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Once A Sideline Mum & Now An Active Mum, Paula Cured Plantar Fasciitis with Surgical Weight Loss


Once A Sideline Mum & Now An Active Mum, Paula Cured Plantar Fasciitis with Surgical Weight Loss

Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors Podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians find solutions to treating obesity and health related complications through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.

My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who has helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia in both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy it.

Hello, my name is Felicity. I’m the CEO of WeightLoss Solutions Australia.

Welcome to my Wellness Warriors Podcast. Through the course of this podcast series, I’m talking to patients who’ve been through bariatric surgery, doctors, health professionals, and a whole host of people who’ve created some form of impact on my career pathway over the last 20 years, whether that’s been patients who’ve had surgery 17 or more years ago, or patients who might’ve had surgery only a year or so ago.

And today my story is going to be talking to beautiful, Paula, thank you so much for coming along and joining me today for the podcast.

Paula Joseph: Thank you for having me.

Felicity Cohen: Absolute pleasure. So, I guess let’s start with, where did this all begin for you? Before you started thinking about bariatric surgery, what were some of the triggers or the moments in life that led you to this pathway?

Paula Joseph: I suppose my journey probably started in, or the worst of it, started in 2003. I went overseas for five years to work on cruise ships and I used to do the kids program on cruise ships. And a lot of that was taking the kids to meals, so lunches and dinners. And unfortunately when it came to dinner for the kids, it was pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries.

So there was really no, or not a lot of choice for us if we couldn’t go and, or didn’t have the time to go and see what there was as far as the guests food, choices, we just had to suck it up and have that kind of food. So it really did sort of start that path, I suppose, for me, for those five years.

So I would, put on a lot of weight while I was away from my six to eight month contract. So I would come home for six weeks and I would jump on something like Tony Ferguson and do shakes and try and lose all the weight that I gained over those six months. So it really was a catalyst of five years, of really, some really, really bad habits.

And then when I came back here, I pretty much got pregnant straight away and piled on a whole heap of weight, for my first pregnancy. And didn’t really lose a lot of it after that first pregnancy. So it just sort of, I suppose, grew and grew and grew. And it just, I suppose the more weight that piles on the harder it is to actually kick those habits and get it off again.

So, yeah, it’s been a, it’s been a struggle, but, you know, I suppose it did take me a good year to decide, to get to surgery as well. So I’ve, I’m a year in now or almost on the 28th of February, so getting very close to a year ago. But it really was a long process in talking to a lot of people and finding some people that had been through that surgery before as well.

That really was the, “Okay, I have to do this. I have to do something”.

Felicity Cohen: The yo-yo dieting cycle of behavior where you’re, you know, over six months exposed to limited food choices and forced really, you know, without any other options to eat pizza, hot dogs, et cetera. and then come back and go into the Tony Ferguson diet.

That probably was a cycle of behaviour that created additional and consistent weight gain rather than weight loss?

Paula Joseph: By the time those five years were over, definitely. Yeah. It just became that much harder to lose it when I came home too. And you almost kind of lose that will to do something about it at the end of the day, when, you know, you’re just in such a bad cycle to start off with.

Felicity Cohen: I think that’s the story for so many yo-yo dieters. And I often talk about that rollercoaster being really hard to get off and the people that we’re talking to every day, they’re great dieters. Going on Tony Ferguson and losing the weight, that’s not the hard part, but then for you, that’s a really unusual situation to actually not have healthy food choices.

And it really strikes me as quite bizarre that a cruise ship looking after the health and well-being of children as their passengers is giving them such poor food choices. That’s a statement in itself.

Paula Joseph: Yeah. I mean, to start off with there wasn’t a lot, but that’s something we did try and fight for over those five years as well.

Even when it came to the staff food choices, you know, things we, asked for things like, can you use cooking spray instead of cooking in large volumes of oil and things like that. So by the time I was leaving, we did have some better food choices, but still not great. I mean, you know, changing things to things like cheese lasagna, it’s still not a great option.

So, you know, although they considered it healthier it still wasn’t fantastic or great choices for us. And I mean, and I’m a fussy eater too, so that doesn’t help either.

Felicity Cohen: It’s really sad to know that there’s such a lack of understanding in that space for what is healthy food and what’s appropriate to feed our children. And it strikes me as quite, really a significant comment to make.

And I, for me, I’m quite an advocate for childhood prevention of obesity. And we do have a program that we run through WeightLoss Solutions Australia, Project GRIT, which is all focused on children. And not just dealing, so, because I know that we’re never going to run out, unfortunately of adults to treat that we actually need to look at younger generations.

Did it ever make you stop and think I’m never going to feed my children food like this?

Paula Joseph: In some ways. That was one thing I did see a lot of when I was on the cruise ship is the amount of obesity that is out there, especially in children. And you know, it was really sad to see that so many children, it’s one thing I haven’t seen compared to here, with the American children of just how much childhood obesity there is over there.

It was a real eyeopener for me going over there and seeing that. So yeah it is something that I do sort of, you know, I am very mindful of when it comes to my own children and always has been.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous.

You’ve got an 8 and a 10 year old. And I think now obviously you’re going to be a great example for them being healthier. Have you changed the diet around your family food? Has that changed at all since you’ve had your surgery?

Paula Joseph: Yes and no. I do a lot more meal prepping and things like that now, rather than just sort of eating things on the fly, I suppose, and, and grabbing, you know, “Oh, let’s just have spaghetti toasted sandwiches tonight”, cause it’s the easy option.

So I try not, maybe when they’re a little bit younger, take-away was probably a bit of an option at times. Just you know, picking them up so late then being tired and hungry but definitely, yeah, not these days. And I did change a lot of those habits, quite a while ago before I sort of went down the surgery path to see if you know, it could help me as well, I suppose.

Felicity Cohen: So tell me about some of the health related issues that you started to feel were becoming noticeable with excess weight. What kind of things were you feeling was starting to impact your life?

Paula Joseph: Well, I work in a quite physical job, so although I do move a lot each day and I do lift a lot of weights, so to speak, moving beer cartons around, I suppose my biggest one was I got plantar fasciitis.

Which basically being on my feet for around nine hours a day, by the end of the day, I couldn’t walk. I was in so much pain. I was just limping around the store. My ankles were swelling like you wouldn’t believe. So that was probably my biggest one. I hadn’t quite gotten to that prediabetic stage or high blood pressure or anything like that.

So I was lucky in that sense, but knew I was definitely heading down the path towards those things as well. So I think that was just the biggest thing for me is being in a job where I’m on my feet for so long, I couldn’t keep going like that.

Felicity Cohen: I don’t think people understand quite how prevalent and how painful plantar fasciitis is.

And I talked to so many people about this problem and the treatment for plantar fasciitis in an overweight person. So it’s not the cortisone injections and things like that that are going to solve the problem. It’s actually the weight loss that you need to take that pressure off your feet.

Paula Joseph: Yeah. And it was, I was surprised when I went on the pre-op diet, I think I lost about 13 kilos just in that pre-op diet.

And I think it was around somewhere between the five and ten kilo mark when the pain started subsiding. So it was really, really quickly, but it was amazing how little it actually took to have such a big impact.

Felicity Cohen: That’s quite amazing. And I really think it’s important to punctuate and highlight significantly the impact of plantar fasciitis and how much of it is out there to an overweight population. That people are suffering from this and the pain it causes is excruciating.

And I really understand when I hear you say that you couldn’t walk at the end of the day. Imagine the pain that you must have been in just from that one problem and how that was impacting your life when you got home at the end of the day.

Paula Joseph: And anyone who’s suffered it knows that the minute you sit down or you sit down for 5, 10 minutes, how much harder it is to get back up on your feet as well.

And that was probably my hardest thing was after being on my feet all day at work the half an hour, 40 minute drive to pick up the kids in the afternoon, I could barely get out of the car and stand on my feet after that drive. So yeah, it’s excruciating.

Felicity Cohen: How did you cope at home at the end of the day, you’ve got two children to cater for and to look after, how did you manage?

Paula Joseph: I can’t remember. I would’ve struggled. I would have remembered that. And I mean, it’s one of those things, you’ve got kids, so you probably rely on the kids being more self sufficient than you actually getting stuff for them.

Whereas, you know, “Okay, I need a glass of water, mom”.

“Okay well, you know where the, you know, where the glass is, you know, where the sink is.”

Now it’s, I’m more willing to do those things for them because I’m pain free and I can do them.

Felicity Cohen: Well, you’re teaching them to be self sufficient at the same time.

Paula Joseph: Yes.

Felicity Cohen: Because you didn’t have a choice.

Paula Joseph: Yeah.

Felicity Cohen: The really important thing about this, is that patients who come to us with either plantar fasciitis or sore knees or sore hips, their functional fitness and their mobility is compromised every single day.

And I think if you’re in pain, it is such a difficult issue to live with every single day and the weight loss itself can just resolve that so quickly. It’s so, so powerful to teach people and to make people aware that that can be a faster acting change for them.

Paula Joseph: Absolutely. And it’s the biggest excuse you’ve got for not exercising as well because you just physically can’t do it.

You’re in so much pain. You’re not going to get up and go for a walk before you go to work, knowing you’re on your feet all day and knowing how each day is going to end. And it’s the last thing you want to do at night time because you just, you can’t, you’re in so much pain, you just can’t do it anymore.

Felicity Cohen: So what’s your pain threshold like now? And how are your feet feeling?

Paula Joseph: I’ve always had a high threshold of pain. But yeah, since that initial, losing that initial weight, I have not touched wood had an episode of it again. It’s completely disappeared and winter used to be my hardest time, but I’ve already seen through winter last year.

And like I said, touch wood. Hopefully I won’t encounter it again this winter and I haven’t since so.

Felicity Cohen: Amazing. What are you doing to keep more active these days apart from being on your feet, in your working life every day? Are you getting engaged and involved in exercise more?

Paula Joseph: Yes,

I’m not a sideline mom anymore.

Yesterday’s a great example. I’m extremely sore today. Yesterday the kids and I went up to, Aqua Splash off at Oxenford and we spent a good hour on the obstacle course up there. So I’m very, very sore and found muscles today that I never knew existed, but yeah, I’m not that sideline mum. So we’ve been, we go roller skating, we do lots of fun activities that I can actually get out and do with the kids on the weekends now. So yeah, I’m the fun mom now. I’m not the sideline mum.

Felicity Cohen: Amazing. So you actually did the water slides with them?

Paula Joseph: I did.

Felicity Cohen: I’m seriously impressed. That’s huge. Cause some of those are pretty scary.

Paula Joseph: One of them was.

Felicity Cohen: Lucky you were only there for an hour.

Paula Joseph: Yes, yes. The kids all wanted to stay on it, but there was a dad and myself on there and we were like, “Nope, we’re done. We’ve had it”.

Felicity Cohen: That’s just great isn’t it.

Paula Joseph: Yeah, it is. It’s a lot of pulling yourself up on mats and things. So it was great to know that I actually have the body strength to pull myself up on those mats and things now as well.

That was a, a big goal for me yesterday.

Felicity Cohen: Well done. And so rollerskating? What other things do you do with your children that you might not have necessarily engaged with them before surgery?

Paula Joseph: They come walking with me a lot down to the park and things as well. So we do spend a lot of time at the park.

The kids do little athletics, so we often head down there and we’ll throw discus and shot put, and just generally run around and kick a ball and whatever, whatever.

Felicity Cohen: So your kids are benefiting every day from the changes that you’ve made since surgery?

Paula Joseph: Yeah, definitely.

Felicity Cohen: I love that. Your husband works away?

Paula Joseph: Yes.

Felicity Cohen: How challenging is that for you as a family? And do you think that that ever had, was that ever a problem for you when you were going through the stages of managing excess weight?

Paula Joseph: Not really.

I suppose he’s been quite really supportive through the whole process. We actually had a close friend who went through the surgery before I did.

So when he knew our friend had gone through it and seeing the changes that had been made in him, he was just, he was the one that actually said to me, at the same time, I was sort of thinking about it, brought it up in conversation and I said, well, it’s something I’ve been thinking about. And he’s like, well, what’s holding you back.

So yeah.

Felicity Cohen: I think having a supportive partner is life changing as well.

Paula Joseph: Definitely.

Felicity Cohen: It’s interesting to note that there are people out there who have partners that they’re not even willing to disclose that they’re going through the surgery. So lovely to know that you’ve had the support of your husband all the way through as well.

Paula Joseph: Yeah, my mum and dad, they’ve been phenomenal.

Felicity Cohen: So your husband works as a cook in one of the, the mines. He is away from home for long periods of time?

Paula Joseph: Yeah, he’s a FIFO. So he’s two weeks on and one week off. So yeah, two weeks I single mom it.

Felicity Cohen: Amazing. That’s fabulous. we have a lot of patients who are fly in, fly out workers, and many of the cooks and the chefs will tell me that they’re actually cooking far too much food for the number of people that they’re cooking for.

In fact, I’ll often hear from the chefs and the cooks that they’re cooking sometimes three times more volume than they actually should be for the number of people. Does your husband share with you information about what that looks like?

Paula Joseph: Yeah, he actually, like, he’s mentioned that there are quite a lot of overweight guys out there as well.

And he has actually come across some who have, who have had the surgery. It’s only when he sort of seen them you know, after some time and they’re significantly a lot smaller than what they used to be. But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of wastage and things like that, that, that goes on out there, for sure.

Felicity Cohen: So how has your working life changed now? I’m imagining that you’re a lot more comfortable. Are you more productive? Do you feel better at work every day?

Paula Joseph: Definitely more productive. It’s helped me. I do a lot of stock takes, so I have to get down quite low to the ground. So that in itself has been a massive achievement. Just, yeah, being able to rotate stock, lots of squats during the day. So those sorts of things I used to really struggle with when I had the extra weight, is that especially getting down low, but now it’s just so much easier.

Felicity Cohen: Paula, how much weight have you lost?

Paula Joseph: To date 47 kilos.

Felicity Cohen: That’s incredible. And you’re 12 months post surgery around,

Paula Joseph: On the 28th. Yes.

Felicity Cohen: Wow. So that’s a lot of weight to lose.

Paula Joseph: It is. Nearly a human.

Felicity Cohen: Has that met your expectation? And how is that? How does that vary from your image of what you imagined yourself to be 12 months post surgery?

Paula Joseph: It’s probably a lot more weight than what I expected to lose, I suppose, in the 12 months.

And definitely didn’t think I would be down to where I am as far as like clothing and things like that go. So yeah, just about to do that sort of 12 month comparison of clothing, I used to wear 12 months ago compared to what I wear now. So that’d be quite an eye opener. I think I’ve done my measurements and I just, I can’t believe it.

I’m just blown away by how many centimeters I’ve lost all over as well.

Felicity Cohen: Amazing. How do your kids respond to you? Do they talk about the fact that you’ve lost weight? Do they notice, do they engage in conversation around your weight loss journey?

Paula Joseph: Yeah, even just after yesterday doing the Aqua Splash with the kids yesterday, it, they even realised like, they’re like, “Mommy, you wouldn’t have done that a year ago”.

So they’re very well aware. My 10 year old’s quite astute when it comes to things like that and he’s very well aware of the fact that my surgery was almost that year ago and he just, yeah, he brings it up all the time and just says, “Mommy, these are things you wouldn’t have done with us a year ago”.

Felicity Cohen: That’s fabulous. So your children are benefiting everyday. I really love that part of the story when we’re impacting next generation as well.

Paula Joseph: Yes, absolutely. And I think their friends noticed that too, because I’m that mum that gets in there and does things with the kids, whereas yeah, the other moms, not that they’re sideline moms, but you know, they’re just, they’re standing there and watching rather than getting in and doing it.

And I never wanted to be that mum that stood on the sidelines and just watch the kids. I’m a big kid at heart myself. So I want to be doing what the kids are doing and I want to have fun.

Felicity Cohen: And I think that’s a story for a lot of people that they are a little bit more, you know, sideline mum or mum’s taxi or whatever that looks like and not comfortable to get out there and be doing actively with their families, with their children, no matter what that looks like, riding a bike or whatever.

It looks like, I think it’s so valuable that we’re getting back to enjoying life with our families and our children.

Paula Joseph: Yeah, exactly. It’s not about being embarrassed. I’ll never be that embarrassed mom and worried about what other people will think of me anymore.

Felicity Cohen: Was that a concern for you in the past?

Paula Joseph: Oh, absolutely.

I think when you are a person of size and you, you know, you’re bigger than everybody else, you are always thinking and wondering what people think of you. I mean, I was always that person in the background in photos. You always, well, you know, want to edit the photo so to speak before you have the photo.

So I always use my height. I need to be in the back because I’m the tallest. But it’s not really about being the tallest or anything. It’s about being the biggest and, and making sure that you hide what you don’t want people to see. So that’s the thing, my, the photo that sort of really was the nail in the coffin for me, was a photo that I had no idea had been taken when I was having, Christmas photos with the kids, Christmas a year ago.

And when I went to pick up the photo and they open it and showed me that photo, I was just, I was horrified, absolutely horrified. So, yeah, I think I made my appointment and booked in the next week.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous. Did your friend go through WeightLoss Solutions Australia as well? Or did you, you just find us?

Paula Joseph: No. He’s up in Brisbane, so yeah, I’m not sure where he went through.

Felicity Cohen: Okay. Excellent.

Tell me about your surgical experience and what that was like, actually going into the hospital, having that day in operation. How did you feel about that?

Paula Joseph: I was actually quite excited leading up to it, so I didn’t really have a lot of nerves or anything. I think I was just more excited for the future and the changes that were about to happen.

Felicity Cohen: Excellent. What kind of goals are you setting for yourself now?

Paula Joseph: My next goal is to hit 50 kilos in weight loss and also get under a hundred kilos. So I’m very close to that. I’m about 102, so I’m getting really, really close to that. So yeah, can’t wait to be under a hundred.

Felicity Cohen: That’d be amazing. And fitness goals and challenges.

What kind of challenges are you setting yourself up for?

Paula Joseph: Time is really, it’s a factor when I’ve got the kids and got them on my own a lot. So, I don’t get to go to the gym or anything like that. It’s sort of not something really sort of in my scope, I guess.

But I would like to do the 5.7 in there, the marathon this year with WeightLoss Solutions.

So that’s a goal this year is to at least get in and get the kids involved with me as well. I want them to come and do it with me too, so that we can, you know, something we can do together and achieve together.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous. Well you can actually bring the children to the training program as well on the Saturdays, especially when you’re by yourself.

So, yeah, that’s great to engage the kids and get them involved in the whole training schedule as well and do it with them.

Paula Joseph: Yep. Looking forward to it.

Felicity Cohen: Yes. Excellent. So for you, and when I asked you the question about what does wellness mean? What would you think about when we talk about wellness?

What does that look like for you?

Paula Joseph: It means growing old, I suppose, and being around for my kids. So it was tackling, you know, those, the health issues before they arose. So before, you know, the diabetes and the things like that kicked in, so wellness is just being there for my family and being happy and healthy together.

Felicity Cohen: I love that. And I love that you’ve touched on being able to grow old. Because I think, you know, we often hear that’s a privileged denied to many. And if in a patient population where we’re dealing with overweight and obesity and a vast array of medical complications that go hand in hand. One of them is definitely premature death.

So, you know, being, setting yourself up to be healthy, fit well and having a vision of being able to live to an old age without nursing homes. But being able to enjoy your life is such a valuable, thought to have that that’s true wealth in essence, isn’t it?

Paula Joseph: Absolutely. I sort of looked at it is, you know, like everyone sort of said, “Oh, you know why you’re dipping into your super?”.

And I went well better that I dip into my super now and use it, than not be able to use it at all. See cause you know, I may not make it to retirement.

Felicity Cohen: Good on you. I love your story. And I think, you know, you’ve done so well. Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved to date. I’m really excited to watch your journey from here on, in, and to share the Gold Coast Marathon event with you this year.

That’s going to be a lot of fun and maybe a year from now, we can look at the next chapter and what you’ve, what goals you’ve hit over the next 12 months.

I’d love to talk further in a year’s time.

Paula Joseph: Awesome. Thank you.

Felicity Cohen: Thanks so much, Paula.

Thank you for joining the Wellness Warriors Podcast. It’s been a pleasure to have you online with us. If you enjoy the series, please leave your review, subscribe and follow. And we look forward to sharing many more stories with you in the future.

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