It was never about the weight. That’s what Kendra Hamm, a paralegal who lives in Sylva, had to say about her decision to undergo bariatric surgery.
“My motivation throughout this whole process has always been about my health,” said Hamm. “I was never motivated by losing weight, per se, or being thin or wearing a bikini. I really just wanted to get healthy and bring my body back to good health.”
Hamm said she had struggled with her weight for her entire life, but especially the past two decades. As a result, health problems like sleep apnea and high blood pressure started creeping in. Hamm said that as her weight gain escalated, so did her sleep apnea, in particular. She was at the highest level on her BiPAP machine when her pulmonary doctor suggested surgery.
“My physician told me, ‘You’re going to be looking at some serious health issues in the very near future if you don’t address this,’” said Hamm. “She’s the one who encouraged me to go to the informational meeting.”
Prior to seeking information about bariatric surgery, Hamm had attempted to lose weight on her own and with the help of her primary care doctor. However, she says her body was just very out of whack at that point.
Making the Decision
When Hamm decided to undergo bariatric surgery through Mission Weight Management, she was very serious about it, and her planning reflected that. However, she said she was always planning to give herself an out, just in case.
“Honestly up until the very date I went there — even after I was fully committed in my efforts — in my mind I was still like, ‘You can still back out,’” said Hamm.
But go through with it, she did. And to prepare, she lost 50 pounds in advance. She did so by exercising and cutting things out of her diet that she would have to after surgery.
“I thought if I’m going to do this, I want to do it now — because if I can’t do it, I don’t want to put myself through surgery for something I’ll fail at,” she said.
Hamm’s surgery was in November 2016, following one of her more memorable Thanksgiving holidays. “I was on a liquid diet for that meal because it was just a week before my surgery,” she said. In combination with the weight Hamm lost prior to surgery, she lost 125 pounds, total, following it. She has been able to maintain that loss for a year, and she said the credit goes to committing to the approach that was right for her.
“In conjunction with my surgery, I started doing yoga, meditation and therapy to make a holistic experience of it,” said Hamm. “These practices help me keep my focus on being healthy and kind to myself. So my focus now is less on food and more on how to do good things that aren’t detrimental. It’s a more balanced approach.”
“Surgery alone is only one tool in a patient’s weight-loss journey,” said Katherine Habenicht Yancey, MD, a bariatric and general surgeon with Mission Surgery and Mission Weight Management. “There are statistical percentages of body weight loss that is expected after surgery, but patients who lose the most weight and gain the most health benefits after their surgery participate in our multidisciplinary approach.”
Support from a Team
Hamm said the team at Mission Weight Management supported her in her efforts every step of the way. “
They are a fantastic team,” said Hamm. “When you choose bariatric surgery, not everyone you tell will be supportive, but I felt very confident in telling people I have a whole team of people looking out for me, including counselors and nutritionists who are very helpful in encouraging my holistic approach.”
According to Dr. Yancey that’s how the Mission Weight Management team prefers to operate. “What’s unique about our program is that we have a medical arm and a surgical arm, and we tailor the experience for each patient,” she said. “We are able to cross between both sides of those resources and maximize weight loss for patients who have weight-loss surgery, as well as those who choose not to. It’s not all about surgery; it’s also about nutrition, body fitness, and overall mental and physical health.”
Hamm said that it has also been important to her that the team at Mission Weight Management has continually pointed her back to her hard work. “They remind me that I’ve been successful because I’ve done the work,” she said. “They let me have ownership of that. They attribute the success to me, not to them — but I enjoy sharing the success with them, because my surgery was a critical step, and the team really has helped me and encouraged me every step of the way.”
Holiday Eating after Weight Loss
The holidays can be challenging for anyone trying to watch their eating, but especially for those controlling their weight following bariatric surgery. Now going on her third holiday season following the start of her weight-loss journey, Kendra Hamm is now a pro. Her No. 1 tip is that she eats a protein bar shortly before the holiday dinner. That keeps her from wanting to overfill her plate during the meal.
“If I had any advice it would be that,” she said. “Try to time it out so that you eat a little something before your meal. That way, you can enjoy socializing without overeating.”
Meet the Mission Weight Management team (l to r): Nicole Martinez, RD, Katherine Habenicht Yancey, MD, Garth Davis, MD, and Mary Messenger, PA