Weight Loss Surgery Transforms Yvonne McCarthy Into ‘Bariatric Girl’

Weight loss surgery helped Yvonne McCarthy lose 130 pounds. Today, she’s best known as Bariatric Girl and loves to help others on their weight loss journey.

yvonne guitar When I was in the fourth grade, puberty hit.  Being thin, as I knew it, was over.

Being very athletic and playing sports didn’t help either.  I found out very early that there was a clear dividing line between being popular because they wanted you on the team, and being popular.  My size was already teaching me that, to “be someone,” you couldn’t be overweight.  My mom just wanted me to be happy.  Fighting weight problems most of her life, she researched Weight Watchers for kids.  That would turn out to be the first of hundreds of diets for me.

When I was thirteen I was often able to go without food for a week.  I could drop twenty pounds, but, of course, it would come back… plus more.  My family would tell me I was just “pleasantly plump” or “big boned,” but I desperately wanted to be like the other girls.  My dear sweet mother would always say “You have such a pretty face.”

YVONNE BEFOREIn the sixth grade I played softball, sang in the church choir, was a Girl Scout, took music lessons and also wanted to dance.  The ballet teacher that I studied with would make comments that “we should all go eat at Yvonne’s house” because we obviously ate really well.  I was just a little girl and it hurt.  I wasn’t even obese – not yet.

I continued being “pleasantly plump” until my freshman year in college. Still trying every diet in existence, but nothing worked.  The pressure from college really started to show and I gained even more weight.

After pulling off a major weight loss again through starving, I found the best way to stay thin: thinking I was in love.  For a couple of years I managed to just eat cottage cheese, tomatoes and crackers.  I became alarmingly thin and went blonde.  Wow! There was a new babe on campus and I really resented the fact that I was being treated so differently even though I was the same person I always was.  All of a sudden I was being nominated for the beauty pageant and was the Phi Mu Alpha sweetheart.  I was third runner-up in the beauty pageant for Northwestern State University.

After college I couldn’t maintain the starvation, so I went back to more diets and the “yo-yo” weight gain and loss.  I got married and it was very apparent that if I gained weight I would lose my husband.  No one tried harder than I did to be the perfect wife, but I failed. The dreaded weight that I reached when he left was a weight that I would have loved to have maintained later in life.  Deciding that I was too fat anyway, I ballooned an extra sixty pounds because I just didn’t care anymore. This experience just reinforced the lesson: I am not worthy.

Several years ago, I faced the loss of my mother to cancer.  This had to be the hardest thing I had ever faced in my entire life and I didn’t want to live.  Cancer took my mother and the depression was unbearable.  She told me before she died that she just wanted me to love myself.  That seemed impossible. I am 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and I weighed 260 pounds when she died. And when I found out that all those years of dieting completely reset my metabolism, I knew that losing one hundred pounds wasn’t possible on my own. To borrow this analogy from a wonderful lady I met through obesityhelp.com: imagine strapping on three 30-pound dog food bags (or more) every day and going about your business.  The doctors told me I was carrying the equivalent of a 12-year-old boy on my shoulders.  That was pretty much an eye-opener but I just felt more defeated.YVONNE AFTER

In December 2000, I heard Carnie Wilson’s story and started reading everything I could find on weight loss surgery.  A local media personality had a doctor listed on his website and I called for a consultation.  I wanted the surgery and I wanted it badly.  Telling my dad was scary because I thought he wouldn’t approve – but I would not be stopped.

After a great deal of work I was finally approved by my insurance company and had gastric bypass (open Roux-en-Y) surgery on May 30, 2001. As I’ve often said, the emotional pain I was in (due to my weight) was unbearable and if I had been told that I had a 50-50 chance of survival, those odds would have been good enough for me.

Ever since I lost the weight, I feel as if I am walking on the moon. And after that losing 130 pounds, I am no longer a prisoner of my weight. My surgery was almost ten years ago and my weight has not varied over ten pounds.  I am a firm believer in drinking your protein shakes and taking vitamins every day.  Often I am asked where I work out, and I don’t!  It has to be the protein shakes that give me such great muscles.  I have recently taken up golf and nearly every day I go to the driving range and hit a couple of buckets of balls.  It’s something I like and it gives me a good workout.

Sometimes when people see my “before and after” pictures, they are utterly amazed. They say, “I want to lose weight, but I wouldn’t do anything that severe.”  Now I truly know the depth of my emotional pain because I would have done anything short of take a life … except my own.

When asked if the surgery was difficult, I respond, “Compared to what?” I had major back surgery several years ago and all that did was fix some physical pain.  My emotional pain was far more debilitating. Being acutely aware that those who talk to me now wouldn’t have given me a chance before my surgery can be distracting at times.

It’s not something I hold against them; it’s human nature.  Sometimes I detect shyness in e-mail that I receive from pre-operative patients.  They believe that because I am thin now, I will treat them differently – and the opposite cannot be more true.

Yvonne vertical with cameraMany women e-mail me about plastic surgery before they have even had weight loss surgery.  I tell them that I did have plastic surgery but it’s not something to worry about ahead of time.  Nothing compares to having that burden of obesity lifted.

By the way, less than a year after surgery, I met my future husband.  I cannot begin to describe the beauty of life after weight loss surgery.  Working with my husband from our loft in Dallas is a life beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  My photography career is doing well and I was featured on barebulb.com in the “Emerging New Artist” section.

And in case you’re wondering what it would be like to shop for clothes at a healthy weight… I remember being excited when I wasn’t a plus-size anymore, but nothing compares to the excitement of being able to buy clothes at Victoria’s Secret. (And I’m not even a “large!”) One summer, my husband picked out my first bathing suit that I’ve had in thirty years.  He was so proud to be able to do that for me.  (I’m sporting a two-piece these days.)

Gastric bypass surgery is not for everyone but it was definitely for me. My dad is very happy for me and I thank God for my life and having the love of an incredible man.  I know my mom’s looking down and smiling because now I can say I fulfilled her last wish… loving myself.

Editor’s note: This story was released with incorrect weight loss figures. Yvonne, who is as lovely inside as she is outside, actually lost 130 pounds. We have corrected this error within the story, as she deserves credit for losing every single one of those pounds, as well as the effort she makes to keep them off.

20 Responses

  1. Bariatric Girl

    Thanks Barbara. That is so kind of you to say.
    Many blessings, Yvonne

  2. debra

    i am so happy to know you yvonne and thanks for the friendship…love you and proud of you

  3. Kathy

    Yvonne You Rock girl! We Dr. A girls have to stick together. It is amazing getting your life back and learning to love yourself again! Kat

  4. Mom2Three

    Are you going to be doing anymore interviews Yvonne? I loved the interview section where you talk to success WLS patients.

  5. Bariatric Girl

    Thanks everybody!! Love ya Debra, you’re right Kathy and Mom2Three YES! There will be more and thanks so much for asking. You’re a sweetie!
    Love you guys, Yvonne

  6. roxie (thinner56)

    wow, what a great story. im new (7 months out) and im struggling everyday because i really want to do this right i didn’t get brain surgery and im so mad at myself for not being able to change some of my terrible eating habits. i know this journey is hard for everyone and i would really appreciate any advice u can give me, im becoming so frustrated!!!

  7. Bariatric Girl

    Hi Roxie, sorry it took so long for me to see this. All I can share with you in this short space is something that works for me. Start fresh in the morning and plan your food for the day. Decide to nurture and respect the miracle surgery that you’ve been given. When you eat badly you are hurting yourself and the only way to stop eating bad stuff is to stop. Craving will stop if you stop reminding yourself how good the junk tastes by continuing to eat it. Which do you want more….the success of your journey or are you disrespecting the beautiful gift of life that’s been offered you? I was telling a good friend of mine today that it’s like we have a 5 year old inside us at the grocery store screaming “MOMMY MOMMY I WANT THAT CANDY!!!” Mommy has to say no because it’s not good for you…it is the poison that will return you to your prison of obesity. I would be happy to help you in any way I can. I know that if I treat my surgery with respect and protect my investment, I will get from it what I was promised….a successful journey to a healthy life. Roxie you are in a good place to make those changes. It gets tougher after about a year. Dedicate yourself and start over in the morning and show yourself the love you deserve. You can do this!
    hugs, Yvonne

  8. Tina

    Wow, I am so proud of you , it is amazing and so compelling and I thoroughly understand your pain completely. I am starting a weight loss program with my Dr in the morning and I hope to one day be as happy with my results as you are with yours, Best wishes to you , Tina

  9. malhal

    Hi Yvonne just read your truly inspiring success story! I am actually scheduled to go for the gastric bypass surgery in 2 weeks! My mind is made up but as the time comes closer I am starting to freak out a little! What can u tell me of the actual surgery and recovery! I am a big wuss and the thought of being hunched over in pain for weeks is not very appealing to me! Pleez put my crazy mind to rest

  10. Yvonne McCarthy

    Dear Malhal, It is so normal to freak a little but this procedure is so far advanced compared to when I had it. I have actually talked to several post-ops that say they had little to NO pain. Many are off their pain meds in just mere days. If you are uncomfortable for any reason just tell your doc but I’ll bet you’ll find out that it’s nothing compared to what you’ve imagined. Soooooo….put your crazy mind to rest and sit back and enjoy the beginning of what was the most amazing journey I’ve ever experienced. If you need me for anything you can find me on my site (Bariatricgirl.com)
    Many blessings, Yvonne

  11. Patty Davis

    dear yvonne GREAT JOB, GREAT LIFE—–
    I have just started on my to surgery journey, ( start next week with appointments) I am so torn on which one to do, gastric or the band. I can do the work for either one, I just want the one that will give me the best results for the work I am going to do. I have worked sooooooooooo hard in the past with little results so I need to do the surg
    that will work the best. Do you have any advice on one verses the other>
    thanks for your help.Patty

  12. Shirley

    Yvonne, you are an inspiration..I will be 65 one month before my gastric bypass surgery..I have been so upset, trying to decide if lapband or gastric bypass is best for me..my surgeon will do either one..I need to lose min of 80 pounds,(100 is on chart). I have bad knees, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, all the joint pain and complaints that come with aging..I am set for gastric bypass in 2 months, unless I change my mind. after researching and going to classes, I look around and see that I am not the most obese one in the room, but I want to be healthy again and enjoy retirement with husband..my main concern has been my age in relation to recovery from the surgery. I have seen more failures with the lapband than gastric bypass and I want to take this one-shot and make surgery work, therefore, I think all factors point to gastric bypass for me..With information I have shared, do you think I am a candidate for gastric bypass…Thanks..Shirley

  13. Ruben

    Are you ever in San Diego, Ca? Do you do any seminars in the San Diego area about your success or just bariatric weight-loss surgery?

  14. Cheryl

    Ms. Yvonne, It’s difficult to respond through tears, but your story resembles my own life so closely that is was a little scary to read. I never experienced one day of having a small body though, I am due to have my gastric bypass Dec 9, and I don’t think i’ve ever looked forward to anything other than the birth of my children …honestly, I think I’m looking forward to this more, it’s hard to admit that. I’ve lived with this fat body for more than 30 years, and I am tired of it. I want the confidence and strength to hold my head high and be able to do whatever I want to do. Thanks for the story, it reassures me that I’m making the best decision of my life. Thanks

  15. Yvonne McCarthy (Bariatric Girl)

    Cheryl I don’t know if you’ll see this or not. I am so very sorry that I missed it. I would love to hear how everything went and how you are doing. If you happen to see my response I would love you to drop by my site at http://www.bariatricgirl.com and leave me a message please. We obviously have very much in common and I feel awful that I missed your message.
    Hugs, Yvonne

  16. Georg

    Hi Yvonne,
    Thank you so much for posting your story. I am having a gastric sleeve done next week, and while I am committed, I find there are a ton of negative comments and stories around me. I know that this is how I am going to find my way back to health, and that it is what is best. It helps to read stories like yours.
    Thanks again.

  17. elaine

    i have posted my story before, i do not seem to be able to get back on track. every one round me is saying they knew i wouldnt keep the weight off. (over 9 stone lost, went from a size 26 to a 12) i am so unhappy, cry a lot of the time and feel a total failure. i am back in size 16 clothes and have put a third of the weight back on. i go round in circles of eating because i feel useless, then feel guilty and eat again. please can someone help me sort a plan out to get back on track and like myself again.
    i dont know how many calories i am supposed to have per day, and know i have probably stretched my stomach pouch, can that be reversed and does any 1 know about intake ?
    please dont shout at me and say its my own fault, i have done enough of that i am begging for help

    yours very unhappy

    gloucester england

  18. Linda

    Is there a program available for diabetics who want to come off of medications and want to have gastric by-pass surgery or lap bands applied for people who do not have insurance, are there doctors who are experienced and willing to do these surgeries on people with no insurance/money? I am a diabetic and want to get rid of all medications (cholesterol/blood pressure) but unable to afford surgery. Is there any MD that can help me?