I’m typical of a lot of people who battle with their weight. For me it’s the yo-yo effect of dieting – you lose weight, you put it on again, you lose it, you put on more, and so the cycle continues. As I get older, it’s getting harder to keep off the weight and by the end of last year I reached 125 kilos. My knees hurt, I felt unwell, and I found it difficult to walk long distances. The reality was something had to change, and it had to be a long-term solution, that was right for me.
While conventional methods, i.e. diet and exercise can work for some people, I didn’t have much success. In fact, I’ve lost count of how many diets and exercise programmes I have tried and failed over the years. Each time I failed it made it harder to lose the weight. So after talking to my family and colleagues I decided to have a sleeve gastrectomy, a type of bariatric surgery where the size of my stomach is reduced to about 25% of its original size. The surgery, which was performed privately, was a great success, and I have now lost over 33 kilos. My weight is now closer to the normal range for someone my size and age, and I have a renewed zest for life. My knees don’t hurt anymore, I’m off my medications, reduced my risk factors for diabetes and heart disease and feel great. For me, it’s revolutionised my life. With obesity rates on the rise, surgeon Stephanie Ulmer explains some of the benefits she has seen with bariatric surgery and helps to reduce some of the stigma associated with this type of operation.
There are many reasons why people choose to have surgery for long-term sustained weight loss. Some of these may include giving them a chance to cure their Type 2 Diabetes or to delay or even avoid joint replacement surgery. For others it is not so much the physical concerns. Rather, it is an emotional decision. Being self-conscious about your body can have a very limiting effect on the way you live your life and the activities you can indulge in.
I often hear that “I find myself saying no to invitations to social events” or “I just want to be able to do things with my children”. This is all about being able to participate fully in life again and taking away the ‘hand brake’ in their lives. For these people weight loss surgery is just as legitimate an option. It’s the key to having the freedom to live their life without the constant issues around food and eating.
I’ve been performing bariatric surgery for over five years now, and have seen how people’s lives have changed as a result of this type of surgery. There is no doubt about it, making the choice to have surgery to achieve significant & permanent weight loss is a major decision and while nobody makes the decision lightly, surgery can open up a world, where people can start to take back control over their health and their lives, many for the first time in years. While there are many surgical options available, it’s my job to help people make the right decision for them, based on physical and lifestyle needs. In Geraint’s case we looked at his BMI, discussed any medical problems or previous surgery and talked about what lifestyle factors were most important and how surgery would impact on these e.g. travel, physical activity etc. As a result Geraint chose, a Sleeve Gastrectomy, an operation , where the stomach is permanently reduced to the size of a narrow tube or sleeve. This limits the portion sizes you can eat. It also gives you a feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food.
I’m sure many of you would have noticed Geraint’s rapidly shrinking size, over the past few months as he adjusts to his trimmer self. It’s usually during the first 18 months, that people experience rapid weight loss, and it’s during this time people learn healthy habits that will follow them for the rest of their lives. This means making healthy choices, eating small amounts and not forcing it – i.e. stopping when you feel full. I’m sure we can all learn from this. It’s also important to remember that surgery is not just about seeing the physical changes, it’s a whole lifestyle change, that takes a big adjustment, mentally, physically and emotionally. Despite what some people may think, bariatric surgery is not an end to the struggle. It’s not easy and takes lots of hard work. Breaking old habits and addressing the emotional issues that contributed to obesity takes commitment and support. The good news is if you can work through this and establish an effective post surgery lifestyle, you can maintain your weight loss over the long-term.
Whatever it takes for you to regain control of your life and your health, its OK to explore all of your options, including surgery and make the choices that are right for you. I made the choice that was right for me and have never regretted my decision. I’ve even achieved a life long dream of parachuting out of a plane at 15,000 feet. Before my surgery I was too heavy. When it comes to your health, the important thing is to take action. For me, I’ve added many more years on to my life.
Stephanie and Geraint
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