How it really feels to have a gastric band fitted

Columnist Hayley Kay writes about getting a gastric band.
Hayley KayHayley Kay
Hayley Kay

This month I’ve started a new way of eating.

Like lots of British women, I’ve been on umpteen diets over the years and I’m not a fan.

I started on the ‘diet hamster wheel’ at age 18 and since then it feels like I’ve tried every diet on the planet.

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In 2012 I decided I’d had enough of perpetual dieting and decided to explore bariatric surgery.

I settled on a gastric band, which is when an adjustable band is fitted to the top of your stomach and causes you to feel full after very little food.

I spent hours online researching surgeons in the UK and overseas.

A friend of mine had hers done in Belgium and the weight was dropping off, but I chickened out of travelling overseas and booked into a private hospital in the UK (£5K in case you wondered.) My operation was early in April 2013 and I woke up feeling horrendous afterwards, however I recovered well and went back to work a few days later.

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Looking back, I knew something wasn’t quite right with it very early on.

After the procedure, you’re left with a port just underneath the skin, which allows saline to be injected into the band until the correct level of restriction is achieved.

This just didn’t happen for me and I was up and down the M6 every other week for another adjustment.

Initially I lost 2-3 stone, but couldn’t hit the ‘sweet spot’ they’d told me all about.

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The worst episode I experienced was having to fly home mid-holiday for an emergency de-fill after being admitted to hospital in Lanzarote with dehydration (what fun) .

This back and forth with restriction problems continued until I became pregnant with my son in 2015 and my consultant said I needed to empty the band completely for my final trimester, so I did. In theory, an empty gastric band should have provided no restriction at all, but shortly after my son was born I began suffering with the worst acid reflux and frequent regurgitation (gross, I know sorry), some nights I’d wake up and be choking on my stomach acid. Most days I regurgitated any food that was bulky or fibrous, it sounds crazy to me now, but that was my life, three or four times a day, every day until last month, when I finally had it removed.

Thankfully, my horrible symptoms have gone and I feel like a new (fat) woman.

So here I am, six years on and almost as heavy as I was when I had the bloomin’ thing fitted, except now I’m older and maybe a little wiser?

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Hardly any of my friends know about my surgeries, I just couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone; back then I really cared what people thought of me, I was insecure and didn’t want to be judged for having elective surgery. Now, though, I’m enjoying the freedom of eating without fear and I’m already 10lbs down with a long way to go.