Alexandra’s Weight Loss Story
My struggle with weight began at a young age. I remember being in school and always being the largest child/teen/young adult in the class. This continued into my adulthood. Growing up it was difficult for me. My weight made it hard to find fashionable clothing in my size, I found it hard to fit in with my peers, and it was a daily struggle to participate in anything. I was extremely shy and introverted. I always wanted to be healthy and happy like other people my age. I wanted to live a fun life, be included in activities and play sports.
I was always on a diet. I tried weight watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Medifast, Slimfast, Optifast, Atkins, vegetarian, fasting for as long as I could tolerate, as well as many diets I made up along the way. I could stick to a diet for a period of time and lose about 40-50 pounds then I would hit a plateau. I would get discouraged and would eventually give up. I would go back to my poor eating habits and gain all the weight I had lost back with a few extra pounds. This yo-yo dieting was hard on my body and bad for my self-esteem. By the time I had started college in 1993 I weighed 286 lbs and wore a size 24 at 5 ft 8 inches tall.
In 1999 I got married and was pregnant shortly after with my first child. I weighed 330 right before I was pregnant with him. During the pregnancy I only gained 6 pounds and was happy to easily lose weight after giving birth. I got back down to 290. 14 Months after having my first son I was pregnant with my second. This was a different experience altogether. The weight went on easily and I weighed 396 and was wearing a size 32 when I delivered him in November of 2003. I figured the weight would come off easily after pregnancy as it did the first time. I couldn’t of been more wrong. The struggle to lose weight while being a mom was frustrating. I found it hard to find the time to eat properly and dieting was harder than ever before.
I was on the sidelines watching my kids. I couldn’t get down on the floor to play with them. I hated to go outside to a park because I was afraid they would run away from me and I wouldn’t be able to catch up to them. I came to the realization that if I didn’t do something soon about my weight I would never be the active involved parent I wanted to be. I also realized many co-morbidities (hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, diabetes) were all in my near future. I wanted to be here for my kids. I did my research and found Dr. Abkin and a surgery called lap-band.
I attended a new patient seminar at the end of 2004. I got all the information I needed to make my decision. Hearing Dr. Abkin talk about the surgery and listening to patients who have had the surgery and were successful was so inspiring to me! I scheduled my appointment to see Dr Abkin right after the seminar finished that evening. I was more motivated than ever! I went for my initial consultation with Dr. Abkin in early 2005. I told him I wanted to get the lap band. He explained to me the pro’s and cons of the surgery and explained to me that perhaps the gastric bypass would be a better option given the amount of weight I needed to lose. I was terrified about the gastric bypass because it seemed so major re-routing the way your body worked seemed extreme to me. I was sure I would succeed with the band and he supported my decision 100%.
April of 2005 I had my lap band implanted. At the time of my surgery I was around 340 lbs my BMI was 52. It was a same day surgery and yes, I was sore afterwards. It wasn’t an unbearable pain but it was uncomfortable. After 3 days of resting at home I was able to be up and move around with very little discomfort.
In the months following my surgery the pounds started to fall off. I had energy I never had before. I could walk up the stairs without being winded I could play with my children and get down on the floor with them without the fear of not being able to get up again. I weighed about 280 lbs at this time and started to go to the gym. The first time in my life I found exercise to be enjoyable and rewarding. I wasn’t winded, I felt energized. I took it slow at first I would even park farther away from stores and take the stairs when I could. The scale kept rewarding me, the slow and steady weight loss was amazing! I had adjustments when I would feel my restriction wasn’t tight enough and in total I think I had about 6-8 adjustments on my lap-band.
My weight got down to 211 and I started speaking at the new patient seminars. I enjoyed helping others in their quests to be healthier and lose weight. I attended all the support groups I had time to. Dr Abkin is really good with the follow up and providing you with the necessary tools and support to be successful. Take advantage of them, they really do keep you motivated and on the right track. You meet people at support groups going through the same thing as you. It is nice to have people there who can understand and help you, maybe with recipes, with secrets to living with your surgery even passing down clothing because we change sizes so frequently in the first 12-18 months of weight loss.
I got pregnant in 2006 with twins! The lap-band with pregnancy was easy for me. I was suffering with severe morning sickness. Dr Abkin met me in the emergency room and removed all the saline from my band. It allowed me to eat a little more to keep the nausea at bay. After the pregnancy I went in to have my band re-filled and to continue with my weight loss. The 60 pregnancy pounds I gained with the twins started to slowly go away after having my band adjusted back to the proper restriction for me. I got my weight back down to 225.
In March of 2011 I had some severe pain in my left hand side that went up to my shoulder. I was rushed to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. Once at the hospital and after a bunch of tests a CT scan confirmed my worst fear. My band had eroded and it needed to be removed! I knew of the chance of erosion with the band, there is a very small chance of it happening. On the manufacturers web site for lap-band they say that “in a study of 299 patients that four had their bands (1.3%) erode into their stomachs.” In my mind NO ONE was going to take my lap-band from me. It was my savior and changed my life. I was devastated until I spoke to Dr. Abkin. He was in the hospital the next day to remove the band. He sat and talked to me about options and re-assured me that there were things we could do including re-banding if I wanted to after I was healed. I knew I had no choice but to remove the band. I was upset about it but he calmed my nerves and he was confident I would be successful and we would work together to find the right path to continue my weight loss. We just needed to take care of the eroded band first.
Once home again and all healed I started my research. I also spoke to Dr. Abkin on many occasions. I had decided against another lap-band. I opted to have the vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery. I had my surgery the end of May 2011.
The sleeve surgery as with any surgery was scary. With Dr. Abkin I always feel well cared for. He is always there to answer questions day or night. I knew without a doubt I was in the right hands. Recovery from the sleeve was a bit harder and required a few days stay in the hospital. Eating and healing with the sleeve was similar to the band. Liquids, then soft foods, slowly introducing solids as I tolerated them.
My weight loss with the sleeve has been outstanding! I have surpassed my goals. I had always wanted to be in “one-derland” that’s what a lot of bariatric patients call it when you hit the 100’s in weight. That amazing 199! I also wanted to wear a size 14, which is the average size of a woman in the US.
My weight loss has slowed now and I am truly happy and healthy. I am an active participant in my children’s lives. I can run around with them, play, take them to parks, run up and down stairs and not tire out all day. With 6 boys (4 of my own and 2 stepsons) all this extra energy really pays off!
I am proud to say I am now 37, with a healthy BMI of 23.9, I weigh 157 and wear a size 8-10.
I’ve done it and so can you!