As I sit on my couch sipping an 8 oz protein drink, that will take at least an hour to consume, I struggle with how I can best use this website to spread knowledge and awareness about weight loss surgery. The world is bombarded with ‘quick and easy’ weight loss tips and constant reminders that we should all be thinner. For a lot of people, that worry of being too heavy is unnecessary, but there are many people who have good reason to be concerned.
The only time I was of normal weight was before age six. I wasn’t necessarily overweight in first grade, but I was bigger. I was tall (and still am) and looked older than everyone despite usually being one of the younger kids in class. As I got older my weight gradually grew farther from the expected growth standard for my age and concern for my health was brought up frequently.
When I graduated high school my weight was around 220 pounds. For being 5’10”, I was really only about 50 pounds overweight. I attended college three hours from home and relied upon the buffet-style campus dining service everyday. The “Freshman 15” became the “Freshman 80” and by the time I had finally decided to drop out of college three years later I weighed 330 pounds.
A few years after leaving college, I decided to try again at a college nearby. Around that same time, I started to seriously consider weight loss surgery. I knew a few people who had had it done and were successful and I wanted to be like them. I equated thinness to happiness. I strongly believed that if I could just lose my excess weight I wouldn’t be depressed anymore and I could actually start my life.
Attending an information session was my first foray into my weight loss surgery education. I left the session certain that I was going to have the LAP Band done. I set up the appropriate appointments to start my journey and saw nutritionists, surgeons, and nurses all specializing in bariatrics. My insurance didn’t cover a lot of the appointments, but I was determined to have the surgery despite working at a job that barely paid minimum wage. For months I went to appointment believing that I was getting closer to a surgery date. A nutritionist finally told me after multiple visits that I was not meeting the goals we had set and that I would not be approved until I followed through. I was disheartened and convinced that this person did not know me enough to know that I would be successful. I just needed to lose the weight and I would be happy.
It took another month for me to realize that financially I could not keep going. In a matter of five months I had amassed at least $3,000 in hospital bills, which was a quarter of my yearly income. I was convinced I would be obese for the rest of my life and I would never be happy because no one would let me have the surgery.
In 2015, around three years after my initial attempt at weight loss surgery, my life started lining up in just the right way that I was on the path toward ridding myself of depression. By August of that year my life felt completely different. I had newfound confidence and motivation to get my life started despite being obese. Happiness was never guaranteed by losing weight, even though I believed for years that that was the reason I was so miserable.
A year into my remission from depression I started to reconsider weight loss surgery. I was working full-time at a job that I loved (and still do) and I finally graduated from college six months before. I changed my daily habits and started walking for exercise regularly. My eating patterns became less frenzied and more planned and intentional. By January 2017, my nutritionist declared me ready for surgery.
By the time I had my surgery (vertical sleeve gastrectomy) on February 20, 2017, I had managed to shed 110 pounds which was half of the weight I wanted to lose. My weight loss surgery journey is not close to being done, but I’ve gotten so far already that it doesn’t seem impossible anymore.
I hope that reading about my experiences as I go through this process will help others make the decision whether weight loss surgery is a good fit for them. It isn’t for everyone and sometimes, like me, a person isn’t as ready as they think. It took me years to be completely ready, but it was well worth the wait.