Two IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital employees talk about what it’s like to be working moms and achieve their goals of weight loss.
As the elevator doors open, Diamond Shearer looks inside and sees four other passengers. Then she steps inside.
“There’s a weight limit of 3500 pounds so I’m doing a quick calculation and dividing numbers to see if we’re going to reach that limit. That’s what big girls do,” said Shearer. She’s laughing as she invites additional passengers to join the ride up three floors.
“There’s room. We have room for more,” she says. “I used to worry about that kind of thing but not so much now.”
Shearer, who works as a sterile processing technician, has been with IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital for 15 years. On Oct. 15 2018 she had gastric sleeve surgery at IU Health Ball Memorial Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss Center. A co-worker Nichol Faris, a supervisor in food and nutrition at IU Health Ball had the same procedure in Sept. 24, 2018. They were both under the care of Dr. Michael Thorpe.
In the gastric sleeve procedure, recommended for people who have a body mass index of at least 40, surgeons remove a portion of the stomach and join together the remaining portions to make a new banana-sized stomach or sleeve. The smaller sack (about 1/10 the size of the original stomach) makes patients fill full more quickly.
The process leading up the surgery involves about six months of nutritional, psychological and exercise counseling. Every patient must complete specific steps to prepare for surgery – including weight loss.
Shearer, the mother of 14-year-old triplets, began her journey weighing at 399.7. She is now down 93.5 pounds. Faris began her journey at 364 pounds and is now down 88 pounds. Her birthday is May 1 and she hopes to be down by 100 pounds then.
Although their surgeries are the same, their stories are very different.
Shearer first heard the term “thunder thighs” when she started school. She said she was always a heavy girl but was also known as the pretty face ‘church girl.’
“I never thought I was fat. Through my eyes I’m the most gorgeous thing in the world. I had a lot of friends who didn’t think I was fat. It wasn’t a topic of conversation. I didn’t think I was a big girl. It was just me. I was Diamond. It’s the way God made you,” said Shearer. But when her weight began to impact her lifestyle, she decided she needed to work toward change.
“I am a worship leader at my church. Standing and singing at church was also becoming a task. I found myself not able to worship freely and sing at the same time. So yeah I decided to make a change. I told Jesus I needed his help,” said Shearer. “I wanted to freely worship and not be physically hindering myself. That was it. I met with my primary doctor and she told me about the bariatric surgery and Jesus was there helping me the whole time – never leaving my side.”
Faris, the single mother of two teens, said her whole life has been about feeling like the “big girl.” As the middle child, she said she was in the shadow of two siblings who were considered fit. Her weight was often talked about at home and by the age of eight her parents started her on one of the “clinically-proven fad diets.” She remembers going to her aunt’s home and seeing her picture hung up and vowing to never have her picture taken again.
The struggle continued into adulthood and she remembers going to her daughter’s Christmas concert and not being able to fit into the chair or to a soccer game and not participating with other parents on the field.
Her co-workers have been extremely supportive but she said there were many times when she wanted to hide in a corner rather than be out in front of customers.
When she decided to have weight loss surgery, she had another stigma to overcome.
“When you tell people you are having weight loss surgery they ask if you’ve tried dieting – as if surgery would be my first choice,” said Faris. “Then they talk about surgery as the easy way out. There is nothing about having this procedure that is easy. A vertical gastric sleeve is a tool and I still have to use it correctly to get the desired results,” said Faris. “I look at it like this – a pair of scissors will cut the grass but by the time you are done, you have to start over. However, if you use a lawnmower you get it done faster and more efficiently. Does that mean you are taking the easy way or using the right tool?”
That logic means strategy for Faris. She believes in keeping a food journal, planning meals and serving them on divided plates – sectioned by proteins and carbs.
Shearer, who is married to Ronald, works nights and spends her free time running her three daughters to band, cross country, basketball, choir, science club and church activities.
“I want this to be about real life. If I did meal prep I’d feel defeated. I don’t want any part of this journey to be about defeat or being envious of someone else. I want it to be about me,” said Shearer. “I am conscious about what I eat but I’m also realistic on the toll working nights takes on my body.”
Both women agree on one thing – embracing the high points.
Shearer calls her triplets her “trainers” because they motivate her to work out. “They call it ‘Shaun T time,’ and they only give me a couple days off a week,” said Shearer, referring to the popular “Insanity” and “Hip Hop Abs” fitness programs. Faris likes to work out to Beach Body yoga and runs.
“This summer I plan to do a few more 5ks,” said Faris. “I have a goal to have a 13- minute mile by the end of September 2019. This means taking another five minutes off my mile.”
And every day – it’s the little things that affirm their weight loss decision:
“It’s fun to go clothes shopping now and I’m not in the big girl section. I can even buy my bras at regular stores,” said Shearer.
“I felt my collarbone for the first time when I was standing in the cafeteria talking to the chef,” said Faris.
“I broke out in tears at a family reunion when I could cross my legs,” said Shearer.
“I can sit in a chair with arms on it and not feel trapped,” said Faris.
“My girls don’t have to help me up the bleachers during basketball games,” said Shearer.
“I’m so used to saying the number ‘3’ as in 300 – that it feels weird to say ‘2,’” said Faris.
“I took my first spin class yesterday at the YMCA. I honestly had to look down. Because all I could do was cry. There is no way I could have even got on the cycling bike a year ago. I finished all 53 minutes of that class. I did 17 miles,” said Shearer.
— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email firstname.lastname@example.org.