Why I decided to have WLS
I have struggled with my weight for a good part of my life. I weighed 79 kilograms at just 21 years old.
I got married, had three kids and the rest of the story is a lot of weight gain over the next several years. I gained about 45 kilograms over a period of 20 years.
All this weight was taking a toll on my knees and impacted who I was meant to be in this life. I was missing out on so many things with my kids. I was never really happy and I know most of it was because of my weight. In 2015, I was very close to not being wanting to leave my house because the arthritis pain was so bad. I could not stand or walk for longer than 20 minutes.
I knew at that point I had to do something.
I had my first consultation on July 7, 2015. I like to call it the first day of the rest of my life. Before I left that appointment, I had a paper that listed all of my appointments scheduled and what I needed to do. I decided, “It is too late to back out now!” Needless to say, the fear started to set in. My surgery was scheduled for September 9, 2015, two months after my first appointment. It never happens that fast, but I think God knew I would chicken out.
Next on the list was the one-hour psychological evaluation. I thought that this was going to be the easiest part of the process. She asked me if I was an emotional eater. I quickly told her “no, not all.” Well, little did I know that YES, I am an emotional eater. Soon that need would not be met with food and that is where my struggle began.
My Surgery and Post-Op Life
My surgery day came and yes, I will admit, I told my doctor 20 minutes before the surgery that I changed my mind – I wasn’t joking. He grabbed my hand and said, “You got this. Let’s do it.”
My surgery could not have been any better. I was surprised. Not what I had worked it up to be in my mind. I had no pain and was out shopping only three days after it. I could not have asked for it to go any better. I had a very successful first year, with a few issues here and there, and the dreaded reflux.
I lost most of my weight in the first seven months. I reached 80 kilograms. I had to remind myself what they tell you “You lose about 60% of your weight from the surgery” and then it is time for good old fashion eating right and exercise to lose the rest of the weight.
I see a lot of people who get discouraged when the rapid weight loss stops; I know I did. That is when we really need to work hard to reach the finish line! I was following everything I was told and going to the gym six days a week. Those two things are a must to succeed.
The weight was coming off rapidly, but emotionally I was not feeling it. I had to find another way to deal with stress and inner hurt other than eating. I will be honest; it was tough. I didn’t know why I was not all happy and jumping for joy – I just lost 45 kilograms! I learned through a few counseling sessions and attending classes that it is okay to have all those emotions, and that feeling them are healthy and necessary to stop using food to deal with them cover for them.
Life is full of possibilities after losing weight. My arthritis is basically gone and I can walk for as long as I want. I can walk into any store and pick up clothes and not even try them on. The selection of clothes at this size is so different. It feels so good.
I will say the few things that are a must for patients:
- Eat ONLY what is on the list they give you. We all want to find ways to fit other things in, but keep it simple and eat what they tell you.
- Work through any emotional feelings that come up after weight loss surgery with a professional – they are real and very common after WLS.
- Exercise as much as possible. Take it from someone who doesn’t love to exercise, but I know it is necessary.
The most important advice I think I have given to everyone that I talk to is that every journey is different. PLEASE do not compare yourself to others. We were not all meant to wear a size 4 like some and we lose at different rates, so embrace your own journey.
Find where you are supposed to be and be happy with that place because everyone’s success looks different. You may be like me and struggle with body image issues, but just know that eventually, your mind does catch up with seeing your new body. The most important one, be part of the WLS community and stay involved. It is so much easier with support.
Share your story with others. The most helpful people in any kind of group setting are the ones who have been there. You can sometimes find that “fight” that is within you after reading others success stories.
In the WLS world, we have these things they call Non-Scale Victories. You will learn to seek them out and cherish them. They make all of this worth it. Sure, the excellent blood test results and getting off medications are great, but these NSV’s are the bomb!
I can fit in the kiddie rides at the fair with my grandkids and they just think I am the best grandma in the world. I can go trick-or-treating with them. Those are just a few of the many rewards for the hard work and dedication I chose to put into myself and losing weight.
My favorite one was being able to go to Haiti twice on a mission trip. That was my dream forever. I couldn’t go because I could not walk without being in severe pain. Eight months after my surgery, I boarded a plane to Port U Prince, Haiti. I went on a 7-day trip, I walked well over 20K steps a day in the 36-degree heat and loved every minute of it. I was so thankful for my new body and life, words couldn’t describe it.
I encourage all of you reading this to have FAITH in yourself. You can do it. It takes commitment and hard work, but I promise you it is so worth it. There is an amazing life waiting for you – make it a great one.
Read more about Karen´s story on ObesityHelp here.
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