The purpose of the patient spotlight is to motivate and inspire lifestyle changes. Whether it is to start exercising, open a savings account, find a new hobby, or lose weight— the patient spotlight is here to help you take that first step. 

I could not be more proud to feature Jessica in this months spotlight. She has transformed in life in some big ways. Congratulations, Jessica, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. 

Patient Spotlight: Jessica

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My entire life I’ve been the chubby girl, the overweight girl, the shy girl. I never knew what it was like to shop in the non-plus size section of a clothing store.  I didn’t know what it was like to enjoy physical activity.  I didn’t know that food played such a large part in my life until I started my weight loss journey in May 2014.before341

I was the yo-yo dieter. All or nothing—starve myself and exercise incessantly or binge at every meal and sit on my butt all day. Drop 50lbs; gain 60.  I didn’t know moderation.  I remember us as a family gorging ourselves at family dinners. Everyone ate until they were miserable.  This is how I thought you were supposed to eat.  I loved food. I still love food. Food was my crutch in every way. I was happy-I ate. I was sad-I ate. I was bored-I ate.  Food probably was the best friend I ever had-it never let me down.

But in 2010, I met the love of my life. His name was Paul. He saved my life. He was everything I never knew I wanted. He supported me through nursing school. We got married. We had a wonderful life together. We loved our life. We loved socializing which usually included food and alcohol. I was the picture of ‘fat and happy’.

But in 2014, I found myself in a place where my weight peaked at 341lbs-packing on 116lbs over four years. I was constantly out of breath. I avoided activity for fear of what I’d look like, not being able to do it, etc. I missed out on a lot. Paul and I dreamed of traveling but it never happened. Sure money played a part in it but, more so, was the fact that I didn’t think I’d fit in the airplane seat. There were all these things I wanted to do: travel, sky dive, horseback riding, roller-coasters, marathons—none of which I could because I was too heavy, too out of shape. It was at this time that I looked into Gastric Bypass and found a WeightWise: a phenomenal bariatric program that incorporated the use of a dietician, support groups and an exercise program. I was skeptical but I was overwhelming surprised by their program.  It was everything I needed. And so I started my journey. I made dietary changes. I got active. I told all my family and loved ones.

HoodieChangeNovember 14, 2014 was a Wednesday. It was my surgery day and the last day of my life as I knew it. Through my lifestyle changes and lots of hard work, I weighed in at 295lbs. I had successfully reached the 10% loss that my surgeon required of me. My mom and my husband were by my side.

My husband died the same night I had my Gastric Bypass. How cruel this life can be. Paul’s life ended where my new life began.
And so my real journey began…

I have achieved so many goals–short term and long term; small goals and big. Some of the goals I’ve achieved include: indoor skydiving, climbing the stairs of Mt. Rushmore to spread some of my husband’s ashes (completing his 50th state), horseback riding through a vineyard,  riding roller coasters, zip lining, tatem skydiving, completed a 5K and flying without a seat belt extender. Reaching  250lbs was exciting because that’s the cut off weight for so many things. I remember Dr. B telling me that he only expected me to lose another 40lbs–I proved him wrong when I lost another 90lbs!! Reaching ONEderland was wicked exciting and now I weigh less than my stated weight on my driver’s license which is thrilling. Then there’s the ‘omg I’m not a fat girl anymore’’ moments: I no longer shop in the plus size section, I don’t have to worry if I’ll fit in a seat, the arms of chairs don’t cut into my thighs, I don’t take up more than my seat on the shuttle to work, getting an iv on me is easy now, my blood pressure in within normal range, I don’t avoid activities because of physical activity and a million other things.

If I had to give myself some advice before surgery it would be to bring pj’s that button in the front. You’ll be sore and it’s easier to get that on. Bring just regular water; nothing flavored: it’s easier on the tummy and yours tastes will be different post-op..

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I have to work at this everyday. To make sure I stay on track, I have a glass of water every morning as close to when I wake up as possible. This keeps me on track on my hydration for the day and helps curb my appetite. It’s a constant battle but I try really hard to ‘forgive myself’. If I make a bad food choice or I don’t get all my activity in, I try to let it go and get back on track the next meal or next day. That’s a new thing for me because in past times I would have used those moments as reasons to derail. It’s really important to remember that this is YOUR life. It’s not a diet; it’s a forever lifestyle. Weight loss and a healthy lifestyle isn’t a straight line; it’s peaks and valleys.

I can’t say enough good things about WeightWise. It is truly amazing and life changing. The program is all inclusive–a one-stop shop. I love that everything that you need is in one place: the surgeon, physician assistants, patient advocate, dietician, psychologist, exercise physiologist, nutrition store and support group. But what really seals the deal are the people. They care. They care about your success; about you as a person. That makes the difference. From the start, I felt empowered to make the changes I needed to and I felt that I had a team of professionals that were going to help me succeed.

Lauren and Lauren are huge assets to this team and I love their ‘can do anything’ attitude. They think outside the box to help you overcome hurdles. There’s no judgement; just solutions.

I can’t say enough about Tina, my patient advocate, and Melissa Weaver, APRN. They have probably, quite literally, saved my life. When my husband died the day of my surgery and I came in for my follow ups in the following weeks, they were there for me. They were genuinely concerned for me and my state of health; mentally and physically. They made the appropriate referrals and comforted me. As a nurse, I have high standards of care and they surpass all of my expectations. They never rush you. They LISTEN. They care. It’s a big deal. I’m 100% confident that this contributes greatly to the success of their patients.20160322_191822

I’m so thankful for the life I’ve been given back in achieving my weight loss. It constantly astounds me. Prior to my weightloss, I never realized how severely my weight negatively impacted my life, my views, my demeanor. I’m so passionate about losing weight, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and living life to the fullest that I talk to everyone about it. At work, I started a weight loss challenge. Many people talk to me about their struggles and I enjoy helping them find ways to overcome them. I am so excited to talk about their journey and mine. If you would have told me at any prior point in my life that I’d be the one excited about fitness and health and that others would look up to me about my health achievements, I would have laughed at you and called you insane! Surprisingly, a lot of people wanted to hear my story and so I started a blog recently. You can follow my story at www.transformationthroughloss.com

I know there are a lot of skeptics of bariatric surgery out there. There’s this stereotype mentality that it’s easy. It’s not. It’s a tool. You still have to do the work. I have had to completely change my eating habits, my relationship with food, exercise and change my lifestyle. I chose to put myself first. I hated that my weight held me back, so I changed it. With the death of my husband, I took it as an opportunity to live my life to fullest just as he had all of his life.  I just want to tell everyone out there who is struggling with their weight: You CAN do this. You DESERVE to be healthy. And it all starts with just one change. I’m not going to say it’s easy but I will say that it’s worth it.