Specialist Bariatric Nurse & Counsellor
I had weight loss surgery in 2000 and my life and career changed.
I guess I could say I was one of a small group of 'pioneers' who, in desperation, chose to have a relatively unknown surgery (at that time) rather than remain locked in a life of what felt to be social and physical hell!
In 2000 when you searched for "gastric band" or "weight loss surgery" you were lucky to find anything. Thankfully, a few health professionals were building vast experience and growing recognition internationally e.g. Ahroni, Himpens, Frering, Fielding, Dixon and others were appearing in established medical journals and interest was growing in the UK. Thanks to health professionals like these, who introduced reputable specialist weight loss services, it may be why you are reading this today.
Now, as then, many of us were judged, admonished, chastised and severely criticised for resorting to an operation when it was 'so say' all to do with lack of self control. I do believe we took a particular bashing as we presented the medical establishment with potential problems. I have a family full of medics in various parts of the world and it seems amazing now to remember that few of them knew the words gastric band, RNY, bariatrics, let alone what they meant!
Such was lack of information available, at the first IFSO I attended I was the only UK health professional there, but times have moved on thankfully.
My Experience As A Fill Provider
To cut a very long, and at times painful, story short, I hope I never forget what it feels like to be fat and if I did I should stop working in this field!
I work as a bariatric specialist nurse in the NHS and the Private sector in Bristol. I was trained in France (Lyon) by a very experienced surgeon who is also part of our team of surgeons that I work with. I am trained as a Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & also as a Counsellor. I am also a trainer in these areas for university and national organisations.
All Weight Loss surgery involves more than just the operation, it is a life long change.
Yes I do fills, I am a fill provider, but follow up care is more than having a fill, having a check up, eating enough protein, taking supplements etc. It is about you as a total person and supporting you in change ~ it is not just a procedure. Over the years I've met many patients and the following are the most frequently asked questions I get asked about my own journey:
Do you regret having surgery?
- No. However, at times I'm sad I have a disease that means I needed to have surgery.
Do I still have fluid in my band?
- Yes. "My name is Sharon and I am fat person". I still have to 'work out' in my mind and should do in my body!
Will you ever have it taken out?
- I have learnt a huge amount about my behaviours since 2000. I don't now rely 100% on the band as a crutch. Perhaps in the last 2 years I have valued it more as the tool it is. I have changed but I am not cured. This is a life long journey emotionally, physically and even financially.
Why did you have a band?
- I chose to have the least invasive procedure with the least potential complications. If it went wrong then nothing had been cut, mutilated or moved around. If anything went wrong then it could be removed and I would return to how I was.
- I then have left my options open and who knows one day there may be a magic wand. If not I would consider other forms of surgery if I had not changed sufficiently in behaviours
How long does the band last?
- No one knows
Can you feel it?
- The band - no. The port - yes.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
- WOW - this is a BIGGY and usually results in me running late in clinic!
I say sorry to all those who wait outside tapping their fingers.
I honestly have no regrets. I was desperate and would have crawled naked over hot coals in Piccadilly Circus had it meant escape from where I was. I even thought if I died on the table it would be better to die asleep than having a long term obesity related slow death!
- No surgery will ever address significant issues that have contributed to me choosing to remain the way I was. The surgery does little. I have had to do the work and through it have learnt about myself and my relationship with food and eating.
- Support from fellow bandees is essential. I have many friends who I would not have met without this. They are supportive as fellow bandees in a way that no one else could be.
- Beware of your relationships. I have seen so many well established relationships change ~ for better or for worse.
NO WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY GUARANTEES PERMANANT WEIGHT LOSS ~
My tips for getting the most from your band and living healthily with a band
- Don't expect yourself to change life time habits immediately - it takes time
- None of us are 'good' 24/7 ~ thankfully
- Even thin people eat chocolate, but not many over eat it on a daily basis.
- Liquids have calories too
- No operation can do it alone - we have to help
- Follow most of the rules most of the time
- Tell yourself - nothing tastes a good as weight loss
I don't believe many of us allow ourselves to starve. We like food and eating too much! However any of us can be malnourished.
Discover new and exciting foods to build your health and well being. Talk to your team about food. Explore what's out there to add variety and nutrition. If you choose only to eat junk like puffy corn snacks, dips, savoury sauces and chocolate then expect to be unwell, tired, spotty, and irritable, have cravings, mood swings, recurrent thrush and constipation.
Sharon Bates, MSc RM RN Dip Co
Sharon is a Bariatric Nurse Specialist/ Counsellor working in Bristol. She is a Master Practitioner in the treatment of eating disorders [NCFED] and works as a clinician providing care before and after weight loss surgery in the NHS and Private healthcare.