Linda Colling: ‘How did she get that fat?’

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AT least Nicola Farnell is honest enough to admit she was so eaten up with laziness she ended up a morbidly-obese 27st 7lbs.

After £25,000 worth of gastric by-pass and cosmetic surgery on the NHS, the 39-year-old mother of four from Philadelphia, shed a staggering 16 stone and is planning her 40th birthday, one she was told she would never see unless she lost weight.

How did she get that fat? “After I had my children it was like, some food for them and some for me, and I wouldn’t move off my backside and do household chores,” she said.

“I was really lazy. I would just sit and sleep my day away watching the TV and sleep for most of the afternoon until it was time to pick the girls up from school.

“Sometimes my husband would go to the school. I would be too lazy to go or frightened people would look at me because of my size.”

How many more are there like Nicola whose gluttonous, lazy lifestyle leads to serious self-inflicted weight problems which they then seize on solving with a quick-fix op?

Gastric band surgery in Sunderland, as elsewhere, is costing the NHS thousands and now seen as a soft option to shifting the pounds by diet.

No control, just like Nicola who tried Weight Watchers and had tablets from her doctor. But she says: “There was just nothing I could get my head round. I did lose some and then when I lost it I’d lose interest and put three or four times more on.”

Quite a vicious circle, but one she could have changed without a five-hour op to have her stomach made smaller.

Her mother, Hilda Jamieson, 60, begged her not to have the op and went on to succeed where Nicola had failed, losing more than four stone by dieting and being crowned Hetton’s Slimmer of the Year.

Nicola may look a new woman, but it has come at a high price. Like so many who are fearfully fat and think it will be a miracle cure, it is no such thing.

It’s a life-long, massive and radical eating change. Just how drastic a difference the surgery has made is one Nicola wasn’t prepared for. And the message her story sends out loud and clear is dieting and finding an eating plan you can live with for life is supremely preferable than any gastric band or surgery.

Nicola says: “I thought it was going to be a miracle kind of thing and didn’t realise what you have to go through to get to where you want to be.”

Today, half a bowl of soup is enough. Eat too much and she’s sick. She can’t eat ham and eggs. They make her vomit. Her dinner is now down to a portion just a little bigger than a tea plate and she never eats Yorkshire puddings.

Weaning herself back on to food after the op with jars of baby food and pureed dinners for three months was another ordeal, and then slowly getting on to soft food. Then there were ops to lift her boobs and remove excess skin from her tummy and arms. Not quite the quick-fix you might think.

And the moral of this story is? “It was really difficult. I used to often think if only I had helped myself beforehand,”

Indeed, even though Nicola says: “I don’t regret it.”

It has been her lifesaver and she knows it and is grateful for that. But if only she hadn’t been so lazy and had been determined to find an eating plan she could live with, her op could have been avoided and that £25,000 saved.

It is a disgrace that willpower can be so lacking even when your life is on the line and men, women and even children are eating themselves into an early grave.

Lastest figures show patients as young as 15 are being given a gastric bypass or fitted with a gastric band. Absolutely scandalous that people who can’t be bothered to get off their fat backsides and take control of what they are putting in their mouths should come to expect the solution free gratis on the NHS.

What kind of message is this sending out to children that you can just eat as much as you like and then get a gastric band or bypass?

It’s the same cavalier attitude that youngsters grow up with in homes where it’s considered OK to break the law because you’ll just get a rap over the knuckles.

Too many are refusing to face up to taking control of their lives and are stuffing their faces, creating problems for someone else to solve. The answer lies in their own hands, starting with discipline, something that is somehow far harder to swallow than going under the knife.