Two years ago, as I was watching a show called Family By The Ton, I had a realization: I had hit my weight limit. If I gained any more weight, it was going to kill me. I shed some tears and started thinking about how I was going to fix this problem – for real this time. My health insurance excluded weight loss surgery and I couldn’t afford the surgery. I had tried weight loss pills before and the side effects were too much. I was at a point where the pain in my knees and back was so bad, that I could barely stand to be on my feet for more than 5 minutes without being in excruciating pain, making exercise seem impossible.
My body was a ticking time bomb and I didn’t know how to escape it. In my mind, I was one severe injury or illness away from being bedridden. And bedridden and obesity generally equals death. Maybe I was being dramatic in thinking this, but I definitely didn’t want to find out the hard way.
December 2021, my mom and I went to Phoenix and I decided to go for a hot air balloon ride. The booking agent called me while I was with my mom and I had to say my weight out loud, in front of my mom for the first time in years. She didn’t say anything, which I appreciated, but I know she was concerned. A few weeks later, while I was home visiting for the holidays, she told me to start the process to identify a hospital to have surgery and she would pull the money out of her 401K to pay for it. And thus began my weight loss journey.
Most of 2022 was spent meeting the requirements to have the surgery while trying to lose a few pounds. I used this time to share my feelings and experiences with my weight with my friends and closest family – something I had never really done before. I shared about how 90% of the time when I was with them, I was in pain. How there was literally nothing that I did in a day that wasn’t painful – sitting hurt, standing hurt, walking hurt, even sleeping hurt because of the pressure on my joints when I laid on one side too long. They saw that I wouldn’t sit in certain chairs because of fear of breaking them. I told them how uncomfortable flying was and how excited I was to never have to use a seat belt extender again.
In November 2022, I had gastric bypass surgery and in the six months since I’ve lost over 70 pounds. Overall, I’ve lost more than 100 pounds from my highest weight. It’s a life changing accomplishment that I never imagined I would be able to achieve.
This process has taught me so much, not just about myself, but about my relationships with the people in my life:
- Opening up and sharing with my people has helped me feel so much more connected to them and helped me feel more supported in my journey. After spending much of my life trying to hide and make myself small, I feel seen in a way that I never had before. I am not always an open person and even got physically sick to my stomach when I shared too much about my weight with the wrong person. But sharing with the right people has made me feel great and has allowed them to have more empathy for people who live with obesity.
- Being reflective helped me move forward. Years ago, I was asked by my trainer what I was afraid of because I kept giving up during our sessions. I didn’t have the answer then, but reflecting helped me realize that the reason I kept giving up on exercise and myself was because of the shame that I felt for my weight getting so out of control. Having those moments helped me to avoid those same blocks this time around.
- I could not have done this without my support system. While I didn’t have any physical complications resulting from surgery, I needed the support of my people to get me through the initial healing and the mental challenges I had including body dysmorphia and being scared to eat. From my mom walking with me multiple times a day in the days following my surgery, to one of my good friends cooking my meals for me once I started eating again, I could not have done this without my tribe.
- I am beyond blessed to have a mom who was willing and able to pay for the surgery. I have wanted to have surgery for over 10 years, but it was never covered under any of my insurances. Even though weight loss surgery is often the best course of treatment for people with obesity – and especially those with other comorbidities like diabetes or heart problems – it is often excluded from health insurance plans. There are so many people who could benefit from surgery but aren’t able to and it’s truly unfair.
- Surgery is not the “easy way out”. If you have ever accused someone of “taking the easy way out” by having surgery, I have something to tell you: there is nothing easy about it. There are a ton of hurdles that you have to jump through before you can even have the surgery. Then you have to get through the surgery and hopefully with little to no physical complications. You have to relearn how to eat, not just what to eat, but actually how to eat: things like taking baby sized bites, over chewing food, not drinking out of straws. Six months later and I still sometimes forget that I can no longer gulp down a glass of water without pain. Also, the surgery is a tool, not a miracle. If you don’t learn to eat properly, it’s possible to struggle with weight loss and even possible to gain weight. Not to mention the mental repercussions of surgery including body dysmorphia and fear of eating. Surgery has not been easy and even left me regretting my decision at times, even without having any complications.
I still have a long way to go with my weight loss, but I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. More importantly, I am grateful for this renewed lease on life. My pain is minimal and for the first time in a long time, I am excited to try things that I had put on hold. There are so many lessons to learn on this journey and I hope that I can help anyone who is considering their own journey. If you have any questions, I’m happy to chat!
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