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How bariatric surgery changed my life

With its 6 million obese people, or 10% of the population, Italy is one of the countries with the largest number of people who are at least 40% overweight. Obesity is a hazardous situation for one’s health, which should be addressed with effective and long-lasting solutions.

In this moving interview we want to tell you the story of Marzia Gnocchi, a 24-year-old girl who lives in the province of Rome and studies to become a nurse. In May 2017, she underwent bariatric surgery.

  • How long have you been obese?

I don’t remember specifically but I have always been a chubby girl. I started noticing my problem when I was about 12, as I was entering puberty.

  • Has excess weight always been a problem for you? If so, how?   

To me weight has always been a sore spot, especially during adolescence. When I was little I did not consider the physical aspect, but the more I grew up the more my self-esteem declined. As a teenager I was an easy target of ridicule and, in my mind, I was the butt of all jokes, even when I wasn’t. I had problems if I had to walk past a group of boys or if I had to walk by myself in the street.

I felt uncomfortable also from an aesthetic point of view, especially when I saw my girlfriends shop and I did not try clothes on because I was sure that they wouldn’t fit me.

Moreover, I felt bad especially when I was compared to my sister, a girl that has always been thin and very beautiful. I won’t even mention how uncomfortable I was when I went out to dinner with people I didn’t know well, as I felt under scrutiny and judged while I ate.

However, after the operation, I realized that after the change in my body, I feel very good about myself. Obviously, I am still working on myself because, psychologically, there are scars that are hard to forget.  

  • What did you do over the years to lose weight?

When I was 12 my parents went to my general practitioner, who was also a nutritionist. He gave me a diet, I tried it at once but with disappointing results. Eventually, I went to different nutritionists, trying diets of any kind but nothing seemed to work. This until 2011 when, thanks to the feeding tube diet, I lost 30 kg. in three months. Too bad that I gained all the weight lost back, and more.

  • Did you have other health problems related to obesity? 

Yes, unfortunately the excess weight affected my knees, leading to the rupture of the medial alar ligament with patellar dislocation in 2011.

  • What made you undergo surgery? Who told you about it? 

It was a long process. No doctor before the surgeon who operated me had ever recommended bariatric surgery. There were doctors who, given my young age, strongly opposed my intention to be operated.

A turning point was a meeting that I had with a girl that I met through friends who told me her story. She was the one who sent me to the first and only doctor who talked to me about, and recommended, sleeve gastrectomy.

  • What made you decide to undergo surgery?

It was not an easy decision; it took me 4 months just to make the first doctor appointment. Then, when the surgeon laid it all out for me and recommended that I be operated my mind was pretty much made up. During the process there were times when I wondered whether I was making the right choice, whether I really needed this “drastic” and “irreversible” operation. In my opinion, anybody who underwent bariatric surgery must have had these doubts.  

  • How happy are you with the results that you are seeing?

When I went to my first appointment with the surgeon, I weighed 136.5 kg. Now I weigh 90 kg. I lost 46.5 kg. in a year and I am really very happy with all I have done!

To reach my ideal weight I still need to lose 10 kg. – with time the loss has slowed down – but I am confident that I will make it, because even though it has been very hard (mentally and physically) the results are rewarding my efforts.

When I go to the nutritionist I am no longer as anxious as I was before the operation. I eat everything and live a healthy life; I feel that I took back control over my life, finally!

  • Have your family and friends supported you in this process? 

Yes, they supported me. Initially my mother was scared, as any mother would be, I think. My father instead surprised me by supporting me from start to finish, apparently without any doubt. As to my friends, some of them supported me all the way while other judged me and my choice. However, since it was my choice I knew that it was the right decision, despite the negative criticisms that are, unfortunately, a fact of life.

  • Was it hard to maintain over time the results achieved with the operation? How do you obtain information on matters concerning weight?  

Personally, I felt that it was not hard to maintain my weight loss, because I eat a little of everything but, most of all, I eat in a healthy and balanced manner; losing weight encouraged me also to exercise more.

I joined a number of bariatric surgery groups on Facebook, do research on the internet and talk to my nutritionist to have weight issues always clear.

  • How satisfied are you with your life today, in general, compared to your previous life? 

My quality of life has improved substantially! I notice daily improvements at both physical and mental level. I am much more open with people and I am not afraid to go out by myself; I no longer feel that people are watching me and I am not afraid to make efforts or to walk uphill. Actually, I am glad to do it compared to before, when I was definitely lazy.

  • Would you recommend bariatric surgery to a friend or a person with obesity problems?

Absolutely! The words that my surgeon told me the first time I met him describe well the situation I was in and the predicament of many people: the obese is socially accepted, so obesity is not seen as an illness. Often, when you see someone “fat” you think that that is a person that just eats a lot while when you meet someone underweight you think that that person is sick. Most obese people have an eating disorder, thus also in case of diets it is difficult for them to lose weight permanently. Bariatric surgery, instead, shows results at once and helps to maintain them over time.

  • Do you wish to share any aspect of your experience in particular? 

I would like to tell to those who are starting, or would like to start, the process, not to be ashamed! Don’t be ashamed of your choice! Don’t be afraid to talk about the operation; unfortunately bariatric surgery is not very well known and your experience might help someone break the chains of obesity!

At the beginning I didn’t talk about it because I was ashamed or I was afraid to be judged especially by those who said “but could you not just go on a diet?”. With time, however, I understood that the people who gave me these answers had no idea of the complexity of this decision and the process that you have to undergo before and after surgery. For example, after the operation it is paramount to learn again how to eat and deal with the fear of being again the way you were before.

These hurdles are overcome, however. I assure you that there is no better feeling than reaching an objective and knowing that you can maintain it over time!