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Personal Stories


before band surgery
Before Band Surgery

There is a great piece of family lore about the first time my Grandmother changed my diaper. She looked at me and said, “This baby is hippy like the rest of us!”

It seems to me I was overweight from birth. It was definitely within my genetic destiny. My father is from a long line of tall, skinny Norwegians. My mother was an average height, morbidly obese, food loving Italian. Guess which side I took after!

I think the first time I went to Weight Watchers, I was 9 or 10. I never managed to lose more than 10 -15 pounds during any of my several attempts with Weight Watchers. When I was in middle school, I took some aerobics classes at the local Richard Simmons gym. Not only was I easily the youngest person there, but the mom of one of the boys at my school was in my class. As a 13 year old, this was mortifying! Looking back, I’m not sure what I was so worried about. It’s not like I could keep my body size a secret. I distinctly remember starting 8th grade being 5’2” and weighing 145lbs.

I had a great group of friends in high school. We were what you would call the “brains”. So, not only was I fat in high school, I was generally considered the smartest girl at school, and I was right in the middle of 5 years of orthodontic work. Now for the shocking part – I had no boyfriend! I did have dates to the prom and school formals (My friends did have brothers!) By the end of high school I had finished growing to 5’6” and 185lbs.

before lap band
In Las Vegas
Before Band Surgery

About half way through college, I met my husband, my skinny husband. Right before our wedding, I gave Jenny Craig a try. That only lasted about 10 pounds. When my wedding day rolled around, I got married in a size 14 dress and was right at 200lbs.

About 4 years later, my husband (who has never once told me he thought I was fat – and who later as it turned out DID need glasses) and I newly pregnant were sitting in the office of my OB/GYN. The doctor said very nonchalantly, “You seem healthy, but my concern is that you weigh 230 lbs.” I probably should have been concerned for my baby when I heard that, but all I could think about was this doctor just revealed a huge secret to my husband! Again, it wasn’t like the doctor was blowing my cover. It’s hard to hide 230lbs.

The first child was followed by the second child within 2 years. I went to doctor shortly afterwards and weighed in at 245lbs. I thought it wasn’t too bad. I’d only gained a little with my kids. That sounds horrible now, but I was actually proud of it at that time.

On my mother’s side of the family, 3 of my cousins have had gastric bypass. All of them lost weight quickly and have kept it off to this day. The thought of surgery was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to look good and shop in the regular department for clothes. I knew there were health benefits, but my doctors’ appointments always went well – low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and normal blood sugar levels. I thought I was fine.

post lap band
A Contestant on Wheel of Fortune-
Feeling Beautiful!

Two days after my 30th birthday, I went into my mom’s bedroom to check on her. She thought she had the flu for the last few days. She was pretty weak and had finally consented to letting me take her to the doctor’s office. My mom had been morbidly obese my whole life. I never saw her wear a pair of pants! She was my best friend, a fantastic grandma, and only 52. I went in the bedroom and found her dead. I called 911 and tried CPR, but no use. (I didn’t know it then, but for many women, a heart attack presents itself as stomach pain or flu symptoms.)

That was really the turning point for me. Remember the grandma who declared me “hippy” early on? She was also fond of telling me as a child that I was heavier than my mom was at the same age and to look at what became of my mom. (Jewish mom guilt has nothing on the Italian Grandma guilt!)

So fast forward to 2010 – one of my other cousins told me she was thinking of getting the lap band surgery. I had in the past talked with my doctor about it a few times and had decided the lap band would be a better choice for me than gastric bypass. So when my cousin Gina told me of her plans, I jumped on board. I decided to go to the same doctor she had chosen, Dr. Julie Ellner.

I remember being a little apprehensive before my first appointment. I had seen that Dr. Ellner was competent and respected in her field from looking around this website – that wasn’t the source of my apprehension. I had also seen that she was a tall, thin, blond woman. How would this Barbie (minus the gigantic boobs) deal with this fat girl? I don’t react well to condescension or lectures…

Julie Losing Weight After Band Surgery
My First 5K - Losing Weight
After Band Surgery

I was worried for nothing. Dr. Ellner never made me feel like a failure. She explained everything to me about what the surgery would entail. She told me the success would also rely on me following the instructions for pre and post op. At this point, I was ready to break free of a lifetime of being overweight. I was resolved to follow any instructions and move forward.

My highest weight recorded at Dr. Ellner’s office was 251. Part of the pre-surgery regiment is a liquid only diet for a few weeks. By the time I got to the hospital for surgery day, my weight was 241. As for the surgery itself, I remember being wheeled out of the pre-op room. Then I was magically back in the same room (now known as the post-op room) and Dr. Ellner was talking to me. It was all over before I even knew it was going to start!

I spent that day in a hospital room getting back on my feet. I felt pretty good and later that evening, my husband took me home. This was on a Tuesday. I had taken the rest of the week off from work as vacation. I’m glad I did. I was really sore and slow moving the next few days. But by Monday, I was ready to go.

Julie After Lap Band Surgery
Hiking to the Summit
After Band Surgery

After surgery there was a four week liquids only requirement. Mentally, I thought this would be impossible. Especially once Dr. Ellner clarified that melted ice-cream was not considered an appropriate liquid. I took it one day at a time and got through it. For me, it was a big mental adjustment. I didn’t feel hungry, but I missed chewing and swallowing. I just kept telling myself that one day soon, I would be able to eat again. And several weeks after surgery, I had the best tasting refried beans I had ever had! From there, I added in more foods from soft to solid. I also made the adjustment to protein protein protein (at least most of the time).

I remember that it seemed like a long time from my surgery until I actually got my first fill. The lap band adjustment is very quick and fairly painless. Dr. Ellner took a cautious approach and slowly added fluid to my band over months. I do remember one conversation with Dr. Ellner when I was pushing for another fill and Dr. Ellner asked me why I thought I needed more. Once I told her I was still able to finish a Double Double (without the bun) from In-n-Out, she agreed I could use another fill!

For me, the weight didn’t fall off fast. It has been a several year process of getting lap band adjustments, watching what I eat, and getting regular exercise. It’s also been a trial and error of what foods I could eat easily and which ones were not going to work for my lap band. For me, lettuce was a definite “No”. I couldn’t eat it without it getting stuck and coming back up. However, my cousin who had the lap band at the same time, has no problems with it.

Last November, I caught some horrible stomach bug. For 4 days my body forcefully got rid of anything in it. Once I started to feel better, I realized I was having a hard time getting anything down. Even water was barely going down. I had lost 9 pounds in a week. You think I would have run to Dr. Ellner. I probably should have, but I tried to tough it out and get through it. (If I had gained 9 pounds in a week, I probably would have RUN to her.) When my family and coworkers started to tell me I looked drawn and too thin, I decided to get an adjustment.

Dr. Ellner explained to me that my stomach was likely inflamed around the lap band from being sick. If I let it go on too long, my stomach wall could get eroded and that would be a serious situation. So at my last appointment, I had fluid removed from my lap band so my stomach can get a break and heal. That was right before Christmas. Those 9 pounds I lost in a week have found their way back! They also brought a few friends with them.

I’m not panicking. I’m still exercising and watching what I eat, but I’m eating more than I have in months. I know that when I get my lap band adjusted again, I’ll lose that extra weight and zero in on the ideal lap band fill size for me. I know this is the best long term solution for me and my weight management.

As I am writing this about 3 ½ years after my lap band surgery, I have lost 90 pounds (161lbs.) even with the holiday pounds! I would like to lose another 10 – 20 pounds and I know I will.