Weight: Down 112 pounds
A lot of people have asked me advice on weight loss surgery, and I can’t really help. Weight loss surgery hasn’t been a part of my journey, but I know it’s an option for a lot of people including my friend Courtney. Courtney and I met when I was at a high weight in my journey, and have stayed friends over the years and have watched each other change. Here’s Courtney’s story:
In 2015, I had reached my highest weight of about 300 lbs. I was 26 and very unhappy. The weight caused a lot of health issues such as high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. I was told that I would get diabetes if I didn’t make some changes. I was taking several pills a day just to maintain a normal life.
My morbid obesity caused a lot of trouble in my relationships too, I always felt so uncomfortable in my own skin that it took a toll on intimacy. I felt ashamed of myself and my body. It didn’t help that I would be publicly reminded that I was obese on a daily basis. I remember riding the Chicago subway and people actively avoiding sitting next to me because I took up more than one seat. I also heard people call me fat in the streets countless times, mostly from men.
Throughout this time, I tried plenty of different ways to lose weight. For dieting, I tried The Master Cleanse, The Engine 2 Diet, Vegan-ism, Weight Watchers and more. These only worked temporarily and I would always gain the weight back plus some. I also tried joining gyms and take fitness classes. It was humiliating having to use my Inhaler every 5 minutes because of my asthma. I know that I got in my own way with diet and exercise. I would self-sabotage almost every attempt because I was so unhappy with myself that food and my weight became a shield of sorts.
The biggest issue for me has always been food. I struggled with Bulimia as a teenager which thankfully I was able to defeat through therapy and medical programs but my relationship with food was never normal after that. I would still binge eat but I just let the weight pile one. I never realized that food addiction was a real problem. I always just assumed it was something that dramatic people would say but it’s not. I never felt satisfied and always ate to the point of illness. The hardest part about food addiction is you can’t hide that from the world. Everyone is painfully aware that you have lost control of a certain aspect of your life because the effects are all external. It felt like something I could never overcome.
I first heard about Weight Loss Surgery from TV. I would see these famous people like Roseanne Barr, Rosie O’Donnell, Lisa Lampinelli, Al Roker, Star Jones losing a ton of weight all from Gastric Bypass, or Gastric Sleeve or the Lap Band. I never considered it for myself because I assumed it cost a million dollars and I also thought well that would be cheating and not losing weight the “right way”.
It wasn’t until my doctor sat me down and said “I’ve been supervising your weight loss attempts for years now and I think it may be time to consider Bariatric surgery”. This was hard to hear at first but I started doing research into the possibility. I was blown away by how many people get this surgery on a daily basis. I joined Instagram and started following women who have gone through this process and have successfully lost 100+ pounds. I did a ton of research and that fear that this was “the easy way out” quickly dissipated. So many women experienced the same struggles as me with diet and exercise and self-sabotage. I learned that once your body gets used to a morbid-obese lifestyle, your hormones get all twisted and makes it so much harder to lose weight and keep it off.
I checked my health insurance, and found out that Bariatric surgery was covered. I started going through the process which was taxing at times. I had to meet with the surgeon, take classes, get a letter of recommendation from my doctor, go to support groups, get labs/blood work and get a psych evaluation to make sure I could handle this emotionally. At this time it was recommended that I see a therapist once a week. This was helpful because the most important thing I learned from this is that weight loss surgery does not heal the emotional issues that led to food addiction and extreme weight gain in the first place. I needed to get a handle on why I was such an emotional eater and deal with issues from my past.
On June 3rd, 2015 I went in for Gastric Sleeve Surgery. I decided to go with the sleeve because it seems to be the least invasive and most effective. Although I have so many friends who have had great success from the bypass. Many hospitals are phasing out the Lap-band because the weight-loss is unpredictable, there is a lot of maintenance to upkeep the band and there is a higher risk for complications as it is a foreign object in your body.
The sleeve surgery is where they remove 85% of your stomach. It removes certain hunger hormones I believe and was instrumental in conquering my food addiction. It is non-reversible and the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Yes it was painful but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I learned so much about myself, my strength and my body during this time.
The surgery did not solve everything. I had to change my lifestyle drastically with food and exercise. Yes, I was not able to eat even half of what I could before but because of that I had to choose foods that were highly nutritious and healthy to avoid malnutrition. I had to start taking vitamins daily, especially iron. Additionally, about 6 weeks after surgery I joined a physical therapy/weight loss program where I would work out 3-5x per week to build strength and prevent what is arguably one of the worst parts of weight loss, loose skin.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve fallen off track several times but thankfully I have built such a strong support system through Instagram and through friends (ahem, Amanda) that keep me motivated.
It has been almost 2 years since that surgery and since then I have lost about 120 pounds total. I went from a size 24W to a size 10/12. I am able to hike and climb stairs without getting out of breath so easily. I am more confident and I’ve become more social and actively pursuing my passions. I just feel better from the inside out and I am not as scared as I used to be about everything.
There are many different ways to lose weight. I hate it when people compare different styles of weight loss to be better than the other because at the end of the day, all that matters is your health. So as long as it’s healthy, do whatever you have to do to reach your goals of a healthier and more fulfilling life.