110 pounds lost: For Casper woman, weight-loss surgery started her journey to better health
By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 11, 2017
The first time Chenise Nupp, 24, saw herself as thin was in Slumberland. She caught a glimpse in a full-length mirror and stopped. She called her husband over.
“I asked him, ‘Do I really look like this?’ I cannot describe the feeling. It was the most bizarre thing that has happened through all of this,” said Nupp, a Casper woman who lost 110 pounds after undergoing a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy on Nov. 30, 2015.
“That was the first time I saw myself as I was. People who have not lost a lot of weight have no idea how weird that is. I bought that mirror, and I brought it home.”
Wyoming Medical Center is the only accredited center for bariatric surgery in the state. On our road to becoming a certified Center of Excellence, we have been accredited as a Comprehensive Bariatric Center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program.
Nupp, who had her surgery when she was 22, documented her journey on Instagram. (Follow her at @yupitschenise.) In this interview, she talks about choosing a path to better health (and more trips with her husband).
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I was born and raised here and pretty much lived my life in Wyoming. I had a good childhood for the most part.
Thinking back, I have always been a confident person, and I did not care what size I was. I do not remember myself as being overweight as a kid. When I look back at pictures of when I was a kid, I was like a regular kid. But once puberty hit at 13, things went a little out of control from there.
A lot of people can see back to when it happened, when they started gaining weight. I never really noticed until I think I was 20-ish when I had to get on high blood pressure medicine. I thought, “Wow. This is getting serious.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU WEIGH THEN?
I think I was up to 285 pounds. I think that was around my highest, and I carried that for a few more years.
I am 5-foot, 8-inches tall. My weight has always been pretty well distributed. Obviously, I was a bigger person, but most people did not guess how much I really weighed. I did not look like I weighed that much. When I eventually started deciding to do this surgery, people told me there is no way I could qualify for bariatric surgery.
WHAT MADE YOU CONSIDER WEIGHT-LOSS SURGERY?
One of my co-workers’ husband had the surgery in Texas about three years ago. The idea just kind of clicked, and I wondered if I could even qualify. So, I started doing some research. When I looked it up, I qualified just by what I weighed, not even considering my high blood pressure and asthma. I decided I was going to do it.
I had a lot of resistance from everyone at first. It is very scary, and I think it is really just a misunderstanding. People just do not understand what it is, or what it is going to do.
WHAT KIND OF RESISTANCE?
A lot of people were telling me I would lose the weight and gain it back just like everybody else does. People say you’re going to have to stop eating, and you will not be able to do this or do that. Looking back, there was only one thing I have given up completely, and that is carbonation. Everything else is in moderation. I feel like I am a normal person now.
TALK ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH. WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS LIKE?
I requested the information packet, and they sent me a DVD with all kinds of information. Then, I watched a ton of YouTube videos by people who have had it. There was one girl I followed who made a video like once a week. I saw what she was going through with each stage, and it was super helpful. Obviously, everybody is going to be different, but YouTube was a huge resource.
Instagram also. There are a lot of people now on Instagram.
WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR SURGERY?
My insurance wanted to see that I have tried to lose weight by myself. I did not have any documented ones, like joining Weight Watchers or anything like that. Most of it was just crash diets and stuff that I found throughout my early adult life. There is a book called "Fast Diet" where you literally do not eat. It was so bad when I think about it now.
So, in order for insurance to cover the surgery, I had to do a 90-day weight-loss plan where I met with a nutritionist once a month. Dr. (Kevin) Helling wants to see patients try to lose weight to see if you are taking it seriously.
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE DAY OF THE SURGERY?
It was the first surgery I ever had, and I did not know what to expect. We got to the hospital around 8 a.m. They checked me in, took me to pre-op and started the IV. I just remember that I was excited, but also extremely nervous. I had never done anything like it before.
My husband was very nervous as well. His adopted mother came up. My mother was there. My sister was there. I had a bunch of people.
AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE AFTER the SURGERY?
I was definitely in pain right after surgery, but once I got a little bit of pain medication in me I was good to go. Obviously, this was laparoscopic and was minimal, but it is still painful.
I have three scars across my abdomen and the biggest is like one inch. They have mostly disappeared.
When I was in the hospital, I was fine. I was really excited. The nurses were helping me.
Once I got home, that is when it got a little bit more difficult. I remember that first day getting frustrated and I just started crying. It was just overwhelming trying to do things by yourself, and it was like I did not know why I did this. It just took some time to get used to it and figure it all out.
WHAT DID YOU STRUGGLE MOST WITH, IN THE BEGINNING?
Trying to get that water in. I was off work for two weeks, and my full-time job was drinking water. You have to drink it in such small amounts that you have to drink it all the time. It is overwhelming at first. A lot of people will scare you and tell you that if you do not drink water you could end up back in the hospital.
It took like 1 1/2 weeks to get into the groove of things. Then, some co-workers of mine were going to a movie, and I said I would try to go. Getting out of the house that day was the first day that I thought, "I can do this.”
HOW FAST DID THE WEIGHT COME OFF?
At first, you do not see results. That was the hardest part, realizing the weight doesn’t just disappear overnight. You just have to stick with it.
You also have to deal with stalls, where your weight doesn’t change for several weeks. That is the biggest mind game that messes a lot of people up, so that they quit. On surgery day, Nov. 30, 2015, I weighed 256. By January 10, I was 228. By March I was 206.
Then, I think there were a couple of stalls when I didn’t lose anything. It was hard, and it really buckles down to remembering why you did this.
For me, I pretty much capped out at 180 pounds in July of 2016 – about 8 months after my surgery. Right now, I weigh about 175. So, technically, I am still 10 pounds overweight. I can lose 110 pounds and still am overweight.
I would like to tone up a little bit, but I am happy where I am at. Dr. Helling told me that he is more than happy with where I am at compared to where I started.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS SURGERY?
I definitely would. I thought I was happy before, and I think that I was in a way. Now, I have so many more opportunities to do things I never even thought about doing.
I remember – it is so embarrassing – in February 2015 my husband and I wanted to go up to the Events Center and see the monster truck show. We go, and I could not fit in the chairs. That crushed me. We had to get folding chairs and sit in the handicap section because I could not fit. Being able to go up there and go to graduation and fit in the chairs, with plenty of room, felt great. Or riding in an airplane and fitting. It is those little things that you do not think about that your weight stops you from doing. I love playing volleyball now. I am just more active in general. I take my dog out more, and my husband and I travel a lot more.
It is crazy when you think about how much your weight will hold you back, even if you are happy with it. I was happy. I was very sassy, and a lot of people said they hoped I would not lose my personality. I think I’m worse now!
WHAT warnings would you offer those CONSIDERING THE SURGERY?
If you are not willing to give up some stuff, it is going to be hard. Especially in the beginning. There are certain things we should not have anymore, such as carbonation. I feel that moderation is key. Honestly, it took me having this surgery to learn how to do that.
One of the biggest things is I would like to fix the stigma of this surgery. People think it is easy. I lot of people refer to it as a cop-out, that it is cheating, and it is not losing weight the right way. All the surgery did for me was to help reset what made me full. In that way, it was a tool that I chose to use to help me reach my goal. Every other choice that I made had to come from me. The surgery did not make me do it.
I hope that people seeing my story learn that you do not have to be 600-700 pounds for this surgery to save your life. If you can stop the progression before you get there, why wouldn't you? A lot of people give me a hard time because I was only 22 when I had this. They would say you have not had enough time to try to lose weight. I was like, "Why should I give myself five years of struggling when I can take care of it now and literally have the rest of my life?”
YOU THINK IT SAVED YOUR LIFE?
I am no longer on high blood pressure medication. My asthma is definitely better. Before, I never even considered having kids. Now, we are thinking about it. My dad's side of the family has always been large. So, being able to stop myself from getting generational diabetes and those types of things, I feel like it really did save my life. I know that if I had kept going I would have kept gaining.
WHAT DOES YOUR HUSBAND SAY ABOUT ALL THIS?
He was so leery at first. Now, it is funny because the people who have seen me lose weight gradually, they do not see me as how I was before. When they see a picture, they will say that they did not see me like that. That is how it is with my husband. When they say things like, "I bet you like her more now that she is skinny,” he says that he never saw me as large.
Dr. Kevin Helling is a board-certified general surgeon with a fellowship in advanced laparoscopy and weight-loss surgery at Harvard University. He is medical director of Wyoming Medical Center’s bariatric surgery program. He has authored numerous publications and textbook chapters, and he has presented his research at national and local scientific meetings. He practices at Wyoming Surgical Associates in Casper.