Vanessa: “No one tells you how stress­ful it is to live with a gas­tric band”

Pre­sen­ter Vanessa Feltz opens up about the ter­ri­fy­ing side-ef­fects of hav­ing rad­i­cal weight loss surgery and re­veals why she might soon be forced to have an­other dras­tic op­er­a­tion

Closer (UK) - - News - By So­phie God­dard

It’s been eight years since I Vanessa Feltz had her gas­tric band fit­ted, but the ex­pe­ri­ence has been far from plain-sail­ing. And de­spite oc­ca­sion­ally wak­ing up in the night be­cause of a “drown­ing” feel­ing due to her band, the ra­dio pre­sen­ter is stoic, telling Closer she still doesn’t re­gret hav­ing the in­va­sive pro­ce­dure, which saw her drop from a size 24 to a size 14-16.

“I’m not slim, but I’m a hell of a lot slim­mer than I was,” she ex­plains. “I’m not eat­ing as much and I’m a size 14 in most shops, which means I don’t have to go to spe­cial­ist re­tail­ers. So it has worked, yes. I don’t re­gret it and I’m not sorry I had it done, I’m just sorry it’s got to this point...”

Vanessa is re­fer­ring to the hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence she went through as a re­sult of her weight-loss op, which in­volved putting an in­flat­able band around the up­per part of her stom­ach to re­strict the amount she could eat. The 56 year old tells Closer, “Last June, I woke up one morn­ing with a colos­sal shock – liq­uid was pour­ing into my mouth and ears in this ex­cep­tion­ally dra­matic way. I thought I was dream­ing that I was drown­ing. When I saw a spe­cial­ist, they said, ‘Oh my God, that’s water brash!’ They told me it was se­ri­ous and that the band had formed a pouch, forc­ing food and liq­uid to come back up. Now I take anti-re­flux med­i­ca­tion – but if it keeps hap­pen­ing, I’ll have the band re­moved.”

The de­ci­sion to have it fit­ted in the first place was the re­sult of a life­long strug­gle with her weight. She ad­mits, “I tried re­ally hard to lose weight – I wasn’t just lazy. I suc­ceeded, but it would al­ways come back on. My fam­ily [Vanessa has been with singer-song­writer Ben Ofoedu, 46, since 2006, and has daugh­ters Al­le­gra and Saskia with ex-hus­band Michael Kurer] were sup­port­ive be­cause it wasn’t just cos­metic, it was for my health.”

PAIN & DISCOMFORT

The former Closer columnist is now choos­ing to talk about her ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause she says she didn’t know these side ef­fects were even a pos­si­bil­ity. “A sur­geon told me the re­flux con­di­tion af­fects one in five peo­ple who have the band – it’s quite com­mon and se­ri­ous,” she says. “I want to ex­plain what it’s like liv­ing with a gas­tric band – most peo­ple are too em­bar­rassed to dis­cuss it.”

And Vanessa says the re­al­ity of life af­ter her op­er­a­tion was a shock. “I didn’t re­alise how phys­i­cal it would feel to have this thing stop­ping you eat­ing,” she re­veals. “In a way, it’s great – it does the job. If mini sausage rolls were brought round at a party, they’d get stuck in the band. Phys­i­cally, you feel it be­tween your boobs – it’s ex­cep­tion­ally un­com­fort­able. You’re try­ing to chat, think­ing, ‘Will it go down? Will I have to make a dash for the ladies’?’ It def­i­nitely stops you hav­ing an­other one, and might stop you hav­ing one in the first place – which I sup­pose is the whole point.”

EM­BAR­RASS­ING MO­MENTS

But for a woman as so­cia­ble as Vanessa, it’s made life dif­fi­cult. “Un­less you’ve got an hour and a half to eat by your­self with­out any­one look­ing – which I never have – it’s very hard,” she says. “It can be so­cially em­bar­rass­ing. Ben and I will be at a din­ner party and I’ll try to eat some­thing, but have to keep an eye on the door in case any­thing gets lodged and I need to make a run for it! I’d have liked that made clear be­fore the op – if you find your­self throw­ing up in some­body’s loo a few feet from where every­body’s eat­ing, it’s stress­ful.”

It’s easy to “cheat” the band, too. “Eat­ing an ap­ple or raw car­rot is im­pos­si­ble. Or chicken, un­less you smother it in sauce,” she says. “So you end up eat­ing things like choco­late mousse or tri­fle, which is go­ing against the whole point. But your mind­set hasn’t changed, and what­ever it is that makes you want to have an­other por­tion of pie is still there! It’s a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion to be in. I’m not con­demn­ing it, but it is more com­pli­cated than you might think.”

FU­TURE OP

The fu­ture now is un­cer­tain, with Vanessa left to wait it out to see whether her symp­toms re­turn. “It’s very dan­ger­ous and can even af­fect your vo­cal chords – which is my liv­ing,” she ex­plains. “If the band is re­moved, I’m wor­ried I’ll eat too much. I might think about hav­ing a by­pass – which changes the way your stom­ach di­gests the food. I’m not sure, though – I wanted some­thing re­versible and didn’t want pieces of my anatomy tied up or chopped off! But at least hav­ing a gas­tric by­pass would mean I’d never have to think about my weight again – I’m so bored and frus­trated with be­ing de­scribed as a fa­mous fat per­son.”

Would she ever give di­et­ing and ex­er­cise one last try? She sighs. “Hon­estly, I’d love to think I could, but I’ve never man­aged it.”

‘I’m bored of be­ing de­scribed as a fa­mous fat per­son’

She’s been with part­ner Ben for 12 years As a size 24, be­fore hav­ing the band fit­ted

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