Ambrassadors, Health & Wellness, Inner Beauty

amBRAssador Melissa’s Weight Loss Journey and Ultimate Life-Changing Decision

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Happy 2018! This month, as we dust off our gym memberships with renewed enthusiasm, we’re hearing from four of our Bare Necessities expert amBRAssadors about their very real, very different paths to health and wellness. First up is Melissa, who underwent weight loss surgery after a lifetime of struggling with food and body image. Since the procedure last June, she’s already lost over 80 pounds, but she’s just beginning to get to know her new self.

THE BACKSTORY
“Even when I was 7 years old, I was overweight. We have a family history—we’re the short, chubby Italians, not the willowy, Mediterranean Italians. I didn’t make the best food choices 100 percent of the time, but I was an active kid: color guard, cheerleading, theater, softball. I don’t remember the last time I was under 200 pounds. I’m 5’3” and have lived most of my adult life between 230 and 250. At my heaviest, I was 315 pounds.

In college, I lost weight with LA Weight Loss but gained it back. After college, I gained and lost 40 pounds with Weight Watchers. In my mid-twenties, I went to a nutritionist and lost and gained 60 pounds before going back on Weight Watchers. I met my husband at my thinnest and lost and gained again for our wedding. I did the gym and personal trainer thing without much success: I’d always bottom out around 200 pounds, stay there for a few months, then watch the scale creep back up.

My clothing choices were limited, but I didn’t notice my physical limitations until the winter of 2016, when I had a hard time putting on my snow boots. Carrying stuff and showering became challenging. I was always winded and tired.”

THE SURGERY
“Finally, in February 2016, I knew I needed to make some hard decisions. I had been married for almost two years at that point, and we were thinking we wanted to start a family, but I wasn’t even sure if I could.

I had thought about surgery before, but my doctor wanted me to try other things first. Appetite suppressants made me nauseous and jittery. I lost weight with the nutritionist, but we knew it would be a full-time job to keep the weight off. Surgery is not the easy way out and it’s not a quick fix; it’s a tool to help your health, no different than heart surgery.

I did my research on three possible procedures: a gastric sleeve, a gastric bypass and a duodenal switch, kind of a hybrid of the other two. We decided on the duodenal switch, which involves intestinal rerouting and a reduction of the size of the stomach, because it had the best success for my age, weight and history.

The first thing that happened was a review of my insurance. I had six months of nutritionist visits, weigh-ins, EKGs and scans, bloodwork, a cardiologist visit, an endoscopy, all that pre-op stuff.

To this day, I’m a little weirded out by how un-scared I was. I had a one-night hospital stay. The worst part about the whole procedure was when they took my blood pressure before putting me under…that hurt!”

THE RECOVERY
“I went home the next day and only used over-the-counter pain relievers. The gas bubbles from surgery are awful, and the surgical drain was not glamorous—I thought I dislodged it at one point and panicked.

I wouldn’t have survived this whole thing without my husband, who was incredible. We didn’t talk about it all that much, actually. Before the surgery, my mom had an accident, my grandma passed away…it was just one thing after another. All of that consumed our lives from winter to spring. So I think he was a little nervous; he told me I didn’t have to do it. I said, ‘I think it’s time. I have to do it.’

When I slept upright in an armchair for four nights, he slept on the couch. He emptied my drain for me. If I ate only Jell-O one day, he ate only Jell-O, too. He ended up losing 50 pounds!

I was out of work for four weeks. In customer service, you need to be “on,” and I just wasn’t feeling like myself until then.”

WHAT CHANGED
“I have to drink 64 ounces of fluids a day. I don’t want to chance malabsorption: Because there’s less room in my stomach and less of my intestinal tract to pass through, there’s also less time and space for vitamins and minerals to be absorbed. Even certain medications, like oral contraception or antibiotics, may not be as effective. That’s why, long-term, I need to take daily supplements.

Now, I watch what I eat more, because I have to and because I should. I can eat anything; there are no can’ts. It’s about portion control. I didn’t go into this intending to never eat a carb again. That’s not me. If I never hit 120 pounds and get to enjoy pasta, I’m okay with that. I just don’t make the whole one-pound box for two people anymore.

It’s not a free-for-all, though; I have to be diligent. It’s one bite of cake, not two slices. My stomach holds less but can stretch out eventually. You can tell when you’re stuffed because you feel it practically up to your neck. I’ve gotten creative with cooking, and I’m eating more real foods that are less processed. I actually like zucchini noodles! And I’ve found 101 uses for cauliflower.

In terms of working out, I like Pilates, but I need to up my cardio game to burn fat. I sit all day for work. Yes, I look at the scale every day, but I try not to pay attention to it. I do it for focus and accountability.

I’m starting to notice more loose skin now, and I’m also losing my hair. Your body just goes into shock. I’m wearing the clothes I bought for that ‘some day when I lose the weight.’ My bra size went from a 42DD to a 36DDD. My breasts have changed more than my hips! Never could’ve predicted that. As an amBRAssador, I recommended my new favorite bras to myself. One of them is the Maidenform Love the Lift Custom Lift Demi T-Shirt Bra, which fits well and pushes me up nicely.

My husband and I are going to Aruba for my 35th birthday. My goal for the new year is to hit under 200. I’m very close. Eventually, I would like to be 160…or 130! We’ll see what happens. Regardless, my life has been changed.”

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Brooke Glassberg
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, calligraphy, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.
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2 Comments

  • Reply Michele A Chaisson January 5, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Had Gastric Bypass November 23, 2015. My starting weight was 360 lbs. i am now 185 lbs after being obese since childhood. The toll on my body from being overweight is diabetes and high blood pressure. I recently found out i have NASH,non alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.from years of being obese. I am still morphing into who i am.No looking back only forward.My new story is just beginning, i am 60 yrs old and full of life.

    • Reply Bare it All January 5, 2018 at 10:38 am

      We are all works in progress. Wishing you the very best on your own journey, Michele. Happy New Year!

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