How Becky Sawtelle declared victory over her demon and lost 130 pounds

Becky Sawtelle before surgery
In 2012, at the tender age of 41, Becky Sawtelle reached a life-changing decision. She tipped the scales at 272 pounds — she’s only 5′ 3″ tall. Her body mass index (BMI) was 49. Anything over 30 is considered obese.

She had tried to lose the weight many times — was on lots of diets. “They’d work for a while,” she told me, “and then I’d fall off the wagon. You don’t see the numbers going down as fast as you’d like and you get discouraged and think, whatever, I’m always going to be fat and just give up.”

Then her doctor told her if she didn’t lose weight, she was on track to develop diabetes. Already on medication for high blood pressure, it was the jolt she needed. She couldn’t face trying yet another diet. Instead, she decided to have gastric bypass surgery. 

Becky Sawtelle surgery

Three years ago, on January 22, 2013, Becky was wheeled into the operating room at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. She and her surgeon Dr. Jamie Loggins, Medical Director of the Central Maine Bariatric Surgery Center, invited me in to watch and document.

“Our philosophy is we’re here to give people a tool and we’re also here to teach them how to use the tool,” said Dr. Loggins as he prepared for the surgery. “Gastric bypass is probably one of the best tools we have in fighting morbid obesity. This is not a cosmetic operation. We do this to make people healthier. Everything is lined up in Becky’s favor to be healthier, feel better and lose weight.”

Becky Sawtelle crop 2
Over the next year, I continued to document Becky’s progress. It was pretty rough at first. She didn’t hold back on her feelings, good and bad.

A year later, she’d lost 115 pounds and was feeling really healthy.

I’m happy to report that today, three years later, Becky is still on track. I asked her to bring us up to speed, in her own words, on what life is life for her now, all these lost pounds later.

Becky with her nephew

Becky with her great nephew Kaden

Becky Sawtelle’s story, three years post gastric bypass

“It’s hard to believe three years have passed since I had my gastric bypass surgery. I remember the day and those that followed like it was yesterday.

I was convinced I was going to die on the table and the first few months after surgery were anything but fun. But here I am three years later living with no regrets.

I’m happy to say I have kept the weight off. I am not where I would like to be, but instead of looking at the negative I choose to look at how far I’ve come. I had a tummy tuck 18 months after surgery. That, my friends, was a much harder surgery to recover from than the gastric bypass.

Staying the course

Food has always been my crutch. I used to eat anything and everything, hence, the reason I got fat and needed the surgery.

So much has happened since Jan. 22, 2013. I accepted a new job and moved to Orlando. Moved back to Maine and then in May of 2015 I got an incredible job offer and moved to West Palm Beach, Florida.

I have to say, this job came at the right time in my life and I don’t take it for granted for one moment.

It came at a time when I had my heart broken but good. To have someone in your life and then to just lose them, not by death, has been a real pisser. This person was my best friend — and then he was gone. The old Becky would have turned to food and eaten herself silly. But life after weight loss surgery would not allow me to and I had come way too far to let this “shitty situation” ruin me.

So, I used the tool the surgery was/is to keep me on track and not sabotage myself and I’m proud to say I’m doing good.

I am able to eat foods I probably shouldn’t, but everything is in moderation. I make better choices. Fast food is not something I crave anymore. In fact, the smell nauseates me.

For about eight months post-surgery I had absolutely no soda. If my bariatric surgeon is reading this he would probably reprimand me — but I am drinking it again. All in moderation. But I am going to try and quit altogether.

One of the side effects of the surgery was hair loss. That was a tough pill for me to swallow. I started losing hair about four months after the surgery. It came out in globs. As a result, I cut my hair short. Three years later I still see hair loss from time to time. A lot of it has come back and I’m trying to grow my hair out.

I recently learned some of my vitamin levels are not as good as they should be. I’ve had to have a B12 shot and take a B12 supplement daily as well as my multivitamin and vitamin D.

Gastric bypass surgery changed my life. Being smaller has allowed me to be active with my great nephews Kaden, 5 and Brantley, 2. I love being able to play with them, swing them around and not feel winded.

I feel very fortunate to have been given this tool to help improve my life. I’m not where I want to be, but I look at how far I have come!”

Becky Sawtelle 2015

Thank you for reading this post about Becky’s struggles with and triumph over her excess weight. Some people are able to get down to a healthy weight by cutting calories and increasing their physical activities. For others, like Becky, it takes more drastic measures. 

Gastric bypass surgery wasn’t an easy decision. She had to go through rigorous medical testing. She also had to see a psychotherapist and go through nutritional counseling. In all, about six months of preparation.

The primary goal of the procedure, Dr. Loggins told me just before he got underway, was to help her become “a healthier person, who hopefully will live a lot longer than she might have otherwise.”

Today, Becky is a healthier person. I’m curious. What changes have you made in your life to become a healthier person? Add your comments to the box near the end of the page.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.