Stacey Bolt?discusses receiving gastric bypass surgery and the adjustment to a new life and lifestyle.
I underwent gastric bypass surgery, and in the past 13 months I've lost 101 inches, eight dress sizes and 141 pounds.
I’ve also lost constant foot and back pain, the inability to run and play with my three young sons, the fear that I’ll die too young and leave them without a mother, and my disabled parking placard.
I’ve gained a lot, too. For the first time, I enjoy trampoline jumping, 5K race running, foot races with my boys at the park until they get tired, a resting heart rate I’m proud of (57 bpm), the confidence to rock a fitted dress at my oldest son’s wedding, years added to my life and a healthy relationship with food. I now have the ability to have just one bite -- or no bites at all -- because I honestly don’t want the junk that used to consume my thoughts.
Before I decided to undergo gastric bypass, I tried everything to lose weight. If you’ve heard of it, I probably tried it. Weight Watchers, Atkins, Nutrisystem, hCG, juice fasts, sauna suits. I can’t stand cabbage, so I never tried the cabbage soup diet. But I’ve tried just about every other fad diet known to man -- some of them twice -- and a few of them were successful -- for a while. But every single time I “fell off the wagon” I gained back every pound I had lost and then some.
I had considered weight loss surgery a few times. Each time, I kept coming back to the fact that after major abdominal surgery to permanently alter the digestive tract, a bariatric patient still has to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle. I reasoned that if I had to overhaul my lifestyle anyway, I may as well make the change and lose the weight without surgery. If I could do it myself, without “cheating,” I could skip the risks of major surgery. I could still eat like a normal person once I lost the weight, I thought. I could still eat whatever I wanted, just in moderation.
Then my husband and I adopted three amazing little boys from foster care. I realized that I couldn’t be the mom they deserve -- the mom I wanted to be -- unless I lost well over 100 pounds.
I turn 40 this year, and my youngest son turns 5. I’ll be 54 when he graduates from high school. If something didn’t change significantly, I might not make it to his graduation - much less be able to dance at his wedding and hold his first child.
Halfway to starring in my own episode of "My 600-lb Life," I decided it was time to be realistic. If I hadn't succeeded in the “right way” to lose weight by then, it was unlikely I ever would. I started seriously researching weight-loss surgery options, realized that there wouldn't be anything easy about it after all, and ultimately scheduled my surgery.
I haven’t had a single bite of bread, rice, pasta, potatoes (not even sweet potatoes) or beans in more than 13 months.
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I have been very open about my surgery and weight loss journey. I’ve found that people tend to have the same few questions, or versions of them. I can’t speak for every weight-loss surgery patient, but this is what I’ve learned.
So… you basically cheated?
Yes, I’ve lost 141 pounds in just over a year, which sure seems like a shortcut to some.
I also haven’t had a single bite of bread, rice, pasta, potatoes (not even sweet potatoes) or beans in more than 13 months. I haven’t tasted soda or alcohol -- not even a sip -- for at least that long. In the interest of full disclosure, I did celebrate my one-year “surgiversary” with half a teaspoon of peanut butter, seven pistachios, a teaspoon of high-protein oatmeal, and a half cup of brown rice. Not all in one day, of course, these treats were spread out over about 10 to 12 days.
If any of that sounds easy to you, you’ve either never tried it or you definitely don’t need weight loss surgery.
Is it true that if you eat too much or too fast you throw up?
Yep! Even at over a year out, if I take one bite too many, I will puke up everything I’ve consumed in the last several hours. I’m really careful about eating slowly -- and my husband is great about reminding me, so I’ve haven’t thrown up from eating too fast in a while, but I think that’s just because I don’t do it anymore.
What do you eat in a typical day?
All of my meals and snacks are carefully planned. I start the day with a protein shake. Then I'll have two meals that consist of five ounces of protein, usually some combination of lean ground beef, ground turkey, chicken and cheese. With that protein, I consume two ounces of vegetables -- usually high fiber, low calorie/carb options. I have three snacks during the day: one container of fat free Greek yogurt, five ounces of cottage cheese and another two ounces of vegetables.
Occasionally, I'll treat myself and replace one of the veggie servings with strawberries, grape tomatoes, or half of a banana. I drink a minimum of 100 ounces of water every day.
It’s not all so strict though. I drink more coffee than I should with a vanilla protein shake instead of creamer, sweetened with Splenda or flavored Stevia. I love flavored K-cups too.
What about exercise?
Even all those dietary restrictions wouldn’t have gotten me to where I am without a fairly serious fitness routine. How do you feel about at least an hour of intense cardio every single day and doing strength training at least three to four days a week? I should probably work yoga in there, too, for flexibility but that hasn’t happened yet.
Full disclosure: I don’t meet this goal every week, but this is always the target. I won’t get the body, health and lifestyle I want by making excuses and skipping workouts.
What do you wish you had known before the surgery?
That’s a trickier question, because I really did an insane amount of research before my surgery. I feel like I was incredibly well-prepared. There were a few things I didn’t fully understand, but they were all things you can’t comprehend until you’ve experienced it (like how strange it is to vomit when your stomach is the size of an egg and sits under your breastbone).
Instead, I prefer to answer:
What advice would you give a pre-op weight-loss surgery patient (or someone considering weight-loss surgery)?
This isn’t an easy path. It’s not a magic cure-all that banishes food addiction and obliterates fat cells and eliminates fat and sugar cravings or “fat brain thinking.” Regardless of the specific procedure, weight loss surgery will not magically fix a lifetime of terrible habits or harmful thinking.
Weight-loss surgery patients are rightfully very vocal about bariatric surgery not being the easy way out, or cheating, or a shortcut. It absolutely is not cheating, but gastric bypass and other bariatric procedures do make it easier to make the necessary changes permanent.
If it’s so hard, and you’ve completely changed your life, why bother with the surgery?
I am incredibly proud of the progress that I’ve made. I have worked hard for those size 10 jeans that are getting a little loose, and those cute little sundresses, and my very shapely legs. But I don’t believe I could have made the necessary changes in my life without gastric bypass.
When I decided to have this surgery, I knew I had to do it right -- no excuses, no do-overs. Gastric bypass is the last resort and if I didn’t make it work, I knew there weren’t any more options. If I failed at gastric bypass, I would never be the mom my kids deserve. So the mindset change started when I started my pre-op diet two weeks before surgery. No excuses, no slips.
I think my new reasonable relationship with food is due in large part to my very militaristic approach to my surgeon’s guidelines over the last 13 months. If he or the nutritionist told me not to eat something, I didn’t eat it. Not a lick. Not a sample. Not in moderation to ease a craving. If I had been capable of moderation, I wouldn’t have needed the surgery.
I took a similarly rigid approach to exercise; if my surgeon or physical trainer told me to do something, I did it. My mantra in the beginning when I REALLY didn’t want to get on the treadmill again was, “I don’t have to enjoy it; I just have to do it.” So I did. And eventually I did enjoy it. I have actually become a person who works out to relieve stress. I enjoy running. How the hell did that happen?
What has been the most important factor to your success?
I cannot overstate how amazingly supportive, encouraging and essential my husband has been to this whole process. He has been my food police, my cheerleader, my personal shopper and chef. He has very successfully and graciously navigated the minefield of accountability, support, excitement, calling me out on mistakes and unequivocally believing in me. I’m 99 percent sure I couldn’t have done this without my gastric bypass. I am 10,000 percent certain I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without my husband.