Obesity is a rising problem in India. Losing weight can be a daunting task, one that requires tremendous amounts of hard work and dedication.
There appears to be a common misconception that people who are overweight or obese are so by their own free will. While obesity is often related to lifestyle choices, it sometimes has nothing to do with how an individual leads their lives. Many post menopausal women begin to put on weight despite maintaining the same diet that they have for years and performing the same if not more exercise.
But obesity is not just a post-menopausal issue. Often genetics and hormonal problems play a role in younger individuals, and there is not much that can be done about that. There are people who try every method possible to lose weight, reaching a point where they hardly eat any food. As medical practitioners, we know this all too well, and such patients are advised weight loss surgery.
But does weight loss surgery work?
Weight loss surgery has now become a lifesaver for those who are morbidly obese (body mass index i.e. BMI>35) and can result in a great deal of weight loss as we have discussed in our interview with Dr M G Bhat. Instead of blurting out some statistics to you, we thought it appropriate to share with you an interview we did with a patient Mrs Vidya Kini who struggled to lose weight, and finally succeeded after undergoing bariatric surgery.
Below is her interview.
HS – Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Mrs Kini.
Mrs Vidya Kini – My pleasure, I am glad to help others.
HS – Tell us a bit about yourself
VK – Hi ! I am Vidya Kini, an entrepreneur by profession. Previously I worked as an editor in the Healthcare business which helped me take my decisions regarding my Bariatric surgery more firmly I should say. I am 36 years of age, born as an overweight baby (4Kg as a new born) through C-section. Being the first baby to my parents I was groomed with a lot of love and affection and my childhood was much of me being chubby and healthy. I was never on the slimmer side unlike my sister who is 2 years younger to me.
HS – How did you start gaining weight and when?
VK – As mentioned I have been obese throughout my life but in a healthy way, not skinny nor overweight. My weight had been stable at 64 kg for a height of 5’7″. I had an early love marriage at the age of 20. I did take contraceptive pills for first year to avoid pregnancy. The very next year, I was pregnant and gave birth to my son at the age of 22. I had a C-section.
During pregnancy my weight shot up from 64 kg to 90 kg in my 9th month. I was told it is normal during pregnancy, so I did not pay much attention towards my weight gain. Problems started post delivery. I lost all that pregnancy weight almost instantly and came down to 68kg. I had been breastfeeding my baby for up to a year. I resumed work 3 months post delivery as well. It all started 1 year later when my son was a year and half that gradually I started putting on weight. First I thought it was my diet and lifestyle changes but it didn’t stop to a point that over the coming year I reached 110 kg. It should have struck me that it had something to do with my thyroid levels, but I did not realize that. After that I had been dealing with my overweight for almost 14 years.
HS – What did you try to do to lose weight?
VK – I tried various sports and diets. I went to swimming classes with my overweight personality and successfully even learned it. I used to swim almost an hour a day. I also went to gym classes but without much success. My weight would just come down 1-2 kg and then increase again. It was not of much help.
HS – Did you try any specific diet and exercise plans? Did they work?
VK – Being a Mangalorean, I had always relished rice, gravy, fish, chicken and coconut oil almost throughout. I made changes by skipping lunch for fresh fruits and my dinner consisted of 2 chapattis with a vegetable. Though I practiced it for a long period, this also did not help much.
HS – How many doctors did you see to get advice on weight loss?
VK – I met three doctors before going ahead with the decision.
First I met my gynecologist Dr. Vanaja Shivkumar who advised me Bariatric surgery was safe but the after effects differed from person to person. She advised me to start with thyroid medications to treat my hypothyroidism (which I got to know of only a year back) before going ahead with anything else.
I later met Dr. M G Bhat, my Bariatric surgeon who has been an angel in my life. I laid before him all the facts regarding my lifestyle, how I gained weight, my anxiety regarding the procedure, etc. He patiently went through my whole story and suggested me three options of Bariatric surgery – gastric bypass, gastric band, and gastric sleeve resection and advised that I was a perfect candidate for sleeve. He explained that it was keyholes surgery and that scars would vanish with time. He did a complete lab analysis from blood tests to scans, a thorough general checkup and also asked me to meet my General physician and take his/her opinion if I could go ahead.
Finally, I met Dr B V Baliga and took his opinion as to if my decision of going ahead with the Bariatric surgery was right. He also did a thorough checkup on my general health, my blood levels, heart condition, etc and since I was hypertensive, had hypothyroidism, my hemoglobin was low, he started me on certain medications first to bring everything under control before I could take a date for my surgery. Meanwhile since my vitamin D levels were also low, this was corrected with injections. He advised me that the decision of going ahead was completely my choice but he had seen good results in some people who he knew had undergone surgery. He motivated me to try lifestyle modifications and diet vigourously prior to my final decision.
HS – What made you decide to undergo weight loss surgery?
VK – I had emotional breakdowns many times in my life due to the weight gain. I always used to feel depressed when I could not gain the respect a normal individual does, at least in the Indian society. I had instances were I overheard people talking about how fat I was, how they look down upon you for being fat though it is not your fault. I used to feel bad when I could not find clothing that young people of my age wore.
Though my family have been a big support, be it my husband, my mother, my sister and even my 13-year-old son who used to always say I was very gorgeous even though I was obese, it always used to run in my mind that I didn’t want to let them down with my weight issues nor did I want to burden anyone with having to look after me if I came across any health hazards due to my being overweight. It always struck me that my overweight could lead me to have unwanted issues as age passed by. Then I thought I had to live and love myself, it was now or never. I made a firm decision that I wanted to go ahead with Bariatric surgery.
HS – What were the questions on your mind about the surgery?
VK – I did a lot of Internet research about Bariatric surgery, about how popular it was in the Western countries, who was the Best surgeon in Bangalore in this category, YouTube videos of people who had had Bariatric surgery especially in Bangalore, what were the after effects of the surgery, how painful it was, etc. After all this research, the only inhibition I had was if I went ahead with the surgery and lost a lot of body mass, then what happens to my skin since its an organ again and many people on YouTube videos complained about loose skin.
I met Dr. Bhat again and discussed this issue. He advised me that surgery could just do 50% of the job rest of it was determination to lose weight, healthy eating post surgery, and lots of exercise to tone up the body which would help avoid skin issues.
HS – Did you speak to other people who had been through what you had?
VK – Yes, I spoke to four individuals (Dr. Bhat’s patients) who had already undergone Bariatric surgery. I in fact met a lady, Mrs. Poornima before I took the surgery date. I asked her about all the clarifications I had regarding the surgery, what she ate and how much she ate post surgery, how long was the hospital stay, how painful the surgery was, how was her weight loss program, the emotional and lifestyle changes she was going through etc. and had more clarity about the whole scenario.
I met Dr. Bhat for counseling on surgery and the anesthesia check and got the surgery date.
HS – How did the surgery go? What are your feelings about it?
VK – Finally I made my decision and my surgery was scheduled for August 18, 2014.
I had already started on liquid diet a week prior to surgery as advised by Dr. Bhat so as to help my body get used to the situation and also avoid a fatty liver during surgery. On the day of my surgery, I was given enough liquids and taken to the operating room. I can only recall, Dr. Nanda Babu, Dr. Bhat’s assistant speaking to me about the tattoo on my hand before I passed out and was under anesthesia.
I was told by my family that the surgery took about 3 hours and Dr. Bhat informed them that everything was fine. I regained consciousness when I was shifted to the ICU. I remember the nursing staff were very caring and helpful at Nova Speciality Hospitals. I was given water every half hour and checked upon. I met my family members and assured them I was fine. That evening I was shifted to my individual hospital room. I was hospitalized for a total of four days and discharged with some minimal instructions and medications to be followed.
HS – Did you have any problems after the surgery? Do you know of anyone who has?
VK – Absolutely no. Though there was initially uneasiness with the pain for a couple of days which is normal, it subsided within a few days. I had a 3-day follow-up post surgery to check on my healing. I followed my discharge summary instructions, started with normal bathing in a week, no bending for three weeks, liquid diet followed with semi-solids week after week. I was back to normal activities in a month’s time.
I went for my 1-month postoperative follow-up and then Dr. Bhat advised me to start with normal food intake at 6 weeks post surgery and gave me a healthy diet chart to be followed. He emphasized that since the quantity of my food intake would be small, I needed to be cautious of not overdoing it and also check on what I ate at regular intervals and not to starve.
Dr. Bhat conducts quarterly meetings for all his patients along with his team to discuss any issues they have which is a very helpful interactive session. Here we meet his team of psychiatrist, cardiologist, nutritionist, etc to take their advise for any changes we need to do. At these meetings, I have come across some patients who have had emotional breakdowns post surgery due to suddenly losing weight, some sagging skin due to noncompliance with exercise, and hair loss which is an after-effect of surgery that is rare. Thankfully I have not have to deal with any of these issues.
HS – How much weight have you lost and in what time?
VK – On the day of my pre-surgery counseling I was 133 kg. I lost 3 kg the week prior to my surgery when I was on liquid diet. After surgery the initial 2-3 months I lost almost 10kg a month and then gradually the loss started reducing to 6-7 kg a month. Now I am 1 year post-op and my weight is 75 kg with a total weight loss of 58 kg in a year.
My goal weight is 70 kg for my height as advised by Dr. Bhat. I am trying to achieve that at the earliest. I started brisk walking and yoga exercises at 10 months post-op prior to which it was only on light physiotherapy exercises and slow walking as taught by Dr. Bhat’s team.
HS – How has the response been to your weight loss by your friends and family?
VK – It has been an overwhelming phase of my life. I have never been this happy and conscious about myself. My family which boosts my morale feels very proud of me, especially my husband who has always been with me through thick and thin. He encourages me to dress my age and compliments me that I look elegant. My social life has improved now that I have no hesitance that I had when I was obese. My doctors are very appreciative and encouraging. Bariatric surgery is the best thing that happened to me. With a complete wardrobe change, my life spun one full circle making me look 10 years younger with loads of compliments from friends and relatives. I feel I took the right decision at the right place at the right time.
HS – How do you feel now that you have lost all this weight?
VK – I feel proud of having undergone the surgery without much delay with the wise thought. My mind is peaceful with regards to my health since I have no cravings for junk food, unhealthy eating habits. I needn’t worry that I will put on weight since I follow my food chart obediently. I give importance to carbs and protein intake, exercise daily, and follow a routine regime of medicines that include my minimum dosage of thyroid supplement, multivitamins, calcium, and hypertension medication. I love my body and feel God have given me a second chance to relive.
HS – What advice would you have for those who are looking to undergo weight loss surgery?
VK – I would certainly say do not delay your decision, the amount of time you waste, your losing out on the beautiful life which is waiting for you. If your body (and your doctor) permits you to go ahead with the surgery without any other health issues, pleasedo. Bariatric surgery is an event that will change your life for good….not everyone gets a second chance.
HS – Thank you for taking the time and giving us your thoughts!
VK – My pleasure, yet again.
Disclaimer – The views expressed in this article are that of a patient and not that of the staff of HeartSense or author of this article. We strongly recommend that all patients seek medical advice first before embarking on weight loss surgery. Please note that the results seen with Mrs Kini may not be the same ones you or a loved one who undergoes weight loss surgery experiences.