A New Direction for Weight Loss

I’ve been pursuing bariatric surgery as a solution to my chronic obesity for a few months now. I just have a couple more appointments left before I can schedule a date with my surgeon. I’m hopeful I can have the surgery before the end of June.

This is something that I have been thinking about in one way or another since 2012 when I first started talking with friends and relatives about it. The tipping point for me was going to Harry Potter World last Christmas and not being able to fit in any of the seats for the rides. (I just want to Escape from Gringotts with Harry!) Besides this, my aunt has had the surgery and she has seen excellent weight loss results. I decided that I would not let another year go by without taking serious action for my future health. I am 25 years old; I should not be worrying about chronic co-morbidities that accompany obesity. I should be traveling the world, climbing mountains, and meeting my soulmate (my earthly one anyway). When I was a child, I could reasonably expect other people to be responsible for me. Now, 7 years into my adult life and finally having a salary job and benefits, there’s really no excuse for me not to take ownership of my health and my body.

My family, after an initial period of concern, and friends have been overwhelmingly supportive and are happy for me. I am incredibly optimistic (as usual). I believe in my ability to follow the pre and post-op rules (like being on a liquid diet for 4 weeks). Whole 30 has prepared me for some of the eating and lifestyle changes that will occur. In fact, I’m doing my fourth Whole 30 right now. #day24

What really concerns me is the emotional aspect of all of this. The trauma I experienced throughout my childhood has had a serious effect on my relationship with food. While I am capable of not acting on those impulses, the temptation will always be there as long as I have these underlying issues. I worry that addressing my body and eating habits alone will not be enough for long-term weight loss success. I need mental and spiritual healing as well. Besides the fact that for the first six months at least I will only be able to eat a quarter cup of food or liquid at a time, the social and emotional aspects of food and eating remain. Bariatric surgery is not a brain surgery.

To this end, I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly since March who has helped me reprocess some of my trauma through a therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). It’s evidence based and it works, for me at least. We started with my earliest traumatic memories and well, it’s the end of April and we’re still working on elementary school memories if that’s any indication how much work I still have to do. Even if we eventually address those traumatic memories associated with emotional eating, weight gain, and everything that goes along with it like low self-esteem and emotional eating, I will most likely struggle with for this for the rest of my life.

Anyone who thinks that bariatric surgery is the easy option for weight loss should educate themselves on the process. The preparation has been extensive and comprehensive. I’ve had to make multiple appointments with nutritionists, behavioral therapists, surgeons, primary care doctors, and hospitals. I’ve attended seminars, support groups, and read books and research about outcomes and various other factors related to weight loss. I’ve spent hours on the phone with my insurance company and the hospitals gathering information about the cost of surgery and my ability to pay. It has been a sacrifice of time and money and has taken mental and physical tolls. All of this happens before surgery. The real work begins after surgery with a 6 week recovery.

It’s a 100% lifestyle change. It is not easy, but it is worth it. And I am ready because:

  • Bariatric surgery is the single most effective treatment for morbid obesity available today.
  • Diet and exercise alone is more likely to fail than to work. The success rate of long-term weight loss maintenance with lifestyle changes ranges from 2-20% (Wing & Phelan, 2005). This failure rate increases to 95%-98% as the starting weight increases for morbidly obese people (whose BMI is over 40).
  • Bariatric surgery, especially the one I’m getting, has a 95% success rate. Success is defined as keeping off at least 50% of excess weight. According to a recent report, five years after surgery patients had maintained a weight loss of 60% of their excess weight.

Ultimately, I do not want to just loose weight, I want healing in every way – physical, mental and spiritual. Bariatric surgery is not an easy solution or a cop out for lifestyle changes, it is a tool that I am using to help me in my journey towards healing.

 All of this is happening at the same time that I am quitting my job at CPCC, planning a move to Raleigh, starting a new job, and starting graduate school at NC State (yes, I finally got in!). It’s all a lot to think about, to plan for, and to be excited about. There’a also a lot of uncertainty and change coming. I feel bittersweet about moving away and quitting my job and overwhelmed with the coming changes, but I can do it. I know I can because I want this so much. Those are real results and I’m coming to get mine.