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Passion for Life

ojshaOjsha Dial is giving away her short, black prom dress with the sparkles at the top. it was last year’s dress, and it doesn’t fit anymore. in fact, it’s much too big for her, and she can’t imagine wearing it again.

Since having adolescent bariatric surgery, the 18-year-old now enjoys the teenage pastime of creating her own sense of fashion and style. But that wasn’t always the case. “When I’d go shopping (before losing the weight), I didn’t like how clothes would fit, and it made everything even worse,” Dial says.

Finding New Hope

Her weight loss has given her a new outlook on her future and the frustrations she had growing up—like shopping—are now only memories. Dial was young when she started gaining weight. Eating was her hobby, and she often spent her days watching The Powerpuff Girls and other cartoons, getting very little physical activity. “I would go outside and play every once in a while,” she says.

Doctors recommend children exercise 60 minutes a day most days of the week, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 60 minutes in organized sports.

By fourth grade, the bullying was hard to ignore. She grew depressed and turned to food for comfort. Powdered doughnuts became a favorite treat. And as she grew older, the bullying progressed. In 10th grade, Dial switched schools to avoid the verbal abuse she encountered in the
hallways.

“I missed a whole bunch of days because I didn’t feel good,” she says. “I was bullied every day, walking to class, at lunch. I didn’t really have a lot of friends.”
The taunting escalated.

“They would call me names and say I was fat and ugly and needed to lose weight,” she says. “It gave me low self-esteem, and I got really depressed and then gained more weight.”

She often turned to food again, continuing a perpetual cycle of feeling bad and eating and then feeling bad because she was eating. Her mother, who also struggled with weight issues and had lap band surgery two years ago, is her biggest supporter. Her mother’s words were just the encouragement she needed to take the next step.
“She always tells me I’m beautiful and I can be whatever I want,” she says.

Dedicated to Making a Change

By the time Dial was ready for her surgery, she was borderline diabetic with knee and back problems that often made mobility difficult. The week before, she consumed only liquids and prepared for the operation.

The first few days after surgery were hard, but Dial was able to consume clear liquids to help with hunger. She then moved on to Jell-O and other pureed foods until she was able to digest small portions of solids.

ojasha-2Her face started to thin out, and her feet appeared smaller. She started walking, and her workouts became longer and more intense, until she was logging two miles a day.
Dial goes out to eat with friends but has restrictions on what she ingests. She goes for soup, protein shakes, and juice.

She can no longer consume bread. “You can’t eat like you used to; you have to chew and chew and chew,” Dial says. “It’s a whole new lifestyle, and you have to change everything.”

It has helped that she and her mother shared the experience of switching their diets. “We’re both thinking ‘What can we get down today?’” Dial says.

The difference with her mom’s lap band surgery—which places an adjustable belt around the upper stomach—is her mom can remove the device, whereas Dials’s is a permanent condition.
“It’s a commitment, and a big one,” she says.

The surgery pulls patients “out of their trap,” Nirmal S. Jayaseelan, M.D., bariatric surgeon at Medical City, says. “They are encaged by adipose tissue (or body fat), and this gives them a way to break free and get motivated. It has to be a permanent lifestyle change.”

Dial has lost 110 pounds over the last year. Her breath holds steady when she walks longer distances, and her knees have softened when they move. Dial eats her new favorite foods, turkey and string cheese, and keeps moving forward.

She’s completed courses to be a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and is preparing for her state boards so that she can work in nursing homes and eventually return to school to become a registered nurse.

“My self-esteem is higher, and people have seen a big difference in me,” she says.

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