seasoned.

We’re getting ready to leave town for longer than a weekend, so I am cleaning out the fridge and cabinets of things that might go bad or get stale before we’re back. We usually have tacos on Sunday night, and have leftovers for a few days; not being here would be a waste of delicious leftovers, so we were trying to decide what was quick and easy, and also wouldn’t have to get tossed when we packed up the car.

“Oh you know what sounds good? Maybe some dumplings and your fried rice, we haven’t had that in awhile!”

“Sure, then you can eat the rice for dinner tomorrow, too.”

My favorite part about the exchange is the reference to the fried rice recipe as “mine”. I mean, it is, I kind of made it up a few years back and I tweak it or change things every now and then but it’s one of his favorites, and even friends who have had it rave about it.

Steve takes every opportunity to tell people what a great cook I am, and compliments almost everything I ever make. People rave about and request my mashed potatoes on holidays, or weekend winter visits. My mac and cheese recipe can’t be duplicated, even if I decided to share it because I eyeball the roux every single time. I make a meat sauce that he has commented wouldn’t disappoint his Italian Nana, and people have been impressed by a broccoli dish that I swear to you I once threw together as a hungry fat girl to add to pasta. I’ve made loaves of bread, googled recipes that I’ve tweaked and made my own, perfected a chili recipe so much that Steve notices if I use a different brand of tomatoes and have made pot roast that floods my senses with memories of my entire life.

No big deal, right? I mean I have been baking for what seems like ever.

Except that was it. Aside from what seems like a life time of eating grilled chicken in eighty different ways at a half dozen different restaurants where I worked, I was always counting calories or carbs or points and so any cooking I did for myself was also, grilled chicken. I was a recovering vegetarian who didn’t eat much meat beyond chicken and turkey and I either ate them with veggies, solo or with salad. Plus I was living in my parents house and my mom is a wonder in the kitchen, so I didn’t even have to cook myself half of what I did.

So here I am, shortly after moving in with Steve and I decided that I was going to make him dinner. Obviously we had been eating but I think it was in the frozen pizza, take out or cereal department. So I decide I’m going to make his favorite thing; tacos! I went to the unfamiliar grocery store and excitedly picked up everything I could imagine needing; ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, a box of crunchy shells.

I’m thrilled to have it ready when he gets in from work and of course I make a grand deal about it, bringing the toppings over and a tray of warm crispy shells stuffed with ground beef.

Like a child who made him a drawing I stare wide-eyed anticipating his reaction, a compliment, and he just nods while chewing.

I take a bite of one of my tacos and it’s not disappointing, but, lackluster for sure, something is missing.

He takes another bite and puts it down. Clearing his throat he says, “What kind of seasoning did you use on the meat?”

Staring at him.

He stares back.

“Oh my God …”

“What?”

“I didn’t … I didn’t even think about it …”

“So, this is just browned ground beef?”

We stare at each other.

I offer to dump all the meat back in a pan and season it up with something, he declines, TO BE NICE I’m sure, and continues to choke them down.

It seems preposterous that a person with the love for food I have always had, fatter or less fat wouldn’t think or remember to season meat. I almost can’t believe it myself.

I don’t know if it’s because I can’t take a compliment, or because I am just impressed with my increased cooking ability, but I tell that story to almost anyone who ever gushes about something I make them to eat.

Every now and then if he says something I make is too salty, or too spicy I remind him what kind of bland browned ground beef meals I could be making, and we laugh about it.

Like I said, we have tacos almost every Sunday.

I wish I could tell you how I season the meat, but it’s eyeballs all the way now that I’m seasoned.

super fat.

I have been fat my whole life.

It’s not an exaggeration; I was an almost eleven pound baby, and according to a recently consulted baby book I was eighty-four pounds when I was six years old.

I come from a family of celebrators; someones birthday or a holiday, expect a gathering, with more than enough food, invitations extended beyond the family and of course a dessert or four.

In the happy and loving upbringing I have had, the main negative is just that I was fat. Not counting that pesky obesity gene I was predisposed to, there wasn’t any one thing or person that made me that way either. It was just who I was and I (mostly) accepted it.

I accepted it in that way that you know something can change, but you’re not sure how to do it or what the outcome will be but you try until it’s too much. Like when you string all the lights up on your Christmas tree and two strings don’t blink, or light up at all. You want a beautifully lit tree, and you have the equipment for it, but it’s out of sorts so you unscrew a bulb here, or there … then you unplug the strings and re plug them into other ones … you google it, you make three trips to two different stores for new strings, you dismantle the whole thing and start over and finally, eventually it works and you have your lit tree. Or maybe you say “Fuck it, it’s my tree, this is how it is” and accept it dead bulbs and all.

I lived in a hazy sort of middle ground between the two.

I was obsessively counting calories, taking fat burners or prescription diet pills, cutting out entire food groups, worrying about how I looked, counting points, weighing myself twice a day, overthinking how I looked, how I felt or feeling bad about something I ate or sorrowful over something I didn’t …. or none of that at all.

When I reminisce about fat me, or refer to my former self as fat, or obese people scoff. When I share a comparison photo of an obviously morbidly obese me next to a normal sized me, people say things about how pretty I always was, or how hard I am being on myself. Comments like “You were heavy, but you were tall” or that laughable “…but you have big bones” or just brushing it off as though I only carried around an extra twenty pounds.

I assume it’s because people don’t want to hurt my feelings, or come off sounding rude, but let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. I’m not woe as me, I don’t think I was ugly, or useless, and I’m not looking for compliments, I’m just telling it like it is.

When people look back and say “I was ten years old” or “When I lived in California” or “That was in high school”, it’s the same thing to me. I was large.

Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m crazy. Like I am the one who is inaccurately remembering myself.

I am two or three glasses into a bottle of wine, half eaten tortilla chip in one hand while my other hand is knuckle deep into some goat cheese with a cracker. I am siting across from one of my favorite people telling her a story about I don’t even remember what, but I say “I mean I was a super fat miserable bitch back then, so…” and she cuts me off.

“No way, you weren’t a miserable bitch…” I lick cheese off of my hand as she continues “…super fat, definitely, but…”

We erupt in laughter. She goes on … “What? You were … (she motions with her hands)…super fat. But also, super cool, super funny and I instantly loved you.”

She popped the rest of a cracker in her mouth and took a swig of her wine. She shrugged as if to say “just the facts, ma’am” and we peppered it in to conversation for the rest of the night.

I kept bringing it up and feigning hurt feelings. Honestly though, of all the conversations I have had with people about my weight, of all the the times I have referred to my former fat self and been reprimanded for using so called “bad” words to describe myself, this time was the most refreshing. It was the first time anyone was like, ‘Yea you were, but you were also X, Y and Z’. She didn’t try to talk me out of it, or pretend it wasn’t that way – she just reminded me that it was just a part of who I was.

Maybe I leave that out sometimes, maybe I come across as though I forget who I was, or maybe it seems like I think I was just a fat person with nothing to offer or that I let that define me.

I don’t. I know that I have been many things to many people.

I know who I am; I know I have always been smart, and funny and well loved.

I’ve been kind and nurturing and crass and creative.

I’ve been happy and supportive and a dozen other adjectives, and if we’re all being honest; one of those was super fat.

 

not your people.

For a long time, and even now, I struggled with letting people go. I will go through my friend list on Facebook sometimes and consider cleaning up the scads of people from different phases of my life, and I never really get rid of anyone because “I’ve known them forever” or they’re family, or a friend of family, or the girl I met through someone else who I have about four things in common, never interact with but keep them because their presence is innocuous. I keep her because she likes cooking too, or this girl also had weight loss surgery and we’re sort of friendly … Oh this person knows my mom, or dad or aunt’s cousin’s brother …

I had the same group of girlfriends for most of my life; we didn’t all hang out together, or make plans to grow old together like the Golden Girls, but for many years and boyfriends, moves, celebrations, changes, happy days, crazy neighbors, bad ideas, annoying parents and questionable choices; these were my people.

One of them, also for years, made me feel inferior to her. She made my feel like most of my ideas were shit, my decisions were wrong and like my existence was basically this puzzle that if it weren’t for her, would never be pieced together. She had an opinion about everything that you couldn’t question, and while she wasn’t some awful human being, it turns out, she wasn’t one of my people. She was for a time, and her purpose had sort of run out. It wasn’t until I made the decision to change my life and my health that I fully realized it. I also got older; not everyone you know at nineteen is someone you should still know at thirty-nine.

I always thought of myself as a people person with a big group of acquaintances and full social calendar that diminished only when I moved hundreds of miles away from everyone I knew. I’ve been more introspective (who knew that was possible) in the last few years and have clearer ideas about who and what I want in my life. I felt guilty and sort of selfish about it at first, but I gradually made peace with it, and you can, too.

If you want to.

I was talking to someone recently who was frustrated with their place in their friend group; she felt she had to force herself on others to be included, she felt left out sometimes and as if she didn’t really play a role in her group the way she thought.

I empathized but “then they’re not your people” flew out of my mouth immediately after. “Yea but we always used to hang out….” and “We’ve been friends since we were kids ….”

“Okay, so they used to be, I get it, but for today, for now, for where you are, they’re not for you…”

“I know but I just really want things to be how they were, and …. seriously, we’ve been friends since like first grade…”

So what?

If I have known someone since kindergarten or am related to someone by blood or marriage and they don’t make me feel valued, or like I am “worthy” of their attention, I should let that relationship continue? On the basis of knowing them so long? Illogical.

My grandmother used to say that if someone wants to be in your life, they will find a way. I totally believe this; sure things happen and maybe someone can’t text you back when you want them to, or come to something you invite them to, but when you mean something to someone, when they are grateful for whatever role you play in their life, you will know. And if you don’t, ya gotta go. For you.

I have a love // hate relationship with social media because it gives us a connection to people that maybe we don’t need to be connected to. It makes us think things are a certain way and maybe they aren’t. While people share real things, and are mostly their true selves, it’s definitely convoluted. Being friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t necessarily make them your friend in practical everyday life. Being related to someone doesn’t always mean they have your best intentions at heart, and knowing someone since your childhood doesn’t give them free reign to neglect your feelings. People will treat us the way we let them, and if we stay in relationships with people like this, knowing how they make us feel, and don’t do anything to change it, we can’t complain.

Our perception is our reality, so when I am in my head about who is a keeper, and who is a floater, I ask myself two questions. The first; if I met this person today rather than at birth, or in fourth grade or college, would I still want to be friends with them? And do I like a person or keep them in my life because of their role (lifelong friend / family member) or because of a genuine interest in knowing them? I have always said of my parents, that if they weren’t my parents, and just two people, I’d still like to know them, because outside of their role as my parents, they are genuinely awesome people. As are the people I choose to interact with on a regular basis.

I don’t know where I got the idea that I have to be friends with everyone I ever knew, or that I should hold on to relationships that no longer serves me (and in turn makes me a person who no longer serves their life’s purpose either) but I don’t do it anymore.

I’m not saying that you should grab the hedge clippers and go all Edward Scissorhands on your friends list, or social circle. I’m just saying it’s okay to take inventory. It’s okay to make sure that the people you interact with are invested the same way. Maybe you used to talk to someone every day, and now you just text; or you used to have coffee every weekend but now your schedules only allow for once a month. Totally cool. It’s the quality of the interactions, not the quantity. The quality of the relationship, and how it makes you feel, how it allows (or inhibits!) you to be your true messy and real self that determines, to me, if they are in fact one of my people.

Some people just aren’t.

 

thirty-nine.

Slept in.

Breakfast: Warmed chocolate croissant, mid-sized iced mocha latte from a cute place in town.

Went for a walk in nearby park.

Lunch: One small, and one large craft pumpkin beers, shared a jerk chicken pizza at our favorite local brewery.

Trip to the bakery around the corner for a “personal” sized carrot cake.

Dinner: Chips & salsa, one Cantarito and crispy fish tacos at a new Mexican restaurant nearby.

Wandered around World Market, purchasing only beer and candy. Mobile ordered an iced chai with soy on the way home. Comfy clothes by 10:00, on the couch with the carrot cake, and a cookie butter filled candy bar.

I spent the whole day happy and laughing and sharing delicious food and drinks with my best friend; but most importantly, not feeling one single ounce of guilt or shame about my food choices. If that’s not a non scale victory and a cause for celebrating myself, I don’t know what is.

jae birthday

 

 

Zumba!

Right before the start of 2016, down about fifty pounds, I tried my first group exercise class after my weight loss surgery. I had only been to a few others before and they were extremely stressful situations that caused my anxiety to skyrocket on the drive over, my stomach to flip flop on the walk into the room and then again when faced with the large mirror that would leave me on display no matter where in the room I stood. Exercise in general gave me the sweats because I was sure anyone who saw me doing it would think it was laughable, I had also felt like my body was unresponsive no matter what I was putting into it or making it do, so exercise was a chore, with no real reward. Even when I felt a little better afterward, I was still fat, and still miserable.

So the first class I go to is Zumba.

Ballsy, right?

I had seen commercials for years about the kits you could get to try it yourself at home, I had seen thin, attractive women shaking their overpriced legging clad butts to tropical sounding tunes and I had never had the courage to try, but I was intrigued, and for once I let that overpower the fear of the group class.

Man. It was something. Huge room at the gym, brightly lit with mirrored walls on two sides. Of course I took a place in the back of the class but there were only about ten people in it. It was a weekday before 9am, and the room was a melting pot. I wasn’t the oldest, or youngest, not the fattest or thinnest. I was just a person surrounded by other people who just wanted to dance and sweat something out – calories, stress, bad luck – whatever it was, we all just wanted to leave lighter.

It was loud and fast and fun. It was like all the shit I was doing in my own house when nobody was looking, but to better music. This was exercise? No exercise I ever knew was enjoyable. “Peace out treadmill” I thought as I shook and shimmied all over the place. Checking myself out in the mirror, not caring (too much) about my arm fat flapping as I danced my heart out.

It was the best morning I had had in a long time.

Even though I almost died. (dramatic)

In fifty minutes, my Fit Bit reported over 7,000 steps, I had sweat pooling in my eyebrows and I had drained my water bottle. Somewhat labored breathing but I staggered out to my car, and when I got home, announced that I was going to Zumba the next day, too.

For a few months, I had the time in my schedule to go to multiple classes a week, sometimes I went five times. I was dancing in grocery stores, looking up Zumba videos on You Tube to dance along to at night. I went to the same instructor’s class, and so I was getting all her moves and routines down, I was friendly with people in the class who also went a few times a week. I couldn’t believe I was exercising, for fun, before my coffee even!

I felt light, and happy and totally energized.

I bought fancy sports bras and new pants to hold in my gut, I didn’t care that I had to peel my clothes off after every class, or sometimes had to sit down slowly when suffering from what I called ‘zumba thighs’. I befriended the instructor, and when she was no longer teaching there, I became friendly with her replacement; talking about becoming a Zumba instructor myself, I was borderline obsessed and she offered to take me under her wing and show me the ropes and gave me info on where to sign up for different things.

I was totally on board.

Before that went anywhere, my schedule changed and I could really only make it to classes in the evening or on Saturdays, and those weren’t ideal.

Time passed and summer was almost over and I had my panniculectomy and spent eight weeks basically living on my couch. Every few days I would daydream about going back to Zumba, how much different it might feel now that this extra belly fat was gone, how I could finally get moving in the direction of becoming an instructor myself and sharing this exercise I actually enjoyed with other people. When the time came that I was cleared to exercise, it was also when I was cleared to go back to work, so again, not really ideal. I went to a few evening classes but it wasn’t the same as starting my day off with that jolt, there were no familiar faces, so again, it faded.

I don’t even know if I like it anymore. I’m sure I do but, I mean, if I truly did wouldn’t I have made the time for it? I don’t know if I used timing as an excuse or if it actually was a real constraint, but at the moment, it’s neither.

I have the freedom right now, and for possibly the next few weeks to get to some morning Zumba classes, so I”m gonna go. No pressure on myself to love it like I did, no idea that I am going to go and know all the moves ( I most certainly will not!), no concern about having the flabbiest arms flailing around or anyone paying attention to me.

I’m gonna take my free mornings, grab my water bottle and my little towel and I’m gonna go dance my ass off in that back row.

Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

 

 

hey, whatcha eatin’?

Last week I was standing in the driveway while Steve tinkered on his car. I’d been home from work only about an hour and was still in leggings with peanut butter hand prints on them and a cheap Old Navy t-shirt that I’d spilled my coffee on at least once before.

In one hand I held a bag of sliced pepperoni, and had a string cheese hanging out of my mouth, that I occasionally tugged on with my free hand. I chatted briefly with my neighbor who was getting in her car, and she said “Whatcha eatin’?” “Pepperoni, want some?” (She’s a vegetarian so she declined, and we said our goodbyes) I went right on chomping away in broad daylight for anyone to see.

You’re probably thinking “Uh, okay, no big deal, you’re eating outside” but in a teeny way, it IS a big deal.

I never ate in front of people, well not comfortably anyway. Family, close friends, sure. Out in public? Not so comfortably. I always felt like people might be looking at me, judging me, wondering why I was eating since I was fat. Like hadn’t I had my share of food in life already, why did I need more?

You’re probably laughing because it sounds crazy, but have you ever looked at someone fat out at a restaurant and judged them or commented, even briefly? I hated being squished in a booth, or God forbid the extra chair at the end of the booth. I hated sitting on bar stools with no backs, nothing to hide my size or slumping. I hated most things about eating in public, except the eating part.

I had this idea (read: delusion) that, if people didn’t see me eating, or see me with food, they might not notice I was fat. Maybe I would just blend in and nobody would see my size, or question my food choice (even when it wasn’t questionable). I would pick daintily, in case anyone was watching  – and on the trek from the table to the door afterward, I’d let someone else carry the leftovers.

Get me in line at a buffet, or to load up our plates at a barbecue and my portions are smaller than I’d like and I’m only making one trip. If I look like I don’t eat much, maybe I’ll look smaller.

I can’t be the only person who has felt this way, I mean I guess anything is possible, but there’s not a million dollar industry of diet products and meal replacements because it’s just me.

Now that I weigh less, that I feel better, and look better, I realize that nobody gives a shit what I’m eating. (Except the Instagram food police : insert eyeroll here: )

Honestly they probably never did, and if you think not eating in front of people makes them think you’re thinner than you are, that’s in your head, not theirs.

 

nip // tuck

Earlier today I was trying to figure out how many remaining vacation days I have that may pay out when my current job ends in a few weeks.

In a conversation with a friend, I say “Aside from my sick days, I’m pretty sure I only took one day off this year, the day after I drove to NY. I also took a half day when I went to see my plastic surgeon, but I stayed late a few times to make up for it.”

Possibly the most bizarre sentence I ever uttered.

My plastic surgeon.

I guess it’s not that weird, but the way it just rolled off my tongue like you would say “my mechanic”, “my hairdresser”, or “my mailman.”

I’m like “Hey, you need something nipped or tucked? I know a guy!”

I let him mark me up, knock me out and cut off seven pounds of flabby excess skin and fat on my abdomen; we have plans to do it on other parts another time or two as well.

I’ve questioned my decision a few times, as I never thought of myself as a vain person, and I don’t care so much about how I look, but how I feel.

Last year I had a panniculectomy, which removed the flap of fat that, even after losing 80 pounds still disrupted any outfit I tried to wear, got in the way when I attempted running, hung around haunting me like a scar that wouldn’t fade –  and I was damn sure it almost flung off my body during Zumba once. Add in the rashes and general discomfort and I don’t feel so so bad about it.

Now that it’s gone though? My thighs are in plain sight to me and WOOF. Doughy, flabby, hangy; a little painful and a lot keeping me from shorts and too far above the knee skirts or dresses. Slapping and rubbing together eighty percent of the time.

My upper arms have been a source of frustration, sadness and severe sweating through the summers for as long as I could remember. I think I single handedly kept the production of Old Navy cardigans going because I was always buying them, in every color, year round. As they became smaller, they surprisingly only got worse; loose and hanging, getting pinched during hugs, noisily flapping doing almost anything and I merely traded cardigans for light zip ups and jean jackets.

I’ve thought about it, I’ve put off getting the surgery dates in the books but I’ve decided I’m not vain. I’m not trying to look like anyone else, or impress anyone. I’m just trying to be as comfortable as possible in the skin I worked so hard to deflate.

shhh!

I think everyone has what I refer to as situational anxiety on occasion. Some of us more than others, some of us more severely, or less severely than others. But, I definitely think that everyone experiences mild anxiety sometimes.

Like one morning a few weeks back, when I had to put air in my car tires and my brain played a scenario is which I over-filled the tires and one popped in my face and I died in the Speedway parking lot.

You can laugh, but I’m not kidding.

The whole drive over I was pep talking myself, like ‘Okay, but if you don’t put air in, one could pop while you’re driving on the highway today and you could die, or kill someone, so you really don’t have a choice…”

Or almost any time I use a sharp knife, I visualize accidentally cutting my finger off right before I use it. (Maybe that’s just weird, not anxiety)

I was prescribed medication for my not so situational, more like constant anxiety in 2014 and I took it for about a year, at which point I had lost a good portion of my excess weight, was on the verge of quitting my less than thrilling and somewhat stressful job, and my occasional depression was also under control.

In the first few days that I was taking said medication, I had my first visit with the surgeon who would eventually perform my gastric sleeve. In advance of the appointment, and really with any appointment you have with them, they encouraged you to bring a “support person” if that would ease any tension, or help you stay focused on any concerns or questions.

I never dragged Steve along to any of them, except the actual surgeon appointment. So he could ask any questions, and meet her prior to her removing half of my stomach.

In the days leading up to the appointment, I replayed the routine. Every appointment I had was the same, they weighed you.

Every time.

Every office.

Every appointment.

When I had back to back appointments I would sometimes be weighed multiple times in one afternoon.

I immediately tensed up.

He would be there.

He would see them weigh me.

He would see the giant digital output on the scale.

He can’t come with me.

He can’t see.

He can’t know.

I mean, in retrospect the whole thing was ridiculous, because we had been living together for a few years at this point and it’s not like I was head-to-toe Spanx all day every day and he didn’t know I was overweight.

Also, uhhhh, he was coming to a doctor’s appointment about having weight loss surgery.

Still.

The number.

The fear.

The shame.

The anxiety.

I sent an email to my surgeon’s physician assistant who I had met with before, and expressed my concern.

“I know this is going to sound silly…” I started out

“Don’t worry, it’s more common than you think and we will take your vitals privately” she noted in her response.

Whew.

The day of the appointment we go into the office an I go up to check in. I fill out the usual updates to the paperwork, and again, tell the girl at the desk about my concern regarding Steve learning my actual weight.

She laughs comfortingly, and tells me that they’ll take me in first for vitals, and then for the actual appointment they’ll call us both in.

Relief.

A few minutes later we are called in to meet my surgeon for the first time. I remember how perfect she looked; almost flawless with her pin straight hair, glossy manicure, all smiles and gold iPhone in hand.

We were fast friends, and Steve even teased her about her off the cuff drawing of a stomach. After our getting-to-know-you session, we got down to the facts and planning.

She reviewed my chart, almost gave me a heart attack before clarifying “something that is really concerning” (high a1C, indicative of future diabetes) and said that everything looked great and there were no red flags, so she was approving me.

“You’ll have a forty-eight hour liquid diet before surgery.”

“Not a problem”

“And I see here you have been working with Jill (my nutritionist) and have lost about six pounds, which is great”

Sweet, I thought, this is happening.

Steve and I nod approvingly at each other.

She continued, “Really just another pound or so should do it …”

“We have you at 271 today, so …..”

I cannot tell you anything she said at the end of the sentence because I was probably bell pepper red and if you touched my face it might have singed your skin while I was trying to figure out how to slide all two hundred seventy one pounds of myself off the couch onto the floor and out the damn door.

We walked eighty-seven miles to the parking garage, midway through he said “Are you psyched or what? You don’t seem as excited now that it’s happening”

I’m all “Bro (yea, I called him bro) she outed me! I made sure everyone we saw today knew not to say my weight out loud”

Walk, walk, walk.

“You were worried about that? Pffft, I didn’t even hear her, what’d she say?”

He heard her, he had to have.

I laugh.

“What, 171? I really didn’t hear”

“Yea, 171”

“Who cares, you’re approved”

We high five.

He opens the passenger door for me and kisses my forehead.

Thanks, bro.

 

 

 

easy way out

You don’t need to have been overweight at any point in your life, or even known anyone who was to have heard someone reference weight loss surgery in some way, shape or form.

The truth is, it has become somewhat of a regular thing. Celebrities, presidential hopefuls, grandmas, men, hell, there is even a whole television series about people trying to have bariatric surgery.

I think it’s fair to say that the subject is no longer taboo.

I seem to be, unfortunately, in the minority when it comes to the type of care I received from my bariatric surgeon. She heads a team that includes nutritionists and behavioral health professionals. While I was referred to her by my primary doctor, it wasn’t a one shot deal. I had to have, before almost anything, a full day at the hospital which included labs, an orientation full of presentations and a psychological evaluation. After the surgery, which was about six months later, I was scheduled for a half dozen appointments with each person on my care team over the next two years.

A large portion of the people I have met or come to know on this journey, did not have this same program, or, from what I can tell, any sort of program at all.

They had a doctor, who sent them to a surgeon, who cut out a portion of their stomach, or rerouted some things and sent them on their way.

Some of them are gaining weight, some of them never lost as much as they wanted or had hoped to and in some cases it’s a lack of guidance from the jump. They ask other people for tips, they google, they get a nutritionist, they read a book, they find a new doctor. They put the work in.

In other cases, it’s that they took the easy way out.

I roll my eyes or scoff any time I read or hear someone refer to weight loss surgery as the “easy way out” because so many things I have done in life to try to lose weight were easy in comparison to surgery.

There is however, this idea that having surgery just lets you lose weight; that you don’t have to work hard, or you don’t have to change your habits or exercise or do anything except pay the operating room co-pay. Some of these people – that’s what they thought was happening, they thought the were signing up for a quick magic trick where they can just keep eating like the dumpster behind a mall food court and get skinny.

For starters, if your sole reason for having bariatric surgery is to “get skinny”, maybe get yourself a therapist and work some things out first, because that’s not a healthy goal. (I say this as an aspiring therapist, and a person who loves therapy, not as a dig!) The whole process is really about so much more than just losing pounds; you are resetting your metabolism, you are breaking bad habits, beating cravings, lowering your cholesterol, decreasing your blood pressure and a dozen or so more things; the “skinny”, the feeling good in your clothes, in your skin, not hating seeing yourself in pictures and mirrors? Icing on the cake!

Anyway, these people, the easy way out ones are basically perpetuating the stigma that people like me got a little snip n’ stitch job and that’s why I lost weight.

It’s not. Did that help? Exponentially, because of the reasons above, because I truly wanted to make a change, and where my guidance may have faltered (it didn’t) I was dedicated enough to keep it going.

I mean, I spent a lot of time going to pre-op appointments, a lot of money on co-pays and vitamins and protein powder and I let someone cut out eighty percent of my stomach, why wouldn’t I commit to myself

I don’t care what other people do, honestly, it’s not my business; they’re not hurting me or changing my progress/success. BUT they are  making the rest of us look bad, and they’re possibly ruining it for people who truly want to make the change.

In a year or two when insurance companies are looking at the success rates of these surgeries and see them not being as successful, they will stop covering them or make them harder to get covered. Which is unfair, and inaccurate because it’s not the procedure, it’s the patient that’s not successful.

I’m not saying don’t do it.

I’m probably one of the biggest advocates I know for bariatric surgery; I spill my guts to strangers, suggest it to people who are where I was, I delight in the notification every time I get an email from the hospital about another person I can be a mentor to. I want everyone who wants it, to have the experience I had, I know it’s not realistic, but I put myself out there for it, because it worked, because I worked it. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

What I am saying is, If you’re going to do it, DO IT.

I’m not up on my soapbox like I’m some perfect person who never makes a questionable choice; I eat pretty much everything, but in serious moderation, and I’m also almost three years out.

For 21 days after leaving the hospital I lived on full liquids, I didn’t dare deviate from the plan I was given to follow. I asked for help, I paid for it, I followed the rules. I cringe at posts from people eating chili from Wendy’s 4 days post op, “trying” a burger and fries a month after, eating ice cream as a “liquid” or pureeing foods that just don’t belong in a blender so it fits their current stage of eating.

The truth, as they told me in one of my zillion pre-op appointments is that in the first few months, the “honeymoon” period, the weight will come off seemingly on its own. You could ‘fill your sleeve’ they said ‘with mountain dew and snickers’ and you would still lose something because of the sheer lack of space – but you’d be sorry later.

Sorry when your weight loss stalls, when you’re still addicted to sugar, when you’re almost right back where you started, save for a few dozen pounds.

You’ll be sorry and you’ll say it didn’t work, and you’ll blame some outside factor and  you’ll feel stuck and you’ll want a revision or a different procedure and you’ll try again, sort of.

You’re taking the the easy way out by not following the rules and it will get you nowhere.

 

jae 2.0

I knew this guy once who was a total dick. I mean, he was our friend and we all loved him but he was a dick. Super fun, always up for a good time and totally loyal, but also mouthy, condescending, always joking and button pushing, drinking one too many, miserable half the time; dick.

A few years went by and he started dating someone, came out to his friends and family and wasn’t a dick anymore. Just like that. It was like a huge weight that just made him a miserable prick half the time was lifted and now he was getting to be himself, just loving life.

I get it.

If you asked anyone from high school, or in my slew of waitress jobs over the years to describe me, at least one of their chosen adjectives would be “loud” followed by “crazy” or “goofy” and let’s be frank, “bitchy”.

Really anyone in my life longer than the last five years could tell you about my mood swings, my on and off shitty attitude, my general dislike, of, well, anything.

I spent my twenties and a good portion of my thirties hating things.

Most people, most places, most jobs, most situations.

Everyone was stupid, everything was a chore or a waste of time.

Why the fuck does this woman need extra tomatoes on her burger?!

stomp stomp stomp

Why is the phone ringing?!

slam slam slam

God forbid someone asked me to do anything, WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!

long exasperated sigh

On (more than) one occasion I remember taking my arm and wiping it across my entire desk, or bathroom counter knocking everything to the floor out of aggravation. I once even did it to my brother’s desk.

I had a conversation with a manager at a job one time who told me, and I quote “You have a cancerous tone; you make your coworkers feel small and stupid” and all I could do was agree, and confirm that they were.

I yelled at my now sister-in-law for sitting in “my seat” at the dinner table once.

I have thrown more coffees, fast food burgers and other random food items out of my car window than I can even count; not because I liked to litter, but because I hated everything and god forbid the food or drink I ordered didn’t meet my expectations it enraged me.

I wish I was exaggerating.

I was subconsciously miserable, but brash.

I would get angry over the dumbest shit.

So dumb in fact, when something I had a tantrum over in recent years comes up, Steve and I debate the legitimacy of the tantrum … sometimes the stomping, crying and shouting was justified, but for the most part it usually ends with a “well, you were/I was fat, so that makes sense”

I picture angry obese me as a hunched over hag with silly or annoying things landing on my humpback and literally depressing me.

I’m not saying that I lost a bunch of weight and all of a sudden nobody annoys me or I’m so at peace that everything rolls of my back.

It doesn’t. There are still people and behaviors that bother me, and things that piss me off, but they don’t crush me. They aren’t extra weight now, they’re just fleeting things.

I’m still me, but standing up straight and lighter in so many ways.

I’ve gotta say it’s a much better way to live.