Friday, February 17, 2012

Barbie and Her Tiny Tummy - AKA I Am Now a Really Cheap Date

Barbie and Her Tiny Tummy – AKA I am now a really cheap date
On February 15, 2011 I had gastric bypass surgery.  This has been one of the best decisions of my life, and I am shocked by the changes both physically and mentally.
At this time last year, I weighed 304.4 pounds and wore a size 26.  I was extremely good at justifying this weight, it wasn’t really that big, I was tall so I didn’t look as heavy, I wore flattering clothes etc.  For years I tried diets only to loose some weight, just to gain it all back and then some.  What I had to come to terms with was that I had developed a very dangerous addiction to food.  It no longer was a form of nutrition and energy, it was a way to alter my mood and truly, slowly kill myself.
My decision to have the surgery was not something I came to quickly.  I had been thinking about it for years (back when I was 220 pounds).  For years it felt like the timing wasn’t right, or was too extreme etc and I stopped thinking about it as an option.  Then one morning in July 2010, I woke up and my first thought was “I need to talk to a Dr. about having weight loss surgery”.  This was completely out of the blue, but I decided to go with the prompting.  That day at work, I looked at my insurance and at the hospitals I was covered under.  I saw that Parker Adventist was listed, so I called to see if they had a Bariatric Surgery center.  The operator who answered was surprised at my call, because they had literally just had a Dr. sign on and would be opening his doors in the next month.  Interesting coincidence.  I spoke to his receptionist (an amazing woman named Joe) who gave me all the information and even started submitting things to my insurance.
I found out that my insurance had a waiting policy for the surgery.  I had to wait six months and go thru monthly phone calls with a nurse and a nutritionist.  I started to think of this like the waiting period they have for people who want to buy a gun.  For me, once I decided on the surgery, I wanted it right then.  I was ready to change.  They make you wait so you don’t run off and do anything stupid and without being totally sure, and I’m so thankful I did.  The people were incredibly helpful and taught me so many things I needed to know.  This waiting period was crucial to the mental toll the surgery was going to take.
Originally, I wanted to have the lap band procedure.  But after doing a lot of research and talking with my surgeon, I decided that Gastric bypass (Roux En Y) was the best choice.  For more information on the difference of these surgeries, click this link
I have had lots of questions about my surgery, so I figured I would answer as much as I can here.
How much weight have I lost?
As of today, I have lost 136 pounds.  I still have about 25 more to loose before I get to my goal weight.
What was surgery like?
It really wasn’t that bad.  The procedure was done laparoscopically so they made five small incisions in my abdomen and inserted tubes with cameras etc in them to perform the surgery (if you are feeling adventurous, you can find video of a surgery online and watch it.  I did, and it helped me understand what happene).  I was in the hospital for two days, then home.  I was kept on IV painkillers at the hospital, then tablet painkillers at home.  The pain was very minimal.  I have to look hard to even find the incision scars now, they have almost completely faded away.
Did I have any complications?
Nothing I wasn’t expecting, and they were very minimal.  I read a lot before the surgery to prepare myself for the worst that could happen.  I was very blessed that I went into my surgery in very good health.  I was not a diabetic, I did not have high cholesterol or blood pressure etc.  I followed the guidelines they gave me for the first six months as exactly as I could, this is a big reason I have never had some of the problems others have.
The most annoying complication I have had is hair loss.  I have lost at least 60% of my hair.  Thankfully, I had a lot of hair to begin with, so I don’t have any bald spots or anything like that, it’s just much thinner.  Most patients experience this complication (they believe it is due to a protein deficiency) and my hair has started growing back.  If my choice is to be morbidly obese with great hair, or healthy with thin hair, I’ll take thin hair every time  J
How much can I eat?
After my surgery, my stomach was about 2 ounces, or the size of an egg.  Depending on what I eat, it can stretch to about a cup (or 8 ounces).  I now order almost everything off of the kids menu, and barely eat half of it.  See why I said I’m a cheap date?  J
What can I eat?
Honestly, I can eat just about anything I want, just in very small portions.  Some things make me feel like crap (white flour, sugar) so I try to avoid it if possible.  After having the surgery, I have to make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day (this is a giant pain) and at least 60 grams of protein.  The key is eating your protein first, then you can add carbs etc after, if you have any room left.
Why did I decide to do the “easy thing” and have surgery, rather than watch what I eat and exercise?
Let me make this very clear, having the surgery was not an “easy thing” in any way shape or form.  My food addiction had gotten so bad, it literally was out of my control.  I would eat massive amounts of food multiple times a day.  I realized the only way I would be able to stop is if I had a physical limit put in place.  A few days after the surgery, I had a massive panic attack and emotional breakdown.  Normally when I felt anything like this come on, I would eat until I calmed down.  Having this no longer be an option, it forced me to really stop and deal with what I was feeling.  This was the only breakdown I had since the surgery, and I’m thankful I had been in therapy and worked with the nutritionist before hand to know how to work my way thru it.
Let me also make it clear that the surgery is not a magic pill.  It is simply a tool to assist with a life change.  My Dr. told me about a call he got from a patients mother two weeks after her surgery.  They were in the ER because the daughter had gotten upset and tried to eat 2 quarter pounders to deal with the emotions she was feeling.  She found her curled up in the fetal position, and had ripped most of her stitches.  Just because you have the surgery, it does not mean it is going to be easy.  Some people don’t deal with the mental issues and go right back to eating the way they did before.
Can I gain the weight back?
Yes, absolutely.  It is possible to re-stretch your stomach to the size it was before, and get it used to eating crap again.  Like I said, the surgery is only a tool to assist you in making healthy changes.
What are the changes that took the longest to get used to?
Having to slow down!  Meals should take a minimum of 15 minutes to eat, this took some serious getting used to.  Also, chewing like crazy.  Now when I eat a meal, I take a bite and chew at least 20 times.  I also have to remember to put my fork down between bites, it helps you slow down.  I also stop and think after every few bites to figure out if I am full.  Overeating makes me feel like death, so I try to avoid it at all costs.
Do I feel so different now?  Do I have tons more energy?
Honestly, yes and no.  I had a lot of energy before my surgery, so in that way I don’t feel a lot different.  The times I really notice the weight loss are when I climb stairs.  I used to get winded after one flight.  Now I can climb several before I get out of breath (I still need to work out more).  Also seating is a big change.  When you are obese, you do a lot of things to help minimize embarrassment like avoiding chairs with arm rests because you wont fit, or sitting in booths because it is nearly impossible to wedge yourself in.  At the Cheesecake Factory, they have these kind of wicker chairs.  At my heaviest, I literally could not fit in them.  I went there a few months after surgery and the only seat left was in that chair.  I braced myself for the worst, and was shocked when I could fit!  It was a very emotional victory for me.
The same goes for seats at the Pepsi Center, I can now fit in them comfortably.  And on airplanes I no longer have to ask for a seat belt extender.  Being able to wear normal size clothing is probably my favorite change.  Once I get to my goal weight, shopping is going to become a very expensive habit for me  J

So there you have it.  Feel free to ask me any other questions you have, I’m very open about it.  And if anyone is struggling with weight loss or just needs someone to talk to, please let me know.


  1. I'm glad this has gone so well for you! I know someone who did lap band and after a year has hardly lost any weight. Because of the surgery (or how she eats after) she gets sick a lot.

  2. It's nice to hear someone speak so candidly about it from a patient's perspective. Brave as always, Barbie! And looking so haaaaaawt.

  3. I remember when I saw you for the first time again after your surgery at Johnny Carinos and I almost cried. This is how this blog also made me feel. Seriously, it is such an emotional thing. It shines a light on this surgery that most people don't think about.

    I remember when my sister went through this surgery. I was very scared for her going in. It is very cool for you to be so open about this. It also helps me in the way that I can now understand in a sense what she went through....Since she is no longer with us and I cant ask her. It brings me a sense of peace. I am so happy for you Barbie. Honestly though, I love how you just have always exuded confidence no matter what. You are AWESOME!