Jumping Through Hoops to Get a Sleeve - Conroe, TX

Ok where to start. I've read several of these...

Ok where to start. I've read several of these reviews and finally decided to start my own since I have begun my own journey toward a gastric sleeve and lifestyle change. I've been overweight my entire life or at least for as ling as I can remember. I have no idea what it feels like to be an average weight or to not have my weight (and appearance) nagging at me in the background of everyday occurrences. After trying just about every weight loss option (programs, diets, gyms) I had given up and told myself that I'd just be 'the fat girl' for the rest of my life. The problem was, I still had a little voice telling me that I couldn't allow this to be my destiny. After all, I really hate the quote 'everything happens for a reason' because I feel that it removes any accountability and control we have over our own destiny. So here I am, taking control over my destiny.

I graduated from my Master's program about 1 year ago and have been working as a therapist in a hospital, which translates to MONEY! So I finally took the step to schedule my initial consult with Dr. Balette in The Woodlands, Tx on June 9, 2014. Before the appointment, I was still on the fence about the surgery. Sure, I wanted it but I worried that I wasn't able to make the life changes it required. During the time before my appointment, I was approached by a nurse at work who confided in me that she was thinking about having 'fat surgery', as she called it. I was elated! Someone that I KNEW was going through the same thing as me! From then on, we decided to go through this together.

Dr. Balette was great during my consult. He took the time to answer all of my questions and talked me through the requirements for insurance approval. He said ‘the biggest factor is if your insurance covers it or not, and luckily yours does. All you have to do is jump through their hoops to get approval’. So there it was, jump through hoops, get my surgery. I left the office excited but still hesitant, mostly about insurance and payment. I knew from then on that I wanted the surgery, without a doubt.

Dr. Balette pulled some strings to get me into the weight loss physician ASAP so I could start my 3 month prep, which consisted of monthly visits with a physician, nutritionist, and trainer. I met with Dr. Hill two days later. I scheduled my nutrition and trainer appointments for the following week and completed my H. Pylori blood work. Then I called my insurance again to confirm the coverage. That’s when I hit my first big bump in the road. I was told that the person I initially talked to was wrong, my insurance does cover the surgery and Dr. Balette is in network, but my employer doesn’t cover the surgery unless it’s at one of their hospitals. I panicked. I really liked Dr. Balette and was excited to start the surgery process.

After many tears and hours of frustration, it donned on me. Dr. Howard, which is one of Dr. Balette’s partners, operates at the hospital I work at, which meant I could possibly switch surgeons, but stay with the same office and surgical group. The best point of it all? Because I’m a hospital employee, my company will cover the facility fees at 100% after an $800 copay. So that leaves me with the surgeon and other physician fees. AWESOME! Rather than a 3 month prep, I have to do 6 months, but thankfully my appointment with Dr. Hill still counts as the start date of my prep.

Currently, I’m still trying to get everything sorted out with insurance requirements because I have Aetna requirements and specific requirements from my employer. Like I said, jumping through hoops to get my sleeve. Because I already had my initial visit with Dr. Hill, I have started the diet modifications she recommended so that I can form a habit by the time my surgery rolls around. This includes: drinking 60-80 oz of water per day, increasing physical activity, keeping a food journal, and (the most difficult so far) chewing each bite 15-30 times. Overall it’s gone well and I’m noticing that I have been slowing down during meals and eating smaller portions, simply because I feel full. I’m still waiting to hear back from the physician’s office to confirm that I can switch surgeons and the next steps required. Here’s to hoping there aren’t more complications.

So here’s the start of my journey. I hope to hear from you all soon and really enjoy reading everyone’s story!

Not feeling it tonight.

Today I went in for the pre-op psych eval that my insurance requires. It was a little nerve wracking because I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everything was fine. She basically wanted to make sure that I understand that the surgery is not a quick fix and that it’s a tool I have to utilize to lose and keep the weight off. She said she has no concerns and thinks I will adjust well. I’m relieved and am glad to have one more thing marked off the checklist.

I’ve been trying to continue with the diet and activity modifications the doctor recommended. I’ve been eating smaller portions and making healthier choices. Keeping a food journal has shown me that I eat mostly carbs, so my main focus has been eating less carbs and more protein. I’m doing well with drinking the recommended amount of water. This week I have averaged about 70 oz per day of water. My main problem is being more physically active. I feel like I’ve slightly increased my activity but not by nearly enough. I also had to cook a dish for a friend’s birthday potluck and found myself grazing the entire time I was cooking. Then, I strayed from my healthy eating plan and overdid it with dinner. I’m probably being too hard on myself, but tonight is one of those nights where I worry that I’m not going to make the changes. I really want to lose some weight before my next appt (July 9) to prove (to myself mostly) that I’m on the right track. Maybe I’ll feel more confident after talking with the Nutritionist and will know specific diet modifications to make.

Tomorrow is a new day with a clean slate. I’m going to sleep and planning to wake up with my game face on. I WILL make this happen for myself.


I mentioned earlier that I would probably be forced to switch surgeons due to my insurance. I was really upset about this because I loved Dr. Balette. Today, my friend (and surgery buddy) called the office to get an update on the process of switching us over was told that we may not have to switch after all! Dr. Balette is personally trying to get privileges to operate at the hospital we work at just for us. I couldn't believe it! I really expected him to tell us to just find a different surgeon and never expected him to go out of his way so that he could be our surgeon. +1,000 awesome points for you Dr. Balette.

Some pics of me

NUT Assessment

I met with my Nutritionist for the first time today. She went over my diet after the surgery and gave me a whole stack of handouts to look over. She breezed through it all so my head is still spinning from all of the information. I discussed protein shakes with her and she recommended that I start trying a few brands to know what I like for after the surgery, so I'll have to add that to my to do list. I mentioned that I have been keeping a food journal and making an effort to replace carbs with protein and she seemed really pleased with that.

So far, I think I'm off to a decent start. It still hasn't fully sunken in yet. I definitely want the surgery but right now it feels unobtainable. At every appointment, they talk like it's a 100% sure thing but I guess I won't feel like it's real until I have a surgery date, or at least I'm further into the 6 month prep.

There still isn't any news on Dr. Balette getting privileges at my hospital. I was able to call the office yesterday and give him the contact information for medical staffing, so hopefully we'll hear something soon! My next appointment for my supervised program is on July 9th. So until then, I'll continue with drinking lots of water, adding protein to my diet, and trying protein shakes.

My first victory!

Today was my monthly weight check as part of the 6 month requirement from my insurance. As of today, I've lost 7 lbs! I was pretty shocked to hear that I had lost anything. I have been doing fairly well with eating right but have struggled with getting my butt off the couch and moving. I talked with the doctor about everything I've been doing and she was really impressed. I usually celebrate (anything) with food, but not today! I took my dog and went for a celebratory walk at the park.

Still no news with Dr. Balette. All of the paperwork has been submitted to the hospital so now we just wait for him to get privileges to practice there.

Here's to hoping the next weigh in shows another loss!

New NUT and more

It's been a while since I've updated this, but I haven't had much to report. I found out that the NUT I previously saw is not covered by my insurance. I was sooooo angry when I found that out, especially since I had asked several times if they verified my insurance. So that's $200 down the drain.

Last week I mwt with a new NUT and attended a 2 hour class. The handout she gave me was the exact same as the one I got from the other lady, but she did a MUCH better job of explaining everything. When I left the first NUT appointment my head was spinning with all the information. This time around, I felt more confident and understood the process. She also gave us lots of vitamin and protein shake samples that I'm looking forward to trying.

As far as dieting goes, I've fallen off track with that. I'm pretty sure I've gained the 7lbs I lost back. I've been really hard on myself about it, but I also have to remind myself that's why I'm getting the surgery, dieting doesn't work. I'm doing my best to make healthier choices and have been replacing breakfast with a protein shake. I meet with the doctor on Wednesday and boy am I dreading stepping on that scale.

I'm really struggling here

Well I haven't updated in a while so let's see...I've lost a total of 12 lbs. and had been doing pretty well with my exercise routine of walking 1 mile 304 times per week. Lately, I've fallen off track and have been struggling. I find myself hesitating before making a bad decision and asking 'do you really want that?' only to follow up with 'eh, what the hell'. I'm still drinking my protein shakes for breakfast, which I actually enjoy. I still try to eat right. It just feels like my motivation is dwindling. I definitely want the surgery but at times I feel like it's never going to happen, so whats the point of sticking to a diet. Diets never work anyways, right?

I spoke with my nutritionist at length about all this and she really offered me some great advice. She could tell right away that I'm an 'all or nothing' kind of person. If I slip up, I think 'oh, well I messed that up' and quit trying all together. Now that I'm more aware of that, I'm trying to change my way of thinking. She also suggested I see a counselor to address my emotional relationship with food. I think it's a great idea, but I'm hesitant to try it. I've never been one to share my feelings openly, so it would be a huge step. Come to think about it, that's probably part of why I eat my emotions; everything is internalized.

I have my fourth weight check on Wednesday and man am I dreading it. I haven't gained so far, but this might just be the appointment. Did anyone else struggle like I am? Any suggestions?

Finally submitting for approval!

I haven't updated in a while because it's been business as usual. Yesterday was my last appointment with the doctor and I've already finished my visits with the nutritionist and trainer. As of yesterday, my total weight loss is 19 lbs. Because I've lost steadily and have no gains on record, the doctor told me she has no doubt that I'll be approved. She even mentioned that it could happen before Christmas! It won't fully sink in until I have an official approval, but I'm so excited!

Updated photo

Hurry up and wait...

Just a little update: everything has been submitted to Aetna and I'm waiting for my approval (fingers crossed!) I have started filing my FMLA paperwork and have officially told work that I will be out for at least 4 weeks. I had told my direct supervisor a while ago that I was planning to have this surgery (moreso as a friend) and told her that I wasn't telling everyone. When I had to put in my notice, she mentioned that she would tell the other supervisors. It never even donned on me that she would be telling them EVERYTHING. So, of course I was approached by one of them saying 'do you really want that? Are you sure?' umm yes, I'm more than sure. It really just annoyed me that something I wanted to be kept private was announced a group of people and I had no clue or control over it. I realize that people will notice that I'm losing weight quickly and will question me but I haven't yet thought of how to handle that.

I'm still stressed over everything that needs to be done and am feeling unprepared for the surgery, but I'm excited. Hopefully I'll have an approval by tomorrow!

All I want for Christmas is a sleeve...and maybe a cheeseburger.

Well nothing great to report. I'm still anxiously awaiting the insurance approval. I've convinced myself that it isn't going to happen on the 30th because even if I get my approval on Monday, I haven't done any pre-op testing or met with the surgeon. Maybe I'm panicking, but i really don't see the surgery happening before the end of the year. The crappy thing is that my insurance is switching to Cigna on january 1st, which means I'll have to satisfy their requirements.

Because I'm still awaiting an answer from Aetna, the surgeon's office recommended that I start the pre-op liquid diet. Today is day 4 and I'm finally adjusting to it. The first few days were definitely brutal. I was constantly hungry and wanted to eat everything. Not to mention that I had zero energy, which isn't so great when you work in a hospital and rarely get to sit. I didn't get to have a Christmas dinner, but I did have some great soup from Panera. I'm getting better at controlling my hunger but man am I craving food, ANY food. The plus side to eating only liquids is that I've lost another 6 lbs since my last weight check on December 10. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get my approval on Monday!

Holy approval batman!

Within the span of 6 hours, I got my approval, met with the surgeon and did my pre-op testing. My surgery is scheduled for 1:30 PM today and I'll be leaving for the hospital in about an hour. Thankfully, I really like my new surgeon and he put all my worries to rest. With everything happening so fast I was panicking. I'm feeling ready and at ease this morning.

I've been telling my co-workers individually over the past week, and everyone has been so supportive. I already have a ton of people waiting to come visit me and offering to bring me soups and protein shakes when I can eat.

Post-op Day 2

Well, I'm officially sleeved! The surgery went smoothly and I'm doing well. I did have some gas pain across my chest and in my back for about 1 day, but that's all gone now. I stayed one night in the hospital and came home last night. It was actually nice because my friends and co-workers got to come see me and they even snuck me one of our therapy grade hot packs to help ease the gas pain on my back.

After I passed the upper GI I was cleared to drink water in 30 mL increments for the remainder of yesterday, and full liquids starting today. I've been alternating between water and a protein shake for now. I attempted a few bites of pudding which didn't go over well. I didn't throw it up but I could tell my stomach just isn't ready. Maybe I'll attempt it again tomorrow.

When the surgeon rounded on me in the hospital, he said 'I'll see you in my office in 2 weeks and 20 pounds lighter'. Of course that sounds crazy to me, but here goes nothing! I'm looking forward to an awesome 2015 with my new sleeve and a healthier lifestyle.

One Week Post op

Yesterday marked one day since my surgery. I'm still healing well and have been feeling pretty good. I make a point each day to get out of the house and walk, whether it's at the park or through a store. I managed to walk 1 mile at the park the other day and it felt great. I do have to take it easy though and I've noticed that my incisions start hurting if I walk too much and I get really worn out afterwards.

I'm sticking to my liquid diet. In the morning I make a protein shake with skim milk then add 1/3 cup dry milk powder so I get 37g protein from that alone. Then I switch over to some water with crystal light, after that s creamy soup with added unflavored protein powder for lunch and either more soup or another shake for dinner. Sipping water throughout the day has become somewhat habitual and I've learned not to go anywhere without something to drink.

I'm avoiding the scale, so I can't say an exact amount of loss but I'm starting to notice that my clothes fit a bit looser. My mom and friends are positive that my face has slimmed down but I'm not seeing it. I do see some minor changes in the pictures, which is exciting. My 2 week follow up is scheduled for the 14th so I'm sticking to my routine until then :)

2 weeks post op

Yesterday I had my follow up with the surgeon. I lost 16 lbs since the surgery, bringing my total weight loss down to 39 lbs. I was disappointed that I didn't meet the goal of 20 lbs lost, but hey, when was the last time I lost 16 lbs in 2 weeks?! The surgeon said I'm doing everything right and if I keep it up, I'll be out of this stall and back to losing in no time.

I've been upgraded to purees (yay!) so I'm learning how to manage my time so that I get all my fluids and protein in. So far, protein has been no problem but I have to stay on top of the fluids. I have some trouble with head hunger and the feeling that I 'need' to eat, but I keep reminding myself that I have half the stomach I did 2 weeks ago, and I have to adjust to a new norm.

I've also been exercising daily, which I really enjoy since I'm still off work and get pretty bored with all my extra time now. I usually walk/jog 1 mile but today I was feeling pretty good after finishing that, so I walked another mile. I'm definitely counting that as a victory, because I would never push myself like this before surgery.

One month Post-op

Tuesday was officially one month since my surgery, so it's time for an update. I feel great! Absolutely no pain, nausea, or reflux. My energy is back and I'll be returning to work soon. (I had to take a longer time off because I'm a therapist and work in inpatient rehab, so the surgeon wanted to play it safe due to the nature of my job).

I'm currently on soft foods and have been having fun exploring new healthy options. Getting fluids and protein in hasn't been difficult (thankfully). I've been eating about 3-4 oz at a time and have been limiting my carb intake.

Exercise has become a regular part of my day and honestly, I've come to enjoy it. I walk with my dog at a local park, usually 2 miles but sometime I do more or less. Sometimes I want to keep going but have to stop because my dog is tired lol, I never thought I'd outrun my dog! I've been alternating between running and walking and have already noticed that my endurance has improved. My goal for now is to run a mile.

I went to dinner with some coworkers last week, which was my first real test. We had to wait over an hour before eating so by the time my food came, I was starving. It was difficult to pace myself but I didn't want to get sick in public, so that was enough motivation to make myself slow down. There were a few awkward moments where someone would offer me a bite of their pasta or a slice of bread, but it wasn't hard to say 'oh I'm full'. I ordered a grilled salmon entree, ate a few bites until I was full, and took the rest home for my next 3 meals. We stayed out for quite a while longer, which caused me to miss my snack and I also got off track with drinking my fluids. By the end of the night I had a terrible headache. Overall, it was a good first time out, but I learned that I still have a lot of adjusting to do.

As of today, I'm down to 257, a total of 46 lbs since I started the process and 23 lbs since my surgery. I went from a size 24 pants to a size 20 WITH ROOM! I fit better into my pants now than when I bought them 5 years ago!

I will say, the cravings and urge to eat don't disappear right away. Sometimes I get so frustrated because I just want to sit down and eat a normal size plate of food, or I want to have a brownie. This is definitely a process and you have to give yourself time to adjust. I keep telling myself, this is my new normal.

6 Month update

Well, I'm a few weeks away from the 6 month post-op mark. I've lost a total of 95 lbs and have gone from a size 24 to a 16/18. I feel great, and have had no complications.

I'm enjoying exploring new recipes but eating healthy is still work at times. Head hunger is a beast that doesn't die easily. I will say, it's easier to redirect myself than before surgery. I'm still keeping my portions small and eating 80-100 grams of protein per day. Getting all of my water in daily is still a struggle. Overall, I have absolutely no regrets.
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