Margaret Nicolls, 64
A Co Down woman has opened up about having weight loss surgery in an attempt to dismiss the stigma that it’s an “easy option” for people who want to shed the pounds.
Margaret Nicolls, underwent gastric bypass surgery in June last year having struggled with her weight all her life.
The 64-year-old from Moneyreagh, said she didn’t take the decision to undergo the major operation lightly and had considered it for many years.
Prior to the surgery, Margaret weighed 22stone 6lbs- one year on Margaret has lost over eight stone and is still losing weight.
Speaking to Belfast Live about her experience, Margaret said she’s happy she made the decision to have the operation, particularly with her joint problems.
“I have osteoarthritis, so my mobility was just getting worse, but I felt my mind was too active to be left doing nothing.
“I had been thinking about this for a long time and I couldn’t get anyone to really give me any encouragement.
“A friend told me about Phoenix Health and that you could have the surgery here in Northern Ireland because it isn’t available on the NHS.
“I had an initial interview with them and they explained everything to me. I made an appointment to see the consultant and he agreed that I would be a suitable candidate for it. So I just went for it.”
A retired nurse, Margaret said she has struggled with her weight all her life, and only turned to surgery having exhausted every other method available to shift the weight.
“I had tried and tried all my life to lose weight many times. The most I ever lost in one go was about four and half stone, but I couldn’t maintain it.
“I tried everything, I’d been to all the different slimming clubs that you can think of down through the years, I had attended dietitians and nothing seemed to work for me, surgery was the last option left.”
Margaret said the common misconception about people who are overweight is with regards to what they eat.
“When you see the programmes on TV about people who are overweight and you see what they eat, you say well ‘no wonder you are that size’, but I would say I ate healthy food, but just too much of it.
“My problem was portion control. I rarely would have had a takeaway, I enjoy cooking and cooked everything from scratch but the portions were too big.”
Margaret said she believes that weight loss surgery should be made available on the NHS, but only to people who have tried everything else and are considered a suitable candidate.
“I think for people who have tried every other option, it should be made available to them.
“It is not a quick fix, it is only a means to an end, it is a tool and although I’ve had the surgery I still have to watch what I eat. I can only eat small portions but I still have to make wise choices.”
Margaret underwent her operation at Ulster Independent Clinic who have partnered with a pioneering bariatric clinic, Phoenix Health, based in Liverpool to allow people to have the surgery here in Northern Ireland.
She said weight loss surgery is certainly not the easy option and the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“It certainly wouldn’t say weight loss surgery is the easy way out, it is a great tool and in my case where I spent most of my life battling with my weight it certainly suited me.
“I have a year over me now, but it does certainly take time to adjust to what you can eat and you do have problems with it, but now I know when to stop, I know how much I can eat,” she added.
Gillian Moore, dietitian with Phoenix Health here in Belfast explains the surgery offered by Phoenix here in Northern Ireland.
“We offer three different types of surgery. The gastric bypass, the gastric sleeve and the gastric band.
“We are the only company here that offer the gastric bypass and gastric sleeve here in Northern Ireland.
The bypass surgery that Margaret had, works by helping to reduce the hunger you experience, it also reduces the volume you can eat and you are also bypassing a portion of the intestine as well for more weight loss.
“We estimate with each person how much they will lose and with the bypass it is estimated you lose around 75 per cent excess body weight, so you do feel more weight loss with the bypass.”
Margaret said the surgery has changed her life for the better,
“I feel like I can do more now I’ve lost weight and I’m not taking anti-inflammatory medication anymore. I do still have joint pain but I am able to do much more than I could before the surgery.
“My weight never really kept me from going places but I always kept in the background, I do feel like I have more confidence now but it does take you a while to get used to how I look now. If I close my eyes I still see a fat person.”