|Before at 300 lbs. and after at 180 lbs.|
Four years ago this month I elected to take the drastic step of undergoing weight loss surgery. The procedure that my surgeon and I decided on is called a Roux-En-Y, commonly known as gastric bypass.
I am 5'1" tall and have struggled with my weight since I gained 79 pounds with my first pregnancy in 1979. In June of 2006 I left a job I had held for 32 years under less than ideal circumstances. I was three years short of my planned retirement age, but I just couldn't take the new management.
At 52 years old I faced the daunting task of looking for a job while weighing in at 300 pounds. To describe my emotional state as devastated and depressed would be an understatement of monumental proportion. Frankly, I just couldn't do it. I could not bring myself to send out a single resume or make a single phone call. I simply could not do it!
If you've never been significantly overweight (aka morbidly obese) maybe you don't know how it feels. Sometimes I felt invisible ... like no one could see me past the fat. Conversely, sometimes I felt like the center of attention ... like the fattest person in any room that everyone was staring at. I was in constant pain from carrying all that extra weight on my knees. I could not stop eating. If a couple of Oreos were good ... the whole bag was better. If an ice cream cone sounded good ... a large Blizzard sounded better. I had absolutely no control over what I was putting in my body. I was also drinking about a case of 20-ounce Diet Cokes a week.
Let me also say that dieting actually worked for me. I lost weight successfully on almost every diet I ever tried ... and I tried 'em all. I was not one of the people who could not lose weight by dieting. The problem was that I could not sustain the loss and keep the weight off. I would go on a diet and lose a significant amount of weight. But after about three months I just couldn't take it any more and I would be off on a binge. By this time I had quit trying. Emotionally I just could not face another failure.
I don't really consider myself to be a goal-oriented person. I'm just not. It used to drive my bosses crazy. Remember, I worked in nonprofit fund-raising so I had solid measurable goals for how much money to raise from specific groups of people and how many new contributions I had to get every month. And I thought it was bullshit! I always did my best. Sometimes I made goal and sometimes I didn't ... and the world did not come to an end.
My surgeon didn't give me a stated goal for how much weight to lose and I considered that a plus. I chose this surgeon for several reasons. Besides his experience and positive track record. the fact that he told me his patients get their protein from real food not protein supplements was a deciding factor for me. He has now changed his tune and encourages his patients to drink 1-2 protein shakes a day to help maintain their weight loss.
My original idea was to get my weight down to around 150 pounds, which would still make me overweight. The ideal weight for someone who's 5'1" tall is some ridiculously low number between 106 and 118. I weighed exactly 118 when we married in 1975 and I've never seen that number again, nor do I expect to see it again. I never had in mind that weight loss surgery would make me skinny. I'm not skinny ... I've never been skinny ... I'm never going to be skinny ... and I'm okay with that!
So why did I have weight loss surgery? One word ... control! I had to be able to control my relationship with food. I'm not a perfect weight loss surgery patient.
- I don't use protein supplements very often and I'm much more likely to snack on a protein bar than to drink a protein shake.
- I take my vitamin and mineral supplements religiously. I never miss them and my annual follow-up blood work has always been exemplary.
- I eat normal food.
- Sometimes I eat fried food.
- I eat carbohydrates. THE HORROR!
- I eat chocolate almost every day. I stick to dark chocolate and I don't eat much, but I'm not giving it up. Someday they'll have to pry it out of my cold dead hand.
Today I weigh 196 pounds, up from my post-surgery low of 175. But I'm happy and active and I don't obsess about how much I weigh. I cook good, healthy food at home almost every meal. We still eat out two or three times a week. I can go hiking, chase my grand-baby around all week, and ride my bicycle. I used to wear a size 26; now I wear a 14.
If you had weight-loss surgery, you bought the package, and that includes taking the appropriate dietary supplements. Failing to take them is stupid and can be life threatening. Beyond that, it's really between you and your surgeon and your success or failure is in your own hands and for you to measure yourself.
For many people, the post weight loss life is a lifestyle. For some I would even say it's an obsession. They must reach goal ... they must maintain their weight loss ... they must be skinny ... they must never, ever eat carbohydrates ... they must do whatever it is they must do. And I say, "Good for them!" If that's what you want or need and you're willing to do the work, go get 'em and good on you! But that's not me. It's not what I want or need and it's not the life I choose. I got what I want out of my weight loss surgery. I got control! And, whatever it is you want, I hope that's what you get.