I Thought Weight-Loss Surgical procedure Would Finish My Battle With Weight problems. Then I Discovered Out Sustaining a Wholesome Physique and Thoughts Is a Lifelong Dedication.
As Jackie Froeber says
In 2001 I was standing at the checkout of a grocery store when I saw a magazine cover promoting Carnie Wilson’s gastric bypass surgery. When I finished the article, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time: hope that I can lose weight.
I’ve been obese all my life. Growing up, mom was fat, my sister was fat, and I was fat. * Even though mom was a nurse, we didn’t talk about diet or exercise. Every meal was served with potatoes, rice, and wonder bread, and I never did any physical activity, including cycling. I still can’t really ride a bike!
I don’t blame my parents for our diet. In the 1960s, the idea was that the more food you had on your table, the better your family would be. But the size of my body made me feel like I didn’t deserve the most basic things. Like most young women, I wanted cute clothes. I really wanted to buy a pair of jeans in a normal store that wouldn’t cut my skin. From my teens to my 30s, I tried to lose weight through a long list of diet pills, restrictive eating plans, and exercise fashions – but nothing worked.
The social anxiety that comes with obesity can be crippling. I was always scared of being stared at in the street or the tallest person in the room. I always had the hope that a new diet would work and silence the fear and then crush it if nothing changes.
The cycle of disappointment and failure seemed endless until I read Wilson’s story. Gastric bypass was still new in 2001, but I was collecting all the information I got from books and magazines and chat rooms (that was before Google became popular) and I was sure that surgery was my only way to lose weight.
Ironically, when I went to the first doctor to discuss the procedure, he told me that I wasn’t heavy enough. At 260 pounds, he insisted I try harder: a stricter diet and more exercise would solve everything. (I kept tearing my meniscus and couldn’t exercise at all.) I was furious when I left his office. I haven’t tried My whole life has been about losing weight. But this wasn’t the first time a doctor had linked my weight to laziness. I knew I had to try harder to find a doctor who would listen to me.
In April 2001, after my 40th birthday, my wish came and I found a doctor who performed the operation. He wasn’t one hundred percent convinced either: I didn’t have any obesity diseases other than asthma. But I felt uncomfortable and he understood how much obesity is physically and mentally demanding.
On the morning of the operation, I was excited but nervous. Although my husband and two children were by my side and always supported me, we knew that the operation involved significant risks. But I had to develop the mindset that whatever happens happens. It was too important not to try.
The operation was a success, and two days later I went home with a “bag” in my stomach the size of a golf ball. I was on a liquid diet and lost 15 pounds in the first week. Before the surgery, I read horror stories about procedures that made the stomach too small or about people who were so sick they couldn’t get out of bed, but I felt great.
I started eating smaller portions, eating salads and vegetables when possible, and cutting back on dense foods like steaks, which are harder to digest. I was losing weight quickly and after a year I was down to 155 pounds. At that time, I went to the mall to try on a pair of jeans. Since I buttoned size 12 without any problems, the emotion overcame me. I had achieved my goal. It sounds so simple – cute jeans – but I finally felt more comfortable in my body.
For the next 10 years, my weight stayed relatively the same and I continued my routine with smaller servings and light exercise. However, when I turned 50, I noticed that my favorite jeans were getting tight around my stomach. A few weeks later I couldn’t button them at all. An all-too-familiar feeling of fear and anxiety spread: my diet and exercise regimen were the same. What I have done wrong?
I gained 10 pounds before my doctor put me on a liquid diet for breakfast, but that didn’t work. Since I was only gaining weight around the stomach, I did some research (this time with Google) and was certain that the menopause and hormonal changes were to blame. My doctor listened and agreed. Since I was already on a diet, we decided to try an injectable drug to increase the body’s production of insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar – and reduce body fat.
After about a year of taking the medication, I had dropped to 150 pounds, which is what I weigh today. I am 66 years old and not much has changed in my daily routine: I try myself and eat small portions throughout the day. I also focus on strengthening and sculpting my body through exercise DVDs.
In retrospect, I want to tell my preoperative self, “Obesity is a disease and you are not a failure. Eating cabbage soup for a month is not going to help you.”
For any woman struggling with obesity, I know what it is like when others doubt your efforts and your integrity. My advice: do the “self-talk” and invest in love for yourself first. Then find a great doctor to help you achieve your goals – whatever they are. A healthy mind and body are a lifelong commitment.
* Our real women, real stories are the stories of real people told with their real voices. HealthyWomen respects the choice of words people use to describe themselves, and we don’t want to minimize their experience by editing those choices. To support our mission to reduce the stigma surrounding obesity and to educate people that obesity is a disease, we use expressions such as “overweight” or “a person who is obese”.
This resource was created with the assistance of Novo Nordisk.