Nine years ago, I weighed 100 pounds more than I do today. You would never know it from looking at me now, with my Instagram feed full of healthy meals and me raving about plant-based eating to anyone who will listen. But back then, I didn’t eat very healthy and I had been yo-yo dieting ever since I could remember (yes, even in my teens). Despite losing a decent amount of weight in college, I gained it all back after graduation — and struggled to lose it again.
Although I know plenty of gorgeous, curvy women who look great no matter what size, I didn’t feel good about myself or my body at the time. I was frustrated and, most of all, I knew that my lifestyle was terrible. I drank a lot in those I’m-21-now days and I ate giant portions. I couldn’t stop. So when my mami told me on Thanksgiving that a few of our family friends had gotten a gastric bypass with a reputable, well-known doctor in Colombia, I was intrigued. After researching the surgery for the next couple of months, I decided that this was the choice for me.
It was a scary decision, since I knew it would mean watching what I eat for the rest of my life and having to supplement my diet with calcium, iron, and B12 supplements, but I knew it was the right one for me. Weight loss surgery (a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in my case, where the the doctor would cut away a part of my stomach to create a small “pouch” and then bypass a part of my intestines) gave me the tools I needed to lose weight and most of all, get healthy for the first time in my life. Yes, there were risks with the surgery, such as potential complications during the surgery itself such as, bowel obstruction, gallstones, hernias, malnutrition, ulcers, and more. But I felt that the risks were worth it in order to accomplish my goal of getting healthy and, most of all, staying healthy for the rest of my life.
Previously, I lost weight simply by restricting calories but still eating crap. I didn’t want to do that this time and the surgery forced me to re-evaluate my eating and ultimately, made me start exploring the world of healthy living.
The thing that most amazed me about my weight loss surgery, however, was how much my family was behind me all of the way. The truth is that both of my parents supported me during this turbulent time in my life — both financially and emotionally, which I really needed. And I am forever grateful for that… which is why I was so shocked by a recent episode of This Is Us, where the character of Kate (Chrissy Moss) is considering weight loss surgery but her mother (Mandy Moore) is very concerned and basically talks her out of it. As someone who comes from a family full of overweight people, I understand her mother’s concern. But at the same time, I can’t understand why she wouldn’t support her daughter’s choice to receive a potentially life-saving surgery.
More than seventy-seven percent of Latino adults in the states are obese or overweight. They are also at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and are susceptible to diabetes. The truth is that our families can both help and hurt us in our endeavor to be healthier. Like many Latinos, I grew up eating a lot of food that definitely wasn’t good for me. To be honest, I probably didn’t see many vegetables growing up and had to literally (and I do mean literally) force myself to start eating them as an adult.
When I first began to lose weight thanks to my gastric bypass, it wasn’t easy. I had to slowly reintroduce food, like the tacos I ate pretty regularly, and be careful that I wasn’t overloading my newly tiny stomach. I dropped 100 pounds in the first year, and spent the next year learning to cook healthy so that I could ensure to maintain my weight loss. Eventually, I had to get plastic surgery in order to repair the loose skin I still had left — getting a lower leg lift, upper body lift, liposuction, arm lift, and breast augmentation.
Ultimately, the surgery allowed me to lose weight easily but it was with the support of my parents (and my mami in particular, who encouraged me to cook and even learned a few lessons from me) that I have been able to keep the weight off for the past nine years.
In fact, one of the proudest moments of my post-surgery life is when I introduced my mom to kale. Seeing me successfully lose weight and begin to cook healthier Latin meals, my family began to implement their own dietary changes. And it’s all brought us closer together — first with my parents supporting me and then with me supporting them right back. Even more than the pounds I’ve lost, I will forever be grateful for that.