I recently came across a beautiful young lady name Kayla Tucker. She had shared her inspirational story on social media and I enjoyed reading it. I couldn’t help but reach out and ask if she would mind me sharing her storing here for my readers. I love hearing success stories and her gives me some great motivation.
My weight loss journey, like so many others’, began in early childhood. I have painful memories of being bullied because of my weight as early as third grade. I was a shy and introverted child that didn’t like sports or adventure. I liked to read, draw, and play with my Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets. My weight fluctuated through middle and high school until about 17 years old when I was firmly in the grip of obesity. Around the same time, I had my first diagnosed bout with depression, began taking antidepressants, then went onto birth control to control my PCOS, and my parents got divorced. I didn’t realize until years later that so much stress on a 17-year-old could absolutely not have helped my weight problem!
I blamed myself for years – and sure, I could definitely have made better food and movement choices – but in reality, the odds were stacked against me! And this scenario of obesity + stress = morbid obesity is not uncommon. Obesity causes so much stress and can contribute to depression and anxiety, then that stress, depression, and anxiety can lead to binge eating and little motivation for exercise.
By the time I was 20 years old, I weighed over 300 pounds and wore a size 24 in jeans. I remember eating entire pizzas for lunch (alone, in my car), then crying because I felt like a useless failure. The final motivating factor that helped me decide to have gastric bypass surgery came from my doctors. My primary care doctor warned me that I was on the verge of becoming diabetic, my liver was overworked, and my kidneys were stressed. I was eating so much fat that my body was having trouble filtering it out. Then, my gynecologist told me I might never be able to have kids when my weight coupled with my PCOS caused me to stop having periods. This realization that my weight was making life decisions for me was enough to make me realize that I couldn’t fix this on my own. I had tried all the diets and failed at every one. I’d lose 15 pounds and gain 25 back. If I was going to get out of this jail, I was going to need a permanent solution that took the option to binge away from me.
I should note, my mental health played a huge role in my inability to stick with a weight loss program. I was a whole damn mess. It was such a dark time that I honestly don’t remember much about my life in general at this point because I have blocked it out.
Once I decided this was what I wanted to do, I talked to my family first. My mom was cautiously supportive, but my dad was very unhappy. He believed that I just needed to try harder – he’s someone who believes you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, no matter the obstacles. There are times when his encouragement and uber-positive outlook have been very helpful to me, but with this decision, I just needed support.
With my doctor’s and my mother’s blessing, I began the process. I also got a third part-time job (while in my 3rd year of college!) to pay for the costs that my insurance didn’t cover. My pre-op took about 6 months; I tackled those required nutrition counseling and group sessions as fast as I could. I remember being extremely nervous on surgery day. I’d never been anesthetized before, so I was mostly scared that I would die from the anesthesia. (Hello, unmedicated anxiety!)
At 21, my post-op was mostly a breeze. I had some pretty severe pain for a few days, but it was manageable with the pain medication they prescribed. I hated eating and drinking, though. I just remember this feeling of rawness with ever swallow. It was like my stomach didn’t want to accept anything for that first few weeks. Slowly but surely, though, I was able to add soft proteins, protein shakes, then semi-soft proteins and soft vegetables. Baked tilapia became my go-to for nearly a year! Once cleared for exercise, I joined a gym and started going to cardio classes. The weight dropped off; I lost the first 100 pounds within 6 months! Again, I think this had a lot to do with my age – it was incredibly easy for my body to bounce back from such a major surgery! After that, I lost another 50 pounds over about 6-8 months, then my weight leveled off. I was happy at 150 for a while, and then I got kind of slack on my vitamins and exercise and a few pounds came back here and there.
Around three years after surgery, I had my first surgery-related health issue. I became severely anemic due to low iron. I had to be admitted to the hospital for four nights and was given two pints of blood and an iron infusion. About 18 months later I had another deficiency issue- this time potassium and calcium. I went to the ER with chest pain and a racing heartbeat. Turns out that severe calcium deficiency can look a whole lot like a heart attack. After the second round of deficiencies from malabsorption, I got serious with my vitamins again.
In 2018 I finally came back to the gym. After getting my mental health in order thanks to anxiety maintenance medication and therapy, I gained another 20 pounds back. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either. I’m at 170 now, and I’m honestly pretty happy. My workouts are now focused on strength and endurance rather than sheer fat burning. I hope to recomposition some of my weight and swap some fat for muscle, but beyond that, I’m happy to be feeling healthy and strong, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing.
Bariatric surgery gave me a second chance at life. I was done being on this earth before my surgery. I used to beg whatever god might exist that he would wake me up from the nightmare I was living. Losing weight allowed me to spread my wings, lean into my passions, and find my true self. I’m beyond grateful that I was able to have this procedure.