Happy Life with Challenges 4 Years After Gastric Sleeve

Question Below Submitted By:  

Essjay (a patient from Liverpool, UK)

Having a VSG (gastric sleeve) is the best thing I could ever have done for myself. It has changed my life in so many ways.

I was 28 years old and weighed in at 16 stone 10 lbs (234 lbs) on the day of my operation. I had battled with my weight from the age of 14 and had been yo yo dieting my whole life. I was always hungry and never satisfied.

Sometimes I would successfully diet and get myself to the gym. I must have done every diet out there!

Unfortunately I had some serious mental health problems and frequent episodes of severe depression. It was during these episodes I was prone to “undoing” all of my hard work by binge eating and piling on weight.

By the time I hit my 20’s I had very little control over my eating at all and it was a vicious circle in terms of controlling my depression. Being overweight and the feeling of being too useless to sort myself out just made things worse.

The anger and self loathing I carried for piling on weight I had worked so hard to lose was unbearable. I’m sure this is a cycle that so many people can relate to.

After a very serious episode of suicidal depression in my mid twenties I was finally given the psychological help I needed to start sorting my head out. But I knew my eating habits, uncontrollable appetite and binge eating were always going to be there no matter how much better my mental health problems were.

I just couldn’t let my life revolve around food anymore. I couldn’t let myself get any bigger. I knew I needed something drastic, permanent and extreme. I didn’t take the decision lightly but I did make my mind up quickly. It had to be done.

I had my VSG in June 2011 and I took out an £8000 ($12,000) loan to pay for my operation. Paying it back almost bankrupted me completely in the first couple of years. Money was extremely tight and I had to work a lot of overtime just to make ends meet!

But I was happy to sacrifice luxury to do what I knew had to be done. The operation went smoothly and as the pounds fell off I knew I’d done the right thing. A year on and I was gaining confidence, socialising again, meeting new friends and having the life I felt I’d missed out on during my late teens/early 20’s.

I’m a different person. Happy, confident and positive about life. I met a wonderful man and 3 years on we are engaged to be married.

I’m not saying for a minute that gastric sleeve cured my depression. It was a combination of factors but part of this is realising that I will always be prone to depressive episodes and it is about controlling them and not letting them control me.

A big part of this is not physically having the ability to overeat. I can’t binge or eat a lot of food that is bad for me.

Honestly I don’t even get that hungry anymore. I am satisfied by small amounts. If I eat too much I know I will be uncomfortable and nauseous so I don’t do it. I feel in control and my weight is stable. My life does not revolve around calories anymore for the first time in my adult life.

If you are thinking about a gastric sleeve please know that there are down sides and side effects and do what is right for you.

For me it has changed me a lot as a person. Be prepared that not everyone around you may like the change. Or you may find you changed too much to fit in with aspects of your old life.

It takes a long time to get your head around not being a “big” person anymore. I am 11 stone 5lbs (159 lbs) and a UK size 12. But there are times I still feel big and look in the mirror and see a big girl. I am still shocked by pictures where I look slim!

I suffer with Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux which is often bad at night time and I have to control with medication.

I also get bouts of diarrhea and loose stools. Not everyone gets this but it’s been suggested that it is caused by dumping syndrome when undigested or fatty food slips through the sleeve. Rare with VSG but not unheard of. It comes and goes but I just see it as a side effect. It doesn’t bother me too much. I have to work hard to get enough protein intake every day (after 3 years I cannot bring myself to drink another protein shake!) and always try to maintain vitamins and nutrients.

Eating socially is difficult. You will always have to deal with questions and the horror of waiters who take away a plate of food you have barely touched. It has a massive impact on your life. You should take these things into account.

I always try to go out to dinner with a few hungry men with big appetites who will be happy to polish off my leftovers. There are days I would kill to be able to finish a big roast dinner! But in reality I am glad I can’t.

One other tip is that very high-end restaurants with taster menu’s are handy as you have lots of small courses. Tapas restaurants or restaurants where you share dishes are the best places to go!

I was lucky not to have too much of a problem with loose skin but I do have a bit on my arms, legs and boobs. This was why I made the decision to stop my weight loss at 11 stone 5 lbs (159 lbs)which is 8 lbs over my maximum healthy weight for my height.

I originally went down to 10 stone 9 lbs (149 lbs) but I was unhappy with the skin and my face looking quite gaunt and old. I decided I was happier a little bit bigger so I increased my calorie intake for a few weeks (not that easy!) until I was at a happy balance.

I’m not saying anyone should ignore their doctor or their BMI. I just knew where I felt happy. I have maintained very easily ever since but I am much more active now I have less weight on me!

Best advice I can give people is just do your research thoroughly. Know what you are getting into. Know that once you do this there is no going back. And just do what is right for you.

I hope that this helps some people with their decision.

xx Essjay

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Patient Responses to the Question Above

Considering gastric sleeve

by: Becky

Thanks for sharing. I am considering gastric sleeve surgery. I have bipolar disorder, and I was reading that some doctors refuse surgery to people with mental illness. I'm hoping to get as much information about it as I can.

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