"I'm a much happier person now."
"I'd been heavy pretty much all through high school," says Nashua, NH resident Nicole Kalar. "Then, at age 19, I had my daughter and gained 100 pounds – and I'm only four feet, 11 inches tall!
Kalar tried Weight Watchers® and other diets. She exercised at the gym. "But nothing worked long-term for me," she says.
"It was hard," she continues. "If I went to the mall with friends, I could only go into stores for plus sizes. It was embarrassing... I could never go into Victoria's Secret for a bra or underwear; nothing fit. And the clothes were always more expensive at the plus-size stores.
"When I took my daughter to Disney World® when I was that heavy, it would hurt to walk around," she says. "My thighs would rub together so that I'd get a rash on my inner thighs. My chest was so big that my back hurt.
"My husband had a motorcycle, but I was too heavy to ride on it," she adds. "It was even uncomfortable to go to a Red Sox game and sit in those seats."
In 2003, Kalar's mother underwent gastric bypass surgery at Lowell General Hospital's Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery and lost more than 100 pounds. She encouraged Kalar to look into it for herself.
"I was lucky that I didn't have any health issues like high blood pressure or sleep apnea due to my weight," Kalar notes.
Motivated by her mother's success, Kalar attended an introductory session at the Center and opted to undergo gastric banding (LAP-BAND® is the brand name of the device used in this procedure). The surgeon places an inflatable band around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch that holds food. The band limits the amount of food you can eat by making you feel full after eating small amounts.
After surgery, the band can be adjusted by filling it with more saline solution (or releasing some of the saline) to allow food to pass more slowly or quickly through the digestive system.
"The banding procedure was a shorter operation and could be reversed," Kalar says of her decision. "I only had one child and if I wanted to get pregnant again, I felt better about having something that was reversible."
She underwent the gastric banding procedure in March of 2004 at age 25. She weighed 220 and lost 100 pounds.
"I got pregnant again six years ago (2007) and gained 70 pounds," she says. "The surgeon released the fluid in the band while I was pregnant, then I went back after my daughter was born and had it tightened again, and I lost the baby weight."
Kalar appreciates the support that the Center provides.
"I did nutritional counseling and went to a lot of support groups," she says. "It's definitely helpful, especially if you start to let things go and need help getting back on track. They're like a family there... it's a very close-knit group and they're always checking in to see how you're doing."
"I'm a much happier person now," Kalar continues. "Losing weight gave me the confidence to be more social and outgoing, and to get a better job, working up to management. And I do a lot with my kids – my 16-year-old and I even share clothes!
"It's difficult for a kid to have a heavy parent," she adds. "My oldest daughter is now very proud of me."