There I lay, flat on an operating room table. Medical staff was prepping me for anaesthesia, chatting about everyday things while tears rolled down my face. A nurse wiped them away and assured me everything would be okay after my weight loss surgery. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery thinking, What the hell have I done to myself?
At my heaviest, I was 360 pounds and I had hope that this hour-long laproscopic surgery would change my world for the better. Once and for all, this could finally be the catalyst for change that I needed. I was 41 years old.
I put my first referral for the Lap Band surgery in over eight years before, only to find out it wasn’t performed in the Maritimes. I’d have to travel to Montreal and I’d have to pay $10,000 out of pocket for the device. Medicare would only cover the hospital costs. The only surgery they did in Halifax was the full gastric bypass, which I didn’t need. I was young and healthy and there was nothing physically stopping me from losing weight.
Finally, I was done with the yoyo. I’d had it with gaining and losing weight, trying the latest fad diet, buying another diet book, stocking up on the latest news with the miracle cures, devouring the annual People magazine edition of the biggest weight loss stories. All of it just inspired me to last a day or two on a new diet. I’d lose a few pounds, and I’d start to get compliments, but it wouldn’t last. Soon, I would gain weight again, self-sabotaging I suspect.
It got to the point where I knew it was going to happen. I hopped from one therapist to another but no one could get to the ‘root’ of the problem as Dr. Phil and Oprah say. One even told me that that I live in a province that likes to use sugar and that there was nothing wrong with me. I never bought into that whole ‘you’re fat because you want to be’ theory. Who would want this?
Looking back, I see a pattern. I had started putting on weight in adolescence, and spent every spare dollar I could get my hands on on junk food. I would steal bits of cash, sneak food, hide it, and once I got my driver’s license, I really packed on the pounds. I could go get my own food and eat it or sneak it back into the house, where no one would be the wiser.
I gained steadily and never developed relationships with men. I was always fascinated when I saw overweight women with boyfriends or husbands. I wondered what they had that I didn’t. But it was confidence. I couldn’t believe that someone could be attracted to me. I was a professional, worked full-time, and appeared to have my life together, but I couldn’t get control of my body.
And then I discovered the VSG surgery. My family doctor made a referral and I received the consultation call from the bariatic centre in just six weeks. I’d heard the wait was up to five years, but a miracle happened. The referral had been made eight years earlier—from Halifax. It was the law of attraction at work.
I spent eight months going through pre-op education sessions, medical and physiological tests, and just generally educating myself while waiting in the queue. I only told a couple of my dearest friends, one sister, an aunt, and then, close to the surgery date, my mother. I’m a private person and I didn’t want to hear how so and so’s friend’s neighbour’s daughter had this surgery and a) gained all the weight back, or b) almost died. I’d done my research. I was ready.
The first 100 pounds fell off effortlessly. I did walk every day, rain, shine, or snow but I could eat whatever I wanted, albeit in very small amounts. Ghrelin, which is the craving inducing hormone, was removed along with 80 – 85% of my stomach. Living without cravings was so freeing. It was what normal people must feel like, when their life isn’t consumed with or haunted by food.
The honeymoon phase of the surgery lasted for eight months (up to 18 months for some). Eventually, the hormone starts to reproduce itself in other areas of the body so the cravings do come back but not with the same intensity.
To adjust, I joined an online weight loss group and kept going. I’d never let myself grow out of my current clothing size before getting myself back under control. Surgery had given me the jump start I needed, with the restriction of a smaller stomach, and I got past that danger weight on the scale that had always haunted me. But I still wasn’t done.
I hired a lifestyle coach and personal trainer who’s been a godsend. I’m still a work in progress but with his help, I’ve gone from a tight size 18 to bordering on 12, from a tight size 5X before surgery to an size Large today.
When I walk into a restaurant, I’m no longer the fattest person in the room (I still look around to check) and I don’t have to scout it out to see if I can fit in the booths or chairs. In the car, the seatbelt doesn’t cut into my neck. I don’t have to deal with the judgmental glares from society.
The fact is,we live in a superficial world, and when you’re fat, your issues or weaknesses are right there for the whole world to see.
The surgery was just the beginning. Now, the work is fitness—seven days a week for at least an hour and a half every morning. It’s not easy. After yoyo dieting for 25+ years and aging as a woman, exercise is necessary to keep the results I want.
I hate the misperception that weight loss surgery is easy, that somehow, we copped out. If you’re overweight and decide that surgery is or is not for you, so be it, but it’s not anyone’s business.
Surgery fixes your stomach, not your mind. You’ll still have those same battle of wills in your head. I find those who are overweight but against surgery sometimes walk around with a self-righteous attitude that’s disheartening. I get annoyed seeing articles that say ‘Half Their Size stories, no surgeries or gimmicks’ because they perpetuate the ignorance. They suggest that those who had surgery aren’t worthy of being applauded because they didn’t work as hard as those who took a pass.
Everyone’s life journey is different and all should be respected. One thing’s for sure: Life is so much easier today then it was 170 pounds ago.
Cindy is a country girl at heart, living in the city. She’s always on the hunt for the next best dessert and loves searching Pinterest and cooking blogs, while experimenting with new recipes (usually with chocolate!). She also loves politics, current events, cars, cross border shopping, trying the latest beauty products, and staying active. She’s happiest in the sun and near the water.