Before & After RNY with Dyan, down 100 pounds!February 23, 2021
Before & After RNY with Dyan: I’ve struggled with my weight, body image, and binge eating disorder my entire life, and with weight-related illness for a good part of my adult life. I’ve gained and lost 50+ pounds more times than I can count.
Before & After RNY with Dyan: Why I Decided to Have WLS
As a child, I always thought I was overweight, which I took to mean I wasn’t good enough, so I ate to make myself feel better which left me feeling worse because I gained weight—a vicious cycle that became a constant in my life.
At 5’2”, I hit my highest recorded weight of close to 280 pounds in 2007. By my mid-40s in the mid-2010s, I was Type 2 Diabetic, had sleep apnea and fatty liver disease, was constantly exhausted, and couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.
There wasn’t a single moment that led to my decision to have weight loss surgery, it was more a series of epiphanies.
#1: I lost 3 of the people I loved most in the world to cancer—my dad at age 71 in 2004, my sister at 52 in 2015, and an uncle who was more of a brother at 59 in 2016. Their fates had been out of their hands, but mine wasn’t—I had the ability to change the course of my life.
#2: Over the years, people who care about me had expressed concern for my weight. What I heard was that they were judging me for being fat. In the mid-2010s, one of my mentors expressed the same concern but for the first time, I heard a different message—he loved me and was worried about my health.
#3: In 2017, my type 2 diabetes had progressed, and I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. I realized if I didn’t make significant changes, I was going to kill myself with food.
The thought of having to lose a triple digit number of pounds felt insurmountable and overwhelming, and I didn’t know where to start. Then I remembered my primary care physician had suggested I consider weight loss surgery and referred me to Dr. Robert Kushner, the Director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Lifestyle Medicine.
I had always dismissed the idea of weight loss surgery because I didn’t think it would work for me because of my binge eating disorder. But I was desperate and didn’t have anything to lose, so I made an appointment.
Before & After RNY with Dyan
My Surgery and Post-Op Life
I first met with Dr. Kushner in April of 2017. I told him my story and why I didn’t think weight loss surgery would work for me. To my surprise, he really listened! While he was upfront that he thought weight loss surgery was my best chance for long-term success based on my history, he recognized that I wasn’t ready for it at the time.
We came up with a plan for me that met me where I was at. We started with medication, behavior, and diet modification, and I simultaneously entered their Weight Loss Surgery Program as an opportunity to learn about the pros and cons of surgery.
To be considered a candidate for surgery, I’d have to be in their program (which includes medical, nutritional, and psychological education and support before, during, and after surgery) for at least six months and show the commitment/ability to make sustainable changes.
Taking this approach would put me in a good place if I decided along the way that surgery was the right path for me. Initially, I made progress with our Plan A but stalled a few months in. What I learned in the meantime led me to decide that surgery was the right option for me, and I was ready!
I had gastric bypass surgery on January 29, 2018, and haven’t looked back. It was without question the best gift I’ve ever given myself. My surgery went very smoothly.
I remember the first few post-op weeks were more painful than I thought they’d be and how strange it was to have absolutely no appetite, but that’s about all I remember. I haven’t had children, but I think it’s like childbirth – the long-term benefits far overshadow the short-term pain.
When I was considering surgery, I remember someone from the Center for Lifestyle Medicine saying that surgery isn’t a magic pill that will fix all my struggles with weight. It’s a useful tool that along with sustained lifestyle changes has the potential to help me achieve long-term health. It’s the beginning of a lifelong commitment and journey. Truer words have never been spoken.
My first 2 years post-surgery was amazing! I didn’t realize how bad I had felt physically for so many years until I felt good!
I was in love with my new life, which, for the most part, came easy to me. I reconnected with the essence of who I am. I was on a high from the pounds seemingly melting off, achieving so many non-scale victories I never thought possible and the praise and attention I received from others.
Intellectually, I’ve always known my fantasy that life would be easy once I lost weight was just that. Reality hit home and the honeymoon ended this year, my 3rd-year post-op. The thrill of the newness has worn off. We’re living in a pandemic. I had planned to run 2 marathons, both of which were canceled. I tore my meniscus.
While I maintain the frequency of my exercise routine, I had to dial down the intensity. Working from home full-time has me moving less overall. The state of the world has me feeling chronic low-grade anxiety and grieving the loss of life as I knew it.
The compulsion to eat from which I felt complete relief for almost 2 years has been creeping back in. I gained 20 of the 120 pounds I had lost. I started to freak out that I was going to undo all my hard work like I’ve done so many times before.
What’s different this time is I have support I didn’t have before. A few months into the pandemic, I started (virtually) meeting with my Nutritionist, Holly Herrington, monthly. She has helped me to keep things in perspective.
It’s not surprising that old behaviors have resurfaced under the circumstances, given food was my primary coping mechanism for 44 years before the most recent 3 years. Some weight gain is common 24 months post-surgery. I’m at a healthy weight, I haven’t undone all my hard work, and I continue to sustain the healthy changes I’ve made.
- I exercise 5 days/week. This is a non-negotiable for me—I put it on my calendar and treat it the same way I treat work meetings and personal engagements I commit to.
- I eat small portions and make healthy choices most of the time.
- I weigh myself once/week. Most of the time I’m able to view the number on the scale as data instead of a measurement of my self-worth.
- I meet with my therapist regularly.
- I’ve continued to take advantage of the ongoing support offered by my Weight Loss Surgery Program, long after my required follow-up ended. I meet with Holly, Dr. Kushner, or Nurse Practitioner Kaitlin Fiore quarterly.
- I’ve recently connected with Northwestern’s post-op weight loss support group and reconnected with my eating disorder support group.
- I share my story.
I reconnected with my “why.” My “why” isn’t about a number on the scale. It’s about being healthy, feeling free from the compulsion to eat, living a full and balanced life, and being comfortable in my own skin. Shifting my focus from the number on the scale back to my “why” has freed up energy for me to relatively easily maintain my current weight for the last 6 months—and counting!
The next step in my journey is to get to my final “why”—being comfortable in my own skin. I’m mostly there in terms of feeling confident and believing in and loving myself, but I’m not at all there from the perspective of literally being comfortable in my own skin.
It’s incredibly frustrating and disheartening that my body still carries the remnants of the overweight person I used to be no matter how active I am and how much weight I've lost.
In ways, this psychological weight holds me back more than the physical weight ever did. I had abdominoplasty in January and a breast lift and augmentation a few months after that. I can’t even imagine the impact this final step to take my life back is going to have!
I’m committed to doing whatever it takes, one day at a time, to continue to live this amazing, imperfectly perfect life I’ve created for myself.
- I’m healthy! My Type 2 Diabetes has been in remission since two weeks after my surgery. My fatty liver disease and sleep apnea reversed. I sleep soundly without a CPAP. My antidepressant dosage is down 50%.
- I’m able to buckle the seatbelt on an airplane without an extender, I comfortably fit in restaurant booths and seats at sporting and entertainment events and I can buy clothes in regular stores.
- I’m an athlete! I’ve run 3 half marathons and the 2019 Chicago Marathon and completed 2 Appalachian Trail section hikes. Things I never in my wildest dreams believed I was capable of.
- I hiked the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs—2,768 steps/elevation gain of 2,000 feet over less than a mile, went ziplining and took a surfing lesson.
- I graduated from Second City’s Improv Program.
ObesityHelp.com’s Role in My Journey
I’ve maintained a healthy weight for almost 3 years post gastric bypass surgery but gained 20 of the 120 pounds I’d initially lost. This has left me struggling with impostor syndrome over the past few months. I keep beating myself up because I feel like a fraud who doesn’t deserve what I’ve achieved because I gained weight.
I hadn’t leveraged ObesityHelp.com as a resource until I was approached about being featured in this Before and After article, but it came along exactly when I needed it! Writing this gave me the opportunity to take a step back to reflect on what my life was like before and what it’s like now, giving me much needed perspective on what I’ve accomplished. And I have a new tool in my toolbox!
Dyan had surgery with Dr. Alexander Nagle of Northwestern Medicine