Kevin Brown*, a 63-year-old retiree in Seattle, Washington
Weight pre–surgery in 2013: 358 pounds
Weight today: 247 pounds
When you lose 150 pounds, it takes a lot less alcohol to get drunk. Secondly, because of the short-circuiting of your plumbing [digestive tract], alcohol gets to the intestines faster, so the speed of absorption increases. So two drinks equals six drinks.
Those of us that were overweight obviously had impulse control issues. You can replace a food addition with alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or, in my case, a news addiction. The same compulsive instinct can shift to other crutches. I drink less beer than I used to, but I drink a little more rum than I used to.
If I were talking to somebody who was considering the surgery, I’d warn them that you’re going to smell really bad [from farting]. This is going to be pretty gross, but you don’t burp anymore. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’ve burped more than two to three times since my surgery. All of the gas goes out the south end, not the north end.
Natalie Laforce, a 52-year-old medical office coordinator in Baltimore, Maryland
Weight pre–surgery in 2015: 270
Weight today: 150
When you have this surgery, you have to mentally prepare for the fact that you’re not going to be able to eat as much. I used to love milk and yogurt. After surgery, I couldn’t eat it. I was probably one of the luckier ones — I was craving vegetables. Some people don’t have hunger at all. These days, I notice I crave chips and pretzels. But sugar, I can’t do a whole lot of it. It makes me sick.
My digestion is different [since the surgery]. Sometimes it’s uncontrollable. I get up and pass gas and don’t know where it came from. I notice I go to the bathroom more frequently, which is a good thing. I also have a lot more energy.
Barbara McGraw, a 71-year-old retired teacher in Santa Cruz Redwoods, California
Weight pre–surgery in 2005: 300 pounds
Weight today: 155 pounds
I had a lap band surgery, and it had to be removed after six years. The tubing on the band kinked, so the fluid in my stomach got in my lungs in the surgery.
After that, the surgeons did a gastric bypass. Since then, I have also had eight plastic surgeries. They did my breasts, arms, face, thighs, because you have loose skin hanging all over. It’s almost as bad as being obese. My legs were rubbing together and hurting. My chin was hanging.
[Surgery will] totally change your life, but it’ll take a lot of work on your part. You need the right surgeon and right support group. My mantra is: Bariatric surgery is a journey, not a destination.
Neely Williams, a 67-year-old independent consultant in Nashville, Tennessee
Weight pre–surgery in 2011: 406 pounds
Weight today: 250 pounds
About one and a half years after surgery, I had hernia repair. Once I lost the weight, herniated areas in my stomach became an issue. Seven months after that surgery, I had to have an emergency gallbladder surgery. Weight loss surgery changed the digestive system and caused gallbladder problems for me.