Like many people, Marianne struggled with her weight for years. Diet after diet had failed. And although she had begun making changes in her life to take better care of herself, she was unable to make headway in this one area.
“My weight was completely holding me back,” she recalled. “I wasn’t traveling much, I was struggling with exercise and I wasn’t dating.”
The first step in a journey to lose more than 100 pounds
During a trip to Costa Rica in the spring of 2016, she decided the time had come to seek out a completely new strategy. “One of the activities was hiking and I was not able to do it,” said Marianne. “I was with a 72-year-old woman who was hiking circles around everybody. I said to myself, ‘This is not okay.’” At around the same time, she had been diagnosed with several weight-related illnesses that cemented her resolve to seek out medical help.
Marianne did her research, attending information sessions for weight management programs at several top-rated Boston-area hospitals. She was particularly impressed with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, whose Center for Weight Management and Wellness approaches weight loss from a physical and emotional perspective. She knew that weight management was as much about addressing the psychological and behavioral aspects of eating as the calories she put into her body. She chose her surgeon based on an enthusiastic recommendation from a co-worker.
A multidisciplinary approach to weight loss
At her initial appointment with the surgeon, they reviewed her medical history, her struggles with her weight and the different weight loss surgical options and what they entail. Later, at a meeting with the program’s psychologist, Marianne delved deeper into her reasons for seeking help and the obstacles she had encountered in the past to losing weight, including the triggers that cause her to overeat.
At her consult with the dietitian, she learned about her body and the ways it metabolized food. “She helped me understand things that were going on in my body and why certain nutritional choices might work for someone else, but not for me, and vice versa,” she said. “The entire team just hit it out of the park as far as being kind, helpful and educating me. I felt really confident with my choice of Brigham and Women’s.”
Bariatric surgery stigma and judgment
No one would think of questioning a person’s decision to have, say, a gall bladder operation. But when it comes to bariatric surgery, judgment and opinions often run amok. What’s not well-known is that there are sometimes genetic, metabolic and psychological reasons some people are unable to control their weight and need surgical intervention.
“I only discussed surgery with a few friends who had done it themselves,” explained Marianne. “I didn’t want input from people who hadn’t struggled with their weight, who would question my decision and ask me why I didn’t just go on a diet.”
The Brigham and Women’s difference
The Brigham and Women’s program is all about the long haul, supporting patients through the ups and downs — whether it’s the numbers on the scale or the emotional highs and lows. As with any patient-health care provider relationship, trust and transparency are paramount.
“I never felt embarrassed or ashamed or judged when I’ve been honest about my eating struggles with my team.” When her dog passed away unexpectedly, Marianne shared with her dietitian that she was “grief snacking,” as she puts it.
“My dietitian said ‘come in,’ and I was able to make an appointment to see her a couple of days later.” Another time, when Marianne bemoaned that she was eating too many potato chips, her dietitian helped her devise a way to indulge, but in a moderation. She said she appreciates that the program understands that a weight management plan has to be tolerable for the long-term. She’s still able to eat her favorite foods and never feels denied. The center’s support groups have been another critical part of her success, she said.
Changes inside and out
Marianne dropped more than 100 pounds and her health has improved immensely. She resolved her sleep apnea, has stopped taking the three medications that controlled her blood pressure and is no longer considered pre-diabetic.
While her physical transformation has been dramatic, the internal changes are equally profound. “My quality of life is so much better and I feel good emotionally,” she said.