Vanessa Feltz graced our TV screens this week, appearing on This Morning to talk about the gastric band she had 8 years ago. During the interview she talked about her “gastric band nightmare”, a popular clickbait headline no doubt designed for maximum reach across various media outlets. Her description of feeling as if she was drowning while she was asleep certainly sounded unpleasant and dramatic but her symptoms are not uncommon and can indicate 1 of 2 things.
Vanessa was joined by Dr Shaw Somers on the sofa who rightly explained that Vanessa’s symptoms could indicate a band slippage that could present only when she was lying flat. This is entirely possible but the incidence of slippage (at least at Healthier Weight) is about 1 in 100. The exact same symptoms can also indicate a band that is too tight, a far more common problem, unfortunately. Is it possible Ms Feltz has returned to her band adjustment clinic repeatedly to “fill” the band to stop her eating? Her worried comments about being able to “eat a camel” if the band is removed might clue us in.
We see this quite often in the clinic and it’s a habit we’re very keen to break. Patients will come to the clinic and insist they need a fill because they can still physically put food in their mouth and swallow it. The gastric band is not designed to stop you being able to eat! It’s a satiety device designed to make you feel fuller sooner so you make the decision to stop eating. We always say that a band is a tool and that you have to work with it. This includes working to improve your dietary and behavioural habits at the same time as finding the right level of restriction for your band.
Only an X-ray will tell us if Vanessa’s band has slipped or not but her comments didn’t make us confident that she was working with her band in the best way. The band is a great procedure but all patients need to understand that it will only work if you eat foods of the right textures slowly. If you are experiencing ‘night cough’ or you repeatedly vomit after eating even small portions, there is a good chance your band it too tight.