In January of 2016, Michelle Bartley had a sleeve gastrectomy and embarked on a journey of self discovery and self love. By choosing bariatric surgery, Michelle has taken control of her life and now looks forward to a longer, healthier life and we are so proud to be on this journey with her. We recently asked Michelle to share her experience with us so that she may inspire others considering a similar, life-changing decision.
Tell us about your biggest success thus far?
My biggest success so far is that I am 20 months out from surgery in January 2016, I am down 150 pounds and still losing – slowly – but still losing. My heaviest weight was 309.7 pounds. I am the fittest I have ever been in probably 20 years and I love my new life. I try to hike 15-20 miles every weekend, and I work out with a personal trainer. I’m now looking into join a boxing gym to learn something new.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is that I think about food a lot. I have to think about what to eat; does it have enough protein, and will it make me sick? (Diet soda still makes me ill – I try it every now and again – but it still doesn’t agree with me.) Will what I choose fill me up for a few hours? I never thought this would consume me the way it has, but I still wouldn’t change anything for the world. One other challenge is that I still see the “fat girl” in the mirror each day.
What has been your motivation during this journey?
My motivation is purely selfish – I want to get into smaller size clothing! I love my new life and I’m very determined not to go back to the way I was. That is my motivation every single morning when I get out of bed. I also want to start dating again, so that is my next challenge (and motivation!) My trainer has challenged me to join a dating website so that’s my next goal!
What are some of your favorite go-to healthy meals?
I have a hardboiled egg nearly every morning after my morning coffee, and usually before a workout. I keep them in my fridge; it is a favorite go-to snack. Overnight oats with added protein powder are also a favorite for breakfast. I keep sliced meats and cheeses in my fridge and I meal prep, so I have pre-portioned containers with chicken chili, pork carnitas or Bolognese in the fridge and freezer. I have those with steamed veggies or zoodles, so I know what I’m eating most of the time.
What advice would you give to someone considering weight loss surgery?
I knew I was being given this one chance to get my health back and I was DETERMINED to make it work for me. It is NOT the easy way out. It’s a kick-start and the rest is on you. You are the one who has to make the changes in your life. You WILL have to exercise. You WILL have to change the way you eat and drink. It’s is not easy, but I needed and wanted this more than anything else in my life.
Before surgery, I educated myself on post-surgery diets and ways to prepare food. I use an app called MyFitnessPal religiously, tracking everything I put in my mouth for the first year. I downloaded bariatric recipes off the internet and made my own recipe book.
Join a support group and connect with someone who has been successful in their own journey. Just don’t make their journey your journey. Find your own path. I’ve have made plenty of mistakes, but I continued to move forward, and I continue to move forward every day with the utmost optimism.
Be prepared for the disappointments. My weight stalled about five weeks out and didn’t change for two weeks – I was distraught. Then one morning – BOOM – the scale shifted and the weight dropped again. I now know it was my body readjusting, but I wasn’t prepared for that. Also, my clothing didn’t change for the first 52 pounds of weight loss. Again, I couldn’t understand it. And then – BOOM – the sizing shifted. I have gone from a size 26/28 to an 8/Medium and I donate clothing at least once a month to the local Goodwill. I suffered hair loss, which really scared me, but I took all my vitamins, extra vitamins, researched shampoos and treatments, and thankfully it stopped. My hair is now healthy and growing strong. I am not sure if it was the vitamins, the products or the combination, but they helped me in my process!
My advice, first and foremost, is to follow the instructions your doctor gives you. I followed my pre-surgery diet exactly and lost 28 pounds in the two weeks prior to surgery. I didn’t eat solid food until I was told I could do so, and as soon as I was cleared to start working out – about 6 weeks out – I contacted a personal trainer to weight train and I walked, walked, walked. Now I’m starting to run!