Gillian Snyder, before and after bariatric surgery
Gillian before and after bariatric surgery

“Do you want to live?”

Those words would change Gillian Snyder’s life for good.

Gillian Snyder was about to turn 30, and at 355 pounds, was the heaviest she had ever been. She had never thought about bariatric surgery. A family member sat her down, and said, “You’re almost 30, and you are not healthy. Do you want to live?”

As Gillian heard those words, she came to a realization: “There is no reason to continue being that unhealthy.”

“I had no reason to keep up these unhealthy habits, or to spend my life worrying about things like diabetes or high blood pressure,” she recalled. “It was time to take control and change my lifestyle.”

The Road to Surgery

As Gillian opened herself up to making a change, she realized surgery was a path toward a healthier future.

It took a while to navigate insurance and payment issues, but Gillian didn’t let that stop her. 

“I was determined, and certainly wasn’t going to let that stop me from doing what I needed to do,” she said.

Once the financial side was clear, the decision to go forward with surgery was a breeze. Although it’s not uncommon for patients to start having second thoughts, Gillian was ready to jump in headfirst.

She recalled, “I wasn’t nervous at all. I had the pre-surgery jitters a lot of people have when going into any surgery, but those were about the process of having surgery. I didn’t have any doubts about my choice.

“Most importantly, I had the support of my family and friends. I had a wonderful network of people who were there for me.”

From Recovery to Routines

Gillian has always had a high tolerance for pain — so much so that she didn’t need to take any painkillers after the surgery. She went home that day and immediately got on the treadmill.

For the first four to six weeks, Gillian was instructed to take it easy. But that didn’t stop her from walking on the treadmill daily.

The daily walks were the start of her newfound love of exercise. 

“I didn’t exercise a lot before the surgery, but now I have embraced it,” she said. “It’s therapeutic, and it’s what I do in my downtime.

“I get to shut everything out, and just focus on doing something for myself. I always make sure to include time for exercise in my schedule. If I miss it, I’m not happy.”

In addition to exercising, Gillian has adopted healthier eating habits. She eats more vegetables, cooks for herself, and packs her own food, so she can eat on the go without stopping for fast food.

“If I want something that’s not healthy, I really have to focus on portion size. That’s because as soon as I eat something unhealthy, I start to not feel so well. I immediately think, ‘That wasn’t worth it,’” Gillian said.

(Not) Worrying About Weight

Before surgery, Gillian didn’t own a scale. Now, she likes to step on her scale every day. However, she knows to use it as an indicator, rather than put too much stock into the number. 

“Your weight can fluctuate by a couple of pounds every day, so don’t just focus on the number,” Gillian advised. “And even if you don’t lose pounds, you can still lose inches. So, if the number is not exactly where you want it, don’t get discouraged.”

While seeing the number on the scale go down is always validating, Gillian feels especially rewarded when she is getting dressed.

“Change doesn’t happen in one second — it’s gradual,” she said. “I remember looking in the mirror one day, and I was suddenly like, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m trying on these clothes, and I’m not crying because they don’t fit. They actually look good on me. Who is that person in the mirror?’” 

That doesn’t mean that the number is not a sign of success — a year after surgery, Gillian dropped from more than 300 pounds to 186.

Spreading Success

Not everyone is eager to share their bariatric surgery experience with the world, but Gillian has been outspoken about it since day one. She documented her entire journey with photos, and has posted them online, both on her personal social media pages and within bariatric surgery support groups. 

Gillian’s posts are usually met with nothing but support. And even when she does get the occasional rude comment, she doesn’t get shaken easily.

“I don’t get embarrassed when someone posts a rude comment about my weight,” she said. “If someone’s going to be rude, they should be embarrassed by their own behavior. I have nothing to be embarrassed about.” 

Talking about her experience has also benefited the people around her. 

“I like to motivate people with my story,” she said. “Whether that means nudging someone who is considering surgery, or just motivating the people around me to eat better.”

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