Do Paleo and Surgery Mix? How One Woman Lost 125lbs


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Orleatha Smith came into my worldview after Paleo f(x.) She was a speaker support volunteer there and people, including paleo luminaries, raved about her.

I read her fabulous and inspirational weight-loss story (check out those pictures!) on her site, Mrs Paleo, but also noticed that there was something different about her story compared to those one often reads about: she’d had gastric bypass surgery.

So how does Orleatha (pronounced or-LEE-thuh) go from major surgery to advocating paleo? Isn’t surgery the very antithesis of a paleo success story, paleo diet, paleo, weight loss, weight loss surgery, gastric bypasspaleo lifestyle?

Well yes…and no. Orleatha’s experience of both surgery and the paleo diet give her a unique angle from which to appraise both approaches; an angle that is rarely recognized or appreciated.

And it is an angle that can reinforce those of us who are rockin’ the paleo lifestyle and has the potential to influence those who currently don’t.

For anyone considering a gastric bypass or even a band, it is critical to hear her viewpoint. If you know someone who is planning to have, or already has had, the surgery, please share this story with them. Because Orleatha’s been there. She knows what she’s talking about. Read on to hear her views on gastric surgery and she how transitioned to paleo.

(Go over to the Facebook page to hear more about Orleatha, her plans for the future, her family’s favorite recipes – they’re awesome by the way, my own family love ‘em – and her upcoming recipe book for super cooks!)

Over to Orleatha…

You are open about the fact that you had a gastric bypass before you went paleo. What was the trigger to finally ditch the weight?
I had tried every ‘diet’ known to man. I counted points, grams, ounces, ate out of boxes and bags, got B-12 injections, fasted, drank gallons of water, ate only grapes or cabbage soup.

One day, I was sitting in my doctors office and he came in with the results of my bloodwork. My thyroid hormones were out of whack, my blood pressure was elevated and to top it off, my stroke number was 5 times higher than it should have been! All at the ripe old age of 30. I felt like gastric surgery was my only option for ‘success’.

You can imagine my dismay when the weight started to creep back on. I panicked and went right back into ‘diet’ mode but the weight wouldn’t budge. It was then that my friend told me about the paleo lifestyle. She had converted her entire family and had successfully resolved her Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. She’d dropped 3 dress sizes and was full of energy. I had to try it – what did I have to lose?? I did my first Whole30 and haven’t looked back.

paleo success story, paleo diet, paleo, weight loss, weight loss surgery, gastric bypass

You had tried every diet under the sun, often multiple times, what was different about paleo?
It is sustainable. I can do this forever. Other diets and plans were not really sustainable for me because they relied on frozen this or that, or I had to go to a meeting or I had to eat boring food and starve the rest of the day!

Paleo also taught me to listen to my body. If I am eating a boat-load of protein and start to feel lethargic then maybe it’s my body saying “Hey, I don’t like that” so I should back off. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m not, I don’t. It’s super simple and I think that’s what makes it complicated for some.

How paleo are you?
I’m 99% paleo. Eczema is an autoimmune response and I was literally covered from birth in that itchy scaly rash! If I eat off paleo, I have horrible flares. Keeps me pretty on track.

What benefits have you seen from paleo besides weight-loss?
Since I was 2 days old, I was plastered in eczema. It was so bad, that I was in the Mayo Clinic for a month. That eczema is now two tiny patches – one on my left foot and the other on my right hand (go figure).

I haven’t had an asthma attack in almost two years! I went from at least two sinus infections a year to none. I had tendonitis in my achilles tendon so bad that I couldn’t wear flat shoes and hobbled daily. I used to be so exhausted that I would pass out on the couch after dinner. I was asleep by 8pm and still woke up exhausted.

Now I have so much energy my 4- and 6-year old can hardly keep up! I don’t use an alarm clock because I’m usually up before it would have gone off anyway.

How much did you lose with the bypass and then how much with paleo?
This is a little complicated because I lost 90lbs with gastric then gained 20lbs back. I then lost that 20lbs plus 35lbs more with paleo. I’ve maintained my total weight-loss of 125lbs for over a year!

So you lost weight after the gastric bypass but then started to put the weight back on again. And once you converted to paleo you saw not only weight-loss but also health gains. What do you say to people who are considering surgery?
I completely empathize with those who are considering surgery! I know the shame associated with it all too well. I know the pain of feeling like undergoing this HUGE surgery is the last resort – like it’s the magic bullet. Some refer to gastric bypass as ‘the easy way’ – it is not! It’s the hardest thing I have ever done.

The first year is the sweet-spot for weight loss – after that, the body starts to return to normal. At the two year point, you will likely be able to eat whatever you could before you had surgery. If you have not changed your mindset, you will gain the weight back. Of course no surgeon will ever tell you this…

Surgery is a weight-loss tool – not a health-gaining tool. My advice: Find a sustainable health-gaining program and do that instead. I recommend paleo! :)

Did you get any negative reactions to losing such a large amount of weight? How much have you lost entirely?
I’m really glad that you asked this question because I never imagined that anyone would have a negative reaction to my weight-loss. I went from 260lbs to 135lbs so I’ve lost 125lbs. I also lost almost every ‘close’ girlfriend I had when I was obese. I remember sitting on my couch crying because my friends had yet another girl’s night without me – of course Facebook tells all. :)

What actions did you take to protect yourself from the negativity and the threat of being derailed in your process?
I think that the gastric bypass made my situation worse. At the time, my food intake was restricted so I could only eat tiny amounts of food at a time making my old pal – emotional eating – unavailable. I transferred that addiction to working out. When my old circle would snub me, I’d go work out. I completed a few rounds of P90X then moved to roller blading and weight lifting. I do want to applaud the rock solid support that I received from my husband. He was such a comfort when all of my childhood friends ditched me. He held my hand when I cried, took me out to get my mind off of it or would give me a gift card for new shoes! :)

paleo success story, paleo diet, paleo, weight loss, weight loss surgery, gastric bypassWhat decisions about your eating, your life, do you make that are different than before you lost the weight? What positive things have happened?
I have evolved so much in the last few years! I am empowered to make the best decisions for my life and not others. Along the way, I’ve found that I have to do what is right for me – without regard for what other people think.

For the first time in my life I’m okay with being different. I don’t mind telling people (kindly) that I won’t be partaking in their feasts consisting of standard American diet foods. I ask a million questions at restaurants. I now have a local farmer and hit the farmer’s market every week for my organic veggies and pastured eggs.

I am having so much fun and have renewed zeal for cooking! I love knowing that I’m giving my family the very best that I have to offer. They deserve at least 30 minutes of my day to prepare a nutritious, and might I add, delicious meal for them!

Did you have any role models to look up to? What habits did you instill to help you lose weight? Which do you still use?
Funny enough, my role models have nothing to do with health/fitness. My biggest role model is Steven R. Covey. His The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People changed my life. So much so that I decided to become certified in the program!

The biggest habit that I instill is Habit One from The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People – Be Proactive. This is the habit of ownership: that I am in control of my environment and in control of how I respond to it. Keeping this habit at the forefront helps me to plan out events and situations so that when they present themselves, I am already prepared. It eliminates the blame game. It empowers!

paleo success story, paleo diet, paleo, weight loss, weight loss surgery, gastric bypass Orleatha with Bill and Hayley from Primal Palate at Paleo f(x)

What does a typical day look like for you eating-wise?
I’ll tell you what I had today. I hate breakfast – there I said it! So I usually skip breakfast. I had hot black coffee blended with coconut oil, cinnamon and turmeric.

For a snack, I had a mini-meal of kippers and baby carrots. For lunch, I had grass-fed ground beef, with mushrooms and onions sautéd in butter. Dinner is meatloaf, mashed sweet potatoes and roasted asparagus. My activity this evening will be a rousing game of tag with my kiddos followed by 10 minutes on the rebounder.

Your husband looks like he’s slimmed down too, was he fully on board or did you drag him kicking and screaming?
He was an unwilling partner. I did not pester him or become the food police. Instead, I chose to lead by example. He started by going 70/30 then when he noticed that my clients were surpassing his efforts, he went whole hog!

Are your kids completely paleo? Do you allow them any leeway?
I have two little ones, who are 4 and 6. They are 80% paleo because trips to Grandma’s house entails lots of SAD foods. I don’t want them to have an unhealthy relationship with food so I let them be.

How do you handle birthday parties, school events and outside meals with your kids?
I do help them realize that when they eat bad foods, they feel bad. It works out because every time they come home from Grandma’s or go to parties and have cake they bring home a tummy-ache with them. My 6-year old has learned that bad food makes him feel bad and will say “no thank you” to foods that he knows are not good – I’m sure my 4 year old will follow suit soon.

Have you noticed any changes in their health or behavior?
I think the biggest benefit to having paleo kids is that we only go to the doctor for well checks. My kids are never sick. My daughter was also born with eczema but only has flares after eating outside foods.

How did you transition them?
My kids are young so they are less vocal about what they do and don’t want. Working paleo into their lives was almost painless. I made replacements for the foods that they used to love like pizza and nuggets. I help them recognize that eating good food makes us strong and healthy and also help them connect the dots with regard to bad food making them feel bad.


Don’t you think that is all so interesting? I do. There is so much to learn from people who have walked the walk. These are the insights I took away from Orleatha story:

  • Surgery is not a long-term solution. And it won’t help with many food-related health issues.
  • An unwavering total commitment to paleo: 99% is hardcore!
  • Self-advocacy : just like Tara Grant who I profiled earlier and who lost 115lbs with paleo, Orleatha put herself first, no matter the consequences to her social circle.
  • Support: Again, like Tara, she had a small but dedicated support group – in her case, her husband.
  • The willingness to experiment: she made (and kept making) food that worked for her.
  • An unwillingness to accept the status quo: recognizing the simple and utter futility of the alternative – the micromanaging, the diet products, the deprivation.
  • She became a leader: from her husband to her kids to her clients, Orleatha led the way but led herself out of the SAD wilderness first.
  • The sustainability of paleo under these conditions: personal leadership, experimentation, commitment.

What is inspirational to you about Orleatha’s story? How can you take her insights and make them work for you? Would you consider gastric bypass surgery? Tell us in the comments!

If you enjoyed this interview, especially if you know of someone thinking of surgery, please pay it forward and inspire others. Share this post on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Google +. Please. There are buttons in the floating sidebar to your left.

And remember to check out Orleatha’s bonus material on the PaleoNonPaleo Facebook page!


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Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren June 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

I was not aware of the time-limited effects of GB surgery – is that true for all forms? But it makes sense that a physical change does not alter the psychological grounding of hunger and eating; the distinction between health and weightloss is crucial but often forgotten, and I thank Orleatha for raising it again with such a personal face.
Oh, and for pointing out that 4 and 6 year olds are relatively easy to transition – I don’t understand people who say they could NEVER take fish-shaped crackers away from their toddler or there’d be hell to pay. Whose kitchen IS this? Where do we think kids get their eating habits from?
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Alison Golden June 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

…And then there’s the parent who thought goldfish crackers were healthy. (That would be me. A long time ago. ;-))

I’ll leave your question about surgery for Orleatha to respond to. Thanks for commenting, Lauren!
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Orleatha June 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks for your kind words! I find it amazing when parents tell me that they “can’t” take this or that away from their kids. I usually let them know that it is our responsibility as adults to BE the adult and make the best decisions for our children. In my case, i would NEVER want my kiddos to end up like I did so I guide them in the best way possible. As you’ve said – where do kids get their eating habits from? US!


Kimberly June 19, 2012 at 7:57 am

Ortheala-Thank you for sharing your story. I am new to all of this and find it inspiring. I am one-third of the way through my first Whole30 and need the encouragement of those who have already started their journey down this road. Thank you!!! You look so beautiful!
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Orleatha June 19, 2012 at 9:49 am

Thank you!! I remember very well being 10 days in and just beginning to get over the sugar detox — it was rough. Just keep in mind to make every bite count! You can do this! :)
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


Kathy June 19, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hi Ortheala,

I relate to your story! I also had gastric bypass surgery, back in 2002. I was very successful and kept most of the 148 pounds off but a few years ago it started to creep back but that wasn’t what drove me to find a new way to eat. I was experiencing lethargy, migraines, allergies. I happened upon Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and the rest is history. Not only did I lose the 20 pounds but I haven’t had a migraine or needed allergy meds since. I often say I wish I had discovered this before the surgery but we all get where we get when we should so I know I needed to have those experiences in order to be ready for the change. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Be well!


Orleatha June 19, 2012 at 9:51 am

I remember having the “i wish i had found this first” feeling but like you said, we all get where we get when we should! I know that my journey is for other people and hope that it inspires and encourages others to eat this way! Thanks for posting!!
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


Darryl Edwards June 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Orleatha – a real pleasure to read your story, thanks for sharing!


Orleatha June 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Thanks for reading! :)


Julie June 20, 2012 at 7:57 am

Thank you Orleatha for sharing your wonderful story of transformation. I made it through reading the first three of 7 Habits, and it’s taken me on quite a journey for the past ten years. Maybe it’s time for me to finish the book! I have friends and family who have had GB and continue to struggle, so I’ll be sharing this interview today.

Thank you Alison for bringing Orleatha’s story to my attention. Spreading the voice of paleo pioneers like this is a wonderful benefit to society, imho.

Blessings to you both!!! :)


Orleatha June 20, 2012 at 10:55 am

The first three habits are the toughest! Please do share with others who have had gb and those who might be considering it!

Blessings multiplied and returned to you :)
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


Crystal June 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Every surgeon will tell you that after the first year, you will regain if you haven’t changed your lifestyle. Either you went into the surgery blindly, didn’t ask the right question or didnt do research. There is a diet that you’re supposed to adhere to that’s not drastically from paleo. Sounds like you just weren’t a good candidate for it or didn’t do the due diligence. Struggling with this article but glad you’ve found a diet that works. Even though youre 2 years out of surgery, you still have the tool and it’s still helping you lose/maintain weight. Not sure I get your angle…


Orleatha June 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Crystal – First, thank you for responding because it gives me the opportunity to clear up a few more misconceptions about gastric bypass surgery. I’ll use your post as a starting point:

“Every surgeon will tell you that after the first year, you will regain if you haven’t changed your lifestyle.”
I had an excellent surgeon and she told me this and so did the nurse who led the nutrition classes. The problem with this is that i DID change my lifestyle. I consumed the required 100g of protein via shakes and bars. I cut back on what i was eating – i had no choice. it was not how much i was eating, it was WHAT i was eating that was causing the gradual re-gaining of weight which leads me to my next point…

“Either you went into the surgery blindly, didn’t ask the right question or didnt do research. There is a diet that you’re supposed to adhere to that’s not drastically from paleo.”
Consuming grain is drastically different from paleo. Consuming soy and other legumes is drastically different from paleo. So different that it caused me to gradually put weight back on.

“Sounds like you just weren’t a good candidate for it or didn’t do the due diligence.”
I was both a good candidate and did the due diligence – not that i’d expect anyone who doesn’t know me to know this about me…

“Struggling with this article but glad you’ve found a diet that works. Even though youre 2 years out of surgery, you still have the tool and it’s still helping you lose/maintain weight.”
At almost three years out, I can eat as much of whatever I want so i’m not sure what/how this ‘tool’ is still helping me to lose/maintain weight. As a matter of fact, the malabsorption factor of RnY surgery (the type that i had) is no longer a factor in weight loss after about 18 months out – thus the initial 12 month ‘sweet spot’. I absorb about 95% of what calories I consume – although I do not absorb vitamins as well. Vitamin malabsorption is not a factor in weight loss but rather can play a part in weight re-gain.

“Not sure I get your angle…”
Let me be very clear in what I now know to be true – health is in no way dictated by a number on the scale. Gastric bypass is not the answer. The answer is to change your mind AND what you are eating. Although I had gastric bypass i was still unhealthy – I still had eczema, asthma, tendinitis, chronic sinusitis and chronic fatigue — i was not healthy. Weight loss is a side-effect of being healthy.

My angle is that there is no angle. Each of us is on a journey to health that is as unique as we are and being as such, we must do what is right for us. I do hope that this helped to clarify things for you (and anyone else reading) :)
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


Alison Golden June 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

Hi Crystal: Thanks for your comment. The paleo diet *is* very different from the one recommended post-surgery, phenomenally so, the absence of grains including wheat from the paleo diet means you cannot say the difference is minor.

Additionally, Orleatha may not have an angle, but I did, many in fact, and as the writer who pulled this altogether, I take full responsibility if they were not clear.

The main angle is this: gastric band/bypass surgery will not result in long-term weight-loss unless dietary habits are changed (and then you can argue it is the change in habits that cause and maintain the weight loss, not the surgery) and for many people that means eating paleo, not the diet the doctors recommend. I also wanted to show that surgery will not fix dietary-related health issues that are not weight-related like allergies, asthma and eczema.

I was motivated to have Orleatha featured after three people I know had surgery and all three experienced abject failures. All were morbidly obese (2 of them super-obese.) One only lost half the weight needed (she had the band fitted) and still suffers from weight related health issues. The other two lost a huge amount of weight (bypass,) as much or more than Orleatha, in the first year. One has steadily gained over half of it back over a five year period and continues to gain. The other, most heartbreakingly of all, regained nearly all his weight over the second and third years and is now almost back to his super-obese state. I don’t know anyone who has been successful with the surgery.

I am mostly anti-surgery for diet-related issues (there are some cases where it can be justified for urgent health reasons) but having been under the knife five times myself for something I eventually fixed with diet, a supplement and behavioral changes (the surgery would provide me with relief for a couple of months at a time,) I am leery of it.

IMO, diet should always be the first point of change when we are seeking to improve our health and paleo is an alternative that could help many who are currently going the surgical route.


brittany January 19, 2014 at 9:06 am

Since the typical post-gastric bypass diet recommendation is low-fat and sometimes processed (protein powder), that goes completely against paleo.


Lisa July 3, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thank you for this interview and article! Orleatha, you are totally inspiring and I thank you for sharing your stories with us all. Just as much, I thank you for sharing your *fabulous* “coffee recipe” with us: “hot black coffee blended with coconut oil, cinnamon and turmeric.” Yum! And just what I was looking for as I work toward coffee *without* cream!


Orleatha July 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Thank you for your kind words Lisa!! That coffee recipe is exactly what got me off of cream — and i was the coffee-with-my-cream type of person! :)
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Angela July 11, 2012 at 10:17 am

Thank you Orleatha and Alison for sharing Orleatha’s story. I am just starting paleo (11 days in) and find your story so inspiring!


Orleatha July 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Yay! 11 days and a lifetime to go! You’ll love the way you feel! Welcome to the tribe :)
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Carrie Bowen July 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I had GB in 2004 and have been successfully failing. In other words, my honeymoon period lasted up until about 2 years ago and my “bad” eating habits started to show through. I heard about Paleo through CrossFit but I struggle still to be Paleo everyday. I feel better on it but I admit my emotional self takes over more than I care to admit. This will be a forever battle. My ultimate goal is to be healthy and be Paleo. I want my one year old to be healthy and know Paleo as well.
Thanks again for sharing!!!!



Orleatha July 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I completely understand! Hang in there! Your 1 year old needs you! Feel free to reach out to me whenever you need a little support :)
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


NJ Paleo July 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Wow, Orleatha, not only did you change your life for the better, but you changed your husband’s and children’s lives as well! I am 4.5 months into my Paleo lifestyle, and I will never go back. I didn’t enter it with weight loss in mind — I did it because I read Mark Sisson’s and Robb Wolf’s books and it made sense. I was tired of having gas and bloating all the time, tired of being tired and hooked on caffeine despite the fact that I was eating a “healthy” SAD and working out 6 days a week, and tired of facing middle-aged spread despite the fact that I was “doing everything right”. I wish I’d found this lifestyle earlier, but better at age 42 than never, right? After I got over the initial sugar withdrawal, soda withdrawal, and carb-a-holism withdrawal, I can’t believe the amount of energy I have. Thank you again for sharing your wonderful story about how you changed your life for good!


Orleatha July 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thank you very much for your kind words! I wish I had found this lifestyle earlier too but must say that I am very grateful for my journey! Like you said — better late than never! Also, if you ever have carb cravings again, try l-glutamine and/or gymnema sylvestre. Both kill carb and sugar cravings on the spot! Best!
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


Carrie Bowen July 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I’ve not heard of the above mentioned items to kick carb cravings…how/where would I find those?


Orleatha July 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm

I found them at my local health food store. I’m sure you can find them online as well. They are pretty inexpensive too.
Orleatha recently posted..Vacation AmnesiaMy Profile


Veer July 26, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Thank you!
I have been in therapy for binging 5 years ago. I learned a few things over myself. I did gain a lot of weight during therapy…..And I was already morbidic overweight. No strict diets for a binger, it will induce eatattacks. Gb seemed the only solution.
I had my GB a good 3 years ago. And after one and a half year I reached my goal. In weight. Not in energy or healthwise.
So I moved on and try to find out what was repressing me. Detoxed, it helped. Low carb helped. Primal helps more. I do fall of the wagon but try to bounce. And I am a slow learner, its not like I learn from one mistake/dumping. But I am getting there. I do have better energy. I read a lot. I try new recepies to keep things exciting. And I share. Have a great group of support. And a lot of non-believers. I do not mind, I need to do this.
But you made my day with this story, thanks again


deniseregina August 18, 2012 at 7:04 am

Everyone’s path is different. I am 7 years post bypass. I lost 120#(and I’m 5’3″!) and have regained 30. I am on day 13 of my first Whole30.
A few observations:
-I can eat more than I could in the 1st year after surgery, but no way can I eat as much as I did before.
-my surgeon’s diet recommendation was essentially just a low calorie diet, which included some carbs. Not good.
-I found 2 amazing support groups on Yahoo that very much advocate low carb approach to maintaining weight loss.
-I knew/know that WLS is a “tool” not a miracle.
-do I regret having surgery? Absolutely not. My life was miserable.
-could Paleo have worked instead? I’ll never know.
-I kept the weight off for 5 years and have gradually gone up over the last 2. Simple answer why: carbohydrates. But I seemed unable to stick to a “low-carb” plan.
-Whole30: I am truly amazed with myself that I have stayed the course through 12 days. I feel good. I get hungry, but no cravings. And I’ve managed not to get on the scale. For somebody who used to weight twice a day, every day, this is a true miracle. Why now? Why does this seem to be easy? Just because it’s Paleo?Again, a journey.


Alison Golden August 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm

It’s true, it’s a journey. An evolution, in fact. Full of turns, twists, missteps and surprises. A journey, indeed. Thank you for sending us your feedback, Denise.
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BJML October 2, 2012 at 11:33 am

Orleatha-just happened on your post today. I am an RN who works on the unit that handles bariatric surgeries at my hospital. I discovered the paleo diet this past Mother’s Day, and so far have lost 45 lbs. All the things you talk about-the energy, the lack of digestive upset, the clear skin-I got all those. I have been talking to my patients about this life style, but have avoided doing so with my bariatric patients as I didn’t know if they could follow the diet physically post RNY procedure. Your story gives me hope tat all is not lost for them. You look wonderful! Keep up the great work. Joan.


Orleatha January 2, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thank you so much! It was so AMAZING to discover that was was NOT lost for me! Please please PLEASE tell them about Paleo and share my story with them! Glad that you are finding results as well!


kat December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm


Had RNY May 27th, 2009 and lost 172 lbs. I had the prescribed 10 lb regain and was fine with it. I felt like I could do more for my health. Calories for post WLS is important but the only defining benchmark of health. The RNY got me to a point where I could access exercise, and move freely. I was one of the lucky few who lost 95% of her excess weight from RNY and am using paleo to make sure I stay healthy and strong. Rapid weight loss is killer for muscle tone and havoc for biomechanics, centre of gravity changes so rapidly etc. As well, I see fellow WLS peeps chomping on adkins bars and hydrogenated fats and see myself at my lowest weight. I had a BMI 17.4% but eating that way wasnt healthy.
Thank you for posting this.. there isnt a lot on post-WLS paleo eating and one always wonders whether you are digging yourself back into a hole. I never want to be fat again!


Orleatha January 2, 2013 at 9:37 am

So glad that you found this way and that we are not alone! I wish more WLS peeps would find this way of eating post-surgery so that they could enjoy the benefits of good health – not just lost weight!
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Jami January 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

What a great story! I too had GB surgery in 2008. I lost 115lbs. after surgery and had put back on about 25. I am just three days into 100% paleo (I’ve been transitioning since October 30. I’ve lost 12 lbs. and would like to lose about 35 more. It’s amazing to me how different I feel being Paleo. There is very little to no cravings anymore and I just feel so good. It’s amazing to finally be able to lose again. It’s hard to not want the results you got from surgery (which is SO fast and SO fun). This feels similar in the fast and fun part BUT I also feel SO incredible. And it’s so easy once you get your handle on all of it. Surgery worked temporarily but this is something that I am hoping to maintain for life!


Orleatha January 2, 2013 at 9:38 am

Isn’t it a WONDERFUL feeling?!?!! I absolutely LOVE it! The energy is addictive so i am sure you’ll maintain it :)
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Meagan January 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I have been researching the Paleo lifestyle for a little over a month now and am very interested in it. I to had a Gastric Bypass July 19th of 2010 I am 5’3″ and went from weighing 360 lbs to 185 in a years time but then had emergency surgery with a twisted bowel and hernia so I stopped working out afraid it would happen again because the twist happened during an intense workout. So for the past year and a half I have gone up to a max of 228 and now fluctuating between 218 to 222. I never thought I would fall back into bad habits but I did as have many that have had the surgery. What made me come across this interview is I was trying to figure out how the diet change would affect a person with a gastric bypass and so glad to hear that it works well. My concerns were not being able to eat cheese, beans and peanut butter as they have been a major staple in getting my 60 grams of required protein in a days time.


Orleatha January 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

This lifestyle is amazing! By the way, I also had emergency surgery for a hernia but it was my intestine that was twisted… strange coincidence! I get my protein in by supplementing with whey isolate protein. beans are an incomplete protein so our bodies have to work extra hard to make a complete protein that we can actually use. I would love to hear how this lifestyle works out for you!
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Ang February 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I had RNY Bypass surgery in 2006. I lost 100 lbs and have slowly gained a bit back over the last 1 1/2 years. I have been researching the Paleo diet and I am working on reading the paleo solution book and moving my family to this lifestyle. I have the same thoughts as everyone else seems to on gastric bypass. It was a great tool at the time and it gave me a healthier life than I had before it. Recently though it has caused some problems for me. I have bacterial overgrowth syndrome (probably a result of the bypass) and hypoglycemia (also likely a result of the bypass). The problems have certainly made me question my choice and start the what ifs. The fact of the matter is this is where I am and I made the decision with the best available information I had at the time. Doctors don’t know everything they do what they think is right and so do we. I now have to be on a lower carb diet because of the hypoglycemia and the bacterial overgrowth. I have been doing mostly protein since my bypass but I have been doing grain based carbs on the side. I also used to do a lot of dairy in the form of cheese and butter but over the last year developed a severe allergy (allergy not intolerance) to cheese and have been told to take dairy out of my diet completely. I now understand that the way I was eating even after bypass was not healthy for my body. I think each of us has to find our own way and finding people and websites and stories about others who found their way gives us courage and inspires us to continue the search for our own best solution. I don’t know if Paleo will work for me 100% and get me healthier but it helps to know that it has worked for some and encourages me to at the very least give it a try. Thank you for sharing your story.


Orleatha February 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Thank you for replying! I’d also like to recommend Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. Its a much easier read and has pull out guides, meal plans and recipes. Also discusses how to fix leaky gut – which we bypass people gave ourselves the minute our gut was cut. Good luck on your journey! I’m sure you’ll find your way :)
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Richard Thompson April 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for sharing your story! I think that a lot of people that go through any weight loss surgery have those same feelings you did about weight coming back. What a great solution, paleo definitely seem the way to go!


Steve Crofford April 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hi! Good article EXCEPT I completely disagree with this -> “Surgery is not a long-term solution. And it won’t help with many food-related health issues.” That was one of your conclusions. That is absolutely NOT true!

I had Gastric Bypass surgery back in Aug 2012, and I have found that surgery HAS BEEN a long term solution as long as you have the right mind set and do what you’re supposed to to keep on the weight loss track.

I am just now taking a serious look at the Paleo Diet, and I like what I see so far. But even if I never ate Paleo, and just continued a low carb diet for the rest of my life, the surgery is what has changed my life – IT WAS and always WILL BE the solution. If I hadn’t have had WLS I would still be where I was at before – 338lbs and killing myself. The surgery caused me to have to change the way I eat. It caused me to have to change how I look at food. It caused me to have to change my whole lifestyle. I don’t live to eat anymore. I eat to live now.


Orleatha Smith November 23, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Hi! We are saying the same thing — surgery ALONE is not a long-term solution. You have to change your mind — and it looks like you did! Congrats and keep pressing on :)
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Misty May 2, 2013 at 9:32 am

I have to agree with Steve on this one. I had WLS (sleeve, not GB) in Aug 2012 and it has changed my life! Sure, I do realize I am not 7 yrs out like most of the previous WLS comments, so I dont have experience there but my WLS as with Steve has completely given me a new outlook on food, not living to eat but eating to live!

I think it is dangerous to make a general blanket statement that WLS is not the answer or that you WILL gain the weight back like its just inevitable. Sure, we learn there is a 20% regain…but this is typical results from typical people with eating habit issues (like most who get WLS, including myself) that dont change ANYTHING except the amt of food they consume.

If you use your WLS as a “tool” on your way to a healthier lifestyle than it absolutely CAN be the answer. From a girl that has tried every single diet in the book, even HCG giving myself hormone injections daily and struggled with weight since she was 13 THIS is the first time in my life I feel like I am “in control” of my weight and health and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

I do understand those that think it is the answer and not a “tool” and change nothing, sure…they will most likely gain it back. And although I completely appreciate the article and most of what I have read is very beneficial and encouraging I have to disagree on the generality that one should not have WLS, instead just try Paleo.

Its a mindset issue to me – having surgery is what got me to where I am now to even consider Paleo in order to become more healthy as I lose the weight and keep it off. If I were looking at this lifestyle plan 1 yr and 130 lbs ago I would have thought there was NO WAY. Its too overwhelming for someone in the position I was in…total misery, physically and emotionally. I know I would not have done it.

Just saying that everyone is different yes and maybe others dont come from where I did or where I am going…but for ME, I know WLS was the answer because it jump started my healthy thoughts and good food decisions. Would I gain back some weight and not be “healthy” if I werent looking into the Paleo lifestyle at this point, maybe….nobody knows for sure. Its very surprising to hear that you know NOBODY that has had success at WLS as you stated, the stories are everywhere really. As for me, I happen to know dozens of others personally that have had WLS and have been successful…are more healthy now than ever before because they made the decision to have the surgery.

Just my experience/thoughts….


Alison Golden May 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Misty.

I can appreciate that having weight loss surgery can act as a catalyst for changing eating habits and I am glad that you and Steve have found it to have caused a change in your relationship with food.

I hope that you are both able to use this time of high motivation to instill healthy eating behaviors so that over the long term they become automatic and sustained.

It is true I don’t know anyone (8 people) who has had WLS and remained a healthy weight. Either they didn’t lose in the first place or they regained to the point where they were overweight again.

I have a friend who recently had GBS (Oct 2012). She has lost 80lbs so far with another 60lbs to go. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her but I am concerned because of the dietary advice she is being given. She has cut down the amount she is eating, which of course will produce weight-loss, but has been advised to eat a lot of wholegrain carbohydrates, soy, and low fat.

The most important point of Orleatha’s story for me was that she got rid of her eczema. If one continues to eat an inflammatory diet, albeit in smaller amounts, these gains won’t be seen. The idea that you could lose weight *and* fix these problems by going on a paleo diet (a two-fer) seems good value to me.

As a society we have become accustomed to using the surgical knife to address our health woes. As a five-time surgical patient who ultimately fixed her own health problem by changing my diet, this concerns me. If you have to do the work anyway, it seems to make sense that you might as well do it without surgery.

However, I do appreciate your comment that, prior to surgery, going on a paleo diet was overwhelming but with the support of the surgery, it became possible. I just don’t like the idea that we turn to WLS as a panacea without taking on the responsibility for doing much of the work ourselves which is what I have seen in real life. Literally, I have seen people who have undergone WLS push the meat and veg to the side of their plate, then eat the ice cream dessert. Ugh.

Thanks again for your reply, and good luck to you and Steve. :-)
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Kimberly November 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

So thankful and blessed that I cam across this article. I had RNY GB twice in 2004 then again in 2011 (repairs) my weight still went up and down. I am always tired among many other things. I also have a 10 yr old with Autism, who has been gluten/casein free for 7 yrs and we basically saw miracles just with this switch. His doctor recommended Paleo recently so I started looking into it and we are now on day 3 of our whole 30. It’s rough, more so for me than him ;) I just really want to thank you for this wonderfully encouraging article. I want to be healthy and HAPPY! :)


Alison Golden November 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

So glad it helped you, Kimberly. I was talking to Orleatha just this past Monday and she is a huge wealth of information about life after GB. She’ll be sharing it with you so make sure you sign up at her site:
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Shenikwa Novachich November 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm

What a blessing this article is! I came across it a couple of weeks ago, and Orleatha’s story inspired me because it is my own. I had WLS January of 2005. I weighed 320 on my date of surgery and got down to 167 and a size 6. I felt and looked great! Wonderfully enough it allowed me to have my son and bring him to term also. The last two years though my weight has spiraled and I have went to 220. Not happy at all with this I started looking at lifestyle changes, and paleo spoke to me. It is just a similar to the post-op diet, but without the carbs that brought along my weight gain these last 2 years. Ohhhhh those delicious ‘slider’ foods. Your story inspired me to start not only myself but my husband and son in the Paleo lifestyle. On a side note, for those of you who have had the surgery within the last two years, please sit back and listen to this woman. She is right. In fact the only thing I disagree with her on is the 12 month timeframe. It is closer to 18-24 months. After that you are on your own, and if you aren’t careful you can end up back in the same spot or close. This is useful knowledge she is imparting here, and the rest of us who have walked this road for more than 5 years. God bless you Orleatha and continued blessings on your journey! Now, onto my way back into “onederland”!


Orleatha Smith November 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm

You seriously made me cry! I’m so glad to be able to help someone else on this journey! If you ever have questions feel free to reach out to me on facebook or twitter — with a name like Orleatha, i’m pretty easy to find ;)
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Vicki Bell June 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm

I’m considering the Autoimmune Paleo Diet for several reasons. One, I’ve had hypothyroidism for 10 years. I’ve been told I’ll have to take medicine for the rest of my life. However, a co-worker who has the same diagnosis started the AIPD and her thyroid meds have been decreased! That excites me and encourages me!!

I don’t know how to start this journey. I also had gastric by-pass in 2012. My weight-loss “honeymoon” is over and I have quickly realized I’m slowly but surely returning to my old eating habits. I DO NOT/CAN NOT GAIN THE WEIGHT BACK!! I’ve lost close to 80 pounds!!

So, I’m looking for advice on how to start. Anything I need to be aware of since I have had gastric by-pass?


Orleatha July 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Hey there!
I would love to help you get started! In fact, i have a course on Udemy that i would gladly gift to you. It is only 5 modules and has helpful mindset activities and a meal plan that will get you started. email me (osmith AT lvlhealth DOT com) and i’ll send you the link.

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Karen Thomas September 21, 2014 at 2:49 am

I guess it’s safe to say that the result varies to people who had undergone GB surgery. Some may have encountered some ill effects and some had resulted awesomely. Yes, GB surgery is not easy, that is why it is suggested last when all else fails. But everything else is also not easy, it’s a commitment, a decision and we all have that different journey. As for Orleatha’s case it happened that she had undergone a different journey which resulted well (and inspired me a lot btw), for some who had GB surgery the result was desirable so I guess, as I said earlier, the result is unique to those who had it. Bariatric Eating


Diane October 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

I have just found and read this posting(s). I too had surgery, lost 150 lbs but have gained back 65lbs. My surgery was 4 yrs ago and started gaining it back exactly 18 mos after my surgery. I have tried the diet rout again. I have been so discourageed, I had given up. I was gaining 2-3 lbs a mo. not much at a time but it never left and over time it adds up. the “tool” does not last forever. I still eat smaller quanities of mosst foods but you’d be amazed how easy it is to eat unhealthy foods in large quanities. The “tool” is not perfect. I followed the special post surgery diet but still gained, was hungery ALL the time, worked out, and gained. They told me it was probably muscle since it weighs more than fat. I beleived that until my pants didn’t fit anymore. So I have been trying changing to paleo, one baby step at a time, because im draging my husband along with me. But since I started the transition, I have stopped gaining and have lost 5 lbs. I know not much but to have not gained in 2 mos is for me more than wonderful! I have not had to snack between meals. I am fuller longer and have not felt like I am going with out. To date my husband has lost 5 lbs as well!


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