“I had the surgery for the sake of my health”

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Ellinor Westh Olsson, who is now 31, was considered chubby already in primary school and piled on the pounds over the course of her school years. Early in adult life she moved with her partner to Västerbotten and then started gaining weight faster. This is where she first felt lonely and started comfort eating, and then she began working the night shift.

Ellinor Westh Olsson. Foto: Henric Lindsten/Lindsten & Nilsson

“Working at night create an imbalance. I actually only ate once per day, nutritious meals, but I still gained weight. I think that working the night shift did something to my metabolism.”

After taking part in a behavioural medicine programme, in which she was supported in changing her lifestyle, Ellinor lost 17 kg. This happened at the same time she started working during the day, so it is unclear what caused the positive results.

Then she injured her back. A heavy lift at work resulted in several slipped discs, with a loss of sensation and difficulty moving; her mobility was still not good following two back operations. Ellinor needed an operation to fuse joints in her lower back, but in order to do this she had to lose a lot of weight. It was hard to achieve this with reduced mobility, so at a BMI of 47, Ellinor decided to have gastric bypass surgery.

The operation has been effective. Now she has a BMI of 30 and wears size 40/42 on her upper body. She was able to proceed with the back operation, and can now ride a bike, walk and live a normal life.

“I actually didn’t have a problem with my self-image when I was overweight. I was happy in myself and with my body and I got married when I was as big as I got. For me, this was about my health. I wanted to make things easier on my back, and it’s worked,” says Ellinor.

With some anger in her voice, she notes that she is now treated in a different way; more friendly and with more respect.

“If I meet people on the pavement they sometimes move to make way for me. Before, it was always I who had to move, something I never thought about at the time. I am exactly the same person I was before, but yet people look at me in a completely different way. That’s not OK.”

Text: Annika Lund, first published in the magazine Medical Science 2015.