Three years ago today, weighing 409, down from a high of 506, I was wheeled down the hall for my gastric bypass surgery saying, “I want to go to PARIS. I want to go to MILAN.” I hope you all don’t mind taking a look back at these three years with me, at the ups and downs of massive weight loss. And please accept my apologies for its length. I promise to keep future posts short.
My surgery was easy. Others aren’t so lucky, nor do they have the great results I did. This is just one person’s experience.
Perhaps the biggest post-op issue I had was fear, and I don’t mean of dying. I mean the fear of eating the wrong things, of this drastic measure not working, of screwing it up. In short, the fear of failure. So, I read, and re-read, and memorized, the handbook that the surgery center had given me. Get that protein in. Drink water. Exercise. Chew chew chew. Learn to read your body. Figure out how to make this work.
So, I learned that I needed 15 grams of protein every 3 hours or so to stay upright. I didn’t get actually HUNGRY, but dizzy. Another friend gets cold. Learn your body.
For the first 6 weeks, I lost about 10 pounds per week. That’s 60 pounds in 6 weeks, folks. I stopped recognizing myself. The day soon came when I walked up to an office building, with long glass doors, and reached out to open it and stopped dead. That wasn’t my reflection. Who was behind me? Who was IN FRONT OF ME??? I felt like Lucille Ball – reaching out, then pulling back, testing that reflection. Thank goodness no one was around!
And where were my boundaries? You KNOW what I mean. You walk up to a narrow space and you eyeball. Subway turnstiles are notoriously narrow. So are hallways at work, with shelving and that inevitable mail cart left randomly around. Can I fit? Can I fit? And when I did, guess how many times I went back and forth in the same space just out of shock? Let’s not discuss the fact that clothes had to literally fall off my body before I’d admit that maybe they didn’t fit — and bought clothes that were 3-4 sizes smaller!
My doctors were impressed, and several of them asked what my ‘secret’ was. That was surprising, because for once in my life, I actually had done EXACTLY what they’d told me to do! But I said one thing that they said made all the difference: I never thought about where I would be in 6 months, or a year, or longer. I kept focused on TODAY. That one step, today’s protein and water, one meal, today’s exercise.
People’s reactions to me are so different. Before, few really looked me in the eye, or acknowledged me as a human being. They’d slam doors in my face, or make animal noises, or not let me move past them (rather funny when you consider that people with backpacks on have no concept of their boundaries, but they resent the space that heavy people take up!). Nowadays, strangers talk to me, and smile if they catch my eye. It’s nice, but I can’t trust them. Not really. Not yet.
A wise woman once told me that heavy people have absolutely no sense of their bodies. She’s right. How many of us literally rise above the pain we’re in? How many of us ignore the discomfort so that we can simply get on with our lives? I’d also add that I’ve never met a seriously overweight person who put themselves first in their lives. It’s always about someone else: the children, the parents, the job, the spouse. We pay attention to everyone except ourselves!
Have you noticed I haven’t said anything about the food? That’s because it’s not really about the food. Don’t get me wrong, eating right is critical to the success of this process, but it’s not THE KEY. Nope. The key is to relearn everything you knew about emotions, coping, choices, body hunger, stress management, triggers, and what food is REALLY about in your life.
And then figure out how to handle your life in ways that are healthy and happy. Relationships have to change in order for this to work. It’s not possible to be a people-pleasing fat person (Thank you, Karen in SF!) anymore. Those people who brushed me aside, or took me for granted have to deal with the fact that I’m dealing with them, my life, my stresses much differently. It’s not always pleasant, but let’s face it, I didn’t do this to hurt them or to make their lives more difficult, but rather to save myself.
So what’s next? It’s maintenance, with a minor obsession of losing another 20-30 pounds the old-fashioned way. Something to spend the rest of my life doing on a low simmer. But the most important, and hardest, task is to connect mind and body so that each part can take care of the other in balance and harmony. So far, this path seems to require massages and core-type exercises.
Oh. And let’s not forget the plastic surgery. The 15-20 pounds of excess skin around my middle MUST go. Followed by a shopping spree. Perhaps that trip to Milan or Paris when all is said and done!