Mum and daughter ‘best friends’ spend £15,000 on gastric bands and shed 12st

They always described themselves as best friends as well as mother and daughter.

Debbie and Robyn Collett speak every day, share mealtimes, mutual pals, clothes, shoes, make-up, karaoke nights in, and – in pre-Covid days – clubbing nights out.

And now they can add a further, rather more unusual joint venture to that list… weight-loss surgery.

In a last-resort bid to shed pounds, both mum and daughter have spent a total of £15,000 on gastric bypasses.

And the result is a loss of nearly 12 stones between them.

They say they couldn’t have done it, or continue with the challenging process, without being able to share their fears and the less pleasant side effects – as well as their hopes for the future – along the way.

Robyn, 27, says: “We have always been close and done swapsies with clothes and make-up – and now this!

“Me and Mum need to be careful what we eat and drink for the rest of our lives. The bypass is just a tool, you have to work with it.

“But I know that if I have any concerns I can talk to Mum. I don’t feel I’m doing it alone.”

Debbie, 53, adds: “We can swap stories, discuss what is good to eat and what isn’t.

“We can even discuss bowel movements – nothing is taboo!

“And we’ll be able to have even more fun together in the future.

“We are already planning a week away in the sun next year in our bikinis!”

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Debbie led the way when it came to making the decision which would transform their lives.

Tipping the scales at 16st 5lb despite years of dieting, she began to research bypass surgery.

Weighing too much to meet the threshold for an NHS op, she decided to use her savings and cash borrowed from a pal to stump up £10,000 needed for an operation in November 2016.

She says it was a last resort and not a decision she took lightly, knowing it would be tough and no magic cure.

But she had previously tried everything she could think of to keep her weight down but nothing had any lasting effect.

Things were made worse by medical issues including the chronic widespread pain of fibromyalgia which made meaningful exercise impossible.

Debbie adds: “I had four children with my first husband and since then my weight has always yo-yoed.”

She says she spent thousands on diets and gym equipment. “Then I had a fifth child and developed depression, and turned to food as a comfort.”

Carer Debbie, from Banbury, Oxon, was unable to resist biscuits and crisps, chocolate digestives and Doritos.

She admits: “I wasn’t even hungry most of the time.

“I was just eating and eating without really thinking about it. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”

Robyn supported her mum’s decision to have surgery, ex­­­plaining: “I knew how unhappy she was.”

She accompanied her to the hospital but felt scared when she saw her after the op “not very conscious and with drips in her arm”.

Back home, the side effects were proof this was no easy route.

Debbie had to cope with low energy, stomach cramps and faintness as her body struggled to digest sugar.

“Sometimes Robyn had to help me off the floor,” she admits.

“You have to watch what you eat and drink. I worked up from liquids to purees and then, on Christmas Day, I had my first proper meal.

“It was only a sprout, some turkey and one tiny potato – and that was all I could manage.” But despite the ­drawbacks involved, both women quickly saw the positives.

Within nine months Debbie was down to 12st and now weighs 9st 7lb and is a dress size 8-10.

“It was all worth it,” she says. “Losing the weight has transformed my life. I’m happier in my body and mind.

“Now, even if I’m in joggers or leggings, I can look in the mirror and go ‘You’re looking good’.”

Beautician Robyn watched in amazement, overjoyed for her mum. But she also admits to twinges of envy.

“I felt she looked better than me. She was the one more likely to pull on a night out!”

Robyn, too, had struggled with her weight, and like her mum, tried every diet going.

When she got pregnant in 2014, she weighed around 18st and put on another three during the pregnancy.

After Theo, now five, was born she fell into a vicious cycle of skipping meals and snacking, then eating huge takeaways in the evening.

Biscuits and chocolate would follow in bed. Her weight led to hip problems and sleep apnoea. Ultimately, 5ft 5in Robyn weighed 20st 5lb and was a dress size 22.

Worried about the effect it was having on bringing up Theo, this year she decided to follow Debbie and have her own gastric bypass.

She says: “Because I’d seen Mum go through it I knew exactly what it involved. I knew all the pros and cons.

“I’d seen Mum get light-headed from not eating enough and seen her have to lie down when her body couldn’t digest sugar fast enough. But I had also seen how much weight she had lost and how much that had improved her confidence.”

Debbie insists that she never suggested the procedure to Robyn but was glad she opted for it.

She says: “She’d seen first hand what it was like for me and I was hopeful that it would transform her life like it had mine.

“But it had to be her decision – she had to do it for herself.

“Then I supported her just like she supported me.”

Discovering it was cheaper to have the surgery abroad, in June this year Robyn paid around £5,000 to have the operation in Turkey. Despite Debbie’s protests, she insisted she wanted to confront it alone.

But when she flew home five days later, Debbie stepped in to ­support her.

In just 12 weeks Robyn lost four stone. She’s now 15st 8lb, a size 16, and on track for her 10st target.

She grins: “Already the pains in my back and hips have gone and my sleeping is better than it has ever been. I feel like a different, younger and healthier person.

“I can crouch down to my son’s level, I can put my shoes and socks on easier. Life has dramatically improved.”

Debbie is delighted to see a changed woman in her daughter.

“She smiles so much, her whole persona has changed,” she says. “I can’t wait until I can take her shopping and get her a sexy size 14 dress.

“Soon we will be able to share our clothes again.”

Daughter Robyn
Before

Weight: 20st 5lb

Breakfast: Nothing.

Lunch: Big sandwich, crisps, biscuits and a fizzy drink.

Dinner: Large pizza takeaway, chicken strips and ice-cream.

Snacks: Biscuits and chocolate.

After

Weight: 15st 8lb and falling

Breakfast: One Weetabix with skimmed milk.

Lunch: Chicken salad.

Dinner: High-protein meal such as chicken, vegetables and potatoes served in a child-size portion on a side plate.

Mum Debbie
Before

Weight: 16st 5lb

Breakfast: Nothing.

Snacks: Chocolate digestives and Doritos.

Lunch and dinner: No proper food.

In restaurants she would stop halfway though her main course to leave room for a large dessert.

After

Weight: 9st 7lb

Breakfast: Small piece of toast, eaten over half an hour.

Lunch: A small bowl of cereal
or sandwich.

Dinner: Child-sized portion of fish or chicken, then vegetables and sometimes a small potato.