Category Archives: surgery

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.”

 

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.

Vanity, or Sanity?

QUESTIONING BARIATRIC SURGERY
 
I used to walk into my doctor’s office with my hand raised defensively. “Let’s just start with the assumption that I need to lose weight, and move on from there.” She would laugh, and we’d begin discussing my reason for being there.

I have long held the opinion that doctor offices psychologically attack patients to ensure a greater adherence to medical advice. They do it by stopping in the hallway, invariably full of foot traffic, to weigh and measure you on a full-sized scale. Textbook perfect Public Humiliation 101.

I’ve never known what it’s like to maintain a healthy weight. It’s been a continuing issue for freakin’ forever. Diets and exercise programs have been intermittent interruptions throughout my life. Sometimes they are a resounding backdrop to other memories, like when I sucked in my tummy so hard my diaper fell off.

My self-esteem took the expected plummet, relieved only during the most successful stages of dieting episodes. I’ve never received so many compliments and/or so much praise as I have when I’ve lost weight. So many, in fact, it made me resentful.

Why didn’t I get compliments like that for other achievements? I have been a storyteller for decades, performing before groups large and small, done community theater, been an award winning teacher, written an award winning novel, and yet the only time my friends and family seem proud of me was when I was thinner. Which never lasted long. (By the way, I know this is only my perception and that my friends, and some of my family, are very proud of me and my accomplishments. But knowing, and feeling, can be two vastly different experiences.)

Sometime in the second or third month following a successful weight loss diet an overwhelming craving would crash over me. If you’ve never felt it you won’t understand this, but it is an absolute imperative that you eat. Your mind focuses on food, and only food. You find yourself wandering in and out of the kitchen, grabbing a taste of this, or a handful of that. You hate yourself for losing control, and yet the body grabs you by the throat and screams in your face, “No more starving!” Then it gets your belly to emphasize the point with a lot of uncomfortable roiling and loud rumbling.

I’ve yo-yo’d up and down so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve been a size 11 and I’ve been a size 26. One time I bought a size 32, but I think that was sheer frustration that I couldn’t find anything to make me look attractive and bought something three sizes too big in a flood of self-loathing. I’ve done Weight Watchers (twice), the egg and grapefruit diet, Phen-phen, low-carb, 7-day diet, oatmeal and apples diet, etc., etc., etc. I counted points, collected cards, and plotted food charts.

Any diet will work, as long as you stick to it fiercely. In my experience that means a combination of severe self-loathing, determination, and acceptance of pain. It takes a lot of hurting to make you turn away from food while you’re still hungry. To refuse yourself a feeling of satiation involves embracing discomfort, and to continue that unpleasant feeling for days, weeks, and months requires (from me, at least) a hatred for my fat self. It’s not enough to want to be thin – I have to hate to be fat.

I beat myself up (dieted) regularly for the first thirty years of my life, and over the following twenty-eight still do so, but with longer and longer intervals between. The last two diets I started with reluctance,  knowing I would succeed, be happy with myself for a few months at least, and then begin the inevitable regaining of the weight and accompanying self-loathing. I did, two for two.

I’ve lost all faith in low calorie, nonfat, low self-esteem diets. How many times do I have to repeat the cycle before I admit it doesn’t work? Apparently, this many times.

I am scheduled for a Roux en-y operation on December 15th. It’s taken me over a year to get to this place, but I’ve finally arrived at the starting gate. Today I have begun the two week liquid diet required before surgery. I’m already hungry, but hopeful that at the end of this journey I’ll be able to lose – and keep off – the baggage I’ve been lugging around my entire life. I’m ready to cut away more than half my stomach to control my eating.

People say to me, “As long as it’s for the right reasons…” meaning it should be a health only decision. Mine is, and isn’t, but more about that later. Being me I need to chronicle this journey. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck.