Louise Eaton admits to being “a bit of a diva”. With her long, blond hair, false curling eyelashes and French polished nails, she enjoys taking care of her appearance. She loves to feel good in her clothes, preferring to wear bold primary colours which reflect her bubbly personality. Now she can wear dresses nipped in at the waist thanks to having shed nearly eight stone following weight loss surgery.
But Louise, from Hove, has been blind from birth and so cannot see how wonderful she looks in a mirror. She says she can only feel that she is a size 10 to12 rather than the size 22 to 24 and 18 stone she was a year ago.
“I get very emotional when I put on a smaller dress size. Because I can’t see myself, I find it hard to believe, but I do get emotional that I have done this and achieved this weight loss. It has finally helped me to love myself in a different way and to feel proud.”
She recently turned 50 and says her weight has been up and down all her life. A self-confessed yo-yo dieter, she tried “every diet you can think of” and although she did lose weight - at one point dropping from 17 stone to 12 stone– she always puts it back on. Her downfall, she says, were savoury foods like quiche, pasties, crisps and ready meals, regularly raiding the fridge in the middle of the night because she still felt hungry.
Louise pinpoints her obsession with food to a traumatic experience when she was at a girls’ boarding school for the blind and visually impaired.
“The teachers put me on the `fat table’. There were about eight of us bigger pupils and we were not allowed any cakes and were made to eat apples and smaller portions than the others. They singled us out as if we were naughty. I felt isolated. It encouraged us to steal food and develop obsessive behaviour towards food. At that time, I was 15 years old and nine stone - so not big at all. I was crying on the phone to my mum saying, “I can’t have cakes but have got to eat apples.”
“When I think about it now I find it hard to put into words. This experience made me want all the things I couldn’t have. I used to sneak down to the tuckshop and buy chocolate secretly. It did get me to lose weight, but I soon put it back on again.”
When she first moved down to the Brighton area 28 years ago, she worked for the Inland Revenue and looked forward to the lunch trolley to take her mind off the work. A hysterectomy 10 years ago following ovarian cancer also contributed to her weight gain.
By the time she hit 49 years old, Louise weighed 18 stone. “I couldn’t walk up a hill without getting breathless and was on blood pressure tablets. My weight was really telling on my health. I thought `I can’t get bigger and bigger, I have to do something about it’.”
“My GP tried to encourage me to lose weight, but it is not as easy as people think. He even suggested appetite suppressants.”
Louise’s father had died of a heart attack and she was terrified of the same thing happening to her.
“I wanted to prolong my life - I didn’t want to die at the age of 50 from a flipping heart attack just because I was on the fat table!”
Louise began researching weight loss surgery and in spring last year she asked her GP to refer her to The Montefiore Hospital in Hove. On Tuesday, May 16, 2017 she had a gastric sleeve operation under the care of Mr Goldie Khera, bariatric consultant.
“Weight loss surgery is a very personal journey, but it is the best thing I have ever done. It has completely changed my lifestyle. I don’t feel hungry all the time and I don’t have cravings for foods – I even have crisps in my kitchen cupboard for visitors and don’t feel the urge to eat them myself. I am eating the healthiest I have ever done and enjoy making fresh home cooked meals, jacket potatoes, and salads. And I go to the gym twice a week.”
As the weight came off, Louise began to sleep better as well and feeling happier than she had been in a long time. “I didn’t realise it, but I was probably quite depressed before.”
The weight loss has given her confidence with her job too…. Louise is an evidential medium, doing private readings from her home, as well as being president of the Brotherhood Gate Spiritual Church in Brighton.
“I used to get very nervous before doing public readings and would cough a lot, but since I have lost weight I feel more confident and the coughing thing has stopped. I would like to do larger public readings now and have even booked a large venue for next year.”
Her more immediate plans include a trip to Australia in November to visit family, an experience she can now enjoy as she feels so much more comfortable on planes. “Flying used to be so embarrassing as I had to have a seatbelt extension.”
And the good news is she recently came off her blood pressure tablets.
“I have more energy and feel more vitalised now and so much happier in myself. Although I can’t see myself, I know I look and feel great. And the irony is, I weigh the same as I did when I was on the fat table!”