I Was 300 Pounds Before Weight-Loss Surgery, Here's Why It's The Best Decision I Ever Made

I had been working out, eating "right" and drinking tons of water. Nothing was working.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

This is Terrilyn Smith's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

Have a consultation.

Research and select a doctor in my area for months.

Meet with a Patient Care Coordinator to review steps required by my private insurance to cover costs.

Four monthly sessions with a Nutritionist.

Psychological Evaluation.

Cardiologist Clearance.

And a sleep study.

This was my vertical sleeve gastrectomy process. All of the above took five months to complete in order for my case to be submitted to my insurance. The surgery was approved and scheduled for June 11, 2018.

That was the day my life changed.

Courtesy of Terrilyn Smith

In my 20's, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which means my thyroid was enlarged and didn't produce enough hormones for my body to function properly. This caused excessive weight gain and fatigue. I fought this disease for seven years; seven long years of up-and-down weight loss and weight gain.

My body was exhausted.

In 2017, my weight reached 300.4lbs despite working out, eating "right" and drinking tons of water. Nothing was working.

I was fed up. I decided it was time to make a decision to live.

I searched the internet for the best viable options: liposuction. Gastric bypass. Ultimately, I settled on Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (also known as VSG) as my method of choice. Simply put, with VSG, the surgeon removes a portion of your stomach, roughly 15%. The result is a sleeve or tube-like structure—which limits your amount of food intake, thus making you feel full sooner after eating small amounts of food.

I researched every single component of VSG; it became a part of me like a best friend. I immediately learned that this wasn't going to be a quick or easy choice. But once I finally decided on moving forward—and with who—the hard work began.

Courtesy of Terrilyn Smith

There were so many factors involved in something as simple as basic surgery approval, and when you're approved, Phase II of a separate selection process begins. I was on a liquid diet for two weeks prior to surgery to shrink my liver so that no complications would emerge. And it was absolute hell. I remember praying often and clearing my life of all distractions to help me cope with moving forward and I didn't share my decision with many people being that I didn't want their opinions to cloud my mind. I needed a clear head going into surgery.

My mom and sisters became my support system. They were extremely supportive throughout the entire process. My children and the rest of my family didn't know that I was having the surgery until right before my surgery date. Again, I didn't want opinions or for anyone to be worried.

Surgery lasted for less than an hour and I was moved to recovery. I chose to stay the night in the hospital to ensure proper recovery. Post surgery, I was placed on a liquid diet again for another two weeks, and slowly transitioned into soft foods during week three. Solid foods were reintroduced after week four. The focus during these weeks was water, protein and vitamin intake. I also walked daily to assist with recovery.

When the dust settled, and I was able to work out aggressively, I knew I made the best decision for me.

But, why? How did I determine that I was going to have the VSG surgery?

I tried so many methods throughout my life, guys. Ultimately I was fighting my own body. I needed a boost to help me reach my goals. I needed a positive direction. I chose this route because it was the one that would save my life. And I feel like anyone should choose this route after researching and deciding it's something that they're ready to commit to. It takes a lot of work and changes your life completely, sure.

But now, my only regret is not doing it sooner.

During post-op, self-love began to set in. My lifestyle changed, my relationship with food flipped. I became someone able to consciously tell myself, "you're not hungry", "you're full", or "that junk won't fix it!" I also save a lot of money when eating out because I'm either splitting meals or just having appetizers.

Addressing my food addiction forced me to acknowledge that I needed to find another way of dealing with the stresses of daily life. I worked out prior to surgery, but now, my workouts are a form of therapy. I value that alone time and I crave it. I even became the Dallas Chapter Leader for Black Girls Hike Global. Me. A former 300-pound woman. I'm outdoors hiking every chance I get. It brings me so much peace.

Today, I enjoy the little things. Things that people take for granted—shopping for new clothes and sliding in pants 3, 4, 5, 6 sizes smaller than I wore six months before, walking up and down a flight of stairs without getting deathly winded, and physically feeling my confidence rise at an all-time high. It was as if my body was melting away.

And the more it melted, the more I became focused on my goals, happiness, and the success of my journey.

I'm on my new life's path and I'm here to encourage those who are struggling to take back their health. Do your research, plan out all steps, and commit. I was prepared for everything that has come along with this process because I did my research.

Look to women who have been through the surgery for motivation. I surround myself with like-minded individuals who are on health and wellness journeys as well. A couple of my favorites are @thechicandsavvybelle and @travel_sleever_keto_diva.

In the end, just trust yourself and do what works for you. Other people will have something to say, but you are the only one that can live your life.

Live for YOU! Your journey, your way!

To keep up with Terrilyn and her journey, follow her on Instagram @whos_phat_vsg.

Featured image courtesy of Terrilyn Smith

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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