Moving forward. Making a difference.

Flo's Journey

At five feet, five inches tall and 267 pounds, Flo didn’t like what she saw in the mirror. Her obesity caused or complicated her diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and more. That’s when she called the Northwest Indiana Center for Bariatric Surgery.

Now just 12 months later, Flo is almost 100 pounds lighter, and no longer needs her diabetes and blood pressure medications.  She’s now more energetic and enjoying an active, rewarding life.

Follow her year long journey in this revealing diary…


Month 1: The Beginning

I’m 61 and I’m not ready to be six feet under. It’s time for a change.

At 5 feet 5 inches tall and 267 pounds, my BMI is 44.4…obese. When I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see, and I don’t like how people look at me. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even like myself.

What’s just as bad is what this is doing to my health. I’ve got diabetes, thyroid problems, asthma, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and arthritis. I can see myself going further down. And my doctor has warned me to get my weight under control.

When I visited the bariatric surgery center of one hospital, it just didn’t feel right. But when I talked to Dr. Siatras at Methodist I felt an immediate rapport. I’m not saying I’m not scared, because I am. But I have so much faith in this doctor, and the people here are so compassionate and realistic – they really tell it how it is – that you’re going to have to change your life. It’s a lot of hard work and you have to be willing to change.

It’s worth it to me, to reach my goal of getting better. I’ve love to see some of that medicine I take gone. And I’d love to be active like I used to be. I want to be the new me and I know I’m going to work hard to do it!


Month 2: After 1 Month

I am so glad I chose to do this! My weight is down to 238 and BMI is 39.6. Already I feel so much better physically and emotionally.

It took some getting used to doing things differently. I eat small meals, six times a day and can’t have a drink until a half hour after eating. I’ve learned you fill up more if you eat slowly, so it can take me 30 to 40 minutes for each meal.

At first it was hard to exercise because you’re out of air before you know it. I do aqua aerobics three times a week and weights two days. And I go faithfully.

Now when I look in the mirror I can see a shape! And the girls at the pool say I’m looking real good. You wouldn’t believe the energy that’s come back and my blood pressure has gotten better with my new diet.

I love going to classes at Methodist every month, where they teach us ways to help us change our lives, followed by a support group. My family is a wonderful support as well. My kids tell me, “Mama, we want to see you live longer.”

Why didn’t I do this sooner? Once you get started and do as you’re supposed to do, you’re going to be a new person!


Month 3: Meeting the Holiday Challenges

Making it through the holidays was hard with all the good cooks in my family and lots of temptations. I was determined not to stress out and just said, “No, thank you.” My goal was to maintain but I even managed to lose one pound - I now weigh 237.

For one holiday meal I made a cauliflower dish prepared like mashed potatoes, which wasn’t bad at all. My family liked it too. For dessert I made a pumpkin bake, which is like a custard with skim milk, sweetener, and the ingredients you’d use to make pumpkin pie. It’s delicious!

With holiday schedule changes, my exercise routine was interrupted, which was not easy. So I asked myself what I needed to do to make things better. Just like with cooking, what you need to do is substitute. Otherwise it’s easy to get discouraged. I’ve got things at home like arm weights and a floor exerciser, and my sister came over and we danced to the oldies. It all fell into place.

I’m looking forward to Easter coming. Now that I’ve made it through Christmas I’ve got more confidence. I know I need to keep focused on what have to do. It’s such a big change. When you really want it and you’re really trying, you can do it. It’s all what you make it.


Month 4: It Won’t Be Long Now!

February has been really good – I lost two more pounds. It’s also my six-month point and the doctor is planning to schedule surgery around March 19th once he receives my insurance approval. I’m excited.

Before surgery, I’ll have some special nutrition classes so I know exactly what to do afterwards. There will be four stages, starting with liquids only and gradually adding pureed food, then soft and on to whole. It will be different, but they’re very good about filling you in with the information you need to succeed before and after the surgery.

Now I am required to attend the monthly classes, which I’ve been going to all along. I think they are an excellent idea because the more you learn, the more it’s going to help you in the future. I’ve learned so much each month. Coming in March, we’ll talk about eating habits. That’s a biggie because a lot of us have habits we don’t even think about.

This is a huge step for anyone to take. If you’re going to take it seriously, you need to follow through. I plan to attend classes for a long time for the support and information that makes you feel better and do better!


Month 5: The Date is Set

I’ve lost four more pounds and am now 231 pounds, giving me a BMI of 38.4. My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 and I am looking forward to having it.

To help prepare, I’ve taken nutrition classes that explain exactly what I can have before and after the surgery. On the Sunday before surgery I start clear liquids and then afterwards the four stages of reintroducing food begin. I’m learning to eat all over again, and learning how to have the right things to eat.

People who are considering doing this need to know it’s not a quick fix. This is a lifetime commitment. That, to me, is the most important thing to get through one’s head. And you also have to know your nutrition – really study it.

I’ve been trying hard and I’m going to continue to do so. When you get to this point, you are on the verge of a new life. It means your health is going to be so much better and you won’t have so much medication to worry about. It’s exciting to me– having the new me, my new life!


Month 6: I feel so good it’s unbelievable!

My surgery went really well and that evening I was already able to drink liquids. Early the next morning I walked six times around the floor, amazing everyone.

I think I was able to do this because of the exercises I’ve been doing and the way I’ve been eating. If you follow their directions you’re not going to go wrong.

The day of the surgery I weighed 233 pounds and now I’m 207 – that’s 26 fewer pounds! Since starting the program, my BMI has dropped from 44 to 34.4. I can actually feel the changes in my body, and they are for the better.

Three days before the surgery I went off my blood pressure and diabetes medication and have not had to go back. My sugars are fabulous and my blood pressure readings are good.

This is all happening much sooner than I anticipated. It’s proven to be everything they said it would be and more. I am truly ecstatic.

I’ve been back to the doctor’s office twice since the surgery. Everyone there is great support and they make you feel so good. They watch you carefully and won’t let you lose weight too quickly.

This is the new me - new life and new health. I’m getting back to where I should be and I’m never going back to where I was again.

It’s an amazing journey!


Month 7: I’m doing well and I have energy to burn.

It’s hard to express how great I feel! I just saw my family physician – my sugar level was down to a five and my blood pressure is beautiful. Everything is just where it should be and I’m still off the medication.

I’ve lost five more pounds, putting me at 202 with a BMI of 33.6. I exercise five days a week and sometimes on the weekends. Following directions, I eat three meals and three snacks a day. Meals consist of two ounces of meat and one ounce each of vegetables/fruit and a starch but I fill up quickly and don’t feel deprived.

Tonight I’m going to a seminar with my friend who is going to have the bypass surgery. 

My friend really wants this change and her doctor feels it will enable her to have a much better life. I’m there for her and she’s got good family support, which matters a great deal.

The program offers all kinds of support as well. Any time you feel like backtracking, you can reach out to your group. Plus, Karen and Kristina, the program nurse and dietician make themselves available to us round the clock, seven days a week. They are wonderful.

I couldn’t imagine a better place to have this surgery. The support here is fantastic!


Month 8: Enjoying Summer!

It had gotten so I wouldn’t go outside much in the summer. Now at 195 pounds, I can ride my bike and garden! It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do so many things again.

I love my flowers plus I’ve got cherry bushes and peach and apple trees. I’m even making jelly and other things I haven’t done in a long time. But this time it’s a healthy version of jelly – I’m not going back to the old version!

My everyday life is so much easier too, being able to do things most people take for granted. I can easily mop a floor, bend down to pick something up, move furniture, and grocery shop, which I used to hate because it takes a lot of walking.

Friends stop me all the time and say, “Wow, Flo, you look great!” I’m starting to look nice in my one-piece swimsuit and they tell me I’m really getting a figure.

After taking 15 pills a day, I’m down to two: Ventolin for my asthma and a pill to take until my stomach is completely healed. I haven’t used my inhaler for eight months.

My daughter is coming from Florida to visit and she hasn’t seen me since before the surgery. This visit, we will be able to work out together. I can hardly wait!


Month 9: “Oh my God, mom, you look beautiful!”

I had a wonderful visit with my daughter, who hadn’t seen me in a year. When she saw me she said, “Oh my God, mom, you look beautiful!”

We went to the flea market at Shipshewana and walked and walked and walked, including stairs. My daughter noticed I wasn’t out of breath and my sister, Wanda, had a hard time keeping up with me. It used to be the other way around!

I’ve been very active and exercising like crazy. Now I’m down to 185 pounds and my BMI is 30.8. I have made a lifetime commitment to watching everything I do. I’m so happy and I know my doctor and nurse are going to be very pleased when I go in on the 30th.

They are so wonderful in the bariatric center. You can call any time and they have such good advice. The meetings are great and you can go for a lifetime.

The biggest piece of advice I could give someone thinking about weight loss surgery is to go into it whole-heartedly and fight like you’ve never fought before. If you fight hard enough, you can make it!


Month 10: Go with your dreams, keep trying, never give up! 

On my last monthly office visit they took my picture, which will be displayed in the hospital to represent the bariatric surgery department. I’m absolutely honored!

At that appointment, on July 30, I weighed 177 pounds. So far I’ve lost a total of 90 some pounds and 18.5 inches.

I feel so fortunate because I used to think I was going to be like I was for the rest of my life. It just shows you if you want something bad enough, you can do it.

My husband said, “I see the effort you made and I can do it to.” He’s been eating the same things I do but in larger portions and has lost 20 pounds. He’s got 10 more to go and is moving around a lot better. We’re going to start riding bikes together.

He told me he’s very proud of me, which is so great to hear from your other half. I’m proud of him too!

I’m happy for everyone that is doing this and I’ve been coaching some others by providing tips and encouragement. We all just help each other plus the monthly classes are full of support and information. I look forward to them and only miss if I’m out of town.


Month 11: Keeping a food journal keeps me on track!

I have lost 94 pounds and now weigh 173. The goal set for me is 165 pounds, based on my age and build.

Reaching my goal will happen as it comes. If I run into a problem, I see Karen, the program’s RN, or Kristina, the nutritionist. They go over my journal, show me where I’m going wrong, and suggest substitutions. That’s real important.

At this point, I don’t have to keep a food journal but I do. It helps me improve my life by showing me things I want to avoid.

A couple people in the monthly class said they hate keeping a journal. I asked them, “Don’t you find you do a lot better when you’re writing it down?” One of them agreed and when he started journaling again, he started losing weight again and is doing really well.

Keeping a journal helps keep people on track because no one wants to report things they shouldn’t be doing. But if you do make mistakes, you need to be honest and write them down. Don’t be ashamed of them – learn from them!

Even when you don’t have to keep a journal, do, because it’s going to help you in the long run. Without it, you find yourself not staying where you should be.


Month 12 - Staying Focused

Here it is fall and I look back on a good summer where I was able to do a lot of outdoor things. I am just enjoying life!

My weight is down to 168 pounds and I have gone from a size 3X to a 14 – that’s pretty cool!

After the surgery you have to work out and keep moving. That’s one of the biggies. But you need to know the proper ways to exercise and do things so you don’t hurt yourself.

I walk a lot, go to the gym and do aqua aerobics. I also work with weights to help tighten my muscles. When I walk, I put five pounds on each ankle. It was a challenge at first, but now I’m fine with it.

If you eat right and eat six small meals a day, you don’t get hungry or crave things. I don’t miss all the junk food.

I’ve been working hard at this and this is something I plan to keep up for a lifetime.

My advice to anyone going through this is to be good to yourself and take what you’re doing seriously. Don’t stop and even if you fall back a pace or two, get back into it.

You can do it!