When I was asked to write a story for The Bariatric Center of Kansas City patient success page, I jumped at the opportunity! I love telling the WORLD about how this surgery forever, positively changed my life!! I want to let you know- I used to be you. Obese and unhappy with my appearance and overall health. Sitting there- hoping, wishing and praying I was thinner! Being jealous of others who were skinny. Loathing myself after binge eating. Food is my drug- notice I did not say WAS. You cannot quit food. Food is given in sadness and in celebration. There is no escape. So, I had to find a way to cope with my addiction. This is my story of how I did that.
I struggled with my weight for my entire life. It’s in my genes and the poor food choices I made. In July 2014, we went to Colorado and it was there I had my Ah-ha moment! Colorado has always held a special place in my heart and even more so now!! I was at my heaviest I had ever been. I am ashamed to say, I was rapidly coming closer and closer to weighing 300lbs and was starting to not fit the biggest size jeans at plus size stores! I was so fed up with my weight, but yet I did nothing about it. So anyway, my husband loved to hike- I despised it!! That is what he wanted to do while we were in Colorado. Our ATV guide a few days prior to our hike had told us about this awesome place in Glenwood Springs called Hanging Lake. There were double waterfalls and turquoise waters! He said we definitely needed to check this out (leaving out the part it was also a hike to see this). We completed our hike up to Gem Lake in Estes Park and planned to go see this waterfall the next day. We did the Gem Lake hike and it was hard but bearable. On the way down, I sprained my ankle and scraped my leg all up (which I still have a scar to this day) Ugh, great. Just what you want on your vacation- your ankle to be 2x it’s normal size! So, we take the 2-hour trip the next day towards Hanging Lake.
We get there, no waterfall in sight. We walk (I limp) towards this sign that says it is a 1.2-mile hike to Hanging Lake. Now that doesn’t seem very far, but the trail came with this warning: “Caution, the trail is difficult”. Great! We came 2 hours only to find out, I have to hike! I thought to myself there is no way I can do this! As I stood at the bottom of the trail (which we had to walk a short distance to even get to), looking up at all of these rocks/boulders, I was like nope! Not going to do it!!!! At this point, my husband had gone back to the car to double-check the doors were locked. Jordan, my son (love his little heart!) said to me, “come on mom- you can do it”. So, I didn’t want to have wasted all that time and gas getting there, so I gave it a try. I wasn’t even halfway up the rocks when my husband caught up with us. For normal people, fit people, etc- this trail took about 45 mins to an hour to go straight up and back down. This trail was straight up the mountain, climbing on rocks, boulders and very steep inclines to just make it to the top.
For me, it took 4.5 hours.
I was so out of shape and so miserable, I had to stop all the time. While I watched people come down, skinny people- I felt like they looked at me like “that fat girl is doing this trail? Ha”. They probably weren’t, but that is how I felt. I saw my family go up the trail without difficulty and had to stop and wait on me. When we finally reached the top, I LOST IT. I started to hyperventilate and cry. I was so ashamed at what I had become and so mad at myself that I had let myself go. I had given up years earlier on trying to diet, trying to be healthy, etc. I didn’t care. At that very moment- I had had enough. I wanted to do these things with my family and enjoy them. I wanted to be there long term for my family and be healthy. I knew something needed to change. It rang even more clear to me when I got back and looked at the pictures my husband took of me along the way. The look of defeat on my face was screaming back at me. I also thought- how could he ever love me? Ever be attracted to me? I am HUGE and disgusting! But he did.
So, that is when I kicked it into gear. I had done the fad diets, the programs, blah blah blah. I needed a permanent fix to my problems and habits. I needed something that would force me, no matter what—when I felt like giving up, force me to continue. I wanted surgery, but insurance did not cover it. I went back to the yo-yo dieting. About 4 months later, I received a letter in the mail about a 401k that I had COMPLETELY forgotten about. I was like, that’s it! I hear you God, LOUD AND CLEAR!! I wasn’t planning on that money and didn’t know it existed!! I cashed out that 401k and elected to have weight loss surgery on 11/11/14. I had the gastric sleeve, which is where they permanently remove 85% of your stomach. Some said this was the easy way out and why didn’t I just go to the gym and eat right? Well, to those that said that- I get it, seems logical. But, I tried that and it didn’t work for me. I stayed with that for a while and went right back into my old ways. Working out with almost 150-165lbs more weight than you should have is extremely painful.
If you’ve not gone through the process yet, I’ll shed some light for you. I want to start out by saying, this was not an easy process. This will still take work and dedication from you. The surgery is a tool for obtaining your new healthy lifestyle!!
I started a liquid diet (on my full-size stomach) 2 weeks before surgery. My liquid diet started on 10/27/14. I could only have sugar free Jello, broths, protein shakes and water. That was it. I essentially fasted for 2 weeks. So, while I was passing out Halloween candy to the kids- I was drinking chicken broth. I took my own dinner (protein shake) to a wedding, while everyone had yummy food and cake! It was pure torture but in a good sense. I was so ready to be healthy; it didn’t bother me. My big day was 11/11/14 and I wasn’t nervous. I was so ready to get started in my new adventure. I don’t really remember the day of surgery; I was pretty out of it. It was painful to have the drainage tube hanging out of your stomach and a catheter in. It was extremely painful to get up and walk when they forced me to every couple of hours while I was trying to sleep. But I had started my journey!!!
For the first few days, I would get a bite in here or there, nothing of substance. I was really weak and tired. But, by about day 5 I was starting to feel normal. I had 6 portals across my stomach, with about 4-5 staples in each one. When those were removed, I was ready to conquer the world!
Everyone said I was crazy for having the surgery around the holidays. There are 2 things to say about that- 1. Summer bodies are made in the winter and 2. There is ALWAYS going to be something, so why NOT the holidays?
I’m not going to lie though. Holidays were a little tricky that first year! I watched everyone enjoy the once a year yummy food while I brought my own foods that I could eat. On Thanksgiving, I had refried beans (only 2 tbs) and at another family gathering, creamed soup. At Christmas, I was a little further along, so I was able to eat normal turkey, but not much of the other goodies. I did cheat and have literally a tiny crumb, about the size of the point on a pencil of my mom’s peanut butter fudge! LOL
I joined a gym and started my workout journey in December 2014, 30 days after surgery. I made this my new addiction. You will lose weight without the gym- but the gym will make it fall off faster and will help with toning the extra skin! I worked out 5- days a week, 1 hour a day. I had a small group of friends that were my accountability partners! We took group personal training and did classes together. For me, the classes were great because they push you to keep going. It was hard to quit while in class and everyone else was struggling right along with you!
During my workout journey, I started to run. Now listen- I used to say that if I was running- you better run too because something was chasing me! But now, I was running for FUN- who does that!?! It started out with running for 30 seconds and then walking for 1 minute. I thought I was going to DIE and that was THE longest 30 seconds of my life!! But, then it progressed to run for 1 minute and walk for 30 seconds. I remember the first time I ran the ENTIRE mile. I literally started to uncontrollably CRY on the treadmill, there at the gym! I was SOOO happy!!! I felt like I would conquer the world! I got to the point where I was running a 5k (3.1 miles) 3x a week!
To keep this success story to a 12-hour read, sorry I get excited talking about this- I will skip to some highlights in my workout journey! With my newfound love for working out, I had so many milestone accomplishments!! My first accomplishment- I went BACK to the mountain that started it all!!! One year to the day, my family and some close friends made the trip back to the waterfall that started it all! I told everyone- take your time, but I am on a mission!! No one talks to me until we reach the top!! I got to the top in 54 MINUTES!!!!! Went from 4.5 HOURS to 54 MINUTES!!!! Needless to say, I cried when I got to the top again, but this time they were happy tears!!! I asked a park ranger how long it took her if no one bothers them and she said about 45 mins. I was only 9 mins away from someone that did this every day for a living!! You could not touch me that day, I was floating on cloud nine!!!
I signed up for several 5k’s and then took the plunge and signed up for a 15k! A group of friends & I took a flight to Chicago (we thought this was the flattest place we could run. Look, we’re motivated, but not huge overachievers lol KC has SO many hills!! LOL). We did the Hot Chocolate Run. It was the hardest thing I’ve done and the most mentally challenging physical thing I had done to date! I finished the run just under 2 hours. I was definitely not the fastest but I did not finish last! Even if I had finished last- I FINISHED!!! I think I cried for 30 mins straight after I hit that finish line. In all my life, I NEVER would have thought I would run a 15k!!
I also signed up for The ExtremeTimber Challenge- muddy, hard and fun all at the same time!
While I was checking physical achievements off my bucket list, I thought I would give a 14’er a try! For those that do not know what that is- you voluntarily climb a mountain that is 14,000ft I elevation. In all fairness, we picked “an easy one”. But, still challenging! It was an 8-hour hike up/down for us and I took a tumble on the way down- gashed my leg open- there goes my leg modeling career! But- I had done something that in a million years thought I would never do!
My family loves Colorado -just loves it. They would always go skiing and I would shop because I wasn’t physically able to ski. Now, I enjoy skiing with my family as another physical activity that I can now do! Although, one skiing trip ended in an ER visit with 8 sutures on my leg. My legs don’t bode well in CO, apparently! LOL
This surgery has opened a whole world to me! I was never the person prior to surgery to say no to physical activities. I mean, I would not run or work out- but on vacations, I would try the hike even if it was hard. But I wouldn’t ski, wouldn’t run, do major hikes, etc. I would have missed out on all of God’s beautiful creations if I would have just stayed the same if I would have been to scared to take that giant leap of faith to change my life!
Now, a little dose of hard truth. I am 5 years out and I am not as active in the gym as I initially was. And, I am ok with that. I am still active- just this October we traveled to Arkansas and did 3 full days of hiking, one trail was 6 miles! But, I do not live at the gym. I am going to get back into the gym, but I need to have a more realistic schedule. I have put back on about 20lbs since I stopped running a 5k 3x a week and working out at the gym 6 hours a week. But- I have maintained where I am over the last 2 years. I didn’t want to leave this part out- as because this would not be my full success story if I lied about my continued struggles. I am successful with the surgery because I am honest with myself and make daily choices. I remind myself this is a lifetime struggle- not a quick fix and do. The surgery has provided me with the BEST tool to continue fighting the struggle with weight.
Being 5 years out now, I am at a point where I eat normal foods. But there comes the kicker. I must still choose to make healthier food choices. I am still learning about the things I put in my body, reading labels, etc. This has been a life-altering event for me and my family. This is something that I will have to do for the rest of my life. The surgery is a tool, not a quick fix. It is a band-aide for a life-long deep wound of food addiction. The mental struggle with food is still there. I still have to choose to look at food differently. One thing I would say over and over in the beginning: Food is fuel- not my entire life.
I’m almost done- I promise! LOL
The Bariatric Center of Kansas City is the best- not only because they help you on this journey and give you endless resources, but they are very passionate about completing the entire process! They offer panniculectomy to their patients to complete their journey. I was finally able to have that done, 11/5/19! If I am being honest, part of me waited a while, because I was scared I would end up obese again. That was the final piece in my physical appearance journey that I needed. I loved that I had lost the weight, but I really hated the extra skin around my tummy. I didn’t prevent me from doing anything, but man there were some really cute outfits it kept me from! I am so pleased with the end results!! So exciting wearing REAL underwear! No need for super-tight, indigestion inducing, suck me in body shapers!! I may now have a slight shopping addiction to Victoria’s Secret!
Through my journey and success- my mother, my aunt, best friend, and numerous close acquaintances have now had successful surgeries! It has been truly a blessing to see these women make that leap of faith and forever change their lives as well!
I write all of this to share my journey and to encourage you in yours! I know it’s the new year and everyone made resolutions—but don’t. Make life changes. Make small changes daily that will add up to larger things as time goes on. Everyone fails resolutions.
I’m so excited about where your journey takes you! Best of luck!
Highest weight: 288lbs
Lowest weight: 143lbs
Current weight: 165lbs
Highest dress size: 26/28 women’s