Couple overcomes social anxiety and team up to lose a combined total of 151kg via surgery

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Kenny and Lauren before and after surgery. CREDIT: mediadrumimages/@shrinking400/@sleevedbyfire/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA
Kenny and Lauren before and after surgery. CREDIT: mediadrumimages/@shrinking400/@sleevedbyfire/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA
  • Kenny and Lauren motivated each other to undergo weight loss surgery.
  • Kenny underwent his surgery in September 2019 and Lauren in November 2019. 
  • Kenny is now down to 96kg from 186kg- and Lauren weighs in at 74kg from 134kg.

Civil servant Kenny Turner (37) from Long Island, USA, used food to console himself about his own body image growing up, and by 2019, had reached a weight of 410-pounds (185.97 kg). At that point, his girlfriend Lauren Harvey (35), an investigator also from Long Island, suggested that the pair get gastrectomies, surgeries to remove a significant portion of body fat.

Lauren was 296-pounds (134.26 kg) herself and brought up the topic of weight loss surgeries after Kenny’s doctor told him that he wouldn’t live another year if he didn’t do something about his weight and health.

Lauren before surgery. LONG ISLAND, USA: THIS COUP

Lauren and Kenny before surgery. All images courtesy mediadrumimages/@shrinking400/@sleevedbyfire/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

“I know the weight put a strain on the relationship just because of how uncomfortable I was in general but didn’t really understand the extent until later,” said Kenny.

“At almost 410-pounds (185.97 kg) or 210-pounds (134.26 kg), I knew she was my soulmate. Lauren found a way to love me at my worst and to bring what little joy I had out.”

READ MORE | 'I lost 48kg amid the pandemic, here's how I did it'

Before this, though, Kenny had started to isolate himself due to his weight. “I was full of self-loathing. I hated how I looked and how far I had let myself go,” he said.

“As a result, I had terrible social anxiety because I was so embarrassed by my size. I avoided almost all social settings and any event where I would have to be out in public. Everywhere I went, I felt like the biggest person in the room and that everyone was staring at me and judging me. So, I started to shut myself in and isolate myself from almost everything.”

Lauren before surgery. LONG ISLAND, USA: THIS COUP

Kenny had avoided weight loss surgery in the past, anxious about the process, but said that Lauren - who is now his fiancée - was the motivation he needed.

“When I met Lauren in 2018, everything changed,” he said. “I knew I wanted a life with her, and to do that, I needed to get healthier.

“She actually approached me and told me she was thinking of having weight loss surgery, and the thought of being able to have someone to go through this process eased a lot of my anxiety, so I finally decided to move forward with having the surgery.”

Lauren added that the motivation went both ways - as Kenny was the reason she decided to take this step too.

“Prior to meeting Kenny, losing weight was always about being pretty and skinny, and that hopefully, I would become pretty and skinny enough to find someone to love me,” she said.

“I am so incredibly lucky that things did not work out that way. When I met my now-fiancé, I was close to or near my highest weight. It didn’t matter – he loved me anyway. He loved me for me – and not because of or in spite of my weight. That was a game-changer for me."

READ MORE | Meet the woman who walked 10 000 steps a day to lose 31kg in 5 months

Her relationship also made her realised that her way of thinking was so backwards. "I had been alone for so long and convinced myself that I would always be alone – so I had never given much thought to what life would be like with a partner," she says.

Lauren before surgery. LONG ISLAND, USA: THIS COUP

“When I realized he was the one, I saw this whole life in front of me with endless possibilities and opportunities that I did not previously believe I would have. I wanted to live my best life, with him right by my side, and I did not want to be held back from anything we wanted to do in life by my weight," she says.

“I loved that my mindset was now about being healthy and not about being skinny and pretty. Even better was that I knew I had someone who would love me regardless of what I weighed.”

And while the couple was supportive of each other through thick and thin, not everyone was so accepting of their weight.

“Everyone always called me ‘big guy,’ which I hated,” said Kenny.

 “Even my mom would give me subtle disapproving looks whenever I was going for food in front of her. My mom would openly question a lot of my food choices, too,” said Lauren.

“Given my weight, it was definitely warranted, but it still hurt. When I would openly lament about my weight, my friends would just say, ‘so why don’t you just lose weight?’ As if it were so easy to do. Others would say, ‘this is totally in your control to change.’ I guess it’s hard for people who aren’t morbidly obese to understand how difficult losing weight is.”

READ MORE | Everything you need to know about intuitive eating, plus 7 great habits to consider adopting

With this new mindset and each other for encouragement, the pair booked themselves in for Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) surgeries - Kenny’s in September 2019 and Lauren’s in November 2019. “It’s like childbirth,” said Lauren.

“You can read about it all you want and get as much information as possible, but nothing fully prepares you for what it’s going to be like until you actually have to go through it."

Lauren before surgery. LONG ISLAND, USA: THIS COUP

READ MORE | 'How losing 50kg in a year, amid the pandemic, changed my outlook on life'

Since the surgery, Kenny is now down to 95.71kg - 90.26kg less than his starting weight - and Lauren weighs in at 73.94kg - 60.32kg lighter.

“The surgery helped me limit my food intake, but in addition to that, I had to make drastic changes to my food choices, and I also worked out a lot," said Kenny.

Kenny works out at least four times a week, doing strength training, cardio, and muscle workouts. Lauren also does cardio and strength training and goes on daily walks and weekend hikes. Since the surgery, the pair has gotten married - and are happier than ever.

Lauren before surgery. LONG ISLAND, USA: THIS COUP

Lauren commented that not all of the changes she’s noticed are positive - but most are.

“Losing weight has changed my life in a lot of ways - many expected and some not. Many people comment on my appearance now – which is not surprising, but what did catch me off guard is how willing people are to pass judgment on my heavier self now that I have lost weight, or how openly they’re willing to talk about my body and give unsolicited opinions or advice," says Lauren.

“Weight loss does not make all of your problems go away, but it does enable you to face them head-on without using your weight as an obstacle or excuse to work on those problems."

Do you have a story to share with us? Tell us about it here.

CREDIT: mediadrumimages/@shrinking400/@sleevedbyfire/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

Follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Sign up to W24's newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.