Tailem Bend woman Helen James loses 93 kilograms in mammoth weight loss journey

Standing proud: Helen James, of Tailem Bend, walks again after 10 years relying on a wheelchair.
Standing proud: Helen James, of Tailem Bend, walks again after 10 years relying on a wheelchair.

HELEN James thought she would never walk again after her weight hit 235 kilograms and her legs gave way.

For 10 years the Tailem Bend resident needed a wheelchair to move around, while her health deteriorated further with a diabetes diagnosis.

But in June 2013, she approached her doctor determined to walk again and create a healthier future.

It was not an easy journey, but with the support of her family, friends and medical professionals, Mrs James has lost 93 kilograms over two years.

The Tailem Bend resident said a traumatic childhood put her on the path to obesity.

"When I was a child, food was my only friend," she said.

"By the time I was 26, I was 448 pounds.

"I left my parents house at 18 and I couldn't cook - every meal was either toast or takeaway and I drank six litres of coca cola a day."

For the first six months she exercised in her wheelchair until she found the strength to stand on her own two feet.

"It was the most pain I've felt but it was also the most joy I've ever had in my life," she said.

"My legs were holding me up in my big fat body, I never thought they'd hold me up again.

"The whole weight loss journey has been such a conflict of emotions; you're darn sore and you want to give up sometimes but you know you're not going to."

There's been many new experiences for Helen through this journey - the first time she could buy clothes in a regular dress shop, the first time she could sit cross-legged and the first time someone called her skinny.

“I was a size 36 and all I could get was a black skirt and yellow shirt and that’s all I wore,” she said.

“The best day of my life was getting a garbage bag out to put my ‘fat’ clothes into for some poor soul to wear them.”

Helen puts her successful weight loss journey down to exercise and cutting sugar from her diet.

“Dieting can be as expensive or as cheap as you want,” she said.

“There’s no reason why you have to deprive yourself of everything, otherwise it’s too hard – all through my diet I ate cherry ripes.

“I feel invigorated now, and now that I see the end product, I don’t know why I didn’t lose weight years ago , but sometimes you have to learn things the hard way.”

But her weight loss journey isn’t over yet and Helen now faces another battle.

Losing almost 100 kilograms has left her with 30 kilograms of excess skin that is expected to cost $11,000 to surgically remove.

"I always wear a jacket, no matter how hot it is, to hide my arms," she said.

As the procedure is considered cosmetic surgery, it is not covered through medicare so the family has started a fundraising campaign to raise the needed funds.