This surgery has changed my life in every way
Connie Bossieux's "ah-ha" moment that set her on a path toward life-changing weight-loss surgery happened at a department store.
She was waiting in a dressing room as her daughter shopped for clothes and was taken aback when she saw her reflection in the mirror.
"For some reason, this was a totally different experience," remembers Connie, a patient care supervisor at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. "I immediately made the decision right then and there that I was going to have surgery to lose the weight."
Trying different diets
Connie, 49, of Troy, Va., was thin through her young adult years. However, losing weight became harder and harder after she had her two children, a son, now 18, and a daughter, 14. Her diagnosis of hypothyroidism and the fact that she was getting closer to menopause made weight loss even more difficult.
She tried various types of diets. Weight would come off and then go right back on.
"When you stop those programs or stop eating a certain type of food, the weight goes right back on," Connie explains. "I could see a spiraling out of control that I was afraid I was never going to be able to correct."
Preparing for surgery
Connie's decision to pursue bariatric surgery also came after encouragement from a good friend and colleague who had successfully gone through weight loss surgery at Sentara Martha Jefferson.
Connie chose the gastric sleeve approach to weight loss surgery. A surgeon removes 75 to 85 percent of the stomach during this procedure, creating a much smaller, tube-shaped "sleeve." Shrinking the stomach prevents people from consuming large quantities of food. Instead, food passes through the digestive system normally because surgeons leave your intestines intact.
In addition to being a restrictive procedure, the gastric sleeve is also a metabolic procedure because it changes the way patients process food and beverages. The surgery changes the number of hormones and receptors, so people feel full sooner and have a decreased appetite. The surgery also changes how the body burns calories.
Bariatric surgery centers and health insurance carriers require patients to complete a comprehensive pre-surgery protocol to prepare patients mentally and physically for their weight loss journey. For example, Connie met with a nutritionist for three months before her surgery and was required to see a psychiatrist to ensure she was ready to take on dietary guidelines required after surgery and beyond. They also want to be sure the patient has a strong support system to lean on as they recover and adjust to their body's changes.
Tim Snow, D.O., a bariatric surgeon, performed Connie's surgery in June 2020 at Sentara Martha Jefferson. She stayed in the hospital for two nights because she felt sick from the anesthesia. Her husband, Dean, a firefighter, who she married in 2004, was ready to care for her at home when she was discharged from the hospital.
After surgery, patients start with a full liquid diet. Then they transition to a blended/ pureed diet, and then to soft foods and finally solid foods. Hydration is also critical to keep the body running smoothly.
"The hardest part after surgery was meeting my fluid goal, which was 64 ounces every day," Connie points out. "I had to be accountable to make sure I was getting that in."
In the weeks after surgery, numbers on the scale dropped rapidly. She eventually went from a size 20 to a size 10, losing just over 100 pounds in 14 months.
"Your results are not just the number on the scale," Connie explains. "Your clothes are falling off you. It does something to your psyche. It lifts you up every day as you outgrow size after size."
Connie walks three to four days a week as part of her exercise routine. She starts most of her days with a protein drink, focuses on protein at meals and carefully selects high-protein but low-calorie snacks, such as 100-calorie packs of nuts, mozzarella cheese sticks and yogurt. Her daily calorie goal is 800 to 1,000.
Protein sustains you, making you feel full longer, Connie says. It also helps keep muscles strong as you lose weight.
Bariatric patients should avoid spicy, sugary, creamy and greasy foods. They also need to be careful not to overeat and be sure to avoid carbohydrate focused meals, or they can experience "dumping syndrome," which happens when too much food goes through your digestive tract too quickly.
Connie appreciates how attentive the Sentara Martha Jefferson Bariatric Care Center staff was before and after her surgery. They patiently answered her questions promptly over the phone and during her appointments.
"This surgery has changed my life in every way," Connie remarks. "One of the things we say in healthcare is that we are changing lives, but this surgery is the epitome of that. I feel so much more energetic and confident - like I haven't felt in years."