Angela Britt, bariatric coordinator for the Washington University Weight-Loss Surgery Program, has a unique perspective when she talks to patients about what they can expect with weight loss surgery. This is because she has gone through the program herself.
Britt was always an active person but had a larger physique, even as a child. When she grew up, she continued to grow heavier, and her weight became both a social and medical burden. She felt awkward when seated on an airplane or at the Fox or Muny theaters and was always aware of the amount of space she was taking up. Britt also had hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoarthritis in her knees, with a looming family history of diabetes.
After many years of diets and exercise – and losing weight and regaining it – Britt came to a crossroads. She had tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and the Atkins diet and had even participated in a “Biggest Loser Contest,” a friendly competition within the Washington University Department of Surgery business office. She had also worked out at the YMCA, on and off, for about 5 to 6 years. And yet, at the age of 39, standing only 5 feet 1 inch tall, Britt weighed 253 pounds with a body mass (BMI) index of 47.6. This was well into the category of being “morbidly obese.”
Britt was familiar with the Washington University Weight Loss Surgery Program because, at the time, one of her jobs was to pre-certify patients for bariatric surgery. She met with surgeon Christopher Eagon, MD, and decided to undergo laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. In April 2009, she had the surgery, and 19 months later, she had lost more than 90 pounds. In addition, her blood pressure and cholesterol are at normal levels, she no longer has problems with her knees, and she is not at risk for diabetes.
In her job as bariatric coordinator, Britt now attends surgical weight loss seminars and interacts with patients during every step of their journey. She believes her own experience helps her relate to them.
“There are a lot of frustrations that come with being severely obese,” says Britt. “People ask why can’t you just go on a diet? Why can’t you just exercise more? I have been on diets and exercised and lost the weight and gained it back and then some. So I understand the frustrations of weight-loss surgery patients; I know where they have been.”
Britt found the surgical weight-loss program at Washington University to be very personalized. She went through the program at the same pace as any other patient, seeing a nutritionist, dietitian, physical therapist and behavioral counselor.
“What I liked about the program is that you have your appointments on separate days,” says Britt. “This allowed me to keep all of the information I had just received fresh in my head to discuss with my husband and the rest of my support group. I felt like I received an un-rushed, personal, quality meeting with each of the providers, preparing me for how life-changing the surgery would be.”
Britt has received strong support from her family and friends, especially from her husband Bobby. The couple goes on walks and works out at the gym together and follows a healthy diet, which includes avoiding restaurants that do not offer good food choices.
“Using weight loss surgery as a tool, along with better food choices and exercise, allowed me to lose 47% more weight than originally expected,” says Britt. “Bobby and I have a new emphasis in our lives: before, it was where we were going to go to eat, but now we have to fit food into our lives because we have so many other activities going on.”
At work, Britt enjoys helping others achieve their dream of a healthier life.
“There are so many positive things that have happened since I had the surgery,” she says.