It's hard to believe that a year ago today my entire life as I knew it changed. Where do I even begin to jot down/describe/explain/rationalize what the last year of my life has been since my gastric bypass surgery? In two words, that will still never come close to truly expressing the person I have been allowed to become, the past year has been life altering.
In the course of 12 months I have loved myself, hated myself, loved my future, resented my past, sought the silver lining, avoided the Little Debbie snack cakes, ran like a maniac (both from my past and into my future), learned how to hang out in downward dog without sweating, turning blue and passing out, almost always chose the fresh veggies over the frozen pizza, said no to chocolate, cake and pie, grown out of my shoes, my friends, my wardrobe and sometimes, my sanity and learned to live with the addiction I have to food without hating myself for allowing my world to revolve around it for so long….just to name a few.
I can’t do this long ago promised blog justice without explaining the vast and expansive range of emotions that came along with each and every month of this journey. This journey which has only just begun to scratch the surface of the rest of my (hopefully) very long and healthy life. But before I do that, let’s get “the number” out of the way because I swore that if I came this far, and achieved my goals, I would share it with the world despite my own personal insecurities and humiliation at its revelation.
12 months ago, as I stepped on the scale, sucked in my gut so I could read the number and held my breath like I was competing on The Biggest Loser, the scale scathingly glared back at me with the number……..
There, I said it. It’s out there in the universe and I wouldn’t take it back. Because it might someday be the one thing that keeps me from ever ending up back there again.
Today, 12 months, a 5k, approximately 100 yoga lessons, much sweat, speed walks, weight training that strained muscles I didn’t know I had and various sizes of yoga pants later the scale was much kinder when it read back to me…….
I have gone from a 26/28 in clothing to an 8/10. In 12 months. Yessir.
Now, once you have picked your jaw up off of the floor and stopped whispering “Jesus Christ” and “Holy Fuck” at the computer screen, let me tell you just how gut wrenchingly, mind blowing, fuck-me-seven-ways-from-Sunday HARD this was. From the beginning people made comments or jokes (or comments disguised as jokes which were actually truth) about the fact that I “cheated” my way out of being fat. When I think of cheating, I picture the hot football jock with one hand up the head cheerleaders skirt, while he peers over the shoulder of a pocket protector wearing nerd jotting down his answers right before the big homecoming game. Easy peazy.
I picture all the crazy people who get colonic enemas and go to fat farms and pop pills until their heart is racing like a ticking time bomb, or wacked out celebs that live on cabbage soup or water induced with hot sauce for weeks. These people aren’t learning how to live. They are learning how to cheat the system so they can “win” for a little while. They are cheating a system that can’t be cheated, and always seem to end up back where they started looking for the next quick fix.
What I did was take control of my life. I learned how to live the right way. And maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the surgery, but rather than allowing the surgery to fix me, I used it as a tool to learn how to fix myself. It opened doors and windows and very large gates into a world that I had only been able to peer at over fences for so long. It allowed me to learn how to rationalize my love affair with food, and choose a long term monogamous marriage with a healthier life. This surgery became every voice in my head all screaming at the same time and vying for my attention until they were exhausted and passed out and I could take the time to filter through them and figure out where things went so horribly wrong.
And while I promised to reveal my weight and my journey, my demons will remain my own. Because I have confronted them, compartmentalized them, dealt with them, and dismissed them. And I will NEVER do that again. Because on more than occasion it almost broke me. I wasn’t sure I would make it to write this blog some days, but I am here, and I am strong and I intend to stay that way.
So, here is what the last year has been like for me month by month:
Month 1: This month still remains a blur of confusion, tears and oh-my-sweet-baby-Jesus-what-have-I-done? I felt like I was swimming in sugar free jello, sugar free pudding, meal replacement shakes, hormones, questions, cheese sticks and an overwhelming need to lock myself in a room alone and bounce off of rubber walls until I figured out what had just happened and how I was going to adjust. I remember about 2 weeks after surgery we celebrated my sons 10th birthday. We ordered Pay-Per-View wrestling, ordered pizza and wings, and had all his favorite snacks. I was ok through the pizza and wings as I slowly sipped on my Atkins shake but within the blink of an eye, I suddenly had a want for chips and dip so badly that I completely melted down and cried for about two hours. It was the first time the reality of what I had done hit me square in the gut and knocked me for the first of many loops.
Month 2: Still in a daze, I was getting excited about what the future had in store for me. I was able to start eating chicken and refried beans and soft veggies, and I had never in my life been so grateful for these options. I was walking regularly, my legs weren’t hurting me as much, and I had lost about 25 pounds and come under 300 pounds. Life was good!
Month 3: Somewhere in this month, I had lost 50 pounds. 50-FUCKING-POUNDS!! I had never been able to lose 50 pounds in my entire adult life so, while I was still a big girl, I was rocking every curve I had and I was SO proud of myself. I was finally allowed to start eating according to the “Lifestyle Plan” so I was able to choose from more foods, but I was still so scared about choosing the wrong things that I pretty much stuck to chicken, veggies, yogurt and cheese. I also had some hardships in this month, because I would look at myself and wonder how I could lose 50 pounds and still be such a fat, lumpy mess of a woman. My mind started working overtime and it was only the beginning of the mental journey.
Months 4-5: I was on a roll! I was getting into the groove of exercising regularly. I was enjoying the freedom that came from being smaller and being able to tie my shoes without holding my breath. I loved that I could not only button my smaller jeans but was able to sit in them without cutting off the blood flow to my abdomen. I was feeling happy and positive and not at all expecting what was about to happen in the months to come. I was busy with the planning of one sisters baby shower and the other sisters bridal shower and wedding. I was this close to losing 100 pounds and I could taste the victory in the same way I can still close my eyes and taste the rich indulgence of a fatty, sugar filled éclair.
Month 6: Two weeks before my baby sisters wedding I was at a 95 pound weight loss. My goal had been to lose 100 pounds by the time I hit six months. So, naturally, I stopped losing weight altogether. The fact that I was now 222 pounds and had gone from a size 26 dress to an 18 fell on deaf ears. That damn five pounds haunted me and taunted me for a month. It stuck to my ass like cottage cheese and became the bane of my existence. I went through a lot of physical and mental turmoil (self created, of course) in remembering that even after I had lost all this weight, I was still fat. And I looked in the mirror and felt disgust rather than pride. Instead of seeing a smaller waist, a tighter ass, firmer legs and stronger arms, I still just saw the extra skin, the stretch marks, the permanent reminders of cancers and surgeries past, and the fact that I had in fact, put my body through hell. But then:
Months 7-9: This was by far the best part of my entire journey thus far. About two weeks after I passed the six month mark and was ready to give up the fight and indulge in a Real Housewives marathon and a box of Ho Ho’s, I started dropping weight faster than a paying man drops his pants for a pricey hooker. I had the food thing down pat, I was trying new things, I was becoming a certified Yoga freak, I was active and constantly on the go, I was working, I was running, I was just a maniac. And in those two months I dropped over 30 pounds. I got down to a size 14 which is a size I hadn’t seen almost since I was 14. For the first time in almost 20 years, I was able to say without hesitation that I was happy. Truly and genuinely happy.
Months 10-12: These months have been monumental, not so much in weight loss, but in gaining perspective. The weight slowed down (no thanks to Thanksgiving dinner, holiday goodies and Christmas ham!), but I started noticing muscular changes in my body. The number on the scale didn’t always seem to coincide with the work I was putting in, but my clothes were fitting differently and I was losing inches pretty steadily. I struggled daily with accepting who I was becoming and learning to love my body despite all the things I could still find wrong with it. I’m embracing the changes I have made and battling that inner fat girl with all the new muscle and strength I have found in this last year.
There are days when I am constantly reminded that the decision I made is one I am going to have to live with for the rest of my life, and I don’t know that I have fully come to terms with that. I have been so focused on just getting through the first year, and making the most of the time I had when you lose the most weight, that I pushed the rest of it aside. Every once in awhile, it hits me that I’m not the fat girl anymore. On the outside anyway. It occurs to me that I will never be able to have a real “cheat day”. I will never just be able to go to dinner and order appetizers and a meal and dessert and drinks, and not end up with my head in the toilet throwing it all up, clutching my aching gut and living with regret for the next couple of days. I will never be able to celebrate all the little things in life with food, as I was accustomed to doing for 35 years of my life. Nothing will ever be the same. I’m not saying that isn’t a good thing, just that it will be different and I can’t predict how long it will be (if ever) before I really come to terms with it.
When I look back on old pictures, it still makes me very emotional. I am immediately overcome with a tsunami of emotions ranging from pride to sorrow. I embrace the person I have become but still feel a sense of shame over the person I was. It makes me wonder how I ever let myself not only get so big, but get so unhealthy. How did I not notice what I was doing to myself all those years? How on earth did I gain 170+ pounds over the course of 15 years and never once say ENOUGH? And then, I have to remember that asking the questions won’t change the past. What is done is done, and my job now is to look forward into the future and embrace this gift that has been given to me because truthfully, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if I will somehow lose sight of all these victories and defeats and go back to being a 300 pound woman battling depression and old demons. I don’t know if I will lose more and become an advocate for an active, healthy lifestyle. I just don’t know. The only thing I can predict is how I will feel today. How I will handle this very moment in time, and how I will somehow mentally document it and appreciate it. Because in this very moment, I like who I am. I like the perfectly imperfect person I have become. And while I will always be the fat girl on the inside, I now know fully that I can be someone different on the outside. Not just in the way I look or dress, but in the way I portray myself to others. I can change the person I see when I look in the mirror by altering my perception of who I thought I always was. I’m stronger not only physically, but mentally. I feel like if I made it through this, I can make it through anything.
There was a time that being called a “cheater” for having this surgery destroyed me. It hurt on a level so deep that I thought the wound would never stop bleeding. But today, I realize that I would only have been cheating myself if I hadn’t made this decision. So, label me world. Call me what you will, pass your judgements, whisper behind my back when I walk by, writhe in your jealousies and insecurities, and call me all the names you want because in the end, I made a decision that best suited me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I feel like despite it all, I am the same person I always was, just more informed and in a smaller body. I still laugh at my own jokes, make up songs about my dogs and my kids in random moments of silliness, fart in public when I think no ones around, wear full butted underwear, get hard nipples when I see a pretty cupcake, and can't take a compliment even on the rare occasion that I believe it. I'm still just me. I'm quirky and a little nerdy, aggressive and dominant, bitchy and pushy, overbearing and hyper, happy and sad, and always unpredictable. Now I'm just harder to catch and easier to push out of your way. All in a days work. Or 365 days work. But whose counting :)