Two months before my 23rd birthday, I woke up in a hospital room in Colombia with my stomach feeling like there were a thousand needles inside it. The pain was almost unbearable — but I knew it was for a good reason.
I had just come out of a gastric bypass operation in which my doctor created a small pouch from my stomach, bypassed a portion of my small intestine, and connected them to each other.
At 22 years old, I had just undergone weight loss surgery.
I wasn’t necessarily what most people picture when they imagine someone who makes the difficult decision to undergo such a dramatic and potentially life-threatening operation. I was young and, as friends put it at the time, “didn’t look that big.”
I had always carried my weight fairly well, thanks to my Latina curves. It was mostly evenly distributed, with the most noticeable concentration of excess weight appearing on my butt and very ample (or, as I called them, enormous) thighs, which I hid via dresses that emphasized my smaller waist. I had learned to cleverly disguise the legs I had been ashamed of since I was 10 years old.
But at 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing in at over 230 pounds at my peak, I was squarely in the morbidly obese category.
After losing weight through Weight Watchers in college, quickly gaining it back during my first year in the “real world,” and subsequently struggling to lose it again, I was ready to give up.
Then, over Thanksgiving, my parents suggested we visit their friend’s doctor in Barranquilla, Colombia. The doctor had already performed gastric bypass surgery on several of my parents’ friends, including my childhood best friend’s father, who had weighed over 400 pounds for as long as I’d known him.
Bolstered by their stories, I agreed. A week after New Year’s, I was off for my own surgery in a foreign country — excited and terrified at once.
A year later, I was down 100 pounds and thrilled with my success.
Although losing weight is fairly easy after weight loss surgery, the journey is still difficult. I remember how little I was able to eat in the first few months, as I adjusted to my newly smaller stomach and healed from the operation.