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Jan-Feb 2012

Profile from the "Paying It Forward" Chapter:
"The Success Habits Of Weight Loss Surgery Patients"
3rd Edition (2012)

I remember being “that cute little skinny girl” who was a notoriously picky eater. People offered me anything – including my favorite black licorice candy – as long as I would just eat. Why? Because everyone in my big Italian family loved to eat – and “big” meant more than you can imagine. Food was the answer to everything. Food was there when you were happy, food was there when you were upset – food was here, there and everywhere.

By elementary school, the “fat cells”, which I inherited from both of my Italian/Irish parents, started to explode. By 3rd grade I was the only fat kid in the class. In 6th grade, the annual class weigh-in was humiliating when my teacher announced to the class that I weighed a whooping 125 lbs.! Of course, the loving adults in my life always told me I had “such a pretty face” and “such a beautiful smile.”

In high school, I decided to lose weight. After almost a year of living on celery sticks and other non-fattening foods, plus walking and riding my bike everyday – I did it! At 15 years old, I was 5’2” tall and 118 lbs. – and I loved every minute of my success.

At age 23, I married a man from another “big” Italian family, but soon I was the mother of a small child and my weight ballooned to over 270 lbs. What had happened? I was desperate to lose weight at any cost. When a friend with a similar weight problem told me that gastric bypass surgery would let us be “thin forever” – it didn’t take me long to have the surgery. Unfortunately, soon after the surgery and the birth of my second child, the happy life with my husband came to an end. I don’t think he ever accepted the skinny wife who suddenly had more of a voice and was going back to college to earn her degree.

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Eighteen months after surgery, we divorced and I was finishing my MSW degree as a single mom with two small children. Although I was now a perfect size 4, the people closest to me were becoming more distant. I decided to keep moving forward. I still needed plastic surgery to complete my post WLS transition process.

Today, at 17 years post-WLS, I still have to push myself to exercise, eat right, and be accountable for the daily choices I make.

In my current roles on the board of directors for the Long Island Post Op organization, as a licensee of BSCI’s Back on Track and Success Habits programs, and as a Psychological Evaluator for WLS, I feel so fortunate that my personal experiences encourage and motivate so many men and woman to “Just Do It.” I remind them that after WLS, it is important to stay connected to a support group and to find healthier, positive replacement habits and coping mechanisms – instead of going back to our “old reliable food buddies” and eating rituals.

I have never regretted having the surgery. And I appreciate the fact that after WLS, I finally learned to respect and love the “new me”- which was always the “old me” in a bigger package! :)

©2011 Jean Marie Rafferty, MSW, ACSW, LCSW-R | Clinical Social Work and Therapist | Long Island, New York - All Rights Reserved