After introducing you to Raquel yesterday, here is the rest of her story…thanks for being patient. It was just long and I wanted to make sure I got it all in.
Here is her interview Continued:
How long did you contemplate this before you did it?
It was a year from the time I went to the ER to the time I had surgery.
What did you have to do to receive the surgery? Any counseling or anything of that nature?
My health insurance required 6 months worth of documentation with my doctor before they would authorize the surgery. At the same time I was working with my GP, I had met with my surgeon and started working through their requirements. They provided support groups in which pre- and post-op patients could attend to gather information and ask questions. I also met with a psychiatrist for an evaluation to determine if I was at risk for eating disorders. I also attended nutrition classes that covered how I was going to have to eat for the rest of my life. There is truth in the fact that eating slowing and chewing carefully works. This prepares the food for the Lap Band but it also lets your brain tell you when you’re full. I eat protein first for energy and muscle support and then move on to vegetables and grains if I have remaining room (I currently eat about a cup of food at each meal compared to a 1/4 cup when I was in weight loss mode).
Did you have any health issues that contributed to your decision to do the surgery?
Thankfully, other than the acid reflux and the sore knees, I did not have any other health issues prior to my surgery. I felt very blessed to be able to have the surgery at a relatively young age and at a relatively low weight (100 pounds over-weight was my health insurance company’s lowest threshold for covering the surgery).
Did you change any of your life habits after the surgery? Do you work out or eat differently?
Food is a non-event for me now. I rarely even think about food. One of the reasons I chose Lap Band over other options such as Gastric Bypass, etc. was the fact that I knew I was an emotional eater. When I was happy, sad, bored, I was eating (that’s a whole other battle). Now, if I want cake, I can have cake but I know I will eat a few bites, not the entire cake. I don’t limit myself. This caused big problems because when I was overweight and wanted cake, I didn’t let myself have cake until I broke down and ate the entire cake. Many vicious cycles were at work back then. I was able to identify those cycles and Lap Band fit the best into that vicious world that I was living. I still do not work out and that fact alone shocks people. My work schedule is still hectic, I still battle with motivation and now I have dehydration issues that I contend with. I have lots of wiggly bits…but they are a good reminder of what I’ve been through.
Overall, this was the best experience of my life. I often get embarrassed to tell people that I’ve had Lap Band because it feels that I took the lazy route. But I am reminded daily that it was not nor will it ever be easy. I know three other people who had Lap Band surgeries that failed. Two of them choose not to follow up with the recommended ‘fills’ needed to keep the Lap Band in place and the stomach restricted to 1/3 cup. One actually lost over 135 pounds and kept if off for years. She started overeating, which caused her esophagus to stop working. The doctors suggested taking out the saline in the band to allow the esophagus to jump start. She took their advice to remove the saline but decided against refilling the band once the issue was resolved. She has since gained all of her weight back. I watch these people constantly as a reminder of what I wanted and what I need to do. I had to give up steak (because the fibers act like cork) and alcohol (because the ever-changing size of my stomach causes unpredictable results) but I gained so much. My self-esteem has multiplied a hundred times over and that shows in all areas of my life.
One of the most important lessons I learned throughout this entire process was to be KIND: to myself and to others. We are our own worst enemies and I have played out so many scenarios: I hated being introduced as the ‘big girl’. I hated being told that I had such a pretty face IF only I could lose some weight. I hated having to shop at plus size stores. I hated walking into a regular store for the first time – it was one thing to be a size 14 at Lane Bryant but a whole other thing to be a size 14 at White House/Black Market. I hated having people look at me or talk behind my back. I hated being valued (or de-valued) by the size of my pants.
I think this society is becoming more accepting of different people (skin color, religion, sexual orientation, status) but there is still something about being fat. It becomes a label of implied laziness – a label I willingly gave to myself and let define me in so many aspects of my life. It took me a long time to realize that no one would be overweight if it was easy to be thin.
I wasn’t always treated well when I was heavy and I now make a point of being kind to everyone. If someone looks good, I tell them. If someone doesn’t look good, I still smile and say HI. I am not the judge and jury for what looks good nor does anyone have to fit my mold. I realize we can’t control what we inherit from our parents (was it a coincidence that my adoption papers left my 5’2 birth mother’s weight blank?). Even after losing 145 pounds, I still say that my best feature is my eyes. And then I smile because my eyes are the same eyes I had at 290 and I had nothing to do with creating them – I have to thank my 5’2 birth mother for them!
I can’t thank Raquel enough for being so brave and baring her soul like this to us. She didn’t have to be so open and honest and she didn’t even hesitate when I asked her. I just couldn’t resist. I met her for breakfast so she could give me some of her book cast offs (really, is she the perfect friend or what) and I marvel every time I see her at the strength it took to make the decision and carry through with it because she knew there was better out there for her. She’s such an inspiration that you really can follow a dream. It may be work but isn’t everything that’s worth it, a little bit of work?
See? If it’s a quote from Pinterest you know it’s true.