It's a Family Affair: "My Mom and I Both Had Bariatric Surgery Because Our Health Was at Risk"
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That is how much weight, collectively, Sonya Fox, 45, and her daughter, Rebecca Moore, 23, shed after undergoing sleeve gastrectomy bariatric surgery, a weight-loss procedure that reduces the size of the stomach by about 80%.
A family history of health issues, plus numbers on the scale creeping up, inspired Moore to take action, and in January 2017 she underwent surgery.
Fox, who herself was suffering from a host of weight-related health concerns, did more than just support her daughter in her decision to take control of her health: In December 2017, close to a year after Moore’s surgery, Fox decided to go through with the procedure herself.
To celebrate the season of get-healthy resolutions, we caught up with the pair to learn about the inspiration behind their life-changing decision, how their experiences were similar and different—and how life has changed for this Cincinnati-based mother and daughter.
"We Knew it Was Time to Change Our Lives"
Moore: The biggest inspiration for getting surgery was my overall health. A lot of our family has had health issues, like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart problems and cancer, and I didn’t want to go down the same path. My mom especially has a lot of—well, had a lot of—health issues stemming from diabetes.
Fox: I had high blood pressure, diabetes that my doctors were having a hard time controlling and diabetes-related liver disease. And if you can lose weight and watch what you eat, it may help with all of these issues.
Moore: My mom didn’t develop diabetes until I was out of the house and at college. I never really knew how bad it was until about two years ago, when I stopped by her house and saw that the fridge had a ton of insulin in it—and it terrified me.
Fox: I was worried I was going to die at a young age if I didn’t get my health under control. The wear on my body was taking its toll. I needed a change.
Same Surgeries, Unique Experiences
Moore: I had to first do a doctor-supervised, presurgery diet for six months to show that I could lose weight consistently in order for insurance to approve the operation. Emotionally, I never worried about going through with the surgery; I was prepared and knew it was the only choice for me. I was more nervous for my mom than anything. We operate completely differently, and I was worried that she would look at me and think it was a walk in the park.
Fox: Before surgery I met with a dietitian and nutritionist to work together on creating generally healthier eating habits. I also went to in-person classes and completed food diaries. It was more emotional for me to see Rebecca go through it than to go through it myself. I was so excited for her and to see the change in her.
Moore: Honestly, my pain levels were low after surgery. I was only on painkillers while in the hospital for a one-night stay, and I felt uncomfortable for about a week. This was my first major surgery, so I think I hyped up what the pain level would be. But you also can’t eat real food afterward. For the first week you are only consuming clear liquids, the next week is liquids of any color and then it’s several weeks of pureed/soft foods. You don’t resume eating “normal” food until about week six.
Fox: After surgery I was just so excited to start this new journey and feel like a new me. While I didn't have much pain, I was very lethargic due to the liquid and pureed food diet. I felt like I could hardly lift my head off the pillow.
The gastric sleeve procedure is just a tool, and you still need to make changes in your eating habits and lifestyle. One thing I want to do is run a 5K with Rebecca. Before the weight loss I never even dreamed of having a goal like that!Share
"Small Steps Can Lead to Big Results"
Moore: The biggest thing for me to focus on now is working out. It's expensive, but my personal trainer and a gym membership is really important to me. Having the surgery was a tool, but knowing how to properly work out is essential, too.
Some days I still feel like I weigh 245 pounds. I look at pictures and don’t see the progress that everyone else sees. I’m still critical of myself, which can be emotionally taxing. Luckily, my best friend is a personal trainer and dietetics student, and I call her a lot when I feel down. She gets my feelings more than most people, so she is one of my biggest supporters.
Fox: I also have a personal trainer who I meet with once a week, and I also take Tabata [a high-intensity interval workout] once a week.
Moore: Eating is a completely different experience. I struggle with "catching," which is common after surgery. Basically, food gets stuck in my chest, so I need to eat smaller bites. I eat about one-fourth of what normal people eat. Even half a burger will make me feel stuffed. I’m a pretty cheap date at this point considering I mostly order kids meals! Also, I can’t tolerate foods that are spicy.
I try to be lenient with myself when I go out with friends: Instead of getting chicken fingers and fries as a meal, I will get one or the other, plus a veggie or lean protein. It’s not about making a complete change all at once. Small steps can lead to big results.
Fox: Yep, it's all about food choices—doing grilled versus fried, choosing a salad versus another option or taking the bread away if you want a burger. If I am nervous about anything, it’s making sure we don’t go back to bad habits. The gastric sleeve procedure is just a tool, and you still need to make changes in your eating habits and lifestyle.
One thing I want to do is run a 5K with Rebecca. Before the weight loss I never even dreamed of having a goal like that!
New Lease on Health—and Happiness
Fox: When I went into surgery, I had diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease. I was taking three different insulins and high blood pressure medicine. Nothing was working to control these comorbidities. When I left the hospital, they took me off all the insulin and the high blood pressure medicine. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I walked out already a healthier person. It was an amazing feeling.
Moore: This surgery was the biggest investment in myself that I’ve ever made—and I am a happier person now. I physically and emotionally don’t have a weight keeping me down. At work, I’m around a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, and I can chase after them easily now. Before, I didn’t feel like a haircut or new outfit or having my nails done made me prettier; I felt like I was just distracting from my weight. Now doing those things gives me confidence.
Shopping together is one of the things my mom and I enjoy most now. We don’t really see each other throughout the week, but Saturday mornings are our ritual—we’ll get breakfast, go shopping and then typically hit up the grocery store. Getting to experience those things together is really fun, and it also gives us a bit of accountability in terms of what we’re eating.
Fox: l just went to the doctor and my glucose levels are down, I don't have diabetes anymore, and my blood pressure and liver count are great. My doctor was like, "You’re rocking it, keep up the good work." I just wanted to cry with happiness. To feel better, to feel healthy, is just overwhelming. It's hard to put in words.
I have also seen my daughter just light up since her surgery. She has a confidence that I had not seen before, and I know that she is going to live a healthy lifestyle and not have the health issues that I have dealt with. You always want more for your child than for yourself.
Find safety information about bariatric surgery here.