A mother of three who spent years struggling with eating disorders lost 140 pounds after a “life-changing” surgery — and a moment that changed her life.
Writer Tannice Hemming, 36, said a fateful trip to an amusement park in 2019 spurred her desire to shed pounds when she was kicked off a children’s ride for being overweight.
“The ride attendant struggled to put the barrier down and asked us to get off the ride because of this,” the mom told NeedToKnow.online. “I understood, as this was for our safety — but I could see the people queuing and looking at me, although no one made a fuss.”
Since she was suffering several life-threatening weight-related health problems, she ultimately decided to get gastric bypass surgery that “saved her life” — and she dropped 140 pounds in the process.
Unhealthy tendencies began early for Hemming, who suffered from binge eating, self-sabotage and self-hate due to unspecified teenage trauma.
“After my [teen] trauma, I used food like people use drink — except food was always there, and I didn’t have to be a certain age to buy it,” she said. “I was working in a supermarket and had easy access, so I would stash up on sweet treats and go into my room and stuff myself.”
She buried her feelings in candy — her favorite was Cadbury chocolate — alone in her room because she wasn’t able to eat in front of others, eventually becoming dependent on food for comfort. One time, she recalled, she even finished an entire cake in a day-and-a-half.
By age 19, she was nearly 300 pounds after “packing on the weight” — and, thus, physical problems and subsequent bullying began.
She had a lack of energy, her joints grew painful when she walked and she was consumed by thoughts of food. To make matters worse, in public, people would say her “legs are like tree trunks” or she’d “be so pretty” if she “lost some weight.”
But it wasn’t until after becoming a mom that her health took a downward spiral. During her second pregnancy, blood clots began forming in her lungs, and she was forced to stay in a high-dependency unit for 10 days.
“I almost died and since then, I was terrified about ending up with more health problems and leaving my family behind,” Hemming, from Kent, England, said.
From a young age, she over-indulged with sweets in secret, but not even her mother’s healthy meals could balance it out.
“I had a pretty healthy diet otherwise, as my mum would make sure I had a nutritious meal of typically meat and vegetables for dinner,” she said. “Soon, the weight became hard to ignore, as well as my difference in attitude, and we argued about my habits.”
Her mother found stashes of empty chocolate wrappers and presented them on her bed, concerned about the rapid weight gain Hemming was obviously experiencing. Yet no amount of intervention could curb her hunger.
When she felt “horrible,” she would binge, and eventually “became the ‘fat’ one” of her friend group.
“Usually, ‘fat’ people take on being ‘bubbly’ or ‘invisible’ – but I was neither, so I medicated with more food to block out the thoughts,” she said. “I started growing out of the clothes I loved and had to replace my wardrobe with bigger clothes that would fit.”
After meeting her husband Jacques, 36, in 2012 and matching on OkCupid the next year, the pair decided to start a family. But even while pregnant with her first child — now 6-year-old Sienna, born in 2016 — the issues around her weight didn’t stop. Hemming met with her obstetrician multiple times and eventually claimed she was being discriminated against because of her weight.
“I remember [the obstetrician] telling me all the risks of being pregnant and fat, which was the same at every appointment,” she said. “I felt horrible, as I was only being told about the terrible outcomes.”
“It was the worst birthing experience, as I felt discriminated against for being heavy throughout the entire thing,” she added.
But no other clinic would help, despite seeking out different ones that she claimed all turned her away. Hemming so desperately wanted to be freed of the “tyranny of binge eating” that was not only keeping her from receiving health care but also from living her life. So, she decided to get gastric bypass surgery.
“I had no energy, couldn’t be bothered to take my kids out and hated seeing myself in the mirror,” she said. “I wanted to be treated better by society, healthier and there for my kids as they grow.”
While doubts mounted prior to the surgery, a trip to an amusement park in Southend-on-Sea cleared them right up. She and her daughter were booted from a ride when a safety barrier wouldn’t go down due to Hemming’s weight.
“I felt this was the ‘cherry on top,’ as it cemented my decision to have the surgery, just as I was about to embark on my pre-diet,” she recalled.
In 2019, she received the “life-changing” surgery – to the tune of £3,000, or nearly $4,000 – in Turkey.
Shortly after, she didn’t feel pulled to eat the junk foods she once adored, even claiming she now loathes the sweets she previously binged.
“I can’t eat a Mr. Whippy [soft ice cream] or cakes as they taste vile to me, and I still have chocolate left over from Easter,” she said of her new and improved lifestyle. “I love Marmite now and will only eat three meals a day with limited grazing.”
Just mere months after the surgery, she was able to run around and exercise. Even better, her confidence soared.
“I felt the biggest change psychologically, as my confidence was boosted with each stone [14 pounds] that shed every month,” she said. “I was able to express myself in the clothes I wanted to wear, and now, I wear colorful outfits instead of black.”
Despite being told to avoid pregnancy after the surgery, five months later, she became pregnant with her son — who was delivered with no complications. But her check-ups came with a wonderful surprise: She had reached her “ultimate goal” of having a “healthy BMI.”
By the time her son was born, she met her body mass index goal and “couldn’t have felt happier.” Now, after losing about 140 pounds, she wears a size 8 dress — even downsizing to a 4 at times.
Before, she was eating toast for breakfast, then soda, chicken wraps, chocolates and chips for lunch, and curry for dinner with a Dr. Pepper, plus whole pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as a snack. Now, she enjoys breakfast omelets and smaller portions of chicken, vegetables and boiled potatoes.
“I reached this by the time he was born, and I couldn’t have felt happier,” she said.
Along with dieting, the surgery not only “saved her life” but also salvaged her confidence and mental health.
“I don’t think about food anymore, but I do still think of myself as the ‘fat’ person,” she said, but acknowledges she has seen a difference in the way others treat her. “I’ve seen the ‘privilege’ that comes now with being slimmer, as people don’t stare at me when I buy something sweet in the shops.”
Now, she’s able to walk more and not grow tired — recently walking five miles “without even realizing it.”
“I’m currently pregnant with twins, and I’ve got to eat more as I need to put weight on now,” she said. “I have to eat calorific foods, which I’m not enjoying, and it’s difficult seeing the scales go up.”
“However, my life doesn’t even consider eating as a main factor anymore and to those looking into having surgery, do – it’ll be worth a lifetime of happiness.”