Three years prior to this date, I was looking into having weight loss surgery, but ultimately I changed my mind and did not do it at that time. I talked to a couple of friends along the way and told them I was considering WLS. The funny thing is, because of how highly I spoke about weight loss surgery, I somehow convinced my friends to have the surgery before I could convince myself to do it.
But ultimately, I became so fed up with the way I felt and looked that I finally decided I needed to do this for myself. Since that decision, my life has changed so much for the better.
I love the fact that I became more active without suffering pain. Most of all, I am thrilled that I took my life back. I started into hiking, walking 5k’s and 10k’s, and riding a bike. Maybe best of all, I’m now able to go to the ball park and watch my Los Angeles Dodgers play without having the issue of not fitting in the stadium seats, or even being out of breath just getting to my seat.
My first 10k was one I will never forget. I was so nervous thinking to myself: “I hope I finish it” and “I hope I don’t pass out.” I had so many doubts running through my mind, but at the same time I had a sense of excitement. The minute I crossed the finish line I got overwhelmed with my accomplishment.
The Journey is a Challenge
Just four months out of surgery I had lost 100 pounds. I lost another thirty-five pounds by the time I reached my sixth month. I have maintained a weight loss of 135 pounds for three years; however, I found it difficult to get under 300 pounds. I hit a plateau and did not know what I could do to lose more weight. I tried everything. I even joined a boot camp (which I loved) and still couldn’t lose the extra weight. I decided to live a healthy lifestyle and not focus on the number on the scale.
It does seem that every time I started something to better myself something always happens to set me back. Due to a recent illness I have regained some weight. All I can think of is how hard I have worked to get to where I am at now and how much I love the change – but I made these changes for myself and I won’t go back to the person I was. Again, I focus on living a healthy lifestyle.
Becoming an Example
Last year I was invited to be part of the health and wellness committee at work. We set up hikes, exercise sessions, etc. As a committee member we also make sure to attend these events. One of the events was a 4.5 hike through the hills to the Hollywood sign – something that was on my Bucket List. It almost killed me doing it, but I did it – and it felt so good! One of the other members from the group was very surprised at how well I did. His exact words were “Karina, I’m so proud of you. You cursed me out the whole way up and down the hill. You huff and puffed, but you never gave up. You never said that you couldn’t do it.” I told him that the word can’t is not in my vocabulary. I will always try my best to do things no matter how many times I fall. He didn’t know how much strength and determination I had and I proved I could do it! My coworker still tells everyone how I pushed myself – and him – up that hill to the Hollywood sign.
Living and Inspiring
It is always so weird to hear people tell me that I inspire them. I did not know I had that type of impact on another person – I just work on myself, but I am happy if others find motivation in my journey.
All the accomplishments I have achieved have given me a sense of pride and has brought so much happiness to my life. I never thought I would be where I am today, and I would not change anything for the world.
There is no going back to before May 19, 2015.
About the Author – Karina Lopez
Ms. Lopez was born in Glendale, CA and currently resides in Cudahy/Bellflower, CA. She is one-half of a set of twins – Karina being the older by two minutes. In the words of people who know her, Karina is friendly, funny, a great listener, always there for everyone, and loves to have fun. In her own words, she says of herself: “I am Hispanic and come from a very large family. I have three siblings (two sister one brother), and 10 nieces and nephews that range from 13 years old to a 5 months old. I am the oldest of four and older than my twin is by 2 minutes! I love my LA Dodgers and attending Dodger games, hiking, spending time with my family, concerts, scary movies, dancing, traveling, and drawing.”
Oh, and she loves her fur baby Chewy!
Karina works at the Los Angeles County Fire Department as a Supervising Typist Clerk. She recently received her 15-year service pin, but she has 18 years working as a county employee.
She is attending East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Major: General Studies & Associates in Arts in Sociology. In high school, Karina studied to be an Assistant Nurse, and was awarded a Certificate as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
Weight Loss Data:
CW 310, GW 30 (due to illness)
Date May 19, 2015
Surgeon Dr. Moon
Hospital Kaiser, Harbor City, California
Question for the WLS Community: Can you relate to the feelings and experiences Karina has described above?
Share your thoughts on Karina’s article. Leave your message in the “Leave a Comment” section at the bottom of this page.
FORWARD: Barb G. Begy Lee, a Weight Loss Surgery friend from Canada, has been sharing her, now eight-year, WLS Journey with people from all walks of life. Barb made the following presentation at a bariatric surgery orientation. Read how she weaves the story of what she has learned about living the WLS Lifestyle with her pre-WLS dreams of living free of obesity and serving the less fortunate. Following her presentation Barb answers our questions and gives her best advice to all WLS patients, but especially ‘newbies.’ She presents a good picture of how a successful WLS patient approaches life and uses their tool. And now… Here is Barb Begy Lee.
By: Barb G. Begy Lee
A Servants Heart
Hello. My name is Barb and my Weight Loss Surgery journey started in late 2012. I was seeking my doctor’s advice about dealing with diabetes, nutrition, weight loss, and living a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to learn how to take care of my health – beginning with what I eat. The doctor’s staff handed me a book to read about diabetes. They simply said the best route for me was thru the bariatric clinic, regarding weight loss. I had no idea what that meant. It would take months for me to hear back from them. I asked to be referred to the Wharton Medical Clinic, which specializes in Weight & Diabetes management. I wanted to be educated and proactive while waiting for the bariatric clinic to contact me.
Eventually, I received mail from the bariatric clinic informing me of the process and steps that lead up to weight loss surgery. My reaction was ‘What? I don’t want surgery.’ Fear welled up in me. I was sure I wouldn’t go through with it, but my husband Jim and I decided to go to the bariatric orientation to learn if surgery might be an option to consider. Coming out of orientation I was thinking “No way,” but my husband came out thinking, “This is it!”
The WLS Process
A gastric bypass is a form of weight loss surgery. My surgeon would modify my stomach, which is the size of a football. It would be reduced to the size of a golf ball. This limits the amount of food I can put into my stomach. It limits my calorie intake. The surgeon also takes my small intestine, cuts it, and attaches it to my new small stomach. This creates a situation where most of the old stomach and small intestines are bypassed and not used anymore. With this ‘bypass,’ I would not be able to absorb all the calories and nutrients I consume. Malabsorption is the term for this. If I don’t eat and drink as directed, I could become vitamin and mineral deprived and or dehydrated. It is also possible to develop a hernia and or blood clots.
In escaping obesity I learned that my health issues, diabetes, sleep apnea, GERD, asthma, blood pressure, cholesterol, and arthritis could all disappear. I learned that surgery is not a quick fix weight loss plan. To avoid regaining lost weight and having poor health issues return, I would have to be careful in my dietary choices.
I decided to keep the door open and proceed one step at a time until I knew for sure what I was doing. It was possible to decline weight loss surgery right up to the moment of it happening. Scared, I looked and prayed for clarity in regards to my possibly having this surgery. I had a vision of what my life would look like if I did not have the surgery. I saw health issues worsening and me ending up in a wheelchair.
For a long time, I had a passion in my heart to go on a mission trip to India. I wanted to help free young girls from human trafficking. I was looking at a possible trip that coming September. When pondering what life would look like if I had weight loss surgery, I saw myself much healthier, more energetic, and on the mission trip. In my visualization, I was able to get down on my knees to hug these girls. Something I did not have a hope and a prayer of doing at 328 lbs. I came to believe that I was meant to have the surgery. If it was not meant to be, then God would close that door to me.
The day of the surgery, as they pushed me down the hall to the operating room I said to myself, “You can still back out.” However, a real sense of peace had come over me, allowing me to relax and let go. The next thing I knew, they told me the surgery went well, and I thought “I guess it’s too late to back out now!”
Fulfilling my Dream
Since the surgery in January 2014, my non-scale victories included remembering that I had dimples when I smile. They had been hiding for over 25 years. I loved seeing that I actually do have a chin, neck, collar bone, hip bones, and ankles. I can cross my legs easily, and tackle stairs without using the rails.
So when the September trip to India came around, I went on the mission trip. The flight to India was my first in over 25 years that I didn’t need a seat belt extension to fit comfortably in my seat. I was physically active and walked many miles. I was able to meet many women and share hope and encourage them. When I walked up to a group of little girls, I was able to get down on my knees and hug them. My prayers were answered, my dream had come true! None of this would have been possible with my excess weight and health issues.
The Weight Loss Surgery Lifestyle
Diabetic meds are a thing of the past. I have been kicked out of the diabetic clinic and am no longer considered diabetic. I have more energy and my sleep apnea is a thing of the past. My blood pressure and cholesterol are both normal and totally under control. I also was pleasantly surprised to find that I no longer have Asthma. My seasonal allergies are almost non-existent.
I thank God, as having weight loss surgery was the best decision in my life next to Him. Currently, I take only vitamin and mineral supplements.
The hardest part of the weight loss surgery lifestyle isn’t losing the weight, it’s keeping it off.
Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix, it is not the easy way out, and it isn’t foolproof. Like any weight loss method, you have to live by the guidelines for it to be successful long-term. Yes, you will lose weight quickly at first and you won’t be hungry. The hunger will eventually return and it will take much hard work, diligence, and determination.
Weight Loss Surgery Success
I am going to share four critical things you need to do for success when you have weight loss surgery. Number 1: You need to get your protein, fiber, and liquids each day. Number 2: Be sure to get in all your vitamins and minerals. Try to stay within the target range of what has been recommended to you by your dietician. Meet your specific goals for calories and protein. Number 3: Keep a journal of your food to help keep you on target. It is easy to not be aware you have fallen off your regimen. Number 4: Get active with some form of exercise right away. Don’t procrastinate as I did. I kick myself daily for waiting almost a year post-op to get serious about exercise. Your muscles and skin will be saggier when you neglect to exercise.
I want to encourage you if you are connected with the Wharton Medical Clinic to stay connected. Dr. Wharton was an important part of my pre-surgical experience – and post-surgery, he is a wealth of bariatric knowledge and support. He is my ‘Go-To’ when I have questions or concerns. Tap into his wealth of knowledge, information, and extra support!
My Personal Weight Loss Journey
Before going to India, I had lost just over 100 lbs., in India, I lost 10 more. When I returned, I was approaching 10 months post-surgery and my weight loss came to a halt. For a few months, I basically stayed the same. Dr. Wharton advised me I may have reached the limit of my weight loss surgery. Typically you can lose 30% of your body weight and I had already lost 35% of mine. Weighing 215 lbs. frustrated me. I did not have this surgery to remain over 200 lbs. and still be classified as obese. I was not finished yet.
I decided to get more regimented. To get away from doing things ‘my way,’ I journaled in MyFitnessPal. Exercise became more consistent. I took in extra fluids and upped my protein intake. Consistency is important and I hadn’t been consistent, so I leveled it out. I began riding my exercise bike, using my Wii, I even pulled out my old Richard Simmons tapes.
It began to take a toll on my arthritis so I had to slow down a bit. I focused on walking. When I saw my doctor, my added diligence, extra fluids, and increased protein intake had enabled me to lose another few lbs. After much hard work, I am now in what is called Onederland (under 200 lbs.). I am less than 15 lbs. away from being out of the obese classification. I am on my own now meaning weight loss surgery is no longer my helper. Every pound lost now is a sweet victory for me. Today, even a 5 lbs. loss – which I have as my next goal – could take me many months or longer. I will get there and from there I’ll take it one step at a time.
A Life-Long Journey
Once you lose the weight you will learn great, hard, and valuable lessons. When your weight loss ends, the real work begins. However, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. This is where a new lifelong journey starts.
Believe it or not, there are people who, after initial weight loss success, make foolish choices. These choices become bad habits, resulting in regaining weight and old health issues. Unfortunately, sometimes even worse than previous. There are some people who will have weight loss surgery a 2nd time. This is something I will avoid at all costs. Thank you.
Questions and Answers with Barb
Q: What WLS procedure did you have and when?
A: The procedure I had is Gastric Bypass (RNY) in January of 2014.
Q: What hospital and surgeon?
A: St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, ON, by Dr. Hong.
Q: What were/are your numbers… HW… SW… CW… etc.?
A: My highest weight was 328 lbs. My weight 10 months after surgery was 188 lbs. (140 lbs. lost)
Q: What struggles did you face in your first year post-op?
A: One of the hardest things during the first year post-op for me was reprogramming my life-long habit of clearing my plate. As a result, I am still learning portion control. I still put too much food on my plate, even knowing that I can not eat that much. I’ve had to reprogram what a ‘normal’ portion is.
Q: What are your favorite foods now, and are there any that give you problems?
A: Favorite foods now include chicken, beef, peas, carrots, asparagus, blended cottage cheese with a bit of fruit. On the other hand, foods that give me a hard time are pork roast, eggs (most of the time), rice.
Q: Do you exercise or workout?
A: I am not currently exercising. About a year and a half ago I joined a gym, it was ok, and I did that for about a year. I just didn’t enjoy it. I have done aqua fit from time to time. It’s not bad, but since surgery, I am almost always cold and full of arthritis, so putting a swimsuit on in the winter doesn’t work well for me. I walk occasionally and I would like to find an exercise that I enjoy. Sadly, I have not yet found it. I am full of hope, I will find something that clicks.
Q: What are your favorite NSV’s?
A: Improved health factors are the greatest NSV since surgery. Examples include going from severe to mild sleep apnea, no longer having GERDS, no longer being diabetic, no longer asthmatic. Only needing to take vitamins and minerals. Some little milestones like finding out you actually have a neck, you can cross your legs, climb stairs with ease. Seeing dimples in your face when you had forgotten you even had them. In seeing these things come about – you find you are getting healthy. The icing on the cake is fitting into smaller clothes.
Q: What was the best advice you were given about your journey?
A: Be careful not to be tempted to eat things your medical team recommends you avoid. A person I know mentioned they were 2 years post-op and had allowed themselves to eat everything, and were now fighting weight regain of over 50 lbs.
Q: What advice do you have for others considering or currently living the WLS lifestyle?
A: The honeymoon phase will end and your appetite and cravings will return. Be prepared, it happens within a couple of years. If you haven’t dealt with what caused you to turn to food, you will likely turn to food again. This is what I have been going through. I am not completely sure what makes me turn to food. As a woman of faith, I turn to God and pray. I believe He is at work as I am maintaining and not gaining now. It is an ongoing battle. I am determined and persistent and firmly believe where there is a will there is a way.
Q: Any last things you would like to share with the WLSFA weight loss surgery community?
A: Besides my husband Jim, I would like to acknowledge and say a huge thank you to Dr. Sean Wharton and his team at the Wharton Medical Clinic. Dr. Wharton has been a crucial part of my success and a wealth of knowledge about bariatric health care. He also works closely with St. Joseph’s Hospital’s bariatric team. I will continue to visit Dr. Wharton for accountability and to have him keep me in check!
Most importantly I want to thank God who introduced me to the Wharton Medical Clinic through a dear friend. He painted the picture that made it clear to me to move forward and have the surgery. I saw myself on the mission trip to India, showing His love to the untouchables. All these things have changed and altered my life in such amazing ways!
I would love to share a photo of the women and girls we served – but for their safety, I cannot. They begged us to not share them via social media as these dear folks were victims of Human trafficking.
For information on future WLSFA events, follow this link: www.wlsfa.org
MORE: American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: www.asmbs.org
Sleep Quality and its Impact on Weight Management, Quality of Life, and Wellness
Feel like you’re not getting enough sleep at night — and suffering as a result? It’s not just you. About a third of adults in the United States experience a chronic lack of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting less than seven hours of sleep each night on a regular basis.
While you might brush off a tough night of sleep here and there, insufficient sleep is a serious issue that can lead to a number of chronic health conditions over the long term. These include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and frequent mental distress.
And each day that you wake up short on sleep, you’re at a disadvantage both physically and mentally. You may struggle with cognitive issues such as concentration, memory, making decisions, and problem solving. You’re at a greater risk of getting sick, making poor food choices, and even getting into accidents.
Overall, life is better when you’re able to sleep well. You can face each day fresh, well rested, and ready take on challenges with energy and mental clarity. You can even reduce your risk of developing some serious health conditions.
Sleep Quality and Weight Management
Making sleep a priority can support a healthy lifestyle and help you make good choices when it comes to food and activity. Sleep can have an influence on self control, food choices, and even the hormones related to weight gain.
You might struggle with self control when you’re short on sleep, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study found that when you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to snack late at night and eat snacks high in carbohydrates.
Additionally, a study published in Appetite found that when you sleep less than five hours each night, your nutrition really takes a nosedive. At that level of sleep deprivation, you’re more likely to consume more calories, less water, and more carbohydrates overall.
On top of struggling with food choices when you’re sleep deprived, you’ll likely feel short on energy. Think you’re going to make it to the gym when all you want to do is nap? It’s possible, but you may struggle to even show up, and if you do, you may have a hard time giving your workout your full effort.
Support Sleep and a Healthy Weight
Life can make healthy sleep feel impossible, but it isn’t. We all have our excuses, but anyone can make a commitment to improving sleep and with it, improving overall health and wellness.
Don’t let excuses get in the way of the sleep you need. We all deal with the demands of daily life, whether it’s work, family responsibilities, school, or other priorities. But your first priority is your health, because without your health, everything else suffers.
Block out time for sleep, and make it your top priority. Plan what time you need to get up in the morning and count backwards from there, giving yourself seven to nine hours of time to rest each night. Schedule life around sleep, not the other way around.
For some people, sleep struggles are more than a question of scheduling and priorities. If you have a sleep disorder, you may have a hard time getting the rest you need, even if you give yourself enough time. It’s essential to manage sleep disorders with treatment. Talk to your doctor about how your sleep disorder is affecting your life and health, and get suggestions for treatment that can alleviate the condition.
Stick to healthy sleep habits. Late night screen time, eating heavy meals before bed, even drinking alcohol late at night can negatively influence the quality and quantity of your sleep. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine, and avoid the major pitfalls that can sabotage your healthy sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is healthy for sleep, with a mattress that offers appropriate support, and bedding that feels comfortable. Your bedroom should be a haven for relaxation, and kept clean, dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable.
Understand that if you’re dieting, some diets can have an effect on your sleep. Many popular diets restrict carbohydrates, such as paleo or low carb diets. These diets can cause temporary insomnia, because normally, carbohydrates can help you sleep easier. You might be fine just to push through the temporary insomnia for a few days as you settle in to your diet, but if it persists for several days, you may need to reintroduce carbs.
There are many ways to help yourself feel better, but without sleep, your efforts may be futile. Commit to healthy sleep for a healthier lifestyle and improved wellness. You can support healthy habits with healthy sleep, and improve your ability to feel good both physically and mentally.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cat.