This summer Alison Mason did something she never thought she would again. She took her family camping.
It may not sound like much, but to the 39-year-old it meant a lot.
After years of struggling with her weight, Alison ended up tipping the scales at over 21 stone.
That was in August last year, just before she had radical surgery to reduce the size of her stomach.
Since then Alison, from Heckmondwike, has shed nine stone and gone from a dress size 32 to a 16 – giving her a new-found freedom.
“If somebody had said to me two years ago “you will be camping in a couple of years” I would have said they were crazy,” she said,
“With me being so big I would never go in the tent. I did not have the energy.
“I had no confidence whatsoever. Now I am on top of the world.
“We have been all over – just thrown the tent in the car and gone. It’s absolutely mega.”
Alison started to pile on weight after the births of her children Daniel, now 20, 11-year-old Emily and Libby, who is nearly three.
“Before the operation I’d tried everything to lose weight, from slimming clubs to tablets, but once I started eating normally again I’d always put the weight back on,” she said.
“I would avoid leaving the house and if I did have to go out, I would always take the baby so that the pram would hide my size. I was also in very poor health and my Body Mass Index was over 40 when ideally it should be between 20 and 25.”
She slipped into depression because of her weight but it was a stranger’s comment one night about her being “a big girl” that prompted her to take desperate action.
After hearing about a gastric bypass operation, she went to her GP and found it could be done on the NHS.
So in August 2005 Alison went into Bupa Hospital Leeds, in Roundhay, for the surgery.
During a laparoscopic gastric bypass the stomach is reduced in size using keyhole surgery by bypassing part of the small intestine.
It means the stomach size is cut by more than 90 per cent – from up to 1000 ml when stretched to around 15 ml.
The operation is only carried out as a last resort when patients have tried several other ways to lose weight and it is very serious.
Alison recovered quickly and the weight started to come off immediately.
By a few months after the op she had lost three stones and the pounds have continued to come off.
“Just over one year on from my operation I have lost nine stone and couldn’t be happier with my life.” Alison said.
“Before the surgery I weighed in at 21 stone and now I’m 12 stone.
“I used to have to buy size 32 clothes but can now easily fit into size 16. I am absolutely delighted with my progress and so is Simon Dexter, my consultant at BUPA Leeds who performed my operation.”
Because Alison’s stomach is now so much smaller, it has completely changed the amount and types of food she can eat.
Now for her evening meal she has only the same sized portion as her youngest daughter, who is not yet three.
“Some days I can eat more than others,” the sewing machinist said.
“But if I want some chocolate I will have a bit – I can have a treat-sized bar.
“I have to be careful with what I eat in general and am following closely the nutrition advice from Bupa.”
She has to watch out for a condition which can affect patients in a similar way to when diabetics go “hypo”, brought on by too much sugary food.
Despite this, Alison is still thrilled with the effect of the op on her life, as well as her children and husband Andrew.
“It’s the best thing I ever did,” she said.
“I never realised how much being overweight affected my life before I had the surgery. I couldn’t do the housework without having to have a sit down and rest, and I couldn’t play with my children.
“Now I am far more active – I do plenty of walking and my children tell me to slow down.”
As well as camping, Alison has been away this year and the family are planning a holiday to Florida in May to mark her 40th birthday. It’s somewhere she’s always wanted to visit but never thought she would be able to manage because she could hardly walk anywhere.
“It’s not only my waistline that has been transformed since the operation but my outlook on life has also changed,” she said.
“I am so much happier and healthier, and I can do activities with my children now that I couldn’t dream of doing before because of my size.
“I can now look forward to the future and start enjoying my life again.
“Some people think it’s a miracle cure and it’s not. But I would have it done again if I had to.”