No one can tell Monica’s story better than herself:
“I was unhappy and ate to cope and ended up 475 lbs. I was physically and mentally miserable and decided that enough was enough. I was getting married and wanted to make the most out of my marriage, my new job and my life in a new city. I had gastric bypass surgery in June 2013 and have lost 290 pounds since (From size 5-6xl shirts and pants to size 16 pants and size M-L shirts). Getting my health in check allowed me have a healthy pregnancy and I gave birth to my son on Christmas 2015.
In June 2016 I had surgery to remove 11 pounds of excess skin in my belly and arms. Now I hope to provide motivation for other users and show that no matter how far you have to go on your journey to health, you CAN do it. I thought I was predestined to be huge and unhappy; boy, was I wrong!! Starting tip: set many little goals and celebrate each and every one; doing so helps from getting discouraged on the potentially long and arduous journey that is self improvement!
Check Out & Follow Monica On Her Instagram Here:
Weight Loss Diet:
Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of specific meals. Variety was and is important to me. It was also important to me that I not deny myself something that I would want because then it becomes a mental roadblock and I would fixate on it. So my general approach to diet was I had my daily calorie count, and I would fill that with delicious and nutritious foods! I did tend to eat a ketogenic diet mostly (high fat, high protein, low carb) because I tend to like how I feel on keto, but I had to give that up when I got pregnant in 2015!
One thing that I’m super strict on it NO SNACKING! A lot of people who aren’t successful after weight loss surgery tend to trick the surgery by “grazing” all day: you aren’t able to eat a lot in one sitting, so you eat just a little bit all day. This is so counterintuitive to me! I want to make the most out of my restrictive aspect of the surgery so I would only eat what I was physically able to at meals.
Weight Loss Workout:
Full disclosure, I am NOT a gym rat! I went on a post-lunch walk every day that was usually right around 3 miles. I also went on post-dinner walk every night with my dog and husband. Coupled with only taking the stairs and volunteering for all the errands around work, I walked about 7 miles every day! I still walk at least 5 miles each day.
Also, I added biking! I LOVE to bike! My commute in Pittsburgh was either a 45 minute bus ride or a 14 minute bike ride. Hello! Obviously I’m gonna bike! I would just bring a change of clothes and switch out in the bathroom once I got to work. I would also run all my weekend errands on my bike. Run to Target? On my bike. Run into the lab? On my bike. If you never have, you’d be totally surprised how efficient biking can be versus public transportation or taking your car!
Before Stats: 30. 5’10”. 475lbs. 65%. | After Stats: 33. 5’10”. 180 lbs. 31%.
What Was Your Diet Like Originally?
Horrible! Mostly just fast food for most meals. Nowadays I’m just blown away by the QUANTITY of food I ate. I would literally eat thousands of kcal per meal. It was just insane how much I ate.
What Made You Start Getting Healthy?
I was physically miserable. I was also planning a wedding. I wanted to be able to enjoy my life and not be in such massive amounts of physical pain. I could barely work because standing at my bench (I’m a biochemist) was so painful on my feet and hips.
You Had RNY Gastric Bypass Surgery. Could You Talk About This, What It Is & Why You Had This Surgery?
I had tried to lose weight and get healthy before. But when you’re so big and have such a massive amount of weight to lose, it can be a daunting and arduous task. I had several times lost ~100 pounds and then lose motivation only to gain all the weight (then some) back. I knew I needed some additional help to keep me on task and successful long-term. So I looked into bariatric surgery. My new job (a postdoc in Pittsburgh, PA) had with it very good medical insurance (a perk of working for a hospital) and a very well-respected bariatric clinic. I had to do 8 months of pre-op prep work until the insurance would approve me.
Prior to surgery I had lost about 50 pounds with help from the clinic’s dietician (and also the threat that insurance would not approve without documented weight loss), so on the day of my surgery I was 422 pounds. I had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass done on June 24, 2013 (one day after my 30th birthday). In this procedure, a small pouch the size of a large egg is partitioned off in the stomach (which provides restriction in terms of how much I can eat). The other portion of the procedure is a malabsorption procedure which bypasses several centimeters of small intestine. I went with this procedure over other options (sleeve, lap band) because it has the best documented long-term results and largest degree of weight loss. I did TONS of research prior to deciding!
How Did You Feel In The Weeks After The Surgery?
Pretty terrible, to be honest. The first weekend home my husband made bacon. We were watching Hell’s Kitchen and smelling the food and seeing with food without being able to eat it and I kinda lost it. Food had been my coping mechanism for so long that I really questioned my decision to have the surgery. I got married three months post-op and couldn’t even eat any of the food at my own wedding! I did have a teeny tiny bite of cake, though! I think my pouch was really restrictive and I’ve maintained eating habits that keep it that way.
What Small Changes Do You Think Had The Biggest Impact?
WALKING! Being close to 500 pounds I was extremely sedentary. But once the weight started coming off and I was able to move more, I incorporated walking as much as possible into my daily life. My work schedule was really limiting into the time I could devote to the gym, so adding in easy exercise everywhere I could did a lot to make it just a part of my daily routine. It was never, “Oh I have to go to the gym to exercise.” It was, “Oh I can get out of the lab for a second to go for a walk!” I think that’s an important mental distinction!
How Did You Stay Motivated?
LOTS of progress pics. Seeing the changes in yourself is so important to staying motivated. I also celebrated every little milestone. When you have a large amount of weight to lose it can be really overwhelming. You need to break it down into small, achievable goals to make it a reality!
Were There Any Particular Tough Points On Your Journey?
Of course! About 4 months post-op I started to notice my legs, feet and hands were becoming numb. I went to my PCP and she did some blood work on me and it turn out, my nutrient levels were SUPER low: the malabsorption aspect of my surgery was a bit too successful! I varied my daily supplements in a bit everything returned to normal. I also started losing my hair big time about 6 months post-op. Even with biotin, it just was coming out in handfuls. Now I look back on it as a sign: I like my short hair WAY more! ☺
What Advice Would You Give Someone Looking To Lose Weight?
DO IT. It is so worth it. I would do it a thousand times over to be able to have the life I have now. I was so miserable and so affected by my size just in every aspect of my life. You will never regret it. I can promise that!
What Are Your Favourite Healthy/Weight Loss Recipes?
I’m kinda obsessed with what I call breakfast cups. Sautee onions, garlic, mushrooms, red peppers, spinach and any other veggie you fancy, split that up in a muffin tin, mix together a whole bunch of eggs with some cream and pour over the veggies, add a sprinkle of cheese and/or bacon to the top and bake at 350*F. Store in an air tight container and pop in the microwave before heading out the door in the morning! You do that once on a Sunday and you have breakfast made for the entire week!
How Do You Feel After Completing Such An Amazing Transformation?
Like a totally different person. I’m not afraid of seats with arms anymore, I don’t have to google places before I go to see how far I might have to walk, people smile at me and are generally so much nicer, I’m not afraid to get out and do things. I never in my life had any desire for children until I lost weight. Once I was able to get healthy, that maternal pull went crazy and I now have the most amazing little boy whom I love and cherish more than anything. I’m better at my job, I’m a more productive scientist, I’m just functioning at such a higher level than I was 292 pounds ago. Back then I feel like I was just existing: just get through the day so you can go home and rest. Now I am LIVING. What can we go explore, what can we do, what can I experience?? It’s amazing. I just want to tell anyone that are simply existing that there is so much more out there for you: there is a life to live and adventures to have and you will NEVER regret making the most of it!
One Thing To Add:
A lot of people who lose a lot of weight are left with visible reminders of the person they were: LOOSE SKIN!! I hated mine with a passion. If it wasn’t for the WLS community on Instagram, I NEVER would have known there was a possibility to get skin removal covered by insurance. I looked into it and sure enough, my insurance covered my panniculectomy!! Also, I knew how badly my arm skin affected my self-image, so I took out a no interest line of credit to get that removed to. $6000 later and 11 pounds of skin removed and I am SO FREAKING STOKED about my skin removal. Granted it is a pretty scary process and finding the right surgeon is SO important, but it was probably the 3rd best decision I’ve ever made (behind marrying my husband and getting the RnY surgery!). People often ask about recovery too, and granted the first two days post-op sucked more than anything I’ve experienced before (and I had a Cesarean!), but I was amazed at how quickly I healed. I was even back to work one-week post-op!!