One Woman Shares How Gastric Surgery Helped Her Become A Runner – Women's Running UK

One Woman Shares How Gastric Surgery Helped Her Become A Runner

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  August 4, 2017

One Woman Shares How Gastric Surgery Helped Her Become A Runner

For most of her life, Nicola Smith, 42, had struggled with her weight. “I was unhappy for a long time with my weight and I used to make a lot of excuses for not doing things such as socialising.” Nicola was eating three large meals a day; rich food and a lot of carbs.

Although Nicola was aware of the problem, she was also in denial. However a trip to the asthma nurse turned out to be a defining moment for the Warranty Administrator from Redcar. “The nurse’s words to me were ‘do you know how much you weigh and that your BMI is 49?’. I was 21st 9lbs and a size 26-28. I didn’t realise I was quite that heavy. I was mortified”

Nicola was suffering from painful PMS symptoms when a conversation with her GP changed her life. “My GP said that my weight would be having an effect and I said I wished there was something I could do.” Nicola’s GP suggested a gastric bypass. “My initial thought was that would be fantastic, because in all honesty I didn’t see how else I was going to tackle it.”

Life changing

Gastric surgery is often slated as a quick fix, but the impact lasts a lifetime. “I do think people have a misconception that by having gastric surgery you are taking the easy way out and it really isn’t, it’s a life-long commitment. There’s no going back – it’s forever. You’ve got to be mentally in that place to make changes otherwise it won’t work.”

To check she was a viable candidate for the surgery, Nicola was referred to a special weight management disciplinary team. As part of this process, she was also tested for sleep apnoea and the result was shocking. “It was horrendously positive to a point were my results were life threatening. I was put straight onto a CPAP machine.”

To prove that she was dedicated and able to make lifestyle changes, Nicola was required to lose five per cent of her excess weight on her own. The process took a year from referral to being declared fit for the operation. “I was very sore as they cut quite a large portion of your stomach off. You have to let your stomach recover so you’re on puree, gradually introducing solid food.

“Some people were a bit worried about me having the surgery, but I wasn’t. On the whole everybody has been supportive. I’ve never been secretive about it. I was off work for two weeks and by the time I went back, people could see that I had dramatically lost weight.” In fact when she went for a post-surgery six-week check up, Nicola discovered she had lost a staggering three stones.

One Woman Shares How Gastric Surgery Helped Her Become A Runner

Ready to run

Although her recovery was straightforward, Nicola admits her new diet felt strange to begin with. “The physical restriction was completely alien to me because prior to that, I never felt full.”

With the weight coming off, Nicola felt ready to join a gym just six weeks after the surgery. “I met with a personal trainer and I told him I’d had the surgery, my stomach was still recovering, and asked what could I do?” Nicola was advised to try light cardio, lifting and resistance to begin with, but she was keen to start running.

“The whole idea of going to the gym was to build my fitness up so I could run. I knew before I could run, that I would love to run. I used to see people running and feel really envious and think ‘I bet they feel amazing when they get home’.

“My first run was on a treadmill for three minutes. That was in February 2015 and by June 2015 I could do five miles. I think it was sheer bloody determination. It’s a psychological release, literally running away. Total escapism. It gets rid of everything.”

One Woman Shares How Gastric Surgery Helped Her Become A Runner

Within months Nicola had transformed her life. Losing a phenomenal amount of weight and becoming a runner. She wanted to push herself further and so signed up to her first race. “When I had my surgery, it was six months until the Middlesbrough 5K Race For Life, that was my goal. I thought if I was ever going to do it I would want to run, so I made it happen.

“Everyone has their own reasons for being there but at the same time you feel part of something. I ran it with a friend and another friend was there to support us. Crossing the finish line was great, I found it easy to do. When I got home I just sobbed because I couldn’t believe that I had done it. It was personal pride. I raised about £250 for Cancer Research UK.”

Moving forward

With her first race under her belt, Nicola has already found her next challenge. “I’m just about to sign up for the Redcar Half Marathon in September. That’s my goal for this year. In terms of times I don’t sweat it as long as I cross that finish line. Although Nicola enjoys running on her own, she does sometimes run with a friend and her husband has also been encouraged by her new lifestyle. “My husband has been incredible. He started running with me and we’re thinking of doing the Middlesbrough 10K together.

Without the surgery, it may not have been possible for Nicola to achieve her dream. She would recommend it but wants people to know that it takes real commitment to have a successful result. “It was the tool that enabled me to lose weight and get me running. I would recommend gastric surgery to anybody who has struggled with their weight for a long time and who has struggled with controlling their eating habits. I was out of control. Physical restriction is what I needed, it worked for me. I currently weigh 11st 3lbs.

“I would say to anybody who says they can’t run, I’m living proof that anyone can run.”

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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