Sleevers storyJanuary 5, 2020 2:54 pm
As an overweight or an obese person – you just can’t win.
If you don’t do anything you are ‘lazy’ or ‘weak-minded’ but if you do anything else than conventional diet and exercise then you are a ‘cheat’.
Judgment is rife and the ‘just put down the fork’ advice that spews from ignorant people only worsens the situation.
We have helped hundreds of clients who have been on the weight loss roundabout most, if not all their lives and their story is the same.
For a lot of people, weight gain started when they were kids. Back in the 80’s and 90’s where there just wasn’t the information and education around that exists now, it was a bad time and probably was the platform for the obesity epidemic that exists now in people in their 30’s and 40’s.
Back in these decades, eating out meant McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos or the local fish and chip shop for most Australians, healthy options like you see today just didn’t exist or weren’t as mainstream. Sugary soft drinks flowed like rivers and it changed a generation. Some people ‘parented’ through food and as a child, an adult giving you a jam and cream sandwich meant that it must be ok. After all, they are adults – they know what they are doing.
I remember never giving it a thought. I was a very active teenager, but guzzled Coke like it was water – didn’t think twice about eating junk food as Mum always made what seemed to be healthy dinners.
Sugary cereals were a staple and Milo was consumed by the bucket full. I went from a healthy 75kg healthy 6 foot 18-year-old male to slowly reducing my activity as life and kids and career started to take over. Slowly, 1kg a month became 2kg a month being added to the scales and before I was 25 I had hit 95kg.
We were told that fat was bad, then sugar was bad. So I remember greatly reducing both. I replaced real sugar with Equal which turns out to have an equal if not worse effect to the way the body processes it as far as weight gain goes.
Reducing fat without the internet to guide us, meant reducing meat intake. This immediately led to an increase in carbohydrate intake. Looking back, I can see where I went wrong even when I tried to adjust to losing again.
I would earnestly attempt to reduce the waistline – I would ‘diet’ and exercise – but most of my efforts were in the exercise category not understanding what we know now that 80% of the success of any weight loss program is in the diet column. My efforts included every fad diet at the time including Atkins, Weightwatchers and every ‘shake’ diet on the market. All the while I was doing damage to my already broken system.
When I did have success through diet – I definitely had success.. I would lose a lot of weight, but usually only on shake diets. There was a slew of them on the market. All high in sugar and unsustainable in the long term. The moment that real food was reintroduced – the weight would begin to pile back on as I just hadn’t been trained to eat properly using shakes.
Medical intervention is acceptable for a lot of people when it comes to heart disease, cancer or other ailments, but it still seems to be ‘shamed’ when it comes to obesity. This is something that is completely strange to me – if a Very Low-Calorie Diet (via a shake) is not cheating and ‘scientific’, why would people view a proven medical procedure that effectively does the same thing whilst changing habits be considered bad?
It wasn’t until I made the decision at 160kg to have medical intervention after my GP recommended it that I truly changed my life.
I researched the heck out of it – from the perspective of wanting to change lifelong habits. I recognised that every diet I had been on, was not sustainable in the long term. I needed to change my portion sizes, but doing that on my own was nearly impossible.
After looking at Australian surgeons, I was taken back by the fact that Surgeons here put patients on Optifast and slowly introduced food over a 6 month period.
I really questioned how this was going to work for me having been on the Optifast wagon before and having good results, but again, failing to teach me portion control.
I found Dr. Tikfu Gee – a surgeon based in Kuala Lumpur who did things differently.
He recommended real food from day one. After more research, I realised why Australian surgeons use Optifast. Gastric surgery (sleeve) involves removing a portion of the stomach and ‘stapling’ the smaller new stomach. The risk of leaks is big.
In fact, 11% of call complications post-surgery in Australia are in fact leaks. (BARIATRIC SURGERY REGISTRY 2018/19 REPORT (link here)
So, my first question was – how does Dr. Gee get around this? His leak rate is zero. He advised his process involved a ‘double fold’ surgery. That is, imagine two pieces of paper that you want to join by stapling. To decrease the likelihood of leaks, the paper is folded together and then stapled. Unfortunately, this is sometimes not enough or the skill of the surgeon means there are still leaks.
Dr. Gee, instead of just folding the paper once then stapling, insists on a much more difficult ‘double fold’. Below is just an example.
Remember, gastric surgery is laparoscopic or minimally invasive, which means that the surgery is done with tools inserted into the abdomen through ‘keyhole’ incisions and operated from the outside.
The more I researched this technique and the almost zero leak rate – the more I knew this was the right path. The best part was, I knew that if I could be eating real food from the start without having to do shakes, the better my chances were at success.
Going overseas for surgery has a mixed set of reviews. So, the next part was to feel confident to make the journey. I hadn’t been to Asia before, so my understanding of hospitals was what I’d seen from Hollywood. You know, dirty back alley setups with questionable ethics. I remember joking about whether I would have both kidneys upon return.
To my absolute delight, Malaysia is not just a first-world country, but Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful vibrant modern city and their hospitals blew me away.
From start to finish – the process was amazing.
Of course, it’s major surgery, and I have a very low pain threshold, so being a sook on your own can be a challenge.
Having real food from about day 3, I was so shocked. My brain was buzzing as I had a bit of yogurt and immediately felt like I’d eaten a 9 course Christmas dinner.
The experience as healing continued didn’t change. I would feel full, not just full – but satisfied.
Dr. Gee actually took me out to dinner one night before I left and even after thousands of surgeries, he was so interested and enthralled with me talking about my experience, how I was feeling and my excitement as I ate so slowly and enjoyed for the first time in a long time – the act of engagement over a meal, rather than the meal being front and centre. (yes, the surgeon took time out of his schedule and took me to dinner)
I could feel my brain processing this. I imagined a blank computer screen and new lines of code being written, then deleted, then written again as the body began to adjust.
The brain was used to NOT getting signals of satiety (feeling full and satisfied) – and probably hadn’t had this signal for 20 years. Being cleared for the flight home, after just 7 days I was already 10kg lighter. Of course, this was a lot of water weight, but I didn’t care. My brain was being reprogrammed from being obese to being healthy. The body was going to have to come along for the ride.
Less than 18 months after surgery, I enjoyed food again. Tasted it. Just not in the portions I was used to. My brain was completely reprogrammed, and the body had adjusted (sometimes harshly, sometimes uncomfortably) to the new ‘normal’.
I don’t want to make it sound all rosy, because it wasn’t. It was hard.
A baby goes through developmental stages commonly known as ‘leaps’ where the brain begins to develop and bubs are thrown into turmoil. Confusion, anxiety, anger, frustration as the baby is bombarded with a mass of changes and new neural pathways. My brain had been ‘born again’ and I went through what I can only describe as developmental leaps.
It’s at this stage that I think some people would be absolutely benefited by seeing a counselor as it is really tough. If there are any pre-existing mental health issues, these could be exacerbated.
Not forgetting that the body also has gone through a huge change and it also responds both positively and negatively. Vomiting and Diarrhea are so part of the first 6-12 months it almost becomes part of life. Acid reflux, dehydration is part and parcel of the process. Getting out the other side though, the world is different now.
Retraining the brain is actually what gastric surgery does. I no longer have a fat brain. I have a normal brain, the one I was born with. I don’t intend to ever break it again.
If you are considering gastric surgery, you should talk to your GP. Results vary from person to person. This article is the opinion of the writer and should not be considered advice.