Let’s jump in to her story:
✋ At what moment did you realize you HAD to lose weight?
I spent years thinking I HAD to lose weight. I tried various diets and workout routines. Most would work for several months, I’d lose 30-40 lbs, then I would stall, get discouraged, and then quit, gaining all the weight back. This was a vicious cycle that I wanted to break.
Finally, in the summer of 2018, I had that “I need to get serious about this” moment. My late husband and I owned a flight school, and I helped perform the maintenance and inspections on the aircraft. There were certain parts that I couldn’t do because I couldn’t physically fit in the small spaces in the aircraft. It was our dream to own and operate this business, and my size was holding us back. So I decided to talk to my Doctor about bariatric (weight loss) surgery.
1️⃣ What was the first step you took towards transforming your body?
The first step was talking to my doctor about my struggles and desire to end the cycle of lose-gain I’d been on for years. I was referred to a dietitian for nutritional counseling and to a bariatric surgeon to discuss weight loss surgery options.
Both of those things went hand-in-hand. There’s a misconception that weight loss surgery is a quick fix or the easy way out. I can assure you, it is not. You still have to learn out how to eat right—how to eat to fuel your body—proper nutrition to keep from becoming malnourished, and proper portion sizes. The surgery is just a tool to help with that last part.
🤔 Can you talk a little bit more about why you opted for weight loss surgery, and how that decision was made?
I spent years struggling with my weight. I tried many diet and fitness programs, and after a few months of each, my weight loss would stall and I would get discouraged and give up. Finally, in the summer of 2018, I had had enough.
The moment I realized I needed medical intervention was embarrassing. I was on vacation, and didn’t have the arm strength to lift my obese body back into a small boat after I’d gotten out to swim. It took 3 guys to help me back in the boat. The rest of the vacation, I wouldn’t get out of the boat to swim. My weight was keeping me from doing something I enjoyed, and I didn’t want that kind of life. I made the appointment with my doctor to discuss options the very next week.
Knowing that I had struggled for a long time (even with the help of a registered dietitian), he was supportive and encouraging of my desire to consult a bariatric surgeon.
Q: Having gone through it yourself, do you think there are any common misconceptions about weight loss surgery?
I think many people view bariatric surgery as the easy way out. It is not.
You still have to learn to eat healthy and exercise. You’re still doing what anyone else does to lose weight (diet and exercise), you just have a tool to remind you not to over eat. For some people, they even lose all desire to eat… so eating becomes a chore to them. I did not get that side effect. I still love food. So I have to be super diligent about weighting/measuring my foods, eating my protein first, and limiting carbs.
So the surgery is not a magic fix. It still takes will power and discipline to be successful. And to help with that, reputable surgeons will require psychiatric evaluations/therapy and nutritional counselling. They want to make sure you have all the tools you need, and the hurdles are cleared for you to be successful in your weight loss journey. .
💻 What apps/websites/resources did you use?
MyFitnessPal was great for tracking calories. Once I had the weight loss surgery, I used Baritastic to track calories, nutrients, and body measurements. And my Apple Watch has been key in keeping me on track with calorie burn during workouts.
🍳 What kind of adjustments did you make to your diet?
Focusing on eating my protein first really helps keep me on track. Once I eat my protein, I have very little room for anything else, except a small serving of vegetables or fruit. Carbs are still good for you, but things like pasta, rice, and bread fill up my small stomach and I’m not able to eat the rest of the nutrients I need. So I generally avoid those things, but I do splurge on occasion.
🥕 What were your go-to staple foods that helped you achieve your goals?
My go-to breakfast is deli meat and cheese roll-ups. Gets my protein in, and is easy to grab and eat on my way to work. And at night, when that snack craving hits, a small serving of walnuts does the trick to satisfy the craving and keep me tied over till breakfast.
💊 Did you take any supplements along the way? If yes, how useful were they for you? If not, why not?
With any bariatric surgery you will be on supplements for life. I take calcium citrate and multivitamins, just to ensure I’m not missing out on any important nutrients that I can’t get in my diet.
💪 Can you talk a little bit about what you found to work the best in terms of physical exercise? What worked best for you and why?
I found that I love strength training! I love lifting weights. That feeling of getting stronger and each week lifting heavier weights, seeing the muscle building and definition really motivates me. And having a personal trainer to be there to encourage and motivate has been one of the best investments in this whole journey.
🧾 What was the best advice you received (or read) along the way?
Everyone’s journey is different. Stop comparing your successes and failures to others. Everybody loses weight at a different rate, even if you’re eating the exact same foods and doing the exact same workouts. If you need something to compare yourself to, look back to your “before”… see how far you’ve come from who you were. That’s the real measure of progress.
🥵 What was the hardest part about your journey? How did you overcome it?
Six weeks before my scheduled weight loss surgery date, my husband died in a freak accident. I could have spiraled out of control with my diet. I could have quit the bariatric program and cancelled my surgery. After all, I was doing this so we could have a certain future together, and now suddenly, that future was gone. But I didn’t quit.
I decided that I had put a lot into the process and wanted to continue for myself. Every milestone—from going through with the surgery, to losing 100 lbs, to lifting a new personal record, to completing the skin removal surgeries—I know he would be proud of me and my success, and that I have stuck with it.
💡 Was there an ‘aha’ moment where everything began to click?
Honestly, I can’t pinpoint any one defining moment like that. Making lots of little changes gradually that turn into a lifestyle has kept me on this journey.
😎 How has your life changed since the day you took your before photo?
I feel happier and more confident now. I no longer relegate myself to being the funny fat friend in groups. I’m just the funny friend now.
I also prioritize myself more. Taking care of me is important—getting to the gym and making healthy meals takes priority over other social commitments. It’s easy to get so caught up in life that we forget to take care of ourselves. But remind yourself daily that you are worth it, and this journey is worth it.
❤ Based on your experience, what advice would you give to our readers who are starting off as the ‘old’ you?
Only you can decide when you are ready to say “I need to change.” And when you are ready, tell everybody—your family, your friends, your doctors… you are going to need a team to support and encourage you along the way. And if they know you are serious, they will be there for you, cheering on your success, and supporting when you have failures (yep, you’ll have those too).
There is no shame in getting medical help, whether just nutritional counseling, or mental counseling, or even bariatric surgery. Your doctors can help you find the right resources for what you need. And finally, don’t give up. You’re going to stall, you’re going to get frustrated, but continue to do what is best for future you.
YOU ARE WORTH IT!
Thanks for the interview, April!