Taking Steps To Better Health

It was time for a change. That’s how Tiara Jenkins, 25, describes her decision to have bariatric surgery.

“I have been over weight my entire life. I’ve never been skinny. The last time I saw my weight on the scales I knew something needed to change,” said Jenkins, who weighed 445 pounds when she began her journey in February. A month later, she contacted IU Health Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss and started taking steps toward change.

The IU Health Medical Weight Loss Program specializes in treating the whole person. Before clients can have surgery, they spend about six months in nutritional, psychological and exercise counseling. Every patient must complete specific steps to prepare for surgery.

Jenkins began her journey by recognizing parts of her life that needed to change. It wasn’t just about her weight.

“I was definitely an over eater. I’d eat when I got bored, stressed . . .whatever. It slowed me down and held me back. When my friends went to Holiday World, I couldn’t go because I couldn’t fit onto the rides,” said the 2010 Avon High School graduate.

 “I’ve tried self diets on and off for years. At one point I took medication and the side effects were worse than being overweight.” And there were setbacks to her diets – when her younger sister died, she was so emotionally distraught that food was her comfort.

The education process leading up to surgery has helped Jenkins recognize the patterns of overeating and how to make different decisions.

“The hardest thing is not running to food for every little thing. I don’t eat fast food, junk food. Instead of saying ‘I can’t have it,’ I say ‘I choose not to have it,’” said Jenkins, an aspiring photographer.

To stay focused, she keeps a daily routine that includes, eating three balanced meals, walking on trails around her home, working out at the gym, and creating crafts.

“I’ve started working on a lot of puzzles and I frame them when they’re completed. It’s sort of a way to mark my progress,” said Jenkins. She also surrounds herself with a network of supportive family and friends.

Since she started the process at 445 pounds, she has lost about 20 pounds in preparation for surgery. If all goes as planned she will have Roux-en-Y gastric bypass sometime around Christmas.  The procedure basically shrinks her stomach so she will fill full more quickly than when her stomach was the original size. Before the procedure, she will have a surgical consultation with her doctor, IU Health physician Ambar Banerjee.

“What am I looking forward to the most? I want to get a tent, a new car and take off for a year,” said Jenkins. “I want to go on an expedition, and take pictures every place I go. With my weight now, I couldn’t keep up with that.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at 
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.


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