A CORK mum lost 10 stone in a single year after taking the drastic decision to have a gastric sleeve operation.
And Effy Murphy said it was the best decision she ever made, despite the fact she spent the night before her major surgery feeling serious guilt, convinced she should be using the money to take her kids on holiday, or doing something else for them.
Fast forward two years, and she’s getting ready to take part in the Miss Diamond Ireland pageant in the UK this month, and couldn’t be happier.
It’s something the 37-year-old could never have imagined for herself when, just two years ago she weighed 22 stone, needed her kids to put on her socks, and was battling depression.
Growing up, Effy, from Togher, says she always had a problem with food, and that relationship only worsened as she grew older, to the extent she believes she has a food addiction.
Typically, the mum of three would have a fry for breakfast, something from a deli mid- morning, and two dinners, one of which would be a take- away, all washed down by two to three litres of coke.
Her size was never a barrier to her loving herself though, and never stopped her leading a confident life. She was a busy plus-size model who was fully comfortable doing lingerie shoots, and had already had considerable success in other pageants.
Effy said: “My daughter Aisling has been involved in pageants for 12 years. She started when she was six — we’ve travelled the world for competitions, including Australia.
"She suggested I should get involved so I got started in 2016 and won Mrs International Curve Pageant in 2018/19 and Mrs Ireland Pageant in 2017.”
It was in 2018, when herself and her former husband decided to move to New Zealand, that she began to see her weight as something that needed to be tackled.
“I needed a visa for New Zealand and I was refused one as I was regarded as a health hazard to the system. So in three months I managed to lose three stone on a shakes diet,” she said.
Unfortunately her marriage ended, and she was back home in Youghal with her three children after another three months where she piled back on the weight, and much more, tipping the scales at 22 stone.
“That’s when I said enough is enough. It had got to the stage where my children had to put my socks on for me. As a single mum, I needed to be fit and healthy for them.
“So, after some research, I booked a gastric sleeve operation for June, 2019, in Irmet Hospital in Turkey,” she said.
Effy flew over on her own, which she admits was terrifying. The surgery involved her having 80% of her stomach removed, as well as the glands that signal hunger.
She has since returned to get excess skin removed, along with some liposuction, and a full new set of teeth.
“I lost 10 stone in 2020, followed by a further stone, and I now weight 11 stone 3 lbs,” Effy said proudly.
For the first 18 months after surgery, her diet was very restricted and she could only consume very small amounts of food, which took a bit of getting used to. If she ate out with family or friends, she couldn’t even finish a starter.
Now her breakfast is usually a toasted Slimbo, lunch is a salad and soup, and she enjoys a regular dinner, but all small portions.
Throughout it all though, Effy had been battling depression.
“I was diagnosed with post natal depression after my second child, Cian. That was in 2007 and I was on medication.
“When we moved as a family to Australia in 2013, I felt everything was great and that was all forgotten about and I came off the medication. But then of course life happens, and my depression returned, and I’m now back on my medication and doing very well,” she said.
In fact, that’s the biggest difference she finds in herself since her gastric sleeve surgery. As she said, she already loved herself, but her mental health is now much more positive.
“Before, for example if we were going to Fota, I’d have been worried about what I’d wear, about sweating, and walking around, that kind of thing, and I don’t have that anymore.
“It is still a little surreal and I think my mind is still catching up with my body in terms of how I look, but I’m definitely getting there. I now have way more good days than bad.”
Her mental health struggles is one of the reasons she applied to the Miss Diamond pageant, as the competition celebrates diversity and its chosen charity for participants to fundraise for is the Samaritans.
Effy is also raising money for her local St Vincent De Paul and so far has €1,600.
And to those who say pageants are demeaning to women, she says ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Effy adds: “Come and see one for yourself. It’s not just about pretty girls on stage answering silly questions. It’s about raising awareness for different causes, and getting out into your community and making a difference.
“I’ve worked extremely hard over the past two years and I’m really hoping I get to represent Ireland in Las Vegas in 2022.” Effy’s daughter Aisling was also a finalist in the competition but, heading into TY, she has decided to focus on school for now. Effy doesn’t feel any need to defend entering her daughter in pageants as a kid.
“It was all she wanted after seeing Toddlers And Tiaras on TV when she was six and I can see now how much it has stood to her in terms of her confidence,” she said.
Effy didn’t encounter any bitchiness with Aisling, but remembers when she was handing over her winning crown herself in a previous competition, and as she walked to the stage, hearing someone say ‘How could that fat pig be a queen? Look at the size of her’.
“I remember keeping the smile on my face and waiting until I got back stage to burst out crying. I was heartbroken.”
Effy, who is also mum to 13-year-old Cian and six-year-old Ollie, now works part time for the Turkish hospital where she had her gastric sleeve surgery and has coordinated trips for Irish people. She says: “I know it’s the best decision I ever made, and seeing the transformation in others too is just amazing.”
Christened Stephanie, Effy was a pet name her grandad, Liam Crowley, had for her, and since he passed away five years ago, it’s stuck.
She feels she’s only on the start of her journey of change, and is charting her story on her Instagram account called ‘effysjourney’ which has an impressive 12,800 followers.
“My advice to anyone who might be in the same situation as me is to be selfish, start with yourself and take the risk. It will be worth it.”