A typical day for 26-year-old Sophie Goodman starts with a 5:45am gym sesh, where she smashes deadlifts in the weights section or bangs out a session on the cross-trainer. She follows this with a healthy brekky and then spends the day curating social media posts for her 22,000 followers and working her full-time job as a social media executive.
But her life hasn’t always been this way. Two years ago, Sophie had gastric sleeve surgery to help her cope with food addiction and begin the path to getting healthier (hence her very catchy Instagram handle @sophiegotsleeved). This weight loss surgery works by removing a large part of the stomach, meaning people who have had the procedure feel much fuller, much quicker.
And it worked. Not only did the surgery allow Sophie to lose weight much quicker and improve her physical health, it also gave her the boost she needed to reclaim the passion for sport she had in her teens. She’s now found a total love of the gym and a real interest in fitness and nutrition.
But the journey hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Major surgery comes with challenges — social and mental as much as physical. I sat down with Sophie to hear more about these mental challenges, how she copes with them, and the stigma surrounding weight loss surgery.
“I was a completely different person”
Growing up, Sophie was on several school sports teams. She loved it but her food addiction eventually got in the way. This had a big impact on her mental health for years, it wasn’t until after her weight loss surgery that she realised how much her weight had affected her mentally.
“I’ve always been an incredibly sporty person. In high school, I was on the netball team, football team, hockey team, rounders team, literally everything going. But unfortunately, because I was eating so much and because the food addiction was so rife, I really struggled to ever control it, so I was never in a calorie deficit and I was always constantly gaining.
“I think I was 14 stone at 14. And then by the time I hit 23, I was 20 stone.
“Pre-weight loss surgery, I was just a completely different person to who I am now. I really struggled. I mean, I was 23 years old and I 20 stone so 126 kilograms. And mentally I don’t think I realised actually how much I was battling with it.”
“It’s the most empowering feeling”
So, at 23, Sophie underwent gastric sleeve surgery. Since then, she’s lost 50kg. It’s made exercise so much easier and more enjoyable — so much so she actually looks forward to her 5:45am workouts. Exercise no longer feels like a punishment but is now something she looks forward to.
“Following my weight loss surgery, I’ve lost 50 kilograms. And first of all, exercise is so much easier. It’s more enjoyable. I do it because I know that I’m becoming the healthiest and fittest I can be, rather than just really struggling with it.
“I’ve recently set a goal with a friend of mine who’s a coach to go to the gym five times a week early in the morning. So literally for the past two weeks, we’ve been getting up at 5:45am, going to the gym, smashing out a workout and being home for 7am. And it’s honestly the most empowering feeling, like I’m really enjoying it. That would have never happened prior to losing weight.”
Sophie is clearly putting in the work at the gym, but she says her sleeve surgery is what has enabled that to happen. Without it, she’d still be struggling with her relationship with food.
“For me, the second year of this journey has been very much about getting into a gym routine and finding a love fitness and finding a love for nutrition. And I always tell people now like I know for a fact that if my sleeve wasn’t there, I would absolutely still struggle.
“I know for a fact mentally there is something very different in me now; that’s been triggered since having my weight loss surgery. And I think I’m so privileged to have lost those 50 kilograms, and to be a healthy weight that I am now and feel normal, whatever that is.”
“It’s drastic, but it saved my life”
Sophie has fostered an incredibly supportive community on her Instagram page, of people who have been through weight loss surgery, are considering it, or just interested in learning more. But as her community has grown, she’s also received attention from people who are less supportive. Or, less diplomatically, trolls.
The main criticism Sophie hears is that weight loss surgery is “an easy way out”, and she should have lost weight without the help of surgery. Sophie herself used to have that exact opinion, but now she knows surgery is what has given her freedom from food addiction.
“I know for a fact that I’ve really struggled with food addiction in my life.
“And so bariatric surgery is a tool which has enabled me to learn to live with food in a way that I’m not addicted to anymore. And I can confidently say that I don’t binge eat anymore. And if it wasn’t for the bariatric surgery, I would still be that unhealthy person that I was because it’s psychological.
“For somebody to just say weight loss surgery is the easy way out, I just don’t think you’ve taken the time to understand why that person’s done it. I mean, in an ideal world would I like to have 80% of my stomach removed? No, I’d like to be a happy, healthy, normal person. But it’s an extreme. And it’s quite a drastic measure, but it saved my life.”
“There is no better feeling”
Since losing the weight, Sophie has struggled to let go of the old image of herself, and how she used to be treated in society as a person in a bigger body. This is something that’s been hard for her to come to terms with.
“In terms of mental health, I struggle so much with anxiety and imposter syndrome. I think when you’ve lost a large amount of weight, and you’re suddenly walking around in a much smaller body, and you have like that kind of pretty privilege, and you have situations occur, that you’ve never experienced before. It makes you feel massively like, what am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here.
“Like when I’m in the gym, and I’m talking to the most ripped personal trainers, and they’re talking to me about exercises, and they’re asking me questions, and I’m just thinking, wow, I shouldn’t, shouldn’t be here at all.”
One key strategy for Sophie in coping with this imposter syndrome is bolstering her confidence. And when does she feel most confident? When smashing out a great gym sesh.
“The gym massively helps with that because it’s something that I naturally only get better at. And it’s something where no matter what you do in the day, you’re putting out like half an hour, 45 minutes purely for self-improvement.
“For me that physical feeling of smashing out the cross trainer or smashing out a new personal best on a deadlift or something like that. For me, genuinely, there’s no better feeling, it makes me feel empowered, it makes me feel strong. And it makes me feel like I’ve got purpose, which I know sounds ridiculous. But to go from like that 20-stone girl sitting on a couch, going through multiple treat-sized bags of chocolate to now like getting up at 5:45 and going and smashing a workout, coming back and then having a routine, sets my day. It’s just the most empowering feeling.”
Take home message
Sophie is educating people on the realities of weight loss and all that comes with it every day on her Instagram page. She’s real about the highs and lows of life after surgery, confronts the stigma of the procedure, and preaches all the best tips for self-love. Oh, and she even throws in some mouth-watering food pics too.
Head over to Sophie’s Instagram account @sophiegotsleeved for more.