Karla is a board certified OB/Gyn. She has a supportive husband, children and family. She is an avid golfer, and enjoys downhill skiing, swimming and travel.
It may come as a surprise that as a medical professional I have opted to undergo the adjustable gastric band surgery for weight-loss assistance. The struggle with obesity and weight loss is a very personal experience, and as a physician I am no different.
In fact, other than the knowledge base I have in biochemistry and the witness I am to the effect of obesity on health, I am the same as anyone else who has lived this struggle. Motivation should come from all the negative effects obesity has on our health that I see daily. And of course, doctors are supposed to be the example.
So how did I become obese? Why haven’t I been able to keep the weight off? Finally, what made me choose LAP-BAND® surgery? So how did I become obese? I would like to offer up all the common excuses; my thyroid is low, I have a slow metabolism, it’s genetic. Excuses are all that would be though. I grew up with a focus on food. It was the means for celebration, it was the common time with family, and it became my family's business. My mom started a catering business when I was five years old. I quickly saw how wonderful my mom’s cooking made people feel, how it made people happy. I think at an early age I associated good food with happiness.
I did not have a weight problem until junior high. My older sister and I would walk the mall and point at obese people and say, “I never want to look like that”. Then we would go get ice cream and somewhere in this messed-up world we learned that to avoid becoming fat, you could eat, as long as you either exercised it off, or made it come back up. This started an almost 12-year struggle with overexercising, and bulimia. It would seem I was successful most of the time. When I was swimming competitively, I was fine. It was when the season ended or we took a break that I could not control what I gained and to balance that I delve deeper into being bulimic.
It was a not until medical school that I had a big wake-up call. The professor was talking about bulimics and how they could rupture their esophagus and bleed to death if they continued this habit. I made a choice that day that I would not be bulimic, even if it meant being a little overweight. I was 5‘8" and about 170 pounds, overweight on the BMI chart. I needed help so I joined a popular weight-loss program and I lost 15 pounds by walking and counting my calories. No puking, not even once! Second year of medical school was a lot harder and I hit 185 pounds that year. I again joined the same weight-loss program and managed to stay under 200 pounds until I graduated. I was still happy to not be threatening my life by practicing bulimia.
During my internship I fell in love, got married, and began my OB/Gyn residency, an extremely difficult and sleep-depriving internship. I gained 20 pounds my first year. The second year I rejoined a masters swim team, and the third year I had twins. I gained another 20 pounds in the next two years. I thought as soon as residency is over and I don’t work these ridiculous shifts, the weight will come off. I had no regular exercise, although I did stay active with my husband and two dogs. I joined my former weight-loss program again my senior year and lost 60 pounds! Finally I was going to beat this weight! I graduated, joined a practice, and again got pregnant. Things changed and I was on call every other day the remainder of my pregnancy.
I soon found myself with twins under two. I was overwhelmed at work, and I was pregnant. Not a great combination. After I had the baby, I was well over 200 pounds. I thought I would lose the weight with breast feeding. It didn’t happen. I thought when I moved back to Colorado, the weather would allow me more time for exercise and I would get healthy again.
I did try! My son asked me why I didn’t run anymore. I joined an indoor soccer team, a gym and the same popular weight-loss program again. I even hired a trainer and lost 58 pounds. Unfortunately, I broke my leg and while I kept what I had lost off, I still had a long way to go. One day while golfing, I witnessed a car careen off the road toward the golf course. The driver had literally dropped dead while driving her kids to school. She was 42 and the mirror image of me! A stressed-out mom driving her kids to school and then she was gone. The next week I went to find out more about LAP-BAND® surgery.
How did I decide on LAP-BAND® surgery? It makes sense. I struggle, I lose the weight, but it comes back and then more. It is a never -ending rollercoaster ride that I want to get off. I have seen many patients who were successful with bariatric surgery. I didn’t want to have gastric bypass as I am concerned about the severity of the surgery, risks, and the long term results. The LAP-BAND® is a tool that can help keep me from ever regaining the weight. It can help keep hunger under control. I also choose it as it requires long term follow up and counseling, two aspects of weight loss success that no one should go without. I have done supervised weight loss with the nutritionist and PA at Dr. Johnell’s clinic and I know that they are supportive of my efforts and confident that the adjustable gastric banding surgery will change my life.
Am I scared? Of course I am. I still think I should cancel the surgery and keep trying on my own. Would I be in a different place a year from now? I would be crazy to think this is going to be easy. I am afraid that people, patients, even my family will think of me as a failure because I had bariatric surgery. I am also afraid that I won’t be successful. Self doubt is natural when you have been there before. I am positive that I can use the LAP-BAND®, along with the other tools I have, continued exercise, counseling and healthy eating to be successful. I am excited to find out what I can do, and what kind of example I can be for others who also struggle. I used to think that people with weight problems had no self control. They must be weak, or lazy. I am neither, but still ended up obese. I am hoping to come to a healthy weight and reduce my risk of being that mom dropping dead at 42! I want to be there for my family, and I want to be there for myself!!! I am writing about my journey which itself is a risk. But if it helps even one person make the decision to change their life, then it will be worth it. Wish me luck!!