'I Started My 189-Lb. Weight Loss With Surgery. But I Completely Changed My Lifestyle To Make It Stick'

My name is Kathleen Golding (@kathleeng1112). I am 28 years old and live in New Bern, North Carolina. After 20-plus years of struggling with obesity and an eating disorder, I decided to take control of my life, get a gastric bypass, and commit to changing my lifestyle permanently.

My whole family has struggled with weight my entire life, and I grew up overweight. I was always the biggest one in my class and remember having to get a doctor’s note to start Weight Watchers when I was in the fourth grade. My weight yo-yo-ed throughout my childhood and teens but I was always active in sports, so that helped at the time. But as soon as I graduated high school and stopped being active, I noticed the weight start to pile on.

I struggled a lot with anxiety when I left for college and turned to food for comfort. By the time I was 22, I weighed 300 pounds and had full-fledged binge eating disorder. I would eat three large meals from McDonald’s in one sitting. I was living with my parents and trying to hide all the food from them because I was so embarrassed. I tried therapy for two years to get my issue under control, and at the end of my treatment, my therapist suggested looking into gastric bypass surgery.


Surgery was something I’d been thinking about for a few years, but I was so scared of what other people would say about me for choosing that route.

Often times it’s seen as “cheating” or taking the easy way out. It’s not—but I’ll get to that later. Nothing else was working for me, though. I got to the point where I was totally desperate. I felt like a failure and that I would never be successful without surgery.


I was scared but I knew I needed help—and that’s when I made the decision to go through with a gastric bypass. I had my surgery on June 9, 2016, and I remember walking into the bathroom to change into my gown. I looked in the mirror and was crying hysterically. I was terrified and excited. I looked myself dead in the eye and said: “You will not fail.” I was doing this for me.


Let me tell you: You don’t just wake up thin after surgery.

That’s a far-too-common misconception about people who have weight-loss surgeries. In the months following my operation, I had to completely overhaul my entire life in order to make any amount of weight loss permanent.

I ate a low-carb, high-protein diet, learned to cook, and felt all the amazing changes that come when you stop filling your body with greasy fast food and start fueling it with foods that are good for you. I measured *everything* and paid attention to serving sizes. And eventually, the changes I was making started to come naturally and living a healthy lifestyle was second nature. But this is not something that you learn overnight, and it’s not something that the mere act of getting surgery magically teaches you.


What I eat in a day has dramatically changed since I starting losing weight.

Before it was nonstop junk food for me. Now, I’m super conscious of what I put into my body. Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: I usually make some kind of breakfast bowl. One of my favorites is smoked salmon with quinoa, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. I love cooking first thing in the morning.
  • Lunch: If I’m home for lunch, I’ll do some kind of stir fry with veggies. And if I’m out for lunch, I always like to do a big salad with some kind of protein.
  • Dinner: Usually some kind of protein (we eat a lot of fish), a vegetable, and some kind of pasta or other carb for my husband. I’ll usually fill up on veggies and protein before having anything else. I still eat carbs like pasta, just in moderation.
  • Snack: I’m big on snacking throughout the day, so I’ve always got an assortment of veggies sliced and ready to be eaten with hummus in my fridge. I also make a couple of Starbucks-inspired protein boxes with fruit and cheese every Sunday that I snack on throughout the week.


As the weight came off, moving my body got easier and easier.

I started off slow with exercise, by walking, swimming, and eventually moving on to yoga. To be honest, though, I still hate going to the gym.

Before having surgery, I would try and go to the gym but would get so frustrated and discouraged with how hard it was to move my body. I felt ashamed and like everyone there was judging me. I hated that feeling of being the fat girl at the gym.


Now, I still hate going to the gym, as a part of me still feels like I don’t belong there, even 189 pounds lighter. So, I’ve found other ways to work out. I’ll usually take my dog for a long walk, go to a Pilates class, or do a workout at home with a YouTube video.

I don’t want to feel the way that I did before surgery ever again.

I transformed my entire way of living, both physically and mentally, in a 12-month period. And while the weight change was amazing, I saw the biggest transformation in my mental state and the way I thought about myself. I started to fall in love my body for the first time in my whole life, not because it was getting smaller, but because of how strong it was.

My motivation comes from a serious refusal to go back to the way I was. I don’t ever want to be a slave to food or feel trapped inside of my own body. My husband and I are also trying to get pregnant and currently dealing with fertility issues, so while we wait for a positive, I keep telling myself that I need to make my body as healthy as possible so it’s ready to carry our baby.


I could have chosen to keep my surgery a secret, like so many people do, and preached about the importance of counting calories and a keto lifestyle, or that drinking a shake every day helped me get those results. But I don’t ever want to mislead people or feel ashamed about my approach. It’s just as valid as anyone else’s.

I want to be genuine and authentic for the people that feel the constant sting of failure while watching so many people succeed, for the people that want to get healthy but need help doing it.

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