Category Archives: self-image

How I Lost Eighty Pounds in One Year

b2bd2-fatsilhouetteI went from 237 lbs The Deed is Done, Dithering Done Withto 157 lbs 

from Dec. 15, 2015, to Dec. 15, 2016

Two-hundred-thirty-seven pounds is the highest weight on record for me, and that was taken a long time ago.  I’ve been heavier, I’m sure of it and I’ve been lighter, sometimes significantly so, but since I refused to be weighed at ninety-nine percent of my doctor appointments, there’s no record of it except the occasional photograph.

Struggling with my weight is a life-long endeavor. At eighteen months I got my first lesson in holding my stomach in; my diaper fell off. I’ve tried so many diets I can’t even remember them all. I’ve joined gyms, walked enough miles to fill a Fitbit, resized portions, tried hypnosis, therapy, and popped a zillion diet pills/cookies/candies and even expanding packets of some substance that was supposed to fill my stomach and then pass harmless through me. Since I never saw anything pass through me, I can only assume they were absorbed directly (ugg) or are still in there somewhere (oh yuck!).

I’ve lost weight, successfully I might add, many times in my lifetime, losing almost this much weight before, and lesser amounts as well.  All told, I’m sure I’ve gained and lost at least five hundred pounds over my lifetime. The yo-yo phenomenon was so cruelly automatic that I’ve completely lost faith in dieting as a permanent solution to obesity.

So, how did I finally do it? Well, if you’re hoping for an easy miracle, get ready to be disappointed.

I had bariatric surgery, a Roux en Y, to be exact.

Bariatric surgery reduces your stomach size and bypasses some of your intestines. This limits the amount you can eat at any one time and guarantees a really nasty sensation when you ingest too much sugar at once.

But perhaps more importantly, the medical group I went through insisted on thorough testing and comprehensive education about not only the procedure itself but also the other physical, psychological, and emotional changes that would take place as my body rapidly shed pounds. It took from October of 2014 until December 2015 while I was probed, tested, analyzed, educated, and had proved my deep conviction with four weeks of a liquid only diet to be approved for the final step, the operation itself.

I was in the operating room for over four hours while they undid my Nissan (a procedure that helped manage my GERD) and then performed the Roux en Y. Thank God I’d already had my gallbladder removed, or that would have taken yet another few hours.

I spent the next month on liquids only, then graduated to three months of blenderized-to-applesauce-consistency solids. I slowly reintroduced vegetables (so well cooked they were limply translucent) and ultra-lean meat back into my diet. Peanut butter became my best friend and the only taste of sweetness (outside of diet applesauce) in my world. I survived a Christmas feast while still on a liquid diet, a candy-less Valentine’s to avoid the dreaded ‘dumping’ syndrome, a quarter cup of Easter dinner, Fourth of July cookouts that consisted of one hotdog, various birthdays with a forkful of cake, and a child-sized plate at Thanksgiving. Twice I left the country, only to severely limit my tastes of foreign cuisine.

The fat melted away so rapidly I missed the chance to wear clothing long hanging in my closet in case I ever fit into them again. Before I knew it, nothing I owned fit me.

My entire life changed. I feel healthier now than I ever have in my life. I learned things about myself and our society I never knew, discovered for myself the differences between the way large and smaller people are treated, and experienced emotions that surprised me. I also suffered a sense of depression and disappointment directly at odds with my success.

But this post has gone on long enough. I’ll share more about my journey another time. For now, let me just say this:

I lost more than weight and gained more than self-esteem.

Check back soon for more about my journey from being morbidly obese to hearing the magic words from my doctor, “You’re no longer overweight.”

 

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THE UGLY SHIRT NO ONE WANTS TO WEAR

 Or:  BACK IN THE CLOSET YOU GO

UglyShirtMany gay folks have reported their straight co-workers, friends, and family coming to them with words of support, understanding that the trauma of #OrlandoPulse spreads farther and wider than the immediate neighborhood. Some describe the concern and warnings their loved ones can’t help offering, others tell of important conversations that help them cope with their sense of loss, fear, being lost, and to counter the feeling that once more we’re being shoved back in the closet like the ugly shirt no one wants to wear.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve had exactly three supportive messages, one from my mother, and the other two came from (1) a young, white, cis-gendered man in my creative writing group who sent the same message to every LGBT friend he has on Facebook, and (2) my somewhat estranged born-again niece who honestly feels who I am deliberately flaunts God’s will.

My mother got very upset over the phone, telling me she doesn’t want to hear the phrase “Never again” ever again because in her words, “There’s always an again, and again, and  again. It never ends!” I comforted her as best I could.

I was pleasantly surprised by my co- writer’s supportive message. It was unexpected and came out of the blue on Monday morning. And it was very much appreciated.

But it was the response of my niece that stunned me, there’s no doubt about it. I distinctly remember, not so long ago, her vehemently scolding a mutual family member of ours, insisting that she needed to repent being gay and turn back to God. I assumed that particular diatribe was also aimed at me, so I’ve largely avoided interacting with her since then. I mean, she’s still my sister’s child so I ask about her, follow her posts online, and have commiserated with her trials and rejoiced in her successes since then, albeit not directly with her.

So when she read my last blog post and responded with sincere understanding and the loving command to ‘be safe’, my heart melted like a crayon on a hot sidewalk. I believe she still thinks being gay is a sin and I’m damned to hell, but at least she recognized the trauma that I, and every other gay person on the face of the planet, felt on Sunday as we woke to the news of the massacre. More than that, she commiserated.

But not one of my siblings has offered a single word of support or understanding. Not one straight friend has reached out to me (except the white cis-boy). None of our neighbors have stopped to talk about it with us even though we’re out, open, and they attended our wedding reception.

Should they have to? No, of course not. Would it have been nice, something that might have helped me cope with the flood of feelings I’ve had over the last few days? Yes, absolutely.

I remember the degrading reports of the Stonewall riots, which happened during my pre-teen years as I was wondering why I wasn’t like everyone else I knew. I wept bitter tears at the killing of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in America. I remember all too clearly the horrifying murder of Matthew Shepard, crucified and left as an example of what could happen if you’re gay. I have seen the movies Boys Don’t Cry and Brokeback Mountain, both of which end with violent murder and send a clear message to never come out, don’t let your true self be discovered, stay hidden to stay safe. I lost friends during the height of the AIDS scourge and buried them when their families wouldn’t. And I have watched with mounting horror the bullying that leads to murder and suicide among not only gay youth but specifically transgendered individuals.

What happened on Sunday in Orlando is not the same as denying couples marriage licenses, or wedding cakes, or housing. Mass murder is not the same as introducing and passing legislation to restrict and deny people equal rights. To some, the uproar caused by the deaths of 49 people among a total American LGBT population of over ten million may seem disproportionally large and that, overall, things are better for gay folks. And sure as hell telling a gay joke, or laughing at one, has nothing to do with buying a weapon of mass destruction and letting it loose on innocent people.

But… it does. Every single time a gay joke is laughed at, a blow lands. When hatred is taught in the name of religion, parents and other authorities threaten banishment, and the reviled group itself begins to beckon just the right self-suppressed gay guy, he will decide to hurt himself and the group he is unwillingly a part of. He’ll do it through restrictive legislation, or humiliation, or even murder. And everything he’s ever heard, seen, intuited, learned and practiced will be a part of that.

I have lived with the wariness of knowing some people want to hurt me ever since I came out. Think about that. Every stranger is a potential…? (Hint: not friend). Whenever someone looks at me funny, I tense. If I hear whispered muttering as my wife and I pass, I wonder. And whenever I attend our public places, Pride, bars, picnics, I watch…carefully. That’s the way I’ve lived forever. I was forcibly reminded to sharpen that vigilance last Sunday.

And – it triggered a PTSD behavior in not only myself but almost every other LGBTQIA+ person I know. We’ve been here before. Not in such a huge, horrific, way but repeatedly, over and over again across the years. It’s a mental torture all its own, a tearing down to a bone weariness, a sudden clutching of anxiety in your gut as you realize that it very well could have been you, your loved ones, and your friends, lying dead on a familiar floor.

So what can you, a well-meaning ally and true friend, do to help?

Stop me and say, “I’m so sorry. What a horrible thing has happened.” Meet my eyes with sincere concern and interest. If I look like I want to talk about it, sit me down and ask, “How do you feel?” and then let me talk. As my terror, self-doubt, worry, and despair spill out, add your supportive asides and let me know you understand, and maybe share, my emotions.

Or send a text, old-fashioned greeting card, handwritten letter, or dial the phone and make contact. Don’t pretend everything is fine. It most definitely is not fine.

 

 

Bariatric Surgery Success!

Today it will have been exactly four months since my Roux en Y or gastric bypass surgery. Next week will make it a year since I started this amazing journey.

I’ve lost fifty-two pounds. My blood pressure is lower, my arthritis less painful, and my triglycerides are behaving themselves. I no longer use the C-PAP machine, or take medicine for gout. I haven’t had a bout of Plantar’s fasciitis or bone bruises for months.

Has it been easy? Hell, no. I spent a month (2 weeks before and 2 weeks after surgery) on a completely liquid diet. When you look forward to some sugar-free applesauce so you’ll at least have something to kinda chew, that’s hard. And, of course, my surgery was scheduled for mid-December, completely eclipsing the usual Christmas celebrations. And as much as I wanted the surgery, I hated how it tied my family and friends up in knots, making them tip-toe around me, not eating things they wanted, afraid to tempt me to do something to spoil my plans. As often as I reminded them that I’d CHOSEN to do this, and they should eat normally, they saw the liquids and mushed up food and felt bad for me. I kept telling them that next year I’d be eating with them, just much smaller portions and they should enjoy themselves.

Their support meant so much to me, however. They watched me go to endless doctors appointments and be tested for everything under the sun from breast cancer, to sleep apnea, to a colonoscopy. I was examined inside and out. I still laugh about how shocked I was when a doctor first lifted the folded over part of my belly to examine the skin underneath. It felt like such an invasion of privacy… LOL Little did I know what was in store.

I went through a plethora of emotions and was surprised by their vehemence. Hope warred with despair, anger fought with appreciation, and through it all, I held the deep conviction that I would fail yet again. My wife was terrified of the actual surgery but repeated several times that she supported whatever decision I made. She survived the four-hour wait during the surgery, and hers was the first face I saw when I woke.

I’ve handled the healing phase well. The wounds are all scarred and have lost their purplish hue. Although I’ve had to deal with excessive gas (and the resultant hours of walking) when experimenting with raw vegetables, I’ve managed to escape – knock on wood – the ‘dumping’ I’d been warned about. I needed to travel only a few short weeks following the surgery, but even that went well. The flight crew weren’t happy about my rising and walking the length of the plane every half-hour, but they preferred that to blood clots.

Because I was so busy for the first month and a half, it came as an almost sudden surprise when my entire wardrobe stopped fitting me. I sorted out those I could still get away with, and bagged up the rest. When it came to donating them to charity, though, I just couldn’t do it. Part of me still expects to gain back the weight, just like I have after every single diet in my life. They’re upstairs in the attic, but I may put them out for a spring yardsale… maybe.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’m still learning. I’ve also learned an awful lot about other people and the way they treat people based on stereotypes. But more about that, next time…


The Moment of Truth

I’ll use this for my before picture. It was taken in early 2015, after I’d begun the journey to get to this point. An interesting thing was happening to me at the time. I’d begun to say good-bye to foods, as if I’d never see them again. I binged on pizza, chocolate, and french fries. This photo was actually taken at a local pizza parlor!

Okay – let’s get down to it: I started this journey because the last straw was heaped on the donkey’s back. Yes, I’m borderline diabetic, have high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. My health has been going downhill even though I try to stay healthy. Yes, my back, legs, and feet were no longer willingly supporting my body. I hobbled places, or worse, waddled. That happened only once, and after that I walked as slowly as it took to never again sway side to side.

But if I’m honest, there were other reasons, ones involving self-esteem and issues of embarrassment. I had an experience that showed me if I fell and couldn’t get up, my loved ones would need help to get me up. I’m tired of being squeezed from all sides when traveling on a plane, and dealing with people who fat shame with glances. My feelings get hurt when my family discusses my size/eating habits/weight in normal everyday conversation. And I avoid looking at my own reflection in a mirror, narrowing my vision to a single area that needs work, teeth, hair, and more and more recently, my neck.

I’ve managed to be a normal weight at least six times in my life. None of those experiences lasted. I blew past 100 pounds sometime during 4th grade and never saw it again. I don’t know any other way to be than overweight, or losing weight. Maintaining a normal body weight will be a whole new experience for me.

And I’m afraid of failing. Again. A failure. Again.

But then again, everything good that’s ever happened to me started with me taking a chance. I’ve managed to do some relatively extraordinary things: travel the US in an RV, write an award-winning novel, performed before large audiences AND received standing ovations. So if the woman who achieved all that decides to put her effort into creating a new food/eating reality, she’ll make it.

I’ll make it. I can do it. I’ve done hard things before and succeeded. I’ve got this. It’s extreme – but then, I can be extreme. *deep breath* I will do this!
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And I’ve still got two days more to change my mind and run back to the world of comfort I know so well if I chicken out.

Fist Pump – Throat Lump

The fist pump! Yeah! I’ve done it, did it just the other week. Will probably do it again.

 

When I started out on this journey over a year ago, I wasn’t sure it was going to end up on the surgeon’s table. I went to an info meeting, but still wasn’t convinced. This is a really big, irrevocable decision, and I had failed so many times before I no longer had faith in the weight loss process.

I have some issues with the way the bariatric surgery group I’m with handled things. I was made to jump through innumerable hoops to get here, including many medical procedures and exams. I’ve been sleep studied, x-rayed, EKGed, palpated, weighed, measured, and charted. I have listened, asked, been handed numerous handouts and a 3-ring binder to hold them all, and support grouped along. And I was forced to lose weight to continue the process. Without going into actual numbers (which are not for publication) from my first weigh-in until the pre-op two week liquid diet started, in seven months I’d lost a grand total of eight pounds. yippee 

Then I started the liquid diet and stayed on it. A few days in I got sick. Because of med changes I dealt with dizziness. But I stayed on the diet, and it’s now less than a week away from the surgery. I weighed myself on my bathroom scale, which is probably at least several pounds off of the bariatric one, and to my shock found in the first week I’d lost another nine pounds. (BTW – I only weigh once a week at most. I learned that lesson the hard way during my first twenty diets…) That’s a total of seventeen pounds, and there’s already a change in the way my clothes fit. FIST PUMP!

But there’s also this lump in my throat, a recognition of all the times in the past when I’ve successfully lost weight, and ALWAYS gained it back again. The fear is there, the ever present anxiety of failure. After all, I’ve successfully fought the battle many, many times, but never won the war of sustained weight loss.

Apparently I’ve dieted and then regained the weight so many times I’ve created a Pavlovian response in myself. Feelings of success are immediately damped by forebodings of failure. I’m my own psychological lab rat. My conditioned response is excitement tempered with sorrow. And the really bitter taste to it all is that it’s become a very familiar response. How many times have I started diets, knowing that the results of all that pain and hard work would never last?

I’m trying to let myself feel successful, recognizing and paying respect to the times I’ve failed before, but this time won’t be the same (already I hear the razzberry being given by my own psyche), because this time I’m changing the circumstances. This weight loss journey is different than any other I’ve taken. I’m changing the rules. After the hard work of losing weight has gotten me where I’m going, my stomach will have healed into a much smaller pouch, and the craving centers will have been excised. I hope that the desire for food will never again supplant my need for nourishment.

Here is my promise to my future self:  I will still enjoy food, in moderation the way it was meant to be. I will savor the flavor, and feel the heal. No longer will I waste the taste, or need the greed. I will be an informed, and intelligent consumer. And I will be healthier for it.

FIST PUMP!

VERTIGO-GO

http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Sick-Day-off-from-School-Without-Going-to-the-DoctorSo I’m cruising along on day 3, feeling hungry, but eating what I need to when I need to. I even had some delicious homemade soup to look forward to for dinner. Squash, carrot, and celery soup, pureed into a warm, pumpkiny color. I enjoyed it thoroughly, so grateful to not have to resort to cream of anything…

Unfortunately I got sick about ten minutes after eating. I mean SICK. I was dizzy, nauseated, belching, and began throwing up. This is no small thing for a person with a Nissan fundiplication. Throwing up is not nearly as easy when you have one, but I managed. Six, eight, fourteen times during the following evening and morning. Then I stopped throwing up, but even the thought of water would make me nauseated again.

I crawled into bed and stayed there for 27 hours. If I stayed down, I wasn’t as dizzy, which meant I wasn’t as nauseated. Every time I belched I’d slow my breathing until it stopped. I existed, floating on a miasma of quashed misery, knowing the moment I sat up I was going to feel horrible once more.

Of course I wondered if this had anything to do with:

  1. the soup
  2. the diet
  3. the flu that has been going around town 

The soup had all fresh ingredients and was prepared by someone who knows how to make great soups. So I ruled food-poisoning out.

The diet, while monotonous and unsatisfying, didn’t seem bad enough to make me that sick. I grudgingly put it aside, even as I realized that I didn’t want anything to do with a protein shake at that moment, but might have accepted a piece of dried toast. I did not indulge in the toast, but neither would I drink the shake.

So I was left with the idea that it is a flu bug – one that will hopefully disappear on its own by the end of the weekend. However, I wanted medical corroboration and advice. So I phoned the Bariatric surgery center of the hospital.

At 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday only weeks before Christmas.

Not too surprisingly, they were closed. A robo-voice advised me to hang up and dial 911 if it was a real medical emergency, but they also offered a number for ‘urgent’ situations. I called it.

The secretary asked about my situation, I described it. She went looking for a nurse and apparently found one who felt no need to speak to me directly. She wanted to know if I’d phoned my primary care doctor. I said no, and she suggested I do so. It was now 4:45 and the sun had set.

My doctor’s office  was closed, but they had a triage nurse on staff who agreed to phone the doctor on call, who just happened to be my primary care physician. By 6 o’clock I’d been advised that as long as I was able to keep water down I should probably stay home, otherwise I should report to an ER to avoid dehydration. By 9 o’clock I’d gotten 12 oz. of water down, and while still dizzy and lying down, I felt some better. I sat up from 10 to midnight… a victory!

Here it is, day five. I lost a day and a half, more or less, to whatever that was. I obviously feel better because even thinking about this post made me dizzy just hours ago. But I’m still not 100%, so I’m eating a yogurt, drinking 8oz. of water, and going back to bed.

No one takes photos of themselves when they feel this sick… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

In Vain, or Insane?

So the best part of day 2 on a liquid diet is that day 1 is over.

Although I grazed through the day with

  • 7 8oz cups of water
  • 3 protein drinks, 
  • 2 cups of cream of broccoli soup (eww!), 
  • 1/2 cup of Malt-o-Meal (yeah, they still make it and it still tastes the same…), 
  • one 4oz container of applesauce (no sugar added), 
  • one 4oz container of non-fat pudding, 
  • and one truly bitter container of yogurt, 

somehow I was hungry pretty much every minute of the day.

Okay, in the interest of total disclosure, there were about 10-15 minutes following the protein shakes where I wasn’t actively hungry, but it roared back within the hour.

However, I’m one day closer to my goal, and THAT is pretty cool.

So day 2 started off with me wondering if I should take some photos of myself at the beginning of the journey. After I stopped quivering, I tried once more to talk myself into it. Same visceral reaction.

I learned a long time ago that you can’t be in the photos if you’re the one taking the picture. So I became the family photographer. There are still enough photos of me to make sure I get my face on at least 10 out of 12 months of the Christmas calendar (Mixbook.com), but I make sure they’re head shots. I shudder whenever someone takes a photo of my whole body, and usually crop it out of the photo as soon as possible.

I also avoid seeing my whole reflection in mirrors, focusing on whatever body part I’m dealing with (usually face, teeth, hair…). When I’m walking by large store windows I focus on the models within, rather than my image reflected from the glass. I never try new clothes on in dressing rooms before buying – I just return them after I’ve tried them on at home. In that way I have happily maintained my own ignorance of the true size of my body.

Except that’s not true. When asked to estimate my own weight I’m usually within 10 pounds, startling the hell out of health professionals who uniformly believe overweight people have no true understanding of their situation. Although I routinely refused to be weighed when being seen by doctors (that public humiliation thing I covered yesterday), I have lived with this body my whole life and am aware of what wearing various sizes mean in terms of total weight.

In other words, I know how big I am but avoid like the plague seeing the proof of the pudding, as it were, with my own two eyes. Kind of the way I want the world to deal with me too. You can know I’m a plump (fat), middle-aged (old), charmer (woman), just don’t see me that way. I’d rather you ‘saw’ me as my young, beautiful, healthy self in my eighteen year old body.

Of course, doesn’t everybody?

I don’t know if I’m going to talk myself into a ‘before’ photo or not. I’ll let you know tomorrow.