Angie Hill, 44, lives in Margate with her partner Elaine and their daughter Emily and two foster children. After trying many diets, she decided to have gastric wrap keyhole surgery in Prague, where costs are cheaper than in the UK. The procedure folds and then stitches the stomach to make a tube, restricting the amount of food that can be eaten. Height: 5ft 7in. Total weight loss: 5st 4lb.
January 2013 17st 6lb, size 22-24
I first heard about this surgery in May 2012, when I attended a meeting at Secret Surgery, which arranges procedures overseas. My partner Elaine had a gastric bypass then went to Poland for a tummy tuck in 2010. A gastric wrap is less extreme than a bypass, gives good weight loss and there’s a lower risk of vomiting than with a gastric band.
The only question was how quickly I could save the money for the operation – it cost £4,640 for the surgery, flights and accommodation, plus £350 for Elaine to go with me. My operation is booked for 15 January in Prague and I began my pre-op liquid diet of light yoghurts and soups on New Year’s Day.
My weight dramatically increased when I came out as gay, aged 14. Since then, I’ve yo-yoed. I’m a comfort eater, plus my portion sizes are too big, I snack and I have a habit of eating in the evening. I’ve tried every diet going and asked my GP for support but nothing has worked. My blood pressure is high, I get breathless easily and my joints ache. I also find I get emotional and upset about my weight and I hate wearing frumpy clothes.
April 2013 13st 4lb, size 16-18
I’ve lost 4st 2lb and I’m looking forward to getting even smaller. The surgery was straightforward. I spent two nights in hospital and three in an apartment in Prague. I was on liquid food for two weeks, followed by two weeks of purées, two weeks of mashed food, then soft foods such as porridge and eggs. Now I’m on normal food, but much smaller portions as my stomach is the size of a banana. I’ll have muesli or porridge for breakfast, soup or cheese and crackers for lunch, then dinner on a tea plate – such as haddock with a creamy sauce and vegetables. If I eat even a teaspoon too much I feel sick. I feel so much more alive now – I can actually play with the kids when I take them to the park. My knee doesn’t lock if I kneel. I’ve just been on an all-inclusive holiday and didn’t put on the half stone I usually would.
July 2013 12st 8lb, size 14-16
I only lost 3lb in May and 3lb in June so I’ve had to look at what I’m eating. I need to cut down on carbs and choose chicken and salad instead of a roast dinner. I do get very tired sometimes and I’ve had some hair loss, both of which are problems with gastric surgery. The follow-up to my surgery has been great. I log on to the Secret Surgery forum and I attend a monthly support meeting in Rochester, an hour’s drive away. I can also see my GP if I have any concerns, but I haven’t had to do that. My daughter Emily takes a photo of me every month, so I can see how much my body has changed. She used to call my bum my ‘bookshelf’. It’s gone now.
‘Without the operation, I don’t know what size I would have been by now’
October 2013 12st 5lb, size 14-16
I’m closer to a size 14 now because I’ve lost several inches. Elaine and I joined the gym two weeks ago. My operation has brought us closer as she has helped me learn how to eat post-surgery and we both feel better about ourselves. I used to be an apple but now I’m a pear, and it’s a thrill to be able to wear fitted clothes instead of my old baggy T-shirts and trousers.
December 2013 12st 2lb, size 14
I can walk into the gym with my head held high but there are some bits of my body that exercise can’t touch. My skin was stretched when I was bigger and it hasn’t snapped back so I’m having a tummy tuck in Poland next month, then saving for a breast reduction and to have some skin removed from my upper arms. Another problem is that surgery doesn’t remove the ‘head hunger’ that makes me want to eat when I’m not hungry. But without the operation, I don’t know what size I would have been by now.
I’m really positive about the experience. It was scary going abroad for surgery but I researched the hospital and the doctor, and I chose the procedure I felt would suit me best. I look at the portions being served in restaurants and I think, ‘How could anyone eat all that food?’ But I used to. I’m so glad that’s not my life any more.
As someone who has undergone weight loss surgery herself, Angela Chouaib, MD and founder of Secret Surgery Ltd, knows all the pitfalls and obstacles that a patient can face after their surgery. Luckily, she’s here to give us all some crucial advice about how successfully work with our weight loss ops. “If you stick with these”, she says, “they will be the lifestyle changes that will lead you to a normal BMI, health, and happiness…”
1. Stop Dieting. Remember that you aren’t on a diet – it’s a lifestyle change. Don’t count calories; just place a small portion on a saucer or tea-plate and use that as your guide for portion control. Never plate up more than you need, or you’ll stretch your pouch over time.
2. Eat every three hours, whether you’re hungry or not. This will keep your metabolism going.
3. Only eat until you feel full – then stop. Place the rest of your dinner in the bin; don’t save it to snack on later.
4. Sip water throughout the day from a sports cap bottle. This will limit the speed that you can drink at. Don’t drink and eat at the same time – stop water consumption around 20 minutes before and after each meal. Avoid alcohol wherever possible. Empty calories and fizzy drinks aren’t good for us!
5. Try to eat mainly high-protein foods. Avoid bad carbs, such as rice, pasta, potatoes and bread.
6. Chew your food well when you’re eating. Try to pace your eating by placing your cutlery back on the table in between mouthfuls.
7. Limit yourself when it comes to processed foods. Even if they’re low-fat, they probably don’t contain the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.
8. Take daily vitamin supplements, and find a time of day when you’ll always remember to take it. For me, it’s with my morning coffee, so they sit next to my sweeteners in the cupboard.
9. Weigh yourself once a week, at most; look at your monthly weight-loss to get an understanding of your averages. Aim for seven to nine pounds per month.
10. You don’t have to treat yourself with food. Nail painting, earrings, massages, face packs and flowers can be just as nice as a sweet snack, but won’t leave you feeling guilty. This, over time, will help you learn to love yourself again without the need for chocolates.
Stay strong! For anyone who has recently undergone weight loss surgery, everyone here at Secret Surgery is rooting for you. You’ll get there!
I couldn’t list the number of diets I’ve been on with all ten of my fingers, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve eaten foods that are supposed to aid metabolism that are best left in the far corners of South American jungles, and I’ve dealt with the consequences – which, in my experience, have been more likely to be found in the bathroom than coming off my waistline.
If you’ve had experiences like this, it’s really no surprise if you’re considering weight loss surgery. For far too long the public have stigmatised the idea of weight loss surgery as something for people too lazy and demotivated to lose the weight themselves, naturally. Well, it really is high-time this changed.
Weight loss surgery isn’t something anyone takes lightly. How could it be? Going under the knife is daunting for anyone. But, just as it’s seen as necessary when a very ill patient needs an operation at a hospital, there comes a point, after years of unsuccessful dieting, that weight loss surgery seems to be the only way.
The science behind diets and calorie counting is hardly exact; you don’t need to look at more than a few web pages to see that scientists disagree about how exactly one should go about losing weight on an almost weekly basis. Unfortunately, no one likes to say it, but it’s probably the truth: some people just can’t lose weight the way other people do.
We’ve tried and tried, and yet the pounds don’t drop off. Should we have to suffer the low self-esteem and health problems that come with excess weight, just because of unfortunate biology?
Angela Chouaib, MD and founder at Secret Surgery Ltd., says that “Weight loss surgery really is for those in the last chance saloon; it’s a life-saving operation that should be considered just as valuable as heart surgery. Our patients live longer, happier lives because of these surgeries – and that’s what’s important.”