Fueled by hormonal and thyroid issues, Christina Snyder’s battle with obesity began in her teenage years — although she didn’t see a need to lose weight at first.
“I was into the body positivity frame of mind — I fully intended to live life large regardless of society’s views of being overweight,” she said. “I planned to prove to everyone you could live a full and impactful life as someone with a few extra pounds.”
However, as she aged, the Millmont resident realized her weight was holding her back.
“I wanted to do everything everyone else was doing, but it just got harder and harder. Even flying in a plane becomes more difficult — you have to ask for the seatbelt extender because it is so tiny,” she said. “Mobility got worse, and it was a real effort to walk farther distances.”
Snyder’s weight also impacted her fertility — she and her husband struggled for quite a long time until Snyder was finally able to experience pregnancy and give birth to her young daughter.
“Being a mom was even more difficult with the weight,” Snyder said. “My daughter as a toddler would get on the floor and want to play, but it was hard for me to get down and play with her.”
Snyder tried a variety of diets, with yo-yoing results, but never was able to lose the weight and keep it off. She decided in the spring of this year to meet with an endocrinologist — who diagnosed her as prediabetic at age 31.
“I decided I was not living life like this anymore,” she said.
Snyder was connected with Evangelical dietitian Kimberly Criswell and bariatric surgeon Dr. Christopher Motto – who touts the procedure as a way for morbidly obese patients to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle.
“I look to use surgery as a reset. Patients who come to me with a history of trying to lose weight on their own — but what they are doing just isn’t working,” he said. “But surgery also isn’t some sort of magical pill, either. If you think you are coming in and losing the weight without putting the work in, you won’t be successful.”
He said weight-loss surgery can extend a morbidly obese patient’s life by 10 to 15 years.
Dr. David Parker, of Geisinger, agreed that the surgery can greatly improve the odds of a healthier lifestyle.
“For those who tackle weight loss only by reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise a little, long term studies suggest that only 10 percent of those people will be able to lose a significant amount of weight — which is defined by losing 10 percent of the excess body weight. Of those, much less are able to keep it off,” he said. “However, on average, I’ve seen about 80 percent of people having long-term success in weight loss through surgery options.”
The screening process for bariatric surgery is fairly extensive — lasting usually about six months where potential patients are expected to meet regularly with dietitians, a psychologist, attend support group meetings with people who have been through the surgery and meet regularly with the surgical team.
“They can be fairly intimidating — even showing you the surgical tools they will be using and making sure you are fully aware of what your body will go through,” said Snyder. “I decided through all that, I was just going to do it, and I can be pretty stubborn when I set my mind to something.”
Criswell put Snyder on a strict diet plan with goals to lose a certain amount of weight to “prove you are serious about being committed to making this work,” Snyder said.
Her focus on Criswell’s goals led to a 55-pound weight loss between June — when she started with the bariatric team — until Oct. 8 when she underwent surgery.
“I had people see me losing weight before the surgery who questioned whether I needed to go through with it,” Snyder said. “I spoke with Dr. Motto about it, and he encouraged me to think about my life — I had dieted before, lost weight before and gained it back every time.”
Another deciding factor for Snyder to pursue the surgery — it has evolved to a point of being a laproscopic procedure with minimal recovery time. After her sleeve gasteroectomy, Snyder remembers having some pain for the first 48 hours. She had the surgery on a Tuesday, and was discharged on a Thursday.
“I went back to work on that Monday. It was earlier than what my doctors recommended, but I felt ready to go and didn’t like sitting around,” she said. “Within two weeks of the procedure, I didn’t feel like I had any surgery at all.”
Between her Oct. 8 surgery to now, Snyder has lost an additional 46 pounds — a total of 101 pounds since June — and has enjoyed the results.
“I get complimented all day, every day. People tell me that I look amazing — I look healthy,” she said.
Snyder works as a hairstylist in a busy salon, and the weight loss has helped her keep pace with the clientele — and feel more herself in that sort of environment.
“In that type of work, you try to look stylish, but when you’re big, many of the more stylish options are not available,” she said. “Like many people addressing an addiction, I needed something else to focus my attention besides food — and for me since losing the weight, I really enjoy shopping and finding clothes that make me feel more myself.”
Criswell has seen numerous people have similar results.
“There are a lot of fad diets out there that are popular, but don’t teach someone how to eat healthy or sustain weight loss for the rest of their lives. This is extremely discouraging to people – they are willing to work hard at something if they believe it will actually work,” she said. “The results of weight-loss surgery are amazing. It makes me so happy to see people reverse their chronic health conditions and improve the quality of their lives.”