By: Lydia Scott
As some of you may know, I’m a fat girl and have been since kindergarten. No, I don’t consider the use of the term “fat” to be derogatory any more than if I had also mentioned that I am a tall girl. “Tall” means my height exceeds the average, and “fat” means my weight exceeds the average. However, while my excess height doesn’t affect my health in any way, my excess weight has.
What a Waste!
Over my lifetime I have destroyed my knees, had heart issues that were at least exacerbated by the excess weight, been more severely injured in the multitude of falls I’ve had than if I’d been more fit, and battled severe body image and confidence issues. At the age of 8 and a weight of 140 pounds, I had a male PE teacher say to me, while my class lined up for roll call, “What a waste of such a pretty face, with that fat body!” Yeah, that definitely stuck with me. I had the statement “Gosh, you’d be so beautiful if you just lost weight!” verbalized to me so often as a child and as a teen that subconsciously I became convinced that because of my body size, everything else good about me was wasted.
These experiences lead to an adult me becoming somewhat of a fat acceptance advocate, because I was absolutely determined to prove that I was JUST AS AWESOME weighing 370 pounds and wearing a size XXXXXL as I was if I weighed 130 pounds and wore a size small. As a child, a teen, and an adult, my addiction to food always won. I might not have acquired postpartum cardiomyopathy if I’d been a healthier weight. My knees would not have succumbed to our family’s genetic curse nearly as early. I wouldn’t have had as many dislocations, subluxations, and dents. And hopefully, a lot fewer emotional struggles with body image. But the food still won.
So, what I’m about to say next is not going to sit well with some of you. And that’s okay, because what I’m going to say is the absolute truth…for me. For some of you, it may also be absolute truth, and for others, it may be a complete abomination. See, for me, deep down inside, I have never, ever been happy being an unhealthy weight. I never liked the way my unhealthy figure looked or felt. I was convinced I was meant to be tall and slim, and because of things that happened in my childhood, that was sabotaged. My small skeletal frame and mild joint hyper mobility did not fare well under the extra weight. It’s just never felt natural to me, but because I gained so much weight at such a young age, I had no idea how to behave naturally and in a way that promoted a healthy weight and smaller body. I was told, and came to believe, that my unhealthy weight and size was what I was meant to be, whether it felt right or not.
The “Easy” Way Out
In 2001, at my sickest and heaviest at near 370 lbs or more, I was approved for and had Roux-en-y Gastric Bypass surgery. There is a general conception that having weight loss surgery is the easy way out, and that people who opt for the surgery are lazy. I’ve never understood that concept. How could a life-threatening surgical procedure with an often painful and difficult recovery, high risk of malnourishment, depression, and ability to totally change the way you express your dependence on food in the blink of an eye, be the easy way out of a life of misery? Granted, not everyone who has weight loss surgery is miserable, nor does every surgery patient have a dependency on food…but I was and I did.
During my surgery, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and I had to have an injection to get it normalized. I was in the hospital for a few days and mostly on bed rest for two weeks. I had horrible nightmares revolving around raining knives during those two weeks. Despite my ravenous hunger and cravings, all I could do was sip liquids, graduating to little bits of mushy foods. Flavor and enjoyment were things of the past for several weeks and after that, every bite was an experiment in whether I could tolerate it. My ability to taste things changed dramatically, affecting my ability to cook meals. I was exhausted and depressed because I was fighting malnourishment and a stricture that became so severe that I couldn’t keep water down and had to have a “twilight sedation” procedure to open the entrance to my stomach pouch again. I lost a third of my hair during the first six months after the surgery, because I had such a hard time keeping my vitamin levels in check.
I lost about 50 lbs the first 6 months, and then learned how to eat around my surgery. I learned that I had no problem tolerating sugar, that it took up less room in my tiny stomach pouch, and that if I sipped a drink while eating I could fit more food in. So, I regained what I lost. I did a lot of things the wrong way, because my support system was no good, and I was not mentally ready to change my relationship with food. After a couple of years, some iron infusions, monthly abdominal B12 shots, developing hypoglycemia as a result of surgery-induced nesidioblastosis, and not getting nearly enough therapy, my eating did become more normal, albeit in much smaller portions. But, I was just as unhealthy as I was the day I had the surgery. If surgery was the easy way out, I didn’t want to even hear whispers of how treacherous the hard way was! Y’all are nuts if it gets harder than this stuff! NUTS, I tell ya!
So, I’ll bet now you’re asking why in the world I went through all of this misery and risk when I wasn’t mentally ready? Because I was dying, slowly, and I saw no way out of it other than the most drastic measures. I HAD to try SOMETHING, and fast! I had heart failure and all the weight was stressing my heart to death. I couldn’t get up and down off the floor, yet I had two small children. I just couldn’t do it. I felt that the surgical alterations to my body would help right some wrongs that had been inflicted on me as a small child, and give me a chance to be healthy. My daddy told me, just before I had the surgery, that he admired my courage and wished he had courage like I did. I had tried “diets” and exercise throughout my entire life, only to quit within a few months because I just didn’t understand what my relationship with food really was. Despite all my reading and research, I didn’t get it. There was always a part of me that put blame elsewhere with reasons like: I don’t eat that much, I just have a low metabolism; being fat is in my genetics; I was overfed as a baby and this is what my body knows; I can’t afford a gym; and my standby of “it doesn’t matter how fat I am and I’m going to show everyone!”
Shut Up and Do It
If you ask me if I’d do it all again, I would tell you “Yes!” What? Really? I would do all that again even though I didn’t get what I expected? Yes, I would. Do you know why? Because I learned so much about myself and food that I don’t think I could have learned any other way. Because failing at weight loss surgery was a HUGE part of me waking up and realizing the number one thing that FINALLY made things click for me: That there is only one person on the face of this earth who is responsible for my weight issues, and that person is ME. I am the one in total control of my body, my mind, and my direction. Me, and me alone. Regardless of how I got started down the road of unhealthiness, it was ME staying on that darn road, and it was ME that could take the exit to health. I was SICK of saying “oh, I WISH I could go horseback riding, but I just can’t.” Or saying “I’m just too busy to try to eat healthy right now.” Or claiming “my heart can’t deal with much exercise, so what’s the point of doing anything?” All of it was a load of baloney I was feeding myself to avoid the painful truth. There was no reason on the face of this earth why I couldn’t get myself healthy. Period. Again, this only applies to me. There are hordes of people whose health and weight issues are totally beyond their control, and saying any amount of anything won’t change that. But in my situation, there was no unchangeable physical cause blocking health. It was all in my head.
I realized I had to stop thinking. I couldn’t ask myself what I want to eat. I couldn’t ask myself if I was going to work out. Because asking myself opened the door to answering myself, which left me with options. I had no options. There was one path, and I needed to just shut up and DO IT. That has become my personal mantra: Shut up and do it. Stop talking myself out of this or that. Stop rationalizing and making deals with myself. I don’t ask myself if I feel like going to work every morning. I just get up, and DO IT. Why should living healthy be any different? I need to stop talking, stop thinking, and do it. Like work. Like brushing teeth. Like breathing.
And there it was. I had found my readiness and started the weight loss journey with little help from the surgical alterations made so long ago. I can’t say it’s been no help, because my stomach is still about half the size of a normal adult, and the intestinal changes are still present, although it seems my body learned to work its way around that to some degree. But my new process of self control, discipline, attention to detail, and exercise are the things that have caused my weight to go from 370 pounds to my current weight of 235 pounds. It’s been an up and down battle over years, and I still have 70 pounds or so to go to reach a fit level, but I have zero doubts now that I will make it. Why?
Because this time, I’m ready. Because once you’re ready, once you have your “why” then “how” is totally secondary, and will always be “the easy way.”
Do you have a goal that’s haunted you during your life? What’s stopping you from grabbing it? Go get it!