Starting in 3rd grade I can remember being bigger than all the other kids. But then as the years passed I continued to get larger and larger. By the time I was in Junior High, the bullying began. I started learning to not be noticed, to sit in the back of class and keep quiet.
Whenever I was picked on or made fun of, my self-defense mechanism was to just “laugh” with them, so that it would appear to be all in good fun. But it wasn’t, the words went deep and they hurt. My self-esteem and confidence suffered greatly. I just became very shy to people I didn’t know very well. Scared that they too would begin to pick the scabs of the emotional wounds that I had accumulated.
I began to wrestle with diets and new fads all through high school with very limited success. I often wondered if it was genetics, as obesity runs strong in my family. And though I do believe genetics are part of it, I credit emotional eating as the largest contributor to my condition. I would eat out of boredom, sadness, and frustration with my life. I would want to just constantly eat, or binge on certain foods. Also, in our society, we eat when we are happy or when we want to celebrate. Our entire lives seem to revolve around food!
I have never had an addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs, but I feel that I can relate to the difficulty of those addictions because of my own addiction to food. At some point I eventually just gave up on thinking I could ever lose the weight. I would dream of an alternate life where I was skinny, healthy, and happy. Maybe once a year I would get frustrated with my weight enough to attempt to diet, but it would usually only last a week or so.
There and Back Again: A Surgical Tale
When I was 25, and 385 pounds, I was approved for gastric bypass surgery. This was it, my BIG chance to change my life forever! I was so excited to begin this journey. I stuck to the eating regimen after surgery to a “T”. And the weight fell off! Some months I would lose up to 30 pounds. It was astonishing and exciting. I was able to do more at the gym and the motivation of my continued weight lost was enough to keep me going.
Slowly the weight loss began to drop, but I was still going through new wardrobes as my clothing sizes dropped. I seemed to bottom out at around 215 pounds. But I was not discouraged, I was so much smaller than I ever thought I would be. So I decided to go ahead and have the “body lift” plastic surgery. The doctor removed 10 pounds of loose skin from me, which I was very excited about. After the surgery and continued diet and working out, I finally dropped down to 195 pounds.
My food addiction, being very sneaky, began to root itself slowly back into my life. I felt like since I had accomplished so much, I deserved that slice of cake, or that extra burrito. And soon I began eating close to the same quantity I was able to eat before. I would begin to “graze”, eating constantly all day. As you can guess, the weight came back. I kept setting new weight limits as restrictions. If I get to be over 200, then a serious diet is in store for me. But as I would reach that weight limit, I would tell myself that it’s ok, I am still happy with where I am.
Well 60-70 pounds later, I found myself hitting close to 260 pounds again, and digging out old clothes that were once way too big for me. I eventually found somewhat of a balance, as the weight gain finally stopped. But still I was no longer the shining bright star of a successful gastric bypass patient.
That’s when I realized I ruined a great gift…
Gastric bypass is a tool to help you get to where you want to be, but you can definitely find ways to “cheat” the system to the point to where the bypass surgery has done all it can for you and you are now on your own…again.
I began to research “revisional” gastric bypass surgeries to help me get back on the right path. Though would that really be the right decision? I was given a great chance and blew it once already. Was it going to be in vain? Insurance wouldn’t cover it, and it was way more expensive than I could afford. Especially since I still had medical bills from the body lift. Was that too money wasted? I was very upset, and started to get depressed about my weight again.
The Big Shift
A friend told me about the benefits of becoming a raw foodist, so after some research I decided to do it. I converted my kitchen, packed away the microwave, and went grocery shopping. It was a great experience even though I only lasted a couple of weeks. So add another notch to the failed diet attempts. Then that same friend talked to me about becoming a vegetarian. I kept blowing that idea off. Yeah right! Me a vegetarian? Then I finally watched the documentary called “Earthlings”, and I was done. I didn’t even watch a full 30 minutes of the full length film and I was sold. I started the new year of 2011 as a Pescatarian, allowing myself to still eat seafood.
The first year was not difficult. I found many menu items at restaurants and fast food chains that could be easily altered to be vegetarian. However, at the close of the first year, I was still the same weight. I still frequented fast food restaurants and that became my new addiction. Taco Bell was my kryptonite, sometimes I would go twice a day. I wasn’t eating meat, but I didn’t really change any of my fundamental eating habits.
Then my friend challenged me to watch “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, a documentary about juicing. Another life changer for me. I became a strict vegetarian, and began juicing two to 4 days in a row. Sure I was extremely cranky at first due to my intense cravings for food, but I managed through it. And with each successful attempt it became easier and I noticed that when I was not juicing, I made much healthier food choices. I began to find a balance of foods to eat, relying heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lessons and strategies I found that keep me on track
1. Stay active: In an effort to accelerate my weight loss, I began going for walks, jogs, and bike rides. As the year progressed, weight began to slowly drop.
2. Make empowered choices: Finally, I was beginning to see a difference. However, this time felt different. This didn’t feel like a diet. I was eating healthy foods because I wanted to. If I wanted something that wasn’t on the plan, I would consider it carefully and decide if it was truly worth it. If I still wanted it, I would allow myself, with no guilt. But that meant a one-time thing and it was time to stay focused and on track for my goals.
3. Eliminate what doesn’t serve you: I cut out all fast food. It’s greasy, unhealthy, and so convenient that you don’t even have to really think about what you are putting into your body. Plus I know myself too well that it would trigger all my old addictions. So I just can’t even allow myself fast food, especially Taco Bell.
4. Commit to your goals: I have lost all the weight I had gained back, plus some. I stay within the 180 pound range, am active in a volleyball league, practice yoga and bike around the city.
5. Everything in moderation: I try to pack in as much fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet as I can. I allow myself to go to restaurants with friends now, or to veg out at home with a pizza on occasion.
6. Stay alert and be pro-active: Knowing my past and my addiction, I am always on guard to make sure it does not take hold of my life. If I feel I am going down the wrong path, I get very strict with my eating again. Even if it means I have to pass on social outings that revolve around food. I am much healthier and happier now.
7. Find the balance: I do not follow a diet. I use the knowledge I have gained about foods and health living, and apply it to my life how I can. It is very much a personalized balance that I have found for myself.
8. Make you and your health a priority: I have to put a high priority on maintaining my health, weight, and happiness because I know that they are also my greatest weakness.
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