While I’m off restoring a warrior, some friends have stepped up to bat to help me out by sharing some pretty amazing stories of growing triumphs of their own.
This guest story is from a dear friend of mine who has been, and continues to be, on a remarkable and sometimes unrecognizable, journey of transformation …
I went on my first diet in grade 5, at about 10 yrs old. I wasn’t huge; I just needed to lose 10 lbs or so – ‘to be normal’. My mom bribed me with a pair of the then popular stirrup pants because, “you can’t wear those if you’re heavy”. Of course I did it. Starved myself and lost the weight, but it only creeped back over the next few months plus another 10 lbs.
I only ever wanted to be normal. It’s been my goal for as long as I can remember. I didn’t need to be thin or beautiful, just normal. What I wanted now was for people not to stare at me as I walked through the mall. To avoid having children at the grocery store or hair salon ask their mothers, “Why is that lady so fat?” To be able to go on a bike ride or run around on the soccer field with my kids. Things that “normal” people do.
Of course, that was then and my idea of ‘normal’ has changed drastically since I started this journey…
There was never any reason for it, the constant weight gain. I came from an amazing, loving family who had high expectations of me, but nothing crazy. The truth is, I just love food and hate exercise. Always have, always will. Unfortunately, I eat when I’m happy, sad, or stressed.
When I’d go on a diet , it wasn’t just my stomach aching for food, but my heart too.
I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds and had asked for help so many times, it was embarrassing. The answer was always, “Why don’t you try weight watchers and cut out the fried food.” Um, thanks for that…why didn’t I think of that? In fact, I was always an extremely healthy eater. I just ate too much, too often.
After 28 years of yo-yo dieting, using every program, supplement, clinic and cabbage soup recipe, someone gave me the courage to do something different. My two sisters-in-law, to whom I will always be grateful, finally stopped tiptoeing around the problem by stating outright that I needed medical help. I’d already known this, but I was always just too scared of what people would think to make the call.
From the time I finally did make that call, I spent over 18 months on a wait list before I was contacted again for an orientation about my options. It took another 6 months of several follow-up appointments, journaling, exercise, counselling and more before I was approved for the surgery I’d chosen.
On February 5th 2015, I had gastric sleeve surgery. I weighed 280 lbs after already losing 20 lbs by then. They cut out most of my stomach and left a pouch about the size of a banana. Yes, it was painful, but I had a goal and normal finally felt like it was within my reach.
One of the most interesting things I found after surgery was that I learned I had never truly felt full before. The feeling in my chest, even after swallowing only small amounts of liquids now, was a completely unknown sensation. I’d honestly never felt full in all my 39 years.
The results since have been amazing physically, emotionally and in general growth. From my orientation of August 2014 to September 2015, I lost a total of 135 lbs, most since February 5th.
The transformation was apparently equally startling. I was surprised by the number of people who didn’t recognize me and the looks of shock on their faces was comical. Quite a few people literally did not recognize me; they thought I was my own sister.
Shock aside, I’ve seen something beautiful happen too. When I show my before and after pictures to the people who really know me and love me, they are always surprised that I was ever that big. The one thing I’ve learned is that those people never saw the outward person that I was always embarrassed about. They just saw me.
The extended pluses: I can now do any exercise I want. My debilitating back pain is gone. I don’t need an afternoon nap. I walk in public and don’t constantly wonder what all those staring people are thinking of me. I really don’t care anymore, which is weird for me. I’ve always cared. Always worried about what everyone else thinks. I’m also more comfortable around my husband in our more intimate situations. That’s a huge step for me. I even gained the courage to apply for and get a new job.
Reality check – it’s not about perfection…
You’d think with all this joyous news I‘d be happy, complete, & unconcerned about the future. Well, the reality is that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Despite the overall success, I have one unusual drawback. I am still constantly bombarded with hunger and cravings – gnawing, painful hunger. Like my stomach is trying to eat itself, and while I am now more able, exercise is a daily mental struggle. I wish I was one of those people who started loving it, but I’m not.
Worse than all of that, is the fear. I am terrified of gaining the weight back and having everyone know I failed. After all the amazing people who helped and supported me, is it possible that I could allow my brain to derail me?
But, in a way, isn’t this what normal is? Aren’t we all afraid of failing…no matter what our goal or accomplishment? If only we could learn and truly believe success isn’t about a number on the scale, the level of education we’ve achieved, or the amount of money we have in the bank.
And so, this is the next goal for me. Learning to be happy with Karen, regardless of how much I weigh, or more importantly, what other people think of me. This is what should be ‘normal’.