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Bari-Buddies Allison and Monica Support Each Other Through Weight Loss Journey
By Linda Trainor, RN, BSN
It’s not always easy to completely change your life. But that’s what having weight loss surgery forces a person to do, and most people who have gone through it will tell you that it’s definitely easier when someone is there to support you every step of the way.
“Everything in life is better!” is the collective assertion from Allison Marshall and Monica Watson — friends, work colleagues, and bari-buddies. Each have lost about 90 pounds since having sleeve gastrectomy procedures in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and say the support they have received from their families and each other has been instrumental in their success.
Both ladies admit that even their worst days following weight loss surgery were far superior to their best days before surgery. A shared history of trying various diets without long-lasting results, as well as concerns over high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, eventually led each of them to think about other options.
"I was afraid I was going to die,” says Monica. “I was taking three blood pressure medications, but my blood pressure was never controlled." Having lost her father at the age of 63 to heart trouble, “I was very afraid that this would happen to me," she adds.
Feeling blessed in life with a loving husband, children, family and friends, Monica did not want to sacrifice any of it for weight-related heart problems.
“My family was excited that I was taking charge of my weight,” she says of her decision to have surgery. “My husband was always supportive. He never told me that I looked anything but beautiful, even at my heaviest. I felt I had more of a risk of dying of a heart attack than from having surgery, so to me it was a no-brainer.”
Monica (right) initially had Lap band surgery with Dr. Daniel Jones at BIDMC, which she says worked well for about two years until the band needed to be removed. A year later, she was discussing the gastric sleeve procedure with Dr. Jones.
“I wish I had done that from the beginning, but I love how this has worked out,” Monica says. “Today, my blood pressure is under control and all my health fears have diminished. Dr. Jones did a great job with all of my surgeries and I would do it all over again.”
After experiencing such success, it was Monica who recommended that Allison attend a Weight Loss Surgery Information Session at BIDMC and meet with Dr. Jones. Allison had noticed — and was impressed by — her friend and co-worker’s new behavior towards food, as well as the change in Monica’s physical appearance.
“I would watch Monica eat one half-slice of pizza at lunch and office parties and think, ‘how can she resist another slice of pizza when I can hardly stop after four pieces?’” says Allison. “I wanted to practice the same eating habits and shrink my body to size, but could not do it on my own or on any diet.”
When Monica disclosed to Allison that she had had a sleeve gastrectomy, Allison was fascinated.
“I didn’t know that the sleeve was even an option, I was so excited to learn about it,” Allison says. “My primary care physician had suggested weight loss surgery to me several years before that, but I wasn’t ready. I was not interested in having the gastric bypass or Lap band.”
Allison notes that she re-gained a lot of weight after returning to law school. She remembers frequently snacking on high-carbohydrate foods while studying.
“I was always tired and had no energy,” she says. “I was working full-time and taking four classes.”
Six years after graduating, in late 2012, Allison got married.
“I was horrified after I saw myself in my wedding pictures,” she says. “I guess that was the last straw. A month later, I went to the information session at BIDMC. “I would never have had weight loss surgery if Monica didn’t say what procedure she had done.”
Monica accompanied Allison (right) and her husband to the information session for extra support.
“I was pretty much at my weight loss goal when Ally started talking to me about surgery,” Monica says. “I told her how wonderful she will feel about herself after all is said and done.”
At that session, Dr. Jones explained the three surgical procedures offered at BIDMC. Allison liked the idea of a smaller stomach with restriction from the gastric sleeve, along with the benefit of reduced hunger hormones, called ghrelin, that contribute to a decreased appetite.
“Once I heard about it, the decision was made,” Allison says. “My husband was totally on board from day one. He’s helped me plan meals and let me vent my emotions about my relationship with food. I could not have done any of this without him, my family, and my friends, especially Monica. She understands what I am going through and has been a cheerleader for my success.”
Now, the two friends often share recipes, healthy eating behaviors, and life skills. They consult and commiserate with each other daily, knowing that one of the keys to their mutual success has been a refrain from emotional eating. Their mantra: “No matter what happens, we don't overeat; we don't overeat, no matter what.”
“I advise everyone to find a Bari-Buddy, it is so nice to talk about your feelings, different experiences, and success,” says Allison.
“It’s great to have a comrade when people don’t understand the dynamics of weight loss surgery,” Monica agrees. “People will wonder why we don’t eat more. It’s wonderful having a friend like Ally to talk about our good and bad days. We now have half of a stomach between the two of us!”
Note for patients: There is a Bari-Buddy book in BIDMC's Weight Loss Surgery Clinic; please ask your surgeon, nutritionist or nurse for more information.
All photos courtesy of Allison Marshall and Monica Watson
Above content provided by the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.