Bariatric surgery can help people to lose a majority of excess weight, however, experts stress that a balanced diet and exercise after the procedure are important to maintain a healthy body and improved quality of life. Ms. Haleigh Kavanagh Walsh from Ireland turned from someone who needed two plane seats to an active, healthy, and confident woman.
A gastric bypass (GBP) surgery allows people with obesity-induced health problems to lose up to 80% of their excess body weight. Depending on their initial weight, bariatric patients usually reduce their weight by 30 to 60 kg. However, medical professionals are adamant that surgery is only the first step towards a healthy body, and a bariatric diet, as well as daily exercise, play a key role in ensuring high quality of life post-surgery.
Strict healthy postoperative diet and intense physical routine helped Ms. Haleigh Kavanagh Walsh, 25, from Ireland, to avoid usual obesity-related comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lose 102 kg of excess weight, and regain confidence as well as control over her own body.
Health was the main priority
Ms. Walsh always found sticking to a strict diet complicated—she would lose weight one week and put up double the amount the next. At 23 and almost 190 kg, she felt physically drained and couldn’t walk far without back pain. Ultimately, she knew something needed to change when she had to book two seats on a flight to avoid any potential awkwardness. But her ultimate goal was good health.
“I didn’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other obesity-related illnesses, but I knew I had to make changes before my health started deteriorating. A relative of mine had had bariatric surgery and I saw how much his life changed afterward, so I started doing my own research. I love the way I look now, but it was always about my health,” Ms. Walsh said.
Although she was hesitant to go abroad to Nordbariatric Clinic, a leading bariatric center in Kaunas, Lithuania, for gastric bypass surgery, she was reassured by former patients’ experiences in a private social media group. She contacted the Clinic in July 2019 and had to lose 20 kg to be eligible for the surgery. After contacting the Clinic once again in February 2020, Ms. Walsh was scheduled for surgery in May, however, it was postponed to July due to the pandemic.
Strict post-op regime to maintain a healthy weight
The gastric bypass surgery was just the start of the journey for Ms. Walsh, who said the first few months to a year were the hardest. “Every food I tried after the procedure was trial and error, but now I am at 19 months post-op and I finally have learned what suits my new stomach. Now I eat enough food to fuel my body and get all the nutrients I need.”
She noticed her well-being improved significantly when she got into the habit of balancing nutritious meals with regular physical activities. Being aware that, as a bariatric patient, she might be at risk of malnutrition, Ms. Walsh made sure to meet all dietary requirements and nutrition goals.
“My dietary routine varies, but my main daily goal is to have protein in all meals, an assortment of vegetables, and if I crave something sweet, I have some rice cakes or fruit,” a former Norbariatric patient said.
After bariatric surgery, people should make sure all meals contain a balance of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Carbohydrates should constitute around 50% of the total calorie intake, fats 20-35%, the rest should be proteins, Almantas Maleckas MD, PhD, a surgeon at Nordbariatric Clinic pointed out.
According to the surgeon, another essential factor in maintaining a healthy post-operative weight is daily physical exercise. “Physical exertion should, of course, be customized in consideration of each person’s capabilities and comorbidities. But the general aim is to have at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and 2-3 sessions of strength training exercises per week.”
Ms. Walsh pursues her healthy weight goals by going to the gym 4-6 times a week, which makes her experience new levels of confidence, energy, and motivation to keep going. “I’m still the same person, but an elevated version of myself. I can go for long walks without any pain, and I go to the gym most days although I wouldn’t have dared to go there before the surgery,” she added.
Ms. Wals also admitted that both her life quality and health improved significantly after the surgery. “Now, 102 kg gone forever, that girl who booked two seats on a plane doesn’t even need a seat belt extender anymore, and it’s the best feeling ever.”
Nordbariatric Clinic has a mobile application Bariatric IQ where people can get bariatric diet recommendations based on their gender, surgery date, and other customizable factors. Also, it is recommended to contact a physician over any concerns regarding nutrition or exercise.
Nordbariatric is a private bariatric surgery clinic in Kaunas, Lithuania, part of Nordclinic, offering high-quality services and focusing on foreign patients. It is equipped with modern diagnostic and surgical facilities. Medical professionals at the clinic speak fluent English and show personal attention to every patient. www.nordbariatric.com/en/