2008 started out like all other years in some respects — I had naturally put on weight over the holidays, but barely noticed it. I mean, maybe my pants were a little tighter, but when you go from tight to tighter it’s not much of a shift. I wanted to make a change, I guess — but was doubtful of my ability to do so. Just like every other year.
But, some things were different. I had just gotten home from visiting my parents with a boyfriend for the first time in my life. Although the visit went great, it was becoming more and more clear that this long-term relationship was probably not going to last. I was in love, yes. My parents liked him well enough. But, by that point he had been unemployed for over a year and I was beginning to have my doubts.
In addition, I was 3 weeks in to a new job in a new part of town — a job that I had wanted to have since my grad school internship in 2004. There was a lot of potential, job-wise, for satisfaction and health improvement. I was excited, but warily so because of the hundreds of times I had been in that situation before.
And then, at least according to this blog, I went silent. I bought a new car, I moved to a new place, and I settled in to my new job which involved making a lot of first impressions. Meeting powerful people, millionaire donors, and new employees while weighing 360 pounds was pretty painful, but I nothing I wasn’t used to.
Sometime in February, I wandered up to the dialysis unit and weighed myself on their scale. I measured in kilos so that the emotional reaction wouldn’t be too horrifying. I had made some small changes (taking only one serving, using the stairs) and felt that I was already lighter than I had been at New Year’s. Converting from kilos, I weighed 354 pounds (which is why I was unable to weigh myself at home on my 350-pound scale). I had no idea how much I had weighed after the holidays, but since I already felt lighter, I tried not to think about it too much.
I didn’t pop up again on the blog until March, when I said:
Just making little changes lately. You know, trying to cut back on white rice, eat fewer cookies, order the fish now and again, that sort of thing.
And I’m down 3 kilos, according to the scale on the 5th floor.
It was that “making little changes” idea that really seemed to make a difference for me. I didn’t get caught up in weighing, measuring, tracking, charting, or scheduling. I didn’t blog everything or try to defend or justify my decisions. In short, I didn’t obsess.
I popped up on the blog again in May, after a good friend of mine begged me to get weight-loss surgery. He was dealing with end-of-life issues with his obese mother, and was so devastated by the experience that he reached out to me in love and caring. I sat down the next day and started googling. I learned about the various types of gastric bypass surgery and called my insurance company to ask about their coverage. I was a little alarmed that they would cover the entire procedure and all pre- and post-care at 100% if I qualified. To qualify, I had to be more than 100 pounds overweight. When I weighed 360 pounds at the beginning of the year, I was 170 pounds higher than the upper limit of the “normal” BMI range for my height. I almost qualified for free weight-loss surgery twice over. I read about the behavioral changes that would be necessary, were I to get the surgery. I realized that either way — with or without surgery — I would have to drastically change my behavior and my willpower and self-discipline in order to lose weight. I realized that surgery was not going to be an “easy way out” any more than getting up every morning and exercise would. For the first time in my life, I set aside my pride and defiance and considered surgical intervention.
I pulled out the scale, certain that I had lost at least 4 pounds and could weigh myself again. I was right. By making small, miniscule changes to my behavior, I had quietly dropped 20 pounds. Something about having lost those 20 pounds gave me hope and motivation. It convinced me to make one last real and true attempt to lose weight before I requested weight loss surgery. For the first time in my entire adult life, I set a goal.
I would give myself until the end of the year to weigh under 300 pounds. This felt very reasonable to me, but I knew I would have to really try. I wanted to walk into the doctor’s office, knowing that I had done everything I could short of having surgery. I refused to submit to weight-loss surgery until I had truly exhausted all other options. Now that I understood how much work people have to put in even after weight loss surgery, I figured that any self-discipline or skills I developed would only serve me post-surgery. But, I knew that if I didn’t give it my all, I would always feel like I had given up or taken the easy way out.
So, I joined Weight Watchers, shopping around until I found a leader I could stand. I didn’t strictly follow their food plans or whatever, but I found great support in the weekly meetings, and power in the accountability of a weekly weigh-in. I also knew that a structure was in place, should I ever decide to take advantage of it. Maybe this is bad, but I knew that by not getting too strict with any one program at that point would (a) increase the chances of me sticking with it, (b) still probably lead to progress (I mean, I had sort of accidentally lost weight through making small and undocumented changes) and (c) would give me somewhere to go once my weight plateaued, as I expected it to. I mean, if I were adhering to every single rule from day one, then what? What changes could I make once the plan stopped working or when I needed a little extra motivation? All I can say is that I love my leader and I advise everyone to “shop around” if they are considering joining Weight Watchers. The leader makes a huge difference.
On another whim, I called my brother and asked him to fly to Los Angeles and help me make an application video for The Biggest Loser TV show. That story will remain largely untold, but although I obviously wasn’t cast, I also obviously didn’t need them in order to make big changes and lose weight.
Then, in June, I finally broke up with my boyfriend. I don’t really want to write about that except to say that it didn’t derail me too much and that we are still friends who see each other all the time. I will also add that seeing me finally have success with weight-loss has dramatically reduced his frustrations with my efforts and all but obliterated his all-or-nothing thinking on the matter.
In July, I began to have pain episodes which, due to my health history, I originally attributed to ovarian cysts. As time and medical tests went on, we discovered that I was suffering from pancreatitis, dangerously decreased liver function, and pain episodes due to a failed gallbladder. Getting to the diagnosis (and, later, navigating our broken health system to get my surgery scheduled) took up a fair amount of my time and energy, but I continued to work towards my goals — losing enough weight that by the end of August I had crossed over from the “severely obese” category to just being “obese.” Yay for obesity!
In September, I achieved my end-of-year goal to weigh under 300 pounds, so I set a new goal — to weigh under 289 by the end of the year and no longer qualify for surgery. I met that goal shortly thereafter and decided that, given circumstances, I would keep that goal until the end of the year. I wanted to start out 2009 without the medical option of surgery, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure after the holidays and the gallbladder stuff.
Other than that, October was pretty swallowed up with the gallbladder — preparing for removal and everything else it entailed. The surgery took place on November 6th, and there were complications which transformed my simple, same-day, out-patient procedure into a 2-week hospital stay. One surgery, two fix-it procedures, and ten NPO days later, I had lost almost 25 pounds which would slowly come back as I regained my health.
I’m so amazed by all that has happened this year. As I am recuperating and returning to my pre-illness strength and energy levels, I am excited for the coming year. This morning, I weighed at 285-point-something, so my holiday pounds are coming off and I will easily be able to achieve my goal of weighing under 289 pounds on New Year’s Day.
I have never before been able to achieve goals and it is an amazing feeling. Partly, I have achieved these goals by setting the bar very low. At the beginning of summer, my WW leader challenged us to set an Labor Day goal. I, unable to believe in my ability to set and achieve goals, set a bar so low that I had achieved it by the 4th of July. But, that feeling of accomplishment was just amazing. I work very hard to set realistic goals and I have achieved every one of them. Could I be losing more weight faster? Probably. But, I am not in a race. I am happy with the rate at which I am losing — a rate which allows me and all of the people around me to grow accustomed to the new me slowly. The changes feel like they are sticking. I am accountable and determined. I am also forgiving of myself and realistic in my expectations. In short, I am growing into a totally different person.
I am so grateful for this whole journey and am really looking forward to see what happens next. I am personally grateful to each of you who have offered support, advice, and words of encouragement this year. I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart.