When you are 150kg and running out onto the footy field for your weekly match, there’s not going to be too many blokes brave enough to tackle you. But when you shed 70kg in less than a year, and you’re looking and feeling fit as a fiddle, boy does your game change.

Southern River resident Shaun O’Shea underwent bariatric surgery at St John of God Murdoch Hospital in September 2018. At his very heaviest he weighed 157kg.

“The crunch point for me was that I started developing health issues and I was on a serious path to diabetes with high blood pressure, and generally feeling unhealthy and unhappy,” he said.

“I’ve always been pretty active and when I was playing football and cricket at that weight, the pressure on the knees and the ankles has an impact. It would take me nearly all week to recover after a game.

“I wanted to keep doing what I was doing so I knew I had to do something about my health to keep playing sport.”

Shaun describes his gastric sleeve surgery as a ‘reset button’.

“There’s a bit of a stigma involved that surgery is a cheat’s way out,” he said.

“I’ve certainly thought it myself at one point, but after trying myself to lose weight and only being able to get down to 115kg and then it piling straight back on, I came to think of surgery as one of the tools I could use.

“I needed that reset. And I also really had to change my mindset.

“Before the surgery I had no real interest in what I was eating and the nutritional value, I didn’t care, it was all about the taste.

“Instead of waiting 15 minutes to get a healthier option, I’d just get whatever was closest.

“The way I look at food now is I see it as a fuel. Because I can only eat so much, what I can put into my body needs to be the best fuel possible.”

For Shaun, that means reassessing his options, but most importantly his portion sizes. This extends to awareness for his wife and two young sons.

“I can’t eat KFC anymore, not that that is a bad thing at all, but I also can’t eat other things I used to eat like crispy skin salmon or bacon,” he said.

“I look for grilled options and lean meat. I don’t necessarily have low fat options – on the advice of my dietitian I have full fat milk.

“Overall it wasn’t so much about what my family and I were eating, but it is about portion sizes.

“As a kid our plates were always piled high and we were encouraged to eat the whole thing. It’s something I didn’t really think until after the surgery and the impact.

“There’s already enough pressure around dinner time with kids so it’s about changing our habits and portion sizes as a family.

“It’s all about moderation and balance. I still enjoy a piece of chocolate but I try and offset it where I can.”

Shaun said he received tremendous support from Upper GI West, the clinic where Dr Matt Henderson practises.

“During that first three months in particular when you are really quite vulnerable, the team are in close contact to check in with progress and any side effects,” he said.

“It’s good to have professional help if I needed to ask any questions about any side effects like some dizziness and low blood pressure, and they were able to advise me on how to help.

“With the all regular check ins and the weigh ins it helped to hold me accountable. I consider myself very lucky because I know some people haven’t had as smooth a ride as me. I don’t have any loose skin and the team have put that down to genetics, luck and because I have muscle tone from all my sport.

“In football now that I’m fit and lean I get smashed out on the field and I don’t have it easy anymore. Those first few games I was covered in bruises but in terms of recovery the weight loss has made a huge difference.

“I feel amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel like it has given me an extra 10 years, I’m not a doctor and I don’t know if that is true but that’s how I feel.

“Prior to surgery I had severe sleep apnea which all but dissipated after losing 30kgs, which is great.”

The benefits of Shaun’s surgery don’t just stop with him, or even his immediate family.

“There’s a few blokes at the club and they have seen the process I’ve gone through,” he said.

“A few people have shared in this journey with me and decided that this is a path they’d like to go down too.

“If it can help anyone by me talking about my experiences, then I’m happy to help anyway I can.”

For more information about bariatric services visit our website.

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