‘I Had Weight Loss Surgery, But This Eating Plan Is What Really Helped Me Lose 120 Pounds’

Before: 313 

After: 186 

My lifestyle before this past year was extremely social. However, the majority of that revolved around extravagant dinners and constant cocktails after long nights at the office. I was eating whatever I wanted, often ordering an appetiser before my meal and dessert afterward. On top of that, I’d consume three, sometimes four or five glasses of white wine. Eating was something I did with abandon. I felt like I was perpetually hungry, even after I’d just eaten. I’d make excuses to attend fancy dinners and partake in all the culinary splendor New York City has to offer.

On quiet nights home, I’d cook for myself, making decadent recipes from cookbooks to try to enhance my culinary skills. Looking back, those portions were enough for two or sometimes three people.

I never exercised, and I made excuses to avoid going to a workout when others invited me along. Sometimes I felt motivated and started walking consistently each day, but I always went alone. That way I could make it easy. Eventually, people stopped asking me to join them.

I hated my life and how I felt.  Worst of all, I had absolutely no sense of self-worth. I was unhappy in almost everything, especially my job, where I felt like I was constantly being beaten down. I was in a bad place, but because I was paid well, I covered up how I was feeling with fake friendships, parties, food, and a social circle.

The Change

I remember lying in my bed on my 35th birthday crying my eyes out. I’d just left my job, and I wasn’t sure what my next move was. I think that was the first moment I realised that I needed a drastic change, starting with how I treated myself.

My mother had gastric bypass surgery about 10 years ago. The surgery was extremely successful for her and she begged me for years to have it done. But I thought, “I can do this myself.” I didn’t want to take the “easy” way out, as many people would assume. But when I saw the scale at 313 pounds, I knew it was worth looking into. So I talked to the same doctor my mom used.

At 36, having failed hundreds of times before, I needed help losing weight. For months, I met with my doctor, a nutritionist, as well as my general practitioner, and a psychiatrist. After all of that, I decided to have a type of weight loss surgery called a single-anastamosis duodenal switch, or SIPS, surgery. This would help to restrict the amount of food that I could eat and also how I digested that food. However, it was still up to me to exercise, eat correctly, and change my lifestyle.

Once I made the decision, I treated my weight loss like a work project by outlining the changes I’d make and implementing them immediately. I went on a ketogenic diet, removing all sugar and carbohydrates. Additionally, I decided that I was going to abstain from alcohol for a year. After making those two changes, I lost 35 pounds in the two months prior to the surgery. I told myself that if I was going to do this, I was not going to rely on it as a quick fix. I saw the surgery as a tool.

Photo courtesy of Cara Moccia

The Workouts

I always thought runners were the most fit and lean athletes, so running is what I immediately gravitated to when I set out to lose more weight post-surgery. I hated running with a vengeance at first. But I stuck it out.

I started by waking up at 6 a.m. every morning and bouncing along at a 19-minute mile pace for 45 minutes.

But soon, my 19-minute mile became a 16-minute mile. At that point, a close friend asked me to come to an Orangetheory class with her. Orangetheory is a high-intensity interval training workout that combines running on a treadmill, biking, or using a stride machine with weight training and rowing. I did not want to attend that class, but I told myself that I could go one time. If I hated it or felt embarrassed, I never had to go again.

I hated the class, but the instructor, coach Michelle, came over and told me that I could run faster than I was and that she could help me. No one had ever taken an interest in my fitness level before, so that was enough for me to try one more class. After my second class, I was hooked on the workout. I loved how it’s different each time but it’s always a good workout. My mile time went from 16 minutes to 9:45 over the next few months, and I’m still working on it.

I exercise a minimum of five days a week. I’ll usually take classes during the week and go for a long run on Saturday or Sunday. I ran my first 10K in November and kept a 12:30-minute per mile pace for the entire race. I’m running a half-marathon at the end of February.

The best part about working out is what I call my “fit family.” This group of friends keeps each other accountable. Not showing up for a workout isn’t an option because it’s about more than just you—there’s something very motivating about that.

I’d say that my fit family and workout regimen is mostly responsible for the drastic changes I’ve seen in my body and soul over the past seven months. I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

Photo courtesy of Cara Moccia

The Food

The surgery did make me feel less hungry and eat less food, but I stuck to a ketogenic diet, eating primarily protein and fresh vegetables. Over the past year, I’ve slowly introduced some carbs back into my diet. I also eat sugar occasionally, ususally in the form of an ice cream cone.

A typical day of eating usually involves a scrambled egg and turkey bacon for breakfast or a protein shake with almond milk, banana, and almond butter. Lunch is usually a choice of protein and any variety of vegetables. I always enjoyed salads, but I’ve started experimenting with zoodles and spaghetti sqaush. And instead of cooking like I was before, I explore healthy recipes and meal prep. Dinner is usually a straight protein and a green because I’m starving after working out and the protein makes me feel great. I also search for snacks and sweets that take the edge off but are still good for you. There are so many great options out now, but my favorite treat is a Kind bar. I try to keep anything I eat to less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Sticking With It

I use social media a lot, especially when I’m struggling. I’ll post a before and after photo, biting the bullet and using a “before” I’ve never revealed because I was so embarrassed. It’s those images that really show me how far I’ve come. It’s hard to appreciate your progress when you still feel like you have such a long way to go, so I focus on how I like this version of myself so much more.

Photo courtesy of Cara Moccia

The Reward

This probably sounds terrible, but people have told me that I’m so much nicer now. The drastic changes I made have made me so much happier. I ended up taking a job on the other side of country in a completely different environment from New York City. That move forced me to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and spend nearly 100 percent of my time focusing on my happiness. So far, I’ve lost 120 pounds. Yes, I have some loose skin, but I also have some serious muscle tone. I love that I can share clothing with my girlfriends, go for runs with my brother, and leave a workout with people a million times more fit than I am and feel like I belong. I’m so excited for even more positive changes in the coming years.

Photo courtesy of Cara Moccia

My Number One Tip

Surgery does not make you stop eating sugar, carbs, or all of the other foods that got me to 313 pounds. Surgery won’t get you off the couch and to the gym for 60 to 90 minutes. I had to make positive changes even after getting weight-loss surgery.

Depending on your size, losing 10 pounds can be just as difficult as losing 100 pounds. You will plateau and get frustrated, but you just need to keep trying. Walking for 15 minutes is better than sitting on the couch any day. One good decision is always a start. Find a friend who you can workout with, get a Fitbit, download the Couch to 5K app, set a small goal, and beat it out of the park. Just give it a shot and keep on trying. Those little changes build up over time.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US

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