On March 6th, 2017 I had my first appointment with a Bariatric doctor. About a month before that, I sat with mother at Candy’s Country Kitchen eating French toast with cinnamon butter and discussing my options for weight loss.
Weight was heavily hung on my shoulders for most of my life. I was always the largest size in cheering uniforms; I was always picked last in gym class because I was slow; I was always afraid to go prom dress shopping with friends because they could fit in juniors sizes and I had to shop in the ladies department; I couldn’t wear high heels to frat houses in college because my weight used to crush my feet on these shoes causing immense pain.
I had hit a breaking point around the end of 2016 – and no matter how hard I tried to lose the weight on my own, I simply couldn’t (it’s been like this all my life). I would lose about 15 pounds at a time and then gain it back so quickly after one cheat meal. I couldn’t live like this – the yo-yoing, the intense mental battles of “I’m fine the way I am” and “I’m unhealthy the way I am”, the long looks in the mirror with criticizing eyes, the feeling of not fitting (literally) in anywhere I went.
With the help of my parents, I made the courageous decision to have a lifesaving surgery. I met with a doctor every month for 5 months, passed physical and mental health exams, attended support sessions, and was challenged to lose weight prior to my surgery. Once I got through all the hoops, that’s when I realized how badly I truly wanted to lose this weight and how much I was ready to change my life for the better.
I’m currently 6 months post-op. I have lost 71 pounds. I have gone from a size 18 to a size 10 pants and a XXL shirt to a Medium. I have gone from barely being able to jog a quarter mile to being able to easily run 2 miles on a regular basis. I am healthier and feeling better every day.
I’ve learned and experienced so much on this “journey”. I used to roll my eyes at the weight loss blogs that refer to this grueling battle as a “journey” but as I stand so very far away from where I started, I realize that “journey” is the perfect word to describe it. I want to share with you some things I’ve learned from losing a large amount of weight with the help of surgery.
My goal is not to convince anyone to undergo weight loss surgery. My goal is not to convince anyone to try and lose weight. My goal is to maybe change your opinion of bariatric help in people’s lives and maybe even help someone out there realize and prepare that weight loss is an amazing and wonderful thing but can also be confusing and scary at times.
Below is a list of a whole shit load of stuff on weight loss and weight loss surgery – tips & tricks, truths, my feelings, etc.
- People will treat you different.
- Important people will treat you the same. The people who helped you get there, the people who you wanted to tell about your important choices, the people who never questioned your choices, the people who celebrate your success – keep those ones around.
- You may not see yourself as any different as the day you started – that’s why you need to take before and after pictures. It’s important to view your progress this way. Looking at yourself day to day won’t help you see a change. Compare a picture from 4 months ago to one you took today!
- Vegetables and grilled chicken get super boring so invest in seasonings and get a Pinterest. There are so many ideas for healthy meals out there. Experimenting with various recipes is fun.
- For those wondering – yes I still drink alcohol. This is a personal choice and it also means I have to work harder on my food diet and weekly water intake than people who choose not to drink. Balance is key in anything in your life. I’ve found success by trusting myself to be able to balance out things that I enjoy doing socially with the things I need to do for my health.
- For those wondering – yes it sometimes feels really weird to digest. I have a tiny stomach and I can’t eat as much or as fast as other people anymore. I get a lot of leftovers which makes my “meal prep” easy. Speaking of…
- Meal prepping sucks. By Thursday those green beans you sautéed on Sunday are gross and soggy and you’ll start to resent your meal prepping. I always make my dinner and then take the other half for lunch the next day.
- The first 48 hours after surgery are debatably the worst of your life. You’re in pain and even questioning why you did this to yourself. I had struggled with nausea for the first week after surgery and was ticked that I even went through with it. It gets better. And then it gets even better. And then you’re living your best life so just hang on for that small amount of time post-op. It’s worth it.
- The 6 months after are going to be the most challenging of your life. You’ll fight urges. You might not like the same foods you used to love. I just recently discovered that me and riceballs are not friends which is incredibly disappointing, but at the same point for the best. You and your new stomach will find foods and drinks you love. Try everything. Your schedule is going to have to change. You need to wake up earlier to pack up your vitamins and make sure you get in a protein packed breakfast. You need to make sure you get 30 mins of exercise in per day. It’s tough but once you get in a grove, it’ll get easier!
- I might not be able to have French fries everyday but that doesn’t mean I can’t ever have them again. The biggest success I’ve had on my journey is that I don’t feel deprived of anything I love because I choose not to deprive myself. It’s ok to treat yourself every once in a while. (See gif)
- Find a workout program you actually enjoy – or you’ll never go. I signed up for Planet Fitness and was just wandering around day to day not really seeing any results or feeling like I was working out well enough. I joined OrangeTheory Fitness and that has changed my life because I love the classes and leave feeling like I got a good workout in.
- Having weight loss surgery won’t fix your relationship with food. You need teach yourself to eat slowly, to not snack constantly, to replace an afternoon coffee with an afternoon water, etc. I still love food and am a huge foodie. I still find time to enjoy things I love while also discovering new, healthy meals that I also love. Losing weight won’t change the fact that you constantly think about food or your urges to snack or the convenience of a McDonald’s drive thru.
- You’ll lose your hair. Any major change in your body will cause your body to freak out and focus on things that are life sustaining functions – unfortunately hair growth isn’t life sustaining. Hair loss sucks and can be scary. My hair is a little thinner now and it’s texture has changed but it’s important to remember it’s a temporary process. As your body adjusts to the major change it will start to support hair growth again.
- Losing weight is expensive. I have gone through stages of clothing sizes and replacing pants, shirts, BRAS, UNDERPANTS, even shoes is VERY expensive. Not to mention that you pay for health in America – healthy food choices will always cost you more.
- People will ask a lot of questions and you are not obligated to tell them anything if you don’t want to. You don’t owe John that you met 4 times senior year of college any explanation on how you lost your weight. If you want to tell him how you did it- great! If you don’t, just accept his compliments and say you’ve made good choices for yourself (because that’s the truth)!
- I was 24 when I had this surgery and 23 when I decided I wanted it. I had received a lot of comments from people thinking that I was too young to take control of my health and have such a drastic surgery. Age is a number and there’s never a better time than the present to put yourself and your health first. Do not listen to people who don’t support you.
- Take the compliments. But trust me they get annoying. After the millionth compliment I’ve gotten a little tired of it and I know that makes me sound ungrateful and rude. Sometimes it can just be a lot all at once and sometimes it makes me feel like I looked awful back when I had a lot more weight on me. But it’s important to take people’s compliments to heart and gratefully thank them. There are going to be times when you’re going to look back on those compliments when you need them to lift your spirits on bad body image days or days when you just need a smile.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people – it’s been affecting you forever and it needs to stop.
- Remember that weight loss can only improve your physical health in minimal aspects – remember to treat your entire body and soul kindly. Fuel your body with healthy foods and do your workouts. Take your vitamins and drink your water. Compliment yourself and be positive. Ask for help if you need it.
- You might think you’ve gotten to your goal weight and the work is over but you’re on this journey for life. Create good habits now that you can carry on down the road with you.
- Some people will question your choices or even judge you. Tell those people to fuck off because…
- A lot of people will think you’re brave, inspiring, and amazing. Because you’ve made a very brave decision and are now inspiring others to get to the best version of themselves and that’s an amazing thing.
- The most important opinion is the one you have of yourself. Live your life how you choose to do it. If I had listened to any of the people that were questioning my choices a year ago, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
- It is you who has the power to make change – you may have a lot of help along the way but you are the true catalyst for change in your life. I was the one to call St. Luke’s for a consultation. I was the one who followed up and went to all 12 appointments before surgery. I was the one who recovered and focused on following my doctor’s orders. I was the one who incorporated an exercise regimen in my routine. I am the one who chooses high-protein and fresh meals every time I go to eat. Everyone has power to make a change but it’s those who choose to use that power that get to where they want to go (is that a line from Spiderman? Or maybe Harry Potter?) You will be your own worst enemy and your best friend. You will be your biggest cheerleader and your harshest critic. You have the power of choice –protein or sweets, cooking or taking out, work out or watch Netflix, chocolate or vanilla, healthy choices or unhealthy choices. Decide.
I have 0 regrets. I fit comfortably in airplane seats now. I can wear the clothes I’ve always wanted to wear. I feel active and healthy now. I can walk into a store and know I can fit in the clothes. I have become a better cook. I go out and have a really good time because I’m not self-conscious in a room full of strangers. My life has improved but that doesn’t mean I still don’t have some struggles.
I still struggle day to day with choices I’ve made. I feel so different than I used to be but at the same time I know I’m the same person. I’m not the fastest beer chugger in the crowd anymore but I still like to have fun with my friends. I don’t go to the sub shop next to my office where I was a regular, but instead have become a regular at a salad house about 5 blocks away. I don’t have to force myself to wear flowy unflattering shirts and dresses every day, but I still love to wear a nice sack dress from time to time. I’ve changed, but I’ve learned to find myself through the change.
To anyone wanting to learn more about weight loss surgery or my journey, feel free to talk to me about it. I’m an open book and will be honest with you about the benefits and the challenges.
To anyone not considering surgery but still wanting to make a change, feel free to talk to me about it. I will let you know all my healthy meal tricks and day to day routines.
At the end of the day, your health is what keeps you on earth. Anything can happen and we could all die tomorrow, but if you have a chance to see tomorrow, wouldn’t you want to do everything you can to make sure you’re healthy enough to get there? When it comes to your health be selfish and make choices for you. Making this choice has challenged me, scared me, but ultimately saved me. And it was me all along- I saved me.