AT NEARLY 28 stone, Natasha Henwood was too big to be able to dress herself, so her husband had to hold her up in the shower and wash her hair.
The 30-year-old, from Penzance, Cornwall, used a mobility scooter to get around, and would comfort eat chocolate, Doritos, huge plates of pasta with half a bag of grated cheese on top and four pints of whole milk a day.
However, in July 2020, practically housebound and unable to walk due to pain but determined to change, Natasha underwent a gastric bypass surgery on the NHS – and since then, she has lost 15 stone.
She said: “I felt terrible, like I was a burden all the time and that my husband deserved better. He was helping me wash and dress so I constantly felt ashamed, depressed and guilty.
“I barely left the house due to difficulty and embarrassment as my husband had gone from being a partner to a carer. Things had to change.
“I now weigh 12st 6lbs and wear a size 12. My life is completely different and I feel amazing.
“I go jogging, paddleboarding, sea swims and no longer need Matt’s help to get me dressed!
“Matt and I are planning on having a baby in the future, something we never thought I’d be able to do.
“We have such a bright future after going through some bleak times and I owe it entirely to the NHS and the wonderful gift they gave me.”
Natasha started binge eating crisps, chocolate and any snacks she could get her hands on at 11 because it felt like it helped her cope after being diagnosed with depression. By 15, she was 15 stone.
Her mum tried to help, taking Natasha to see her GP who tried different methods to help her curb her eating habits.
Natasha said: “From a young age my relationship with food was awful.
“My mum tried everything to help me with meal plans, exercise, and visits to my GP, but unbeknownst to her I was sneaking Rich Tea biscuits and slices of bread into my bedroom.
“The doctor tried me on all sorts of meal plans and even prescribed medication that makes your body unable to absorb fats, but nothing stopped me from eating fatty foods.
When she went to college at 16 in 2007, she realised other people were noticing her weight.
There was a boy she fancied but after plucking up the courage to tell him how she felt, he told her she was “over the weight and size limit of girls he would date”.
Her unhealthy habits continued when she left home to go to Plymouth university at 18 to study a music degree. By 21, she was 24 stone, and wearing a size 26/28. Her food habit was costing her £80 a week.
“I had the freedom to eat whatever and whenever I pleased. I used to make trips to the shop at night so no one would see how much rubbish I was buying.
“I’d called my gran and asked to borrow money, and she asked me if I was on drugs because I was burning through money like water. But, it was another addiction – food.”
In 2013, Natasha left university and went home to Cornwall and she attempted to lose weight, but she would pile it back on. Friends and family tried to help – but they knew her size was a sensitive subject.
“I tortured myself with milkshake diets for three months. They would shift some weight, but as soon as I went back to normal food, I would gain it all plus more.
FABULOUS BINGO: Get a £20 bonus & 30 free spins when you spend £10 today
“Then due to my low mood, I’d end up comfort eating again and it became a vicious circle.”
In April 2016, Natasha met now-husband Matt on Tinder. She kept putting off meeting in person as she was worried he would be disgusted by her size. But they became inseparable.
She said: “We finally went on a date to a pub in May and he didn’t comment on my weight. He always reassured me not to be so hard on myself.
“In October 2017, we went to see one of our favourite bands, Metallica. Among the crowd, Matt asked me to marry him and I agreed. This was also when I noticed that my body was in constant pain and I had no idea what it was.
“But my weight gain and pain continued so I felt useless. Matt washed my hair but he reassured me that it was fine. I felt guilty that he’d gone from being a boyfriend to being a carer.
“However, not once did he make me feel like a burden, he was and still is my absolute rock.”
At 26 stone, Natasha was practically housebound from 2017 to 2019. She was still overeating due to depression and moved around the house with a walking stick due to her pain.
She would attempt extreme diets such as surviving on 500 calories a day. But in July 2018 she was rushed to hospital for an emergency cholecystectomy due to having gallstones, which can be triggered by rapid weight loss.
She was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia but at the time had no idea why she was in pain constantly – her hips were always in agony and her arms had shooting pains.
Her weight gain continued to nearly 28 stone – and along with the pain she suffered from fibromyalgia – she was required to rely on a wheelchair or mobility scooter when leaving the house, and needed assistance for simple tasks, such as washing her hair.
“At only 28, I spent my days sitting in a recliner – I felt like I was waiting to die. When I went out on my mobility scooter, I was embarrassed for Matt to be seen with me,” Natasha said.
“I struggled with holding my arms above my head for long periods of time so Matt would help wash my hair and my back.
“He’d even stand and hold me up in the shower when I wasn’t able to stand. It made me feel terrible, like I was a burden and he deserved better.
“I felt ashamed and depressed which exacerbated the cycle of binge eating for comfort. In the end I barely left the house. I was on so much pain medication for my fibromyalgia that I was like a zombie.”
By 2019, Natasha weighed 27st 10lbs. She’s been asking her doctor for a gastric bypass and finally in December 2019, she was put on a waiting list.
Her NHS surgery, which costs between £8,000 to £15,000, was postponed due to the pandemic but she underwent a gastric bypass procedure in July 2020 at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Surgeons created a pouch in her stomach so less food would make her feel fuller.
Natasha said: “I can’t sing the praises of the Bariatric team enough. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. For a week after surgery, I slept in my recliner, only eating liquid food.
“As the weeks went on, I started to eat soft food like mashed potato, and things started to improve. Once I’d lost 2 stone by September, I tried walking again.
“My leg muscles were weak after being in a wheelchair but using a walking frame, I walked a lap behind my house. I ditched the wheelchair for good and by April 2021, I was down to 17st.”
Finally on Halloween, weighing 15st, Natasha walked down the aisle to say ‘I do’ to Matt.
She described the moment as “emotional” as she finally felt confident in herself and happy to be a bride.
She said: “I wasn’t sure if I’d need my stick or not on the wedding day, but I put it to the side and stepped forward. I couldn’t believe I was finally a bride – and I wasn’t a fat one.
“My princess-style bustier wedding dress was a size 20 when I bought it three months before the wedding and it fit perfectly. But by the wedding, I had to get it altered to a size 16.
“Leaving my walking stick behind and walking down the aisle was a magical moment and I could see Matt’s eyes filling with tears as he smiled at me.
“Matt didn’t deserve to be stuck with a fiancé that was purely existing instead of living.”
Thanks to her gastric bypass, Natasha’s life has completely changed and her pain is more manageable.
“I’m much happier. I never thought I’d get to this point but I love life and always have a smile on my face,” she said.
“Friends and family can’t believe the transformation in not only how I look but my new found confidence as a person.
“I get to wear crop tops at the gym and love styling black dresses with skirts and belts to showcase my figure.
“My life now is incredible. I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do again! From big things like sea swims to gaining daily independence without having to ask for help.
“I’ve just got a bike that I can’t wait to get out on – a totally different set of wheels to before! I’m also back working again in a local pub.
“I had hoped that losing weight would lessen my pain from Fibromyalgia but unfortunately this has not been the case.
“However, I’m so grateful for my new chance at life. Even though the pain is still bad, my mobility and my mental health is so much better and I weigh so much less, so I can cope with chronic pain better than I ever could have before.”
See more of Natasha’s journey on her Instagram page The Bariatric Bat.