A Bariatric Success Story: How Finding Her ‘Why’ Helped Rebecca Karmels Find Health

January 11, 2021

My unhealthy relationship with food started as a kid. I tended to turn to it for comfort. Over time, I gained more and more weight. As an adult, I’ve worked with my primary care provider several times to try and get it under control. Various pills and supplements just ended in bad side effects. It was tiring.

I started considering bariatric surgery years ago, but I couldn’t convince myself to do it. I hid inside most days because I was so uncomfortable with my body.

My defining moment came in summer 2019. I hadn’t been out with my friends in quite some time, but I decided to go out and surprise them. I showed up, eager to take on the night, and they didn’t even recognize me. Later in the night, as I was dancing, I turned and caught a view of myself in the mirror. It made me feel so miserable. I knew I needed to make a change.

I called my doctor the next day and told him I was ready. He referred me to Dr. Marc Neff with the Jefferson Bariatric Surgery Program in New Jersey. I started what was a four-month-long process of getting clearances from all my doctors. They did require me to meet with a therapist, whom I’ve continued to see since.

I had gastric sleeve surgery in December 2019, and I’ve lost 103 pounds. I went from a size 24 down to a size 10. There have been countless physical benefits; more than anything, I’m just not in as much pain as I used to be from carrying around all that extra weight.

All of the small victories – being able to bend over and tie my shoes, cross my legs, fit into any chair – have made every day easier.

While all of this sounds wonderful, it’s incredibly important to realize that you can’t fix what’s on the outside before you fix what’s on the inside. You can’t succeed and be physically healthy if you aren’t emotionally healthy.

The biggest step in fixing my mindset was finding my WHY. I had to ask myself why I ate the way I did, and I needed to address the root cause, not just the superficial cause.

Now, I look at food differently. I see it as nutrition, not just comfort. I put a lot of thought into what I’m going to eat. I meal prep for the week; my grocery basket at the store looks completely different than before. Plus, my body responds to food differently now. It tells me what I’m craving, which is mostly lean proteins and fresh vegetables.

Some days can still feel like a rollercoaster ride. I don’t get mad at myself for having a little treat, but it is difficult to have one without the fear of falling back into old habits. You definitely have to put the work in every single day to stay on track.

My dietitian, Cheri Leahy, Dr. Neff, and his staff have been awesome and very supportive. If I need any kid of advice or check-up, they see me right away.

I also keep myself motivated by doing research and participating in online support groups.  

If you’re considering surgery, make sure you wrap your mind around it first. Is this something you truly want? Are you ready for the whole journey? Know that surgery is a tool to help you regain health – it’s not the cure-all or a miracle-worker. If you don’t put in the work, you can and will gain weight back.

If the answer is yes, you won’t regret it. It’s the best gift you could ever give yourself.

Oh, did I mention – I’m not afraid to look in the mirror anymore?

To learn more about Bariatric Surgery at Jefferson Health - New Jersey, click HERE