Journeys in bariatric surgery: Ashley's story

1. What made you choose to have surgery?

When I was 21, I chose to undergo bariatric surgery after my lifelong battle with obesity, shame, and the myriad of health issues that accompanied my unhealthy lifestyle. I was so tired of feeling unable to do simple things like seamlessly climb a flight of stairs, be in front of a camera to capture memories with loved ones, and even the fear of not being able to fit into a seat on my favorite ride at Disneyland. Unfortunately, many of my body's systems were not functioning properly and I come from a family history of chronic illness fueled by obesity, which led me to needing to deal with the reality that my body was not designed to carry on the additional 130lbs. When my doctor told me at 21 that I would likely not be able to conceive a child and become a mother, something I had always dreamt of, without intense and costly medical intervention, I knew I had to put down the hot cheetos and commit myself to making a change that would turn my life around. 

2.What has been your biggest success thus far?

My biggest success since surgery has been the ability to motivate and inspire others as a personal trainer. I now live to workout, move my body for fun, and teach others to do the same. There is no greater experience than when I tell a client that I used to be on the verge of 300lbs and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they realize they can do it too. Being able to motivate others through my own testimony for trials and challenges of perseverance has been the most rewarding outcome since undergoing my gastric bypass. In my own personal life, I am happy to say that I am expecting my first child in Spring 2024 thanks to God, and the program that brought me to the health I find myself in today. 

3. What had been your biggest challenge?

After surgery, my biggest challenges have been the awareness that while I had a surgery that changed the capacity of my stomach, the surgery did not remove my addiction to food as a method of comfort. Unfortunately, the consequences of over-indulgence have included the notorious bouts of "dumping syndrome" which has served as a great warning and reminder that my body is only capable of handling so much. Ongoing therapy, support groups, my faith in God, and 12-step programs such as Codependency Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, have significantly helped me to see food as fuel more than a means to soothe, comfort, and protect my mental wellbeing. 

4. What is your motivation for continued change?

My current motivation for continued change comes from the awareness of how much better my life is now and how my life was only two short years ago. Not only am I not recognizable to many people physically, but the life I live today is black and white to the life I found myself in not too long ago. Of course, fear always creeps its way into my life that can leave me feeling powerless over my physical well being, but the fruits of my labor that have come from the abundance of lifestyle changes are motivating enough. Going into the motherhood I always fantasized about, I am so blessed with the ability to nourish not only my body, but the body of the life I am now able to create. 

5. What is your favorite quick go to meal?

My favorite meals are anything that I can make quickly, that means I absolutely cannot live without my Air Fryer or Crock Pot! My biggest piece of advice when it comes to nutrition after surgery is to keep it simple and convenient. Don't be afraid of big batches of food because they become leftovers! I love changing up my meals with different seasonings, mixes/blends and sugar-free sauces. Lately one of the meals I have been loving is sugar free BBQ sauce on shredded chicken as a protein, roasted sweet potato as my complex carb, and roasted brussel sprouts for my veggie! Just remember, figuring out what you can and cannot tolerate is just a part of the battle, over time you will get in the habit of what foods feel good or not for your new tiny tummy.

6. What advice would you give someone considering weight loss surgery?

For anyone considering weight loss surgery, just know it is normal to feel conflicting feelings of fear and excitement. Take your pre-op classes and appointments seriously; take notes even! Undergoing bariatric surgery is not a quick fix, no matter how much we want it to be. It comes with a lifetime commitment to always working on your mental and physical health. But, if you are anything like me and you were, as the saying goes, "sick and tired of being sick and tired", the decision of bariatric surgery just might be the light at the end of a long, dark, and depressing tunnel. Always lean on a support or accountability partner, don't be shy to ask for help from your surgical team, and never be afraid to acknowledge the non-scale victories as they come up. Celebrate your commitment to change!

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