By Jennifer Sellers
Amy Hill of Canton had been overweight almost her entire life. Outwardly, she projected self-acceptance, but deep down she wasn’t as satisfied with herself as she seemed. “I tried to portray myself as confident about my body,” said the 25-year-old. “For years, I wanted others to think I was very, very happy as a BBW (big, beautiful woman), and I became very active in the community in an effort to be accepted in that way. While I do believe it’s best to have a positive mindset, regardless of your situation, I knew that the reason I was working so hard to make it seem like I was OK with myself was because I felt that change was hopeless and that I just had to settle for the body I had.”
At 360 pounds, Hill was offering the world a happy face, but she secretly dealt with low self-esteem, depression and bullying. “I would cry at home in my bed because I was put down or treated differently,” she said. “I’ve had people point at me, laugh at me and take pictures of me. That’s a lot of negativity to take in on a regular basis. And I had other daily struggles, too. Even simple things, like not being able to walk across a college campus without getting worn out, were getting to me.”
Hill held such a deep-seated belief that her obesity was permanent, she saw no real options for herself — even after both of her parents underwent gastric bypass surgery. “My mom was the first to do the surgery,” Hill said. “I remember afterward having a conversation with my now-husband and saying, ‘That’s great that my mom took her health under control and is finally losing weight, but I would never have that surgery.’ I had already failed so many times at losing weight, that I thought nothing would help. I had no hope.”
Despite her sense of defeat, Hill had one goal in the back of her mind that she couldn’t let go of. And she knew that losing weight was the only likely way to get her there. That goal? To eventually have children. Due to a combination of obesity and polycystic ovarian syndrome, Hill knew that she had to do something if she was ever going to realize her dreams. So, she would give weight loss one last serious shot.
“I told myself that this was going to be my last weight-loss attempt,” Hill said. “So I went to my doctor thinking I would be given some kind of prescription or shot along with a strict diet. I still didn’t consider surgery an option at that point. It was too big a commitment to consider.”
The person who was finally able to break through to Hill was her primary care provider. Hill said she’s forever grateful to her for making her see that gastric bypass surgery was, by far, her best chance at success. “She pretty much gave it to me straight, and let me know that if I wanted to get pregnant and carry a healthy baby to term, this was the way to go,” said Hill.
Hill was referred to Mission Weight Management to get the ball rolling. There, Hill joined the bariatric surgery program, which she stayed in for six months to qualify for insurance coverage for her procedure. There she met with nutritionists, exercise therapists and psychologists. “The staff was so supportive; the doctors were great!” she said.
While in the program, Hill lost 50 pounds. Her doctor’s goal was that she would lose 33 pounds before surgery. Hill said she wanted to prove to herself she was fully committed to such a serious lifestyle change.
In May 2014, Hill underwent gastric bypass surgery. Her surgeon, Peeter Soosaar, MD, was the same physician who performed the surgery on Hill’s parents. The procedure and recovery went well, and Hill said it’s the best decision she’s ever made. In total, she’s lost half her original weight (180 pounds, which includes the 50 she lost prior to surgery), and she’s completed two 5K races and the 18-mile Virginia Creeper bike trail.
Hill said her life is different in other ways as well. “There were things that I now enjoy that I never knew I wasn’t enjoying,” she said. “I can sit in a chair without the anxiety of breaking it. I can sit in a movie theatre without my feet falling asleep because my thighs are being pressed so hard. I can walk to the mailbox without having to use my inhaler. In fact, I rarely have to use my inhaler at all. Even the social anxiety is dramatically reduced. I’m able to live so much more of a fulfilled and happy life.”