The decision to undergo bariatric surgery is life-changing. Here, women share their experience, including their struggles and victories.
“I have learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Bariatric surgery helped me find myself again,” says Kristi Gonzales.
When Kristi underwent bariatric surgery with Marc A. Neff, MD, last winter, she had tried just about everything she could to lose weight. She was ready for a change.
Bariatric surgeons at Jefferson Health have performed thousands of procedures, helping people – from their young adult to retirement years – reclaim their health. Many echo a similar sentiment to Kristi’s.
We sat down with Kristi and two other women from South Jersey, Kim Faust and Aida Soto, who also underwent this life-changing weight loss surgery with Dr. Neff. Learn about the motivations, struggles, and victories they’ve faced and what they had to say about why bariatric surgery is a tool for success.
Why bariatric surgery?
Kristi: I knew it was an option for a while, as I had friends who had it done, but I kept putting it off. I joined weight loss groups, tried diet pills – both of which were unsustainable and frustrating. I thought I did everything right, but my weight kept increasing and my health, declining. I was over it. Then I met Dr. Neff, and he assured me it wasn’t anything I did right or wrong; I simply needed help.
Kim: I tried every diet “under the sun” and wasn’t having any success. I heard about Dr. Neff from my cousin, and when I went to one of his seminars, it completely “sealed the deal.” All I could think about was my kids and how getting healthy for them would change our lives for the better. It would allow me to play with them without running out of breath, which I can do now!
Aida: I was referred by my cardiologist because I had very bad hypertension (high blood pressure) that kept getting worse, among other issues, including asthma and sleep apnea. I work a high-stress job, and I wasn’t functioning as well as I needed to be. On top of this, I was at risk for stroke, which both my parents passed away from. I had to start being more cautious about my health.
How have your health and lifestyle changed?
Aida – more than 80 pounds lost since November 2020: The health benefits have made me feel like I did when I was 32. I don’t need any more medications or my CPAP machine at night. My blood pressure is back to normal. I’ve learned how to eat right; there’s food out there that is healthy but can still satisfy you. I don’t even crave junk food anymore. I can even play and keep up with my grandkids. I never imagined feeling this good again.
Kristi – more than 70 pounds lost since January 2021: I’m off all my medications, including what I took for my mental health, which is huge. My dietitian taught me that I can still go out and live my life while making the right choices about what to eat. I’m very lucky that my family has rallied around me. We all eat much healthier at home and having that team mentality has been incredibly helpful.
Kim – more than 90 pounds lost since November 2020: I used to have severe migraines almost every day. Since surgery, I’ve only had a couple of mild ones. We’re not entirely sure why, however, I do have a pseudo brain tumor, and I was told that weight loss could help relieve its effects. My dietitian has helped me make countless small changes, but it all feels so normal and routine now. One of the biggest things is knowing that it’s okay to satisfy your cravings. You don’t have to say no; you just shouldn’t go overboard. This has helped me curb my stress-eating significantly.
What is your biggest non-scale victory?
Aida: Developing a routine and sticking to it. I exercise in the morning and make sure I walk at least 10,000 steps a day. I also stay mindful of what I eat.
Kim: I was wearing size 3X scrubs to work, and now I’m in a medium, which feels phenomenal.
Kristi: Believing in myself. Having self-confidence. It’s so easy to become lost, sad, and frustrated when you fall into an endless cycle of weight gain. I’m so proud of myself for getting through this.
What advice do you have for others?
Kim: Don’t let anyone hold you back. If you’re seriously considering bariatric surgery, don’t let somebody tell you it’s the “easy way out.” It’s not. It’s a diet you can’t break. It takes constant determination. I never actually realized how determined I could be before this journey.
Aida: Mentally prepare to make changes, such as healthy eating physical activity, and lead a different lifestyle. You can’t go back to your old habits. I’m glad I’ve put in the work. This surgery gave me a new opportunity for life, and I feel like a brand-new person. I can’t thank Dr. Neff enough for giving me my life back.
Kristi: Talk to your surgeon, dietitian, and the staff when you have questions. Let that define your decisions. They can give you all the knowledge you need; it’s up to you if you want to follow it.