Kym H.’s Weight Loss Surgery Story
I am 41 years old, married to a wonderful man, and the mother of two young adult children. I hope that my Lap Band story will inspire others whose lives – like mine – have been disrupted by serious weight gain… and then restored. I am the happiest person now: happy with my body, grateful for the opportunity I took to change my life, and excited about life each and every day. I went from 254 pounds to 137 and will soon reach my goal of 130. It’s still unbelievable to me to have the life back that I thought I’d never have again.
“I wasn’t always obese and drained of energy and self-confidence.”
Years ago, I weighed a fairly steady 145 pounds and had an hourglass figure. At 5′ 6″, I was slim on top and carried more weight in my hips, but I was well within the range of normal and I led an active life. I was in good shape, working out 5 or 6 times a week and I’m an OB/Gyn Medical Assistant, so that means being on my feet all day long. I was also disciplined and consistent in my eating and exercising habits and all together, that was enough to keep myself looking fit over the years.
During my first pregnancy, I continued to eat well and exercise regularly. I gained a very typical 35 pounds, and lost it all in six months by simply eating well and resuming my usual workout routine. I felt good about that and just went back to living my normal life.
My problems began during my second pregnancy, when I suddenly developed dangerously high blood pressure and toxemia. I was given steroid injections, and had to be hospitalized twice for high blood pressure. At 28 weeks, I was put on complete bed rest and, at 33 weeks, underwent an emergency C-section. I was very fortunate to survive and to bring a healthy baby girl into the world, because I was close to having a stroke when they took her. The doctors said that either one of us could have died due to the severity of my medical condition.
My metabolism was completely different after that.
I had gained 80 pounds during the pregnancy and weeks of bed rest and I couldn’t get the weight off after my daughter was born no matter how hard I tried. And I tried everything: Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, and many other diet and exercise plans.
The fact is that I had a new body, and I didn’t know how to make it do what it used to do. My weight gain was steady and terrifying, despite my best efforts, and it got to the point where I hated looking at myself in the mirror.
During the years that followed, I kept trying to get into shape.
I exercised, I did MediFast shakes, and I continued trying new diets but nothing worked. I would lose 40 pounds and it would come right back on, and I wasn’t a junk food eater. You can imagine how frustrating it was: no matter how careful I was, no matter how hard I worked out, nothing changed.
I just kept gaining weight and it was heart wrenching. I cried so much, and endured criticism from certain people who said, “Gosh, you were so slender before. Why can’t you lose the weight?” They just didn’t understand.
“I thought I’d always be like that: fat, with no energy, and deeply unhappy.”
On the outside, I put up a good front and people were always telling me, “You look so happy!” That’s because I kept my feelings inside, but I literally felt uncomfortable in my own skin. In the meanwhile, my oldest daughter was grappling with a weight problem herself, something she likely inherited from her father’s side of the family. She started going online and exploring gastric bypass surgery. I understood how she felt and thought if she wants to do something about this, it’s important and I’m going to help her any way I can because I know how she feels.
I attended one of Dr. Haiavy’s seminars on lap band surgery not long after that to see if it might help my daughter. After the seminar, I decided to make an appointment for her to consult with him and it occurred to me that maybe I should get one myself. So, I made appointments for both of us. That was the real turning point, when I began to have hope.
I found out that it wasn’t me – I actually had a metabolic problem.
During my consultation, it turned out that my daughter wasn’t overweight enough to qualify for the procedure, which is reserved for those who are significantly overweight. During my own consultation with Dr. Haiavy, we went over my health history and pregnancies. He told me that my metabolic system had been altered by the second pregnancy, and wasn’t functioning normally. He also confirmed my belief that even if I lost weight, it would come back. I was so relieved! He was putting words to my experience, and validating what I had been through. Now that I knew what the problem was, I could focus on finding a solution.
I decided that I wanted to undergo the lap band surgery.
I felt absolutely clear about the decision, despite the changes I would have to make in my lifestyle afterwards. Dr. Haiavy told me all about the procedure and the pros and cons, and answered my questions. He also referred me to a dietician for a consultation. Then I waited for about a month until my insurance company determined that they would approve the surgery. During the consultations, I learned what I would and wouldn’t be able to eat following lap band surgery, and which vitamins I would have to take for the rest of my life to make up for what I wouldn’t be able to absorb. I learned that bariatric patients have to take chewable vitamins at much higher dosage levels than regular multivitamins in order to get enough nutrition. I take Bariatric Advantage, which is packed with B6, B12, calcium, zinc, vitamins E, D, A, K, and so on.
I was excited the day of the surgery and it went well. Going in, being prepped, talking to Dr. Haiavy, and having the procedure done in Dr. Haiavy’s surgical center…it was quick and I wasn’t nervous. It only took about an hour and a few hours later I was able to go home.
The recovery process was surprisingly quick and uneventful.
I was definitely sore and stayed down for two days, but I only missed three days of work since I scheduled before the weekend. I was on a liquid diet – including Jell-O, broth, and a little yogurt. I was definitely tired that first week back to work, but I got through it and after that I felt fine.
The eating reality after lap band surgery requires a change in lifestyle and there’s no getting around it. You can only eat 3 or four ounces of food at a time, a tablespoon of this and a tablespoon of that because that’s all your stomach can hold at any given time. It was strange at first. I tended to over-serve myself, proving the saying that your eyes (and brain) are bigger than your stomach! You think you can eat more, because your brain says you can, and it has to adjust to your new physical reality. I started using a baby spoon to make sure I didn’t take big bites of food, and I still use one because it works.
There are foods you can’t have, such as rice, pasta, bread, and French fries, but I don’t mind the diet change for the most part. It’s a little tougher if I’m in a restaurant. I have to be very careful and I usually order fish, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable – eating a little, and taking the rest home for a meal the next day. It sounds like a big sacrifice, but the bottom line is that I wanted to be at a normal weight more than anything and it’s well worth it. It takes a while to adapt, because you have to eat consciously and carefully. It took a few months for me to make all the adjustments, but I got used to it.
Then the weight just falls off!
I had my surgery in June of 2009 and lost 10 pounds the first week, then four additional pounds during the next month. It didn’t seem like enough at the time, but Dr. Haiavy had told me I would need to be patient and that weight loss happens differently for each person. The band itself has to be adjusted properly and it takes awhile to figure that out. Well, he was right. I lost another 15 pounds, then another 12, and then the rest of it followed.
I went from 256 pounds to 138 (my goal weight is 135) and it it’s just been amazing. The interesting thing is that I used to be too thin on top and somewhat bottom-heavy, but when I lost all the weight, my body changed. My weight actually redistributed itself and now my body is more balanced – top and bottom – and it looks better than it ever did before. I’m completely proportioned now. I did so well that Dr. Haiavy invited me to come to a seminar he was having for other doctors, to share my experience, and I agreed. When his office manager saw me, she couldn’t believe the change in me! She said, “You look amazing!” and that made me feel so good. The doctors had the same reaction, because I didn’t look like I’d lost a lot of weight. I just looked normal, as if I’d never been fat. It was a wonderful experience for me.
I exercised consistently during the months I was losing and it made a big difference. I found a cheap exercise bike I liked it because it had a feature that enabled me to move my arms while I pedaled, and I was on that bike 5 days a week, 45 minutes at a time. I also used ankle weights on my arms and circled them around to tone my upper arms, but I didn’t do any weight lifting or other kinds of exercise. I just stayed with it.
The transformation from Size 22 to Size 4.
A funny thing happened during that time. I had no clothing that fit me, so I went to a department store and found, to my delight, that I could fit into a size 14 pair of jeans. I was thrilled! A month later, I went back and fit (snugly) into size 12. I thought, ‘Well, I can’t keep going in and buying jeans I only wear for a few weeks before they don’t fit,’ but less than a month later, I was back at the store again and it was size 10, then 8, then 6…and finally Size 4. Incredible! I never imagined I could be a Size 4 person, but I am.
My life now: words can’t express how much better I feel.
I still bike and I like to take walks in the hills around my home. Of course, I work on my feet too so I get plenty of exercise. My cholesterol levels are great and my blood pressure was 112 over 70 the last time it was checked. And I continue to wear Size 4. I’m so happy… and before I was crying on the inside all the time. My husband has been incredibly supportive all along and didn’t know how unhappy I was. Now sometimes I glance at myself in the mirror and say, “Oh, my gosh! It’s me!” The feeling is…well words just can’t express it. I’m so happy with who I am now, and with the way that I look and the amount of energy I have. Every time I get an invitation in the mail for a social gathering, I say, “Oh, RSVP…I’m going!”
My daughter was able to have the lap band procedure done two weeks before I had mine. She’s also 5′ 3″ tall and she went from 254 pounds to 137 pounds, on her way to her weight goal of 130. We can wear jeans, little summer dresses, and shorts, and it’s so much fun to shop for clothing now. Recently, I went to a wedding and recalled how awful it was for me – to be so heavy and to dread having to go to events where I had to find something nice to wear. This time, it was like a celebration, and I found the most beautiful dress.
Having lap band surgery is not a cop out and it’s not the easy way out.
I’m often asked, “Why was the lap band surgery so successful for you?” Well, the answer is simple: I was compliant. Some people have the surgery and they’re looking for a miracle, but they don’t want to do the work it takes to get the best long-term results. But I knew I had to do the work. My doctor told me, “it’s 40% surgery and 60% the patient.” I took that to heart.
You have to eat right, you have to exercise, and you have to make these changes permanent. I never miss an appointment with my doctor. I eat what I was supposed to eat and I learned quickly that you really have to do what your doctor tells you to do. I’ve heard people say that having the surgery is taking the easy way out. Well, I say, ‘No it isn’t!’ It’s harder, in a way, because you have to give up a lot. It was important for me to know that I had to do the work.
If you’re considering lap band surgery, here’s what I’d like to share with you.
I want to tell you the truth. It’s not easy. You have to work at it. There are many foods I can no longer eat, and I’ll always have to eat tiny amounts of food at any meal.
You have to do what your doctor tells you to do. You have to really, really want it. You need to exercise and you have to train yourself not to cheat on your diet. But, you have choices. You can be fat or you can be slim and give up certain foods. It’s not a big loss, when you look at what you can be, and you don’t really miss the things you give up after awhile. You look great and you feel good about yourself and it changes your life in so many positive ways. If you put in the effort, the payoff is phenomenal.
Thank you for letting me tell me story. I wish you the very best.
More patient weight loss stories:
You can meet Kym at our monthly weight loss support group. She’s the leader of the group and a terrific resource for anyone considering lap band surgery. Our support group is open to anyone who is considering weight loss surgery or has already gone through the process. Visit our weight loss surgery support group page for more information.