The first time I remember struggling with my weight, I was probably around nine years old. I remember as I sat in my third-grade classroom, my teacher started to ask for my classmates' weights for a math problem. As they called out their weights, all averaging about 75 to 80 pounds, my heart pounded. I began to dread the thought of my teacher asking for my weight, to which I would have sheepishly answered with a whispered “One-hundred and fifteen.” As I sat there, I met shame for the first time. And it was horrible. That night, at nine years old, I decided to go on my first diet.
Total Weight Loss: 122 pounds
Surgery Type: Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy
Surgery Date: 07/03/2018
Surgeon: Dr. Michael Blaney
Why I Decided to Have Weight Loss Surgery
My weight continued to be my greatest source of shame and self-loathing for years to come.
Because of my weight, I was severely bullied in middle school to the point that I had to be homeschooled. Because of my weight, I was always on a diet. Because of my weight, I was always in the gym. Because of my weight, I put myself under a microscope to change every aspect of my body, mind, and personality. Because of my weight, I hated every part of myself.
Starting my Journey at Live Healthy MD
But here is where the hope comes. One day during my sophomore year of high school, my incredible mother, Amy, came to my rescue. She had heard of this company called Live Healthy MD in Augusta who was giving a class on how they help people lose weight. After eight years of countless diet and exercise programs compounded with shame, I counted myself as hopeless.
Reluctantly, I went to the class at Live Healthy MD where they told the classroom of 12 people all about how they are helping people lose weight and the science behind why their plan worked.
I left silent that night. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, but there was a glimmer of hope at the back of my mind that this could be the chance to change my life that I had been hoping and praying for.
After being seen for over nine months under their medical weight loss program, I had lost weight and felt incredible already—but then the taste fatigue set in. I was tired of the flavors that I was eating every day, and I started to fall off the wagon. Instead of expressing the concerns I had with the people who were there to help me, I hid.
I canceled appointments, went completely off my diet, and gained back twice what I had lost in the first place—a total of a 90 pound weight gain! This was my breaking point.
It took two more years to finally decide to look into weight loss surgery. Fortunately for me, Live Healthy MD also specialized in weight loss surgery, so it was a simple transition. After six months of questions, research, and debate, I decided to proceed with the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.
After seventeen years of weight issues, and countless appointments with the psychologist—Dr. Connie Stapleton—and my doctor, I was scheduled for my surgery on July 3rd, 2017.
My Surgery Experience
Two weeks before my surgery, I started my 2 week pre-op liquid diet. In my mind, this was the most difficult step in my journey because you have to constantly choose to follow what has been mapped out for you rather than giving in to any one of the numerous temptations that seem to bombard you from our food-centric society.
However, I found that the liquid diet was great training for my new life.
Two weeks and 70 protein shakes later, I found myself packing my hospital bag with everything that I needed for the morning to come. The next morning, we got to the hospital and, accompanied by a pounding heart and growling stomach, I was admitted and taken back for surgery.
I looked at my mom from my hospital bed and asked if this was truly happening. She assured me that it was real, and I was wheeled to the back.
The last thing I remember about my old life is thanking all the staff wheeling me back for my new life (though according to the anesthesiologist, I performed the solfege song from The Sound of Music and had the rest of the staff dance around for my amusement, which sounds exactly like me).
I came out of anesthesia in my hospital bed and could not believe it had happened. My new life had FINALLY begun and I was beside myself.
After all, going through with bariatric surgery is hard; it only “works for you” when you work for it.
Life After Surgery
Though I did have a great experience with my surgery, I would not forgive myself if I did not talk about the hardships.
The next two weeks were difficult. I had a rough time trying to get down all of my water and protein shakes and dealt with some thoughts of “what did I just do to myself.” While this was hard to shake off, my incredible sister, Kristen, who had the same surgery three months earlier, was there to walk me through it and I was able to see her success and visualize what mine would soon be.
The first day of my liquid diet, I weighed 297 pounds. In the past 18 months, I have gotten down to 175 pounds, a total of 122 pounds lost!
Since my surgery, my sister and I started meal prepping, which is very helpful for making good choices throughout the week!
The gym is another activity that I have had to implement into my life. While I am sometimes not too thrilled about going (aka, I never want to go, ever), I have had to come to terms with the fact that it is a part of the journey that is necessary to my success.
My Non-Scale Victories
My biggest non-scale victory to date is that after my weight loss, I started a new job and my coworker, who went to high school with me, did not recognize me until I re-introduced myself. She could not believe her eyes!
My Advice to Future Patients
Finally, I would like to give a few words of advice to those of you who may be reading this article and are struggling.
- Going through with the surgery is tough. But so are you.
- Surgery is not the “easy way out.” It is a tool that you can add to your arsenal of a healthy lifestyle.
- Being skinny will not make you happy. It is always possible to find something that you don’t like about yourself. Decide to be happy instead, and if surgery will help you with that, more power to you.
- Listen to your doctor. That “Dr.” in front of their name stands for “DARN RIGHT.”
- Sometimes, people aren’t accepting of bariatric surgery. That is their problem and it is not your job to fix it.
- REFER TO NO. 4. SERIOUSLY.
- Take advantage of the life change that you have chosen for yourself. Use this life change to change your life.
- Reach out if you need help. It is always easier to ask for help in the beginning. You are also not the first person to deal with that issue. Take it from me.
- Surround yourself with people who want to support you rather than push you back in the wrong direction.
- If people had things to say when you were big, they’ll find things to say when you lose. You cannot please everyone, so choose to make yourself happy.
I am so thankful for my surgeon, my dietitians, and the rest of the Live Healthy MD staff. I truly consider them family and I would trust them with my life. This surgery is the best decision I have ever made for myself, and if it came down to it, I would do it again tomorrow!