My Parents Bought My Dream Body
She’d lost 8st, but Lauren Eggison, 34, took drastic action to finish the job.
Standing in front of the changing- room mirror, zipping up a pair of size 12 slim-fitting jeans, I should have been marvelling at just how far I had come.
It’d been a dream to get to this size, and I’d worked so hard. Only, now a thick, puckered apron of skin hung from my tummy, and if I didn’t tuck it in, it flapped uncomfortably over my waistband. I had to hide it under floaty tops and forgiving waistbands – and while on the outside I looked great, underneath I looked awful. I was just as miserable as I had been at 21st.
For as long as I could remember, I’d been in a war against my body. As a teenager I was the biggest of my friends, and at 16 wore a size 18. Hating the way I looked, I tried every diet going, but I’d always give up after a few days.
I started sixth form in September 2002, and while my mum, Donna, then 42, and stepdad, Vincent, 44, encouraged me to eat healthy meals at home, I’d snack on crisps and sweets between lessons, causing my weight to creep up.
And as I became more independent, my eating habits got worse. I got a desk job for a jewellery manufacturer, where I’d spend hours hardly moving while constantly snacking.
It was as though I was always gorging. Breakfast would be a huge bowl of sugary cereal, then I’d treat myself to a milkshake on the way to work. A couple of hours later, I’d be in the staff canteen devouring a huge portion of lasagne and chips, before going home for a takeaway pizza and countless packets of crisps and sweets.
I’d been with my boyfriend for five years – and, happy in a long-term relationship, I’d stopped worrying about what I was eating. But as my weight spiralled, no matter what I ate, I was never satisfied. So, I forced myself to go to the doctor. ‘We could offer you gastric-band surgery,’ he suggested. It’d help reduce my insatiable appetite – but I was 20, and surgery sounded drastic, so I turned it down, vowing to try harder myself.
Yet, any attempt at healthy eating was always short-lived, and the following year I took over my parents’ cafe, bringing home an abundance of leftover pastries every night. My parents were worried, and I wasn’t surprised – by then, I’d reached 19st and was constantly exhausted. At 6ft, I told myself I could afford to carry the extra pounds, but the truth was I was huge. ‘I can help you lose weight,’ my dad, Michael, 51, said, offering to pay for me to join a weight- loss group. I hated worrying them, so I agreed to go, and for months Dad would drop me off, waiting outside while I had my weigh-in. I lost more than 3st but soon slipped back to my old ways – and as I piled it all back on, I could tell Dad was trying to hide his concern.
Turning things around
In January 2012, I discovered I was expecting, and pregnancy truly ignited my appetite. By the time my daughter, Maddy, was born in September 2012, I was the biggest I’d ever been, at 21st and size 22. Busy with a newborn, I ignored my weight issues, but when our second daughter, Halle, arrived in December 2014, I was miserable and struggling. Maddy had started walking, and looking after a toddler and a baby was draining. So, in February 2015, I joined my local Slimming World group in East Finchley, determined to finally turn things around. I devoted myself to the plan, cutting back on sugary foods and cooking fresh, low-fat recipes at home. It was the first time I’d managed to really stick to a weight-loss programme, and the weight quickly dropped off. Only, as my frame shrank, there was one thing I couldn’t shift. My loose skin. After I’d lost 5st, my stomach started drooping, but although it bothered me, I felt energetic and slim, so kept up my healthy eating, untilbyNovember2017,I’d hit my target of 12st 10lb. To celebrate, I went to the shops to buy some size 12 clothes, only I could no longer ignore my sagging tummy: after more than two years of hard work, I still wasn’t happy with my body.
One night shortly after, I was reading the girls a bedtime story when Halle, then three, started kneading my stomach under my top. ‘I love your tummy, it’s like play dough,’ she smiled innocently, poking my floppy folds and watching them jiggle. I smiled back, disguising the shame I felt. I knew I’d done this to myself.
I visited my GP, but after examining me, she had bad news. ‘No amount of diet or xercise will help,’ she said. There was only one way to rid myself of all the loose skin: surgery.
It was a frightening thought after previously refusing a gastric band, but now it was my only option if I wanted any kind of body confidence. I was turned down for a tummy tuck on the NHS, though, leaving me heartbroken.
By then, my loose skin had become unbearable. It jiggled when I walked, flapped against my body when I vacuumed, and got sweaty and sore.
I researched private treatment, but couldn’t afford it. ‘I don’t know what to do,’ I wept to my parents. Seeing how distraught I was, my dad, mum and stepdad all offered to help contribute. They’d seen the work I’d put in, plus I’d started looking into cheaper surgery abroad, and they worried about possible risks. ‘It’ll give you a fresh start,’ smiled Mum.
‘I don’t know how to thank you,’ I wept, overwhelmed. In February 2019, I had a consultation at The Plastic Surgery Group clinic in Harley Street. At £14,999, the 360 Body Lift I’d chosen wasn’t cheap, but looking at my saggy skin, it would be worth it. The surgeon explained how he’d tighten my stomach muscles before slicing away sections of skin from my stomach and back. It was a four-hour operation, and there were risks of complications or infection. In the lead-up, I had panic attacks wondering if I was being selfish, but I was determined to go through with it.
Waking up after the surgery, I was numb from the pain relief but unprepared for how swollen my body would look. It continued swelling, too – and, over the next few days, almost doubled in size.
Groggy, sore and lying in a hospital bed, I fretted I’d done the wrong thing. For six weeks, I had to wear a compression bodysuit – but after two months, all the swelling had finally gone and I saw my new body for the first time.
‘That’s not me!’ I thought, stunned. For the first time, my stomach was toned and flat. As I slowly recovered, I felt like I was walking around in someone else’s body.
Maddy, now seven, and Halle, five, miss my play-dough belly but are amazed by my transformation.
After a lifetime feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, I’m happy and confident with the way I look, and can even show off my tum in crop tops and low rise jeans. It was a long slog, and I regret damaging my body with food like that, but I’ve got a second chance now and I won’t waste it.