extra glucose, which eventually turns into fat.
“They said the best solution was to change my diet and exercise regime – but I’d already done that.”
But it was in August, 2017, that Gabrielle, who has daughters, Alycia, 20, and Casey, 18, hit rock bottom when she was too big to sit up in the dentist’s chair after a routine appointment and she vowed to change.
Determined to get healthy, Gabrielle paid £300 to see a private endocrinologist, a doctor that specialises in hormonal function, in September that year and was told she was the “perfect candidate” for a gastric bypass.
One of the main types of weight loss surgery, a gastric bypass sees surgeons use staples to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach, which is then connected to the small intestine, meaning fewer calories are absorbed from food, and patients feel fuller faster.
According to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, in order to be eligible for weight loss surgery on the NHS, you must have either a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI of between 35 to 40 plus a serious condition that may improve with weight loss, such as type two diabetes.
Patients must also show they have tried all other weight loss methods, and agree to a long-term follow up after surgery.
With a BMI of 31.1, despite having type two diabetes, Gabrielle was ineligible for the surgery on the NHS.
Instead, after long discussions with her husband who was initially reluctant for her to elect to go under the knife, she paid £11,500 to have the operation done privately at Cromwell Hospital in southwest London.
Gabrielle said: “My husband was very sceptical and nervous. He was worried how the surgery would impact on our lives.
“Some of my friends agreed, telling me I wasn’t that big. But it wasn’t just about the weight for me, I knew it would improve my life tenfold.
“Luckily my mum, Bev, 73, was super supportive.”
Up and walking just 45 minutes after coming to from the five-hour surgery, two days later she was discharged and Gabrielle was shocked to find how quickly she recovered.
But surviving on the recommended all-liquid diet for three months was another battle all together.
She said: “It was no picnic in the park. I really struggled with the pureed food – it was like baby food. I was living on a diet of hummus and scrambled egg.”
But as time went by, the results of the surgery began showing.
Gabrielle said: “In five months – by which point I was back on solid food – I’d lost nearly four and a half stone. It came off so quickly.
“Doctors have also taken me off my daily injections and, so far, it looks like I won’t need to be going back on it.
“They told me I’ve reversed my diabetes. The gastric bypass really has changed my life.”
According to the charity Diabetes UK, while weight loss surgery does not offer a permanent cure for type two diabetes, there is strong evidence to suggest that it can help some people stop taking their blood sugar medication and put the condition into remission.
And it is not only Gabrielle’s health which is back on track.
She said: “I used to love fashion, but I would always hide behind casual, baggy clothes.
“Now, I love dressing up, wearing fitted, classy clothes. I love to go shopping. If I could, I’d go every day.”
Now wearing a size six, Gabrielle starts her day with sourdough toast, followed by raw tuna salad for lunch and grilled chicken with veggies for dinner.
Happily, her relationship with Mark is also at an all-time high.
She said: “My mood has improved and I don’t have a short fuse anymore – not like I used to.
“I’m sure my hubby would deny that, he probably thinks I nag him more than ever. But in all seriousness, he can see how unhappy I was and now I’m not.
“I’m just so lucky to have been in a situation where I was able to afford to pay for the surgery privately.
“I know 100 per cent that it has reversed my diabetes. To anybody else out there suffering, I could not recommend it highly enough.
“Before, I didn’t like or love myself very much at all. Now I’m the happiest I’ve been for as long as I can remember.”
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