Patsy, thank you for sharing your weight loss surgery experience.
“My life today is almost unrecognizable to my life one year ago. Yes, if you look at me compared to one year ago, the first thing you’ll see is there’s much less to see. I’ve reduced my weight by 85 pounds and gone from size 20 to size 6. As incredible as that is, and I do look great, it’s the way I’m living my life now that means the most to me.
My story of obesity, which led to weight loss surgery, can be summed up in a few words. I had a lack of love for myself. As a wife, mother, team mom and committed aerospace employee, I put everyone’s needs before mine. As a kid I was not very active. I didn’t play sports or do many outdoor activities. I didn’t have a foundation for exercise. I started gaining weight when my son and daughter were young and in sports. I was always the team mom, trying my best to support my kids. I went from work to practice, to another practice and got back home late in the evening. Our meals consisted of drive-thrus and convenience foods, definitely not healthy. To keep my energy up I relied on a daily Venti Caramel Frappuccino, 800 calories. But this didn’t give me any more energy to plan and cook healthy meals or exercise, although it did help pack on the pounds. I was a young mother who didn’t allow for time to take care of myself. I was so exhausted, there was nothing left for me. Eventually my husband and I separated. The stress of managing the household on my own and raising two teenagers hit me very hard and led to even more weight gain. I didn’t like to cook anymore. It was fast food every night.
I tried every diet imaginable. Phen-fen, liquids only, low-carb, high protein, and more. I began each diet seriously, with the belief that it would work, that I would be successful. A familiar pattern was starting a diet after the holidays then regaining 20 pounds before summer started. Or, on the occasion I would lose up to 40 pounds I would start to get too comfortable and hit a plateau. It was frustrating trying to figure out which diet worked best, whose advice to follow, whose rules to follow, and eventually I just gave up and went back to junk food. I loved being a mom and supporting my kids in baseball and cheer, but life was passing me by. I didn’t feel feminine or pretty. I missed out on my 20s and 30s, I couldn’t let my 40s continue the same way
In the winter of 2012 I made a visit to my doctor due to debris in my eye. The nurse asked, as they do at every visit, how often I exercised. I told her I exercised at least 10 hours each week. She repeated the question again, “How many times each week do you exercise?” I replied again, “At least 10 times each week for an hour or more.” I understood the look she was giving me. She didn’t believe me. I didn’t blame her. I understood why she didn’t believe me. She was looking at a size-20 woman. How could a size-20 woman possibly work out that much and still be a size 20? Well I knew it was possible because it was true. At the time, I was working out at the gym before work, running my dog everyday, and taking ZUMBA classes in the evenings. But my weight remained the same. The nurse checked my routine vitals and blurted out, “Oh, you DO exercise.” My healthy numbers didn’t lie
My firsthand experience with weight loss surgery was with my neighbor and hair- dresser who had the gastric bypass. She was healthy and looked beautiful. I decided to discuss weight loss surgery with my doctor. I couldn’t believe her response when she told me I wasn’t doing enough to lose weight. She said I wasn’t trying hard enough. She strongly discouraged surgery. But I was insistent that it was the right decision for me. She reluctantly agreed to let me move forward with weight loss surgery. I researched the surgical options, listened to my class instructors, and prepared questions for my first surgery consultation. I was referred to Dr. John Yadegar by my neighbor & hair-dresser, my health plan and my physician. Everyone in the process spoke so highly of him, I had to go with their recommendations. They were right. I immediately felt comfortable and safe with Dr. Yadegar. He answered my questions and I was ready to move forward. I decided to have the gastric bypass because it allowed for dumping. I was honest with myself and knew I needed this specific feature to detour me from eating sweets or overeating. I made my decision. The next step was telling my family and friends.
I had and still have a wonderful group of very supportive friends and family who mean the world to me. Their words and actions of encouragement are genuine and come often. They make me feel loved and supported. I also had a group who were equally unsupportive. Their comments ranged from, “You’re not big enough,” to “You just need to try harder,” to “Eww, I couldn’t handle all that loose hanging skin.” It didn’t matter what they said, my mind was already made up. I realized their beliefs about weight loss surgery would not change unless I worked hard to prove them wrong.
I had gastric bypass surgery in July, 2013 at Palmdale Regional Medical Center. The staff there took excellent care of me along with my children who were always by my side. I can still vividly see Dr. Yadegar’s nurse, Liz Roark, smiling at me after surgery. The pain was tolerable. It was more discomfort than pain. I felt weak and in great need of some tender loving care. The morning after surgery I was up and walking. Every time the nurses said it was time to walk, I walked. I left the hospital after two nights. When I got home, I was tired. I was grateful I had taken a month off from work. I needed that time to relax, get my nutrition on track, and mentally prepare myself for the future. I needed the time alone before I opened myself up to the world.
The first few weeks after surgery I dealt with head games. I thought I was hungry, but I was not. I thought I would die if I didn’t eat food. I did not. I questioned what I had done to myself because all the protein shakes were so unappetizing. But that feeling soon passed. After three months, the head games continued. My new thoughts were that I would never have another donut, or go out to dinner, or ever be able to travel to an exotic country because what would I be able to eat there? These were all crazy thoughts, but they felt so true. After six months it was still challenging for me to try new foods. I was very strict about what I ate. I finally had to give myself permission to befriend my new stomach and enjoy myself.
I made a decision to truly relish my life. I accepted every invitation. I still do! There isn’t anything I’m not willing to try or appreciate in a new way. I’ve gone jet skiing, bike riding on the beach, even Dodger games are better since I bought my first jersey, a women’s medium! I especially love doing fun things with my kids, things I had been missing out on for years. It’s so awesome to make new memories with them.
After one year, I am still grateful for the supportive group of family and friends who continue to love and encourage me. They continue to check on me and consistently and genuinely praise my efforts. However, the unsupportive and naysayers remain. Recently, a coworker asked me how I had lost so much weight. As a rule, if I don’t have a reason to bring up my surgery, I don’t. Everyone I love already knows and they are the only ones that matter. When I told the coworker I had weight loss surgery she retorted, “CHEATER!” Even though I knew this wasn’t true, her words hurt. This surgery takes a lot of work. I manage my nutrition at 1200 calories a day along with working my butt off at the gym every single day! This is not cheating. To be successful with weight loss surgery takes determination and commitment. When people ask me about my experience, I am honest with them about my challenges and exactly what it takes to be successful. When I’m asked if I recommend it, I tell them they need to be ready. I think most people want to be healthy and fit, but not everybody is ready to make the permanent changes needed for lasting weight control.
I am very grateful for where I am in my life. When I post pictures of myself on Facebook hiking, boxing, or doing something new, it feels really good to read the comments from friends and that I’ve inspired them to get healthy and back to the gym. I live with my daughter, Karina, 18, and my son, Rudy, 20, who continue to be my greatest encouragers and motivate me to continue with my healthier lifestyle. They cheer for me when I fit into a smaller size. Within the last month I slipped into my son’s skinny jeans and my daughter zipped me into her size-6 prom dress. They are proud of their Mama. I am happily single and enjoying life. I have real love for myself now, which had been missing for too long. I feel free and light.”