A morbidly obese woman who was warned she was on a ‘fast track to early death’ has unveiled her jaw-dropping transformation after shedding almost half her body weight and undergoing skin removal surgery.
Veronica Colbert, 33, from Brisbane, was given the shock prognosis three years ago after suffering from weight-related breathing difficulties and dizziness.
Dangerously overweight at 149.7kg (23 stone 8 lbs), Veronica, who had tried countless diets and exercise regimes, decided to have a gastric sleeve fitted as a last resort.
She has since shed 90.5kg (14 stone 3 lbs) and gone on to win a body transformation championship.
The gastric sleeve helped Veronica limit her food intake which, coupled with small bouts of exercise, helped her hit her target weight – but left her with unsightly folds of saggy excess skin.
Veronica initially considered the skin ‘a badge of honour’, but over time it became a ‘sad reminder’ of the damage she had inflicted upon her body.
In March this year, she had surgery to remove 5kg (11 lbs) of skin, ridding her of the ‘large arm flaps’, ‘saggy egg breasts’ and ‘wrinkled thighs’.
Veronica continued to slim down to 59.2kg (9 stone 6 lbs) and last month she was awarded first place in a competition for the Inaugural Queensland Transformation Championships.
Why weight loss led to winning streak
Veronica, a procurement professional, said: ‘It felt amazing. I didn’t realise at first that I had won, and I was so shocked.
‘There was so many deserving and inspirational people that were also competing. The competition was for people who had transformed their lives through better health and fitness.
‘I never thought this would be possible. I always thought I would be the overweight and unhealthy person I was two years ago.
‘I just want people to know that there are options and it is achievable. At 150kg (23 stone 8 lbs) I never thought I would ever be in a position where I would be winning a transformation competition.
‘In fact, I thought I would never be able to lose weight. I felt like I was a lost cause I feel so different. I feel healthier, more confident and able to participate in life.
‘Most people find it hard to believe it is me when they see pictures. I find that hard to take as in my eyes I was just taking back my life and prolonging my life.’
How sugary drinks led Veronica to pile on the pounds
Veronica’s weight gain took place over a decade, when she piled on a massive 100kg (15 stone 10lbs), leaving her with a 36.6 BMI – the highest level of obesity.
Her cravings for sugary foods and drinks worsened in 2008, which she believes was due to underlying health problems.
Veronica said: ‘I started to suddenly eat more often and crave sugary foods and drinks. At the time I thought it was due to some medication I was taking at the time.
‘But since I have been seeing an endocrinologist due to hypoglycaemia it is more than likely that my low blood sugars starting happening a while ago.
‘My body was telling me I needed to eat all the time to combat the low blood sugars and hence I gained approximately 100kg (15 stone 10 lbs) over ten years.’
Veronica’s weight-loss wake-up call, arrived after doctors made judgements about her size and asked whether she had considered weight loss surgery.
She said: ‘The doctor, who didn’t even know me, mentioned my weight and asked had I considered weight loss surgery.
‘Offended, I told him to go get stuffed and that it was rude of him to even bring it up considering the reason I was there was totally unrelated.’
Doctor’s dire warning led to body transformation
‘Fast forward to a few months after that and I was told I was having issues with my heart,’ Veronica recalled.
‘I had a leaky valve that was causing me to be breathless and have dizzy spells. My doctor told me I was on the fast track to an early death.
‘At the age of 31 this was hard to hear. It was time to consider options for losing weight.
‘It was at this time that I knew I had to find a permanent solution, so I remembered the comment the doctor had said about weight loss surgery and started researching it.’
Veronica went under the knife in 2016 for a gastric sleeve – in which the stomach is stapled to make it smaller – and was able to drop down to a healthy weight by September the following year.
Excess skin looked like ‘saggy eggs’
However, Veronica’s weight loss success was overshadowed by her remaining excess skin.
She said: ‘I had mixed emotions – in a way it was revering and at the same time I despised it.
‘My excess skin was a badge of honour for what I had achieved however it was also a constant reminder of what I used to be and what damage I had inflicted on my body.
‘It also was physically limiting at times and caused it own issues entirely. My excess skin literally hung off my body – my breasts looked like saggy eggs, my thighs, my arms looked like I could fly overseas with the flaps on them.’
Veronica had an extended tummy tuck, arm lift, breast lift and bra-line lift in March, to rid her of close to a stone 5kg (11 lbs) of loose and hanging flab.
How weight loss led to a new lease of life
Since her transformation she says people are inspired by her online and in public she struggles with the attention she now gets from strangers.
Veronica said: ‘I get more attention and in turn I find it difficult to accept compliments.
‘When I was 150kg (23 stone 8 lbs) people used to say to me that I would look so much prettier if I lost weight.
‘Beauty is not measured in kilograms. It is measured by your heart. I am so much healthier now than I ever was. My quality of life is greater, my life span has grown, and my confidence has been boosted so very much.’