A few years ago, a fat friend debuted her new body on Instagram. Gaya were the days of close-up, filtered face pictures. Suddenly, she was posing in a sleeveless jumpsuit and a leather pencil skirt.
At the time, I weighed 220 feet at 5 feet, 3 inches tall, so naturally, I reached out to learn her secrets.
“I just dialed the carbs back and started walking,” he replied.
As he became thinner and thinner, I grew older. We were the same age. We were both mums. Both of us were struggling with obesity since childhood. Why was I failing while she was succeeding?
I have an answer now.
In 2019, shortly after I announced my decision to undergo a vertical sleeve gastrectomy or VSG, a surgery where a portion of the abdomen is removed, the friend reached out.
He was VSG at first, but was too embarrassed to tell anyone. She did not want people to judge her or think she took the easy way out. I understand those feelings – the stigma surrounding weight loss surgery is widespread. Yet if I had known that it was working for him, I would have considered it soon.
“I wish you had told me,” I said. “I think this surgery is going to save my life.”
Now, almost a year later, I can tell you that it did.
When I was placed in the operating room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in December 2019, I was 40 years old and weighed 240 pounds. Even though I was “healthy obese”, meaning I had normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, I suffered from chronic pain in my legs and back.
Ten months later, I weigh 154 pounds and I’m still losing. The same person who used to get ready to walk down a flight of stairs now rotates six days a week. Not only that, but I really crave exercise. I am 14 pounds off my target weight.
I feel like a new person.
Bariatric Psychologist of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Drs. Paul Davidson stated, “Bariatric surgery is the most effective, least used surgery on the planet.”
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), 24 million people who are eligible choose only 1% weight loss surgery.
Director of the Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Dr. Scott Shikora in Brigham & Women has the impression that bariatric surgery is dangerous.
“Decades ago, surgery was seen as high risk. “The death rate is now 1 in every 2,000, which is similar to gallbladder surgery,” Shikora told TODAY. “Bariatric surgery is like this great mystery no one knows about.”
My new beginning
To prepare for my VSG, I followed a restrictive pre-operative diet for 14 days. The purpose of this low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet plan is to reduce the size of your liver, making surgery safer and easier. My head hurt, my body was confused and angry. But I did not cheat.
For me, the most difficult part was recovery. It was not that I was in pain – but for three weeks, all I wanted to do was fall asleep. And I was hungry too. After surgery you start a restrictive diet for 40 days, which allows your stomach to heal. Of course, all this is just a distant memory. Today, I eat whatever I want, but I measure my food, live in small portions and eat lean protein. I also do a chewing exercise 30 times before swallowing.
When I post before and after photos on social media, I always use the #VSG hashtag. I do not want anyone to compare my weight loss progress with me and feel bad. My stomach can only hold 4 ounces of food on time. Surgery also reduces hunger by eliminating the part of the stomach that produces ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger.
But I also use the hashtag because like Kelly Osbourne, who dropped 85 pounds after gastric sleeve surgery, I am a proud member of the weight loss surgery community.
Obesity is a genetic, chronic disease like diabetes and hence it makes sense to treat it with medical intervention. You should never feel ashamed to take control of your health.
“There is nothing else in all medicines that can positively affect many different health conditions with one operation,” Shikora explained. “Sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease – those disorders can be reduced or reversed with bariatric surgery.”
The benefits are endless. Shikora said that weight loss surgery may cut your overall risk of developing hormone-related cancer. Recent studies have found that weight loss surgery reduces the risk of early death for obese patients.
When a person’s body mass index (BMI) is greater than 35, according to ASMBS, their chances of reaching normal weight for a permanent period of time are less than 1%. At the time of my surgery, I had a BMI of over 42.
Although it is too early to say whether I will be a long-term success story, but there are in my favor.
According to ASMBS, approximately 90% of patients lose 50% extra weight after bariatric surgery and keep it off for a long time.
Weight loss surgery works for people like me who have struggled throughout their lives. If you are like me, but bother to consider surgery, talk to a doctor and ask a lot of questions.
Here’s what else I know: At the age of 41, I’m the healthiest person ever. Yesterday i finished 6 miles With the hills! When I walk into a room I take a front seat instead of hiding in the back. My daughters have a mother who jumps in the pool with them. I have lost 85 pounds, but the confidence I have gained is very low.