Dear Virginia,

I've been very overweight ever since a bereavement in my childhood. I've tried every way to lose weight: dieting, hypnotherapy and slimming clubs. I'm now nearly 60, diabetic, and the future, health-wise, seems grim if I don't lose weight. I could afford a gastric banding operation, but my sister says I should hire a personal trainer. I feel she thinks getting a gastric band is "cheating. But isn't the most important thing that I lose the weight and keep it off?

Best wishes, Jodie

Isn't it just infuriating when some busybody starts interfering in decisions that you've probably taken months to make? You've been discussing all this with yourself, researching it on the internet, spending sleepless nights mulling over the pros and cons, and then some idiot you happen to mention it to simply gives her own completely spontaneous, unthought-out view, and you're back to square one.

I had the same reaction to surgical plans of my own. When I wanted to have a face-lift, I decided, after years of thought, to go ahead. The moment I went public, people would pop out of the woodwork and tell me not to go ahead. Why did I think I needed one? Had I thought that I might look like Joan Rivers afterwards? But of course I had! As you have undoubtedly asked yourself whether having a gastric band wasn't a cop-out. You have, I'm sure, beaten yourself up enough over the idea; you've worried about the orphans who could be saved with the money, what would happen if it went wrong, blah blah. You don't need someone else to come along and kick your head in as well.

Your sister knows absolutely nothing about the trials you've been through, struggling to control your weight. She's just shrugged it off with a glib feeling that it can all be overcome with willpower.

Don't listen to her for an instant – or any other negative voices, come to that. You're 60, old enough to know exactly what you're doing, what you want, and what will work for you. Go for the gastric band, I beg you. All I ask, as well, is that you're prepared for a hard struggle once the operation is over. Once your weight is off, you want to keep it off. Then may be the time to consider a personal trainer, not now. More importantly, perhaps, this is the moment you should consider consulting a bereavement counsellor through the charity Cruse – because perhaps your eating is still connected to a bereavement you haven't yet really allowed yourself to come to terms with.

It may turn out that addressing this childhood grief would help you not only with overeating but other areas of your personality you're not aware of – like, clearly, being unable to stand up to your sister and tell her to keep her unhelpful thoughts to herself. Or, if not confronting her, being sufficiently confident in yourself to allow her remarks to run off you like water from a duck's back.

Good luck with the band. Almost certainly, this drastic and brave action will strengthen your determination to keep the weight off in future.

Readers say...

Go for it

I had a gastric band fitted 18 months ago. I'd been overweight for most of my adult life. At 56, I weighed 22 stone, had high blood pressure, diabetes and knees that were begging for mercy. I too had tried many diets. I discussed a gastric band with my husband and then with a consultant, and decided to go ahead.

The band is a great tool but not a magic wand; it takes time and commitment to work. I've lost seven stone, and my life has changed for the better beyond belief. I haven't told everyone about the band, maybe because of the "cheating" issue. Are the obese seen as idle gluttons who need to suffer the rigours of a strict diet to deserve being slim?

When people have known you a long time, any major change in you requires a change in the way they perceive you. Some people find this threatening. But it's you who will be affected by your decision, not your sister. Go for it!

Jo, by email


It's not too late to talk

The root of your weight problems may be the bereavement. It is never too late to discuss your feelings about this with someone who can help. On the gastric band, you have answered your own question – you can afford it, and the important thing is to get the weight off and keep it off.

Jennifer Buchan, Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire


Don't beat yourself up

My heart goes out to you. I'm 56, and my life has been dominated by eating problems. I've been everywhere from anorexic to compulsive eater. The "get a grip" faction will wince at this, but I feel robbed of my life by my war of attrition with my body image and eating. Please don't get a trainer, or have gastric banding. Don't "try" anything, except perhaps to please yourself, get to know yourself, stop beating yourself up. Your sister says banding is "cheating" – my whole family is like that! Ignore them. Read feminist books, reclaim your body, and make that whatever shape or size it is, it's an issue for you and only you.

Name supplied, by email