Queenslanders who packed on the kilos during COVID are going under the knife in a desperate bid to fight the flab.
Queenslanders who packed on the kilos during COVID are going under the knife in a desperate bid to fight the flab.

Covid kilos spark surge in stomach surgery

STOMACH reduction surgery is booming as thousands of Queenslanders who packed on the kilos during COVID go under the knife in a desperate bid to fight the flab.

Bariatric surgeries across the state say they are performing dozens of operations a month on everyone from tradies to teachers, with demand for their services up as much as 30 per cent.

They say the pandemic not only helped pile on weight but also gave obese people more time to 'look in the mirror' and reflect on the potentially deadly health risks they were facing.

Felicity Cohen, CEO of Gold Coast-based Weight Loss Solutions Australia, said her practice performed almost 100 operations last month.

Weightloss Solutions Australia CEO Felicity Cohen. Photo: Supplied
Weightloss Solutions Australia CEO Felicity Cohen. Photo: Supplied

"It's been our busiest month ever … we're seeing a 30 per cent increase in inquiry," she said.

"For many people, healthy habits such as exercise and eating a balanced diet took a back seat during the pandemic and 'COVID kilos' became a real issue.

"It also made people more introspective and aware of the weight they had gained, and the dangerous health risks associated with morbid obesity."

Ms Cohen said her practice was seeing patients from as far as Mt Isa and the Gulf as many obese people realised they could not lose weight by diet and exercise alone.

"About 97 per cent of diets and weight loss programs fail, whether it's within a year or five years," she said.

"They're often setting up people with significant BMIs (Body Mass Indexes) for failure and a terrible roller coaster of yoyo dieting."

Ms Cohen said stomach reduction surgery, once considered radical, was now widely accepted as overweight people confronted health consequences of obesity including diabetes, sleep apnoea, high cholesterol, anxiety and depression.

The most popular operation is called the sleeve gastrectomy and works by reducing the size of the stomach.
The most popular operation is called the sleeve gastrectomy and works by reducing the size of the stomach.

The most popular bariatric surgery - sleeve gastrectomy, where the stomach is reduced by about 85 per cent - costs $24,000 and was 'no more complicated than having a gallbladder removed', Ms Cohen said.

After surgery, a clinical team including dietitians and psychologists works with patients for 12 months on a 'lifestyle modification program'.

Ms Cohen said the operations were 'saving lives and changing lives'.

"It's keeping people out of the health system and nursing homes, and giving them greater self-esteem and self-confidence," she said.

"Many patients say it's the best thing they've ever done."

Richard Smedley before and after his dramatic weight loss.
Richard Smedley before and after his dramatic weight loss.

Gold Coast computer technician Richard Smedley, 62, said he weighed 200kgs three years ago and could barely walk 50m.

But since having bariatric surgery, his weight was down to 95kgs and he had taken up running, salsa dancing and jetskiing.

"My life is so totally different … I can do things that I couldn't have considered a few years ago and I'm having a lot of fun doing them," he said.

Originally published as Covid kilos spark surge in stomach surgery


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