Melanie Bettencourt of Peabody was “very thin” as a child, as she describes it, but all that changed after she reached puberty. She started gaining weight, reaching 250 pounds by her mid-twenties and over 300 pounds by the time she turned 30. Over the years, she tried all manner of diets, hired personal trainers, and took other serious measures to get her weight under control, but “none of it was enough,” she explains.
By the time her weight peaked, Melanie found that, except for going to work, she hardly left the house. Even small tasks were difficult. “I would get winded just walking from my garage to throw the trash out,” she says. If she went out with friends to a restaurant, it was often difficult to squeeze into a booth. Similar problems arose when it came to the seats at movie theatres. And getting into the back row of a two-door car was a near impossibility.
It was also around this time that Melanie’s primary care physician suggested she look into North Shore Medical Center’s (NSMC) Weight Management Program. She was 31 years old when she attended one of the free information sessions offered by the program. “People my age don’t always realize that they can be candidates for weight loss surgery,” Melanie says. “Going to the orientation meetings and seeing people of different ages, you learn it can be for almost anyone.”
Once Melanie decided to move ahead with gastric bypass surgery, the next step involved getting in touch with her insurance company to see if they would approve the surgery. “Certain insurance companies make you wait as much as six months for approval and some people give up at that point,” Melanie says. “Six months can feel like such a long time, but it is nothing compared with your whole life,” she adds. After receiving the go-ahead from her insurance company, Melanie started the evaluation process that all NSMC bariatric patients follow, which includes medical tests, nutritional evaluation, a nursing assessment and a psychological evaluation.
Melanie is quick to point out that weight loss surgery is neither a quick nor an easy fix. Since her procedure, she has lost weight gradually and has slowly added more and more exercise to her daily routine, which can involve anything from taking the stairs instead of the elevator, to working out to dance DVDs. Over the past two years, Melanie’s persistence has paid off. She has had a 120-pound weight loss and a reduction in pants size from a 24W to a size 8.
Since losing weight, buying and wearing beautiful clothing has become one of Melanie’s great joys. “I used to wear black sweatpants and black hoodies all the time. Now I put on colorful clothing and love wearing dresses. I also wear heels, which was previously impossible,” she adds. Another favorite new–and somewhat ironic—activity is cooking. “Before my surgery I only ate takeout. Now I love making healthy foods like salmon, red peppers stuffed with ground turkey, mashed cauliflower, and roasted vegetable soup.”
Melanie, who works as a full-time account manager at a pest control company and as a part-time realtor, also has a lot more energy since her weight loss, but she is most enthusiastic about how her weight loss makes her feel. “I am happier,” she says. “You just feel good about yourself. I took some time off from dating. I think it’s important to do the weight surgery for yourself and not for someone else. You have to really want it and you have to do it at a time that’s good for you.”
FREE INFO SESSIONS:
NSMC’s Surgical Weight Loss Program is now offering free information sessions at NSMC Salem Hospital and the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care in Danvers. These sessions offer a great opportunity to learn more about weight loss surgery options and ask questions. Register online at nsmcweightloss.org or call us at 978-825-6505.