Meet Raquel.

I used to work at this fabulous store called Archivers.  I love them.  It’s a scrapbooking store and it was pretty awesome to work there…most of the time.  Don’t most jobs have their downsides?  No worries.  My memories of this store are all wonderful and I had a great time meeting and working with everyone there.

One day my manager brought in a new employee and her name was Raquel.  She was beautiful.  Not just beautiful but she just exuded happiness.  I loved her immediately.

Years later she’s half the person she was.  But she’s still my Raquel.  You have to meet her.  One of my favorite people in the world,  she graciously allowed me to “interview” her via email about her incredible weight loss and journey to get healthy.   This post is long, so I’m going to break it up into two posts.  It’s worth reading.  She’s pretty awesome.  I could be biased though.  I love reading how people changed their lives.

I’d like you to remember what some people choose to do to get healthy may not be what others choose and what works for some people may not work for others.  Reciprocity~

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Before with Avery – this was my highest weight 290 – July 1999
Before with Avery – this was my highest weight 290 – July 1999
Pre_Surgery – this is my formal “before” picture.  This was right as I was starting the journey with my GP and specialist at weight 250, age 39 – December 2009
Pre_Surgery – this is my formal “before” picture. This was right as I was starting the journey with my GP and specialist at weight 250, age 39 – December 2009
After with Avery – this is that same baby, age 14 at my lowest weight 140 – December 2013
After with Avery – this is that same baby, age 14 at my lowest weight 140 – December 2013
After in Hot Tamale Dress – current day weight 140, full body picture in a dress my co-worker has named the Hot Tamale – February 3, 2014
After in Hot Tamale Dress – current day weight 140, full body picture in a dress my co-worker has named the Hot Tamale – February 3, 2014

Here is her story…

How long have you battled your weight? 

I am 45 years old and have been battling my weight for the last 20+ years.  I weighed 125 before I got married, did aerobics three times a week and didn’t really need to watch what I ate.  When I got engaged in 1991, I stopped working out and starting going out for dinner at least three times a week.  By the time I got married a year later, I was up to 175.  I started on NutriSystem and lost 20 pounds pretty quickly but found out I was pregnant so I had to stop that program.  I put on 60 pounds with my pregnancy (up to 215) and was hit hard with post-partum depression.  I never lost any baby weight and started on a course of anti-depression meds that caused me to gain weight very quickly.  I battled depression and anxiety for over 6 years and hit an all time high of 290 (my before picture) in 1999.

How many different diets/eating plans have you tried? 

Before hitting my all time high, I tried NutriSystem, Jenny Craig and Herbalife but realized that as soon as I stopped eating their food, the weight came back.  I had marginal success with each (up to 20 pounds lost) but would eventually gain that weight back because I couldn’t afford the programs. 

Why did working out and eating healthy not work for you?  

Since I was so heavy, working out was painful.  It was hard to stay motivated – especially surrounded by thin people at the gym.  I was pointed at, laughed at, teased and gave up pretty easily just so I wouldn’t have to subject myself to that kind of exposure.  At the same time I was battling my weight, my anxiety issues were at an all-time high.  I was seeing a psychiatrist for my panic attacks and the meds were causing me to gain weight quickly even though I wasn’t eating all that much.  My doctor eventually had me go on medical leave from work in order to get my meds under control.  It was at that time my husband indicated that he was embarrassed by me and wished that I had cancer instead of being fat and sad.  Shortly after that appointment, I found myself going through a divorce.  A year later, I moved to CO because I needed to be somewhere where people didn’t know me…I just wanted to be invisible.

  After being in CO for 6 months, I weaned myself off of all the meds and lost 40 pounds pretty easily.  At 240, I felt so much better than I did at 290 but I was never able to get down below 220.  I tried Weight Watchers and joined Curves and while both of those programs were wonderful, I had a hard time staying motivated.  My job is very hectic and I could never seem to get to Curves before they closed and I rarely got an actual lunch break.  I ate what I could when I could and became complacent.  I was a single mom working two hectic jobs to make ends meet so my health wasn’t a priority

Why did you choose Lap Band surgery? 

            My acid reflux issues actually led me to Lap Band.  I was taking over 100 Tums each week and I ended up in the ER with such bad heartburn that they thought I was having a heart attack – it didn’t matter that I was only 39 because as soon as they saw my weight, the possibility of a heart attack was a very real possibility.  That ER visit prompted me to seek a second opinion for my reflux issues and God Bless my doctor because he took one look at me and said that I needed to lose weight.  I’m sure all of my other doctors were thinking the same thing but this man had the heart to actually say it and then listen to me.  When I indicated that I could lose 10 pounds without issue but always gained 11 pounds back, he knew that dieting/exercise wasn’t my way out.  He suggested Lap Band and referred me to a specialist.  With my 40th birthday approaching, I became very interested in doing something different.  I’m not sure if it was the reflux issues or seeing 40 on my horizon but his comments started a fire within me.  I reached out to a co-worker who had had the surgery and she suggested her doctor.  I called my health insurance to find out what I needed to do, I went back to my GP with a plan outlined and set my mind to having the surgery that year. 

How much weight have you lost and have you reached your goal weight? 

I weighed 250 when I made the decision to have Lap Bank and weighted 240 at the time of surgery (after the 2-week liquid diet).  My goal weight was 150 (100 pounds lost) and now I fluctuate between 140-145 pounds.  Once I hit 150, the number became less important.  I was a size 28 (that was the largest size offered at my Lane Bryant store without a special order).  I know can wear a size 6-8 off the rack. 

  My weight loss occurred SLOWLY over 3 years (which is not typical).  I had my surgery in August but the next year, my employer changed our health care provider.  They would not cover the ‘fills’ (which are the saline injections that allow the Lap Band to work).  I fought with my insurance company for close to a year before working out a cash plan directly with my doctor.  As such, I only lost 30 pounds the first year, then approximately 45 pounds the next with the final 35 the third year. 

What are the negative impacts of Lap band surgery?

            I still have some acid reflux issues if I eat too late in the evening and the food doesn’t have a chance to work itself through my upper stomach.  I take 1 Tum each night to help keep the acid levels down overnight.

            I struggle with dehydration because my upper stomach only holds about a ½-1 cup of food/liquid at one time.  I was never a big water drinker and usually choose coffee or soda over water.  I have to force myself to get in enough water to avoid migraines, etc.

            Along with dehydration, I sometimes have bouts of low blood sugar.  Since my portions are still limited, I choose protein first.  At times, that means I don’t have enough sugar in my system and I will feel light-headed (also impacted by my hydration levels).  Now that I’m in maintenance mode, I’m not overly concerned with liquid calories and I try to drink a bit of vegetable/fruit blended juice each day.  Some foods, such as lettuce and nuts, cause issues for me personally.

            My cholesterol is actually higher now than it was before surgery since I eat a lot of meat and cheese.  My vegetables and grains are limited.  I am monitoring this closely with my doctor and thankfully, I do not need meds at this time.

            I chose to see a therapist because I had a few situations where I battled dysmorphia during the 3 years of weight loss.  My body was changing so rapidly that I struggled with what I was seeing in the mirror.  I missed my old face and there came a time that I did look drastically different from my old self.  I was able to recognize these feelings and sought a specialist who dealt with Lap Band/Gastric patients.  It was a very positive experience in the end.

I’m going to end this for now and the next post will be the rest of Raquel’s story.  She’s one of the happiest most positive people I know and I love to spend time with her.  I’m so glad that you are all getting to know her.