1. Had you always struggled with your weight?
I’ve never been a small person. I was overweight as a child, but the awareness wasn’t there to recognize that I needed to lose a few pounds. And it never inhibited my activity or hurt my self-esteem. I was popular, outgoing, and had plenty of friends.
When I graduated from high school, I weighed in the 170's--not extremely overweight, but looking back I see that I was definitely chubby. It’s when I reached adulthood that the pounds started packing on.
2. Did you try a lot of different diets?
If it’s out there, it’s very likely I’ve tried it. I’ve spent so much money and wasted energy over the years looking for the “magic bullet” or the “quick fix.” I tried most of the popular weight loss plans/programs.
I tried diet centers, hypnosis, over-the-counter supplements, herbal supplements, and even prescription weight loss medication. When I see a commercial on TV or an ad in a magazine today, I just shake my head at those false promises preying on people’s weaknesses. If only I could do those years over!
3. When did you first consider weight loss surgery?
It had occurred to me off and on for years, but was more just a fleeting thought that I shrugged off, dismissing it as the “easy way out.” Looking back, I believe I had those thoughts due to my naïveté about the surgery. Deep down I’m sure I was feeling some jealousy, too.
My readiness for change just wasn’t there. I also never thought I’d qualify. I saw it working for others I knew and was happy for them, but it’s a mixed bag when you feel like it’s out of your reach. Now I know it was ME holding me back. I had to get there in my head and my heart before I could get serious about considering the surgery and actually doing it.
4. Why did you pick Genesis?
I didn’t “shop around”, and I didn’t even consider another provider. Hands down I selected Genesis because of its reputation of being the “best-of-the best.”
I knew a few people who had gone there and I knew a few people who had gone to other providers. The comments I heard about the surgeons at Genesis and the staff at the Center for Weight Management told me that selecting Genesis was going to give me the patient-to-doctor relationship and the experience I was looking for.
If I’m going to put my life in someone’s hands, I’m not going to settle. I’m going to do my own homework, but I’m also going to rely heavily on them to guide me through the process--and that’s exactly what they did.
After I started the journey and eventually met Dr. Aanestad and his staff, I knew I’d made the right choice. A year and a half later, Dr. Aanestad still closely monitors my health and my journey. He didn’t just operate on me and forget about me; he’s engaged and committed to his part in keeping me healthy, and I appreciate that.
5. Was telling other people difficult?
Absolutely. The qualifying process does take a while, so other than my husband and a few close friends, I didn’t tell anyone until I knew the surgery was becoming more of a reality than a goal. I’ll be honest with you: it was a tough time. My husband was so afraid that something bad would happen to me. I think he read every nightmare story possible online, and it definitely scared him.
He couldn’t understand why I’d choose to have this elective surgery. But, once he met Dr. Aanestad and was more informed about the process, he felt reassured. My friends and kids were supportive but afraid, too. But that’s to be expected with any surgery. I was also scared, but I trusted in myself and my surgeon, and I was committed to being successful. I wasn’t going to do this wrong.
6. Why did you go with Roux-en-Y versus other options?
At first, the thought of RNY scared me. It seemed like such an invasive surgery. But, as I worked with Dr. Aanestad and learned more about all of the surgical weight loss options, I decided that RNY was right for me. It’s been around the longest so has the most data behind it, it’s the gold standard, and it works.
I’m an “all-in” kind of person, and though there’s never a guarantee, if I was going to commit to WLS, I wanted an option that would hold me accountable and would afford me the best chance at being successful.
Obviously there are risks with any surgery, and choosing RNY requires a lifetime commitment to take the supplements your body needs and maintain a healthy diet. If you can’t commit to that, it’s probably not the right option for you.
7. What was the recovery process like?
I remember feeling swollen and uncomfortable at first, but was pleasantly surprised by how little pain I actually felt. I was slowly walking the halls by early evening after surgery, home in a few days, and back to work after three weeks.
Getting up and resuming approved activity as soon as you can really helps with your recovery. I could walk a little more each day, and within that few weeks I was feeling pretty good. I spent a lot of time during my recovery reading and learning about the changes and preparing for this new life I was going to be living.
At first I could only take small sips of liquid and had to sip constantly to avoid dehydration. I was so full! And as my diet slowly progressed in that first month, I felt stronger and could tell that my body was healing and changing.
My biggest piece of advice? Keep in mind that this is major surgery, so you can’t lose sight of what that does to the body. It’s important to take it slow, follow orders as directed, get lots of rest, and not be in a rush to advance your diet or activity too soon. The plan is in place for a reason, so follow it!
8. Are there long-term side effects to your surgery?
Absolutely, and I would be concerned if there weren’t. I’m very lucky that I don’t have major issues with dumping, food getting stuck, digestive problems, etc. Early on as I was learning the ropes, occasionally I had problems with food getting stuck and still do sometimes if I eat too quickly or don’t chew well enough. It can be a miserable feeling and the “foamies” are no fun, so you learn rather quickly that you want to avoid it.
You also really get to know your body in a different way after surgery. Minor changes in how my body is working also seem very noticeable to me now. I can tell if my blood pressure seems low or I’m a little dehydrated. It reminds me how important it is to keep everything in balance.
9. How has your relationship with food changed?
Food no longer consumes me or controls me. It’s really hard to completely break the emotional connection we feel with food. I’ve worked hard to change my behaviors and understand that food is for nourishment, not for celebration, reward, coping, etc.
At a year and a half post-op now, I can eat mostly what I want in moderation. But my choices are different. I don’t have the same cravings I used to have and I enjoy food in a different way.
I can generally eat a cup or so of food at a time, and some foods are much more filling than others. Some food just isn't as pleasurable to eat because I know they’ll fill me up too quickly and often make me feel TOO full--such as bread or pasta. A little bit goes a long way with these foods.
10. What do you love most about your new life?
I love that at 46, I’m the healthiest and fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve lost just over 100 lbs. and I can feel it! I love that I haven’t had a diet soda for two years and don’t miss it. I love that I can run 3 miles in under 30 minutes each morning. I love that I feel strong, empowered, and in control of myself and how I choose to fuel my body.
I love the confidence and extra spring in my step today vs. two years ago. I love inspiring someone else to take that first brave step in taking back control of their life. I love mentoring others on their own WLS journey, and the support I receive from the many great and loving friends I’ve made through my support group.
Finally, I love that I’m doing everything right to be happy and healthy and here for my family for many, many years to come. My life rocks!