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Why I Have Decided to Have Bariatric Surgery – Gastric Sleeve Surgery

I have been thinking about bariatric surgery for a long time, but when my doctor suggested I seriously consider it, it became more than just a 'maybe someday' idea. Click through to read why I am going through with it and how it might be right for you, too.

Last summer, I had my annual physical. My family doctor walked in the room and said, “Tara, have you ever considered bariatric surgery?”

I was stunned. Like every fat person, the thought had crossed my mind. Over the last ten years, I heard about gastric bypass surgery, and I vowed to myself that I would never be that desperate to lose weight. I would not subject myself to the procedure with its various complications that seem so common and lifelong drastic restrictions. So I had written off all bariatric surgeries on the basis of that one.

But my doctor had some great points. First of all, my weight had ballooned to 401 pounds. When I got pregnant with Allie seven years ago, I weighed just over 300 pounds, and I wasn't happy at that weight. I wanted to lose 100 pounds even then.

He has had a number of patients (many of whom I know) who have had great success with gastric sleeve surgery. The surgery removes about 85% of the stomach, leaving patients with a banana-shaped stomach that holds 1/4 cup at first and 1 cup at a max about a year post-op. It reduces the sensation of hunger because a lot of the hunger hormone producing part of the stomach are removed. There are no other changes to the digestive system, so there are fewer complications overall and no implications for medicines (very important because of my bipolar and narcolepsy meds) and no sweeping food restrictions after surgery.

After listening to his points, I came home and researched it. I read everything I could find about gastric sleeve – the good and the bad. I watched YouTube videos. I reached out to my dear sweet friend Robyn Wright who I knew had the surgery three years ago. 

Back then, I had told Robyn that it wouldn't be worth it. It was too dangerous. But she went ahead with the surgery and has never looked back. She encouraged me to go for it.

Eventually, I met with the team at the Pinnacle Weight Loss Center in Harrisburg and learned even more about bariatric surgery and the options available to me.

I was 100% in. All that was left was to satisfy the insurance requirements:

  • 6 months physician supervised diet
  • clearance from primary care physician
  • clearance from cardiologist
  • clearance from psychiatrist/psychologist
  • stomach scope (called EGD)
  • other assorted appointments like a hospital tour and post-surgery nutrition counseling

I am in month 4 of the 6-month diet. I have mostly been a dieting failure and currently weigh 3 pounds more than my start weight. I think I have to get these 3 pounds off and register actual weight loss before the insurance will approve me for surgery. 

I am doing some things right, though, including tracking all of my foods with the My Fitness Pal app on my phone, drinking more water, and weaning myself off of Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, I had a real setback over Christmastime that ended with a 6-pound weight gain, but I've already gotten some of that back off. 

This is not going to become a weight-loss blog. Weight loss is going to be an important part of my life, and I want to share that, but Christianity and home education and crafts and family and, yes, eating are all still going to be important. I may share some post-surgery foods, but I will still post recipes my family is enjoying even if I only eat a few bites.

I have decided to take this drastic step because my weight feels out of my control. I can eat a lot without ever feeling full. Three or four pieces of pizza, for example, is nothing and doesn't satisfy me. I know I am eating way too much, way more than my body needs, but without a feeling of satiety, my brain never gets the message that I've had enough. 

I feel like I might be choosing the easy way out, if surgery and intense restriction can be considered easy. But then, I'm not sure about that; I think this might become the hardest thing I've ever done. But the fact remains that I will lose weight – and a lot of it – this way, and then I will spend the rest of my life keeping it off. I think that will be the real work, the keeping it off.

I know some people who've had bariatric surgery and gained all the weight back, and I am really scared of that happening to me. My eating got me to where I am now, and I know my eating could me return me here. I am confident that I can lose the weight, at least 150 pounds and hopefully more like 200, but I am not confident that I will be able to keep it off. I will need to exercise daily, and I have never done that in my whole life. At this point, exercising – even walking – is so hard because of my weight that I almost never do it.

There are so many possible benefits of major weight loss – decrease in blood pressure, improvement in sleep apnea (which I haven't been diagnosed with but sometimes wonder about as my weight has increased), decrease in snoring, improvement in depression, cured migraines, improved type 2 diabetes (which I also don't have but seems inevitable if I don't make changes), improved urinary incontinence, and reduced knee and back pain. This could change my life dramatically. 

You may be wondering why I've decided to go this drastic route. I know I was wondering that when Robyn told me she was going to have surgery three years ago. Here's the bottom line: I have tried and failed to lose weight. More accurately, I have tried and succeeded in losing weight but failed to maintain the lifestyle. I have lost hundreds of pounds in the last twenty years, and they always come back because I have failed to fully implement the changes in the long term. 

I am still worried about that, but my new stomach will not allow me to overeat. Robyn tells me that overeating leads to vomiting after surgery, and that quickly puts an end to overeating.

I have been overweight since before I was a year old. I may never get to a place of being thin – and if not, that will be okay – but I want to like my body. I want to walk without creaking joints and pain in my knees and back. I want all those benefits I listed above. I want to shop in the regular section of clothing stores. I want to wear knee boots. 

This post feels like it's starting to ramble, so I'm going to close. I would love your support over the coming weeks and months. I'm expecting the surgery to be at the end of March or the beginning of April.

Surgery was April 6, 2017. Looking for post-surgery updates? See the whole series here.

I have been thinking about bariatric surgery for a long time, but when my doctor suggested I seriously consider it, it became more than just a 'maybe someday' idea. Click through to read why I am going through with it and how it might be right for you, too.

© 2017 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “Why I Have Decided to Have Bariatric Surgery – Gastric Sleeve Surgery”

  1. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    I think you will really be happy with this method Tara. I know it is scary, but you can do it! It is not a cheat, it is not anything like that, it is a tool to HELP you make better choices in food and exercise and life. Your girls will be so happy too with the lighter mom!

    Love you so much and I am here for you always!!!!!!!! {{{{HUGS}}}}

  2. Dear Tara,

    You know, when I was having trouble getting pregnant and was considering using fertility treatments, I had this sense of guilt and failure and also an overwhelming idea that using medical intervention was like ‘playing God.’ I had an underlying belief that somehow, I was supposed to be patient and not intervene and wait for Him to send us our baby. Then one day, I had a thought (from Him??), that when we look at ourselves or others who need corrective devices or medicines, we seem to deem them either perfectly normal or as some sort of significant failure or even sin. Why?? Why do I think that the man I pass on the street who wears glasses or the little child who needs braces and a walker to walk are perfectly beautiful, healthy, ‘good’ people, and yet for myself… or for those dealing with ‘less acceptable’ conditions like addictions, diabetes and mental illness are using this medical intervention as a crutch or an ‘easy way out??’ Why?? What is the difference between correcting for the vision and correcting for the chemicals in the brain? Aren’t they essentially the same situation but just with different areas of our bodies (or lives)? Oh, I get it… I am dealing with part of my body not working like it was created to work, and this treatment will help correct that.

    For me, that was a clear message from God… you’re not doing anything that He disapproves of… you’re not looking to make yourself into something you weren’t meant to be… you’re just using a tool (like those glasses so many other people need) to put things back to the place they are supposed to be so that they will work like they are supposed to work. That’s it.

    As a Christian, I believe we were each created whole and perfect with no disease… and while we do continue to experience many things that are not perfect such as disease while here on Earth, that doesn’t mean it is “His will” or “This is just how God made me”. I believe it is a part of the fall, a sin (not anyone’s fault kind of sin) that we live with for now because we have been given the gift of free will. We get to choose, and unfortunately, there is a price to that choice… we live in a fallen world with sometimes horrible and unfair (temporary) realities. He wants us to be healthy and whole. Each of us. Including you. The fact that you have noticed you are not 100% healthy and whole, then went out and did something about it (various attempts), and now are trying something new because you have not yet been able to remedy the situation is what I would call common sense.

    I have, by the way, had bariatric surgery too. I too, am a mom of two precious girls. I have faced many very difficult setbacks in life and if nothing else, it has given me perspective. Even though I could write to you about my bariatric surgery, but I felt the above story was more specific to your heart right now.

    I understand this is long (I know I ramble), and that you may choose not to post it for that, or other, reasons. I just felt you might like to hear this message. Blessings to you, and grace for your journey.
    ~Susan

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Susan. You are exactly right, and I have told myself that same thing many times over the years (with regard to psychiatric meds especially). I never thought of it in relation to my weight though. I have been overweight since before my first birthday, and I was on a diet in kindergarten. I hope this time I am able to make lifelong changes and keep the weight off. I know it will be difficult, but I am committed. (But I’ve said that before, so…) Still staying hopeful.

      I would love to hear your bariatric surgery story, too, if you are willing to share!

  3. I just started reading your blog back with the last one about the White House trip, but after reading today’s post, I just wanted to write and say that I’m proud of you, and that I’m sure this was a difficult decision to make, but you obviously didn’t make it lightly! You put lots of research into it. You are talking to people and getting counsel. I pray it will be just the jump start you need to help you get to and stay at where you want to be, for the rest of your life. I’m sorry it has been such a struggle for you your entire life, and again, I’m so proud of you, and encouraged by your openness and transparency in sharing your struggle. We all have things we struggle with, but it can be hard to understand each other’s situations, when they can be so varied and different. You did a great job of expressing your struggle, and my heart is touched for you. I pray this surgery is a GREAT success for you!!

  4. Adore your honesty. Best of luck with the whole process. I think the timing of the surgery will help — spring will be arriving will make you want to get outside and walk and enjoy the outdoors. You can do it!

    • I’m hoping so! I was walking on a treadmill today at physical therapy, and I didn’t mind it at all. I could totally do that more often. We live in a neighborhood with very steep hills everywhere, but there is a school nearby with a track where we could walk.

  5. I know someone who just had this done last year. Huge success for her. It is not the easy way out. You do what you feel is right for you. I will be thinking of you. Stay strong you got this!

  6. Bless you, Tara. Praying for you, Dear. May God bless, protect, provide for and grant wisdom to you, your family, & medical staff! You are a treasure in the arms of the Lord Jesus Christ!

  7. Hi Tara,
    I am on your page for the first time. I got here looking at the 101chapter books, and, was drawn to this blog on bariatric surgery.

    I too am significantly overweight, but unlike you, I am older and already have had a hole in my stomach, so I an not a candidate for the surgery.

    You always have God within you, and will walk through this adventure with his love and strength.

    Good for you! Watching your blog and praying for you.
    Sue

  8. Tara I am 62 yrs old and had the sleeve on Jan 10. I wish I had done it years ago. No BP meds no meds for diabetes. As I was reading your story I thought did I write this? Lol. It is not an easy way out it is a tool to help you get healthy.
    You are still young and have a family to love and support you. It is a life changing surgery but you will do great. If you need to ask any questions hopefully I can help you.
    Y

  9. The thought of weight loss failure after bariatric surgery can be distressing. But there are ways to get back on track, and gain control of one’s weight loss endeavors. I have been involved in the bariatric surgery industry for 6 years. And I have a great infographic addressing bariatric surgery failures (approved by a US-registered dietitian). Would you like to feature it on your blog? I would be glad to collaborate with you as infographics are a great way in increasing the visual appeal of written pieces of content.

    Best,
    Ravika

  10. Wow! You truly are an inspiration Tara! Good on you for first of all, making such a life changing decision for yourself and your family and for also sharing your journey with others.
    You always look beautiful and I have the up most respect for all of the hard work you have had to put in!
    I might add that you are absolutely beautiful on the inside too!

  11. Greetings,

    I stumbled across your blog because I have been researching bariatric surgery options for weight loss. Being born in the church, I have been struggling with questions like, “Is this what God wants me to do?”, “I am I showing lack of faith?”. I was able to identify with your story and some of the people who has commented. I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my adulthood and it got worse after I had my two girls. I’ve tried diets, pills, potions…nothing seems to work. I’ve even asked myself “What’s wrong with my brain?”. Knowing that there is a tool available to help me has given me a glimmer of hope that I haven’t had for a while. Thank you for your transparency. I am going to continue to seek God through this process. “In all of my ways acknowledge HIM and HE will direct my path”.

    • I’m glad you stopped by. Like you I’m sure, I have known about bariatric surgery for a long time, but I was never willing to consider it. It took a godly man (my family doctor) speaking into my life to get me to consider it. I believe that was God speaking through him, because God wants better for my life than to be trapped in a huge body that limits me. I think I am living out what God wants for me now, through exercise and strict adherence to a bariatric eating plan. I could not be happier about my body right now even as I continue to lose weight.

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