When considering something as serious as bariatric surgery, it’s important to gather as much information as possible to inform your decision. Much of that information will come from medical professionals. But it’s also very valuable to learn from people who have already been through the surgery. Here, we share one patient’s story on how she made the decision to have the surgery, the journey she went through to prepare, and what life is like for her now that she has had it.
How did you make the decision to choose bariatric surgery?
Jenny Gwyn had been dieting for what she said felt like her whole life. She had been at an unhealthy weight starting at a young age, and her family struggled with weight issues as well. She started dieting with her Mom at age 10, trying things like “The Cabbage Soup Diet” and other fad nutrition systems at the time, but none of them worked. When two of her family members went through two different kinds of bariatric surgeries - one, the gastric bypass and the other, sleeve gastrectomy - Jenny decided to look into having bariatric surgery as well.
What kinds of research did you do, and what was the process before being considered for the surgery?
To begin her research and help inform her decision, Jenny attended one of the seminars at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, MT, as well as doing a great deal of personal research online. She then met with her physician to discuss the surgery, and talked with her gynecologist for an additional perspective. Lastly, she joined an online support group for people who were considering bariatrics.
In total, the prerequisite appointments took a full year to complete. There were twelve monthly appointments for general health check-ins, and six months of meeting with her Nutritionist. The latter were required to demonstrate that she was making an effort toward losing weight on her own, and to learn which foods were the best for meeting and maintaining her healthy weight goals.
[It’s important to note that each patient experiences a slightly different wait time and process based on individual circumstances.]
How were you eventually approved for bariatric surgery?
In order to be approved for the surgery, Jenny also was required to have a full psychological evaluation, followed by several meetings with her bariatric surgeon. Next, blood work and an EKG were needed in order to make sure that Jenny was physically healthy enough to handle the surgery. All of this information was then forwarded by the surgeon’s office to her insurance company in order to assure that she would have adequate coverage.
What are some of the best, most beneficial outcomes that you have noticed so far for yourself?
“WOW! There are so many,” Jenny explained. “There are quite a few meaningful milestones along the way. First, there are ‘scale victories’ each time you hit your weight goals. Then there are non-scale, day-in-the-life victories, which I think are so much more important!”
Jenny is referring to mini and major milestones that happen along the course of post-surgery weight loss. Things like taking body measurements and seeing the inches decline. Being able to cross her legs when she sat, first with her dominant leg and then the other, was a joy that she shared with many others in her support group. Being able to go shopping for smaller clothes made clothes shopping feel social and fun again. Also, eventually being able to fit into seats and areas that were a challenge in the past felt like it “opened up the world for her again.”
Most of all, Jenny loves being more active and able to get out and play with her nieces. She finally took a trip to Disneyland, triumphant at being able to stand in lines, go on the rides, and sit in an airplane seat comfortably while traveling. Her next big goal this summer is to get out and go ziplining.
What keeps you inspired to keep working toward your fitness goals post-surgery?
Jenny often looks at her before and after pictures for continued motivation. She thinks of her family and how she is committed to being there for them for years to come. And someday, she hopes that she will be healthy and active enough to play with her grandkids -- if and when she has them. Jenny and her husband also aspire to keep traveling.
Additionally, Jenny is socially involved with others who are on the same journey that she is. She goes to an annual conference that is organized by Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, which has taken place in Los Angeles and Dallas. There are several Facebook pages and groups in which Jenny is active; some global, some just for women, and one that is just for people who have all had bariatric surgery during the exact same week.
What else would you like to tell people about the process?
“It’s the best thing I have ever done for MYSELF, and I only wish that I would have done it sooner!”
On a less enthusiastic note, there will be some people who are not as supportive as others. Jenny relayed one of the biggest challenges being around others’ judgment of her process. Or, there are times when people bring unhealthy food choices or portion sizes. In general, however, she has had a positive response and has been supported by friends and family.
Jenny also talked about her own self-image taking some time to catch up to her new reality. It doesn’t always fit with her weight and clothing size. Jenny’s doctor assures her that this is normal, and that it can take 3-5 years for a person’s “brain to catch up with their body” so that they will finally see themselves as the healthy person they have become.
Where can people go for more information?
Attend an informational seminar hosted by Providence St. Patrick Hospital.
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