By Alexandra Prim
DECIDING ON SURGERY
Aubrey Podell weighed 351 pounds when she graduated from Boston University in 2010. Her weight gain had happened gradually, over the last six or seven years, and she didn’t know what to do.
“I tried a lot of different diets,” said Podell, now 27 years old and a women’s clothing size four. “I tried everything,” she said, laughing.
While it’s easy for Podell to look back at her past struggle with the detachment that comes with time and–in this case–progress, it took her a long time to get both the physical and emotional states she inhabits now.
“I decided to look into weight loss surgery because it had gotten to the point, in my mind, of an insurmountable problem,” said Podell.
She had just begun working at Newton-Wellesley Hospital when she started taking the idea of surgery seriously.
“I was standing in line, ironically, in front of [the hospital’s] coffee shop getting a doughnut,” Podell said, “and there was a television monitor that had an advertisement for the weight loss center. So I saw this advertisement and decided I would go to one of the new patient informational sessions.”
Once she had formed a relationship with the center’s lead surgeon, Podell found that she only had one month to prepare for her Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery.
This procedure, according to the Mayo Clinic, consists of a small pouch being cut out of the stomach and attached directly to the small intestine. It effectively shrinks the stomach (although, if dietary changes are not maintained long term, the organ can technically stretch back out).
AUBREY’S AUDIO I: WEIGHT LOSS
Podell’s surgery was conducted laparoscopically, or via thin tubes inserted into small incisions in her stomach. She now has six tiny scars as proof of the procedure.
Bariatric procedures were once considered dangerous, especially for patients with Type 2 diabetes. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, in recent years, its safety level has become comparable to that of gall-bladder surgery.
Weight loss surgery has also progressed in another way. Many people, even those in the medical community, previously were prone to dismissing its merits.
Jessica Reader, a Chicago-area family physician, is one of those doctors who have fully come around to bariatric surgery.
“It is a very effective weight-loss tool for people who really need it,” said Reader. “When I started getting into medicine, I didn’t necessarily think weight-loss surgery was a good idea. I thought it was kind of a cop-out. But now that I’ve seen the effects it can have on people and seen the science behind it, I’m much more likely to recommend it to my patients who have severe obesity; patients who are young, who–you know–really want to have their life back. I think it’s a really good option if they’re the right candidate.”
In Podell’s case, the surgery was very effective and, combined with the diet that is mandated by the surgery’s restrictions, she lost all of her excess weight in under a year. And has kept it completely off.
AUBREY’S AUDIO II: FITNESS