reader report

Weight loss surgery broke eating 'cycle'

FOOD FIGHT: "I felt entitled to eat whatever the hell I wanted."
FOOD FIGHT: "I felt entitled to eat whatever the hell I wanted."

I have battled with my weight since my late teens.

I am happily married, university educated, grew up in a household where fast food was a once-a-fortnight luxury, and understand how the human metabolism works. However, somewhere along the way I gave up caring.

I'd like to say my weight gain crept up on me and I didn't realise what was happening, but that would be a lie. I simply ate too much, too often.

I would engineer opportunities to eat - dinners out with friends, dinner parties at home, and takeaway food at least once or twice during the week.

I'd eat all weekend too - brunches, yum cha, BBQs, roasts, scones, baking - you name it, I found an opportunity to do it.

My weight gain would follow a predictable pattern. Every year I'd gain between 4 or 5kgs. Then, before I knew it, I'd be back in triple figures. Regret and shame would set in.

That would turn into self-doubt and loathing, followed by a loss of confidence. I would stop laughing and contributing in all aspects of my life. Socialising with people outside of my comfort zone would become impossible. Weddings, birthdays and other celebrations - although a welcomed excuse to eat - would cause stress and huge pre-event fights at home.

Then as part of my lifelong weight gain/loss pattern I'd join a gym, go on a crash diet and lose anywhere between 20-40kgs. I'd bask in the attention before starting to gain weight again.

I've done it five times. Each purge was a little harder than the last, and each time I reached my goal weight I'd tell myself it was the last time I'd have to do it.

And yet, there I was again.

In June last year, I hit my all time high of 123.5kgs. I was left wondering where I'd be in a year, or 10 years.

I decided to end the pattern once and for all, and have weight loss surgery.

It was a very hard decision to make, but I did the research and chose to have lap-band surgery. Not everyone agreed with the approach, but it was my decision to make.

Since August I've lost nearly 20kgs. It's certainly not a quick fix, but I'm going for sustainability this time around, rather than speed. I go to the gym three times a week, and my energy levels are back to normal.

My first weight loss goal is to hit double figures on the scales. Then I'll celebrate each 5kg after that.

The lap-band fitted to my stomach reduces the amount of food I can take in, and triggers a feeling of satiation earlier. My portion sizes have more than halved and I no longer think about food constantly.

I don't know why I ate so much, but I'm trying to find out. Even as I was eating the food I knew exactly how it would affect me. But it's a big leap between knowing what you're doing, and stopping yourself from doing it.

The truth is; obesity isn't about hunger. I wanted to eat copious amounts of fried, salty food. I loved it. I'd Google menus and plan what I was going to order at a restaurant a week in advance. I'd get excited at the prospect of going to a new restaurant and angry if I ran out of my favourite food. All my fights at home were about food. Oh, and I never shared, not even with my kids.

I felt entitled to eat whatever the hell I wanted.

I worked hard and food was my reward for making good decisions in every other aspect of my life. If my spouse told me to cut back on my eating, I'd get enraged. A fight would ensue and I'd bully and blame until I felt better.

I feel more ashamed of my behaviour around food than all the weight I gained over the years combined.

I have done some work with a therapist, but have a lot more to do. I've also done a lot of work at home to repair damaged relationships. Acknowledging that I had an eating disorder has enabled me to put some processes in place to better manage my head.

I still love food, I don't know why, but I love my family more and this phase of my weight loss journey is as much for them as it is for myself. They've had to put up with a lot over the years and I'm very lucky to still have their support.

If my story sounds familiar to you, I'd encourage you to see a counsellor who specialises in obesity. Then, if you think surgery is for you, do some research on the different options out there.

What I had done is expensive, and certainly not fool-proof. Many people lose the weight with the band, only to put it back on. But I needed a circuit breaker so went for it.

Some people believe surgery is a quick-fix.  But it's not, at least it wasn't for me.  It took two years of research and talking to people who had had the surgery before I made the final decision. It was also, quite simply, the last thing left that I hadn't tried.  Diet pills, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Cura Romana, Atkins, the Paleo Diet, hypnosis, boot camp and diet shakes... I'd tried it all with pretty decent levels of success but I just couldn't sustain it.

For me, this proceedure makes it hard to eat large amounts of food, including the fried and carb-heavy variety. That, coupled with regular exercise, gives me a lot of hope for the future. 

Something else has also happened; my days no longer revolve around food.  If a colleague asks me what I'm doing for lunch I have to stop and think about it. Pre-surgery I'd have already eaten my packed lunch and been lining up a second one. It's like a switch has been turned off in my brain. I can't explain it but it's working for me.

Based on my experience I'd certainly support the delivery of weight loss surgery through the public health system. I had to go private for mine but I truly believe it should be made available to everyone who needs it - so long as they're prepared to go through therapy and exercise as well. 

I'm pretty sure the long-term gains would cancel out the initial cost.