By: Dr. Isabelle Labonté, Internist, IUCPQ – Quebec Heart and Lung Institute.
Why not me? That’s what I thought to myself about a year ago. I’m an internist at the IUCPQ – Quebec Heart and Lung Institute at Université Laval. I work extensively in bariatric medicine, helping patients with obesity and sharing my knowledge on its management.
Over the past few years I realized that I am part of that group of patients who at risk of developing many diseases that can shorten one’s lifespan and healthy lifespan. It was a wakeup call. It’s scary to think about all those metabolic comorbidities, cardiovascular risks and the 14 cancers linked with an excess risk!
Not only that. I was also feeling less and less credible in my own professional practice. But despite all my knowledge on the subject, the many medications I tried and the endless lifestyle changes I made, I couldn’t lose the excess weight. So who would believe and follow my advice?
I’ve played sports my whole life. I swam competitively 24 hours a week, played soccer, cycled and did 10-k runs, all despite my obesity. I went on my first diet when I was 14, and I’ve been hungry ever since. Those darn hormones that make you hungry and increase your appetite while you deprive yourself and stay active! Obelix’s famous quote: “When you’re eating well, you’re well” doesn’t apply to everyone. My basal metabolic rate dropped so low that it almost collided with the earth’s core. Being from an obese family, my genes certainly didn’t help. I cried so many times. My childhood, teenage years and even adult life were marked with disappointments: I was bullied, judged and rejected by boys.
After being around successful gastric surgery patients (including my sister) and reading more about obesity, I realized that I needed to pull on the bannister to make it up a flight of stairs. I had also started wearing a CPAP for sleep apnea. I had had enough. I decided to go for it and choose myself – to take action at 53 rather than waiting until I was 60 or 65!
On November 27, 2020, with a BMI of 45, I took the plunge. I had a Roux-en-Y- bypass to regain my health. Then I had to completely relearn how to eat. This included a lot of bland and even downright unpleasant textures (I now know why babies don’t like pureed meat). I also had to adjust my quantities because one bite too many can cause reflux and regurgitation. Post-operative pain, fatigue, hair loss and excess skin were all part of my journey to a healthy weight.
But, miracle of miracles, I was finally seeing results on the scale without having to starve myself. After 7 months of eating carefully and walking over 300 km, I have lost 80 pounds and my BMI is now 31. I’m still losing weight, albeit more slowly. All I need to do now is overcome my fears of gaining the weight back – something I see every week in my work.
Despite it all, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to choose myself again!