WHENEVER Andrea Whitaker meets someone new she can’t resist showing them an old photograph of herself that she carries in her handbag. Since April last year, the data administrator from Barnsley in South Yorkshire has lost an incredible 7st and has dropped from a size 24 to a 12/14.The round-faced woman in the blurry snap bears little resemblance to how she looks today. Just over a year ago 48-year-old Andrea, who is 5ft 10in and now weighs 13st 7lb, was so desperate to break her constant cycle of yo-yo dieting that she considered paying £7,000 for a gastric band operation in the hope it would be the magic solution to her weight problems.Studies show that being obese is linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. In the UK nearly two-thirds of men and more than half of women are either overweight or obese. Although Andrea had managed to lose up to 4st on diets in the past, she’d struggled to keep the weight off.”I’d be doing well but then I’d cheat with a family-sized bag of crisps or wine gums,” says Andrea, who lives with partner Jez, 48.
“Then I’d go back to takeaways, sweets and crisps and gain whatever I’d lost – and more.
“I knew having a gastric band was a major operation. Not only is something being put inside your body, you also undergo a general anesthetic. The bigger you are the longer the recovery time. At almost 21st I knew I could be at risk.”
The main risk of weight-loss surgery is infection which affects one in 20 patients. Deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the leg) or pulmonary embolisms (a clot in the lungs) affect one in 100, as does internal bleeding. Others may suffer band intolerance, which causes excessive vomiting or discomfort or slippage.
“Many people think bariatric surgery is a quick fix – they have an operation and within a short time they can eat what they like without putting on a pound,” says obesity expert Dr Kelly Johnston.”However, it’s quite the reverse and weight loss is still a long process which still requires massively reduced food intake and other lifestyle changes to increase the chance of success. Sadly about one in 200 surgical patients will die.”Andrea decided to give dieting one last try. She had seen several work colleagues losing weight with Lighter Life, a very low calorie diet (VLCD), which includes a behavior change programme.Based on shakes, meals and bars which supply fewer than 800 calories and all the nutrients needed in four meals per day, it was one method that Andrea hadn’t already tried.
“I decided Lighter L ife was my last chance,” says Andrea, who has a son, James, 22. “If it didn’t work, I’d have the gastric band. I liked the fact this method took away the choice of what to eat, yet it was nutritionally healthy.”
At her first appointment with her Councillor, Andrea weighed in at 20st 10lb. “I hated everything about my body,” she recalls. “I felt so unattractive I couldn’t look at the camera.”
On the new diet, Andrea had porridge for breakfast, a cereal bar for lunch, spaghetti bolognese or chili con carne for her evening meal and a chocolate shake for supper. She drank three liters of water a day.