My Epiphany

Before you ask, I will tell you how it came about that I decided AGAINST the bariatric sleeve after all I have done to pursue it.

WELL, a week ago, I had a follow-up visit with the Nutritionist. I came armed with my food journal that they’d made us keep for several weeks. And to be honest with you, I felt a bit smug. Smug because I felt that I have done so much RIGHT. Each day, I had completed all the categories: the day of the week, the time of day, the exact name and portion size of what I’d eaten, the caloric and protein values, how much water I’d drunk, how much exercise I’d done, what non-eating activities I’d done, AND the daily personal reflection they asked that you write. I congratulated myself that I’d stayed away from carbonated drinks and caffeine and that I’d almost always chosen single-digit fats and sugars, as they suggested.

Did I stay inside the 1000-calorie limit that they had recently imposed? HELL NO–excuse the expletive. But when you think about it, the changes that I’d made had been so comprehensive that I began to feel like a new person; I DESERVED to be congratulated. And yes, I did lose weight despite the fact that my daily calories at first were around 1400, and later closer to 1200. I was certain that the Nutritionist was going to give me a pat on the back and release me to have the surgery that the surgeon had told me he’d be glad to give me the first week in August so that I’d have time to recover before the new school year begins.

Just imagine my shock and dismay when the Nutritionist said the complete opposite. She said that I’d done okay, but that in her opinion I had not PERFECTED the goals to the extent that she could feel confident that I would not sabotage my own surgery after I’d had it. PERFECTION????? So, all this time she was looking for PERFECTION? Something that she did NOT say in the original group meeting we’d had. Long story short, she sent me home for another month to PERFECT this new eating life-style.

I already know what you want to ask and believe me when I tell you that I addressed your question to her, so that you will not have to. I said–very calmly, I might add–“Forgive me, but is it possible that it’s just ME? Am I the only 300-pound person who wants to know how you expect us to PERFECT all this BEFORE we have the surgery? I mean, if we could do that, then why on earth would we be asking to have the surgery in the first place???”

I would like to bet you seven thousand dollars that you CANNOT guess what her wide-eyed response was. Go ahead. Guess.

HAH! You are wrong. Her actual response was—brace yourself for this please—“EXACTLY!”

WTF? How could she say “exactly” as though we were saying the same thing? As though we were on the same side of the fence. As though she were not the only obstacle standing in the way of my much-dreamed-of and sought-after surgery?!

When she saw that I was nonplussed by her response, she continued, “I mean, that’s what I ask myself every day! I want all of our clients to see and understand that if you don’t get this right, you are going to end up weighing exactly what you weighed before the surgery and then all of this will have been for nothing! Why would you sign up for a surgery without knowing how to maintain your weight loss?”

Okay, so I’m not ignorant. I realize the total validity of what she said. BUT IT STILL DOES NOT ANSWER MY QUESTION!!! How do you expect me to do PRESURGERY what I have to do POST SURGERY?! Because if I could, then I would not NEED surgery. It would only be a matter of time, and I would lose weight, slow as a snail though it may be. But I WOULD lose weight.

And suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks. Surgery or no surgery, I will HAVE to demonstrate the willpower, the grit, the persistence to consistently do the right thing, eat the right thing, stop eating the wrong thing, stop eating when I’m satisfied, nourish myself with wholesome foods and not junk, stop all emotionally based eating, etc., etc., etc. So there was my answer. That was my epiphany.

If they were going to make me do all this perfectly before the surgery, then the surgery is just a quicker, more costly route with potential complications and recovery time that I can’t afford to miss from my job. At the very least, I can thank them for helping to reestablish my feet firmly on this path. When I signed up for the surgery, I honestly thought I no longer had the ability to control myself. Well, they helped me prove myself wrong.


I’m Out

Well, if you followed my blog because I was about to have Weight Loss Surgery…I’m sorry for both of us.

I’m opting out of the surgery, and I’m still pressing toward being my most authentic self. I hope you will remember that my original purpose for beginning this blog was to discover and express that true Self.

I am sooooooo happy for all my friends here who have had and those who will have the surgery. I wish you the best of luck and the best of health. I honestly mean that. I pray we will all get there; where we want to be.

As for me, I had to confront the truth: that I had made a fear-based, emotionally-charged decision: something I know from experience is a horrible thing to do and rarely has good outcomes. On the contrary, the decisions I have made that way have usually come with a horrifying price tag and many, many regrets. At the age I am now, I honestly cannot afford to make many more decisions like that.

Somewhere deep inside I have believed and do believe that I will receive Divine help. And yet it seems that looking back, I have consistently drawn back in doubt and then fallen into the trap of trying to do what has been successful for other people. I have never been true (over the long term) to the Guidance that I know for a fact that I have received. Instead, I have made many choices in desperation. Even now, I am carrying around an extra 100 pounds on my body that is largely due to one of those decisions to act in desperation when my weight-loss efforts were not paying off dividends fast enough for my satisfaction.

Be Blessed. Be Happy. Be Well.


Weight Loss as a By-Product

Dr. Dean Ornish once said that, “lasting weight loss is a by-product of deeper healing.” Have truer words ever been spoken?

The other day I was filling my sister in on the details of my visit with the surgeon and I told her about what I thought was going to be the moment of truth. The doctor seemed ready to call our little consultation to a close and wondered if I had any questions for him. Besides the most pressing question (When the heck can I get this surgery???) the main thing I wanted to know was how much weight I have to lose BEFORE the surgery. I held my breath, waiting on his response.

“No,” he says, “I’m not requiring you to lose anything; we usually reserve those measures for our larger patients.” Larger patients? He saw my eyebrows go up in question, so he continued, “I mean, those who are 400-500 pounds.” Aha. THAT was an eye-opener for me on perspective. It’s kind o t like the way I consider myself short because I’m shorter than almost everyone else I know. Then, once or twice a year, I meet someone who is 4’11” and then I think, now this person is REALLY short. Suddenly, despite my morbid obesity, I didn’t feel nearly as large. Interesting.

Still, no one weighs what I weigh without having some sort of underlying emotional issues. So when my sister asked me how much weight I was going to attempt to lose on my own before the surgery. I told her that to be honest, I’ve decided to do the internal work necessary to support permanent weight loss. If I don’t deal with what got me to this point, then I have the feeling that the surgery will only do me some temporary good, at best. When I say goodbye to the weight I want it to be forever. For me that means truly dealing with the spiritual issues that affect healing and wholeness. I’ve got some work to do and I’d like to take the summer break from teaching to FOCUS on that; to devote all my attention and awareness to it. If Dr. Ornish is right–and I suspect that he is–then if I get my inner healing taken care of, then weight loss cannot help but be a by-product. I intend to put this theory to the test.


The “Weighting” Game…

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This is me, at the most I have ever weighed. But I am still smiling, because I have hope…

I have taken the first step, just as I said I would, but this waiting around is difficult.

#1 I have done all my research regarding the newest weight-loss surgery, the laparoscopic sleeve. I know the risks involved and the success rates, based on the average amounts of weight lost over time by clients. I have also chosen my doctor, which is where my first mistake may have come in–but I’ll explain that in a minute.

#2 The second step is to attend a seminar where they give you all the information I just mentioned: the various surgical options, along with the risks associated with each; the insurance plans they will work with, patient history sheets to fill out, and a list of lifestyle changes clients can expect to make once they have had the surgery. Okay, so NO, I didn’t attend the information session because I did that back in 2010, the FIRST time I made up my mind to have some type of bariatric surgery. However, I DID avail myself of the online information session, which–just as I suspected–had only a few minor changes. But anyway, kudos to Wake Forest Baptist Health for trying to insure that their patients are educated before making huge choices like this one.

#3 Once you have attended the information session, perspective clients are supposed to call the office for a consultation with the doctor of their choice. Well, I did…and I’m still waiting…and “weighting”… That’s what I meant when I said that perhaps I had made a bad decision in choosing a world famous doctor like Dr. Fernandez.

It just so happens that I am privileged to live in a city that is host to one of the nation’s preeminent medical facilities. But I tend to take that for granted because, well…I grew up here! I realize that people come from all over the US (and the world?) for treatment here, but I still expect to the attended to quickly!! And I swear I didn’t choose this doctor because of what it says on the website, “Led by Dr. Adolfo “Fuzz” Fernandez, our expert bariatric surgeons have performed over 1,000 procedures since 2003…” No, the truth is that his own wife (Dr. Andrea Fernandez) referred me to him just before she gave me an endometrial ablation back in 2006. No, she didn’t refer me for weight-loss surgery, but for a quick removal of what she figured was an umbilical hernia.

I called the office on last Monday and was told that someone would get back with me to set up an appointment. Tomorrow will make one week of waiting. Should I just try to schedule with another doctor on the team who is not quite as famous as Dr. Fuzz? It’s just that I have heard so many wonderful things from happy clients of his. And one of the nurses who works with him just happens to also be my beautician [she only opens her shop by appointment]. She only expresses the greatest admiration for his work and talks about how happy and successful his patients are.

#4 The say that as soon as the consultation with the doctor has been scheduled that you can go ahead and also schedule your appointments for a psychological evaluation, for a talk with the nutritionist, and for a consultation about exercise. Then I guess after all that you will be fully set up to have the surgery.


My Decision

A year ago, I thought that I could do this on my own. I was morbidly obese, but still had a sense of hope about the possibilities of losing weight. I began to journal my eating habits with an online tool called MyFitness Pal. That was cool. I tried to overcome the pain and bitterness of having gained so much weight after taking Phentermine pills prescribed by my doctor. I began to walk for 30-45 minutes a day at least 5 times a week. Every now and then I went to the gym. Over the course of several months I think I lost about 9 pounds and a couple of inches.

So now a year has passed and my meager efforts have resulted in horrible results. I am exhausted. I weigh 20 pounds more, I think. That is, I am afraid to even get on the scales because I can no longer wear the size 18’s that I was wearing a year ago. I now wear a size 24 and sometimes a size 22. My exhaustion and depression can be seen in my face. I know this because whereas people used to call me “Sunshine” they now just ask me what’s wrong. I am irritable and in pain. My only refuge, sleep, is no longer easily accessible and is constantly interrupted with pains that play themselves out in my dreams. I frequently cry because of the state that I am in.

Then there are all the happy, fit people who tell me that “all you have to do is…” Oh, dear! How can I express how much I hate hearing simplistic solutions. If I could just do any of the hundred things that people say you have to do, well then I wouldn’t BE in this situation, now would I? I know that I must have will power, because I have accomplished so many other feats in my life. So why can’t I seem to apply that same will power to this particular challenge? I don’t know that answer. And now I am too tired to figure it out. I am not getting any younger, and I’m feeling worse by the minute. Something has to be done.

Yesterday I made the firm decision to pursue the latest laparoscopic sleeve surgery. I have heard wonderful things about it from people who have had amazing results; the risks seem few; my insurance will evidently pay for most of the procedure. What do I have to lose besides all the weight that is slowly and painfully killing me?


Today is the Day

The sculpture Bronskvinnorna (The women of bro...

The sculpture Bronskvinnorna (The women of bronze) outside of the art museum (Konsthallen), Växjö, Sweden. The sculpture is a work by Marianne Lindberg De Geer. Its display of one anorectic and one obese woman is a demonstration against modern society’s obsession with how we look. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am fat.

Dang it, I wasn’t going to start out like that; because I’ve already made up my mind that this blog will be about so much more than just my journey on the weight-loss wagon. I am more than just a fat body. I am beautiful. I am intelligent. I am loved and loving.

Okay, but I am also fat. Or should I say “obese” and keep out all the emotional baggage that comes with the term fat? Well, if we’re going to be clinical, then I should say that I am morbidly obese. Don’t argue with me. I KNOW I don’t look like it–for which I am truly thankful–but it doesn’t stop the truth from being true. And yes, I am going to tell you exactly how much I weigh…but if you don’t mind, I’d sort of like for us to get to know each other a little better first. Thanks.

Meanwhile, I will tell you that I am a 42-year-old, highly educated African-American mother of 4 adult sons. I am bilingual and am married to an immigrant from El Salvador. And I have been overweight for as long as I can remember. Even when I lost a whole heap of weight by using the doctor-prescribed Phentermine combined with vitamin B-12 complex injections.

What I am not is bitter/cynical. I sincerely congratulate all the people who took or take the appetite suppressants and lose weight AND keep it off. (I just don’t KNOW those people.) I would actually be glad if I had kept off even half of the 30+ pounds I lost. Not only could I not keep it off through vigilant eating and going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week: I GAINED back all of the weight PLUS another 40 pounds. Yes, I currently weigh about 70 pounds MORE than I did when I first went to the doctor for help.

Believe me when I tell you that I’ve had plenty of time to regret NOT having the gastric bypass surgery that I had signed up for back in 2010! I’d heard horrible things about it and the statistics of people who DIE after the surgery was not a pleasant realization at all. I learned about the lap band alternative and went through all the steps and classes to actually have the surgery. All that was left to do was schedule the exact date…and then I recommitted to the holistic healthy approach. I told myself that I did not want a foreign belt surrounding part of my intestine for the rest of my life and that I could save my insurance and myself a whole truckload of money by simply DOING all the things I’d been reading about for years.

I had limited success (never more than 8 or 10  pounds lost at any time) over the next year or so. And that was when I found myself at my desk at work one day, crying out of sheer helplessness and near hopelessness about my weight situation. That was when I picked up the phone and called my doctor and signed up for her weight-loss ‘clinic.’ I’ve already recounted to you THAT fiasco. But later I will tell you exactly how it went over the months that I was taking the pills and the shots.

Again, I have been on the path to wellness for quite a number of years now, and have made great strides emotionally and spiritually. However, it goes without saying that we live in BODIES and I am so ready to see the healing and wellness manifest there. I have been discouraged over and over again, but my purpose is sure. I will arise and continue on the journey and my firm intention is to help anyone I can along the way.

As much as I hate taking pictures, I’m committed to posting some pics so that we can all celebrate my before/after together, ok? I will most likely put up some videos, too (I have a youtube channel.)