Andrea Dadsetan’s weight-loss journey is also a story about her health, her marriage and her family. It began when she was just a child in Southern California.
“I have been overweight pretty much as long as I can remember,” Andrea said. “I can remember a doctor telling my mom that I was just a big-boned girl, because she was asking about my weight at a young age.”
As she got older, “it just escalated,” Andrea remembers. At 15, she met the man who would, eight years later, become her husband. They both “had a love and passion for food.”
“Eating out was a regular part of our lives and a regular part of our relationship,” Andrea said. Oddly, she recalls, they actually lost weight when they were apart during their college years, but when they moved in together after graduation, they both steadily gained weight. Through their mid-twenties, “We did every fad diet on the planet,” Andrea said, but when they would stop, “everything . . . went back to where it was.” Often, she would even gain back more weight than she had lost.
Andrea is 5-foot-5. At 25 years old and weighing about 275 pounds, she started researching bariatric surgery on her own for the first time, even though it wasn’t something her husband supported because he worried about the risks. She didn’t have a supporting doctor either, so she just went to a seminar and tried to take it all in.
“It was extremely overwhelming,” she remembers. “It was very scary. I think I just talked myself out of it.”
The next few years would bring big changes to Andrea’s life, including a move to Boise, a two-year effort to conceive and then, after a difficult pregnancy, the birth of their first child. Not only had her weight affected her fertility, she learned at her first prenatal appointment that it might create issues for her and her baby. “The first thing they told me, when I got pregnant with my son, is I couldn’t gain a pound . . . because of my weight and the risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.” Instead of celebrating, she had to start worrying.
She was able to finally welcome a healthy baby boy to the world, but only after struggling with gallstones, preterm labor at 32 weeks and 16 stays in the hospital. She asked her doctor, “Was this because of my weight?” and he answered her honestly: “Absolutely.”
One year later, Andrea hit a low point. She had been diagnosed with postpartum depression. She was also heavier than she had ever been in her life, about 320 pounds. That was when two doctors intervened to change her life.
First, her family doctor asked her one question: “How do you feel about your image?” Andrea remembers telling him, “I struggle with that every day of my life.” He recommended she attend a bariatric surgery seminar. She did so for the second time in her life, even though her husband still did not support the idea because of his concerns for her. But listening to Dr. Jim Valentine, “I cried,” Andrea said. “I related to everything he was saying.”
Despite her husband’s continued reservations, Andrea underwent six months of a medically-supervised weight loss program. “It’s probably one of the best things you can do,” she said, “because they start you off with small changes, leading up to all the changes you’ll have to do after surgery.”
In December of 2015, Andrea had a sleeve gastrectomy, which limits the amount of food she can eat in one sitting. Unfortunately, some of the health issues she experienced during her pregnancy resurfaced after her surgery, including pancreatitis, but her team of doctors at St. Luke’s, especially Dr. Valentine, stayed by her side during a couple of rough months. “They not only saw me immediately, they were there for me for the entire process.” By the end of winter, 2016, she began to make steady progress toward her health and weight-loss goals.
“I wrote myself a lifestyle bucket list,” Andrea said. “I tried to achieve small goals and large goals, so that over the months I could make sure I was staying on track.” In addition to following the diet plan and exercising, she focused on her everyday successes, including doing things that many people take for granted. “One of the goals was to fly on an airplane without having to wear a seatbelt extender,” she said. Another was “going down a slide with my son . . . I couldn’t do that before because my legs were too wide.”
In the two and a half years since Andrea’s surgery, she has again seen big changes in her life. This time, though, they are all good. Not only is she now about a size six, she has participated in a 5K, a 10K, and is currently training for a half marathon. More importantly, she had her second son in July of 2017. “Everything was different,” Andrea said. Instead of spending her pregnancy worrying, “I felt better, I moved better. I was less uncomfortable. It was just an amazing experience.” Though some women worry about regaining weight with a pregnancy, Andrea, by continuing to eat well and exercise, actually weighed seven pounds less after she had her son than she did before she got pregnant.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing of all is that, after witnessing Andrea’s success and newfound health, her husband not only fully supports her journey, he opted to have a sleeve gastrectomy in February of 2018. He, too, is seeing wonderful results. Today, they still love to eat out together, but they do so thoughtfully.
Andrea tells anyone considering bariatric surgery that, “If you want to change your life in a positive way, this is a great experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”