GRATEFUL: Gastric Bypass, 5Ks & A Dash of Magic

Triathlete Patricia Miller lost 230 pounds before training for her first triathlon. She had Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass--Roux-en-Y (RGB) surgery May 21, 2007 and reached her goal weight in March 2009. Learn more about Patricia in the first post "From 405 to Finish Line." I met Patricia in's triathlon community where I volunteer as a moderator.

It's easy to describe triathlete Patricia Miller as highly motivated. On the evening of her gastric bypass surgery, this determined school superintendent was up and doing laps around the surgical floor.

"I knew the sooner I got up and about, the better I would feel," she says. She had surgery on a Monday afternoon after a busy high school graduation weekend. She was back from recovery and in her room about 5:30 p.m.

"It was pretty funny when I went to see the surgeon," says Miller. "I asked how long the recovery would be following the surgery. He said I would probably be in the hospital for a day and that I would be out of work for three weeks. I pressed on and said, 'What about highly motivated patients, how long are they out of work?' He responded, 'Three weeks.' I said, 'No, how about those who are REALLY motivated?' The surgeon responded, 'College students are usually back to classes in a week, and you are not a college student.'"

Miller stayed the course. Each time she woke up for pain meds Miller got up and did one or more laps around the surgical floor. She was out of the hospital and on her way home before lunch on Tuesday and went back to work a week later. She lost over 30 pounds in the first month.
While she laughs about her conversation with the surgeon, she takes the surgery and its related consequences seriously.

"I've talked several people OUT of gastric bypass," says Miller. You have to be committed to making serious life-style changes that will last forever, she says. Because the surgery is maladaptive and malabsorptive Miller takes regular vitamins and supplements twice daily and is blood tested twice a year for deficiencies.

"If I eat incorrectly I risk dumping syndrome," says Miller. "This happens when the contents of my stomach leave the stomach too rapidly and then dash through the small intestine. It can cause nausea, weakness, sweating, faintness and sometimes diarrhea after eating." She's generally successful at managing her diet.

Miller's post-surgery diet consisted of liquid or blended food six times a day for three weeks (serving portions of about 1/4 cup.) Protein was, and remains, the first food consumed at a meal. The amount of protein is determined by your surgeon based on height and gender. Miller must have at least 85 grams of protein a day.

"After the initial three weeks, I graduated to soft foods (limited veggies, no carbohydrates), but proteins were always consumed," she says. "At about six months I could add limited complex carbohydrates, but protein remained the first and most important item at each of the six meal times."

Miller's lifetime eating plan excludes:
  • Simple sugars
  • Simple carbohydrates
  • Or items with more than 20% of calories coming from fat, some exceptions are peanut butter and nuts on occasion.
  • Carbonated beverages could cause her smaller stomach to swell and stretch, which over time could cause Miller to overeat.

"Now I eat about 8 ounces at a meal time and fit more veggies, some fruits and whole grains into that meal opportunity," she says. "I still eat six times a day." She says having dumping syndrome is a great reminder that she must eat and drink appropriately every single day of her life.

Miller reached her goal weight in March and has maintained a healthy weight range for the last eight months.

"Overall I've lost 81% of my excess weight and I believe my high level of physical activity is part of the reason I've been able to exceed expectations," Miller says. Most RNY patients lose 50-75% of excess body weight post surgery.

"One of the huge benefits of doing triathlon training is it reminds me every day how far I've come," she says. "Even just a year ago a bike was just something I wanted because it sounded like fun. If you'd told me I would have done five triathlons before Thanksgiving of the next year, and have a sixth coming up in December, I would have been stunned."

"I don't think anyone could have told me I'd be in a place where I could run 2.25 miles without stopping or slowing to walk either, and yet I'm in a place where I think it's possible I may be able to run the full 5K on Thanksgiving Day this year," she says.

"Since I've NEVER been able to run even a mile in my life, this feels like an incredible victory," says Miller. "I realize much of what I'm celebrating isn't anything magical to others who've been athletes, but I've never been able to do this sort of stuff and it's ALL magic and worthy of celebration to me."

Patricia, thanks for letting us celebrate with you! Here's a pre-Thanksgiving Day toast to you! Cheers! I can't wait to hear about your Turkey Day 5K and December triathlon. Enjoy!!

Meet Patricia Miller: From 405 to Finish Line

Questions for You:
- Do you eat correctly 100%?
- How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?

photos by: me. I bought beautiful wooden food for our toddler's 2nd birthday. I had to take it away. The little stinker likes to chuck all the food ... it hurts getting nailed by a flying wooden banana.


Velma said...

Yes, I want my t-shirt :) Let me know when you have decided on races for 2010. I will also be in WI around Christmas if you are having any bootcamps.

I am still struggling with my eating. I am trying to have healthy food with me all the time, so I can have an alternative. Holidays are hard as people seem to push food in WI (or that has been my experience).

Lora said...

Wow, what a story! I actually registered for a Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving. I'm doing the 10K.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

Velma - that'd be cool! We're debating our Christmas location right now, but I'll let you know.
& yes, I struggle with food a lot, especially right now!!

Lora, thanks! Patricia is amazing & inspiring. I hope your Trot went well.