Katie’s Story

My story is one many of my clients recognize. It starts in 2004 with a decision to have bariatric surgery after years of morbid obesity and misery.

My story is one many of my clients recognize. It starts in 2004 with a decision to have bariatric surgery after years of morbid obesity and misery.

katie in hospital bed
I was 44 when I made that courageous decision.

Going into surgery, I knew I’d lose some weight. I also knew getting to goal wasn’t a given. I knew bariatric surgery wasn’t a cure.

I knew this because when I was 24, I made the courageous decision to get sober. This decision came after I had spent 11 years drinking to numb my feelings (following my parents’ unexpected divorce when I was a freshman in high school).

Getting sober was the hardest thing I’d ever done – and there were no guarantees. I was taught that more people relapse than stay sober and that the same person will drink again.

So, I had to change everything about myself. I changed who I socialized with and how I socialized. I changed where I gathered with people and what we did together. I even changed what I thought, felt, and did habitually.

To do this, I required a lot of support – and I would not have stayed sober without it.

My top weight was 331 pounds

But alcohol wasn’t my only addiction. I had binge eating disorder and was addicted to sugar, too.

When I was 12, my mother put me on my first diet – the all-protein diet. This confused me. I had never even heard of dieting.

For the next few decades, I did the “Yo-Yo.” I gained and lost 100s of pounds. Eventually, I had tried and failed at practically every diet known to man.

I didn’t want to be fat. I just couldn’t lose weight and keep it off. I didn’t understand that 98% of the time, diets make a person gain weight in the long run, so I blamed myself.

My top weight was 331 pounds. I was in the “super morbidly obese” BMI category. When I made the decision to have gastric-bypass surgery, I had hit bottom with my emotional eating and my weight.

We all have memories of our pain. I remember sitting in my chair in the living room with my bladder aching, because that pain was more tolerable than the physical agony of hoisting myself up and walking down the hall to the bathroom. I was so disabled by my weight I couldn’t even make it to the end of our short driveway to get the mail out of the box.

We lived in a split-level house and I went downstairs and back up only once a day. (I planned accordingly, collecting what I needed to take with me in a shoulder bag.) I’d go downstairs and back up one step at a time, with both hands on the rail. It was excruciating.

If I needed something from downstairs that I couldn’t put off until my daily trek, I asked my “gophers” to get things for me. My husband and son were always kind about it. They would go-for anything I needed.

We all have memories of our pain. I remember sitting in my chair in the living room with my bladder aching, because that pain was more tolerable than the physical agony of hoisting myself up and walking down the hall to the bathroom. I was so disabled by my weight I couldn’t even make it to the end of our short driveway to get the mail out of the box.

We lived in a split-level house and I went downstairs and back up only once a day. (I planned accordingly, collecting what I needed to take with me in a shoulder bag.) I’d go downstairs and back up one step at a time, with both hands on the rail. It was excruciating.

If I needed something from downstairs that I couldn’t put off until my daily trek, I asked my “gophers” to get things for me. My husband and son were always kind about it. They would go-for anything I needed.

But I wanted to be able to do it myself.

I was desperate. By the year 2000, I had become so depressed and hopeless, I was hospitalized for a month and placed in an eating-disorder treatment program. I was one of only two people there with a binge-eating diagnosis. All the other women suffered with anorexia, bulimia, or both. There was a world of pain in that program.

When I returned home, I stayed on the antidepressant they had prescribed, but my overeating and misery continued. After trying and failing to lose weight yet again, finally I decided to have gastric bypass surgery.

A friend exclaimed, “That’s so extreme! You don’t need surgery. What if you just started walking 10 minutes a day?”

We all know how well that works.

Even if it wouldn’t cure me, I was convinced the surgery would put my obesity into long-term remission. I applied all the lessons I had learned from my many years of staying sober, which really paid off.

I followed all of my surgeon’s guidelines and lost more than 100 pounds in my first 6 months after surgery.

I enjoyed my bariatric surgery honeymoon immensely.

I became much more able bodied. I went for daily walks – first to the end of my driveway, and soon I was walking for miles. Early on, I remember thinking I would never overeat again.

Our garage was on the lower level of our house. Before my weight loss surgery, if got in the car and then I realized I had forgotten my glasses, my husband would get out of the car and go upstairs to get them for me.

A few months after my surgery, we had gotten into the car and true to form, I had forgotten my glasses. “Oops! I’ll be right back,” I grinned. I ran into the house, trotted up the stairs, got my glasses, and trotted back down.

When I entered the garage again, my husband was standing by the car smiling. As I got closer, I could see a hint of tears in his eyes. He took both my hands and squeezed them, looked intensely into my eyes, and said, “You’re finally free.”

I became much more able bodied. I went for daily walks – first to the end of my driveway, and soon I was walking for miles. Early on, I remember thinking I would never overeat again.

Our garage was on the lower level of our house. Before my weight loss surgery, if got in the car and then I realized I had forgotten my glasses, my husband would get out of the car and go upstairs to get them for me.

A few months after my surgery, we had gotten into the car and true to form, I had forgotten my glasses. “Oops! I’ll be right back,” I grinned. I ran into the house, trotted up the stairs, got my glasses, and trotted back down.

When I entered the garage again, my husband was standing by the car smiling. As I got closer, I could see a hint of tears in his eyes. He took both my hands and squeezed them, looked intensely into my eyes, and said, “You’re finally free.”

But I knew I wasn’t.

I knew I was obsessing about food and beginning to bargain. I would eat a treat and skip a meal to compensate. I ate a candy bar while hiding in my bedroom closet and had to lie down for an hour, because it made me sick. The next day, I did it again. I was not following my plan and I was rationalizing to myself.

Thankfully, as I was curled up sick in my bed, a small voice in the back of my mind whispered the same person will become obese again.

The second I heard it, I knew that voice was right. I was eating compulsively while rationalizing my behavior, just like I always had. And it wasn’t working.

So, I made a commitment to myself that from then on I would do different. And I have.

My bariatric-surgery journey has not been a straight line. Many of life’s punches have knocked me down since my surgery. But they have not knocked me out.

I always get up as soon as I realize I’m down. And that’s how it goes. I fall down. I get up. Then, I fall down again. Then, I get up again. And again. And again. And again.

Nelson Mandela said, “Don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” I love that perspective and I have said it to myself many times over the years, because I judge myself more than anyone else.

Despite being gloriously imperfect, I have maintained a significant weight loss – with notable ups and downs, of course. I’ve learned that 100% of the time, despite my best efforts, perfection eludes me – because I’m human.

All of my clients are human, too.

But being human is no reason to give up. There always is something that can help you on your bariatric surgery journey. There are always roadblocks to get around, too.

Often, those roadblocks are inaccurate beliefs. My clients often say things like: “I have to bake. I can’t disappoint my grandkids.” “I only can lose weight if I diet.” “I don’t have time to go see my doctor. I am the only one who can take care of my mother.” “I can’t control my eating.” “I have to stay late, because my boss needs me.” “I can’t handle my feelings.”

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years in my work with bariatric surgery women. One of the biggest obstacles to WLS success is a closed mind. The enemies of lasting well-being are “I can,” and “I can’t,” when they’re being used as rationalizations.

A closed mind limits your possibilities and, in my opinion, can rob you of your joy.

It was important for me to accept I didn’t have all the answers, I didn’t know what would work for me and I didn’t know how to find peace with food, my body, and the scale. I had to accept help, take risks, and experiment to find what would work for me.

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years in my work with bariatric surgery women. One of the biggest obstacles to bariatric surgery success is a closed mind. The enemies of lasting well-being are the reasons we give ourselves about why we can’t change.

It was important for me to accept I didn’t have all the answers, I didn’t know what would work for me and I didn’t know how to find peace with food, my body, and the scale. I had to accept help, take risks, experiment to find what works for me – and keep an open mind.

I also had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because change and discomfort go hand in hand.

To say I’m passionate about my work is an understatement.

I’m fascinated with it, enthusiastic about it, and driven by it. And I love the women it’s brought into my life. These courageous women are the best part.

One of my clients calls me a black-belt master of personal transformation. Maybe so. But, if I wanted to stay sober and overcome obesity, I really had no choice.

I’d love to be your “guide on the side” as you travel your own bariatric surgery journey. I’d love to support you as you get up after a fall. I’d love to spare you frustration and fear, and help you live into a life you never could have imagined.

Keep getting up!

Katie Jay

MSW, Certified Life and Wellness Coach