So, this is a hard post to write (and one I’m not sure anyone will actually read all of – it’s really ridiculously long and mainly for me). This is one of those things that when people ask “what would you do if you were brave” you write this down. I have no idea why it’s hard, but it is. I think it’s because I’m afraid of people thinking this was easy. It’s not. The decision to do what I did was hard and took many years. The decision to be open with it… well, it’s hard too. I’ve actually been working on this post for a few weeks and told myself when the scale registered 100 total lost, I’d publish it… so here goes…
So, this is a long and rambling post… get some coffee…
Short answer: I bust my ass with exercise, I eat a lot less, I work on my mental issues surrounding food and I had weight loss surgery in June.
Now, for those that want to the real (and quite long) story…
I said when I started this whole journey that I wasn’t going to share. It was a personal thing and no one’s business. People are just so judgmental that the idea of letting people into my weight issues was hard.
See, here’s the problem. When you are overweight and share your struggles with others, you hear things like “oh, just eat less and exercise more, it worked for me!” I kind of want to use my well-oiled sarcasm and say “OH EM GEE, I never thought of that and no one ever told me. Thank you SO much for that insight.” Of course, those are the folks that would probably take it all serious and give me their diet plan of rabbit food and 4-hour-per-day workouts.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I’m fat (no, really! I know it’s hard to tell sometimes!). I’ve been overweight/obese since before Kindergarten. My counselor can tell you it has to do with my childhood (hey, mom, I’m blaming you! *laughing*) or impulse control or just plain genetics. I believe it has to do with all three myself, but the bottom line is that I’ve struggled for over 30 years with this issue.
It should also come as no surprise that while my weight issues have prevented me from doing some things, I’ve also never felt that overly self-consciousness. I’ve always kind of felt like this is who I am and you can love me or you can go away, but I’ve always believed that I’m a good person and, honestly, I do blame mom for that one. That woman instilled in all of us a “can do” and “love yourself” attitude. If I’m being honest, she’s probably the reason I’m successful in business and in my personal life today.
So, I’ve lost 100 pounds since June. Exactly. As of today. 100 pounds. I’ve done it mostly quietly, but once you hit a certain point, people start noticing and asking questions. Or they notice, but are too scared to ask (what if they’re wrong). It’s actually been kind of amusing for me to watch them. Especially since I finally bought new clothes, they’ll stop and look at me and want to say something but you can actually SEE them decide to not say anything. *laughing*
… and if they do ask and I say “yes, I have lost a good bit of weight”, they’ll invariably ask how. And this is where the hard part comes. You see, I’m one of those people that believes in authenticity. Sometimes to my own detriment. I figure that you can like me or not. It’s up to you, but this is who I am. I also have been known to over-share at times. One of my friends once said that I “live out loud” and I think that’s probably accurate.
As I said, I wasn’t going to be open and honest at first, but I found that as people asked that question, it was hard to not answer it completely honestly. I mean, us overweight folks have tried and tried and tried. Do I lie and say “oh, it was totally Richard Simmons” and then they feel inadequate for not being able to do it themselves or… do I be honest and say “I had weight loss surgery” and risk them informing me that I took the easy way out? Do I then feel compelled to defend my choice?
Perhaps I over-think this stuff?
So, what I have been doing is telling the ultimate truth. On June 21, 2011, I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG). Since then, I’ve been making sure to eat the right things and exercise and change my thoughts about food and what it means to me. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and if anyone tells you it’s the easy way out, they are frankly full of shit. The real story is a little more complicated than that of course, but that’s the bottom line.
The longer story is that about 8 years ago, shortly after Cassie was born, I started looking at gastric bypass, but I really hated the idea of them rearranging my intestines. I looked at the band, but there’s so many chances for complications, I never really considered that one. I’d seen people struggle with the dumping issues and everything that comes with these surgeries and I’d spent half of my life on a diet. I had pretty much decided that I had to do something else, but bypass wasn’t it. I went back on a diet (or 20). A few years ago, I decided to look into it again and came across a newer procedure called the Gastric Sleeve. It was “new” as a stand alone procedure, but had been part of another one for a long time. There was also a lot of research about gastrectomies in general. People have had parts of their stomachs removed for various reasons throughout history (cancer, etc). Oh wait. Yes, I did just say REMOVED. I have had about 75-85% of my stomach taken out. Just removed. Gone. That was it. No rerouting, no implants.
Nightline did a great story on this particular weight loss surgery, you can see it on Hulu. I identify with Holly’s story and I’m taking my kids to Disney in June, darn it! (Warning, it shows surgery but it’s a very cool piece.)
Anyway, in classic Candy fashion, I researched it to death. Everything I read pointed to Dr. Ganta. He seemed to be THE guy in Austin for the sleeve and bariatric surgeries in general. So, off I went to one of his seminars. VERY nice guy, soft spoken, but he knew his stuff. I knew he was the right surgeon. Ah! But the insurance wouldn’t cover it. I didn’t have the cash so I decided I would keep trying it on my own, make some changes and come back when I had the funds.
So, off I went to find a personal trainer and get into some sort of shape (apparently round is not the right shape – I KNOW, right!). I found Chrissy over at Libra Fitness, who has been fabulous! I started having lower back issues more often, so I found Diane Shigley over at Advanced Chiropractic, she keeps me pain free.
Earlier this year, we got new insurance and I was hoping it would be covered, but knew that the time was right. I had so many people on “Team Candy” (and yes, I do actually consider them all part of my team – they are always supportive and there for me) that I knew it was now or never. The insurance didn’t cover it, but after a short talk with Tom, we decided to just use credit and get it done. I’ll be paying it off for a few years, but I’d rather be paying it off and losing weight than sitting there doing nothing. It was time.
In March, I met with Dr. Ganta for a consult, went to my primary doctor (who was not supportive, so I ditched her after the surgery – shout out to new fabulous Dr. Alicia Grossman), got all the tests done that they required. I decided that the one piece I was missing out was the mental aspects. I mean, I’m paying some guy to cut me open and take out a large portion of a vital organ. That’s gotta screw with your head. So, I found Lynn Zipoy who quickly has become one of my favorite people.
… and on June 7th, I started the preop diet (which sucked). Surgery was June 21. It was HARD. The recovery wasn’t too bad. It was all done laparoscopically, but I had some pretty nasty abdominal muscle pain from where they cut through.
So, I’ve lost 100 pounds. I have 100 more to go where I’ll be at my “well, what does that look like” weight. According to the charts, I should lose about 35 more after that to be within “normal” ranges, but I’m going to see where that total of 200 lost looks like. Yes. I needed to lose 235 pounds. It seems incredible to me that I was carrying around 100 pounds on my body just six months ago. OR that I’m still carrying around an extra 100+.
I also have this little voice in the back of my head (that bitch needs to shut up) that keeps wondering if I’ll keep it off “this time”. I can. I have a great team. I mention all these people above that were kind of part of this whole thing, but please know that I didn’t forget about the biggest team members. That’s my wonderful loving husband, Tom, and our two kids. All have been nothing but fabulous from listening to me talk through the decision to do it, to holding my hand while I cried wondering why I did it, to sharing all the victories through this first half of the journey, to sharing a plate of fajitas with me when we go out so I don’t have to deal with leftovers. I also have a group of about 15 friends (yes, I’m very lucky, we’re all very close) that know and have been NOTHING but fabulous and supportive.
This second half will be harder than the first, but I’m ready. I’m sure I will still be trying to get the last pounds off in a year, heck probably even in two years. But it’s about the journey, not the destination. I’m 36 years old, I’m not 18. I’m never going to have the body of an 18 year old.
So, if you have a question, ask in the comments – or even email me (I have resources and another blog that I’ve posted on as I went along this crazy ride) – and I’ll answer, but these are the usual questions I get asked:
1. You were always kind of a foodie, do you miss eating food? — nope, I still enjoy frou-frou food sometimes. I just eat less of it. In fact, I can eat anything I want, including dessert. I try not to right now while I’m losing so I only indulge sporadically. I also am avoiding white carbs for the same reason.
2. My aunt’s cousin from my dog’s side of the family had bypass and cannot eat anything but baby food now, aren’t you worried about that? — Not really, I can eat 2-6 oz of food at a time now. 2 oz of dense meat (like steak or chicken), a little more if it’s fish or veggies. Also, I have less food restrictions and issue as those that have had bypass or the band. There’s no food that’s truly “off limits”, but I do make smarter choices now.
3. Wow, 4 oz on average? Aren’t you hungry? — That’s kind of cool the part! When they removed my stomach, they removed most of the stretchy part of the stomach, leaving a sleeve. Ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone is stored in that stretchy part… so I really don’t get that gnawing hunger I used to have. I do get kind of a nagging “you need to eat” feeling now and then, but there are times when I honestly forget to eat at all. Sounds good, but it’s not because I have certain protein requirements that I have to meet. It’s a challenge sometimes!
4. What about going bald? I’ve heard you lose your hair when you have surgery. — That’s one of the down sides. I will not go bald, but my hair has thinned a lot. It’s a big part of the reason that I had it cut shorter. It’s not really noticable, but yes, my hair is falling out a good clip. It should stop soon.
5. Wow, so you’ll be at your goal in another five months? — not exactly, I lost a LOT in the beginning and (as is normal), it’s slowed down to 2-3 pounds per week on average. I lose about 10 pounds per month. So, that’s perfectly normal and will slow down even more as time goes by. This surgery is NOT a cure. It’s a tool that I have to use and use properly in order to lose the weight. It takes time. I have time. It took me 36 years to get so overweight, I’m okay with it taking a few years for me to lose it.
6. So, what about loose skin? That aunt’s cousin’s said she had a lot of nasty gross skin. — yeah, this is true and yes, it’s not exactly attractive. BUT here’s my theory on it. I can walk around severely obese and unhealthy or I can walk around with loose flapping skin and be healthy and more fit. Kind of a no brainer, right? And yes, I will likely look at plastic surgery to help because it’s going to be a very big problem for me when I reach goal. It is kind of fun to flap my arms at my husband though. Tom has been amazing and we’ve had nothing but fun with the whole thing (and he’s been there for the bad times too!)
7. You don’t dump or whatever it’s called? — Nope, but I have had two times now when I’ve eaten too fast or too much (you know, that mindless eating we all do from time to time – lesson learned!) and it gets stuck or it something happens and I spend an hour or two in severe pain. It stinks, but it’s temporary and a reminder that I have to pay attention. It’s also one of the few times I can remember regretting the surgery – I’m fine afterwards, but in that moment, it’s pretty bad. Note: This differs from person to person, some people never have any problems, others have to be even more careful than I am.
8. How do I get information about the surgery? I might be interested. — If you’re in Austin, contact me and I’ll tell you about the support groups and my doctor. Otherwise, follow the couple of links I posted above. There’s also great information (and some not so great) at http://www.obesityhelp.com - I will tell you that while it really is the best decision I’ve made, it was one that *I* had to be ready for. This would not have worked for me two years ago. It had to be the right time. It’s a huge commitment on your part and not something to just decide to do one day. It doesn’t work like that.
And the cool parts of this whole thing:
1. Not worrying about if I’ll fit in a restaurant booth or chairs with arms
2. Not feeling like my life revolves around food
3. My daughter sitting ON my lap (cuz I have one now!)
4. Not buying the biggest size in the plus size clothing store
5. Jeans. Real Jeans. Just sayin’
6. Finding out how much I enjoy walking and exercising now that I can move
7. Having so much more energy to play with the kids and do the things I want/need to do
8. Being able to wear my grandmother’s wedding rings (they are too loose now for my ring finger, actually)
9. Not needing a seat belt extender for airplane trips
10. Noticing I have a collarbone!
11. Within one week, I was off ALL of my high blood pressure medications. Serious.
12. Walking 5Ks and riding a bike (I had not ridden a bike in over TWENTY years)
13. And so so so much more…
So, there you have it. I’m glad to have finally “come out of the surgery closet”. I’m lucky to have so many friends, family and various associations that I KNOW will be supportive. I kind of think that writing this post was actually harder than deciding to get the surgery in the first place. I’m proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished – deciding to change your life is really tough but I did it and I feel amazing (I’m doing 5ks here people!) – Just as an aside too, my life doesn’t revolve around my weight or surgery so please, when we see each other, let’s talk about other stuff too — AND if we are ever out and you’re not that hungry, know I’m your girl to split some fajitas
I am too chicken to share before and after photos yet (I still do have quite a ways to go, I know… this is my hang up still), BUT I will take that first step and share this one. This is my lap in the car. I used to need a seat belt extension. My stomach also used to also barely graze the steering wheel. The steering wheel has been THE coolest measurement for how far I’ve come because it’s something I can see and measure and notice every day. If you’re on Facebook, you can see photos from 6 months to a year ago. HUGE difference – also my video blog (I’ll do a new one next week, the last one on there is from 2-3 months ago).