Husband, father, grandfather, Chris Coughlan is a character. At 55, he’s a man who loves his family, loves a good yarn, loves his mates (no hugging involved) and loves his food and drink – maybe a little too much. But when the cold hard facts of his deteriorating health were laid out in front of him just over two years ago, he began the journey back to health. He shares                                                                      his story with his good friend Judy McAuliffe.                  images: supplied

I don’t have a family history of obesity, but at 10 years old I weighed 10 stone, so I guess I had a tendency to being overweight from a young age. Having said that, I was only 10 stone again when I married Deb, in 1982. I was younger then though and working hard.

Over the years the weight slowly piled on. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to lose it. Each time, I’d lose weight but once I started eating normally again, it would all go back on, and more. In 2019 I reached 172 kilos and was told that unless I did something about it, I had very limited life left. That was the turning point. I want to be around to see my grandkids grow up.

Again, I went to a dietitian. Again, I had early results and then a backslide. I was pretty pissed off. My boss, Tim Smith of Smith’s Cranes, knew that I was having medical issues and when I told him the full picture, he didn’t hesitate. He said he wanted me on his team for a long time yet, and immediately suggested Roux en Y Gastric Bypass which converts the stomach from a two-litre capacity to a 30ml pouch. One of Tim’s mates had had the same op and had incredible results. Incredibly, he also offered to fully fund the surgery for me. Tim not only paid for the surgery but also paid me for the two weeks I was off work, just totally supported me in every way. I still get a bit teary-eyed when I think about that. Tim’s a great employer, and a great bloke.  

Opting for surgery might look like an easy-out, but it’s definitely not. My surgeon at Christchurch Weight Loss Surgery told me I had to lose 10 kilos before my operation, so Judy stepped up and we went on an Optifast programme, both losing around 14kilos. When I went in for my pre-op, the surgeon thought his scales needed to be recalibrated. When he realised they were right, and I’d lost that much, he said it was the most any of his patients had ever lost, pre-op!

My wife and family have been hugely supportive all the way through, and they can’t believe my energy levels. I used to struggle get in and out of vehicles, struggle to do simple things like mow the lawns. Now I’m out there, doing it all easily.  I have fewer aches and pains and I’ve dropped from a size 6XL to an XL.

One of the biggest changes for me is that I can now happily go out to a restaurant or socialise with my mates. Before, I always felt judged. I thought everyone was looking at me thinking, “Look at that big, fat prick.”

My goal weight is 110 kilos and I’m still two kilos off that. But I’m still very slowly losing. II still eat the same food, just very small amounts. I’m slowly learning not to pile my plate up – that I only need a few mouthfuls to feel full. It takes a while for your brain to catch up with that. I have to eat more often, make sure I don’t skip meals and take special dietary supplements every day to make sure I have a well-balanced diet.

Would I recommend this? Hell yes! I wish I’d done it sooner.

Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.