Why I'm choosing bariatric surgery: Changing habits before surgery

MultiCare's director of general surgery, Jennifer Yahne, is choosing to undergo bariatric surgery. 

After attending the required weight loss seminar as described in my previous posts, I went for a consult with Hanafy Hanafy, MD, to review my health history and discuss my surgical options. He agreed that my preference for a sleeve gastrectomy was a good choice.

Dr. Hanafy and the bariatric surgery coordinator, Jennene, laid out the steps I needed to complete prior to surgery, which includes medical tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) and chest X-ray, laboratory tests and a referral to a psychologist to evaluate and identify behaviors that contribute to my weight.

However, the biggest component of my pre-surgical care is a six-month medically supervised weight loss program, which is required by my insurance provider.

Many people might view the six months as a setback. After all, we choose bariatric surgery because diets have failed.

I decided to take a different approach and view it as an opportunity to make the changes needed to sustain long-term success after surgery.

Luckily, MultiCare’s Center for Weight Loss and Wellness includes both a bariatric surgery program as well as a medical weight loss program.

Medically supervised weight loss

My first step in entering the medical weight loss program was to meet with a dietitian, Melanie, who has worked with bariatric surgery patients for many years.

Going into my first appointment, I was skeptical. I had never been to a dietitian, and I expected her to tell me which foods were good, which foods were bad and then put me on a diet.

My experience was much different. The dietitians at the Center for Weight Loss and Wellness employ a medical nutritional therapy approach, in which you discuss all aspects of your eating habits, including what you eat, when you eat and most important, why you eat.

Melanie helped me identify that I tend to be attracted to sweets in the afternoons at work when I may be frustrated by a difficult task. She also helped me think about how I might fit movement into my life in fun and achievable ways that I hadn’t thought of before.

Applying what I learned to Girl Scout cookie season

After a few visits and some measurable success, a major event loomed in my life: Girl Scout cookie season.

My daughters are both Daisy Girl Scouts, and I have the unfortunate job of serving as the troop’s “cookie mom.” This means I’m responsible for all aspects of our troop’s cookie sales: distribution, strategy, marketing, sales forecasting, inventory management and cash flow.

In other words, I spend five weeks with what amounts to a second job that adds loads of stress to my life — plus easy access to hundreds of boxes of delicious cookies.

It seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Girl Scout cookies

Stepping down from my commitment was not an option. Plus, to be successful long-term with bariatric surgery, I need to make changes to my relationship with food so I can continue to enjoy these activities with my daughters.

I thought back to my session with Melanie and devised a strategy for how to live healthier in spite of Girl Scout cookie season.

First, I set a rule: No open boxes of cookies in my office. Ever.

Thinking back to my previous year as a cookie mom, having boxes open in my office inevitably led to afternoon snacking. And when I indulged in the afternoon, I was much more likely to overindulge in sugar during the evening as well.

Instead of turning to cookies, I worked on other ways to handle my frustration: taking a walk, deep breathing exercises and listening to music.

I also found opportunities to move more. My older daughter and I signed up to help unload the cookie truck — which contained more than 5,000 cases of cookies. We stacked, moved, restacked and unloaded, which left me feeling pretty sore the next day.

Girl Scout cookies

Ultimately, I emerged victorious from another season as cookie mom. Our troop sold more than 3,800 boxes of cookies. I counted and deposited almost $15,000 in cash and checks. I happily handed over the final few boxes to be donated to our military members overseas.

Even better, while I enjoyed some cookies, I never overindulged. I even managed to lose a few pounds. Plus, my hemoglobin levels dropped from 5.7 (classifying me as pre-diabetic) to 5.3.

Finding ways to enjoy cookie season while living healthier was my true success.

Learn more about MultiCare’s Bariatric Surgery program

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