Saturday 20 December 2014

'I thought a gastric band was the answer to my problems – I was wrong'

Four stone overweight and sick of dieting, Suzanne Harrington discovered that a surgical procedure was not the quick fix she had been expecting

Although she has considered having her gastric band removed, Suzanne Harrington believes it has helped her improve her health
Although she has considered having her gastric band removed, Suzanne Harrington believes it has helped her improve her health

We all know short-term fad diets don't work. We know that long term they make us fatter, mess with our metabolism, upset our hormones, and turn us into calorie-counting psychopaths if we don't leanr to eat healthily and get regular exercise.

As if we needed further proof, a new book – 'Why Diets Fail (Because You're Addicted To Sugar)' – spells it out.

Written by neuroscientist Nichole Avena and John Talbott, a financial and political analyst who kicked his own sugar addiction, it suggests that the only way to a lasting healthy weight is to go cold turkey from sugar and everything will fall into place.

Or rather, fall off the places that sugar has been helping to expand. The only snag is that sugar, in its myriad forms, seems to be in everything apart from spinach.

It's not like I didn't know that I was hooked on sugar when, two Januarys ago, I paid a man six grand to insert a silicone band high into my abdominal cavity.

I also knew I was three to four stone overweight, and could not face another diet.

I knew diets didn't work for me , because I had done so many of them – Weight Watchers, Slimfast, Lighter Life, GP-prescribed weight loss medication that made me bonkers, and a bewildering assortment of psychological approaches.

From Harley Street hypnotherapy (from the £275-an-hour hypnotherapist who shrank Lily Allen, no less) to various 12-step food programmes that advocated abstinence from sugar, white flour, snacking, and asking a higher power to remove my obsession, I tried it all.

Oh, and psychotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathy, Bikram yoga, Bergamot oil. Swimming, cycling, cross-training.

You name it, I did it. Everything worked short-term, nothing worked long-term.

So, in desperation, I thought a gastric band might be the answer.

This was not about wanting to look slinky in a pair of jeans, or buy clothes with a particular size number on the label.

It was not about kowtowing to the cultural message shouted at women a million times a day that the less physical space you inhabit, the more social respect and sexual desire you are accorded.

I absolutely do not buy into any of that – although obviously I would prefer if my shadow didn't require its own post code.

So I was still carrying a lot of it, and my BMI was 36 (healthy weight is between 18 and 25 – serious obesity is 40 and above).

A single mother in my mid-40s, I was horribly aware of the health implications of long-term obesity – I'd already had cancer in my 30s caused, said my oncologist, probably by too much smoking and booze.

I packed them in, but not the sugar. I was starting to feel achy, creaky, dopey, grumpy. Something had to be done.

Irish Independent

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