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11th October 2018

Bariatric surgery: new life, new me

Marina Biglia’s obesity story began with denial, moved to acceptance, and eventually – with the help of bariatric surgery – led to recovery. Now she’s a role model and champion for others who are traveling down the same challenging path.

Marina, who is the President of Italy’s national non-profit association for obese patients (Associazione Amici Obesi Onlus) and is also the country’s representative of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), shared her experience with This Is MedTech to raise awareness on World Obesity Day.

“My journey with obesity started when I was around 25, when I lost control of my weight,” she begins. Despite not being able to find clothes to fit, only buying shoes with Velcro to avoid tying her shoes and having problems driving because her stomach touched the wheel, she “couldn’t understand the extent of the problem”.

Like many obese people before her, Marina was promised miracle diets and useless therapies. Her turning point was her visit to a multidisciplinary centre for the treatment of obesity when she was around 40. “The first step was to become aware of my condition, because only when you accept the fact that you have a problem are you ready to set on a treatment path,” she explains, adding that she also began to accept her situation because of her son. “When I saw that I couldn’t play with him and couldn’t do many things with the most important person in my life, I realised I had a problem that I needed to solve.”

It’s a challenge that millions of people face. According to the World Obesity Federation, more than 1.9 billion adults were deemed overweight in 2016, with over 650 million of those people classified as obese. Obesity acts as a gateway disease to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and liver disease, which are responsible for over 70% of deaths worldwide.

“I started to search the internet and, thanks to the information I found, I learned about bariatric surgery,” Marina says. Bariatric surgery for weight loss can involve various procedures including reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or through removal of a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy or biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch) or re-routing the small intestine to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery).

“After the operation I lost 68 kg and slowly the smile came back to my face,” comments Marina, whose weight had reached 140 kg at one point. She acknowledges, however, that the process was long, pointing out that “you fall and then get up, but the important thing is not to fall back into old habits, which in my case was looking at food as a safe haven, where I could go to seek comfort.” Working closely with the professionals at the multidisciplinary centre was paramount to her success, as was the support she received from family, friends and the people who, like her, were fighting a similar battle.

“I am proud of my path and grateful for the support I received,” she says. “I think it’s fundamental to understand that obesity is a disease and it’s necessary to launch awareness and prevention campaigns to help everybody with this condition, also taking into consideration that in Italy this accounts for 10% of the population. With ‘Amici Obesi Onlus’ we are committed to disseminating truthful information, providing support in identifying the proper treatment path and, most of all, supporting one another, because the cure of each person is interrelated with the cure of everyone, and vice-versa.”

World Obesity Day was launched by the World Obesity Federation in 2015 to stimulate and support practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and to reverse the global obesity crisis. This year, the theme is “End Weight Stigma”. For more information, click here.