Khadija Iman texted to tell me she was running late for our lunch date at a restaurant of her choice. She had had bariatric surgery in December 2017, which was almost four years back and I couldn’t wait to hear how she had been fairing since. From where I’m seated, I can see the cars drive in and I recognize her from the photos though I had not met her before. She is a friendly girl and we hit it off immediately.
As we enjoy our lunch, it is evident she is a light eater and I end up eating most of what we had ordered. She is quick to explain to me that before she had the procedure that changed her life, she used to eat food for two people and would still be hungry two hours later. “I was always a big girl. Most of the women on my maternal side of the family are big-bodied,” explains Khadija, who weighed 100kg when she got married at 20.
“My 20s were very challenging for me as I was trying to balance marriage and manage endometriosis, a disease that left me totally drained both physically and psychologically. I dreaded my periods, which were extremely painful,” she explains. “My only escape from the pain and anguish was food. I sought solace in eating and totally depended on food to shut out the world,” she says. “I had undergone nine operations as a result of the endometriosis,” she says. I also suffered from hormonal imbalances and food was my comfort. With all that was going on, Khadija had difficulties conceiving despite trying in vitro fertilization (IVF).
As she sank deeper into comfort eating, Khadija’s weight shot to 140kg. “Getting fashionable clothes was impossible as I could not get anything in my size and had resorted to having them tailored. I usually wore ‘vitenges’ as I had limited choices,” she says. “I also noticed I was attracting older men due to my big body. This bothered me despite the fact that by now my marriage had ended after nine years,” she explains. 30 was fast approaching and Khadija asked herself if that was the life she wanted for herself. “I wanted something new for myself; a new beginning. To be happy as Khadija,” she explains.
Going through a divorce, however, was not easy for her as she found herself ostracised by her community. “My close friends abandoned me and the only solace I found was in the family,” she says. “The blame is always placed on the woman and it can take a toll on you psychologically,” she explains. I still remember mum poking fun at me telling me that I could not be both fat and divorced and had to choose one of the two struggles. She had heard about Big Ted’s bariatric surgery and felt I needed the same to reclaim my life. That was when I decided to go for bariatric surgery.
“My weight oscillated a bit after surgery but it is now settled at 83kg, which I’m comfortable with and most importantly, I am happy with myself. No one can make me feel bad about myself. All the mocking, especially during my teen days are behind me. I like the new me,” she says.
“Unlike in the past when I needed affirmation, today I’m comfortable in my own skin. I do not need a cheering squad or crowd as I did before as I am comfortable on my own. My health has improved a great deal and the painful cramps I had as a result of the endometriosis are no more. And my periods are now regular,” narrates Khadija.
She now no longer depends on food when overwhelmed but faces her issues head-on. My weight loss came with many benefits and I now experience a beautiful sense of peace. I eat right and enjoy my life, she says. “I can now get clothes for my size and no longer need to have them tailored. My body mass index (BMI) is great at 27 from an unhealthy 52 and I dropped from jeans size 28 to size 14. For me, the procedure has come with a wealth of benefits including improved energy levels. “I no longer suffer from sleep apnea so I sleep comfortably all night and do not wake up tired like I used to,” she concludes.