MUM Amy Morrow is half the woman she used to be.
At her heaviest Amy weighed 140kg.
Now she's down to just 67kg. Like many others, the Ipswich hairdresser's weight-loss journey has been long and filled with failed attempts to reach her goal weight, to take back her life as an active mum.
Amy spent hours slogging it out at the gym.
She woke up in the dark of winter to go the personal training sessions three times a week but it wasn't until she decided to take drastic action that her life changed.
"I would work out and be strict on my diet, lose 10 or 20kg and then put it back on again," Amy said.
"This time it's taken a year to lose the weight. You need to have the right mindset. I was ready to do it. I wanted to be able to do things with my kids."
In September Amy underwent a bariatric procedure known as the gastric sleeve; an operation which permanently removes 80 to 90 per cent of the stomach.
Amy's stomach can now only hold the equivalent of a cup of food or liquid.
It also decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin by 50 to 65 per cent.
Medicare wouldn't pay for the operation, so Amy dipped into her superannuation, something a growing number of Australians are choosing to do to pay for the weight-loss surgery.
According to the Australian Department of Human Services, applications for compassionate grounds have risen by more than 50 per cent in the last financial year with almost $205 million approved for release.
"I'd tried literally every diet from shakes to Weight Watchers, and the Tony Ferguson diet," Amy said.
"I just got to the point when the number on my scales was daunting. Even losing 15kg was a massive challenge."
One day Amy saw a photo of her previously overweight cousin looking slim on Facebook and messaged her to ask how she'd done it. That's when Amy found out about gastric sleeve surgery.
She decided to take the plunge and hasn't looked back since. Amy has faced some negative feedback from people who have insinuated she "cheated" by getting the surgery but Amy sees the gastric sleeve as a tool for weight loss, not a solution.
"It's a tool and like anything, if you're not going to use it properly you're not going to succeed," she said.
"You have to stick to a high protein, low carb diet and obviously it's all about portion control.
"Some people are embarrassed to admit they've had the surgery and I think that's because people can be so judgemental, for no reason. Still to this day people will say to me, 'oh I wish I could have surgery' and I just think to myself, well you're not the one who went to PT three times a week in the dark."
There are other aspects to the surgery that Amy said can be hard to deal with, including the embarrass- ment of having to order food off the appetisers menu, because she can't eat a whole meal, and the excess skin.
"In a way, it can be depressing sometimes socially. It doesn't change your brain, for example, if I get a whole pizza I still want to eat the whole pizza but I can't," Amy said.
"Socially it can be embarrassing at first when you are still big but you're ordering something small.
"Some people are embarrassed by it but there's nothing to be ashamed of."
The excess skin causes distress for many people post-surgery. Throughout her journey Amy has met many other women who have a lot more excess skin than her, although Amy admits her breasts are now non-existent. She hopes to have implants inserted in the near future.
When Amy was 17, and at the weight she is now, her breasts were a 10DD. At her heaviest they were an E cup. Now she just wears a sports bra. "I have no super left to pay for skin surgery so now I have to start saving or look to private health insurance," Amy said.
"I'm lucky compared to others in that regard, my stomach isn't that bad, but then I have done a lot of weights and a lot of exercise."
Amy has managed to take back her life after the surgery. She has gone back to working full-time in her salon and has the energy to be an active mum for her three children.
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