Kristina Kastholm, 25, of Elmhurst, had struggled with her weight since she was a kid. “I was always overweight even when I was younger. I was always bigger and no matter what I did, every time I lost weight it would come back. I tried everything — multiple diets, exercise. It would work at first and then not,” she says.
In spring 2017, Kastholm’s best friend, Bianca Lopez, who was on a weight loss journey of her own, asked Kastholm to go to a seminar with her about a newer bariatric surgery. “I realized a lot of the information I knew about bariatric surgery, wasn’t accurate. After hearing the correct information at the seminar, it finally seemed like a realistic option for me,” says Kastholm. Read Bianca's success story >>
Kastholm had been attending Lopez’s appointments with Omar Shamsi, M.D., a bariatric and obesity medicine specialist with Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health. She decided to book her own appointment with Dr. Shamsi for June 13, 2017.
“I loved Dr. Shamsi since the first day I met him. He just has a way of making you feel like you’ve known him forever,” she says. “I’ve never been comfortable around doctors. Dr. Shamsi made me feel 100 percent comfortable that there was a solution and he would actually help and not criticize. He feels more like a friend than a doctor.”
Kastholm told Dr. Shamsi she wanted to do the surgery and, from there, he provided the next steps.
“They need to see progress if you are going to have surgery. You need to show you’re making an effort and actively trying to lose weight. I met with a dietitian and got steps to take to get on a healthier track,” she says.
They talked about what she could do differently, including adding more high-protein foods and taking out other foods, and incorporating exercise. She was also prescribed medication, Vyvanse®, to help curb her cravings so she would eat when hungry, rather than out of boredom.
“I really appreciated how much information they gave me. They made sure I was educated throughout the whole thing. When I was in the process of getting surgery, I was in a lot of support groups online. Some of the people had a similar program, but others didn’t have near the amount of information or appointments to go to. I wouldn’t have wanted a different program, I really appreciated how thorough Edward-Elmhurst was. I knew exactly what was expected and what was going to happen,” she says.
Kastholm eventually met with the surgeon, Ryan Headley, M.D., an independent bariatric surgeon on the medical staff of Elmhurst Hospital. For two weeks leading up the surgery, she needed to be on a liquid diet. By the day of surgery, she had already lost 68 pounds.
Kastholm had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy procedure with Dr. Headley on Oct. 16, 2017, a month after Lopez’s procedure. During the minimally-invasive bariatric procedure, Dr. Headley removed about 85 percent of Kastholm’s stomach, creating a sleeve-shaped stomach.
The procedure helped to limit the amount of food Kastholm could eat and decrease her cravings, and helped her feel full after small meals.
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“At first it’s very weird because you have phases of when you can add in different food types,” she says. She went from clear liquids, to full liquids, pureed foods, soft foods, and then was able to go back to normal food types. After about a month, she felt back to normal.
Today Kastholm doesn’t drink anything carbonated and she doesn’t eat anything breaded or fried, but she says she doesn’t want to. “They really prepared us for the lifestyle change after surgery,” she says.
Kastholm recently had her one year post-op appointment with Dr. Shamsi. When she began her weight loss journey, she weighed 338 pounds. Today she is 193 pounds.
“I feel good. For the most part I’m where I should be. Dr. Shamsi said I only need to lose another 20-25 pounds before I meet with surgeons about skin removal,” she says.
Her next appointment with Dr. Shamsi is in January. “I wouldn’t want to do this with any other practice. Throughout the whole experience, everyone — from Dr. Shamsi, to Dr. Headley and all the nurses — they make you feel comfortable. It feels like a family. I give everyone a big hug when I get there,” she says.
A licensed makeup artist with her own freelance cosmetics business and a degree in marketing, Kastholm currently works with Lopez at Jewel-Osco. She is planning to return to school this spring to study nursing — focused on medical skincare.
“Everyday life is pretty normal now. I can go workout and I have the energy to do a lot now. When I was bigger I really didn’t,” she says. “It’s physically and mentally draining to have all this extra weight on your body. Adjusting to diet changes and exercise and having a healthier living routine has been easier, which is something I couldn’t say before.”
Kastholm and Lopez recently took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee together to celebrate 20 years of friendship. They are planning to become roommates soon.
It’s no doubt the two will continue to support each other as they always have. “We met in first grade and have been best friends ever since. We’re there for each other,” she says.
Kastholm’s advice to others struggling with their weight? “It’s definitely important to set goals, and know why you want/need to lose weight. On the days when it’s difficult or you’re plateaued — it can be easy to get discouraged, but keep going you’ll get there. I constantly had to remind myself to take it day by day, because sometimes it’s hard. But throughout everything you’ll learn a lot about yourself, and you’ll find a lot of strength you didn’t know was there,” she says.
Kristina did it, and you can, too!
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To learn more about your options with Endeavor Health® Weight Management, call 331-221-6100.
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