I talked about this a little in my previous post “To Blog or Not to Blog”, but I think I’ll elaborate a little. And lucky for you readers, I think I’ll break my own rule about not allowing fat pictures to be posted. Yes, I have a rule.. my family will tell you they have been given STRICT orders.
I have always had weight issues, well at least that’s my perception. I remember being heavy as a small child, feeling out of place and being teased a lot for not looking like the other girls. Here’s the kicker – when I look back now at photos and see what I looked like, I really wasn’t abnormal. In fact I was pretty adorable if I do say so myself. In some ways I feel a little cheated now. If I had somehow been mentally programmed to have great self esteem and a realistic body image, maybe I never would have ended up overweight later in my life.
The perception thing is really the killer here. I’ve spent my whole life feeling a part from the world, and it was really just me.. all screwed up on the inside. My internal idea of what I looked like really had nothing to do with reality until my twenties. In fact, I have always thought that my weight gain started when I started using, but when I was looking at photos just last night I saw proof positive that the weight started pouring on after I got clean. I turned to food in the absence of being able to do drugs to hide or mask my feelings.
This picture was taken when I was about 13 or 14. I really remember feeling like I was gigantic. Of course I will add that I was already using at this point, so clearly that would have an impact on self image. But it goes back to the question – What if I had been raised to be self assured and confident?
- Would I have become an addict?
- Would I have become fat?
- Would I have made such poor choices in my life?
I’m completely stumped on the answers, and the what if’s really don’t matter in my life today. I’m dealing with my history but it’s still an interesting question to pose. And you can believe that when I tried to do the responsible parenting for Katie (my step daughter), I tried to do it the right way. For me I think it’s all the more reason to raise our female children with love and kindness and teach them to be confident and self assured. My parents really did the best that they could, I don’t blame them for anything. I really just look at it as “it is what it is” and move through it, I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m trying to place blame, it’s not about that for me.
Another point I’d like to make is that when I didn’t feel good about myself and I thought I was already fat, it caused me to eat more, which made me overweight. So even though I wasn’t very heavy to begin with, it ended up being a self fulfilling prophecy. And the bigger I got, the more unhappy I was. The more unhappy I was, the more I ate.. and round and round and round…
I had completely substituted my drug and alcohol addiction for food addiction.
The turning point for me came when I was 37, I had a friend who had gastric bypass. He was a big man over 400 lbs., one of my best friends and most of the time he seemed fairly happy. We had talked several times about being obese (by the way, I hate that word- but force myself to use it) and we both felt like it was hopeless and overwhelming. My friend wanted to lose about 225 pounds, and I wanted to lose about 200 pounds. I knew that my life was negatively impacted by my weight. Not only was I emotionally unhappy, but physically I didn’t feel well ether. I couldn’t do even the slightest amount of exercise without pain and breathlessness and at work I found myself passed over for promotions that I was qualified for. The social stigma of being overweight was draining on me, I felt people staring and when I went out in public I was always the largest person in the room.
My friend had gastric bypass first, and he was successful right away. He started losing weight, and started exercising. It was incredible to watch, like he was morphing into a completely different person right in front of me. I was inspired! For the first time in many years, I felt hopeful that maybe I could lose weight too if I was able to have a gastric bypass. I called the U of MN Bariatric Surgery Center and made an appointment for an information session with Dr. Henry Buchwald, he was a doctor known for doing successful roux-en-y procedures. It was a long wait until the info session, about 3 months, but worth the wait. I asked all of the questions I had and requested to be considered for the procedure. Dr. Buchwald’s office worked with my insurance company to get approval, which included many blood tests and also a psychological evaluation. I was approved and scheduled for June of 2005, at the time it was about 5 months away.
I underwent the surgery and was in the hospital for just under one week. It was such a relief, for the first time in my life I felt like I could actually have a positive impact on my weight. At the time of the surgery, I weighed 373 pounds – a mind blowing number! I started losing weight as soon as I left the hospital, it was summer time and I started exercising right away. I went back to work after one month, and by that time I had lost about 30 pounds. The weight dropped off pretty fast, by the time I was three months out I had lost 70 pounds. In a year I had lost over 150, now at three years out I have stabilized at about a 200 pound loss.
I remember the day I had an epiphany while sitting in a restaurant with my family. I looked around the room and realized two things:
- That I was not the largest person in the room
- That no one was looking at me like I was a freak
I had finally reached the point where physically I could blend in and it made me really happy. I wasn’t happy just because of the way I looked, although that was part of it, I was happy because I had done something positive for my self image.
My friends now tell me that they have loved watching me go through this change in my life. They loved watching the “incredible shrinking woman”. Some folks that I work with can’t tell that I used to be big, they just assume I’ve always looked like this.. when they find out they are always so curious and supportive.. and shocked.
My friends perceive me as happier, healthier and more grounded. I am for the most part, but I still struggle with body image issues. Even now I still see myself as fat. I am ashamed of the way that I used to look, and more importantly the way I treated myself. On most days I would tell you I still need to lose 20 pounds. I’m terrified of gaining weight, and weigh myself to the ounce each day. I don’t know if I will lose any more weight, like I said – I think it has stabilized. But I think I’ve come to the point where I’d be okay staying at this weight for the rest of my life.