Susan Jackson Coaches Herself Through Her Weight Loss Journey

An Interview with Linda Trainor, RN, BSN

BIDMC Weight Loss Surgery Patient Susan Jackson - After PhotoQ: What was your life like prior to weight loss surgery, emotionally & physically?

A: Emotionally, I knew I couldn't do it on my own and keep it off. I was off antidepressants and could feel the hopelessness coming back. I did not want to go back on medication. I was also diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome, was on the brink of adult onset diabetes, had liver fibrosis, had poly-cystic ovaries. I felt awful. I couldn't keep up with my nieces and nephews. I knew if I did nothing, my parents would be burying me. My knees were bone on bone, and they wouldn't do the surgery until I lost weight. I hated shopping for clothes; I would wear the same outfits over and over. And I never took pictures of myself before the surgery because I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

Q: Did you ever experience weight bias?

A: Yes, I was also teased by teenagers as an adult. When I brought it to their boss, his response was, "I didn't see it, so I can't do anything about it." That made me feel worthless, like my feelings didn't matter. My word wasn't good enough. I felt like he was telling me, "what do you expect, you are fat."

Q: Why did you decide to have weight loss surgery?

A: I was frustrated with my inability to lose weight. I would lose it, then it would come back. I could never keep it off. I needed help.

Q: Did you try other diets prior to having weight loss surgery?

A: Yes, I tried everything. I was always told that I was "big boned" and "husky" when I was a kid. I had a bout with depression in the early 90's and was put on antidepressants… my weight ballooned! I started looking into weight loss surgery and heard a lot of very good things about Dr. Daniel Jones. I had LAP Band surgery and lost a total of 40 pounds. I decided to have revisional surgery in 2019 with the gastric sleeve and lost an additional 60 pounds.

Q: How was your experience as an inpatient and outpatient?

A: Amazing! I finally felt like my feelings mattered, someone listened to me. Everyone is kind and always has encouraging words. The journey at the BIDMC Weight Loss Surgery Center has given me the encouragement to become a health coach. I really understand what people go through emotionally and physically.

Q: What did your family and friends think about you having weight loss surgery?

A: Everyone was very encouraging and supportive. They wanted me to be happy and healthy.

Q: How has your life changed following weight loss surgery?

A: My confidence is so much better. I do have those days where my inner dialogue takes over, but I can get myself out of it with what I have learned from being a health coach and meditation teacher. I am able to do so many more things physically. I had my knees replaced, so I can walk long distances now. I usually will try and walk 3-4 miles three times per week outside, weather permitting. My energy level is through the roof and people say I never stop!

Q: Do you still have food cravings?

A: Absolutely! They especially come out when I am stressed or having a tough day. I am very aware when I emotionally eat and what triggers it… like being quarantined for 3 months. I have gained weight but I am working on taking it off. These are very stressful times for me. I am a small business owner and this pandemic has hit my business hard. I'm learning to redirect my emotions constructively.

Q: How do you cope?

A: I acknowledge the emotion, accept it and then let it go. I meditate. I go for walks outside. I try not to punish myself, since in the past, it has led to me to emotionally eat. If you can train yourself to sit and think of the "why" of your negative or bad choice, you can break the cycle of the negative loop. Trying to decode the why is one of the hardest things to do, but it can be done with support.

Q: How has this improved you as a coach?

A: I feel blessed that I have experienced all the things, good and bad, that I have with my weight loss journey. I can sympathize with my clients. I know about failure, I know about success. I truly feel as if this is what I am supposed to do... I really would love to work with bariatric patients. I understand what they're going through. I'm still on the journey and learn every day from my mistakes and triumphs. It may not make me an expert, but I get it.

Q: What advice would you give others about having weight loss surgery?

A: Make sure that you maintain connection with like-minded individuals. Having a person, like a health coach, to help you through the tough days, celebrate with you through the successful days, to hold you accountable for your decisions... is very important. Sometimes you just need to be reminded about how you can get back on track, and that you are only human. Have someone who you can turn to that will help you during those times. Those are the times when you need to be reminded of your "why" for having the surgery, to be led back to where you want to be.