by Tina Ding

Jackie pictured with her son

Social norms for healthy weight run the gamut. On one end of the spectrum, celebrities aim for super slim bodies; society notices. On the other, terms like ‘overweight’ and ‘heavy’ replace ‘obesity’ when referring to body image. And obesity is impacting folks – across the board. From medical issues to emotional impacts, we know carrying extra pounds has become a new crisis for America.

For some, genetics contributes to becoming overweight. For others, the pounds pack on over time – due to environment or lifestyle. Busy schedules, lack of opportunity to work out at a gym and higher costs of healthy foods discourage even the most dedicated among us.

Our littlest people recognize challenges of body image and their weight as early as kindergarten, when children seem to recognize clothing sizes and eating habits by observing peers or paying attention to media. As parents, we encourage healthy eating habits and ensure their lifestyle is active – while they draw their own conclusions.

At the age of ten, Bismarck nurse Jackie Wilke became aware of her own heavy image. She became sensitive to comments and suggestions and grew through her high school years knowing she had extra weight. She learned to dress with loose or baggy clothing and tried dieting. Despite her dedication to dieting, Wilke couldn’t drop enough weight with any single plan to become healthy. From dietary programs to goofy grapefruit diets, she tried them all.

“After a lot of soul searching, I checked into the weight loss programs with Mid Dakota Clinic and St. Alexius,” Jackie Wilke said. “After I’d researched and learned about the option of gastric bypass, I knew it was for me.”

Once on board with the program, she met with her physician, a dietician and bariatric coordinator as well as underwent psychological testing. Rigorous screening ensured the success of the program, while ruling out surgery for others who might otherwise drop the weight on their own. “There is a misconception out there,” she said. “Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix solution.”

Wilke went through with Roux-en-Y surgery. The surgery replaced her stomach by creating a new ‘pouch’. After four days of hospitalization, she left the hospital armed with knowing her lifestyle had changed forever. Her new stomach held a fraction of what it once had and she became intolerant of some foods. She began dropping weight immediately. At ten months, she’d lost 110 pounds, reaching her goal.

“Having the surgery wasn’t a fast decision. To successfully lose the weight following surgery, I had to make immediate lifestyle changes,” Wilke said. “Now I know to wait for hunger cues before eating or snacking. This is not simply about reducing the intake; this is changing everything about how I once lived. Now I make sure I’m hungry before eating and keep active.”

Wilke walks farther and keeps up with her son, who is busy and involved in activities. She surrounds herself with supportive family and friends and appreciates the weight loss support group folks who helped her in her journey. There she learned tips and tricks, helped and supported others as well as met people who couldn’t keep the weight off. She drinks no soda and tolerates breads poorly. When eating out, she halves her portion to take home. After ramping up her protein intake, she also takes a multivitamin to keep nutritionally balanced.

“This is a process of becoming educated and learning to approach eating and foods in moderation,” she said. “I am dedicated to watching what I’m doing and staying active; I am not going back.”
Wilke finds it concerning to learn of those people who gain weight in order to qualify for the surgery, but supports those considering weight loss surgery as a last option – an only option. Once making the decision and meeting with physicians, she feels having the most current literature and tools in hand before making the decision helps in the process and helps to ensure the success.

Today, Wilke dresses in scrubs for work, with an occasional opportunity to dress in street attire. After five years, she’s still surprised and complimented when friends or co-workers notice she’s lost weight and kept the weight off. “Absolutely I feel great and know this is a lifestyle change I’ll maintain,” she said.