Paula Kilgore: Dressing For Success After WLS

Paula Kilgore experienced great weight loss after her bariatric surgery. One big challenge was dressing the part after losing weight. Here, she shares some tips.

My name is Paula Kilgore, and I am currently 47 years old. I was obese ever since I was a child. I remember Sears being the only department store that carried “chubby” clothes. My mom would take me shopping before school started every year, and I remember crying because the clothing they had back then for plus sizes was not very fashionable for a young girl. As the years went by, I can remember the pediatrician actually putting me on some kind of “diet” pill when I was about 11 or 12 years old, and he said the only soda I could drink was Fresca.


When I was 15 or 16 years old, the family practice doctor tried to tell my mother I needed to be on medication for high blood pressure. My mother refused to do this; she did not think it was possible for me to need this medication. When I was 17 years old, I went to the doctor and he put me on medication for hypertension, and I began to take it as prescribed. He also put me on diet pills – and he was walking a fine line in doing so due to my hypertension.

Needless to say, for my entire life, I was on and off multiple diets and never lost enough weight to make a difference in my health. I even took Redux, the well-known diet pill that caused heart valve damage. Fortunately, it does not appear that I had any permanent damage from that. I was on various medications for my hypertension which was difficult to control. I did not get much exercise because I would get short of breath easily. My back ached, my feet hurt, and of course there was the social stigma that came along with being morbidly obese.

In February of 2004, I had a heart catheterization. I had a “Cardiolite” test that showed areas of possible ischemia in my heart muscle and the only way to confirm this was by a heart catheterization. I had been getting very short of breath and having some chest discomfort. My coronary arteries were clear; however, they were a small caliber and my cardiologist said I had to lose weight because it was putting too big of a demand on my heart. I also had some left ventricular hypertrophy due to my hypertension. For the first time in my known history, my triglycerides were elevated as well, and I had been placed on Glucophage. This was because, now, I had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

I tried losing weight on my own, once again, without success. I would have to say the most successful I had ever been was when I took the Redux and lost down to 200 pounds, but I put my weight back on when it was taken off the market.

I am a nurse and I told my superior that I had to lose weight; she informed me that our hospital was going to start doing weight loss surgery in a few months. I was excited to hear this. I had thought about it briefly in the past, but thought it was out of my reach because my insurance only covered my hospital or a hospital run by the same corporation. The closest facility was about 250 miles away, and I did not think I could travel to get it done and was not even sure my insurance would cover it. Therefore, I always thought the surgery was out of my reach.

On August 16, 2004, I had a laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. I was fortunate to have a very skilled and patient laparoscopic surgeon, as I’d had multiple abdominal surgeries in the past and I form adhesions quite easily. I was weighing 258 pounds right before my surgery, but I had weighed as much as 264 pounds. I was able to get off my medications within three months of surgery and my triglycerides were back to normal within one month.


I would like to share some things that people who have weight loss surgery don’t even think about prior to having surgery. We all know, or should know, it requires a drastic lifestyle change. One of the strangest things of all that people do not think of is shopping for clothes. You literally have to learn to shop all over again.

I worked in a position at the hospital where occasionally I could leave for lunch. One day I walked to a nearby department store at lunchtime and purchased a pair of pants. Then I walked through the parking lot on my way back to the building and put the pants in my car. A couple of days later, I dropped them off to be dry-cleaned and then I went to wear them about a week later. Well, guess what? They were too big; I never got to wear them. Now don’t get me wrong, I did not mind that they were too big but it’s hard to buy something that is tight-fitting when you are a plus-size. You have to learn to buy your clothing a little on the tight side or you will not get much wear out of it. I recommend post-op patients buy only what is necessary to get by with until they reach their goal weight. Shop at resale shops, shop super sales, etc.

When you are a plus size, you either go to a specialty store to shop or you go to one section in a large department store (such as Dillard’s) to shop. When you lose enough weight and can wear a regular size, you have the entire store to shop in, not just one, usually small section to shop in. You have to decide where to start first. This is not always easy. You think, “Great, I can buy clothes anywhere.” Well, let me tell you. It will take you much longer because you have more to choose from. Most department stores are sectioned off by brands. Once you decide what brand you want to wear then it becomes easier; however there is a learning curve trying to figure this out. It will take you longer to shop, much in the same way it takes you longer to grocery shop right after weight loss surgery because you have to read all your food labels before you buy anything.

Do yourself a favor – do not try to hide your new figure with loose clothing. Be brave. Buy things that tastefully fit. You have to get out of that “muu muu” mindset of wanting to hide your body with loose clothing. Make sure you purchase the proper undergarments to assist with any skin that is hanging, since this will make a world of difference in the way your new clothing fits.

You also need to remember that as you get closer to your goal weight, you do not have to lose as much weight to in order to go down a size. For example, if you weigh 260 pounds and you lose five pounds, nobody notices and you really cannot tell that much of a difference in the way your clothing fits. But if you weigh 130 pounds and you lose five pounds, everyone notices and your clothing size is very likely to go down a size.

I lost the majority of my weight in the first ten months. When I got down to a size 12, I thought to myself, “Oh, I will not get any smaller.” Let me tell you how wrong I was. I continued to lose weight and stabilized at about 138 pounds by one-and-a-half years later. I maintained that weight until about four months ago when I lost about another ten pounds. Like I said, it requires a lifestyle change.

I did become the bariatric coordinator and manager at the hospital where I worked. It achieved the ASMBS “Center of Excellence for WLS.” Within the past year, I have moved to another hospital and we are working on the same designation.

I continue to be a resource for patients who are going through the process to have weight loss surgery as well as post-op patients who have had weight loss surgery. I actually took the first exam given in June 2007 to become a certified bariatric nurse. I want patients to be as successful as I have been, and I am more than happy to be there for those who need my support and encouragement.

Paula Kilgore, RN, CBN

9 Responses

  1. Joanne Brown

    Great story Paula, you are such an inspiration to me and others. Congrats on the long hard work, it’s worth everything. I am almost 4 years post op myself, 128lb and feel wonderfully healthy and overall great. I am also hoping to be able to help others as I have almost completed training to become a support group leader. It’s so important to spread the word and help others continue in their most important weight loss journey.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Lena Austin

    Thanks, Paula for your “been there, done that” story. I’m only a little over nine months post-op and only halfway to my goal weight. Still, most of my wardrobe has begun to fall off me after losing 75 lbs to date.

    This is especially true of my lingerie, most notably my bras. I’ve temporarily borrowed some of my 24-year-old daughter’s sports bras until I am closer to my goal weight, but this is a stopgap measure.

    I can sew, and reducing my clothing has been fun! However, even I am unwilling to tackle lingerie. I figure my stopgap measures will take me to the holiday season, where I intend to ask for gift cards to my favorite stores.


  3. Belinda Samrow

    I am two years post op. I have lost over a hundred pounds but would like to loose 15 more pounds. I went from a 22/24 to a size 12. I am 58 years old and feel like a different person. I can now wear heels, dance, walk and have begun to live again. Thank you for sharing your success.

  4. Ginny Lindberg

    Great story Having the Realize Lapband surgery done just 4 months ago I have had a real lifestyle change going from a size 20 to a loose fittin 14 now. Shopping at all the clearance racks has for sizes down to 10 for the fun of it and being excited not by the pounds as much as the clothes size I can fit into next. Since January I have lost 51 pounds and intend on loosing another 49 my health has not been this good in years comming off of some medications already. Great story it’s great to know that after all this time you have maintained and are still loosing some if you want. Great job you are an inspiration for me. Ginny

  5. clara johnson

    please help me to understand the lap-band surgery I was sent your web site by a friend I think we both are scared but we both realize if we don’t do something soon HELP any info to help me help myself. thank you for sharing your story

  6. Anthony Sala

    Wonderful and touching story, Paula. Thank you for sharing and making a difference in others lives through your work.


  7. Jody G.

    Paula, I have found everything you have said to be right on target. I started at 340 (size 36+), had RNY 2 years ago and and am now 195 (size 18-20 or 1X). I found that as I hit certain milestones in size (such as size 24), I couldn’t IMAGINE myself ever being smaller — not that I wasn’t still losing –I WAS — but I was so delighted that somewhere in my brain I felt like if I stopped here I would be thrilled and I went out and bought a bunch of clothes in that size. Now they are all too big!

    Also, I have found it so difficult to buy pants. I like the slim-cut stretch demin because they fit so nicely when you first put them on, but find that after sitting down just a few times, they stretch out terribly in the butt. Yet looser pants look so baggy to me. Do you have any ideas about who I can consult about HOW to buy pants that fit? Thanks.


  8. Leslie Langford

    You included some useful tips in your story that others have not mentioned about shopping after WLS. I will be having surgery in the next 3 weeks. I am also a registered nurse and think I may want to go into bariatric nursing. Where should I start?

  9. anna

    I had RNY done 2 years ago and have only lost 130lbs, I went from 390 to 260…is this right? I have stayed at 260 for a while now and feel I am not losing or going to lose anymore. Can someone please tell me how I can lose more weight? I would like to be at least 180. Thank you!