With a family history of heart disease and stroke, and her own growing health issues, Sheryl Bader knew she needed to lose weight.
She had grown to 365 pounds on a 5-foot-3 frame, developing type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. She suffered from psoriatic arthritis and the extra weight added to the pain in her joints.
All the health issues gave Bader plenty of motivation to lose weight, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t lose enough weight and keep it off, she said. It was then that her doctors began to suggest bariatric surgery.
“My GP had mentioned it many times. I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to go down that road. This is the easy way out,'” said Bader, 51, who lives in Boonville, Missouri, to TODAY about his views at the time.
“At this point, I know it’s not the easy way out. I really think there’s a big stigma about it too…(but) it’s a tool to help you lose weight.
‘How did I get to this point?’
Bader had been overweight since she was a child, recalling that she was “always the bigger person”. She weighed 170 pounds in college, when everyone else weighed 98 pounds, she said, blaming a mix of genetics, lack of exercise and emotional eating. The hospital worker continued to gain weight into adulthood.
“My go-to food was anything and everything. I liked sweet, I liked salty, just food in general. I love to cook, so it’s hard. You try new recipes,” a Bader said.
She had tried most popular diets over the years, but nothing worked long term. Seeing 365 pounds on the scale amazed her.
“It was unreal that I ever got that big. It was just like, how did I get to this point? she recalled.
Bader began considering bariatric surgery after having to undergo two knee surgeries. Her doctor told her that she would eventually need knee replacement surgery, but first she needed to lose at least 100 pounds. Despite her best efforts, she was unable to do so.
In October 2019, Bader underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery at the University of Missouri Health Care, where she also works as a patient account representative.
The surgery involved dividing her stomach into a smaller upper part – an egg-sized pouch – while bypassing the larger part so that it no longer stores or digests food, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
The pouch holds less food, so fewer calories are ingested. This and other changes triggered by the surgery have a “profound effect” on reducing hunger, resulting in reliable and sustained weight loss, the group noted.
Bader spent two nights in the hospital and returned to work within a week.
A new way of eating
At first, Bader could only ingest liquids and soft foods. For eight weeks, she slowly reintroduced other foods into her diet, and this slow progression of eating “was the hardest part of everything,” she recalls.
More than two years later, her routine is established. She can only eat small portions of food – up to a cup at a time – so she prioritizes eating protein first, as it’s essential for maintaining muscle mass while losing fat.
With her small stomach pouch, “you want to make sure you’ve got your protein before you fill up on everything else,” Bader said. Carbohydrate intake is limited.
She tries to eat completely without sugar; otherwise, it risks dumping syndrome, or feeling sick after eating sweets. Bubble drinks aren’t on the menu either, as they can make the little stomach explode and cause gas.
Bader should avoid foods with seeds or hard shells, such as those found in some fruits or popcorn, because they can clog the artificial opening between his stomach and intestines.
The surgery affects how a person digests and metabolizes alcohol, so a few sips of wine now affect Bader as much as a glass of wine before gastric bypass surgery, she said. There is also a limited amount of caffeine she can have in a day because the acidity can affect her much smaller stomach. Getting the right diet is crucial, Bader noted.
“When you eat things you shouldn’t or do things you shouldn’t, that’s when you start having trouble,” she said.
Bader lost 25 pounds in the first month after his surgery and continued to lose weight. In all, she lost 189 pounds and now weighs 176. She is no longer battling type 2 diabetes, her blood pressure is normal and her sleep apnea is gone.
She used to hate exercising, but now she works out almost every day of the week. Her favorite classes are dance fitness and cardio-strength.
“My joints rarely hurt now. I feel good, I have more energy, I’m more outgoing. I’ve had depression and anxiety for years and those have lessened,” Bader said. .
“Part of it is exercise – the good endorphins it releases. It helps your mental health. Because I’ve lost weight, I can exercise more, and because I do more exercise, I can lose more weight. It’s a nice little circle.
Working out is such a passion now that Bader has become a certified group fitness instructor and works as a substitute teacher in her gym.
She is convinced that the operation was a life-saving option that helped her regain her health.