Meet Darla Black, Member of the Board of Directors of the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America
Darla Black was elected to the WLSFA board in the summer of 2018. She has lived in Portland, Oregon since the age of 2, after being born in Phenix City, Alabama. She has been married to her husband Perry for nearly 35 years. They have four children: Jacque, Megan, Kelsey and Steven.
She was a stay at home mom for 15 years, before taking a job at her sons’ elementary school for the past 16 years. She is currently a secretary at the school – a job she loves.
On any given day, you might find Darla quilting, or, when the weather is good, out walking with her brother and other friends. Her family enjoys camping, and she has found a love for kayaking and backpacking. Darla recently spent 5 days on the Pacific Crest Trail with her brother, niece and son.
Her favorite places include National Parks, Disneyland and Maui. It was in Maui a couple of years ago that Darla had an incredible NSV when she faced and defeated her fear of zip lining.
Darla’s WLS Facts and Measures
WLS Procedure: RNY
Age when you had WLS: 50
Where you had the procedure: Kaiser in Portland
Your doctor: Dr. Kim
The date of your procedure: June 21, 2013
Clothing sizes then: size 32, now: size 12.
Let us learn more about Darla as we interview her about her weight loss journey.
QUESTION: Darla, tell us your life weight history.
DARLA: I grew up being told I was overweight but looking back at pictures I am not sure I was. That being said, I wasn’t a stick. I did not start putting on serious weight until after I graduated from high school. Moreover, by the time I was 24 and having my first daughter, I was well over 200 pounds. I played with dieting but never lost a great deal and would gain more soon after. By my mid 30’s, when I had my son I was near 300. Over the next 15 years, I bounced around, losing a small amount and gaining it back. My BMI was 56, I was on two blood pressure meds, but luckily healthy otherwise.
QUESTION: What were your thoughts that led you to WLS.
DARLA: I had never really thought I would choose surgery because it scared me. I knew one person that had had WLS and I started asking her about it. I had Kaiser Insurance and it was covered. I talked with my doc, started the pre-work, and got the referral.
What really motivated me was when I was in my mid 40’s I was at a Boy Scout camp with my son and I could not get to the campfire. It was up a hill and I could barely walk on flat surfaces, far less up a steep hill.
QUESTION: That must have been heartbreaking.
DARLA: It was.
QUESTION: So everything else pre-op went well?
DARLA: Well, there were a few hick-ups. My insurance coverage changed and it no longer covered WLS. I was devastated. After a short time of self-pity, I made the choice to try Weight Watchers again. This time it was different, I knew I had to change or die at an early age (family history was not good). Over the next three years, I was able to drop 60 pound and keep them off. Finally, they brought back WLS. I was very fortunate to step back into the program and not have to redo all the steps again.
QUESTION: What were your thoughts and feelings as a pre-op?
DARLA: I think back at the three years I was denied surgery because of insurance and am now very grateful for them. I entered the pre-op stage with great confidence and no worries or fears. My program has a two-week liquid diet before surgery. I planned it so I was working up to the last day before surgery. I had absolutely no trouble staying on track even cooking for my family on two occasions. I had my eye the prize. I do not think I ever wanted anything this much other than my children, which I had to work for as well.
QUESTION: What were the first days/weeks/months after surgery?
DARLA: I could be the poster child for WLS. I breezed through surgery and was very compliant. I wanted this to work and somehow knew I had to work at it. I had altered my body and there was not any way I was going to fail. I discovered I was a slow loser and learned to embrace that rather than beat myself up. I tracked, I moved and I drank. I have never dumped, a small curse because I can eat anything. My blood work is good, I take my supplements. I did get dehydrated once because I was hill training and had never sweated before. I had to learn to make up the fluids I was losing.
QUESTION: Any memorable reactions of friends and coworkers?
DARLA: I feel very blessed; my family has been so supportive. I had surgery over summer break and because of my slower pace at losing, it was not shocking when I came back to work. I did keep it private for some time. As I started sharing, people have asked questions, but no one has been negative.
QUESTION: What is your favorite part of the journey?
DARLA: Being able to do anything I want. I don’t have to think about it, I can just do it. Also giving back. I co-lead a local support group. Sharing with people and talking about our struggles and fears, has been the best part of post-op life. I love being a member of the WLS community. I have met great people and the support I receive is beyond words. I have grown so much. I am more confident and willing to take risks and put myself out there.
QUESTION: What is your least favorite – or hardest – part of the journey?
DARLA: I feel so lucky, that having a least favorite part seem selfish, but honestly, it’s the skin. I struggle with getting my head into a place of acceptance because I have to live with it. Nevertheless, it is better that the weight. I am honest with people about this and I have shared what it looks like. I also don’t let it stop me.
QUESTION: Have you had any experience with any regain?
DARLA: Just recently in the past 6 months, I have struggled with a small regain. I scares me, because it is so easy to put on. However, I have to say that it has made me think about why I was so overweight to begin with. I am taking an in depth look at the “head” piece that has played a role in my obesity.
QUESTION: How has WLS changed your life?
DARLA: In every way possible. I take on challenges. Personal and physical – I can confidently speak in front of people. I respect myself.
I have challenged myself with several 5K’s, 10 k’s and multiple relay races and discovered I enjoy the races and the competition. This past fall my friend Melissa and I did a relay that included kayaking, biking and hiking. We did this to raise funds for the PNW chapter of the WLSFA,
I have so many NSV’s such as walking 5, 6, 7 plus miles… fitting into a booth at a restaurant… not sinking my kayak… being able to carry in the groceries… going up stairs… but most importantly, I can walk to the campfire with my son.
Darla’s WLS Philosophy
Advice for pre-ops and newbies: Do what you feel is right for you, but listen to the doctor and the nutritionist. Be compliant. Follow the guidelines. Do not rush your success. Enjoy the process. Tell who you want, but do not feel like you have to share if you do not want to. Moreover, know you have to put the work in.
Darla’s Role with the WLSFA
“I love the WLSFA, what we stand for, and the work we do. Being part of something that literally saves lives is remarkable. I enjoy working within the community to support and bring not only education, but also resources to folks that have the same goals and struggles that I do. WLSFA gathers a community of likeminded people to accomplish one main goal. I am honored to be part of the WLSFA. I look forward to taking a more active leadership role with the 5k and other projects.”
Darla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org