Life After Lap-Band Removal - A Real-Life Success Story!
I don’t usually do this - in fact, I’ve never done this.
I’ve never put a ‘testimonial’ post on my site.
But towards the end of last year, I received the following piece that I instantly knew I had to share with you guys.
Tanya is a member of my Healthy Habits Club, and her story is incredibly relatable - and inspiring.
Tanya had struggled for decades with her weight - trying everything under the sun to shed pounds. Eventually, she turned to Lap-band surgery - a procedure where a device is wrapped around the upper part of the stomach, to physically shrink it in size. Essentially, it forces a person to eat less.
The story Tanya so bravely shares below details her decision to have the Lap band procedure - and ultimately have it removed. She is now thriving and maintaining her weight loss without any artificial devices, or restrictive diets.
She is living proof that healthy, sustainable weight loss is possible - and enjoyable! - and I feel privileged that she has chosen to share her story with me, and all of us.
Thank-you, Tanya! Go, go, go - you’ve GOT this.
The Story of The Band
How it all started
Almost 11 years ago today, a good friend of mine asked me to accompany her to a weight loss surgery seminar. She was afraid and embarrassed to go alone, so I thought - heck, why not. She was seriously considering surgery and I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about it and wondered what it was all about. So we went.
The seminar was held in a hospital auditorium and it was packed. Mostly women, with a few men scattered here and there. The speaker was a doctor who was going to discuss the different methods of bariatric surgery, but focus primarily on something called a Laparoscopic Gastric Band, or Lap Band.
The Cold Hard Truth
As I walked into this seminar, my intention was simply to keep a friend company, but I was intrigued by this Lap Band thing. True, I was not 100 pounds overweight, but the surgeon was telling people it was a great solution for people who have some health problems due to their weight (my aching knees) and that insurance would likely cover the procedure. What dawned on me was that the women in the room were not much larger than myself. It was true that at 32 years old, I was the heaviest I had ever been. When I looked in the mirror, what I wanted to know was - when exactly did I start wearing a fat suit?
So my friend ended up starting the process of insurance approval for the lap band procedure. You know what? I decided to move ahead with it too. Although it was technically a surgery, it was adjustable and reversible. I would never have considered something like a gastric bypass - well, they told me I was not “big enough” for that procedure, but this…this Lap Band could be the answer to my weight problem.
I was not always overweight. But something happened in my 15th year and I was never able to get control over my weight from that point on. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about my weight and just wished for that magic potion that could cure me of the battle so I could move on with my life. I tried everything: Weight Watchers, Medifast, Slim Fast, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, The Hollywood Juice Diet and then did them all over again. I would lose some weight and hold onto it for about five minutes before putting it back on - and then some. So I turned to medically supervised diets - diet pills, diet shots. Same result. But I kept thinking - if only there was something that would FORCE me to eat less….
Joining the Band
As luck would have it, several months later, I was approved by my insurance company to have the Lap Band surgery. The procedure took place a couple of weeks later. There were no complications and I was on my way. At my very first weigh in - two weeks after the surgery, I was down 14 pounds. I was beyond excited. Nevermind that I could barely get liquids down and that my hair was starting to fall out. The weight continued to drop off me without any effort. A year later, I had lost 70 pounds. I had become a before/after success.
It wasn’t all that
Ask me what I was eating and whether or not I was exercising. I lost 70 pounds by mainly eating junk and I barely exercised. I may have been at a perfect weight, but I looked and felt like crap. I was tired all the time, I was anemic, my periods were acting crazy, my body was basically mush, and I was unable to eat healthy foods easily. The Lap Band is a restrictive procedure, so basically - my stomach was cinched so that I could easily down a milk shake or a tub of Kool Whip, but I struggled to eat a piece of grilled fish or a fresh vegetable.
Long Story Short
This was my life for 10 years. Eating junky junk. Skipping breakfast because the band was so tight in the morning I couldn’t even get coffee down. Leaving the dinner table repeatedly to “get rid” of something that refused to go down. (insert sound of cat coughing up hair ball). Finally being able to eat at 10 pm and munching on chips and other things that I could eat easily. I ended up asking the doctor to empty all the fluid out of the band so that I could eat like a normal person. This is the adjustable feature of the band. There is a silicone band around your stomach connected by 3 feet of tubing to a medical access port in your abdomen. When they inject the saline into the port, the band tightens. When they empty the band, you have no restriction.
Letting go of the crutch
Except that I still had restriction with the band empty. And I was miserable. How funny that I actually felt and looked healthier before I had this band! I wanted it out, but was afraid I would regain the weight I had kept off. I made an appointment with my surgeon and told him I was very uncomfortable and he asked me “do you want me to take it out?”. I hesitated a moment and said “Yes, yes, I think so”. Well, as luck would have it, my insurance company gave me the go ahead and surgery was scheduled. I looked up everything I could about life after band removal and one thing I kept coming across made me think about the possibility of my body not liking a piece of silicone in there. Could it be that this was the reason why I felt like crap? Aside from eating the junk, I mean.
I won’t lie - I was worried about going back to wearing a fat suit, but I had to be honest with myself. Really really REALLY honest. I had always said that I tried EVERYTHING to lose weight. But I didn’t. I didn’t really. I tried almost every diet out there. Except for the one where you eat healthy and move your body.
Leaving the Band
November 22, 2013. I had my lap band removed. In the surgical waiting room, I was surrounded by 4 morbidly obese women. They were there to have gastric bypass surgery. I eavesdropped for a while - they were excited. They had tried EVERYTHING to lose weight, but with the surgery - they would finally be successful. Oh honey. I have been there.
I woke up from surgery smiling. That’s what the nurse tells me. Possibly from the mighty fine pharmaceuticals, but also because I felt free. Free from the band, but also (this is cheesy I know), free from myself. It was ME. I was the one holding myself back. I looked at catalogs full of fit and healthy women and wondered “why can’t that be me?”. But it can. It always could have been. I started to understand why I started on an unhealthy path. Anyone who says that food is not an addiction just does.not.know. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I drink moderately. But food is a problem for me. Mainly because I can’t just not eat, you know? Everyone has to eat!
It Takes A Village
What now? Well, I have to recover, for one thing. My surgeon is on board with meeting with me once a month to monitor my weight. I need to be accountable to someone other than myself. That’s just how I am. And I think he also wants to know how I am doing. Shortly after surgery, a support group was formed and many of us have kept in touch. I am the first one to have my band removed. But I am also the only one that did not regain all the weight.
I am also working with a health coach. Maybe you’ve heard of her. Nicole Burley. It was a total fluke that she came into my life when she did. I didn’t imagine I would ever sign up for health coaching, but I did and here I am and I get it. I finally get it. Nicole has helped me to get a hold of the reason why I eat and to ask me to give it some thought and be honest with myself. She is a large part of my decision to leave the band. I feel better already than I have in YEARS. The truth is that the answer - the solution was inside me all this time. I’ve learned that I have to take accountability for every single bite I take and every move I don’t make. It’s never too late to start and I am never behind. And I can start again with my very next bite. I got this.