Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Long Time Coming

This post will be long.  Be forewarned.  If you doze off or get bored and decide to stop reading, that's perfectly fine. 

But at least you can say you knew at the start.

It is also about a controversial subject, of sorts.  If you agree with my stance, fine.  If not, fine. 

I'll still love you anyway, as I hope you will me.

As you can tell, this could get a little serious.  I'll try to interject humor whenever possible, but please be forewarned of the possibility of seriousness as well.  See paragraph #1 for further instructions.


Let's begin.

All of my life I have had a weight problem.

One of my earliest recollections is being at my paternal grandparents' home.  The table was spread with every kind of edible thing you could imagine, and almost all of it was fried or cooked with bacon grease.  This is the mark of a true Southern family.  I sit at the table and eat until I literally cannot breathe.  By doing this, I get attention from not only my grandparents, but also my father.  The same father who is about to leave me and my sister there so he can go "fishing."
My father worked nights when I was growing up.  He'd go in at 3:30 p.m. and not come home until late at night.  Because of this, in order for us to have dinner together as a family we'd eat as soon as my sister and I got home from school.  Dad worked part-time jobs during the day in order to make ends meet, whether that was cutting trees or roofing houses.  Most days he'd come in just in time to take a fast bath and wolf down a meal, then head to work. 

When I was in grade school I'd try to eat as fast as he did and as much as he did during those late afternoon dinners, trying to get some attention from him.  All I succeeded in doing was making myself fat.

I already had what I called the "fat gene" from Dad's side of the family.  Grandma and Grandpa were morbidly obese.  Dad today weighs around 350 lbs.  Mom's side of the family was petite - mostly short and skinny.  Sis ended up with Dad's height and Mom's weight.  I ended up with Mom's height and Dad's weight.  Sis was always tall and skinny, while I was always short and fat.

Fast forward to my high school years.  I weighed in at 135, but I was a size 14.  To say I was a curvy 5'4" would be accurate.  With my first child I gained 30 lbs. that didn't go away.

And it just went downhill from there.

That's when the interminable dieting started.  And with each and every attempt at diet, my weight went up even more. Weight Watchers, Atkins, health food diets, South Beach, cabbage soup, starvation, exercise, countless gyms, running, walking hundreds of miles, aerobics, machines, enemas, diet drugs, books, tapes, classes, Jenny Craig, Christian programs, hypnosis, prayer, meditation, blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah.........WHY CAN'T I JUST HAVE MORE SELF-DISCIPLINE?  WHY CAN'T I JUST TRUST GOD MORE?  WHY CAN'T I...WHY CAN'T I...WHY CAN'T I...

It got to the point where I gave up.  I flat out GAVE. UP.  I decided I would have to live my life as a fat person.  An unhappy-on-the-inside-wishing-I-was-dead-instead-of-fat person.  Someone who could write happy, but someone who was so very depressed.

I weighed in at 233 lbs., and I wore a size 20 on a good day, well on my way to a 22.

I could barely walk most days.  My asthma was not under control.  I had developed rheumatoid arthritis.  Sleep apnea had been diagnosed as well.  I was on more medication than a pharmacy.

And then...

Eighteen months ago I heard about a surgery that was being performed.  It was fairly new, only around 8 years old.  Success rates were very good, so I looked into it further.  I researched it for over six months.  I spoke with surgeons, people all over the country who had the surgery, read articles on the history of the surgery and all of the problems that could be associated with it or attributed to it.

I did my homework.  And lo, it was good.

The surgery was called vertical sleeve gastrectomy, also known as VSG or simply the sleeve.  In it, 75% - 85% of a person's stomach is removed, leaving a small, banana-shaped stomach that holds about a cup of food at a time.  The surgery is not reversible. 

The reasons for me choosing this surgery are endless, but here are a few:
  • Unlike the gastric band, there is no foreign object inserted into the body.  There is also no risk of the band eroding into the stomach or the port dislocating.  There is no need for fills and there is no problem finding the "sweet spot."  I have no problem with getting food stuck.
  • Unlike the gastric bypass (aka RNY), there is no "re-routing" involved.  I will still be able to take NSAIDs and will not suffer from dumping syndrome.  The part of my stomach that is left is not able to stretch as much as a pouch does, so the liklihood that I will end up failing the way Carnie Wilson did is much less.  Recent studies have shown a tendency for RNY patients to become hypoglycemic over time.  Malabsorption of vitamins and other nutrients can also be a problem for those with RNY.
This surgery, as any other surgery, is a tool.  It is not "the easy way out" or a "quick fix" of any kind.  It is a concious, life-altering decision to utilize the means I can to get myself to a healthy weight. 

And it's one I have been thankful for EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since I made the decision to do it in 2010.  It is a gift.

After countless hours of research, I then had to go through six months of doctor-supervised diet, nutritional counseling with a dietician, exercise counseling with an exercise physiologist, and mental health testing to make sure I wasn't nuts.  Or too nuts to have the surgery.

Surprisingly, I passed.

In September of last year I heard that my insurance had approved me for surgery.  I scheduled it for December 27th, preceeded by a two-week liquid diet.  Over Christmas.

Oh yes, I did.

I told my boss, but only because I was going to have to take two weeks off on vacation in a row and I was going to skip the Christmas party because I couldn't eat.  I told our immediate family and a couple of very close friends, but no one else.  If you're in our extended family and you're reading this now....SURPRISE!!!  It all had to do with the dietfaildietfaildietfail cycle everyone has seen me do time and time and time again.  I just didn't want to be judged for trying again, knowing that people were going to think I'd just keep it off for a while and fail.  I hope you understand.

So, surgery went well.  It took me a little while to adjust to the "new" stomach, but now that I have it's as if it's been this way my entire life.  And there's a distinct difference from every other DIET I've ever had.

Before, I ate until I could eat no more, and then I ate some more.  Now I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full.  It's a totally new concept to me.  One I have fallen in love with completely and totally.

One that has helped me lose 50 pounds so far.  One that has helped me get into a size 14 - a size I haven't seen since before my 19 year old daughter was born.  One that I can maintain for the rest of my life with absolutely no guilt or shame.  I CAN DO THIS.  I CAN.  I CAN I CAN.

And I AM.


Linds said...

Wow. WOW!!!!!! Good for you, girl - I want to see photos!! I am so thrilled for you, you know - that you have made it work for you, because it takes huge courage and commitment too. Well done! Photos. Did I mention the photos?
Your rotund friend across the water.

Debbie said...

Good for you Chris! I had lap band surgery in 2009 and have lost 50 lbs. I still need to lose about 25 more, but I'm going to have to work to get those off! Good luck to you! It's amazing how much better you are going to feel!

Susanne said...

I'm so happy for you Chris! Here's to a healthy, happy you!