Alison Woodbury has made a lot of changes over the last year and it makes her want to dance.
The owner of Alicat’s Dance and More in Flowery Branch has lost about 170 pounds since getting gastric bypass surgery in March of 2015. Dropping to a healthier weight was not the only benefit, Woodbury also has more energy these days and a more positive outlook.
At 330 pounds Woodbury knew she had to make a change in her life. She was already eating a relatively healthy diet but still couldn’t lose the pounds. Doctors told her she needed to exercise or take other measures to lose weight.
“I couldn’t exercise physically any more than I was already doing because it hurts and I need to lose weight and I need to lose it fast,” said Woodbury, who was teaching dance six days a week. “That’s why we did gastric bypass over the sleeve or the band.”
In 2014 the Lawrenceville woman decided to do gastric bypass. After meeting with her surgeon, Dr. John Daily, Woodbury was told the surgery was more of a tool than anything else.
“He explained to me that some people have different bodies and some people need different tools,” she said. “This isn’t a miracle, this isn’t going to fix everything. It’s a tool like going to the gym or going on a diet, but you got to use it.”
From there it took her about a year to get the approvals needed to get the surgery done. The road toward surgery included many doctors visits. Among the health care professionals she met with were a nutritionist who helped her follow a restricted diet for six months, and a psychiatrist who made sure she was mentally prepared for the surgery.
“There are lots of different obstacles that you don’t realize there’s going to be,” Woodbury said.
One of those obstacles now is shopping for clothes.
“I get overwhelmed shopping now for clothes because I can go anywhere,” she said. “I used to be only able to go to two stores.”
Once Woodbury got the clearances she needed the surgery was completed in March of 2015.
The surgery included connecting her small intestines to a smaller “pouch” made at the top of her stomach and esophagus meaning food essentially skips her stomach. Because of this she can’t drink 30 minutes before or after a meal or during it. Drinking too much before won’t allow enough room for her to consume enough food and drinking after can push the food through her pouch too quickly.
Her recovery period was about four weeks, which was specific to her and the type of work she does as a dance instructor. Other people may have different recovery periods.
During the first week of recovery she was on a lot of medication and said the week went by quickly. After about two to three weeks she was able to get out of the house. Her diet the first two weeks after surgery was nothing but liquids, then mushy food was added in for another two weeks before she reintroduced solid food.
Now she eats a lot of high protein food and doesn’t eat anything with added sugar.
“The sugar addiction is crazy,” she said. “Sugar, my doctor explained to me, is the worst drug out there because your brain craves sugar.”
Since the surgery Woodbury also hasn’t had a sip of soda.
“I’m very strict with my diet,” she said.
Before the surgery Woodbury loved to snack on chocolate and Mt. Dew while preparing for dance recitals. Now it’s either sugar free coffee or water.
Throughout her life, Woodbury’s body made too much of the chemical that made her feel hungry. Because of this she always felt hungry.
“I could eat a whole plate of turkey at Thanksgiving and give me a few minutes and I could go again,” she remembered.
Now the area in which her food is digested is much smaller.
“I don’t have a holding tank like ya’ll have, my holding tank is literally the size of my thumb,” she said.
The surgery has done so much more for Woodbury than improve her overall health and weight. She says it’s allowed her to be herself in a way she’s never been able to before.
“I’m able to dance like I’ve never been able to dance before. Being a dance teacher, that’s huge,” she said. “I’m able to teach like I used to in my 20s. Even though I was bigger in my 20s you just have more energy in your 20s so I feel like a totally new person.”
Patricia Wetherford and her daughter Savannah have been coming to Alicat’s Dance and More for 13 years. Patricia said Woodbury’s changes since the surgery have been impressive.
“She’s happier, she has more energy and she doesn’t mind getting up to dance...” the Talmo woman said. “I think it’s helped her business just because she has more energy to do things with the kids rather than just watching them, and she’s a lot friendlier with the parents now.”
When Woodbury was at her highest weight she taught her dance classes more vocally than she does now. She said she would show the move once or twice and then let the students do it.
“It actually helped my dancers because I think I liked to dance so much I would just do it with them,” she said. “So it really altered the way that I taught, I don’t think it necessarily hurt them, but now I have to force myself to sit down and let them do it.”
The surgery and accompanying health choices are now a lifestyle for Woodbury. She said she could make poor dietary choices and gain the weight back, but she’s committed to staying healthy.
“It’s definitely a lifestyle change and it’s a commitment to yourself,” she said. “A lot of time people commit a lot more to other people than themselves. Finally I did something for me and it’s awesome because it’s made my business better.”