Aug. 23, 2002 -- Since a gastric bypass surgery procedure three years ago that helped cut her weight in half, singer Carnie Wilson has also transformed herself into a regular exerciser, and a healthy eater.
Wilson, the daughter of Beach Boy legend Brian Wilson and a singer in her own group Wilson Phillips, underwent gastric bypass surgery that reduced her weight from a life-threatening 300 pounds to her current weight, about 150.
Now 34, Wilson works out to stay slim, and in January, she underwent an operation to get rid of some of the excess skin associated with her weight loss removal. It was elective surgery, but Wilson did it because the excess skin was causing a rash.
The procedure included a tummy tuck that left her lighter by seven pounds, a repositioning of her belly button, a lifting of her breasts, minor liposuction on her torso and hips and the removal of a half a pound of skin from under each armpit. It cost $20,000.
"There were a lot of memories in that skin, so when it was taken off, it was very scary, because it was the final step," Wilson said.
She was stiff for days afterward, and for the following two months she wore a tight girdle around her stomach to protect her stitches, as well as a support bra day and night. She also had eight hour-long sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to keep bruising to a minimum.
Weight Problem Became Health Hazard
Wilson had a weight problem since childhood, when each summer she would head off to weight camp. Her mom would even put locks on the refrigerator to keep her from overeating. The problem continued into adulthood — and that is when Wilson became worried about how it was jeopardizing her health.
Before the gastric bypass operation, Wilson was at great risk for diabetes, heart attack, and breast cancer. The operation she went through entails stapling off a part of the stomach, shrinking it so that it can hold only a cup of food, and making that the newly created pouch for the food to enter into. The tiny new stomach is re-routed to the small intestine, where the digestion process continues. After the procedure, patients feel full quickly.
Wilson shrank from a size 28, to a size 8 or 6 after the operation.
Once considered radical and accessible to mostly celebrities like Wilson, gastric bypass surgery is fast becoming mainstream, with about 57,000 people expected to have it this year. But once it's over, there are maintenance issues to consider. The first year was about physically getting the weight off, Wilson said. For three days a week, she exercised by walking.
The second year after the operation, she focused on the emotional adjustment of having the weight gone, and developing a new, slimmer body image. Now, she works at keeping slim and healthy.
Wilson, who got married in 2000, after her operation, now exercises regularly with her husband, and touts the benefits of a good workout.
"It's just a natural stress reliever, and a mood elevator," Wilson said. When she exercises every day she eats better, skipping fattening foods to make healthier choices. After 45 minutes on the treadmill, she simply doesn't want to spoil her hard work by reaching for a candy bar.
Instead, Wilson says she snacks on a protein-packed snack, such as beef jerky, or string cheese. Protein is now her most important food. She normally eats two or three small meals a day.
For breakfast, she might have two eggs and a quarter piece of toast, for lunch, a chicken breast and salad, and for dinner, salmon, mashed potatoes, vegetables. She'll eat one or two bits of dessert — but one of her tricks is pouring salt on a dessert after she has a bite or two so that she doesn't crave any more of it.
Now that the fat is gone, the muscles she has developed from working out are more apparent. Her own weight fluctuates between 148 and 153, but Wilson would like to get down to 135 pounds.
To help others, Wilson conducts lectures, and runs a support group for overweight people who want to undergo the surgery. She recommends the surgery, but tells prospective patients they should be careful, and thoughtful about it, because there are very strict rules you have to follow.
"There's nothing better than talking to someone who weighs 400, and guiding them through that from 400 to 175 now," she said.
As a member of Wilson Phillips, a band that included her sister Wendy and friend Chyna Phillips, she sold 11 million records with. Now, they're recording songs for a new album, which would be their first since 1992. In their videos, they'd always cut away from Carnie, or try to hide her behind things, but that won't be the case anymore.
Now when she looks in the mirror, it's a whole new her, but she doesn't miss her old life, Wilson said.
"It's still me inside," she said.