A year ago, Briana Brooks, 29, was at a crossroads with her health, knowing that if she did not do something about her weight then she was headed down a slippery slope. After undergoing her Gastric Sleeve Surgery, Briana explains that for the first time, she feels free and excited for the future.
Pre-Gastric Sleeve Surgery: Reflecting on Past Challenges
“It’s been pretty much my whole life that it’s been a struggle”, explains Briana as she reflects on her body image before her Gastric Sleeve Surgery.
While she wouldn’t consider herself to have been an overweight child growing up, she recalls feeling as though she was overweight at the time, especially in high school. With a more muscular body type than many of her friends, she found herself in a cycle of constantly comparing herself to her peers – a practice that greatly affected her body image and self-esteem early on.
“I never wanted to wear shorts, and I never wanted to play sports because I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” she explains.
Now looking back at photos from that time, Briana can’t believe how hard she was on herself. In high school, she had stayed active with her extracurriculars of marching band and Polynesian dancing which both helped her to maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle. It wasn’t truly until her early twenties that her weight became a real medical concern.
When her weight did start to climb dramatically, she recalls it happening so fast with one struggle after the next presenting itself as a result.
“I had to quit dancing because I just physically couldn’t do it anymore. And going up steps started to become a problem,” she explains.
She even recalls a humiliating incident at an amusement park where she was removed from a ride and moved to a larger seat at the back of the train in front of everyone.
“That destroyed me, and I wasn’t even at my heaviest then,” she recalls.
Reaching a Turning Point and Choosing Bariatric Surgery
It wasn’t until after undergoing surgery on her ankle which kept her off her feet and temporarily unable to walk that Briana reached her heaviest at 308 pounds, a weight she had always told herself she never wanted to reach.
“I never wanted to be 300 pounds. I guess that was the number in my head that I considered out of control and when I saw that on the scale, I knew I had to make a major change. Seeing that is what did it, “she says.
Before this point, Briana had typically stayed around 250 pounds and even with many attempts to diet and lose weight was unable to stop this number from climbing.
Partnering with UC Health Weight Loss Center
Around the same time that she hit the weight she had always dreaded hitting, other health concerns began to arise. She began to experience severe fatigue and gut health issues – symptoms she felt could not be entirely a result of her weight gain.
After a visit with her primary care doctor where she was urged to try yet another diet, Briana made the choice to schedule an appointment at the UC Health Weight Loss Center, the region’s number one most preferred provider for bariatric (weight loss) surgery.* [Source: NRC Health, Market Insights Survey, Cincinnati-Middletown CBSA, July 2022 – March 2023]
“There were so many times when I would go to the doctor, and they would tell me ‘You need to lose weight’ and I was like ‘Yes I get that.’ It was to the point where I would go into an appointment and tell them immediately ‘I already know I need to lose weight’,” she explains, noting that dieting was simply not working as she was told it should. She was determined to take charge and consider alternative solutions.
During her first appointment at the UC Health Weight Loss Center, they ran various blood tests that came back indicating that she was low on vitamin D and iron and insulin resistant – all factors that likely contributed to her experiencing difficulties losing weight naturally as well as explaining her recent symptoms.
“During that same appointment, I was asked something along the lines of how I feel in my body, and I just broke down,” she says, noting the moment she decided it was time to move forward with surgery.
Briana recalls how Heather Waugh, a nurse practitioner at the Weight Loss Center allowed her to open up in ways she had never before about how she had been feeling about herself and her health struggles. Additionally, her test results validated why she had been struggling to see results from dieting alone.
Heather Waugh, CNP explains that understanding her patient’s “why” or major motiving factor for coming in is important to her, as she recognizes just how hard weight loss and lifestyle changes can be. She explains, “Patients can feel as if they have failed but need to understand that obesity is a chronic disease, and their body can sometimes fight them when trying to lose weight. We care about their stories and are here to help before and after surgery. It is a lifetime commitment.”
Embracing the Journey: Gastric Sleeve Surgery and Beyond
On July 1, 2022, Jen Colvin, MD, a bariatric surgeon at the UC Health Weight Loss Center, performed Briana’s gastric sleeve surgery. In describing their approach, Dr. Colvin emphasizes the collaborative nature of their work, tailoring each procedure to suit the unique needs and weight loss goals of individual patients.
"Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy [ or Gastric Sleeve Surgery] , a minimally invasive procedure that removes 80% of the stomach, was the procedure we found to best assist with Briana’s weight loss goals," explains Dr. Colvin. However, she underscores that surgery is merely the initial step in the journey, deeming it the easier aspect of the process. The true essence lies in the enduring commitment to adopting healthier habits and making transformative lifestyle changes—endeavors that Briana started before surgery and continues to support long-term after.
Life after Gastric Sleeve Surgery: A Transformation
Today, Briana has lost 90 pounds and continues to make progress as she faithfully continues her regular follow-up appointments and lifestyle plan. She also consistently takes supplements to help with her insulin resistance as well as vitamin D and iron deficiencies. With all these tools, she is empowered to continue her progress and feel great while doing it.
According to Ivan Bennett, PA-C, a physician assistant at the Weight Loss Center, Briana has achieved “Incredible fat loss” not only as a result of having the surgery but also from her excellent mindset. “She never misses a pre- or post-op appointment, and she makes tracking a priority. We help patients monitor their weight loss and to understand the importance of losing fat vs muscle.”
Briana beams thinking of her lifestyle changes and weight loss achievement, saying “It feels amazing! I am at the lowest weight during my adult life and that alone feels great!”
When thinking of words to describe how losing this weight feels, Briana is quick to state, “It’s freeing! I can do things now that I wasn’t able to do 90 pounds ago. I can go up stairs and I can dance at concerts, jumping up and down without becoming winded. Most importantly, I can look forward to the future now.”
Before the surgery, thinking of the future often was a source of anxiety for Briana. She wasn’t sure if she would continue to get worse or would ever be able to gain control of her weight.
“As a heavier person, you do have to think about all the things that you can’t do. Now, I get to think about all the things I can do,” she says.
Now, Briana spends her time planning for the future and looking forward to the possibilities now open to her. She is excited to return to amusement parks, like the site of that embarrassing moment when she was removed from a ride due to her size.
“I like amusement parks and have missed them all these years, so being able to go back now and actually enjoy myself is very exciting,” she beams.