Weight Loss Surgery: Jennifer Parker's Journey
A transformation 20 years in the making
“Today, after losing more than 100 lbs. in just over a year, I have a confidence and feeling of self-worth that’s completely different than what I’ve had for most of my life,” says Jennifer Parker, 41, of Kings Mountain. “I see such a positive shift in myself that it makes me sad for the old me.”
Jennifer has been obese her entire life, she says, “always the fat kid.” She married young and had two children by age 20. Back then, she looked in to bariatric programs, but insurance was always an issue. And with a young family, paying out of pocket was not possible.
“So I thought I could lose weight on my own,” she says. She tried subscription-based weight loss programs and a diet that greatly restricts calories (something that the FDA has since says it does not approve). “I’d lose 20, then gain 30. Lose 50, then gain 70. I was on a steady roller coaster for 20 years.”
What would the next 40 years bring?
By age 40 and weighing 255 lbs., Jennifer had already had knee surgery because of the weight, was taking blood pressure medicine, and had prediabetes and sleep apnea.
“I realized that, the way things were stacking up health wise, I wouldn’t be able to meet my grandkids, and that I’d certainly not be able to experience the second half of my life the way I wanted,” she says. “Everything negative was related to my being overweight.”
With the support of her husband, Brian, and adult children, she decided once again to explore bariatric programs.
In June 2018, Jennifer learned about the Cone Health Bariatric Weight Loss Program. From the first time speaking to the person who schedules appointments, she felt the positive, supportive energy of the staff.
In one week, her life and her outlook changed.
“I called Cone Health on Monday, met with them on Tuesday, and saw the surgeon on Friday,” she says. “Everything felt right. Everything fell in to place.”
“Every time I meet with someone there or even speak with them on the phone, the inflection in their voice is encouraging,” she says. “They let you know they’re happy to hear from you.”
Exercise, for fun?!
In discussing the process of weight loss surgery, from the steps before surgery, recovery and life after, the staff at Cone Health provided her with all the information she needed.
“They said, ‘This is what we’re going to do, and let’s just do it,’” she says. “That’s exactly what I needed. They were my kind of people, and I was ready.”
Five months later, in November 2018, she had bariatric surgery at Cone Health. Since then, she’s gone from getting little exercise to working out in a gym three or more times every week and running 5Ks.
“I even exercise for fun,” she says, laughing, since never before would she put those two words together.
In the first 12 months after surgery, she was down to 150 lbs. and is now well within reach of her goal weight of 135 lbs. She went from wearing a 3X shirt to shopping for Mediums, and a pant size of 22 shrinking to a size 8.
She has no more issues with high blood pressure or sleep apnea.
Meeting the challenges
Jennifer doesn’t pretend that the process was easy or that she doesn’t struggle. But her focus is always on the benefits of her healthier self.
“I don’t stress about things I can’t do anymore, like eat cake and ice cream, because there are so many more things I can now do,” she says. “Like, I can fit in an airplane seat and even cross my legs!” she says with a laugh.
She does admit to the challenge of those who do not understand the transformation and how much healthier she is today.
“Someone might comment on my eating a tiny steak, worrying I’m losing too much weight,” she says. “But they didn’t think to comment before, when I ate an entire 18 ounce steak, baked potato and appetizer—almost literally eating myself to death. I want to tell them, don’t worry about me now. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been!”
Looking ahead, Jennifer is empowered by the tools her team at Cone Health has given her to continue to succeed.
“The surgery isn’t a magical fix,” she says. “It’s a start. You have to be willing to follow the guidelines. And they give you great tools and resources. With all that, you’ll be successful.”