All my life has been a struggle with my weight; it wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned it wasn’t all my fault. I was fighting a disease, and without the proper tools to beat it. In fact the only thing comforting me through my struggles was the very thing inhibiting me from overcoming it. Obesity is a disease and my dangerous addiction to food was fueling it, causing me to weigh in at over 350 pounds before I was 30 years old.

The word fat was not just a word to me. It was a weapon, used specifically with hurting me in mind. A word used to remind me that because I was fat, I was worthless. I have memories of being picked on in school, the boys teasing me during recess. I would cry every day walking home from the bus stop but there was not much comfort at home. I was told to ‘suck in my gut’ when I walked up the hill home and I watched as my mother, a small woman, skip dinner because she wasn’t small enough. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the one woman you’re supposed to look up to projected her body image issues on to you.

When I became an adult and moved out, the stress of home life no longer weighed on my shoulders. I felt free and happy and the only friend there to share my new happiness with was food. I was addicted, sweet, salty or savory it didn’t matter. My first apartment was stocked with junk. I drank soda as if it were water. I developed horrible anxiety, afraid to leave my home. I was afraid to be seen in public. My weight got so bad that I had to order clothing online because the stores didn’t carry my size and if they did, well I sure as heck wasn’t going out in public for everyone to stare at. I was terrified of going out to new restaurants; I would ask myself “Are the booths big enough? Will the chairs break if I sit in them?” Walking was a chore, my ankles hurt and I would run out of breath in just a few minutes. I had developed polycystic ovary syndrome. I hated my life and what I had done to my body. My addiction had led me to this point, I was 29 years old and I weighed 352 pounds.

Meeting Dr. Karen Hanna was fate. I was admitted to the emergency room with gallstones and she was the on call surgeon. When she came into my room she was so incredibly compassionate, she really cared. When I met with Dr. Hanna for a follow up from my gallbladder removal, I found myself sitting in the exam room staring at four different posters on the wall. Three were of different types of bariatric surgery and one was a BMI chart. I found my height and weight and almost burst into tears. I had a BMI of 58.6, I was morbidly obese. My eyes went back to the other posters and decided right then and there that I was going to make a change, I had to. Weight loss surgery was something I had been thinking of for a couple of years but I just kept thinking I could lose the weight on my own. But I couldn’t, obesity is a disease I couldn’t fight alone and my addiction was only adding more trouble.

I am now a year and one month out from my surgery and I have lost a total of 150 pounds and counting. I cannot begin to thank Dr. Hanna enough for what she has done for me. Her program is absolutely amazing. Each and every time I went into the office I felt cared for, I felt like a person. She has truly given me my life back. There are so many things that I’m able to do now that I simply couldn’t before. I can buckle an airplane seat belt and still have room, I can walk and run, I have more energy than I’ve ever had and I no longer fear if a chair will hold my weight. I’ve participated in a 5k marathon, I’ve hiked Torrey Pines, all the way down and back up and my PCOS symptoms are fading. I feel like I’ve awaken from a dream as my true happier and healthier self.