Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Tool for the Journey

{I wrote this post a couple weeks ago as I prepared for the next step for me.  I have not been sure of when to publish it, but now the surgery is behind me. So, here goes. This is part of my story, the next piece of the lifelong journey.  Be kind and gentle as you read and absorb.  As you read this, may you be encouraged, may you spurred on to make a next step in your own life, may you be moved to pray for me and others in a similar physical, emotional and spiritual journey for health, strength and body image. I am 3 days post-op and doing really well!}

I have made a decision.  A really important decision.  One that is for my health and the very best me. One that I have been pretty private and guarded in conversation about until now. And it is exactly the opposite of my expectations.  I was so very ignorant and misinformed about my choice, skeptical at best. So what is it?

I am having bariatric surgery, a sleeve gastrectomy, specifically.

Allow me to share my story.  I have been seeing the weight loss clinic at Novant Health in Kernersville*.  The support staff has been amazing.  I began my journey with this group in May this year. I have been a life-long dieter and thought I knew all there was to know about healthy eating options, successful diet and exercise plans, and general good nutrition.  I had tried so many diets in the past, with lots of will-power and enthusiasm, only to get discouraged and quit.  So in the Spring when I reached my highest weight, I began praying for a solution.  I had been diagnosed with hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux, obstructive sleep apnea and was morbidly obese.

Not only did I feel terrible most of the time, I also carried around a load of shame.  How could I have allowed myself to get here?
"I know better."
"I'm just a quitter anyway."
"Why try again, you'll fail."
"I'll never be able to..."

The shame I carried seemed to weigh me down more than anything.  At one point, my own body insecurities were all I could see.  I began examining these feelings head-on with a wonderful counselor.  She helped me see what my family and friends have tried to tell me along: that I am worthy of self-care.  I live my life with arms wide open ready and willing to be available and of service.  It was time to make sure that I am also make it onto the list of folks that I care for!

Also, my eyes were opened to the startling truth that I AM NOT A FAILURE.  I have failed some diets before.  I have failed at other things before, too. We all have. We can't win them all! Somewhere along the way, I made the rules for success and failure much more stringent for myself than anyone else.  I am quick to offer grace to everyone around me, and now I am offering it to myself too.

I am already doing the important thing about falling down: I get back up and get out in the arena of life again. I am not listening to the voice of shame in my life any longer. Period.

As I allowed these truths of grace to sink in deeply, I reached out for help with my health.  Additionally, I wanted help with my weight loss.  As a Physician Assistant, I know the realities of comorbidities associated with obesity.  My family history includes diabetes, hypertension, and other cardiac issues, like heart attack and congestive heart failure, and as my diagnoses list grew, I knew I had better get serious about my own health.

The help I sought needed to be a wholistic approach.  I desired to work with physicians, nutritionists and a behavioral therapist.  Having seen and read so much about the Kernersville Bariatric Clinic they were my first call and where I landed.  I have been so thankful for this group of folks that are so supportive and helpful.  I have already mentioned some of the ways they have supported me in my journey.  I wanted to know all the tools and options that are available to me in this program.  Even though I immediately answered "no" when asked if I was interested in bariatric surgery, months later I was encouraged to just go and hear what they have to say.

We did.  And we haven't looked back.  Smitty, as my support person, and I went to a surgical seminar that is lead by the bariatric surgeons of the group.  There we learned about all the different types of bariatric surgery, and the ones that are performed at this facility. They are very frank about surgery risks, side effects both short and long term, and managing expectations of bariatric surgery.

Apparently I had formed a really negative opinion about bariatric surgery somewhere along the way. The myths in my mind were dispelled by hearing the truth straight from the surgeon.  Even being someone in the primary care medical community, I recognized my own misconceptions. There is still so much education needed around this life giving procedure.

So what did we learn?

Bariatric surgery is not the easy way out.  This was the biggest emotional/mental obstacle I had to overcome because of the shame I have associated with failed attempts at weight loss. My desire is to be strong and healthy, not just "successful" at weight loss.  There is so much hard work done prior to surgery to prepare your body for this change.  The real work begins after the surgery is complete.  Lifestyle changes are made months in advance to prepare for the surgery and are necessary for the rest of your life after surgery.  Commitment to a vigorous cardio and strength training exercise program is required.  This investment in the process and the commitment to lifestyle change and exercise must be demonstrated prior to scheduling the surgery.

Bariatric surgery is successful at curing and reversing many comorbidities caused by obesity, so much that it is being recommended as first-line treatment in obese diabetic patients.  A return to health and quality of life is a side effect of these surgeries.  My hypertension and sleep apnea have an 80% cure rate within 6 months of surgery.

Bariatric surgery is much less invasive than it has been.  The surgeries performed at this facility are laparoscopic.  5 very small incisions in the belly, so the risks of bleeding and infection are significantly reduced. You spend a couple days in the hospital.

Bariatric surgery, specifically sleeve gastrectomy, does not have post-operative malnutrition associated with it.  The main concern after this surgery is staying hydrated and keep moving. My food intake will look very different from most for several months after surgery.  I begin with liquids for a few weeks and slowly introduce solid food.  Think, introducing a baby to new foods: slow and steady.  That will be me!

Bariatric surgery with the Novant group comes with a beautiful support system after surgery too.  I expect to have good and bad days, as anyone does after a big life event. My team of surgeons, nurse navigators, nutritionists, and psychologists are with me for the long haul.  In fact, I have signed a contract committing to all of my post-op care, including annual follow-up for the rest of my life.  They truly want me to be successful in my quest for health and are walking with me every step of the way.

Bariatric surgery requires more than just the support of the staff; I need support from my community.
I share this story with you, my people, because I would very much appreciate your prayerful support and encouraging words. As we have prayed through each of these decisions, we have been affirmed in our decisions.  As the doors continue to open, we continue to walk through them with more knowledge, confidence and peace.

I am laying down my shame about my weight and taking hold of my own strength. The surgery is a tool among many to help me reach my goals.  My hope is to be free of some of my medical diagnoses, and be much stronger before my 40th birthday! Thats about 20 months from now.  I am ready! Let's do this!

{I would love to share more of my story if you have questions.  I would appreciate at this point in my journey if you have an "aunt's cousin's girlfriend's terrible bariatric surgery story," that you would not share that story with me or my family.  As with anything in life, there are so many varying experiences.  My physicians and support team have thoroughly evaluated my current all-around health and have given me a stamp of approval for this specific surgery.  Thank you for understanding these boundaries I need in place for my head and heart right now.}

*Disclaimer: No one at Novant Health Bariatric Clinic is paying me to comment on their practice or services.  I am sharing this because I am truly thankful.  I hope sharing my experience will encourage even one more person to take the next step towards health.


  1. I love you so much! You are brave and strong, and I look forward to being a part of the work God is doing in your heart and body, and in our family.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I talk with countless women with this struggle of feeling like a failure. A sustainable lifestyle without deprivation is so important. I'm here if you need anything.

  3. You are brave and beautiful, sweet Meredith! I'm so honored to call you my precious friend. Love and prayers!!

  4. Aw, I'm on Team Muffy Smith! You're doing great so far. I can tell you from my age--having dealt with many of the comorbidity issues you mention--I can't tell you to take care of yourself loud enough. It's so WAY to leave yourself out when caring for others. But ya can't give what ya ain't got. You're gonna feel SO much better on so many levels! You're in my heart and prayers!


Comment with kindness! I love to hear what you have to say!