Tara Gustin was wheeled into the operating room with a stomach the size of a football. Now it's the size of a cup of flour, and she's 100 pounds lighter.
When Gustin, of La Vista, elected to have weight-loss surgery last year, she was morbidly obese, diabetic, and suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It was a familiar road. Her brother died at 42 after a heart attack, and her dad had five heart attacks before he died.
“I saw myself going down the same path as them,” Gustin said.
The scale started to climb, and her health start to slip after she gave birth to her son, Tyler, in 1991. “I was so excited when I got pregnant, (I thought) I'm going to eat myself happy.”
She put on 60 pounds.
“When it didn't just fall off...it became more of a struggle,” she said.
She gained more weight after having her second child a few years later and more as she got older.
She tried several diets to lose weight but without much success.
Eventually her doctor recommended weight-loss surgery. It's for those who are at least 100 pounds over their ideal weight.
Only 5 percent of people who need to lose at least 100 pounds can do so and keep it off, said Dr. Tom White, the medical director of bariatric surgery at Alegent Creighton Health.
White performed Gustin's procedure, dividing the stomach and bypassing a large portion of it so Gustin cannot physically eat more than one cup in one sitting.
“It was a smack in the face,” said Gustin, 43, when her doctor suggested surgery. “It's not the easy way out...It forced me to change the way I think about food.”
Those who have the surgery but continue to choose greasy, processed foods instead of healthy, high-protein options will feel sick after they eat.
So Gustin ditched the fried foods and butter-heavy dishes that she grew up on — she was raised in Alabama — and now dines on salads, lean meats and fruit.
“My tastes have completely changed,” she said.
And she only eats when she's hungry. “Before, I felt like I could never get full,” she said.
Gustin was able to stop taking medication immediately. She lost nine pounds in the first two weeks after surgery and 50 pounds by the third month. In December, her total weight loss reached 100 pounds.
She wore a size 24 last spring but now wears size 8.
Gustin is more active now, too. She takes frequent four-mile walks. She can sit comfortably in a movie theater seat and can walk up a flight of stairs without feeling like she might pass out. She can play with her grandkids, instead of just watch them.
“Doing anything is easier when you don't have an extra 100 pounds on you,” Gustin said.
The surgery made an emotional impact, too.
“You don't have to be miserable,” Gustin said. “I feel more positive about life, about what life has in store for me.”
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