Susan Tapper was always, as she says, a “chubby person.”
“I spent my entire life dieting or binging,” says Susan, who is now 61. “It affected my relationships, my work, my emotional well-being. And, as I got older, my physical condition.”
At 283 pounds, Susan’s body was in pain. Suffering from severe osteoarthritis, Susan had one hip replaced, and needed the other replaced as well. However, her weight kept her from scheduling the surgery and she was living in pain.
But there was another surgery on her mind – Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
“I’d been researching the surgery for years, and looking for a long time at bariatric programs in the area,” says Susan. “When I met Dr. Korus at Penn’s bariatric program, I knew Penn was the right place for me.”
Susan had gastric bypass in August, 2010, and her weight started coming off.
“Yes, the weight comes off, but it’s not easy,” she says. “I work at it every single hour of the day. When you first have the surgery, you are so motivated and it’s easier to stick with the program. But after a few years, when things start to get back to normal, it can be more challenging.”
To date, Susan has lost 138 pounds.
To combat cravings and stay on track, Susan puts protein first.
“I keep high protein foods with me at all times,” she says. “Not everyone does this, but it works for me.”
Susan also combats a scenario a lot of people can relate to – night eating.
“One of my biggest issues is night eating. I have to tell myself that the kitchen is closed at 8 pm,” she says. “I also do something to get out of the kitchen area, like read or move around to get through the craving.
While Susan still suffers from osteoarthritis, she walks, swims or does exercises she can do while sitting down.
“This is my life, and that reward is so wonderful,” she says. “I wear a size 10, I can fit in airline seats and move around so much easier. The benefits outweigh all the work that goes into losing weight.”
Practical Advice – And What I Eat
“You can't avoid food,” says Susan. “It’s a matter of making the right choices.”
For Susan, breakfast usually means Kashi protein cereal or egg beaters and sometimes a piece of 7-grain toast with cheese. A snack might be a protein bar, or an apple with PB2.
“Dinner could be turkey, fish, chicken, yogurt, cottage cheese or cheese sticks and crackers,” she says. “I like crunching something sweet like frozen yogurt ‘squeeze’ tubes. Or, I will have a piece of dark chocolate or nuts in the evening. For me it's easier to eat the same things over and over again. I don't like to vary my meals and snacks too much!”
Susan also offers advice for others.
“Get to know yourself. For some people that is hard. This has to be about you. Pay attention to when you are hungry or thirsty. Don't beat yourself up if you feel like you failed. Learn what works and what makes you feel good. Make the effort to handle the challenges that occur and pay attention to what you eat. If you don't recognize your old eating habits, you will gain the weight without question.”
Finally, Susan adds:
"I was glad that I made the decision to have the surgery with Penn. Going to my first support group run by the nutritionist Karen Buzby, I was confident that Penn was the right place. I felt immediately comfortable with the people and the relaxed atmosphere. It has been important to me as part of my success and as part of my ability to keep the weight off, to attend the meetings and talk with people who have had the surgery or who are about to have the surgery. That group gave me the confidence to have the surgery."