Man underwent bariatric surgery to ensure he would be around in the future
A young man who underwent bariatric surgery to ensure he would be around in the future to look after his family is celebrating an eight stone weight loss within a year of undergoing treatment.
Jitendrabhai Patel weighed 22 stone before the operation with Spire Weight Loss Surgery and worried constantly about leaving his disabled younger brother and mother – a single parent – to cope on their own if his health failed him due to his weight.
For years, the depression and anxiety he felt around his weight led him to use food as an emotional crutch – causing him to pile on even more pounds.
But the turning point came last year when he decided to take back control of his size – undergoing the gastric sleeve procedure at Spire Manchester hospital in Whalley Range in October.
He is already down to 14 stone – having shed a huge 67% of his body fat – and says he feels like a ‘completely different person’.
Jitendrabhai, aged 32, said: “Before the operation and losing the weight, even the smallest tasks like loading the washing machine would tire me out – everything seemed like such an effort and a struggle.
“I already had high blood pressure and, with a history of diabetes in our family, I worried that might come next. It got to the point where at the age of only 31 I was waking up each day and worrying about whether that would be my last.
“For a long time the thought just made me more depressed and I’d end up eating more, but then I got to the point where I knew I had to do something about it – I knew I had to be there in the future for my brother who needs me, and for my mum so she wouldn’t be on her own. My brother and my mum were my inspiration.
“Having the surgery has not only shifted the physical weight, it’s also removed that weight of worry which was always on my mind about leaving them. It’s given me a reason to live again – I’ve got a future back for me and my family.”
Jitendrabhai underwent the gastric sleeve procedure – where the stomach is permanently reduced to around 25 per cent of its original size – at Spire Manchester, one of five hospitals which make up the Spire Weight Loss Surgery (SWLS) specialist bariatric surgery network.
Under the SWLS service, patients can choose to have their surgery performed at one of five leading North West private hospitals: Spire Regency in Macclesfield, Spire Manchester, Spire Murrayfield on the Wirral, Spire Yale in Wrexham or Spire Fylde Coast in Blackpool, and select their preferred surgeon from the group’s bank of expert bariatric consultants.
The service offers a centralised bariatric service for patients across the North West and provides increased choice and access to leading Spire hospitals and consultants who specialise in weight loss surgery.
Jitendrabhai, from Denton, Manchester, had struggled with his weight since being a child, when bullying first made him seek solace in food.
As his mum Manjula juggled the demands of caring for both his brother Jegnesh – who has Down’s syndrome – as well as his grandparents as their health deteriorated, he was determined to do his bit to help the family.
“No-one in my family ever put any pressure on me to help out,” he said.
“I did it because I wanted to – I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Family comes first – because they had always looked out for me, I wanted to do the same for them.
“Unfortunately it did mean I didn’t get much time to myself growing up – I wasn’t out kicking a ball around with my friends, or heading off to the swimming baths at the weekend. I struggled to get enough exercise and wasn’t burning anything off that I ate.
“It was a vicious circle because as I put more weight on I became more depressed, so I ate more, and then my weight increased even further.”
Jitendrabhai did attempt to lose weight on several occasions through diets, exercise, herbal medicines and even hypnotherapy. He never felt comfortable at slimming clubs because his self-esteem was so knocked by his size.
“I just never had the confidence to stand up there in front of people – even those who were in similar situations – and get weighed or talk about myself,” he said.
“I tried diets on my own too but I still had this problem with comfort eating – whenever things were hard or stressful, which was often, I would turn to food for help.”
But since the operation, Jitendrabhai has had that crutch taken away. As he continues to lose weight and feel more positive about the future, he says he now realises he doesn’t need it.
He said: “I know I can’t comfort eat anymore because there will be consequences. Undergoing the operation has given me control back over food.
“And I feel so much happier, more positive and full of confidence after losing the weight that I don’t need food to cheer me up now anyway.”
Now Manchester-born Jitendrabhai, whose family comes from the Gujaret region of India, wants to speak out about his experiences so that more people might benefit – particularly in Asian communities where he says there is a lot of scepticism about bariatric surgery.
“A lot of Asian food is cooked in oil and butter like ghee with lots of spices – people are worried about the impact of having surgery like this on the taste of their cooking or their ability to eat traditional foods,” he said.
“Of course it’s true, your eating habits do have to change – I don’t rely on takeaways or convenience food any more – but there are ways you can adapt. Now when I cook I boil rather than fry, and I use milder spices and herbs rather than stronger ones which might aggravate my stomach. I’m also eating much more fruit and vegetables.
“Portion size too is another huge factor – in time I’m sure I will be able to enjoy what you might call ‘a proper curry’ again, but it will only be a small portion, unlike what I would have eaten before.
“The changes and adaptations are a small compromise for what has been a life-changing operation for me. I want people in all communities facing similar situations to recognise and understand the amazing difference surgery like this can make to both your physical health, and also to your confidence and happiness.”
Jitendrabhai’s comments about the potential benefits of bariatric surgery are particularly relevant for South Asian communities – both because of the scepticism he highlights which exists there, but also because of the higher risks among South Asian communities of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
There are currently around 3m people living with diabetes in the UK – a figure which is expected to rise to 5m by 2025 (*1). People in South Asian communities will make up a disproportionate amount of these cases, since they can be up to six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to the general population (*2).
Kath Rothwell, specialist bariatric nurse at SWLS who has worked with Jithendrabhai on his weight loss journey, said: “When Jitendrabhai was referred to Spire Weight Loss Surgery he posed a large risk of developing type 2 diabetes – both because of his weight, but also because of the higher incidence rates linked to the South Asian community.
“It was important that we offered holistic approach to his weight loss – which included the physical intervention of the surgery, addressing the psychological role food has played in his life, and also tackling the cultural dimension, since awareness about the potential benefits of bariatric surgery is low, while scepticism about it is high.
“Along the way the team also provided plenty of practical advice on diet and nutrition, and adapting meals so that they were more suitable to his new lifestyle.
“We’re thrilled with the difference the surgery and the associated weight loss is making to Jitendrabhai’s life, and hope his positive experiences will help break down some barriers which can prevent those who could really benefit from procedures like these from accessing them.”
Jitendrabhai praised the care and professionalism of Spire Weight Loss Surgery, who offered help and advice on all elements of his weight loss journey.
“Spire have been there for me at every step of the way,” he said.
“I have complete faith in them and the guidance they have given me. They understand exactly where you are coming from, completely respect you as a person, and really care about what happens to you. It’s more like a family than a hospital – I’m so grateful to them all.”
He is continuing to access information and advice as he looks ahead to more new opportunities, including setting up his own business.
After working in a string of ‘9-5’ jobs – including a position as a service assistant at Manchester Airport – Jitendrabhai is now working to set up his own windows and doors business to help secure a stable future for his family.
“Each day is a new opportunity now and there’s exciting times ahead, as well as a secure future for my brother – a future where he is financially supported and has me around to look out for him and rely on,” he said.
“I don’t think I’d have any of that without having the surgery and losing the weight.”