Cindy's Homework Pays Off
Cindy lives in Lodi, a growing community situated between Stockton and Sacramento in California's vast Central Valley. A computer specialist, she works for the local school district.
Her battle with her weight is a story that will sound familiar to many. Though she ended up two hundred pounds overweight by the time she was 50 years old, there's no one single factor she can identify to explain how heavy she became. Instead, Cindy tells how a variety of influences came together to push her weight to 336 pounds.
Cindy was raised in a family with weight issues. Two of her siblings were heavy and many members of her parents' families were overweight. "You could definitely say that being overweight runs in my family," Cindy says, "but not to the point that I pushed it!"
Like many other people who struggle with their weight, Cindy also ate for the wrong reasons. "I was an emotional eater," she confesses. She would cope with challenges like her parents' divorce by turning to food for solace. She would continue to give food an inappropriate place in her life for many years.
Then came yo-yo dieting, another common story among men and women who battle obesity. "The struggle began in my teens," she remembers. "My weight went up and down. By my late teens I was 50 pounds overweight, but I lost it." Even with successes like that, the general trend for Cindy's weight was upward.
Before, at a lobster feast. Today, Cindy has a healthier lifestyle.
100 Pounds Gone.and Back
By her mid 30's Cindy was 100 pounds overweight. Again she lost it. She achieved this hard-won accomplishment with the help of a physician-supervised liquid diet. She was slim for about a year, but the weight was destined to come back once more. Cindy remembers that even as the liquid diet was working and the pounds were dropping away, she was obsessed with food. "All I could think about was when the diet would be over and I could eat."
Over the next few years Cindy gained those pounds back and more, until her weight finally topped out at 336. She explains that she didn't seriously consider doing anything about it for several years. "For a long time I thought if you were heavy you could just relax and let yourself go. I found out you can't. You're not physically comfortable, and you're unhappy." Even at her heaviest Cindy wasn't suffering many health issues, but she knew it was a matter of time. Heart problems run in her family and she felt they might eventually catch up with her. More than anything else, she was depressed. "I was tired all the time and just hating my life."
A Different Strategy
The next time Cindy resolved to lose weight, she knew she needed to find a lasting solution. As a school district employee, Cindy belonged to a well-known Northern California insurance program, Kaiser Permanente. She found they would cover gastric bypass surgery if she would commit to the preparation process. Kaiser required classes and counseling before they would schedule the procedure, and Cindy traveled more than 80 miles to San Francisco to take part in the program. The pre-surgery homework took Cindy three years to complete. She had bariatric surgery at the end of 2005.
Although it was a process that required a great deal of patience, Cindy is grateful Kaiser's program included so much preparation work. "Not everyone is successful losing weight even with bariatric surgery," she says. In her case, Cindy feels that the classes and counseling helped her make a critically important, lasting change in her relationship with food. Over the next fifteen months, Cindy lost nearly 200 pounds.
The Final Touches
Thanks to good skin tone, Cindy was much less unhappy with her post-weight loss body than many patients. But she did have some excess skin as she approached her ideal weight. Her abdomen and breasts were saggy, forcing her to find clothes to disguise most of her torso. She couldn't wear any shirts tucked in or any shorter tops that might reveal an unsightly view. "I had always had a flat stomach when I was thin," she says, "and I wanted it back."
In addition to the clothing challenges, Cindy had chronic rashes under her breasts and belly skin. They were uncomfortable, she remembers, and her primary care doctor told her they were infected. Fortunately for Cindy, even though she had new medical insurance by this time, her company would cover a big portion of her plastic surgery in the Stockton area.
Cindy chose to work with Dr. Thomas McNemar, a plastic surgeon with patients from Modesto and Stockton to San Ramon and Walnut Creek. She liked the fact that he is board-certified, knowing this means he has been specifically trained and tested in plastic surgery. And she appreciated how he put her at ease during her consultation. "I felt very comfortable with Dr. McNemar. He was considerate, and he made me feel ok about disrobing. He said, 'Don't worry, I see this all the time.'"
Cindy's New World
Cindy and Dr. McNemar planned a combination body contouring procedure: she would have a full abdominoplasty to remove the excess skin on her stomach and a breast lift. "I considered getting breast implants, but I had always been big breasted. I was a 34DD before plastic surgery, and of course I had been much bigger than that when I was heavy." Cindy says she asked Dr. McNemar to leave as much volume as he could while still achieving a lift, and she's pleased with her new 34C size. Not to mention her newly-smooth torso. "Even my scars are very thin," she comments.
Cindy sailed through plastic surgery and recovery. She recalls she experienced almost no postoperative pain at all. She remembers feeling uncomfortable briefly immediately after surgery, then the pain pumps Dr. McNemar used did their job. She felt almost nothing at all for a few days, then when the pumps were removed she experienced minor discomfort for about a day and a half. She was back to work in two weeks, one full week earlier than planned.
The school district computer whiz no longer hates her life. The classes and counseling she completed to prepare for bariatric surgery have helped her get close to her ideal weight. She says she would still like to lose a few more pounds, but she wears a size 4 or 6 in clothes now. "I'm packed solid!" she laughs.
After bariatric surgery and body contouring with Dr. McNemar, Cindy was ready to try new things. "Now I rock climb, hike and run half marathons. I never did any of that before!" Not only that, Cindy finds ways to be active every day. "I walk with my friends at work, and I always take the stairs now. I haven't taken the elevator since my surgery."
Prepare and Commit
Experienced in trying different ways to lose weight, Cindy encourages others to do their homework and to be strong and dedicated to the choices they make. One thing that bothers her is the way bariatric surgery is sometimes discounted, as if it's the easy way out. "You see ads for products and programs that show people, 'Now half their size, without surgery!'" Bariatric surgery is not the easy way, she asserts, maintaining that you face the same problems no matter which weight loss method you select.
Change is difficult for everyone; Cindy knows this all too well. That's why she advocates preparation and commitment. When you have great support through good insurance programs and a board certified plastic surgeon like Dr. McNemar, all your efforts can really pay off.
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