I had the lovely opportunity to meet Lori Newlon via the internet and my interest in her escalated the more I observed her blog posts and then I dove into her fascinating story and background, to come full circle to present. I was soon learning about bariatric surgery and soon after was in the middle of an immensely interesting bariatric interview. In May of 2000 she graduated from nursing school and began working as a Registered Nurse. She soon was working twelve hour night shifts in an intensive care unit, and by 2001 her weight was going up, up and up. After 9 months she changed to a day shift but that did not help. She became depressed, stayed away from scales and was quietly socializing. Soon enough she had gained back her “baby weight” she had worked hard to shed, was back up to about 230 pounds and started developing undeniable health problems. Eventually this all got handled though, thanks to her paleo lifestyle as you will read in the interview below.
She currently shares a niche position as a trim healthy woman (stable weight) as a nurse helping bariatric patients, and she’s even had bariatric surgery herself! She walks the talk, so let’s learn about the topic so many do not speak about and why; in fact, most do not know how to handle their diet and lifestyle AFTER they’ve had the surgery. After all, these patients are morbidly obese for a reason-right?!
1) You are a registered nurse. What field of nursing do you currently work in?
I’m currently a Registered Nurse working in the PACU (post anesthesia care unit) of a local hospital. I have been working there for about seven years, and before that I worked as a neurosurgical intensive care nurse for seven years.
2) Your site has a lot to share about bariatrics. Can you share what bariatrics is?
Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity. It is commonly used in reference to weight loss surgeries and somewhat of a euphemism to refer to people of larger size.
3) Nine years ago you decided to make a change after being as you term it “morbidly obese” at 283 pounds, you decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery (bariatric surgery). Were you a nurse before this decision?
Yes, when I made the decision to undergo bariatric surgery to help me with my obesity I was already an RN working in a neurosurgical ICU.
4) Can you tell us what lead you personally to come to the decision to undergo such an extensive surgery?
I remember just being so fed up and depressed. I could barely look at myself in the mirror and my health was getting worse. I was short of breath, had migraines, venus insufficiency due to varicose veins (due to obesity) had pitting edema in my lower legs, lower back pain with spinal compression, my knees were always achy and I was about to be put on blood pressure medication at the age of 33. I had tried so many quick-fixes, fad diets, diet pills and programs my entire life and failed at all of them. I was young and had no life, I was desperate, tired and felt hopeless and saw weight loss surgery as my last chance to regain my health and actually start living. I had failed at every single diet out there, and it truly was my last chance.
5) After your surgery, you talk about having experienced many other symptoms over the course of the following 5 years that affected your life seriously and quite dangerously, and the fact that doctors were not able to help. What were these symptoms and why do you feel your doctors couldn’t help you?
After I had gastric bypass surgery I began to have complications from the surgery. Some were well documented as a common side effect of surgery, but I started to have complications that were not very well understood back then such as, blood sugars that I could not maintain, constant unexplained abdominal pain, painful burning in my stomach and frequent nausea and vomiting. Many of these issues I was having were not documented as complications yet because not many patients were presenting with my symptoms. My bariatric surgeon and bariatric internist both presented my case at conferences many times and conducted phone calls to other bariatric surgeons, with no answers. My team really struggled trying to figure out how to treat me. I had countless lab and diagnostic tests, dietitians looking over food logs and hours of sitting in a laboratory eating things to try and CAUSE my blood sugar drop so they could draw labs at that moment to see if they could identify anything. It took them a couple of years and more patients presenting with similar symptoms to document some of these new complications of gastric bypass surgery. It was a really rough time.
6) You chose to take your health into your own hands and did some massive nutritional research. What did you discover and please tell us about how being off grains and dairy and being on a more primal or paleo diet has helped you and your views as to why?
Once I started eliminating dairy and gluten from my diet, I noticed within days that my stomach pains, nausea and satiety had noticeably improved. Not necessarily all at the same time, but there was a noticeable improvement! The biggest impact was the results it had on my blood sugars. They were so much more controllable and became much easier to maintain. There will always be a level of nausea and vomiting that I live with, and this is hard for people to grasp. But today it’s a different feeling of nausea and stomach ache compared to when I try and consume foods that are heavy with gluten and dairy. As far as my cravings go, I noticed that when I walked away from the low fat, fat free, processed, sugary junk that I not only felt better but that I didn’t get hungry as often. That was always strange to me knowing that I had this small “pouch” and could only eat so much, but yet within an hour or more I would be craving more of that junk. It was pretty mind-blowing to me! Even to this day when I eat something that is “paleo” or even a few bites of a dessert from a SAD (standard American Diet), it seems to cause me to want to just devour any sugary items I can get my hands on. And I don’t mean just for one day! So for me, giving up dairy and gluten has improved my health tremendously. I have to be very, very mindful about making sure I get my protein requirements met and my sugar consumption low so I can keep my blood sugars maintained. But overall, eliminating those has made life easier.
7) Being a registered nurse and now having personal experience with bariatric surgery, you have a unique understanding of the problem of obesity and how to turn it around. Can you talk a little bit about your blog (healthywholesomeme.com) and why you decided to start it?
I decided to start my blog, “Healthy, Wholesome Me”, to help other bariatric patients. I want to educate them through my experiences – past and present, good and bad. When I was going through the hospital-provided program there wasn’t anything that could prepare me for life after the surgery or what to really expect after it and for years to come. Unless your surgeon, dietician or anyone else on your bariatric team has had the surgery, they absolutely cannot relate. It is very overwhelming and downright scary when you have reached your plateau for weight loss and you begin slowly regaining your weight back. We as bariatric patients will without a doubt face that at some point. The “pouch”, sleeve and band are just tools. The real work and responsibility belong to the patient to work at improving ones health through proper food and exercise. This surgery is much deeper than just making your stomach small so you wont eat as much. Depending on the type of bariatric surgery you have, you are causing severe malabsorption of vital key nutrients and NEED to eat foods that help and work with your body. You can maintain your weight loss by just eating real, whole foods. A diet that’s full of protein, veggies and satisfying, healthy fats can help you maintain good health. I want bariatric patients to know that they have better options that they likely don’t know about.
8) On this website you mention the eye-opening statistics of bariatric surgery patients who drop all this weight and do not keep it off. What are the statistics and why do you feel this is?
According to one study I found on Pubmed, 274 gastric bypass patients followed over the course of 10 years. What they found was that at least 20.4% of the patients categorized pre surgery as morbidly obese (like me) and 34.9% of those categorized as “super obese” had weight regain after 10 years. I can’t tell you how many people I meet who have a family member or friend who has had bariatric surgery and has since regained their weight. Its just so sad to know that someone has undergone such a serious procedure only to regain the weight they lost initially or who never lose the weight they should. It’s quite common. There are ways to cheat with your eating after surgery which lead to stretching your stomach, and in no time a patient can find that he/she is consuming a lot more than they should be able to. You can regain weight quickly or really slow the process of weight loss after surgery by eating the wrong things like chips, breads, pastas, sweets and fast food. Most bariatric patients have not had all the complications and problems that I have had and continue to have. I have met other patients and heard many stories of patients who can eat almost whatever they want most anytime without any nausea or feeling really full. So it can be really easy for those patients to overeat or continue to make poor dietary choices. I believe it’s often the continued consumption of highly processed foods and artificial sweeteners, low-fat and fat-free items that keeps many patients from losing the weight or maintaining their initial weight loss. There just isn’t enough quality diet education information out there for bariatric patients, and the absence of it makes it easier for patients to fall back into old habits and poor dietary choices. A lot more needs to change then just eating less. It’s as much about what you should eat as shouldn’t eat. But it takes a lot of research to educate oneself on better food choices to make. I’m always learning!
9) What do you feel can and should be done to improve this field?
Bariatric patients absolutely need much better diet and nutrition education than what most are sent away with after surgery. Regarding maintaining post-surgical weight loss, I absolutely believe patients can have much more success with a paleo-type lifestyle adapting such a diet to individual needs and tolerances of course. Every person is different, and what one person can tolerate another may not. So each has to experiment to figure out what works for them. I know I did (and still do)! I want to help educate patients on what foods prevent or reduce the vitamin and mineral deficiencies that we will battle the rest of our lives due to a decreased ability to absorb nutrients after bariatric surgery. I recommend researching and adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and paying close attention to consuming the most nutrient dense foods possible to support our health and promote and maintain weight loss. Back in 2005, a person looking to have gastric bypass needed at least one year to complete the required pre-surgical programs (including education, counseling, a demonstrated and confirmed loss of at least 10% of your starting body weight and more) to be cleared as a candidate for surgery. It can now take less than four months. I think that’s a big mistake. I’ve also heard of some programs being very lenient with their patients about losing that 10% of body weight before being cleared for surgery. I believe all of those steps and preconditions were important to long term success as a bariatric patient and eliminating them is a huge disservice to patients.
10) How has holistic nutrition played a part in your healing and weight loss successes?
I think mostly by convincing me of the value of eliminating gluten, dairy and highly processed foods from my diet. Doing so helps me stay satisfied longer after eating, has reduced my less healthy cravings and keeps my body in a less inflammatory state which is super important to me because I have a tendency to develop chronic gastric ulcers. Not good! A holistic nutritional approach also helps to support my body with food that nourishes me, providing the essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that I need. I will always have to take supplements in pill form (vitamin D, calcium, B12, iron, etc… – all bariatric patients do), but why wouldn’t I want to get as much of that nutrition as possible by eating delicious food! It can and should be done!
11) On your website you share recipes, resources and information. Thank you for this! What is your favorite piece of advice for others dealing with the need for any major weight loss?
Be patient and give the process time. You don’t end up morbidly obese over the course of a week or a year, and chances are you are much more metabolically damaged than you know. It will take some time for your body to process everything but it knows what its doing. Your body will keep you healthy if you give it the proper fuels and love!
12) What are your plans for the future of your blog?
I’m really hoping that my blog will just continue to get better and grow! I want it to be a resource for weight loss surgery patients learning how to be the healthiest they can be through sharing delicious, nutritious foods. I want to help people to gain a realistic understanding and appreciation of the seriousness of this type of surgery. Complications can and do happen. You have to be honest with yourself about that understanding. It’s a lot to handle, but it can be done and you can be very successful in maintaining a major weight loss over the long term. The pouch, sleeve and lap band are just a tool in this process. How you treat and respect that tool through nutritional and lifestyle changes will determine your success. And that’s what I want for all gastric bypass patients – to be healthy, happy, successful and nutritionally educated.
13) One final question I love to ask everyone: Is there anything else you’d like to share or add?
This has been a really fun experience doing my first ever interview, Tina! Thank you for inviting me to share some of my story and thoughts. You are such a positive and supportive figure in the whole foods and paleo communities, and I’m so glad to work beside you in this movement. Finally, I would just like to mention that I will be starting school this February to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to further my goal of becoming a Holistic Nutritionist with a focus on bariatric issues. My longer term goal is to run my own nutritional consulting/coaching business and travel to conferences and weight loss surgery clinics to educate patients about the vital importance of good nutrition! Wish me luck!
I am a strong supporter of educating oneself about health issues and continuing to improve one’s health through proper diet and nutrition. Be sure to visit my eBook page for a variety of resources to help you along this line!