My weight story starts back when I was 16, weighing close to 135 pounds, and got a job working at none other than Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A always offers a free meal each working shift and I pretty much worked 4-5 days a week, so I was having fried food (definitely more than a serving) that many times a week. It became a habit over the next two years I worked there that I ate dinner each night. At first, I wasn’t packing on much weight and all seemed fine, maybe a pound here and there, but it seemed by the end of my time there I gained nearly 50 pounds. I was aware of the gain but thought once I stopped working there it would come off. After all, I was still young and we can lose weight so much easier when we are young.
After that job I moved on to working at Super Target in the food court and got right back into the same habit except with Taco Bell instead of Chick-Fil-A. Paying no attention to my weight I just kept eating. I would eat when I was stressed, happy, sad, overwhelmed; you name a feeling and I found food to comfort it. It was about then I was starting to eat for comfort. I was unhappy because I had started to gain weight, I was not getting dates, I was lonely, and over all lost with the person I was so I just turned to food. Lucky for me the food was free so it didn’t even impact my income so I had no reason to stop doing what I was doing. By the end of my employment at the Super T I had packed on another 30 lbs. which pushed me over the 200 lb. mark for the first time ever. That was devastating! But it didn’t stop me because no matter how hard I tried to get back on the right track I just kept turning to the one thing that was always there for me…. Food.
I turned 21 by this time and decided it was time to move out with some friends and see what life is like living on my own. I decided to start drinking and smoking and really started making bad decision in general but with all the partying I was doing I didn’t have money for much food and I dropped a bunch of weight. Dropping the weight brought a lot of dates but I still had no self-esteem so I turned to men and more partying to make me feel better but of course that wasn’t working as I still felt crappy about myself but at least I had lost a good 40 lbs. and that’s all that mattered right.
Eventually I had to move back home because I just couldn’t keep living that lifestyle and that’s when the real food obsession started. I would eat dinner with my parents and then go out and have more food because I would tell myself I was hungry, mostly just to get out of the house that I thought I was so unhappy at. Really, I was still just unhappy with the person I was and food was again my go to.
Finally, I was lucky enough to meet the man of my dreams who loved me regardless of my size which was right around 200 lbs. We got married and 1 ½ years later had our first daughter. I lost weight when I was pregnant but at that point, I was close to 225 lbs. The first year of our daughter’s life was very rough with major colic that lasted months with non-stop crying. I was suffering major post-partum depression and food was my go-to. I would eat 2-foot-long subway sandwiches and then a few hours later get some tacos or cheeseburgers. The only thing that seemed to make my life happy was food. Soon after the colic calmed down, she got fierce ear infections that would not go away but we had to play the insurance game to get tubes so she was crying a lot once again. By the end of the first year, I had gained 20 lbs.
Once we got into the groove of life with a child and all her issues had calmed, I finally felt like she could be in day care and I could find a job which would maybe make me happy. I started working at HAFB and was really enjoying it there but I was still depressed and found food to be my only escape. I would got eat at a Mexican restaurant at least twice a week and then we would eat out most other days because I was too depressed to have the motivation to cook or do much of anything. I was busy trying to care for my daughter that was very serious and very hard to care for even though she had finally moved on from her issues during the first year. All in all, I would say I was just emotionally miserable, unhappy with the person I was.
I got pregnant with my second daughter and terrified to experience what I had with my first. This time I talked with the doctor about my 1st experience and we took precautions so it went much smoother but it was now 2 children and seemed overwhelming and once again turned to food.
Over the next 13 years I discovered my oldest has Asperger’s, my husband has had cancer twice, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I have had some chronic health issues that have left me with some major joint problems. Add that to just normal everyday life stresses and food is the only place I could turn. Throughout all those years I had packed on nearly 100 lbs. bringing my highest weight to 313 lbs. which Brings me to……
January 1st 2021…. 303 lbs.
I made the decision that day I was taking my life back. I had been to the doctor a few days earlier to get not great news regarding my health. My A1C was 10.7. My blood sugar was in the high 280s. My liver was in the beginning stages of fatty liver disease and my kidneys were starting to show proteins in them regularly. I was only 42 and I was starting to see all these organs effected by diabetes. I couldn’t believe at my age these things were already happening. I needed to get it under control. I also knew that in April of 2022 I was going on a school trip with my oldest daughter and with the weight I was at I was not going to be able to stay up with the tour group and I would be miserable.
On Jan 1 I spoke with my husband about having this life changing surgery and that I had tried everything and he knew it. We have been trying diet after diet since we got married. Weight watchers, jenny craig, nutri system, personal trainers, nutritionists, medifast/optavia, and any new fad diet. Nothing worked. I couldn’t stick with anything for longer than a month. Things would work for a bit then I would just quit.
The first day I could I called the insurance to find out what I needed to do to get the insurance to cover my surgery, after all I met the obesity criteria for surgery but I needed to check the boxes to get it paid for. It required 4 Dr. visits, a visit with a nutritionist, and a psychological evaluation and then I could finally get approved. I thought by May I’d be ready to go. I am so thankful for the mental evaluation because it discovered that I was ADHD and had been undiagnosed for my entire life. That made a lot of sense why I could not stick to anything including diets. This diagnosis also allowed for me to get into a therapist to help me with my depression and anxiety to help me be as successful as possible. It helped me realize I do deserve to have a better and happy life.
I finally got approved at the end of April and started my appts with the surgeon where my weight was around 290 lbs. but I had to wait because of Covid there was a long long list waiting for surgery. I was so frustrated because I had worked so hard to get ready and I didn’t want to lose the courage, after all I had lost it once before about 5 years earlier.
Over the next 4 months and after getting medicated for my ADHD I stayed on track and kept my surgery in mind. I finally got the call and got scheduled. I was ready! August 18th couldn’t come soon enough! I was scared but excited for my new life. It was going to be great! I was going to be happy and it was going to be the best change I had ever made. Surgery day came….Duodenal Switch was the surgery I chose… Surgery weight 279.
The doctor said my surgery went smooth as could be…. Almost boring! Ha ha. But then I woke up and I felt like hell. I kept throwing up and was in so much pain! Oh, the pain was almost unbearable. The nurses did their best to help me with the vomiting and pain but that just made me sleep. Day 2 after surgery was no better. I could get up and walk but I could not get anything down. I just thought what did I do! The heartburn was horrible! Water was making me breath fire so I couldn’t even think about trying broth or Jello. I could get up and walk around but that’s it. Day 3 and the hospital seemed like they couldn’t wait to get me out even though I was still in major pain and unable to even drink so off to home I went and it was horrible. I was in such bad shape. So much pain and barely consuming any water and nothing else. I was so worried about getting dehydrated and terrified to get constipated I refused to take any pain pills.
The first week I was in complete hell! I was weak, nauseous, in pain and scared that this was my life now. I was even scared to call the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to be a baby or bother them with something that was completely normal but my husband convinced me to call. Finally, I did and the nurse called in vitamins and an IV infusion which helped in such a huge way just to give me some energy. I still had a lot of nausea but at least I wasn’t so tired. Eating was still not going well but at least my mouth was finally not so dry.
For the next five weeks I was in and out of the IV therapy for more fluids because I just could not eat and there was still pain. Even drinking was hard on me. I was to the point where I hated trying to eat. I despised food. It just was not worth it anymore to try to eat. I couldn’t even tolerate any vitamins. It was finally time for my 6 week follow up and the doctor decided to do a scope and see if there was something going on that was causing so many issues for me. Turns out there was a stitch that never dissolved and tied my stomach together. That was a quick simple fix but still took time to recover and learn to eat again. I am still learning and it’s been 4 months total.
Over the last 4 months since surgery, it’s been a slow miserable recovery. I still hate to eat but I have also learned that I had to break up with food in a way similar to a break up with a boyfriend. One you still need to remain friends with because you have common interests but not obsessed with anymore. I had to learn new coping mechanisms to get me through these miserable months. Afterall, normally when I am miserable, I turned to food so what now? Well with the help of my therapist we discovered other ways to cope by journaling, coloring in adult coloring books, taking a walk, and just simply trying to mentally work through some the thoughts and feelings I am having regarding food. I am currently down 95 lbs. for the year and 73 lbs. since surgery. I still can’t quite wrap my brain around the physical person I am becoming but over time I will get there. Have I reached the point where I am happy, I made this decision? Not yet but am I getting there? Yes, I think I am. I am slowly eating better each day. I am learning what I can eat and what makes me feel good and not so good. I am still learning what happens when you eat too fast and that I need to SLOW DOWN. I am still learning that you can’t drink before you eat or you can’t eat. My motto since the beginning of the year has been I can do hard things and boy have I been doing HARD things!
I have loved experiencing non scale victories (NSV) like crossing my legs, not using a seatbelt extender and having extra seatbelt on the airplanes. I can actually see extra seat in stadiums when I sit down. I walked around New York City and Minneapolis for days without getting winded or completely drenched in sweat. I recently started wearing XL clothes which I was wearing 3XL and 24 pants. All these changes are amazing so I am working hard at focusing on all these new things and not the things that are still continuing to be rough for me.
That is my story to this point….. I look forward to what more is coming!
— Mindi L.
Surgeon: Dr. Nicholas J. Paulk
Surgery Date: August 18th, 2021
Surgery Performed: Duodenal Switch
TWL: 73 (so far)
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1160 East 3900 South, Suite 4100
SLC, UT 84124