Have you ever thought that no one understands how you feel about your weight? Kristi is one of those people who can relate – she’s someone who truly knows what it is like to be overweight and unhappy about it. She is also someone who had the courage to make a change and is now living her best life for it.
“The summer after fourth grade, I went to stay with my grandmother who always had a kitchen stocked with creamy soups and sugary cereals, encouraged ice cream eating every night, and had a cupboard full of junk food. It was a childhood dream, until my mom came to pick me up in August and she didn’t even recognize me because of all the weight I had gained,” remembers Kristi. “That was the beginning of the weight and body issues that I have carried with me for all of my life. As a teenager, I would starve myself until I was so dehydrated that every muscle in my body was cramping up and I could hardly move. Body shaming was rampant and even though I was a healthy weight at the time, I felt fat because my friends told me I was, which led to depression.”
Kristi joined the Air Force after high school and even had to lose weight to conform to their requirements. She used laxatives and diet pills to “make weight” whenever she needed to. “It was a fight my entire career to stay off the Air Force’s weight management program and preserve my job. Along the way I hurt my back and it got progressively worse, which made it harder to exercise, resulting in added weight.”
In the summer of 2012, Kristi was on one of her annual girls’ trips with a friend who wanted to go on a helicopter tour of Denali. She remembers feeling mortified to have to step on a scale before boarding. As a result of her weight, Kristi was forced to sit in the middle of the back row while her friend got front-row window seat. “I remember being so embarrassed and then frustrated because I spent all this money to take this helicopter tour, then couldn’t see anything out the windows because of where I was sitting. My friend was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sights and chatting on the headsets while I was silent and feeling left out,” laments Kristi. “To add insult to injury, our next adventure was white water rafting – we were offered an opportunity to float in a portion of the river – but I stayed on the raft while my friend jumped out and swam. I was scared that if I got out of the raft I wouldn’t be able to get back in.”
That trip was a turning point for Kristi. “I started thinking about my future. I want to be around to see my future grandchildren and have a relationship with them. My own grandmother died at the age of 58 from heart problems and diabetes. My husband is a pretty fit guy who comes from an active family and I have always felt out of place with them. I didn’t want to feel that way or have those fears any longer,” Kristi says. “I also had several miscarriages that may have been related to my weight. Losing those pregnancies took a huge emotional toll that just contributed to my depression. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of diet, fail, depression.”
After she had her youngest son, Kristi’s OB/GYN referred her to Dr. Clark. “I couldn’t have been more thrilled when met him!” exclaims Kristi. “He is super-supportive, sincere, and engaging. He spent lots of time hearing me out and his whole demeanor just put me at ease. I really appreciated his candidness and honesty (and still do!).”
Kristi had gastric bypass in August 2013, lost 95 pounds, and has kept it off to this day. She remembers the first few weeks being difficult, but the physical pain was much less than what she was expecting. “The emotional side was more pronounced for me; I had buyer’s remorse and wondered if this life-altering surgery was really the right thing for me. I loved to cook and bake and after surgery I was avoiding the kitchen at all costs,” Kristi shares. “I remember smelling food my husband cooked and being so angry that I couldn’t partake in that meal with my family. A week later I cooked dinner and that simple act of being there with them and preparing the food made me feel so much better, it just lightened my mood. Knowing that I could still cook for them allowed me to let go of my resentments. I knew everything was going to be OK from then on out and it has been. I don’t regret the surgery at all and I would go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Kristi says she feels fantastic and is proud of herself for keeping the weight off. “I’ve learned to be more forgiving and to listen to my body. I try to follow the Two Bite Rule, when it comes to sweets. My family often shares a dessert and each of us gets two bites to enjoy the flavor and appreciate the taste and texture. We don’t over-indulge and I love that we’re teaching our kids very healthy eating habits,” Kristi explains.
“I have SO much more energy now! The best thing about the surgery is that your energy comes back. Now I don’t let anything drag me down, I just keep going. I don’t want to be where I was. I love it that now my husband can pick me up playfully, carry me up the stairs, hug me and twirl me around. I’ve never had that before, ever. Now I do and it is so fun!”
Kristi wants to make sure that people don’t think weight loss surgery is the easy way out. “It is a tool that you have to learn how to use. I am so appreciative of this tool and try to never forget where I was and how it helped me change my life,” says Kristi. “Don’t be ashamed to put yourself first and do something just for you. There are bumps along the way, there are physical limitations, negative feedback, and plateaus, but you can overcome them. It requires hard work, dedication, and lifestyle changes, so be prepared to commit to those things. But, it can be completely life altering which then makes it feel like it is not work at all. I believe in it so much that I left a great job I was happy with, to come work at Anchorage Bariatrics. I was so confident in Dr. Clark that when he asked me to join his team it was a no-brainer that we would be successful. I tell patients here about my experience so they can understand that I do “get it.” I think it helps people relax because going into any doctor’s office can be stressful and intimidating. I love inspiring our patients – I’m here for them and want to help. It can be an emotional journey for people and I hope that seeing me can put them at ease and show that if you really want to live a healthier life, you can!”