How I Lost 116 Pounds With VSG Surgery (Obesity Control Center)
Hi! Tell us about yourself…why did you decide to start losing weight?
My name is Natalie, I’m 27 years old and I’ve lost over 100 pounds on my bariatric weight loss journey! I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was born big, and a doctor even told my mom I didn’t have the chemical in my brain to tell me I’m full. I was in and out of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and other fad diets by the time I was 14. When I was 15 I was 330 pounds, and my doctor and mom decided I need to pursue the LapBand surgery. I got the surgery, although for the wrong reasons (being thin, not healthy). A year and a half later I had severe complications, had it removed, and gained all of the weight back and then some.
Ten years later, sitting at 400 pounds, on June 4th, 2020, my grandma passed away. I was devastated as she was a second mother to me. I specifically remember all of my family gathered around her photos and telling stories about all of the places she had been, all of the adventures she went on, and all that she accomplished. I wanted to be that way. But I couldn’t at 400 pounds. So a week or two later my mom sent me a link to the Obesity Control Center in Tijuana Mexico. I looked into it and was so impressed by Dr. Ortiz and his team, and I felt hopeful for the first time in 10 years. I decided to have the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy and had the surgery on September 28th, 2020.
What was your workout routine? Can you give us what a typical week looked like for you working out?
Because I was so heavy, working out pre-op was difficult. I got overwhelmed very quickly if I couldn’t do something. So I took it upon myself to walk for 3 miles a day and do squats. Two low-impact workouts I could dedicate myself to without feeling overwhelmed or upset. So the day that I sent my deposit to OCC, I set out with my dog and we walked. Oh my goodness, it was hard. At two miles I wanted to give up. But the thing about walking is that you have to walk home. You can’t just stop! So I kept going. Every day, I could feel myself getting faster, going farther, and feeling more confident in myself. I did 100 squats a day. Fifty in the morning, fifty at night. Or if I had time waiting for something to cook, I’d do ten here, ten there. It was all about moving all the time.
Post-op has also been a huge challenge. Your energy is in a huge deficit due to the surgery and you’re recovering as well. So it actually hasn’t been until 2.5 months post-op (I’m almost 4 months now) that I started working out. I love using resistance bands, doing yoga, and walking. Yoga has helped a ton with my joints and flexibility because as we lose a ton of weight our joints and muscles settle in odd ways. The booty and resistance bands have helped with my core strength a ton as well. I use the bands 3 times a week and do yoga twice a week. I walk for 30 minutes every day! A huge part of the journey is learning that movement will keep you young!
What was your nutrition like? Can you give us what a typical day of eating looked like?
During my pre-op process, I lost 50 pounds by working with a nutritionist (who was partnered with my surgeon). She had me on a very low carb, high protein, moderate fat diet program. I was allowed 3 meals a day. One meal was a protein shake with less than 4g net carbs. I would mix my protein powder with ice, unsweetened almond milk, and a healthy handful of kale or spinach. My other two meals consisted of 4 ounces lean meats, 2 tbsp healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil, etc…), and unlimited non-starchy/low-carb vegetables (leafy greens, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, etc..). I wasn’t given any room for starches, carbs, sugar, or even fruits. I didn’t focus on macros, because my nutritionist didn’t give me those guidelines.
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Post-op is vastly different. You truly have a new baby tummy and you have to incorporate foods in stages. The first two weeks I was on liquids which consisted of protein shakes, bone broth, sugar-free Jell-O, water, and tea. I believe I was only hitting around 400 calories a day. The next ten days were pureed foods, which were like butternut squash soup, protein shakes, baby food consistency foods. Then I had soft foods for two weeks which were mostly tuna, eggs, refried beans, and protein shakes. Finally, I could start incorporating solid foods. I was told to stick around the 600-800 calorie range, 90-100 grams of protein, and under 40 carbs. I do also take a bariatric multivitamin, iron, vitamin D, B12, and calcium citrate!
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How did you stay motivated to lose weight? Did you ever slip up?
It is such a mental game! The best way for me to stay motivated is just to remember that the good greatly outweighs the bad. Remembering how I felt at 400 pounds, how my range of motion and quality of life were so low. When I feel like slipping up and letting my food addiction take over, I ask myself “Can you make it to bedtime?” The answer is always yes. I can make it to 9 pm without snacking or bingeing. I repeat that every single day.
When did you start to notice progress?
There are definitely moments throughout the journey where you catch yourself off guard… you realize that your clothes are fitting better or that you’re walking is easier. I have held onto several outfits from before my surgery or even before beginning my process, and every once in a while I put them on. All of the clothes I had before are falling off of me! Which is a huge mind game. Sometimes when we look in the mirror we don’t see the changes! But they’re there, for sure! Another huge deal was when I crossed my legs for the first time in years! It was comfortable! It truly blew my mind.
Are there any other fitness products that you used frequently?
I use a weekly tracker that my surgeon sends me, so they can also manage my process! I also use the Baritastic app, it’s specifically designed for bariatric patients! You can track weight, water intake, protein, workouts, and daily food logs. Lastly, I use the FitBit app and watch to track daily movement!
Do you have any weight loss “hacks” or “secrets” that helped you succeed?
I find to combat late-night snacking I make myself some protein hot chocolate, add some sugar-free whipped cream, and sprinkles!! It helps me feel like I’m treating myself, but without the guilt of snacking.
Do you have any fitness books/podcasts/websites that you’d recommend and why?
I have two podcasts/Instagram accounts that really helped me! The first is called Our Sleeved Life Podcast. They are two best friends who had surgery! They talk about their journey in a fun and casual way!
The second is one that I actually work with and am on frequently. It’s called East2West_WLS and they love to be raw and real about their experiences. They bring on a lot of catalyst members of the bariatric community, and they also bring on mental health resources to debunk what really goes on in our brains during the process.
Where can we find more about you?
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