Seven years ago today, I took an extreme measure to what I thought would regain control of my health. What I thought would be the cure to my increasing weight and what I thought would bring me to a place of self-love. That was NOT the case. Up until 5 years ago, I had always equated my weight to my health. And up until seven years ago, I was considered morbidly obese. = UNHEALTHY
Seven year ago I had gastric bypass surgery. I entered this world of weight loss surgery (WLS) on April 26, 2011 after attending an informational meeting explaining how the surgery was done, what tests and other specialist I would need to see and in about a year’s time, I would be having surgery. From the time I was sixteen, until I was 34 I had used every diet plan, work out program, hours at the gym, ran 2-5 miles a day, tried every weight loss supplement and drugs on the market to try to control my weight. I was also hiding a very serious eating disorder.
I met with surgeon the week following the informational meeting and was scheduled to see the dietitian, do a sleep study, have an endoscope, and meet with a psychologist.
At this point in my life, I was vegan and for several periods of time, I was a raw vegan. I which meant I only ate plant foods in their raw form. I thought by eating a vegan diet, I was being healthy. But most vegan diets consist of eating processed food, lots of grains and lots of fruit, which is a whole lot of sugar! I was really missing some essential nutrients by following this diet for several years.
Since I had no comorbidities, what was usually a year long wait for surgery, turned into less than 4 months. It was at this time I began my dive into learning about holistic health to treat the other problems I was having. Not only was my weight an issue, but I was battling anxiety, depression, insomnia, along with a host of other symptoms. I began researching ways to help with the laundry list of aliments I had. I believe at that time they were related to my weight, and by losing weight they would go away. I now know that my weight was just another symptom, and these problems were cause by the enormous amount of stress from my job, as well as the lack of nutrients in my high sugar vegan diet (mostly smoothies and juices).
At the time I had WLS, I was working as an animal cruelty investigator. I was on the road for about 10-15 hours a day, many times knocking on doors of violent criminals with no way to protect myself, eating in my truck, not sleeping, suffering from panic attacks, binge eating and purging. I was a mess!
The first few months after WLS was a real struggle. Nothing prepares you for the physical or the emotional challenges you face. From the moment woke up, I knew this was the wrong choice for me. I knew my weight wasn’t a health condition, it was a symptom of something much deeper going on in my body. But the surgery was done and there was no turning back. I just needed to figure out how to heal my body and get my health back. I knew this surgery was not going to be the answer to heal myself.
The first year after WLS I lost weight, A LOT of weight. I lost over 100 lbs. My highest recorded weight I was 290 lbs, which is when I went for my first appointment with the WLS surgeon . I know the year prior to that I was over 300 lbs. It’s shocking to me to think about, and even more terrifying to share. After the surgery I was down to 145 lbs, which for my large 5’7″ frame, was really too thin. I was sick all the time and had no energy due to the lack of nutrients my body was able to absorb. I was a mess physically and emotionally. I felt guilty and ashamed of having the surgery. Feeling as though I was a failure because I couldn’t get my life and health under control. As the years went on, and I became a health coach, I felt like a fraud.
I followed the “rules” that the dietitian had given me for the first year, but after studying and researching, I quit the low fat, high protein, low carb diet. The biggest improvement I saw was after incorporating lots of good quality fat into my diet. My skin, nails and hair improved. I had more energy, my mood swings diminished, and overall I felt better. This help with vitamins absorption. Having a compromised digestive system that struggles to absorb nutrients, then taking fat out the diet, really makes it a challenge to absorb fat soluble vitamins. I began implementing an ancestral diet, asking myself what would my grandparents or great grandparent eat?
My diet became simple: locally source grass-fed meats, organic produce, raw dairy, non GMOs and Gluten Free foods. I learned how to fuel my body and because of that, I was able to heal my gut and maintain a healthy weight for the past 7 years. I have had my challenges with weight gain after surgery, but when I practice self-care, which the first practice is good nutrient dense food, my weight is not an issue. Will I ever be posing in the next Sports Illustrated? Haha, NOPE! But I am happy with my weight and comfortable in my own skin. That for me is true wellness.
There very few studies providing data on the long term weight loss success of WLS patients. All the studies I have read, report that more research is needed. I can tell you of my personal experience, along with working with others that have had WLS. WLS is not the answer. Most of the people I know, including myself that have had WLS, after 2 or more years, regain some of the weight. Many of them regain it all and then some. For myself, I no longer have any kind of restriction as I once did for the amount of food I can consume. Believe me, I can eat a whole Otto’s Gluten Free Pulled Pork and Mango pizza all by myself. What has been the key to my success is putting my health first, by feeding my body with nutrient dense food, checking with myself, spending time in nature, with loved ones and moving my body in ways that I enjoy, advocating for myself and knowing my limits, and the biggest thing of all setting boundaries. That includes with others, myself, the hours I work do, what I put on my to-do list, and so on. Boundaries keep us healthy.
As anyone that has undergone any kind of weight loss surgery knows, it’s NOT the easy way out. It’s not a decision I regret, but a decision that if I had to do over again, I would make different choices. I would have first found a functional medicine doctor to get to the root cause of my weight gain and inability to loose weight, to treat my adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance, my sleep issues, and anxiety, which were ALL related. I would have run a complete thyroid panel, tested for parasites, viruses and gut infections. I would have nourished my body with nutrient dense foods, stopped working out like a maniac, and incorporated gentle movement. I would give my body time to rest and recover from the constant flow of adrenaline and process the trauma I was witnessing on a daily basis from my job. I would be gentle with myself… All the things I practice now because of what I have learned from this journey, so for that I am grateful.