Weight Loss: My Personal Journey

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Today I’m going to share something that is deeply personal, my own weight loss story. I struggled with my weight since I was a child and had yo-yo dieted most of my teens and twenties. In 2010 I underwent Lapband surgery and that in combination with good nutritional choices and keeping physically active have lead to my weight loss and maintenance over the past five years.  

My weight loss surgery isn’t a secret in my life.  My friends, even ones I’ve made post surgery know about it. I’m a freelance writer and I’ve had personal essays about my weight loss published on a few websites so even strangers know about my Lapband.  However, today I’m going to be more vulnerable about this than I have in the past because it isn’t just a physical change I’ve experienced.   

I’ve seen pictures of me as a child when I was “average” weight, but I don’t really remember what it felt like to not be overweight or obese.  I was teased a bit in grade school because after all I was “the fat kid”. What was my defense? I didn’t really cry about it or get angry, instead I killed people with kindness. I know some of my classmates must of thought I was an idiot because I’d hear them talk about me behind my back and then approach them like I hadn’t. Why did I do this? In truth I don’t really know, but I think I just wanted to be included. If being invited to join in with everyone else meant it was okay for them to make aside comments about me then so be it.

By the time I hit eighth grade things had changed. I think it had less to do with my being nice than it did with puberty ended for everyone, but suddenly my weight wasn’t a factor. Classmates didn’t really tease me anymore.  I wasn’t “the fat kid”, I was just Paula.  I went through high school and college that way. Sure occasionally I’d have a run in with someone who just needed to make a dig at me, but for the most part it wasn’t an issue.  

I dated a little during my teens and twenties, but not a ton. I was insecure about my looks and certainly there were times that I felt maybe I didn’t have a serious boyfriend because I wasn’t pretty. I don’t think I can attribute feeling that way to my weight though because I don’t think I’ve had a female friend who hasn’t felt that way at some point in her life even though they’re all beautiful and always have been. Dating wasn’t a priority me. I cared more about hanging with friends, finishing school, and figuring out what I was going to do after grad school.  

Losing weight was something I attempted to do through a variety of diets and exercise programs over the years.  I’d done calorie counting, Atkins, Weight Watchers, had a personal trainer, did Curves, and other fitness programs.  I had success with all of these methods, but inevitably I’d fall into the same pattern.  I’d lose weight, plateau, gain back all the weight I lost plus some extra, and then switch to another diet or program and the cycle would start again.  

I’m going to share some numbers which isn’t my favorite thing to do, but is necessary if I’m going to be as open about this as I intend.  At my heaviest ever I weight 328 pounds and was a size 28. Prior to my Lapband the thinnest I ever recall being as an adult was 238.  For whatever reason that was the number the scale never dipped below no matter how disciplined with my weight loss program at the time. .    

After putting myself through over a decade of yo-yo dieting why didn’t I pursue weight loss surgery sooner?  In truth, I knew very little about it.  I was really only somewhat familiar with Gastric Bypass which is another type of weight loss surgery.  I knew that it had a lot of potential side effects and a fairly high morbidity rate for a common surgery, so I never really looked into it seriously.  

At 27 I noticed I started to get winded when I went upstairs and my blood pressure started to get higher.  I knew that I needed to do something other than yo-yo dieting because that wasn’t working.  I looked into weight loss surgery more seriously and discovered there were other options aside from Gastric Bypass. After reading all the information, I felt that the Lapband was the best choice for me.  I liked that it was adjustable and that it seemed like more of a weight loss tool than anything else.  I had made my mind up that was the only option for me. I even decided to pursue a different surgical practice than the first one I visited because the original surgeon I met with kept trying to talk me into a different weight loss surgery because patients statistically shed more pounds than they did with Lapband.  For me I wasn’t really hung up on a final weight or dress size, it was more about being healthy and doing it in a way that I felt comfortable with.

I had my surgery in summer of 2010.  Sorry, we’re back to numbers again for a minute, on my surgery day, I weighed 277 pounds, five and a half years later I weigh 135.  Sharing my current weight is the thing I’m most self-conscious about. I hesitate to disclose it because weight loss whether surgical or not is different for everyone. My current weight isn’t even my lowest weight. I got down to 125 at one point, but even though it was technically in my BMI range for a healthy weight, it wasn’t for me. I looked gaunt and people that I was sick.  

I try not to be too hung up on numbers because two people can have the same surgery or follow the same diet and have completely different results.  This isn’t the definitive equation of how much weight someone will loose after getting a Lapband.  This is simply my story and that number happens to be where I ended up post Lapband, nutritional counselor, and activity plan.

While I’m on this soapbox, I’d also like to mention that I would never say that Lapband or any surgery or program is the one solution fits all to weight loss. Everyone is different and I believe if someone wants to lose weight she or he needs to figure out what is the best method for her or him.  Was this the right choice for me personally? Absolutely!  

My last little rant while I’m on a roll is this, even though I’ve lost weight and am now a “standard” dress size I still have a major beef with how we are a sizeist culture and discriminate against others based on their weight.  One of the hardest adjustments for me has been being in a group where someone might not know I had been overweight and witnessing them make fat jokes or dig at a stranger because of their size. Fortunately,none of my friends are like that so it isn’t something I’ve experienced constantly.  

A lot of people ask me what was the hardest thing about being obese. For me it was always the social stigma that came with it and experiencing some exclusions from typical activities that most people take for granted. I wasn’t allowed to sit in an exit row on airplanes because on certain airlines the seat belts were smaller so I was required to wear an extender, I couldn’t ride certain coasters at amusement parks because the harness didn’t fit over my chest, I was limited to where I could buy clothes and in fashion options because most stores don’t carry anything above a size 12, and strangers weren’t pleased if I sat next to them on a crowded bus or subway.

Other questions I’m often asked is what is feels like to look in the mirror if I recognize myself, and how has my dating life improved since loosing weight.  Here is the odd thing. When I weighed 328 pounds some days I would look in the mirror and feel unattractive and other days I’d feel pretty. Now that I weight 135 pounds there are days when I look in the mirror and feel unattractive and other days when I feel pretty. I don’t get asked out by better quality men than I used to, I just get asked out by more of them.  I haven’t lost any friends because my body changed and I can’t imagine that any of my newer friends wouldn’t have entered my life if I still weighed more. The important point is getting a Lapband was a decision I made for myself and to be honest, that’s one of the major reasons I think I was successful with losing weight.

Where I have noticed a change in my life is my health and energy.  I have stamina in my 30s that I didn’t have in my teens.  I’ve noticed improvements in my blood pressure and a significant decrease in migraines which I used to experience at least once a week.  

This is probably the longest post you’ll see from me, but I needed to make sure that everything was said.  Moving forward with wellness related content, I’ll be talking about food, fitness, work/life balance, time management, and treating yourself well.  I couldn’t write on those topics without first sharing my story and where I am coming from. Again I don’t advocate that anything I discuss or have tried myself is for everyone. I’m just sharing my experiences and you may take from that what you will.  My final truth that I must share is that I am healthier and happier than I have ever been, which is evidenced by my being able to finally write about this as openly as I’ve always wanted to.  

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