My Journey to Healthy: Heather’s Gastric Sleeve Journey (Part 1)

I wasn’t an overweight child. My mom was a single mom and money was tight so there wasn’t junk food in the house. We couldn’t afford it, so it wasn’t there. Going with my grandparents to get ice cream or to split a soda, was always a treat, but never was it an excess. I didn’t use food for comfort, it was solely for nutrition. 

When I was 14 I moved to Florida to live with my day, and junk food was always in the house. My Dad was a snacker and that habit rubbed off on me. I love snacks to this day! I could eat snacks in place of a meal, oh okay, I have eaten snacks as meals! Loving snacks was not what made me gain weight because I was still eating good food at mealtime. 

As with many teens, it was an awkward time, and for me, food became my comfort. Instead of enjoying snacks after school or with my dad on the weekends, I ate when I was sad, when I was anxious, and when I was bored. It got out of hand quickly. 

As I gained weight my self-esteem and self-worth plummeted. After I was over 200 pounds, I really didn’t try to be healthy anymore. I didn’t care enough about myself to try. This mentality started a long journey for me and my mental health. As I struggled through failed relationships, trauma, and just life in general I steadily gained weight. I told myself that I could be a “big girl” and be healthy, and it worked for a long time. 

In 1994, I got married, and my dress was size 22. It bothered me, but not enough to change my habits. My husband was overweight as well, and since he didn’t care that I was fat, I didn’t see any reason to change, and  I didn’t care about myself enough to change. 

Right after we married we started trying to get pregnant. It was difficult, to say the least. After a year of trying and not succeeding to get pregnant, we went to fertility doctors. I started fertility drugs right away, and with the increase in hormones, my weight increased as well. I was okay with that because we were going to get pregnant and have a baby and I could lose the weight after the baby was born. But the pregnancy never came, and with each fertility cycle, I gained more weight.

After a year or so of fertility treatments, I developed endometriosis, and it wasn’t a mild case. The scar tissue that resulted from the fertility treatments was very bad. Endometriosis treatments began and again, more hormones led to more weight gain. It was an ongoing battle, and my eating habits were horrible. Fast food replaced homecooked meals, and drinking soda all day added to the extra pounds.

In 1997, after unsuccessful treatment of endometriosis, I had no other option but to have a hysterectomy. I was crushed. The one thing only a woman could do, have a child, I couldn’t do anymore. For my health, the hysterectomy was necessary, but I slipped into depression, deep depression. Food was more my comfort. I could sit at one sitting and eat a whole strawberry pic and still convince myself that just because I was overweight didn’t mean I was unhealthy. It was a horrible cycle. 

As I gained weight, anxiety, depression, and food became my constant companions. Even in this state I was telling myself I was just overweight, but I was still healthy. It was a terrible mental game, that would never have a winner. I was the one losing, and it wasn’t weight that I lost. I lost how I was. I lost the joy in life. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t get pregnant. As I was telling myself I could be overweight and healthy, I kept gaining weight. I hit 318 pounds, and again, I was devastated, but not enough to address the issues that had got me to 318 pounds. I was no longer obese, I was considered morbidly obese, but even with that label, I didn’t care. 

I did try and lose weight, but with each program I started I didn’t stick with and ultimately failed. I would usually gain more weight after each failed program. Weight Watchers, LA Weight Loss, Nutrisystem, Optfast, Baby Food diet, Weigh Down Workshop, you name a program and I’ve probably tried it. But I wasn’t addressing the root of the problem. 

Unhealthy Slaps me in the Face

In 2010, at 40 years old, I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes. I was devastated. At that time my blood sugars weren’t terrible. My highs would be 170-180, and that was manageable with medication. But I didn’t add the other elements of treatment to take care of Diabetes. I didn’t exercise, I didn’t eat well, and that only added to my weight problem. I managed to stay at 318, and not gain additional weight, but I wasn’t losing weight and eating well, and that led to my blood sugars getting higher. I was dealing with blood sugars in the 300s at this point. 

A Big Life Change

We adopted 3 children from foster care, and in 2012 we moved to Arizona. When we moved I did lose some weight. I got down to 280 and was really proud of that accomplishment. I vowed to never be over 300 pounds again. I knew if I gained over 300 I would just give up completely. I joined a gym, and I started Beachbody’s program 21 Day Fix. I did really well on the program and with my exercise plan. I lost 20 pounds, and then I injured my neck at the gym and I couldn’t keep participating. Because of my injury, I just gave up on everything. I had never stuck with a weight loss program, why should I start now? That 20 pounds came back quick, and then 20 more. In spite of my personal vow, I weighed 312 pounds. 

My diabetes was out of control It was more common for me to have blood sugars in the 400s than it was to have blood sugars in the 200s. My doctors upped my medications and added new ones. I had severe reactions to many of them. At one of the last med changes, my doctor prescribed Ozempic. This was my wonder drug! My blood sugars were in control all the way down to 130-150, and I was losing weight. Yes, I was on a lot of medication, but I was losing weight! 

Six months after starting Ozempic I weight 260 again! I was thrilled. I was eating better, and I was encouraged by my weight loss. Then my health insurance stopped covering Ozempic. The cash price was $1800 a month, and there was no way we could afford this. I spiraled downward fast and regained the weight just as fast. I had new health conditions, as well as old ones that were getting worse, and not better. 

I began to research options for weight loss. Everything I found was expensive and not covered by insurance. Money was already tight and I couldn’t take from our budget for a weight loss program that may or may not help. Even as I researched I still wasn’t considering weight loss surgery. I didn’t want it, I knew I wasn’t ready to make the commitment it required. I just knew I was unhealthy and morbidly obese and something had to be done. 

Turning Point

Two of my three children have Autism, and my oldest, my son, is more severe than my daughter. Although he is high functioning for some things we know that in all probability he will not live on his own. As that reality set in I knew that I had to fight to get healthy. I had to lose weight, I had to change how I ate because my child needs me as long as I can be here. I know I won’t live forever, but I want to give him all the years I possibly can before I’m gone. 

The only thing I knew that would accomplish my weight loss goal was weight loss surgery. My journey to healthier me was just beginning. 

Sleeve surgery date: waiting for insurance approval

Highest Weight: 318lbs

Current Weight: 278lbs

Goal weight: 200lbs

Tuck and Sleeve My Journey To Healthy Heather's Gastric Sleeve Journey

You can follow Heather on Instagram @Heatherreneesleeved2022

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