Stephanie Sasek, 28, of Commack, at left in March 2017,...

Stephanie Sasek, 28, of Commack, at left in March 2017, when she weighed 299 pounds, and after her 130-pound weight loss. Credit: Composite photo; Cindy Sozzi, left, and Steve Pfost

Stephanie Sasek, 28, Commack

Occupation: Preschool teacher

Before: 299 lbs., March 2017; After: 169 lbs., April 2019

It was during Stephanie Sasek’s middle school years that her pediatrician officially declared her overweight. She was referred to a pediatric nutritionist, and that was the beginning of a lifetime of battling weight. “I’ve tried every weight loss program out there — fad diets, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins. They worked but nothing ever stuck,” says Sasek

In 2017, she told her mother how unhappy she was with her weight. Her mother asked if she would consider surgery. “I had thought about it and knew a few people who did it, but I never went further.” That soon changed. “I did so much research," says Sasek.

By the time she met with a doctor, she says she "knew the good news and the bad news." Gastric sleeve surgery was decided on, and Sasek got medical clearance from a variety of doctors. In total, it was nine months between her first interview and the surgery.

“I was lucky. My recovery was easy. I was up and walking within 45 minutes of recovery,” says Sasek. She was on liquids two weeks prior to surgery and two weeks after. The following two weeks she ate soft foods and protein shakes. She started adjusting to regular food at week five.

Sasek says her experience was very good but cautions others that with the surgery come lifestyle changes. She says she can’t drink liquids while eating food. A 30-minute wait is required, and drinking with a straw is also not allowed. Her portions are very small.

“I feel satisfied even with the small portions. I don’t feel deprived, and I can eat any type of food.” Down a total of 130 pounds, Sasek says she’s never been this happy. “My self-confidence is skyrocketing.”

Sasek has coffee at home and then oatmeal or breakfast cereal when she gets to work. The most important instruction to follow is to eat the protein in her meal before anything else. “It fills me up quicker and keeps me full longer,” she says.

Lunch can be tuna salad with some crackers or a salad from Panera (eating the chicken or hard-boiled eggs first). She says she loves sushi and usually eats two pieces and then only the fish from the rest of the roll. If she’s craving something sweet, she’ll eat a piece of candy or chocolate. Popcorn is one of her favorite snacks. “It’s all about portion size and not letting yourself go overboard,” says Sasek.

Sasek doesn’t exercise much but plans to start bike-riding with the good weather coming. “I enjoyed it when I was overweight, so I think I’ll enjoy it even more now. Plus, my job is very active. I’m constantly running after 3- and 4-years-olds,” says Sasek.

“I would tell anyone interested to explore surgery options. Realize that it comes with a lot of life changes. It’s not the easy way out. It’s hard. But I don’t regret it at all. I would do it again in a minute.”

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