NextGEN Story No. 271
A Woman in Crisis
It wasn’t the judgmental looks from strangers that finally got to Jennifer Roberts. It wasn’t even having to shop for clothes at special stores.
Instead, what ultimately spurred Jennifer to act was the diabetes-related amputation and renal failure of two people close to her. At five feet three inches tall and 256 pounds, Jennifer was suffering from some of the more common results of severe obesity, including diabetes. Deeply shaken by the reality of the disease, Jennifer was forced to take a candid look at her future.
“This was a roadmap for what my life would look like,” she concluded. With her diabetes, high blood pressure and borderline high cholesterol, Jennifer knew she had to do something.
Taking the Plunge
Days later, the 35-year-old attended a weight-loss surgery seminar at Methodist Hospital conducted by surgeons Bengt Pehrsson, MD, Troy LaMar, MD, and Asok Doraiswamy, MD. Just eight weeks after that, on December 17, 2007, Jennifer underwent bariatric surgery at Methodist Hospital.
Dr. LaMar performed a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, a procedure in which a small pouch is created at the top of the stomach to significantly reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold. It is the most common gastric bypass operation in the U.S.
“The entire experience at Methodist Hospital was just so pleasurable, from the moment I checked in at the hospital,” Jennifer said. “Being an overweight person going in for this type of surgery, there are stigmas that go with the process. But everyone at the hospital was so supportive. That made it so much more comfortable because I didn’t feel like I was out there by myself.”
Jennifer’s recovery went well, and just two days after surgery, she and her daughter, Marissa, attended a Christmas party at Marissa’s preschool.
A Lifelong Battle
A self-confessed emotional eater, Jennifer had battled her weight throughout her entire life.
“Anytime life got stressful, I would turn to food,” she said.
Ice cream and potato chips were among her favorites. In 2000, Jennifer was diagnosed with type II diabetes, but after she became pregnant with Marissa, she worked hard to get healthy. Her diabetes subsided.
After Marissa arrived, however, Jennifer slipped back into her old lifestyle—fueled in part by the stress of taking on three foster children just four months after Marissa was born.
“Healthy eating went out the door,” she said, “because it was too expensive to buy healthier foods. And there was not a lot of time to plan and prepare meals. As with every time I had lost weight in the past, life got in the way.”
Even at her heaviest, Jennifer was not self-conscious about her appearance.
“I was an active big person,” she said. “I had no body image issues. I was OK with wearing a bathing suit.”
But as Marissa grew from infant to toddler to preschooler, Jennifer became increasingly aware that she was missing out on the opportunity to fully participate in her daughter’s life. She would just watch as her husband, Brett, ran and played with Marissa.
After Jennifer’s weight loss surgery, however, everything changed for her and her family.
A New Life Emerges
Jennifer describes weight-loss surgery as “flipping a switch.”
“All of a sudden, the things I used to live for, I don’t anymore,” she said. “The saying ‘Eat to live, not live to eat’ is really true for me now. When I go to a party, my first thought is no longer, ‘What is there to eat?’”
Exercise is still not Jennifer’s favorite thing to do, but she does it anyhow. She still enjoys some potato chips now and then, but in much smaller portions than she used to consume. She has learned to rethink her entire relationship with eating. Food is a means to an end, not the end itself.
The dramatic change in Jennifer’s life has influenced her entire family. Brett has lost 30 pounds, and Marissa is growing up understanding about healthy eating habits.
Jennifer recalled a conversation in the car with four-year-old Marissa a few days before her surgery. Trying to put the operation in terms that Marissa could understand, Jennifer told her, “This way Mommy’s going to be healthy, and she can do more things with you.”
Marissa, who has been involved in cheerleading since she was 2-1/2 years old, immediately asked, “Mommy, will you be able to do a cartwheel?”
“Well, I guess I can try,” Jennifer replied.
“Oh, I can teach you, Mommy!” Marissa said enthusiastically, then asked, “Can you do a forward roll?
Playing along, Jennifer answered, “Yes, if you teach me.”
Overwhelmed by the thought of the fun she was going to have with her mom, Marissa sat back in her seat and shouted, “Yes!”
“I realized in that moment that weight-loss surgery was the best gift I could have given her,” Jennifer said.
Instead of just watching as Marissa took part in tumbling classes, Jennifer could now actually participate with her daughter. As the dramatic weight loss and exercise transformed Jennifer’s body, she did something she never thought she would be able to do: She joined a cheerleading squad made up of parents in Marissa’s cheerleading group.
Through that experience, Jennifer recently had a breakthrough moment in her new life when she was chosen to be the “flyer”—the person who gets lifted or thrown into the air for a cheerleading stunt.
“I can’t even explain the feeling when they asked, ‘Jennifer, do you want to fly?’” she said. “Honestly, I haven’t been in my thinner body long enough for my brain to remember that I’m thinner.”
But she did it. Jennifer soared through the air—symbolic of the freedom she’s found through weight-loss surgery.
“Never in my entire life would I have dreamed that I would be in this place,” she said of her experience as a flyer. “The feeling was like ‘Wow! I’ve arrived!’”
From the day she chose to have weight-loss surgery, Jennifer has never looked back. Since her surgery, she has lost 120 pounds. Her diabetes is a distant memory, and her blood pressure is back to normal. She is unequivocal about her choice to have the surgery.
“This is the single best decision I could have made in my entire life,” she said, “for me and for my family.”
Attend a free seminar to learn if bariatric surgery at Methodist Hospital is right for you. Call (888) 8NEXTGEN.