Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Hello, fellow Sparker! I'm Tina. Like so many here, I’ve struggled with controlling my weight as far back as I can remember. I made several attempts with many different specialized diets and attended numerous weight loss programs that were very nutritionally sound. Nearly all of these programs were good programs and worked. Did you hear that? ALL of the programs WORKED…for some, even many, people. I was not successful in any of those programs. I have determined that the reason I was not successful in them is because they were dietetically-based, but lacked the critical component of instruction in HOW to implement successful life style changes.
It wasn’t a matter of not knowing that I needed to limit my caloric intake and to exercise (sound familiar?). Knowing and doing are two very separate actions, right? Instead, for me, it was a matter of not knowing how to change my life style to be able to accomplish those goals…rather than just going on a strict diet, by committing to a rigid exercise program, AND maintaining that initial passionate, fiery motivation to make these monumental changes all at once.
Many times, I jumped into the “Flash fire” of all-or-nothing regimens by changing everything at once, and allowing for absolutely no mistakes or do-overs. The result, of course, was really quick burn out. Like others whose stories I’ve read, I would commit to abiding by a very strict diet and exercise program and not allow for flexibility in any way. Of course, this didn’t work for me… quite the opposite; I would lose a certain amount of weight each time I jumped into the flash fire, and then, as the embers of that fiery motivation cooled, I would put the weight back on, and then gain a little more on top of that!
By the time I was thirty-three years old, I decided that I’d done all I could to try to help myself to be healthier, as I ended up less healthy each time I tried. All of my health issues, in addition to the weight were beginning to cripple me, and I knew that if I didn’t do something very soon to become healthier, I was not going to continue to live to see my son grow up. Thus, with the help of my medical team, I determined that I needed surgical intervention. In 2002, I made the decision to apply for bariatric weight loss surgery. Because of my insurance, I could only have this surgery within a specific medical network, which was just beginning the process of implementing their bariatric weight loss program. As such, it took me two and a half years to have the surgery after making the decision to go through with it.
On December 6, 2004, I had the gastric bypass surgery that was the gold standard at that time. I lost weight very quickly; one hundred fifty pounds in the first year alone. I loved the compliments that I received on my successful weight loss. The weight loss slowed and stabilized. By 2008, I had lost around 190 pounds. I was ecstatic!
I couldn’t believe how it was that people put weight back on after this surgery. It was a puzzle…that is, until it started happening to me. In the first three years, I was reasonably compliant with my post-surgery diet, and had begun exercising. However, I reached a point where I would push past “full” and eat an entire kids meal hamburger. Not a lot to eat, right? The stomach is a very flexible part of the body. It expands and contracts with the food it is given. Well, when your stomach has been reduced to 1-2 ounces, eating even a whole small hamburger will stretch out your stomach, leaving you with that happy, full, food coma kind of feeling. When you eat that amount consistently, it will permanently stretch out your stomach. That’s what started to happen to me. After my stomach stretched a little, I could finish that entire hamburger and feel comfortable, then add just a few fries and get that fuzzy, over-full feeling. My stomach stretched yet more. I was setting a pattern…slowly but surely, my stomach stretched out enough that I could actually eat an entire kid’s meal. I could even have soda every once in a while… which stretched my stomach even more. Then the sodas became more prevalent in my food intake. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE PUT WEIGHT BACK ON AFTER BARIATRIC SURGERY. They return to their pre-surgical eating patterns. The reason: Bariatric surgery is STOMACH surgery, NOT BRAIN SURGERY.
Let me take you back to the period of 2002-2004. During this time, I went to many required bariatric support meetings, group therapy meetings, a special program to help me determine why it is that I had a weight problem, individual counseling, and a doctor-supervised weight-loss program. These were to prepare me for the dietary changes that I would need to make after surgery. They told me exactly what changes needed to be made, but they didn’t tell me how I was supposed to achieve those changes. I am not telling you this because I want you to be awed by my preparation time…I’m telling you this because even with two and a half years of preparing and training medically for the changes following weight loss surgery, I still gained weight back after losing it.
In all fairness, I didn’t gain it ALL back, but I gained back a lot more than I let anyone else know that I had. I couldn’t let people know that I gained back ninety+ of the one hundred ninety pounds that I’d lost! It was in a relatively short period of time; about a year and a half. How humiliating! I didn’t tell my family, friends, co-workers, not even my husband and my very best friend in the world. I was too humiliated to tell the entire truth…so I told them I’d gained “some” weight back, and sometimes I’d even make up a number to seemingly minimize my “transgression”. I even told Spark People that I’d gained back less than I actually had. I’m very ashamed of having been deceitful about my weight gain with everyone, including you beautiful, understanding, encouraging, and non-judgmental Spark People. Please forgive me.
From the Spark People (the website) and actual Spark People (you guys are AWESOME!), I’ve learned how to stop jumping into flash fires to burn out and start setting small, attainable goals and to reach them through small, reasonable actions, one change at a time. I’ve learned that it’s not all or nothing. I’ve learned that I can exercise flexibility in my food choices and exercise.
It’s not an unforgiveable crime to eat a brownie. I’ve learned that after eating a brownie, I don’t have to punish myself the rest of the day, week, or month by binging on unhealthy foods. That’s exactly what I’m doing when I binge…I am doing harm to my body…punishing it for having taken in one morsel of a deliciously fattening food. I’ve learned that it’s ONE CHOICE at a time. There is a choice when I take the first bite of that brownie, there’s a choice when I take the second bite, and so forth. After each and every bite, I have the privilege, power, and authority to make the decision to throw the rest of the brownie away…or to enjoy it and know that the next choice I make will be a healthy one. I’ll repeat…it’s not a crime to have a brownie if I really want one.
What is a crime, to me, is to treat my body like a garbage disposal; punishing myself for making one less-healthy choice. It’s a crime to not exercise my right to do right by my body, mind, and spirit.
What’s my point? I guess my point is that I’ve been beating myself up over having had the surgery while I’ve seen so many individuals here lose weight without the aid of surgical intervention. The stigma of losing weight with the surgery has weighed heavy on me and has made me feel ashamed of myself for not having had the strength to lose weight without that help. While I’ve had bariatric surgery for weight loss, my journey to health has been and continues to be challenging. I had the initial weight loss, which I believe saved my life. I’ve learned now, after gaining so much weight back, and this far out from surgery, I have exactly the same issues that everyone else has. ~indygirl’s blog inspired me to write this blog…I’m no longer going to be ashamed of HOW I have lost and how I continue to lose weight and become healthier. Thanks, Beth!
I’m neither for nor against bariatric surgery. I did it. It saved my life. I’d never try to talk someone into our out of having the surgery. While we’re on this journey together, everyone’s path is their own. Everyone’s success should be celebrated, no matter how they achieved that success. Recently I had the opportunity to have a surgical revision to undo the damage that I did by stretching out my stomach pouch. Because I’ve been successful at losing the weight by making Spark People’s suggested small changes and sticking with them consistently, I chose to forego the revision. It’s not that I no longer believe weight loss surgery has a place in some peoples’ paths. It’s that I don’t want to take the risks associated with the surgery when I am able to achieve the same result without having it. I am thrilled to say that because of applying Spark People’s principles to my life, I’ve been able to make those life style changes that are necessary for me to lose weight, just like everyone else. I am happy to report that I have achieved an over-all weight loss of one hundred sixty one pounds…and I'm still going because of all the encouragement and support from all the wonderful Spark People I’ve had the honor of meeting.
Thank you, Spark People!!! Thank you, ~indygirl!