Alecia had a sleeve gastrectomy in June 2017. She shared her story with us as she celebrated her three year “anniversary” after her surgery. When considering weight loss surgery, it can be helpful to hear from others who have taken the same journey. We caught up with Alecia three years after her sleeve gastrectomy and asked her to share her story.
Many patients have struggled with managing their weight their entire lives – was that your case, too?
I have never been called petite or delicate my entire life. I grew up next to my beautiful older sister who was barely a size 8 on her most bloated day. With a size 16 being a standard for me after the age of 14, I owned my full figure physique and was not insecure or ashamed of my size, but I did worry about the effect it could take on my health in my older age. I did try multiple diets, health coaches, did all types of classes like Zumba and kick boxing and hired personal trainers, but to no avail.
Was there a tipping point or event that made you decide weight loss surgery might be right for you?
I met and fell in love with my husband at my largest (a size 20) at the great age of 32. He loved every inch of me, and I never questioned that, but watching his physic, his agility and seeing how much he enjoyed healthy food really made me pay attention to myself. He was able to jump on the trampoline with the kids with ease while I could barely tie my shoe without getting winded. This was my breaking point — I wanted to enjoy life with him. As much as I enjoyed watching him and our children, I wanted to be part of the fun.
How did your family and friends react when they heard you wanted to have weight loss surgery?
A family member was preparing to have the sleeve gastrectomy when I started my research. My parents supported anything that made me happy and healthy. My husband supported whatever made me happy, healthier and gave us more time together. Overall, I had nothing but positivity surrounding me.
How did you find the MyNewSelf program and Dr. Minkin?
I lived in Decatur, IL when I decided to start my weight loss journey. I contacted my insurance first and got a list of all in-network bariatric surgeons and then asked for the ones that had the best success rates and lower complication rates. Dr. Minkin was the top of the list and after researching I decided the two-hour drive was worth it.
How did weight loss surgery help you with improving nutrition/portion control?
I remember, before I had the sleeve, I could eat so much healthy food and still feel starved. I remember going to bed after eating a “normal portion” of healthy food and I would be in tears with my stomach growling just trying to go to sleep starving. After the sleeve, I know exactly the size of my new stomach and how important it is to put very nutritious food in there. I have been educated on what is best and I listened and have been reaping the benefits since.
You mentioned before surgery you felt “starved” – how were feelings of hunger after surgery? Did you notice any immediate changes? What about now, three years post op?
Before surgery, any time I ate healthy and ate the recommended portion I would feel starved constantly. After surgery I could barely finish a ramekin sized (2 oz) bowl of anything and no longer felt hungry. I had to relearn how to eat and noticed eating or drinking fast wasn’t an option and it made me form better eating habits. As time went on, I could eat more, but I made sure not to overeat and to listen to my body.
Now three years out, I can finish an 8-ounce cup of food at a time and make sure it’s full of nutrition. I have had people ask me if I throw up or get sick and I have to say I haven’t experienced any serious issues. You will feel lousy if you overeat or eat food that stretches your new tool like pasta and rice, etc. My taste buds did change a bit and I now enjoy a lot of veggies that I didn’t enjoy before. Soda isn’t an option and the carbonation will be painful.
Was the support you got from our program team (dietitians, counselors, peer groups) helpful?
Everyone with MyNewSelf was super helpful and encouraging. I never felt judged.
My highest weight was 280 pounds. My lowest weight after surgery was 165. I have stayed consistently between 175-178 pounds for the last three years. The information I was given helped me achieve and maintain the results I have today.
Has your life changed?
Oh, my goodness, yes! I went from a desk job to being in a job where I average 12,000 steps a day. I am a size 8! I have never been in the single digits. I’m in happy tears writing that. I feel delicate for the first time in my life and my confidence is through the roof. I am living my life with my family now and not just observing them. I’m almost 40 and I feel like I’m in my 20’s.
Have your relationships changed?
People ask me a lot if my relationship with my husband has been affected by the surgery or the weight loss. From my experience and watching other friends and couples on their weight loss journey, I have realized that whatever state your relationship is in at the time of your surgery it will be magnified. The surgery doesn’t break your marriage but turning into a better you could make a bad relationship show through. Do this for you and no one else. Thankfully, we have a loving healthy relationship and it has only gotten better.
Many people considering weight loss surgery wonder about excess or loose skin after significant weight loss. What was your experience?
I dropped 60 pounds within the first six months after surgery, so losing that much weight so quickly left me looking very deflated, but only for a few months. I was in my mid 30’s with three births and was surprised I had any elasticity left to be honest. By my one-year anniversary, my body started adjusting – the areas that looked deflated started to fluff up. My arms tightened and I didn’t have any hanging arm skin, my tattoos adjusted with my skin and didn’t become deformed. My tummy apron was the worst, but even at its worst it was better than the huge belly I had prior. I had a deflated chest and some inner thigh lose skin, but nothing that I didn’t expect. I still felt beautiful and proud of my success and had an hourglass figure in my new sheath dresses. I made a deal with myself if I maintained my weight for two years, I would have plastic surgery to remove lose skin and to nip and tuck the areas that needed it.
I had my “mommy makeover” in March 2020. Now four months later, I have never felt more beautiful. I have never in my life worn a bikini and last week I took a picture in one. I still have a few stretch marks and I will never be that 20-year-old girl on the cover of sports illustrated, but I’m perfectly ok with being called a “hot mom.”
Any closing thoughts?
Love yourself! Stay positive and most of all be realistic. If you go back to your old habits, you will go back to your old body. Weight loss surgery is not a cheat or a miracle procedure, it is simply a tool to help you control portions. If you choose to fill your tiny tummy with food that isn’t full of vitamins and nutrition, then don’t be surprised when you don’t lose weight and your hair and skin don’t respond positively to the lack of nutrition. Don’t get comfortable and forget which habits got you the great results. Keep up the hard work and reap the benefits. Happy journey to all of you.