My Roller Coaster Ride Through Weight Loss Surgery
The Early Years
I was never a skinny kid. I have a medium build and was, I would say average-sized, for my age throughout childhood. I was always socially awkward and anxious, not making many friends. I let my fears guide me. I did not try out for sports because I felt clumsy and awkward. I typically kept my nose stuck in a book to avoid engaging with others. My mom, who has Crohn's disease, fed my sister and I a healthy diet. We did not have junk food or soda in our diet, and we didn't know what we were missing.
The Beginning of My Weight Issues
Fast forward to middle school: I had a few close friends, but still suffered from social anxiety and accompanying Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I frequently would not eat at school because of my anxiety and the stomach pain. Of course, we all know that skipping meals leads to overeating when we do eat. I started to gain some weight as a result of my poor eating habits. This further increased my anxiety and low self-esteem.
In high school, I learned that food is comforting. It was there no matter what. I ate my emotions. Vending machines were present in the high school, and I frequently ate junk food instead of school lunch. Having no access to these foods when I was younger seemed to make me crave them rather than avoid them.
My mom struggled as a single parent, working 2 or 3 jobs to take care of my sister and I. We rarely saw her. I was in an unhealthy relationship which bordered on mental abuse, but stayed in it because I didn't want to be alone and didn't think I deserved any better. I was a size 16 when I graduated in May 1997.
I became pregnant with my son Matthew when I was 18, giving birth 50 pounds heavier (220). I lost 20 pounds but never got below 200. My marriage was unhealthy and I ate for comfort. I was a single parent by age 21. My son had sensory issues and was a picky eater, so it was easiest to feed him fast food. Naturally, I ate it too. I gradually gained weight over the years.
Being a nurse, I thoroughly researched bariatric surgery and contemplated it for years before deciding it was the path I needed to follow. I chose to have gastric banding, because it had fewer side effects than gastric bypass. I went through the multitude appointments required to get my insurance to cover the procedure. I finally had a pre-op appointment scheduled with my surgeon when I discovered I was pregnant. I had been with my husband for four years and we assumed he was infertile due to untreated diabetes. We were shocked and delighted of course!
I had my daughter Willow when I was 31. I had morning sickness, pneumonia, and a stomach virus during my pregnancy. When I delivered her, I weighed the same as when I found out I was pregnant. She was a very healthy 8 pound, 12 ounce baby! After I finished breast feeding, I decided to try having surgery again. It had been over a year since the insurance company approved me, so I had to go through the entire process a second time.
So, after twice going through four months of appointments with the surgeon, lab-work, a psychiatric evaluation, and a dietitian consultation, I was finally approved for gastric banding (Lap Band). I had the procedure in 2011.
Initially, I was on a liquid diet to allow the stomach to heal. I gradually worked through pureed then soft foods, and eventually went on a "regular" diet consisting mainly of protein followed by veggies and fruits, if I had room. Once the surgeon felt I was healed, I went in the office to have saline injected into the port in my abdomen, which inflates the silicone band around the top of the stomach. This tightened the band, restricting how much I can eat. The first time I went in to "get a fill," we discovered my port had flipped and was inaccessible. So, I had to go have a second surgery to place the port facing the front.
Every time I went in to get filled, he had trouble accessing my port. When I took sips of water, I never felt restriction like he expected me to. I initially did well with weight loss, losing 40 pounds. I started having sagging skin, which surprisingly depressed me rather than making me see my progress. I didn't feel much restriction, though I vomited frequently. My weight loss slowed. Tests showed my gallbladder had stopped functioning, so I had it removed (surgery number three).
I went in for my last fill, and went from little restriction to vomiting if I drank water. I went back in and he said that my port had flipped again and that he wanted to re-position it and use mesh to hold it in place. He planned to then start me back at the beginning with the saline fills. I had already had three surgeries by this point, only lost 40 pounds, and the surgical site became infected with each procedure. I decided that I needed a second opinion.
I went to another doctor. He said that some people never achieve the right amount of restriction with the gastric banding. He recommended the gastric sleeve. I had to go through six months of appointments this time, and repeat the psychological evaluation and dietary consultations for a third time. I weighed 289 pounds when I had the gastric band converted to the gastric sleeve in 2014. I was pleased that I did not get a surgical site infection. I could also bend over without muscle spasms due to the port being removed.
So, after a multitude of appointments that would test anyone's sanity and four surgeries, I currently weigh 220 pounds. I lost 70 pounds after having the gastric sleeve.
Unfortunately, I still struggle with depression and anxiety and lapse into poor eating habits at times. I followed all the post-op recommendations, but over several years it has become easy to let life get in the way. I lost my step-father to melanoma in 2016 and it has been really hard to cope. I have developed high blood pressure and lymphedema, which you would think would have occurred at my heaviest weight rather than with weight loss. Between emotional and physical issues, my weight loss has stalled. Poor eating habits and not enough physical activity are to blame.
I avoided going to my doctor for over a year, because I was disappointed with myself and dreaded the lecture I knew I deserved. I went to see him last month and was up seven pounds from the last time I was seen. He didn't lecture me as I expected. He told me that at this stage, many patients start to regain weight because they "let life get in the way."
He gave me goals to work on over the three months before I see him again. He told me to have four "meals" a day. He said anything with calories counts as a meal. He said to start every day with a protein shake. I am supposed to consume a minimum of 60 grams of protein daily. He told me not to skip meals so that I don't overeat when hunger hits. When I eat, I need to push the plate away after 15 minutes. Of course, I need to eat the right types of foods so that I get full faster (PROTEIN!). The last goal is to take B-12 and a prenatal vitamin daily. He wants me to lose 12 pounds in this three month period.
I have been drinking Premier Protein's Caramel shake every morning, 30 grams first thing! I have gotten to the point where most powder mixes I try make me want to gag because of the frothy nature when you mix them. I burned myself out on Premier's chocolate and vanilla flavors, hate the strawberry, and don't want to spend money on the banana in case I hate it too. Hopefully I will continue to like the caramel flavor, or I will have a new dilemma. I have been sticking to the four meal rule most days, but girl scout cookie season came and I am only human. I take my vitamins along with my handful of prescribed meds daily. I don't have a scale at home, so it'll be a surprise to see my weight at my appointment this June. Wish me luck!