An obese student nurse who was ‘too big for IVF’ has lost seven stone and gone down an incredible six dress sizes in a bid to become a mum.
Jenna Flicker Sanchez, 30, from Bristol ballooned to a size 22, after years of eating McDonald’s Big Macs and packets of biscuits in secret.
When she got together with her now wife, gas engineer, Rebeca, 29, in August 2014, the lovebirds soon began planning their future together, which included starting a family, using an anonymous sperm donor.
But they were dealt a devastating blow when 18 stone Jenna was told her BMI of 40 – classed as obese – was too high to be eligible for NHS fertility treatment, which needs to be under 30.
‘Knowing I was too big for IVF was absolutely devastating,’ Jenna said. ‘I feel like I was born to be a mum and couldn’t imagine my life without having kids.
‘That’s when I realised I needed to sort my life out, or I would never be a mother.
Jenna, who now weighs 11 stone 3lb and is a slim size 10, had always been an emotional eater.
Jenna Flicker Sanchez, 30, from Bristol lost seven stone in time for her wedding day in the hope of becoming a mother afterwards
Jenna was classed as obese at more than 18 stone and realised she needed to lose weight if she wanted to become a mum
‘If I was happy or sad, I’d eat, it was comforting,’ she admitted.
‘I was a secret eater, too. I’d drive home from work, stop at McDonald’s, get a big old meal, before going back and having a dinner too.
‘I’d scoff packets of biscuits in the car on my own and hide all evidence of the snacking, by throwing the packaging in the bin.’
But it was when her nan Patricia Pocock, 72, had a sudden heart attack in July 2014, that Jenna’s eating habits spiralled out of control.
Jenna Flicker Sanchez at her largest, with her wife Rebeca
Jenna ballooned to a size 22 after years of eating McDonald¿s Big Macs and packets of biscuits in secret
Jenna and Rebecca Flicker Sanchez on their wedding day after the latter shed seven stone
Jenna would eat 5,000 calories a day including secret snacks of McDonald’s and biscuits
‘She just collapsed at home and I had to give her CPR. She didn’t make it and that really pushed me over the edge,’ she explained.
‘Losing her like that, so suddenly, left me totally heartbroken, and I turned to food.’
Just a month after her nan’s death, Jenna met up with Rebeca, 29, who she had known as a teenager when they trained as hairdressers together, and the pair hit it off.
Falling in love did not stop Jenna from gorging on a staggering 5,000 calories a day though.
Jenna’s diet before
Lunch: Sandwich, two packs of crisps
Dinner: Pasta with cheese and sauce or a takeaway
Snacks: McDonald’s or biscuits
Jenna’s diet now
Dinner: Homemade chicken and vegetables
Skipping breakfast, she would eat a calorie-laden sandwich, with two packets of crisps for lunch and pasta covered in cheese and sauce for dinner.
As well as the secret snacks, Jenna and Rebeca, who has also lost two stone since Jenna’s weight loss, would also buy in up to four takeaways a week.
But it was in September 2015 that everything changed for Jenna, when she was rushed to Bristol Royal Infirmary with agonising stomach and chest pains.
Since taking up running, Jenna has transformed her life and fitness levels
Jenna with her wife Rebecca who has also lost two stone after giving up their four takeaways a week
After blood tests and a chest x-ray, Jenna was told she would need an ultrasound back at the hospital a week later.
That revealed she had a build-up of fat in the liver, usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. A healthy liver should be fat-free.
‘I was terrified. I went to see my GP and he said I needed to change my lifestyle and get more healthy,’ she said.
‘That’s when I told him Rebeca and I wanted to explore IVF options, to start a family.
‘The doctor said if he was going to make a case for us to get funding on the NHS, I would seriously need to lose weight.’
The happy couple are now hoping to have a baby together with private fertility treatment
Jenna would eat a staggering 5,000 calories a day before her weight loss but she transformed her figure by joining Slimming World
Jenna’s BMI was over 40, making her obese, according to the NHS, which says an ideal adult BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.
Clinical Commissioning Groups, which commission treatment for patients, will only offer IVF treatment to women who have a BMI of between 19 and 30, which is in line with the NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance.
And the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions treatment in Jenna’s area, says a prospective mother’s BMI must be between 19 and 29.9 for six months, before they can be eligible for IVF. Anyone with a BMI of 30 and above should be offered a referral to weight management services, to help them slim before IVF is offered.
The couple were hoping to start a family but Jenna was told her BMI was too high at 40 and needed to be under 30
Jenna Flicker Sanchez and her sister Charly on her hen weekend
After receiving this shocking information, determined not to be too big to become a mum, Jenna joined her local Slimming World club.
Eating porridge for breakfast, a healthy salad for lunch and homemade healthy meals of chicken and vegetables for dinner, snacking on fruit and taking up running, she transformed her life.
And by January 2015, Rebeca got down on one knee at their Bristol home, as friends and family hid in the kitchen, to surprise them.
‘We set the date for our wedding for the following July, so that was a goal for me to lose weight for too.’
Her wedding was another incentive for Jenna to slim down
Jenna Flicker Sanchez and her sister Charly on her hen weekend
Jenna and Rebeca Flicker Sanchez on their wedding day. After months of dieting Jenna lost seven stone for the big day
By the time she said, ‘I do,’ on July 29 this year, at Colliters Brook Farm, a country house on the outskirts of Bristol, she had lost almost seven stone and was a svelte size 10.
She said: ‘I felt incredible on my wedding day. I had a stunning ivory lacy gown on and Rebeca was in a perfectly smart tweed suit.
‘I now feel like a completely different person. I’ve got so much more energy too.’
Meanwhile, her all-important BMI number is now a healthy 25, although the couple are having treatment privately, to speed up the process.
Jenna is now a slim size 10 after finding out she was too was “too big for IVF
‘I know now I am healthy weight now, so it will improve my chances of having a baby with IVF, using a sperm donor.
‘Me and Rebeca have just started a consultation at a fertility clinic and can’t wait to become mums.’
Jenna, whose dream it is to become a Macmillan cancer nurse, is supporting Macmillan Cancer Support’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, with headline sponsor M&S, today.
To find an event near you to get involved in, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/coffee