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Why I'm choosing bariatric surgery: 4 myths debunked

Posted on Jan. 4, 2016 ( comments)
Jennifer Yahne with daughters

Jennifer Yahne and her two daughters, Hayden, 5, and Jillian, 7.

Ever since I can remember, I have been overweight. Some of my earliest memories as a child are other children telling me that I was fat.

When I was 11, I put myself on my very first diet and successfully lost 35 pounds.

Eventually, I gained weight again, and in my early 20s, I got fed up and lost 60 pounds through diet and exercise. I maintained that weight loss for more than two years.

But my old eating habits caught up with me as the stresses in my life increased. I attended graduate school while working full-time. I struggled to get pregnant. Once successful, I had two children 18 months apart. My career was taking off and, like many women, I found myself juggling my young family with a hectic work schedule.

I tried the same methods of counting calories and exercising, as well as programs such as Weight Watchers. But instead of the successes that came so easily in the past, I lost and gained the same 15 pounds over and over again.

At 100 pounds beyond a healthy weight, hopelessness was setting in.

Bariatric surgery takes center stage

Just over a year ago, I took a job with MultiCare as the director of general surgery. When I discovered that one of my responsibilities would be develop a bariatric surgery program, it seemed like life was playing a joke on me.

I had seen bariatric surgery transform the lives of friends, but I never considered it a viable option for me. I knew that poor food choices, large portions and emotional eating were behind my weight.

Despite failing several times, I felt like I just needed enough willpower to change my habits. I thought that bariatric surgery was the easy way out.

Normally confident in my capabilities, I wondered how somebody who struggled her whole life with obesity would be able to set up a program to address the problem she had yet to overcome.

However, something unexpected happened: I discovered that many of my preconceived notions about bariatric surgery were wrong.

Bariatric surgery is safe. There are risks with any surgical procedure, but data from nearly 60,000 bariatric surgery patients has shown that the risk of death within 30 days of surgery is 0.13 percent (approximately 1 in 1,000), according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

Studies also show reductions in mortality for obesity-related conditions. For example, cancer mortality is reduced by 60 percent, death in association with diabetes is reduced 90 percent and death from heart disease reduced 50 percent.

Bariatric surgery is affordable. Many insurance companies and employers have recognized that bariatric surgery can help employees become healthier and more productive. As a result, many insurance plans cover bariatric surgery. I discovered that I qualify for bariatric surgery through my husband’s insurance plan. There are also special rates available for patients without insurance coverage.

Bariatric surgery is a lifetime commitment, so there is a whole team to support you — not just a surgeon. Responsible bariatric programs such as MultiCare’s are invested in patients’ long-term success. Dietitians, nurses and psychologists help patients throughout the process. You are followed by this team for five years so they can work with you to keep you on track over the long term.

Bariatric surgery is not the easy way out. Before you can even have surgery, you must make sure all your preventative care is up to date, get blood work performed, meet with a dietitian to work on changing your eating habits, complete education modules, get additional medical diagnostics performed, begin an exercise program, meet with a psychologist and complete a pre-op diet.

Some patients, like me, are required by their insurance companies to complete up to six months of a medically supervised weight loss program. Then you can have surgery, which comes with the challenges of recovery and embarking upon a whole new lifestyle.

With this knowledge under my belt, I realized that bariatric surgery is a viable solution for me, and for others, too. I want to share my story in the hopes that others may find it helpful on their weight loss journey, no matter what pathway is chosen.

Letting go of the guilt

I’ve realized that I need to let go of my guilt over my weight. For many years I have blamed myself, and in some ways felt that I deserved the struggles I encountered in losing weight.

I am tired of wasting so much of my life miserable about my weight. I want to do this for my own health so that I have more energy and can live a productive life for many years to come. I also want to do this for my family. I have daughters, 5 and 7, for whom I would like to set a better example.

Obesity is a disease — it impacts 34 percent of adults in the United States, according to ASMBS. Its causes are complicated and not well understood, but its impact on health is clear. Although I have been quite healthy my whole life, I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

I deserve to be a healthy weight, and to do so, I need to let guilt go and embrace one of the most powerful weight loss tools available.

Learn more about MultiCare’s Bariatric Surgery program

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About The Author

Jennifer Yahne author photo Jennifer Yahne

Jennifer Yahne and her husband of 17 years, Jeramy, are lifelong residents of South King County. They have two daughters, Jillian and Hayden. Jennifer has worked in health care administration for the past decade, most recently as the director for the general surgery careline at MultiCare Health System. In her limited free time, she enjoys knitting, sewing, reading and baking.

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