By Janet Tappin Coelho
A grossly overweight Brazilian couple, who once broke a hotel bed while lying on it together, have opened up on how they lost a staggering 28 stone between them after going under the surgeon’s knife within months of each other.
But their gastric band ops nearly didn’t happen as Debora Kadar Mendaçolli, 36, struggled with her fear of dying on the operating table after being diagnosed as super morbidly obese and being warned by doctors the operation might not work.
It took a gesture of love and sacrifice by husband, Fernando, 31, to finally get the couple, who live in Sao Paulo, to end their addiction to food and choose the life-changing procedure that saw them both shed more than half their body fat.
Today the pair look stunning and years younger from the weightloss transformation which has totally changed their lives.
Fernando was scheduled to have bariatric surgery after being on Brazil’s national health waiting list for seven years.
But he cancelled at the last minute after becoming concerned about his wife’s mental state.
Debora’s ballooning size had left her depressed and suicidal. At 5’4″ tall she could hardly walk and suffered from severe pains in her knees.
She struggled to dress herself and had to ask Fernando for help with the most basic of tasks, especially when showering and using the toilet.
At her heaviest, the mother of four weighed 26.7 stone (170kg) and took a dress size 44.
After surgery, she lost a stunning 15.4 stone (98kg) in 18 months.
Now tipping the scales at 11.3 stone (72kg) and wearing size 14, Debora recalls: “Fernando was scared he would lose me if he slimmed down before I did.
“But at the time he didn’t tell me the real reason why he’d cancelled his operation. He came home from the doctor and started to cry his heart out and said he was ‘scared to death’ about doing it.”
Taking up the story Fernando, who weighed 28.4 stone (180kg) and is now 11 stone (70kg) lighter at 15.8 stone (100kg), says: “I always hated being fat and suffered from low self-esteem as a youngster.
“I was desperate to lose weight. I’d dreamed of doing the surgery for years. I put my name down for the free gastric band operation when I was 17.
“But when the time came, seven years later, I realised I couldn’t do it. I pretended I was terrified of going under the knife when in fact I was really scared about losing my wife. I could see Debora was very ill.
“I knew I couldn’t be selfish and slim down on my own as this would destroy her. I decided to postpone my plans and promised myself I would only do the operation after she did.”
Six months later, his sacrifice paid off.
When a family friend successfully underwent bariatric surgery, Debora felt encouraged to book an appointment to see the same doctor.
The business woman says: “Even though I was severely depressed, up until this point I was more afraid of dying on the operating table because my body mass index (BMI, which measures weight and height) was beyond the permitted levels.
“When I first saw doctors, years before, they said the higher the BMI, the less chance of the operation working and I may not survive the procedure.
“But after my friend did it, I thought ‘Yes, I could die but at least I’ll die trying to save myself’.
Debora, who was categorised as super morbidly obese, was propelled to the top of the waiting list.
In November 2010, she had bariatric surgery and seven months later, in June 2011, Fernando had his stomach reduced too.
Following 45 days of liquids and pureed food the pair now stick to a balanced and healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish.
Occasionally they eat some of what they like but only in small portions and find that if they don’t chew each mouthful thoroughly they end up being sick.
The couple admit they only have themselves to blame for their obesity.
The mum, who has two boys under the age of two with Fernando, says she started piling on the pounds when she fell pregnant with her two teenage daughters from a previous relationship and found it hard to lose the baby fat.
Fernando, a relationship analyst, says: “I met Debora at work in 2007 and we hit it off straight away, even though she was my boss at the time. We soon found we had one thing in common – food.”
Back then, Debora weighed 18 stone (115kg) and Fernando was edging over 22 stone (140kg).
The couple married in 2008 after Debora changed jobs, and within three years of being together, they had heaped on a whopping 15 stone (95kgs) between them.
Debora confesses: “We used to stuff ourselves at breakfast, on bread, cakes, biscuits and coffee and at lunch time we piled our plates high with a typical Brazilian meal of rice, beans, potato salad, chips and meat.
“In between, we snacked on crisps, biscuits, ice-cream, chocolates and fizzy drinks. We were compulsive eaters and over ate at every opportunity.
“We lived in front of a pizza restaurant and every evening we put away three to four large pizzas between us.
“My bedside table was a small fridge and at night I would stretch out during my dreams and gorge on whatever was in there.”
Every month, the couple spent up to a £1,000 on food. The bill didn’t include the children’s groceries.
Debora, who has slim parents, admits: “I hated sharing. If someone took a biscuit from my packet, I had to open another one and eat the whole lot because I wanted it all for myself.
“For years my weight didn’t bother me. I was very popular at school and at work, and thought I was good-looking as I was never short of dates. It never occurred to me to do bariatric surgery because I felt I had everything under control.
“I did tons of dieting regimes but it was always half-hearted. As soon as I lost a few kilos I would give up and pile the weight back on.”
Fernando was different. He had suffered abuse and ridicule about his weight all his life.
He says: “I hated what I looked like. I had low self-esteem and developed diabetes so it was crucial for me to lose the fat. Debora was an amazing boost to my confidence.”
While holidaying in Londrina, south Brazil, just before they wed, the couple were shamed into paying for the replacement of a wooden king size bed after it collapsed under their weight while they slept.
They ended up dumping the mattress on the floor for the rest of the vacation so as not to break the bed again.
Their sex life was a challenge as their love-making became increasingly rare and difficult.
Debora reveals: “We still felt horny for each other but the logistics were not feasible. Fernando used to say we were doing sex in a see saw fashion. We had to choose either to kiss or to penetrate. It was frustrating.”
In an embarrassing episode, engineers were forced to cut the obese professional out of an office armchair when she got stuck in it in front of work colleagues.
And upon finding she was too fat to pass through barriers on public transport the distressed commuter started taking taxis to work.
Debora remembers: “My legs collapsed underneath me as I tried to climb up the steps of a bus. I was so ashamed.
“I was getting more tired and I fell into a deep depression as I found I couldn’t do normal things anymore. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I couldn’t find smart clothes to fit me for work, so I started seeing a psychiatrist.”
Today the proud weightloss winner runs a party snack food delivery service and credits her husband with saving her life.
She says: “A lot has changed since we did the surgery, our habits, our moods and attitude towards food. We’re not tempted to over eat anymore.
“The surgery has given us a new lease of life. And it was incredible to lose weight together and gain our health together.”
The couple are now committed to passing their healthy eating regime onto their four children who are banned from consuming fizzy drinks and crisps as their once morbidly obese parents vow to prevent them from making the same mistakes as they did.