The issue of bariatric surgery was recently brought to my attention when I received a Twitter message from a lady named Hayley Standen. She asked me to sign a petition she submitted to UK Parliament: Ban the Gastric Bypass operation in the UK - deadline 21 June 2016. Hayley lost her mother June 2014 due to many complications suffered after undergoing bypass surgery in 2011.
Gastric bypass/bands are types of weight loss surgeries used to help people who are morbidly obese. To qualify for this operation on the NHS you must have a BMI of 40+, or 35+ with a serious health condition. These surgeries cost the NHS £5,999, going up to £8000 through private care. But because of the associated risks, most surgeons, NHS or private, only consider someone for this surgery if they believe the patient has a life-threatening need. I was even told by my doctor to first try natural weight loss at 25 stone with PCOS. He was reluctant to give me that option as surgery carries major risk of complications. Today as someone who has lost 13 stone naturally but at my heaviest wished I could have had the surgery, Hayley contacting me started thinking - what would I now say to my former self who was thinking of getting the Band?
The truth is I shudder even at the thought of giving up my accomplishment - achieving extreme natural weight loss, as well as the fitness, healthy relationship with food and self-control I've gained through doing it. The more I think about it, the more I feel I would aggressively tell my former self not to even think about having a gastric band. Instead I'd let her know she is in for a tough but truly worthwhile weight loss journey! I'd never condemn anyone who's thinking of, or who has had the surgery... however I, knowing what I know today about healthy fat loss techniques, would tell myself 'that natural is going to be less painful; considerably cheaper with less loose skin after; you'll be well nourished enough to build muscle and be energised everyday!' And that's all without even going into the many possible life-threatening complications. Complications like uncontrolled vomiting; severe cramps, blood clots, dumping syndrome, diarrhoea and hernias to name a few!
The size of an adult stomach is the size needed to nourish an adult body, and if you halve it the correct amount of nourishment cannot be taken in with healthy or unhealthy food, leaving you in perpetual starvation mode. I feel the band is just a muzzle, and when it gets taken off you still have to know how to control the beast. This has to be my biggest issue with the surgeries, as they can literally stop you from learning the self-control needed for a healthy lifestyle. Just like the failed crash course diet perhaps the question will soon become how many times have you had the band? But that's not where my opposition ends as when I learnt that I could eat very well and still lose fat, I also realised I needed all that food to fuel my workouts and build muscle mass, it's almost an oxymoron to try and build muscle whilst starving. And In my opinion, from the results I've seen, people who've had the surgery often seem to lack muscle definition and have extreme amounts of excess skin.
I do have loose skin as well but not as much as I maybe should have, and I believe it's because from the start I lifted weights. And as muscle raises your metabolism so much you'll burn calories while resting, I think it's safe to say anyone who must lose body fat simply MUST build Muscle! My views only solidify when I read stories like that of Emrah Mevsimler - the first British child to have had a gastric band privately, Emrah now too believes the procedure should be banned. He goes on to talk about his many complications after the surgery that almost took his life. Sadly there seem to be many cases of complications after this surgery.
Not to take away from, but even with, success stories like Amber Hart who went, like me, from a size 32 to a size 12 losing over 110 kilos in 1.5 years. She stated even with her gastric band surgery she still had to work incredibly hard to lose the weight. Reading her story makes me feel with or without the band there are no short cuts to a lifestyle change, only quick fixes that in my opinion make the journey longer and more distressing than it ever had to be!
And finally, personally, I take greater inspiration from stories like that of 68 year old Sandra Green; who, at her heaviest weighed 23st and was so desperate to lose weight, that she almost had the surgery in 2010 ... but changed her mind...
"I would have had the gastric band surgery at the Royal Derby Hospital in 2010... I had my appointment I thought it really was a coward's way out. I thought if other people can lose the weight, so can I."
Mrs Green went from a size 26 to 16 with exercise and eating large amounts of vegetables, and is now fit enough to care for her ailing husband.