Real Life

REAL LIFE: How this 220kg woman with lipoedema learned to love her body after years of no confidence

I've finally learned how to accept myself, flaws and law.

By Laura Trieste

Finau Suliana Tua, 30, from Brisbane, Qld, tells her inspirational story

Sitting on the toilet, I burst into tears.
At 220kg, I could no longer reach around to wipe my backside.
I can't live like this anymore, I thought.
My partner walked in after he heard me crying.
"Let me help you," he offered.
"You shouldn't have to!" I replied.
I'd always struggled with my weight, but now, at 26, I'd reached my breaking point.
I felt so humiliated and frustrated that I'd let myself get this big. Determined to lose weight, I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery.
When I had the operation in 2018, I was excited to finally get my life back.
I started eating smaller portions and working out regularly at the gym. But while I was getting healthier, I was still struggling mentally.
I love dressing up and sharing my journey on social media. (Image: Instagram @finausuliana)
I constantly compared myself to others and beat myself up for not losing weight quickly enough.
A few months after my surgery, I moved from Brisbane, to New Zealand to live with my partner.
Adjusting to life in a new country where I didn't have any friends was hard. So I decided to share my weight-loss journey on Instagram to connect with others.
I started documenting my gym sessions and was amazed when I gained thousands of followers.
Seeing people comment: you've inspired me, motivated me to keep going.
But my mental battles remained, even as the weight continued to come off, and I realised that wasn't going to change until I learned to accept myself and all my flaws.
So I made a conscious choice to share the ups and downs of my journey and talk to my followers about my struggles with anxiety and depression.
Knowing I could have such a positive impact on people was mind-blowing to me and helped to boost my confidence.
Even though I wasn't happy with my weight, I didn't let it stop me from living my life. I started sharing more photos of myself, dressed up for a night out and stripped down to a swimsuit or lingerie.
It warmed my heart each time someone tagged me in their Instagram photo saying: You gave me the confidence to wear this.
Going to the gym is now part of my routine. (Image: Instagram @finausuliana)
In 2019, I moved back to Brisbane, and by 2020, I'd lost 70kg.
But once I reached 150kg,
I hit a wall.
No matter how hard I pushed myself at the gym, the weight wouldn't budge.
Then I started feeling pain in my stomach, where I could feel a lump.
One day, the pain got so debilitating I couldn't move.
My cousin rushed me to hospital, where scans revealed I had a 5cm mass on my abdominal wall.
"It's an endometrioma," the doctor told me.
He explained this cyst was caused by endometriosis, a disorder where tissue similar to the uterus lining grows in other parts of the body.
It was scary thinking about how this incurable condition could affect my body but also a relief to understand why my periods had been so painful.
In May 2021, I had surgery to remove the cyst, which had grown to 10cm.
Soon after, I visited a new GP to discuss treating my endometriosis.
"Have you ever heard of lipoedema?" he asked me.
"I have actually," I replied.
I'd had people comment on Instagram that they thought I had this condition because of my thinner upper body and larger bottom half.
But doctors had always dismissed the idea whenever I mentioned it.
"I definitely think you should look into it," the GP said.
I decided to take his advice and booked an appointment at a clinic that specialised in this condition, which causes painful swelling from an abnormal build-up of fat on the lower body and arms.
After doing an ultrasound, the doctor confirmed my GP's suspicion.
The day before my gastric sleeve operation (left) and my weight loss since the surgery (right). (Image: Instagram @finausuliana)
"You have stage-four lipoedema," he said.
Hearing this almost made me cry. After so many years of beating myself up and thinking I was lazy, I finally understood why it was so hard to lose weight and why my legs hurt so much.
While the condition couldn't be cured, there was a specialised surgery I could have to reduce the size of my legs and help relieve the pain.
But the surgery and recovery process would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The doctor also told me I had early stages of lymphedema in one leg – a build up of fluid caused by a blocked vein – which would need a separate surgery.
I'm now saving up for my surgeries, and am on a mission to spread awareness about lipoedema through my Instagram and TikTok accounts.
Even after sharing my condition, I still get many horrible comments on my photos and videos telling me to stop glorifying obesity. Some days they get me down, most times I laugh them off but they will never stop me from speaking my truth.
I still have bad days, but I'm more confident than ever and determined to keep showing women, by example, that they can feel beautiful and worthy at any size.
Me and my dog, Biggie. (Image: Instagram @finausuliana)

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