The first ever beauty pageant celebrating women who’ve lost weight following gastric band surgery has taken place in Sao Paulo.
A Brazilian woman, who was once taunted by her own family for being overweight, has triumphed in the competition after losing a staggering seven-and-a-half stone, Daily Mail reports
Sabrina Azevedo, 30, won the first Miss Bariatric Sao Paulo, beating off competition from 29 other candidates – all of whom who’ve been under the surgeon’s knife – to the crown earlier this month.
The mother-of-one, who now weighs nine stone, was persuaded to enter the competition by Dr Antônio Joaquim Leal, the surgeon who carried out her stomach reduction operation at the beginning of last year.
The pageant was his idea and says it gives a way for bariatric surgery patients to celebrate their achievements.
Sabrina now wears a size 10 after losing nearly half her body weight. In her Miss Bariatric Sao Paulo winners’ speech, she said she felt like a ‘new woman’.
She revealed: ‘The surgery has changed my life and the way I see myself. It has given me back my self-confidence and my energy.
‘I never expected to win but as my name was announced, memories of the heartache of trying to get rid of the kilos and the struggles of coping with the change in diet after the operation came flooding back.
‘That’s when I knew it had all been worth it.’
The final of the parade, organised by Cape Events, took place on July 8th. Over 45 women applied with 30 selected.
Candidates strutted the catwalk in casual and formal dress before three finalists were chosen with the overwhelming vote going to Sabrina.
Dr Leal, who has carried out nearly 3,500 bariatric operations, said: ‘The goal of the competition is to enhance and tell the story of women who, with great effort, are treated for morbid obesity and rebuild their self-esteem as they go on to live a healthier life.’
Organiser Julio César Costa, of Cape Events said: ‘We’re already receiving calls to take this confidence boosting event to other states in Brazil. One day we hope to launch Miss Bariatric Brazil and maybe hold an international competition.’
Sabrina, who is five feet four inches tall, said: ‘I was slim and trim for years and just over ten stone before I had my son, Enzo, eight years go. But during my pregnancy I put on an extra five stone and just kept getting heavier and heavier.’
‘For years, I tried so many different diets and exercise programmes that I lost count and my weight yo-yoed up and down as none of these efforts made any difference.
‘It was made worse when a relative started making hurtful comments every time she and others saw me.
‘She would say, ‘Wow Sabrina, you’re getting so fat, you need to do something about it because you used to look so nice. You’re losing your looks as you used to be really pretty when you were slim’.
‘She humiliated me and even today when I think about how she was always on my case, I end up crying.’
According to physicians, Sabrina’s family has a genetic predisposition to obesity and diabetes.
She continues: ‘Before the operation, I used to eat the usual cereals with juice or coffee in the morning.
‘For lunch, I would have traditional Brazilian rice and beans with meat and vegetables and in the evening, I’d have pizza or another similar meal but nothing excessive.
She adds: ‘My doctor even prescribed powerful slimming pills but they made me feel sick and when I started getting palpitations and feeling a heavy pressure on my chest I got scared and stopped taking them because I thought I was going to have a heart attack.’
For years, Sabrina had resisted marrying her childhood s she had refused to tie the knot claiming she was too fat to walk down the aisle and was even ashamed to undress in front of her husband, turning off the lights before she did.
On her wedding day, the woman who used to take a dress size 20 to 22 wore a sculpted bridal gown which showed off her size 12 curves.
Sabrina’s weight gain was also taking its toll on her joints leaving her with crippling pains in her knees, hips and back.
Finally, doctors advised her to do bariatric surgery or face losing her mobility altogether.
But the decision wasn’t easy. Sabrina said she faced a barrage of criticism from strangers who accused her of eating too much and of being too ‘lazy’ to diet and exercise after an article in her local newspaper in 2015 reported on her plans to do surgery.
She revealed: ‘My self-esteem was at rock bottom before I took the big decision to go under the knife in January last year.
‘I had stopped looking in the mirror, stopped shopping for clothes because the embarrassment of asking for something in my size was too much. Nothing I liked fitted me.
‘I refused to go to the beach because I didn’t want to wear a bikini to reveal all my bulges.
‘Although my husband never ever complained and was always supportive, I started undressing in the dark or in the bathroom because I felt ashamed and depressed with my body.’
She became a recluse, stopped going out and refused to socialise with family and friends.
Following stomach reduction, Sabrina ate a strict diet starting with liquidised food, then progressing to semi-solids and onto healthy bite size meals.
She said: ‘The first few weeks after surgery were so hard because I still had to cook for my family and smelling the food would send me crazy knowing I couldn’t eat it.
‘I can’t eat cakes and sweet stuff or drink milk anymore, things I used to love snacking on, because I bring them all up again.
‘Apart from that I eat everything I used to but in much smaller portions. I have less carbs and more protein and vegetables and I never eat after 9pm at night.’
She had a tummy tuck in February this year to remove excess skin that exercise failed to eliminate.
Proud of how she now looks, the well-toned winner goes to the gym at least three times a week and attends a six-monthly check-up clinic.
Reflecting on her success Sabrina said: ‘Surgery wasn’t an easy option. It’s a life-time commitment and you must be prepared to look after your health and eat properly otherwise the weight will come back.
‘The pain in my back and hips has gone but I still need physio on my knees because my weight damaged my joints. But they’re getting better and without surgery it could have been far worse.’
The determined winner revealed she no longer talks to the relative who mocked her ample size adding that she plans to use her win and experience to counsel and support women who are considering the life-changing stomach reduction surgery.