Note: This post was originally written between 2012-2014 before I began to have problems with the band that led to significant weight gain. I’m leaving this post here as a record of how I felt at the time. But I will be chronicling me new weight loss journey with the gastric sleeve in blog posts dated from 4/2017 forward.

There are lots of different opinions out there about weight loss surgery. Some people see it as a cop-out or an easy way out. After having lived through it and continuing to live with the effects of the surgery every day for the past seven years I can honestly say that it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It was also, probably, the best decision I’ve ever made for myself in my life (other than choosing to marry my husband). Yes, in some ways it was a miracle in that it helped me with losing the weight. But, it was also a grueling, non-stop, process which forced me to dramatically change how I interact with food and to reflect on the role of food in my life.

The surgery I had was the Adjustable Gastric Band (AKA, LapBand). It’s a ring that is inflated with saline that is placed around the stomach turning the stomach into something of an hour glass with only a small portion on top. The band is inflated like an inner tube and it forces the food you eat to sit up in the top of the stomach until it slowly trickles through the small, funnel like, opening that allows the food into the rest of the stomach.

The reason it’s set up like this is because there is a nerve at the top of the stomach called the vagus nerve whose job it is to tell the brain when your stomach is full. It’s like a shut off value. When the food reaches the top of your stomach it triggers the vagus nerve which tells your brain you are full and you stop eating. With the food you eat temporarily trapped up at the top of your stomach it causes a relatively small amount of food to trigger the vagus nerve. You stop eating after 4 oz of chicken and 1/2 cup of vegetables instead of after you’ve eaten an entire chicken. Get the picture?

It does not cut the stomach organ, intestines, or any other internal organ. Your entire anatomy is left intact which means it’s reversible and the patient has no issues with malabsorption of nutrients.

What’s tricky about the LapBand surgery is that the apparatus works beautifully when you are eating whole foods like chicken, apples, broccoli, or a turkey burger. It works terribly when you are eating popcorn, chips, ice cream, candy, or drinking Gatorade and milkshakes. Junk food, with it’s high fat content, it’s processed and refined additives manage to slide right through the band seemingly without notice. I discovered this with horror when I went to the movies after about six months with the band and ate far more popcorn than I would have thought possible. I realized this as well when I saw a co-worker who’d had her surgery the same month I did not lose weight and wonder about the lack of results while drinking a 32 oz bottle of Gatorade everyday with lunch.

The LapBand has a lot of advantages, but it’s no guarantee  You have to commit to the diet afterwards, stick with the plan, or else you can learn pretty fast how to cheat the system and it won’t work at all.

I opted for this surgery for a couple of important reasons:

  1. I knew I could stick to the food plan because I hadn’t gotten fat eating junk food and I generally prefer whole foods to processed ones.
  2. I was drawn to the idea of reversibility if it turned out not to work.
  3. I knew I was planning to have a second child and didn’t want to face a pregnancy worrying about my smaller stomach and bypassed intestines causing any lack of nutrients getting to the fetus if I’d chosen Gastric Bypass surgery.

In the end, I know I opted for the right surgery because my results have been off the charts. What I mean by that is that 8 years post-op show an average weight loss of 50-80% of excess weight. 7 years post op I’ve lost what I consider to be 90% of my excess weight and have a normal BMI for the first time in my adult life.

It hasn’t been easy. I lost 90 pounds the first year and then gained 5 pounds of muscle once I took up running. I was a size six and happy as a clam resting easy at 158.5 pounds and staying there for the next 18 months. I felt like I was finally free and clear of all that weight worries that had plagued me my whole life.

However, at 2 years post-op my husband and I decided to have another child and I got pregnant with my son. I did really well for the first few months gaining just the right amount of weight. But at around month four the pressure of the growing fetus on my stomach was making the band tighter and tighter and I was suffering from terrible reflux. In consultation with my surgeon I had the saline in my band completely removed. Now, the band was still there, it was just empty.

In the final 4 months of my pregnancy I gained close to fifty pounds. Once my son was born I was up over 200 pounds again and scared.

I realize now that when I”m scared I don’t make smart choices. It took me a year to go from my surgery date, when the band was implanted but not filled, to the point where it was nearly full with saline. But in my fear that I would never get back to my “pre-baby” weight I had my band refilled to it’s previous level all in one shot.

I was so unprepared for this development that instead of following all the LabBand “rules” I began defying them just so I could feel comfortable eating. This led to a complication where my lower stomach popped up through the band and caused me to be able to eat way more than I should have been able to. When it was discovered my band had to be emptied so my stomach could have time to repair itself.

Luckily for me, it did repair itself and I didn’t need surgery to fix it. But I was still cheating because I wasn’t used to the restriction any more and the band doesn’t help when all you’re eating is Goldfish Crackers and homemade ice cream.

Six months after my son was born I was sitting at 17.5 pounds above that “pre-baby” weight. I figured it was only a matter of time. But my eating habits hadn’t cleaned up, my choices weren’t smart for my body, and I still wasn’t following the rules.

I spent the following three and a half years losing and gaining the same 10 pounds, never reaching my goal of my “pre-baby” weight and never getting back to the point where I could wear my old clothes again.

Then, when my son turned four years old, after a particularly grueling and stressful year, I found myself 189 pounds. 30.5 pounds higher than I was when I got pregnant with him.

After starting this blog and doing a lot of soul searching I started The Dukan Diet. It’s worked wonders for me, as readers of this blog have seen and I think it’s princles of lean protein and non-starchy vegetables fall perfectly in line with the rules of my LapBand. Now, 7 years post-op I’ve lost 90% of my excess weight and my surgeon tells me that I have a “normal BMI”. I’d like to lose another 5 pounds, just so the scale drops below 150, but I’m in a size six again, I’m stable emotionally, I’m happy in my life, I’m a better wife and mother, I treat myself better than ever before and even through the tough times this surgery has been more than I ever could have hoped for.