My Journey of Loss, Love and finding the new ME
This is my journey. You may judge me by it, but maybe you can relate to some of it, or maybe it's going to shock you. Either way hopefully something in my story will help you; hopefully you will see that it's not just being overweight that is the hard part; that WLS is not the “easy” way to go and that this decision affects every part of your life.
Life is never perfect; if I could go back, I would tell myself that with losing the weight and transforming into the person I wanted to be comes a whole new set of problems.
I am 34 years old, fairly healthy; I started my wweight loss journey in 2013. I had tried working out, boot camps, over-the-counter medication, weight loss plans and books. Nothing seemed to work for me. I had been married at that point for 13 years, have four beautiful healthy children, and had been pregnant nine times. My body had taken a beating and at only 5'2" tall, the excess weight made me feel like a blimp. I was always hungry. I would eat my meal, and then finish my children's meal as well. It's not that I ate badly, I just ate a LOT.
I decided that I wanted more information on the lap band, but knew that my health insurance had certain steps I had to take before they'd even consider that a possibility. I met with the nutritionist, and we sat down and made a plan. I went on two different prescriptions. One was an appetite suppressant, and the other was an antidepressant with a side effect of decreased appetite. When after a few months of taking medication, going to Boot Camp and logging all of my efforts- did not seem to have much effect on my weight; my nutritionist ran some blood work and decided that I met the criteria for weight-loss surgery.
I was shocked; I did not think for one second that I was heavy enough to qualify for weight-loss surgery. At my heaviest, I weighed 204 pounds. That may not seem like a lot to you, but remember I'm only 5'2"(I'll include some photos so you can see for yourself). My health insurance required that I attend mandatory classes once a week for three months before covering the surgery. These classes taught me how to eat, what to expect, vitamin intake etc. after and before surgery.
I was very excited about the surgery. Right away after starting the classes I decided that the lap band was not for me and that I would go for the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. I thought that it would not only help my eating, but be a permanent change vs. something that has a shorter lifespan (lap-band for example).
I was an active person, but I could've out eaten a lot of people. I was not the first in my family to have the surgery either, six people in my family and close friends had the same procedure done and I knew what to expect going in to it. To my surprise though, I did not get the support what I expected from the family. Suddenly they were anti-surgery, and telling me that I did not need it and that I would regret it. It confused me because I had seen them successful with it and yet they did not want the same for me. Secretly I felt that it was jealousy, or fear that I would suddenly be skinny and then they would feel competitive with me for some odd reason. Everyone was so used to me being a chubby housewife; they didn't need to feel insecure around me. I understood it to the point, I wouldn't feel comfortable going out or being in a bathing suit around super skinny person either, but this was my family. They had no reason to feel insecure around me; we weren't in any sort of competition.
Surgery day came, and I was ready and excited. It was relatively smooth for me, no complications, no excessive pain. The one thing I can say is that everything was too sweet for me for the few months following surgery. My car air freshener was too sweet I felt sick smelling it; all the protein drinks and bars were too sweet. I ended up buying unflavored protein and adding it to my soups and broths, etc. Also, immediately following surgery I was very thirsty. My mouth was always dry and I craved the ability to drink gulps of water, but couldn't. I'd have pain from even drinking one ounce of water too fast, and if I drank cold fluids, I would have that same pain so I stuck to room temperature. I did however find relief in munching on the crunchy ice that I found at my local gas station. It kept my mouth moist and gave me relief.
When the weight started coming off, I couldn't help but smile. I got so used to watching it coming off daily that when it started to slow down a bit I got scared. I realized that my working out had to increase. No longer would the regular walks around the block be enough. That's when I got into a gym that I actually liked. I did not feel insecure there, it was not full of people that I thought were judging me, and it was something that I have actually stuck with now for over a year. I fell in love with Zumba, I fell in love with the staff and felt that I was supported by the people at the gym. I started working out daily and working out hard. I started seeing a difference in my body structure; my stomach muscles were getting defined and my arm muscles were showing. It was very important to me not to have excess skin if I could help it, so I worked really hard and pushed myself at the gym even to the point of throwing up. I had not thrown up from working out before, this was new to me; but it felt great. It felt great to post pictures of my progress and have people comment about my “six-pack”. Was this really me?
Part of my motivation came from social media. Letting friends know I was at the gym, kept me going to the gym. They motivated me. It held me accountable. I also started getting messages from friends that wanted to know more about WLS. I wasn't hiding it, and was sharing my journey. I would post pictures of my progress. I felt proud of my hard work and people wanted to see how I was progressing. That was where some problems started to arise in my marriage. My husband didn't want pictures posted that showed my stomach. He was thinking of them in a way I wasn't.
A problem I did not expect, was having to buy new clothes pretty much weekly. Every week my jeans would be looser and not fit me right, and after losing the weight the last thing you want to do is look heavier than you actually are. I was going shopping buying new clothes smaller and smaller each week, and I was excited that I could actually shop at stores that I never could walk into in the past. When I could fit into a size “0” I almost fainted. It was a proud moment for me. I was thin, but healthy. My doctor checked me regularly and I had muscle tone.
Strangely though, I noticed people starting to treat me a little bit different. Certain family members were very cold towards me suddenly, and pulling away from me and becoming more distant. It felt as though I was getting judged, people thinking that I was losing too much weight, or dressing differently and becoming more “sexy” in my attire. I didn't feel this way though, I felt like I was finally able to dress in style versus dress in overweight sweaters that came down below my waist and loose cut jeans. That was always my thing wearing shirts or sweaters that came down and hung below my waist, made me feel like he was hiding my stomach for some reason. LOL, as if it actually hid the fact that I was fat.
As the people around me started to change, I started to see my marriage for what it was. Not that it was bad, but there were things that I was trying to turn a blind eye to that I no longer feel I needed to. I suddenly felt like I was worth something, and that I didn't need to be turning a blind eye to anything. I felt that I deserved to be happy, and with that in mind so did he. I gained confidence; not that I changed, but I was able to be me for once and not feel worthless. I had felt like I could not live without him, that I couldn't survive. I was codependent and with the weight dropping off I suddenly felt like I could do anything I set my mind to. I felt like if I wasn't happy, I needed to make myself happy and not depend on anyone else to do so. I started to express my needs for more in our marriage and he was so used to our “routine” that he didn't hear me or take me seriously.
People started telling me that I was changing; people started thinking that losing the weight was turning me into a different person. They blamed my decisions on the weight loss, versus just finally standing up for myself. I felt confident enough to go out and dance, confident enough to go have a drink with a friend and not feel like a fat blimp.
My husband had gone through the surgery, and I had seen him lose weight. Our reactions to each other's weight loss were quite different though. When he lost the weight, I wanted to lose weight as well and started working out more and more. But for him, when I lost the weight he got more and more jealous and insecure about himself. Suddenly in his mind I was having affairs, or wanting to be with other people because I was losing weight. Arguments became more and more frequent, and it ended with him becoming cold and pulling away from me more and more. I wanted more in my marriage. I wanted affection, love and an emotional connection.
Everyone around me (besides select few) started talking about me negatively. I was either too skinny, or making bad decisions. It was shocking to me, because they were so used to me doing nothing for myself and staying home while they all went out, that the minute I decided that I wanted one night a week for myself, they could not handle it. Looking back at it all, I realize now that I was expecting my husband to be happy in our marriage, when I was not happy with myself. I feel that in order for you to be happy in your life, you must be happy with yourself. How can I expect him to be happy with me, if I wasn’t?
One night my husband and I got into an argument. I was pouring my emotions out to him and as expected, he just sat and watch TV and when I was done telling him that I needed him to be there emotionally, he told me he did not give a f$&@ and to just go hire an attorney. That was it for me. Something clicked and I just thought to myself, I can do this on my own. I don't want to cry myself to sleep. I want to feel loved. I'm beautiful and smart and I should be with someone who loves me, not with someone because it's routine. So I hired an attorney and so began my “new life”.
Now this is not going to go as you'd think. My husband and I are still together, and happier than ever. But the journey isn't something that I expected.
We separated. He was shocked. I had actually gone through with it. Drawn up and signed papers. Served him and discussed custody. It got ugly and he couldn't see where this came from besides the weight loss. So that's what he told people. Suddenly I had people talking to me about the surgery and divorce statistics. I received emails of the news reports on the surgery and divorce, and people kept telling me that I was making a bad decision. What did they know? They did not realize the lies that were told or things that happened behind closed doors at my house. On the outside we seemed like the perfect marriage, but they didn't know the pain inside. Of course it was easy for them to blame the weight loss, but I don't. I still don't to this day. I do think however that it did give me confidence in myself, and helped me to believe in myself and feel that I had some sort of worth.
While we were separated, I went to out with my friends. Once a week I would have a night out. I would let loose and have fun. Sure, I got hit on, but that wasn't where my mind was. It felt strange to me to have a man approach me, and many times I looked at my friends to rescue me from these moments.
Suddenly I noticed friends and family looking and treating me differently. Friends were now choosing sides. I even had a family member spying on me and relaying all to my husband. People that I thought loved me, didn't bother to a check in with me, but judged me instead.
During this time I kept working out, kept eating right and kept up on my blood work ordered by my doctor to check my progress. My body was transforming into the body I'd always dreamed of. The more weight I lost, the more of my breast size I lost. I went from a DD to a small B cup. The excess skin that I had was on my Breast and my stomach. Sure when I stood up you could see my stomach muscles, but when I sat or bent over, the skin would hang and wrinkle up. I needed plastic surgery. I expected it though, so that wasn't a shock. The price tag was though. I am going to need $14,000 to get my breasts and stomach done. I'm hoping to get the procedure in the next few months. My inner thighs are another area that I have excess skin. There is a surgery for that, but I have decided against it (for now).
I throw up more than usual. I think though that it's because I use my limits. I have a food addiction; it's hard to just take a small bite, even when you know you feel full. My solution when eating out is to box most of my meals right when I get them.
Another side effect I was now going through was hair loss. I noticed it falling out more and more. It was thin and straw like. I started taking hair vitamins, but it kept getting worse. I decided that wearing a wig was a solution that I could afford and one that would not harm what little hair I had left. I loved them too. I'd never had long hair and it looked amazing. Of course the minute I started wearing the wig, people started talking more and more. Those that cared enough to hear my reason, understood it; but family just thought it was me changing from the surgery yet again.
I just couldn't win. Every step I took was judged and every step I took to make me feel good about myself was interpreted as me wanting to be single or making bad decisions.
My husband and I were going to counseling, we were having date nights and trying to talk about things that had been hidden for years (yes, secrets came out). We were trying to talk with the kids and let them know we were working on making our marriage work.
The minute we knew something changed and that we were falling back in love with each other, was the minute all of my thoughts on the family were confirmed. When we announced that we were staying together, certain people in the family showed their true colors. They were in fact jealous. I was even told that I looked like a “crack whore”. Really? So losing weight, standing up for yourself and what you believe in and being happy was suddenly a behavior I was to be apologizing for and me being a healthier version of me made me a drug addict?
So when I was fat, I was fat and put down. Now that I'm skinny, I'm too skinny for their liking? Again, I can't win.
My husband realized I needed him and his support. He began to see things for what it was with the family. He finally saw how I was treated and took a stand himself. We realized that outside influences were interfering with our happiness and we decided to pull away and focus on OUR family and not others.
I've learned that people project their anger, insecurities and unhappiness on those around them that are happy.
I've learned that I should have known I was worth something before the weight loss and if I had maybe it wouldn't have been such an easy target for the people around me.
I've learned that if I'm happy with myself, it doesn't matter what anyone else says.
I've learned how to eat right, enjoy working out and take pride in my health.
I've learned that with confidence comes insecurities in those around me and that I need to reassure those closest to me that I was still me.
I took boudoir pictures for my husband’s 40th birthday. I never thought I could do it, but I did and it was an amazing experience. It was empowering for me. I felt proud of my hard work. I felt sexy. When I saw the pictures, I cried. It didn't feel real. Didn't feel like I could ever look that beautiful. Then again, maybe I always was?
My journey is mine. Maybe some of it you'll relate to, or maybe not. But I felt it should be told.