Despite Katie Cox’s best efforts to lose weight through the years, the numbers on the scale kept creeping upward. Starting around age 18, she tried a variety of popular diets and workout programs, but nothing seemed to work for very long.
“I could never lose more than 30 pounds, and then I would always gain it back, along with some extra weight,” Katie said. This frustrating cycle continued for the next 12 years.
Katie’s weight spiraled out of control in 2010 while working for the Gator Bowl Association and pursuing a master’s degree at the same time.
“I am a stress eater and I was under a lot of pressure,” she explained. As her weight neared 300 pounds, she knew she had to do something that would permanently change her life and improve her health.
Around the same time, she noticed that one of her colleagues had recently lost a great deal of weight. He shared with her that bariatric surgery helped make his transformation possible. “That’s when I really started to consider surgery as a viable option,” said Katie.
She went to one of Baptist Health’s monthly meetings, where surgeons and staff explain the pros and cons of the different types of weight loss surgeries. Katie recalls bariatric surgeon Craig Morgenthal, MD, being down to earth and easy to understand. “He made me feel comfortable,” she said.
‘I’m not fixing your life, I’m giving you a tool so you can fix your own life.’
During her first appointment with Dr. Morgenthal, Katie had reached her highest weight of 323 pounds at 5-feet-eight inches. “He said something to me I will never forget,” remarked Katie. “He told me, ‘I’m not fixing your life, I’m giving you a tool so you can fix your own life.’ ”
Of the three surgical options available, Katie and Dr. Morgenthal decided the sleeve gastrectomy would be the best option for her. This is one of the newer bariatric procedures in which the stomach is reduced to about one-fourth of its original size, resulting in a sleeve-like structure. With more than 200 sleeve gastrectomies performed since 2009, this method has quickly surpassed the amount of lap-band and bypass surgeries performed at Baptist Health.
“Sleeves are becoming more popular,” said Dr. Morgenthal, “because they are less invasive than gastric bypass and unlike the lap band, there is no need to go back in and make adjustments.”
Katie felt comfortable with the sleeve option for two reasons. “I didn’t want anything foreign inside my body,” she said. “And I wanted my body to function the same way it always had,” referring to the fact that gastric bypass surgery reroutes the body’s normal digestive process.
Being single, Katie’s mother came to help her during post-surgery period. Although she was not in a tremendous amount of pain, she was extremely fatigued, which is normal after bariatric surgery. Katie was released just two days after surgery and was able to return to work two weeks later.
True to what Dr. Morgenthal said, having the surgery was just part of the weight-loss equation. Now it was time for Katie to start living a healthier life, with good eating habits and exercise.
The time immediately following surgery is typically the most challenging for bariatric patients. Because the stomach is much smaller, patients like Katie must learn to eat smaller quantities more frequently throughout the day while still meeting their nutritional needs.
I remember the first time I got on the elliptical machine after my surgery. I could barely do 15 minutes, but I felt stronger each day. The best part was getting on the scale every morning and seeing that I had lost 2 – 3 pounds. Since her surgery in April 2012, Katie has lost a total of 145 pounds.
Katie found the online support helpful and attends a monthly support group at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville for encouragement from people who have had the same experiences she’s had.
Since the surgery, Katie’s life has changed drastically. “I am much more physically active now,” she said. “I have friends who are healthy and like to work out. Our activities center around fitness and eating right,” she said. Her goal is to work out an hour a day five times a week.
One of the biggest adjustments for Katie is learning how to handle the new attention she gets now that she has slimmed down. “It’s like I’m going through my teenage years for the first time at age 32.” Not that she minds too much.
To learn more about medical weight loss options at Baptist, call 904.202.7546 (SLIM).