PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island woman has lost hundreds of pounds as a result of making several, long-term lifestyle changes after undergoing bariatric surgery.
Christie Rudis, 37, says she put on around 100 pounds while she was pregnant with her son Oliver, who was born in 2010.
Though she had been battling her weight for years, Rudis says the weight gain as a result of her pregnancy was different.
“I just was never able to take it off,” she said. “And from that point forward, it just kind of snowballed.”
Rudis says due to her weight, she wasn’t able to be as involved with her son.
“I became less and less of the mom that I wanted to be,” Rudis added. “I couldn’t coach soccer or play tag, and I wanted those things.”
Having more children was also something Rudis says she wanted in life, but she endured many hardships along the way.
“We tried for many years and it just wasn’t happening. Or if it did, we suffered a couple of miscarriages,” she said.
Rudis says it wasn’t until a “sobering” conversation with her primary care doctor when she was 31 that she knew she needed to make a bigger change.
“She told me that the likelihood of me making it to my 35th birthday was low,” Rudis recalled.
“You know, when you’re in excess of 450 pounds — which I was prior to surgery — things like going out to dinner with friends are really stressful because you think, ‘Where am I going to sit? I’m not going to fit in this booth. Are there going to be chairs, or do the chairs have arms? Will they be strong enough to hold me?,'” she said.
“Everything in your life becomes this big pile of stress,” Rudis added.
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), bariatric surgical procedures cause weight loss by “restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold, causing malabsorption of nutrients, or by a combination of both gastric restriction and malabsorption.”
The procedures can also cause hormonal changes, according to the ASMBS.
The ASMBS says the most common bariatric surgery procedures are gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, adjustable gastric band, and biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch.
Dr. Todd Stafford, a surgeon at the Center for Bariatric Surgery at The Miriam Hospital, says undergoing this kind of surgery is not a decision to be made lightly. Months of testing, plus multiple consultations with nutritionists, psychiatrists are necessary, according to Stafford.
Candidates also need to have a body mass index (BMI) equal or greater than 40, if they have no additional health conditions related to obesity, or a BMI of equal to or greater than 35 if they have additional health conditions related to obesity.
Additionally, candidates would need to show failed attempts at medical weight loss, an absence of drug and alcohol problems, no uncontrolled psychological conditions, and being healthy enough to undergo a major operation.
“But further than that, you want to see that a person is ready for it,” Stafford added. “So, you want to see that a person’s able to make those lifestyle choices, because that’s really where the success of the operation comes.”
“All the credit really goes to Christie, in this case,” Stafford said of his former patient. “Yes, she had the operation. But it’s really through all those changes that she made in her life that she had good success.”
Rudis says the day of her surgery, she decided she couldn’t continue to live her life the way she had been.
“It was just a change from that point forward, really. It’s just a total lifestyle overhaul,” she said.
Rudis says the two biggest things for long-term success are eating healthy and making time to work out every day.
“Over the first year, I was able to lose over 250 pounds, which is a huge amount of weight,” she said.
“And, as you can imagine, losing that kind of weight, you start to be able to move your body in ways that you couldn’t move your body before,” she added. “You start to be able to do things that you never even dreamed were possible.”
Rudis says since her surgery in 2015, she has been successful in losing and maintaining her weight loss.
“I have never in my adult life been one size for as long as I have been since my surgery. So, that’s a good feeling,” she said.
However, what Rudis gained from her lifestyle changes was equally as important.
Two years after her surgery in 2017, following multiple miscarriages in the years prior, she gave birth to her second child. In December 2020, she gave birth to twins.
“I am not sure that I would be healthy enough to be here today if it weren’t for this surgery, and that’s kind of a sobering reality,” Rudis said. “I know for a fact that instead of having four children, I would have one.”
Stafford says people may not realize infertility can be a weight-related problem, and adds things like like high blood pressure, sleep apnea and other conditions can also improve with weight loss.
“You just live your life completely differently when you weigh 100 pounds less,” Stafford said.
According to the latest data made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity was 42.4% in 2017-2018.
From 1999–2000 through 2017–2018, the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%, and the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%, according to the CDC.
Stafford says bariatric surgery can be a powerful tool for people dealing with obesity to make changes, but it’s not the only way to lose weight and improve one’s health.
Rudis says she wants people to know surgery is not taking the easy way out.
“That’s absolutely the biggest lie about surgery that there is,” she said.
“What comes along with the surgery is years of making the right decisions, the right choices every single day,” Rudis added.
“It’s dedicating yourself to a healthier, improved lifestyle,” she continued. “And if somebody was really thinking about going through bariatric surgery, I would tell them that they need to be ready to overhaul their lifestyle.”
While the demand for bariatric surgery is not necessarily on the rise nationally, as of 2017, the center based at The Miriam Hospital has continued to see its numbers grow steadily, with the number of procedures increasing about 15 to 20% a year.