Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

Not the Easy Way Out: Why Lisa Chose Gastric Bypass Weight Loss Surgery

Lisa Coleman and her son before her gastric bypass weight loss surgery
Lisa Coleman prior to her weight loss surgery in 2004

Lisa Coleman contributed this post. She had gastric bypass surgery at UVA in 2004. Lisa now lives in Monroe, Va., and works as a sales representative for Johnson and Johnson in the Ethicon Division as a bariatric, thoracic and energy representative.

15 years ago I topped my heaviest weight ever! I was a mother of a newborn, and I tipped the scales at 305 pounds. My doctor diagnosed me as morbidly obese. I was reeling from that horrific statement. I thought, morbid is like death. I was mortified that this term was used to describe me.

Losing the Obesity Battle

The really frustrating part is that I am not lazy, and I do not sit on my backside all day and eat chocolate bon bons. I had literally tried every diet that had been invented up to that point in my life. I did low-fat, high-carb, Weight Watchers, Cambridge Diet, cabbage diet, grapefruit diet and many others, which actually ruined my metabolism at a young age.

I also tried all kinds of exercise programs, gyms, hiking, biking and weight lifting. I would have temporary success and then hit these awful plateaus that I just couldn’t overcome. I would get frustrated and go back to eating everything and more because the diets actually made me hungrier. It was a vicious, self-defeating cycle.

Lisa Coleman after her gastric bypass surgery
Coleman has maintained a 120-pound weight loss since her surgery.

I even got desperate enough to try medication. That was an awful experience. I had some bad side effects, and that drug was pulled off the market. I was frustrated beyond belief. While I was very accomplished in my career — I had my MBA, worked for Fortune 500 companies — I was an absolute failure in managing my weight.

I started to do some research. That actually proved to be even more depressing. I uncovered research showing that people who needed to lose 100 pounds of weight or more only have a 1-2% chance of losing the weight and keeping it off through traditional diet and exercise methods. (This more recent article indicates similar results.) There is so much research on how our hormones work against us and fight us when we try to lose weight. Everything I uncovered in my research, I had lived out in fighting the losing battle of obesity.

Gastric Bypass Surgery: The Bravest Decision of my Life

One thing I knew…

Doing the same thing over and over wasn’t going to yield different results. I needed to do something drastic, something to intervene with my body’s natural tendency to pack on the pounds. In my research, I uncovered that bariatric surgery had the highest success rate of any intervention for weight loss for the morbidly obese.

So on May 19, 2004, on my husband’s birthday, I had gastric bypass surgery at UVA.

Gastric bypass, also called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, involves creating a small pouch from the stomach and connecting it directly to the small intestine. Afterward, swallowed food goes into this newly created small stomach pouch and then directly into the small intestine, bypassing part of your stomach and small intestine. I chose this procedure because at that time, it yielded much higher results than the only other option, the gastric band.

It was the hardest decision of my life! Going under the knife and changing my internal plumbing is not something I took lightly.

I read recently that 40% of people who qualify for bariatric surgery feel it is the easy way out, and that is why they are choosing not to pursue it. I have to tell you, my face turned as red as my bright red hair when I heard this. EASY! This is not EASY, to make this kind of a decision to change your body, to undergo surgery, to deal with people’s opinions, to commit to a lifestyle change forever in order to make this tool work. It takes hard work and determination!

I have committed to:

  • 10,000-plus steps in a day
  • Healthy protein first in my diet
  • Forgo white flour and added sugar 95% of the time
  • Pack lunches and snacks to make better choices
  • Say no to sodas and sugary drinks

What I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult the emotional journey would be post op. It was like mourning a death. I did not realize how much I had relied on food as my emotional support to get through difficult issues and feelings. It was the first time I had ever dealt with raw feelings without medicating them with food.

It was the hardest part of this journey but necessary. I found that turning to exercise as a new focus helped me to better deal with my stress.

After Gastric Bypass: My Results

Surgery was the tool to help me with losing weight, but I needed to change my eating habits and focus on healthy proteins while incorporating daily exercise/step goals. I would say 70% of my weight loss was just the results of the surgery, but the remaining 30% was due to my laser focus on protein intake and routine exercise.

Considering Bariatric Surgery?

UVA’s experienced team has performed more than 3,000 successful surgeries. Learn more about weight loss surgery at UVA.

Within a month I could start to see results, but 6-9 months out is when everyone else really noticed I was losing weight, and compliments were a daily occurrence.

I turned 50 in March. I’m proud to say that I feel and look younger than I did 15 years ago. I’m incredibly active and vital. I have maintained 120 pounds of weight loss — something I work at daily! I have run a marathon and biked 110 miles in one day and plan on setting more goals in my future.

It takes bravery and dedication to fight obesity through weight loss surgery. But it has been proven to be the most effective option available. I’m so grateful I did the research and allowed it to change my life!

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week