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Heather Sparkles after Maintaining 100-pound Weight Loss
By Linda Trainor, RN, BSN
When Heather turned 52, she made a conscious decision: her weight and age should not make her doomed to feel “matronly” and she was deserving of vibrant health.
She knew that if she could find a way to lose weight, she would be happier in her life, both physically and emotionally.
And now she is — five years from undergoing gastric bypass surgery at the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Heather says that changing her quality of life was “the best decision I ever made.”
“I had yo-yo dieted for years but in my early 50s, I had trouble losing and maintaining my weight,” she says. “I tried so many diets, and nothing worked any more. Being so overweight was a burden to my knees and joints, and my blood pressure was also very high and not well controlled, even with medication.”
Heather, a longtime resident of Bermuda, says she couldn’t even enjoy all the island paradise has to offer while being 100 pounds overweight. She recalls being plagued with chronic fatigue, general malaise, frequent headaches and sleep trouble.
“I couldn’t even walk very far without significant pain,” she explains. “I was so embarrassed if I sat down in a chair and had a hard time getting up. I had no self-esteem. I felt depressed because my social life was almost non-existent. I was quite big and finding clothing to wear was very difficult.”
Heather will never forget one phone call about clothing: when she contacted her daughter’s boarding school in Canada to inquire about the dress code for a graduation celebration, the woman she spoke with advised Heather to “simply wear a basic summer dress.”
“Trying on clothes was so difficult for me then,” Heather remembers. “And finding an unassuming summer dress? I wanted to say to her, there is no such thing as ‘simple’ when you are wearing a size 22 or 24 dress.”
Her primary care physician made clear to Heather that the extra weight was a tremendous physiological and psychological liability, and suggested that she be screened for weight loss surgery at BIDMC in Boston.
Heather was pleased with the referral, but realized that having surgery was a major decision, as well as a major commitment — since her full-time residence was in Bermuda, she would have to make extra sacrifices, flying to the U.S. for multiple appointments and the surgery itself. She would also have to plan for accommodations in Boston while she recovered from surgery.
“I remember feeling quite lonely prior to leaving Bermuda for my surgery screening,” Heather says, “but all my appointments at BIDMC were scheduled appropriately with Dr. Schneider and the multidisciplinary weight loss surgery team. They truly made me feel like I was part of a warm family.”
Dr. Benjamin Schneider performed Heather’s Roux-en-Y gastric bypass at BIDMC in January 2010. She has since lost more than 100 pounds, working hard to keep the weight off over the last five (nearly six) years, and recognizes how considerably her life has changed.
“Once I reached my goal weight, I went on a shopping spree, and it was great to fit into a size 2 after wearing a size 22,” Heather says. “I was on cloud nine when I finally fit into a bikini. I think I bought every single one there was on the island of Bermuda, I was overjoyed!
“The best thing is I am physically active and have an active social life,” she adds. “I am doing things that I would have never done when I was overweight.”
Heather says she now has a lot more energy and walks freely without pain. Her headaches have dissipated, and she no longer has trouble sleeping. She has joined running and yoga clubs, and is also learning to sail. Additionally, Heather volunteers as a medic with St. Johns Ambulance and as a lecture coordinator with the Bermuda Underwater Educational Institute. Her self-esteem is soaring.
“I try to remain active. My life is not focused around food and food activities any longer,” she says. “When I was carrying around a lot of extra weight, my inner self was very hard to see — even though I weighed a lot, I always felt sort of invisible. Now people see the real me.”
Heather remains diligent about maintenance — she takes her vitamins as directed by her nutritionist, exercises daily, and is faithful to her diet and follow-up appointments.
“I enjoy stepping off the small island of Bermuda and coming to the big island of the U.S. to see Dr. Schneider and the weight loss surgery team at BIDMC for my yearly appointments,” she says.
Despite her success and happiness, Heather is mindful that not only did weight loss surgery help her change her body, but it changed her emotionally. There were definitely some adjustments along the way.
“First I felt a bit giddy from all the attention and freedom from losing 100 pounds,” she notes. “But I had to get used to my new body, and that took time. After five years I am now very comfortable with all areas of my life. Even though I will never forget my struggles with weight, it’s now in the distant past. I am finally free to be myself, to learn, to grow and to become the best that I can be. Life is good!”
Photos courtesy of Heather C.
Above content provided by the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.