It was not an easy decision, by any means. The funny thing is, doctors have been encouraging me to get weight loss surgery for years but I never wanted to – like so many I thought it was the “easy way out”. I wanted to do this on my own. I wanted the accolades for losing weight the hard way. I wanted to be admired for my determination. Then again, at the time, there were no local doctors that I knew of that would perform the operation on me – I would need to lose a massive amount of weight before I would qualify for the surgery – so I thought – well what’s the point. I was 21. For the next 10 years, I went off and on so many eating plans. None of them stuck past the 40-pound weight loss mark. I was active – swimming, marching in protests, going out. Slowly the activity stopped, as my weight increased it got harder to do more. I never dealt with the mental issues surrounding my weight, correcting the lifetime of horrible eating. I entered my 30’s with infertility caused by polycystic ovary syndrome which I would later learn causes difficulty with losing weight though I had a greater hand than any syndrome would, binge eating disorder with the occasional bulimic episodes – I would eat to capacity, vomit, then eat more. Body aches and pains from carrying around a quarter of a ton on my musculoskeletal system. Worsening depression and body image – feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, feeling ostracized by society and the constant butt of jokes from strangers. Hypertension and elevated cholesterol – so much that I’m on 3 medications just to manage it the blood pressure. Sleep apnea to the point where sleeping on my back would instantly cut off my airway. My highest weight was 514 and I could never get past the 469 mark on the scale. The weight would always slowly creep back up. I thought about the missed opportunities because of my weight – not attending my graduate celebration because I was afraid of fitting in a plane seat, missing out on concerts and entertainment because I couldn’t fit comfortably into seats, not being able to do the activities I would like with my nieces and nephews just because of my inability to walk long distances with the weight gain, simple acts like not being able to paint my toes. Not being able to give back to my community and others in the ways I used to because I’m just tired all the time. And of course, not being able to have the children I’ve always wanted.
Easy way or not, I decided I just needed help. All the help I could get. My very life depended on it. I’m so close to where my mother was when she passed from her obesity. She was only 45. I’m 31. It has to change.
So I started with a trip to my doctor for a physical, then I started counseling with a therapist that specialized in eating disorder treatment and began overeaters anonymous’ 12 step program. I began to work on my mental issues surrounding my weight. Then came the physical. I found a physician in the area specializing in bariatric surgery and made an appointment. After months of waiting, I finally had my consultation. We discussed the process – the hurdles to come, the risks, but also the benefits. Even with gastric sleeve, there was still a possibility that I may need gastric bypass due to the amount of weight I would have to lose and the sleeve may only get me down to a certain weight.
Over the past month and a half, I’ve been through the process of getting the final approval from my insurance. I’ve had meetings with a nutritionist to help me redesign my eating and prepare for the changes that are going to come after surgery. A psychiatrist to ensure I’m mentally ready and have a good chance of success after the process. Blood work, EKG, an endoscopy, and so many medical visits to ensure I’m healthy enough for surgery and in a good mental state.
Unlike the tv shows, I didn’t have a set amount of weight to lose before the surgery. My failures were fully documented for years. I had a medical support team on my side and ready to help. My only goal was to spend time familiarizing myself with the new way of eating I would endure for the rest of my life and implementing small changes to build a lifetime of new habits to replace my old ones.
So this is where I am. I should know within 30 days when I’ll have my surgery and if my insurance has any additional requirements. The most difficult part has been trying to adhere to the 2,000 calorie diet plan with balanced protein and carbs. We’ve been trying to go plant-based but when reviewing our meal plans – they consisted a lot of carbs (pastas, rices, grains). Trying to find more plant-based high protein, low carb has been difficult so we’ve added back in chicken to our diet along with fish. But, I’m listening to what is recommended. Portion size is insanely difficult to manage. While we eat off smaller plates, I’ve noticed we still pile our plates high – that’s our next task to tackle. It’s going to be a long and interesting learning process throughout this experience. But I’m ready, and of course, I’ll be sharing it all with you.