That’s the message that Shiv Sahani of Queens has for people considering weight-loss surgery.
Shiv comes from a close-knit Indian family. He’s 28 years old, and for the past six years, he’s been working with his father as a New York Life Insurance agent. Previously, he owned his own recording studio and was one of the engineers who recorded Lady Gaga’s first album.
“I’ve been overweight my whole life,” says Shiv, who is 5-foot-10 and once weighed 358 pounds. “I grew up in New York City public schools and was always being made fun of. It really hurts when someone picks on you because of your weight. I don’t think people understand that.”
Weight-loss programs? He tried them all. “I’ve seen a nutritionist, a personal trainer, tried every diet in the book, pills — nothing ever worked for me. Or if it did, I would drop 20 to 30 pounds, but it wouldn’t sustain itself. The weight would just come back on.” He describes himself as goal-oriented. “I asked myself, what are my goals for my life? I knew I wanted a family. I want to have kids. Being overweight doesn’t keep you from that, but it sets limits on your lifestyle. I wanted to be able to run with my children, to go to the park and throw a ball around with my son. I realized I needed to take some sort of action to better my life situation.
“I did my research and came across lap band surgery. I brought up the idea to my parents, and right away, they shot it down, which was disappointing. My parents are very old-school, but we are a tight unit at home, and out of respect, I always tell them everything. They didn’t like the idea of surgery. They didn’t understand that I’ve tried everything else.
“I decided to do a little more research, and learned about two great doctors — Dr. Sean Garber and Dr. Spencer Holover. I saw that they did seminars about the lap band system. One day, I decided to attend one with my sister and brother-in-law. It was an eye opener.
“I made an appointment to meet with them personally, and they told me I’d be a perfect candidate. From there, we started the process. I went back and told my parents that this was something I needed to do to get my life back. Whether they liked it or not, it was going to happen, so please give me your blessing. At that point, they were more supportive. They saw I was willing to take the risk.
“But there really wasn’t any risk. Lap band surgery is one of the safest procedures out there. My only regret was not doing it sooner.
Shiv had lap band surgery on Oct. 25, 2010. Since then, he has lost more than 110 pounds.
“That’s like losing a whole person. Imagine the amount of energy you gain back with that. It builds your confidence. It gives you your life back. Before, I could hardly keep up with my dad when we went to see a client in the city, and my dad is 40 years older than me. Now he’s having a hard time catching up with me.”
Why does the surgery work? “Think of the lap band as a signal — like a red light, green light,” says Shiv. “If you’re overweight, it’s not your fault. For some reason, because of our body chemistry, we just don’t get the signal to stop when full. Now after the surgery, I do get the signal. My stomach tells my brain: Shiv, you’re full. Don’t take another bite. It’s really a cool thing. The surgery helps you realize your limits. It’s controls your food intake.”
Describing the surgery, Shiv says, “It wasn’t scary at all. There were a lot of friendly faces in the operating room. I went in around 10 a.m., and around 11:30 a.m. I was waking up in the recovery room. When I woke, they put me in my hospital room, and within 30 or 45 minutes, I started walking again. The hospital stay was actually fun. I was there less than a day.”
Shiv now weighs 234 pounds and is working to get down to 185. “I go to the gym two times a week — four if I’m lucky. I went from a size 58 pants to size 42. My shirt size went from 4XB to XXL from a regular store. That’s a good feeling.”
About his diet, Shiv says, “I enjoy food, and I enjoy life, but it’s all about control for me. If my family goes out for pizza, I’ll have a slice — or a half a slice — and I’ll be happy with that. But I make sure I also get a salad with some chicken, and I have that first, so I get my protein in. I love salads. I don’t stay away from anything. If you want to give me a nice piece of steak, fine. Just understand that I’ll probably eat four or five bites and I’ll be full.”
And about his new life, he says, “It’s the little things that mean something now. I like to dance, I like movies, and hanging out with my friends. Before I wouldn’t always want to go out, wondering what to wear and how I would look. Now if there’s any opportunity, I jump on it.”
To those considering surgery, Shiv says, “It’s a big decision, not something you take lightly. But it’s a chance to get your life back, so why not do it?”