Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bariatric Surgery, I cheated didn't I???

Severe obesity is a chronic condition all over the world that is very difficult and often extremely expensive to treat.  We have all tried the diets, paid overpriced gym memberships, hired personal trainers and weight management coaches, joined Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins, you name it!!! On average, a person will pay 25% of their annual salary to a plan to lose weight and get healthy that they eventually will fail.  In the United States we spend $41 billion on weight loss options, while Americans spend $168 billion on fast food.  Where is the disconnect?  Can you now see why for one reason or another we have all failed?  These "plans" have sent us crashing down with a burning flame. Then comes the discouragement and disappointment of not achieving an unrealistic goal that we set for ourselves.  But should we just sit back and feel sorry for ourselves? 

For some people, weight loss surgery -- or bariatric surgery -- can help by restricting food intake or interrupting digestive processes.  But keep in mind that weight loss surgery is a serious undertaking.  You should clearly understand the pros and cons associated with the procedures before making a decision.  While some doctors and patients feel as though this is a "magic bullet" that will make everything better, all they are doing is a major disservice to their patients.  This is not a magic bullet that makes everything better.  It takes commitment, hard work, and a desire to change previous poisonous behaviors.  I should know, 2 years ago I underwent the first of 3 bariatric surgical operations to help get my life and health back on track.  Surgeons now use other techniques that produce weight loss primarily by limiting how much the stomach can hold. Two types of surgical procedures used to promote weight loss are:
  • Restrictive surgery: During these procedures the stomach is made smaller. A section of your stomach is removed or closed which limits the amount of food it can hold and causes you to feel full.
  • Malabsorptive surgery: Most of digestion and absorption takes place in the small intestine. Surgery to this area shortens the length of the small intestine and/or changes where it connects to the stomach, limiting the amount of food that is completely digested or absorbed (causing malabsorption). These surgeries are now performed along with restrictive surgery.
Through food intake restriction, malabsorption, or a combination of both, you can lose weight since less food either goes into your stomach or stays in your small intestine long enough to be digested and absorbed.

I was always an active person, playing every sport that I could, transition from season to season and sport to sport.  My parents, traveled all over the great state of Georgia to get me from practice and competitions, purchasing all the latest and greatest equipment, and making sure that I had all the tools to be as successful as I could.  So then, why was I so overweight and unhealthy as an adult?  I ate good, exercised, did everything I thought I was supposed to do.  Bought the books, the memberships, and killed myself with P90X (Literally killed myself, that program is an ass kicker)!  Moving from Georgia to Colorado, I started to learn to embrace a healthier lifestyle, again becoming active in sports and fitness and focusing on better eating habits.  But no matter what I was doing, I kept gaining weight.  While living in Crested Butte, Colorado at about 9,000ft above sea level, I finally had the "epiphany" that something was going drastically wrong with my health.  I was rushed to the hospital with a hypertensive crisis, basically my blood pressure was high enough that I could have had a stroke, all at the young age of 33 years old.  My sleep apnea had become out of control and I was suffering from pulmonary hypertension and the beginning of left sided heart failure where fluid was beginning to build up around my heart and lungs.  My pulmonologist decided that BiPAP was not enough, that I needed to walk around with supplemental oxygen while breathing and functioning day and night.  I walked out of the hospital that day and said ENOUGH!!!  I made an appointment to attend a bariatric surgery seminar with Dr. Michael Snyder and the Denver Center for Bariatrics and little did I know that night in Denver would not only change my life, but save my life.  I can't help but get a little emotional as I sit here and type this.  I attended the seminar and at the end I raised my hand, "Dr Snyder, I am 33 years old, on BiPAP, supplemental oxygen, and nearly stroking out, HELP ME PLEASE!!!"  I started the process and about 30 days later and hours of research and questioning anyone I could, I went under the knife for the first time to have a gastric lapband placed.

So while I went off on a little tangent there, I have to go back to the "magic bullet" idea.  I learned to call bariatric surgery my tool.  This tool is no different than someone who uses Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, etc.  They are all tools to help us lose weight.  But with these tools also comes the commitment and behavior modification.  Whether you are on a diet or you had surgery, you still can't eat the same bad foods you did before but in moderation.  You can't sit on the couch watching Biggest Loser eating BonBons and Chicken McNuggets and still lose weight.  You have to change your eating habits, portion control, types of foods you eat, sugar intake, etc.  Eating is a learned behavior. Often, people eat under stress. You have to find the reason why you had the bad eating habits to begin with.  Are you an emotional eater?  Did you just not make the time to cook a healthy meal and went for the easy, pick up on your way home fast food?  Think of it as also your tool to adjust your lifestyle.  There is nothing selfish about taking some time for yourself, especially if it means getting your health back.  Sit in on a support group, find a buddy to work with (very similar to a sponsor at AA), someone that can help you be accountable for your actions and help you make those lifestyle changes.  I try to be that person for many other bariatric patients, whether they are having surgery, had surgery already, or have to explore other non-surgical options.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  You didn't become obese and unhealthy overnight, and you certainly aren't going to lose the weight and gain back your health and wellness overnight, but DON'T GIVE UP!

Finally, I talked about the first of 3 bariatric operations.  I had my lapband placed 9/17/2009.  Within about the first 5 months I lost 70 pounds.  But I sensed something was wrong.  In February of 2010 I had what we thought was a leak in the port of the lap band and I had it replaced, a port revision.  Well, that wasn't the issue.  The band itself had sprung a leak.  Although my fitness had kicked into high gear as I started training for my first full marathon, I wanted to make sure that my lapband was working correctly.  I hit the 100 pounds lost goal, started my tattoo sleeve, and in March of 2010 had my entire lapband replaced.  My tool was once again working properly.  While I was sure that I had learned correct eating habits and had a great training and workout routine, it was comforting to know in the back of my mind that my tool was once again 100%!!!  I kept to my plan, finally on October 17th, 2010 I made it to 140 pounds lost as I lined up to start my first full 26.2 Marathon, the Denver Rock n Roll Marathon.  I no longer suffered from any medical conditions and I felt great, like I had gotten my life back.  Last week I had a sleep study and 2 years ago I averaged 180 episodes where I quit breathing in my sleep per hour.  Today, I average 4 and my pulmonologist is astonished at what I have transformed into.  Since that day I have competed in 4 full marathons, 16 half marathons, 27 10K's, 32 5K's, 1 Half Ironman, and am training for 2 more half Ironmans, and my first 2 Full Ironman competitions.  I feel blessed to have gotten my life back and do not feel for one minute that I cheated  by having bariatric surgery.  My article published on about Overweight to Endurance Athlete, I was called a cheater by someone.  I had to work to get to where I am, and those of you that know me, know that I work every day to stay where I am at.  Again, it is no "magic bullet"!!!  And I must thank each and everyone that has supported me through my journey.  I am truly thankful.  If you are interested in bariatric surgery, no matter where you are, please visit  and you can see my transformation firsthand!!!


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  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I was healthy workout like a machine and I had lost 65 pounds at one point. Listening to the advice of a bad doctor that placed me on years of steroids instead of telling me that my tonsils where making me sick. I hired a coach tried to start the process all over again but my metabolism was just stuck. Last year I had just turned the corner and was able to run a mile. I still wasn't loosing the weight, but I thought I was making progress. I was on vacation with my husband and I slipped and fell on some water. That day has literally changed my life.I called my health insurance to get a quote on an upcoming surgery, and she mentioned she had bariatric surgery. I visit True Results and was notified that I was approved. However, the road after that wasn't easy. This fall has caused me to have shoulder surgery from a rotator cuff injury. I was diagnosed with a condition called occipital neuralgia where I have undergone two head surgeries. I currently have a head implant to control my pain. After the head implant I learned that I contracted an infection that I was placed on IV drugs for 6 weeks. I thought I was getting better again, and due to a doctor not fully examining me I have been walking a around for 9 months with a torn meniscus. I could also have from a ruptured achilles. My family has not wanted me to have the lapband because they were concerned about all my procedures, but the lapband is for me and my surgery is scheduled for September. I have dreamed for years to be an Ironman, and now I am taking my opportunity. I still have a long road ahead of me, but your story has made me very hopeful.