Posts Tagged ‘Patient stories’

Time to Lose the Weight, “Your Weigh”

Non-Surgical Weight Loss Your WeighLosing weight is something that seems to be high on the list of to-dos of most American adults. Whether you set a New Years resolution each year, or find yourself trying one diet after another, the ultimate goal is to lose weight and keep it off. Many of us don’t have enough weight to lose to justify weight loss surgery, but are looking for a long term solution. While diets can work for some people, most popular diets assume that everyone is overweight for the same reasons and can lose weight following the same plan. From years of experience, we know that this is not true. That’s why we’ve launched the Your Weigh program, which gives you the opportunity to work with a team of medical professionals to construct a tailored weight loss program that works for you.

Here are some real-world examples of how our different meal and weight loss plans have met the unique weight loss needs of our patients:

Elizabeth W. is a 54 year old woman who was recently diagnosed with diabetes by her doctor. She saw the diagnosis as a “wake up call” for her to start taking care of herself and her weight-related issues. Elizabeth knew that she needed to lose weight quickly, but also wanted to learn about how to eat healthy to help keep her blood sugar in control. When Elizabeth enrolled in Your Weigh, she met with a Registered Dietitian who suggested that she follow the partial meal replacement meal plan. In this plan, Elizabeth will use meal replacements in addition to healthy food choices that she prepares at home. This choice was best for her because it will ensure significant weight loss while practicing balanced meal planning and eating correct portion sizes of “regular” food.

Tony S. is a 33 year old man who started losing weight on his own by trying to eat better and exercising. Tony was losing a little weight, but not as much as he had hoped. Tony really liked working out, but needed help with food choices. He knew that his eating habits were keeping him from reaching his goals. When Tony signed up for the Your Weigh program he chose the full food meal plan, which consists of three balanced meals and two snacks throughout the day. Tony did very well on this plan and actually found that he had more energy for his workouts because he was eating more frequently. Tony has since reached his goal weight and continues to eat frequent, balanced meals and exercise to maintain his weight loss.

Christine H. is a 41 year old woman who has been on many diets in her lifetime. She feels like she has “tried them all”. She chose to follow the full meal replacement program because she wants to have a “temporary break from food.” After 12 weeks of eating only meal replacements, she is now aware of just how much food her body needs and uses that knowledge when she begins to eat food again. Christine continues to come to the clinic for on-going support, which she knows is the key to maintaining her weight loss.

For more information on our Your Weigh medical weight loss program, you can visit our Emory Bariatric Center site. If you have questions about our Your Weigh weight loss program, you can ask them using the comments section below.

Controlling Stress While Maintaining Your Weight

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

Coping with stress and huge life changes can be extremely challenging as our lives can quickly spin out of control in this zany world we live in. We are  pulled in so many directions, expecting more and more  of ourselves (as we feel others expect an ever-increasing amount out of us). Businesses are running lean and mean and focusing on newer, more efficient ways to do handle transactions which can leave you feeling as if you handle the workload of multiple people at the end of the day!

This is precisely why taking a moment out for yourself is more important than ever, particularly for those of us who used to use food as a way of coping with stress before bariatric surgery. And the great news is that we have more resources than we’ve ever had  to unwind and get in touch with ourselves when things get hairy. My experience has been that I actually live a higher quality life when I make some “me” time on a regular basis, not just when I’m feeling overextended. Of course, one might say that this is easier said than done. With a very long commute into the work place each day, I’ve tried to get creative with my time to maximize my “me” time opportunities.

One of the best things I ever did for myself was get a membership to an online audiobook distributor. Having this has allowed me the opportunity to listen to a myriad of audiobooks on my MP3 player during my two- to three-hour commute each day. A great distributor will give you a free, trial membership so you can see if you like their product, and they usually have tens of thousands of audiobooks, lectures and all sorts of things to listen to. I also have used that time commuting to brush up on other languages I wanted to learn, and to catch up on some of the fabulous podcasts that are out there, most of which are free! May I recommend the Nutrition Diva from the Quick and Dirty network of podcasters? She’s got a wealth of information tucked under her health belt!

Another way I’ve captured a little time for myself is to actually take my lunch to work, find an office or conference room that isn’t being used when it’s time for me to take a break, and I jump in, shut the door, turn off the lights, set the timer on my phone and drift off into about a twenty-five minute meditation. Some people prefer to meditate without guidance, some with guidance, some with music alone and some people (like me) enjoy listening to binaural beats during meditation. If you’re interested, but there are loads of great meditation resources out there. Just grab your headphones and MP3 player on the way out the door before you start your day and you’re set! I often find that this midday reset feels terrific and there’s usually still time to nosh on something yummy I’ve brought from home for lunch (and it’s a terrific money saver, too)!

Lastly, on Friday nights, my finance and I always enjoy “Italian Date Night” which consists of delicious Italian food together at home. It’s become a tradition for us (yes, you can still eat delicious, Italian food after bariatric surgery!). Afterwards we try to make it a habit of dancing in the living room to fun music. If you can picture this in your head, then I’ll go ahead and apologize now.  Seriously, today there are so many fun “games” on the market for anyone interested in shedding some serious calories and simultaneously reliving stress, it’s amazing! One of our favorites is something we recently purchased for the Xbox 360 called “Dance Central.” Any kind of working out indoors is beneficial during what can be the most biting of winter months.

Maintaining a low level of stress in my life and not falling into the old habits I used to have in using food to cope with the stress has been an ongoing challenge for me. But having tools to deal with it which was jump-started with the surgery, has been key for me. It’s my hope that you find the same for your life!

My Journey Through Weight Loss – Part 7

Prior to weight loss surgery, it wasn’t uncommon for me to sit down to a meal and suddenly have finished it without even remembering most of the bites I’d taken or any of the sensory enjoyments that should have accompanied the actual eating of the meal. It was often as if I were just shoveling the food in as fast as I could without any regard to the actual taste, texture and appreciation for what I was taking in to nourish my body.

But I needed something from that food, something that nothing else could give me. There was a void to fill. And that’s why I think I swallowed it down – quickly and without much thought or regard for the potential flavor this sustenance could be delivering. It wasn’t really about the way the food tasted. It was about something else. It was about filling that void. Since my journey with weight loss began, I have asked myself some hard questions, dug deep and worked at identifying what that void was all about. From time to time the “void monster” still rears its ugly head but when it does, I know to stop what I’m doing and take a self assessment of what’s going on inside me that might push me towards wanting to eat mindlessly. It’s in that key moment that I chose to eat consciously.

Of the many things I’ve learned from having bariatric surgery, one of them is to chew, chew, chew my food. And out of that practice comes the delightful by-product of really tasting and enjoying everything I put in my mouth. Without hesitation I would say that conscious eating (eating with awareness) has been essential to my weight loss success. It’s why we don’t eat meals in front of the television in our home and we don’t snack on the couch. I’ve found that food that is consumed “consciously” is enjoyed more, eaten in less quantity and usually happens to be a better food choice to begin with.

I would encourage anyone who doesn’t already practice conscious eating to give it a shot, even those who aren’t on the road towards weight loss surgery. It’s really the Zen of eating, so to speak, and dining in this way can be very fulfilling. Would you like to know one of my favorite things about it: It requires very little to eat consciously! There aren’t really any special things you need; there’s no need to rush out and buy the latest piece of miraculous-results-producing-fad-equipment. All you need is to be aware and present from start to finish during your meals and at snack times. Yes, this can take some mental training, changing up your routine a bit, and a little getting used to but that’s it! So from now on let’s enjoy each bite, really taste the delicious food and fully savor the marvelous experience of eating!

My Journey Through Weight Loss – Part 6

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

Tanya McGill, two years after bariatric surgery.

It seems that no matter how many testimonials I heard from other patients prior to surgery and no matter how many books I read about other people’s experiences, the many miracles I experienced after bariatric surgery blew my mind over and over again! I would get on the scale and some days I would lose two to three pounds from one day to the next. That was insane (and that was mainly in the first month, mind you). My size twenty-eight pants were suddenly falling right off my hips and I just couldn’t wear them anymore. I certainly wasn’t complaining, and a monthly trip to the discount big box store to purchase a couple of new pairs of pants with elastic waist bands became my new reward for another month of weight forever gone.

One of the most mind-blowing things I remember is going to one of these discount stores to look at a few pairs of pants. I thought to myself, “Well, I’ve lost a few more pounds. I’ll grab a size twenty-four from the rack and see how they fit.” I was completely dumbfounded when I zipped them up only to find that they swallowed me. They were super baggy all over! Could it be that a twenty-two would be my size? Nope, those were too big, too! You can imagine my amazement when I found that a size twenty is what I settled on, and I still remember thinking those were a little loose. I don’t think I could wrap my head around the fact that I might have almost made my way out of the size twenties all together.

About ten months after surgery (I was down 129 pounds and 32 pounds away from my goal weight) I went on a Labor Day trip to the beach with some friends. We were all playing cards, having a great time, and one of my friend’s brothers picked me up and started carrying me around the room, acting like a caveman! They were all laughing and cheering him on, but I was in a complete panic. In my head I was thinking: “Marc’s not strong enough to be doing this! He’s going to realize he’s picking up my enormous, fat behind and he’ll drop me any minute!” But he didn’t. See, I couldn’t even realize that I was just a few pounds heavier than all the other gals that were there, and 167 pounds was an easy load for him to lift. But my mind was still thinking it was in an almost 300 pound body.

One of the strangest miracles I encountered which I never, ever expected (and ladies, I thought we’d all be safe here but we aren’t, believe me!) was when I lost a shoe size through weight loss! Yes-you heard it here. It didn’t happen right away but when it did happen, it seemed as if it happened overnight. I used to wear a size 9, sometimes a 9½. And I love shoes-love them! We’ve all heard the adage, “We can gain all the weight in the world, but our shoes will always fit!” I always believed that, and I assumed the opposite was true as well. Well, I’m here to tell you that it might not always be so. I remember the days of feeling deep sadness after an afternoon of plus-size clothes shopping when I felt nothing fit properly. I knew I could always stop by any number of fabulous shoe warehouses where a plethora of gorgeous shoe options were just waiting for me. The only thing I didn’t love about my feet was that they were kind of large; even at only 5’4½” I had these rather large size feet. Well, I’m here to tell you that even your feet can carry the bulge as I was so shocked to learn  when I realized that I was going to have to get all new shoes because my previous size 9’s & 9½’s were slipping from my feet!

This journey of weight loss has brought more miracles into my life than I could ever count and I am so grateful for bariatric surgery each and every day.

My Journey Through Weight Loss – Part 5

Tanya McGill enjoying dinner with friends in Barcelona, Spain.

Tanya McGill enjoying dinner with friends in Barcelona, Spain.

Getting back into the swing of things following bariatric surgery was fairly easy given that I was well prepared. The nutritional classes I’d attended at Emory Healthcare prior to surgery, as well as the vast amount of information I’d collected from all the support group meetings I’d gone to really helped take out as many unknowns as possible. I’d even seen a psychologist regularly who specialized in helping weight loss surgery patients prepare for what to expect after surgery.

I thought I had done the entire course of the weight loss surgery’s version of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” but I still wasn’t fully prepared for what life would be like emotionally after surgery. This wasn’t anyone’s fault; this was because life is weird and people are strange and there was absolutely no way to predict how each and every person was going to respond to me after I began losing weight, and I couldn’t know how I was going to handle the huge variance in responses. Finding my center and staying grounded was one of the most challenging things I faced as a post-op gastric bypass patient.

Because hormones are stored in fat cells, as the fat cells begin to rapidly shrink those hormones are released in very quick bursts. This can lead to mood swings or depression in some people. Others may not notice any change in mood whatsoever. Some people in our support group spoke of mourning the loss of their best friend: food! Before my surgery, food was a great companion, a loyal consoler to whom I could always turn during times of stress and pain as well as during times of great happiness and celebration. I could always count on food to be there for me.  After my procedure, that was no longer the case. I had to cultivate new tools in order to move smoothly into my new life as a person whose tiny new pouch could only accommodate enough to maintain nutrition – certainly not emotional eating.

As I alluded to earlier, dealing with others around you can be a little tricky, as well. Those who know you have had surgery may feel the need to scrutinize every individual thing you put on your plate or in your mouth (even if they never went through a weight loss surgery nutritional class in their life). They could be concerned, they may wish to help or support you, or they may just be downright nosey. This might be a good time to whisper a personal mantra to yourself, something like, “I am surrounded by many good people who want only the best for me.” Well, at least something close to that worked for me so I wouldn’t go crazy every time I had to explain to people that yes, I actually could have cheese grits for breakfast if I wanted to and still lose weight!

One of the most poignant moments I remember concerning the topic of my impending  bypass surgery took place in my favorite fondue restaurant. I and dear friend of mine (whom I had known since I was thirteen) were there along with our another close friend and her husband. The four of us were chatting when the theme of the conversation moved to my surgery which was just a few weeks away. The friend I’d known since I was thirteen suddenly became very concerned, not about the surgery itself and how I might fare during the procedure or anything of that nature. She was quite concerned about my losing weight and therefore losing the real “me” in the process. I remember so vividly her saying that she loved me just the way I was and that she didn’t want me to change who I was in this process. I had to assure her that I was, indeed, going to change, but only in the best of ways. I knew in my heart that this surgery was the right thing for me to do. And I still feel that way more than six years later.

Next up: A handful of the countless miracles I have experienced on this journey.

My Journey Through Weight Loss: Part 4

Tanya McGill sightseeing in Paris, a trip she completed following bariatric surgery.

Although it’s been almost six years ago, I remember my laparoscopic Roux en Y Gastric Bypass surgery date like it was yesterday. Most of the time when people are admitted for surgery they are scared, possibly even terrified. There’s a good chance they don’t want to have whatever surgery it is they are having, and all the unknowns can make the day of surgery one of the scariest days of a person’s life.

This was not that day for me.

On the morning of my surgery, Monday, November 15, 2004, I was excited, relieved and giddy with anticipation for the new life that was waiting for me right around the corner. I didn’t know that part of that “new life” would include some of the challenges that it did, and I also didn’t know that there would be amazing experiences on an almost daily basis associated with my weight loss that would lead me to reassess my life in ways I could never have anticipated.

Between the support group meeting I attended monthly to the medical staff at Emory that I saw before and after the surgery, I thankfully had a huge support system in place to help me prepare, and I was able to learn so much about what to expect from life after surgery. As goes with anything of this nature, there is only so much a patient can anticipate and plan for; everyone’s experience is going to be a little bit different.

The evening of my surgery, I was up walking around my hospital room at Emory University Hospital Midtown. It wasn’t easy, and it sure didn’t feel comfortable but I was doing it one step at a time. I was told that getting up and moving around as soon as possible was crucial to my recovery, so I somehow did it. By Wednesday afternoon I was walking laps around my hospital unit and by that evening I was headed home to recuperate for another 10 days before heading back to work. I would soon be very grateful for that recovery time because there would be a lot to learn and re-learn before heading back into the real world with a tiny new one- to two-inch “pouch” instead of a potentially 64-ounce stomach that I had spent a lifetime filling.

Next up: But I’m still me, aren’t I? The psychological aspects of weight loss.

My Journey Through Weight Loss: Part 2

Paperwork, paperwork paperwork!

It makes one almost wonder if a paperwork obstacle course is there to see how many weight loss surgery applicants will just give up and drop out versus those who want and need it badly enough to stick with the laborious process and push on.

This was where my note-taking abilities came in handy. I spoke with so many people at my insurance company that if I hadn’t kept a detailed record of names, dates, times and information regarding our conversations, I would have never known where I stood with anything during these many steps to surgery.

There are quite a lot of qualifications established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for gastric bypass surgery  – and rightly so. If the NIH hadn’t developed guidelines for surgeries of this nature then standards for this surgery and others wouldn’t remain high. So I am actually very thankful for what I had to go through to ensure that I was a candidate for gastric bypass surgery. It helped me feel confident that this was the right choice for me.

Next up: Preparing for surgery! This would be as much a mental and psychological process as a physical one.

My Journey Through Weight Loss Surgery: Part I

My journey into weight loss surgery began one warm evening in August 2003 when, ironically enough, I was at dinner with a few very close friends. One of the ladies having dinner with our group that night was particularly full of zeal and was really enjoying herself quite a lot. I remember thinking that although she was always a very happy person, she seemed especially exuberant and alive. And then it hit me: my dear friend had gastric bypass surgery eleven months earlier, and she’d had it at Emory.

After over a year of research and more than almost thirty years of being either overweight or morbidly obese, I got the “yes” that I had been waiting for from my insurance company. Yes, I was approved to have gastric bypass surgery. I remember getting the news at work on September 24, 2004. It was so significant to me that I even remember the time; it was 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Needless to say, there wasn’t much else I could think about for the rest of the day.

The friend that I’d had dinner with – the one who had gastric bypass surgery – ended up becoming my support person. Every patient absolutely must have a support person when going through this lengthy process. I was incredibly lucky that she would be mine. She would attend my initial surgeon’s consultation with me and also attend the monthly support group meetings I began attending that summer to prepare for surgery. Needless to say, she was amazing and I only wish that every patient could have someone just like her as a guide through this potentially life-changing adventure.

Next up: The Paperwork Challenge! Keep breathing…