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Published June 13, 2013, 11:55 PM

Holt: Surgery helps Fargo woman lose 200 pounds

Fargo -- Heather White’s seamstress mother was making final alterations to her wedding dress just a few hours before the ceremony.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

Fargo -- Heather White’s seamstress mother was making final alterations to her wedding dress just a few hours before the ceremony.

Three months before her August 2012 wedding, the 33-year-old Fargo woman had gastric bypass surgery, which makes the stomach smaller and forces food to bypass part of the small intestine.

“I was losing about 2 to 3 pounds a day right before the wedding,” she says. “We didn’t actually start sewing it until the week of the wedding.”

Heather had always struggled with her weight, and she’d tried everything from controversial weight-loss drug Fen-Phen to Weight Watchers.

“Nothing really seemed to stick. I’d lose it, and I’d gain it back, so it wouldn’t matter. That’s when I decided to go with the surgery,” she says.

Since she started preparing for surgery two years ago, Heather’s gone from a high of 360 pounds down to 155, or a size 26/28 to an 8/10.

So what’s it like to shrink 200-plus pounds?

“It’s so surreal. I still see myself as a bigger person. I guess it hasn’t hit me yet,” she says.

She stresses, however, that weight-loss surgery isn’t a quick fix.

In fact, Heather lost the first 60 pounds before she went under the knife. She did six months of nutrition counseling, psychiatric evaluation and exercise, starting with low-impact water aerobics.

The hardest part, she says, was giving up Diet Coke. She was drinking four or five cans a day, sometimes more. But quitting has helped reduce other cravings.

Heather’s hard work wasn’t over after surgery, nor will it come to an end.

“I struggle with it every day, whether it be not being able to eat dairy or making sure I get enough protein or making sure I balance my protein with veggies and fruit,” she says. “And you still do have cravings, and you have to learn to know that it’s OK to take a bite of a candy bar, but that’s all you can have.”

She used to love pizza, bread, pasta and potatoes, but they no longer taste the same.

“After surgery, you eat it once, you get sick, and you no longer want it,” she says.

The only complication Heather’s had was an ulcer, but it’s unknown whether it was caused by the procedure, stress or her love of spicy food (“I’ll eat anything with crushed red pepper”).

“No matter what the complications are or were, I don’t regret it at all. It’s hard work, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re doing it for the right reasons,” she says.

She acknowledges that weight-loss surgery isn’t for everyone. Both her mom and aunt had it done, and they had a harder time adjusting afterward.

Heather says the emotional changes are more difficult than the physical.

“If it’s something you’re doing for self-image, you shouldn’t do it,” she says.

Much of Heather’s motivation came from her and husband Quron’s children.

“I was constantly in pain. I have fibromyalgia, so the weight was too much on me. I wanted to play with my kids and be outside without it being painful,” she says.

Now she can spend hours with their kids without feeling worn down.

“They love the fact that I’m out with them now. It’s not five minutes and Mommy needs to sit down,” she says.

Besides play time, Heather exercises three or four times a week, mostly walking with some running and biking, and she recently added weight training to the mix.

Quron has also gotten more active and enjoys walking and running with his wife. The two will run their first race together in the Fargo Run or Dye at the end of the month.

Heather’s had his full support throughout her life-changing process.

“He always said, ‘I loved you then, I love you now, it doesn’t matter the way you are,’ which is nice, because you worry about those things,” she says.

Do you have a weight-loss story to tell? Email me at mholt@forumcomm.com.

Forum reporter Meredith Holt lost over 100 pounds between 2010 and 2012. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.