A New Direction for Weight Loss

I’ve been pursuing bariatric surgery as a solution to my chronic obesity for a few months now. I just have a couple more appointments left before I can schedule a date with my surgeon. I’m hopeful I can have the surgery before the end of June.

This is something that I have been thinking about in one way or another since 2012 when I first started talking with friends and relatives about it. The tipping point for me was going to Harry Potter World last Christmas and not being able to fit in any of the seats for the rides. (I just want to Escape from Gringotts with Harry!) Besides this, my aunt has had the surgery and she has seen excellent weight loss results. I decided that I would not let another year go by without taking serious action for my future health. I am 25 years old; I should not be worrying about chronic co-morbidities that accompany obesity. I should be traveling the world, climbing mountains, and meeting my soulmate (my earthly one anyway). When I was a child, I could reasonably expect other people to be responsible for me. Now, 7 years into my adult life and finally having a salary job and benefits, there’s really no excuse for me not to take ownership of my health and my body.

My family, after an initial period of concern, and friends have been overwhelmingly supportive and are happy for me. I am incredibly optimistic (as usual). I believe in my ability to follow the pre and post-op rules (like being on a liquid diet for 4 weeks). Whole 30 has prepared me for some of the eating and lifestyle changes that will occur. In fact, I’m doing my fourth Whole 30 right now. #day24

What really concerns me is the emotional aspect of all of this. The trauma I experienced throughout my childhood has had a serious effect on my relationship with food. While I am capable of not acting on those impulses, the temptation will always be there as long as I have these underlying issues. I worry that addressing my body and eating habits alone will not be enough for long-term weight loss success. I need mental and spiritual healing as well. Besides the fact that for the first six months at least I will only be able to eat a quarter cup of food or liquid at a time, the social and emotional aspects of food and eating remain. Bariatric surgery is not a brain surgery.

To this end, I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly since March who has helped me reprocess some of my trauma through a therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). It’s evidence based and it works, for me at least. We started with my earliest traumatic memories and well, it’s the end of April and we’re still working on elementary school memories if that’s any indication how much work I still have to do. Even if we eventually address those traumatic memories associated with emotional eating, weight gain, and everything that goes along with it like low self-esteem and emotional eating, I will most likely struggle with for this for the rest of my life.

Anyone who thinks that bariatric surgery is the easy option for weight loss should educate themselves on the process. The preparation has been extensive and comprehensive. I’ve had to make multiple appointments with nutritionists, behavioral therapists, surgeons, primary care doctors, and hospitals. I’ve attended seminars, support groups, and read books and research about outcomes and various other factors related to weight loss. I’ve spent hours on the phone with my insurance company and the hospitals gathering information about the cost of surgery and my ability to pay. It has been a sacrifice of time and money and has taken mental and physical tolls. All of this happens before surgery. The real work begins after surgery with a 6 week recovery.

It’s a 100% lifestyle change. It is not easy, but it is worth it. And I am ready because:

  • Bariatric surgery is the single most effective treatment for morbid obesity available today.
  • Diet and exercise alone is more likely to fail than to work. The success rate of long-term weight loss maintenance with lifestyle changes ranges from 2-20% (Wing & Phelan, 2005). This failure rate increases to 95%-98% as the starting weight increases for morbidly obese people (whose BMI is over 40).
  • Bariatric surgery, especially the one I’m getting, has a 95% success rate. Success is defined as keeping off at least 50% of excess weight. According to a recent report, five years after surgery patients had maintained a weight loss of 60% of their excess weight.

Ultimately, I do not want to just loose weight, I want healing in every way – physical, mental and spiritual. Bariatric surgery is not an easy solution or a cop out for lifestyle changes, it is a tool that I am using to help me in my journey towards healing.

 All of this is happening at the same time that I am quitting my job at CPCC, planning a move to Raleigh, starting a new job, and starting graduate school at NC State (yes, I finally got in!). It’s all a lot to think about, to plan for, and to be excited about. There’a also a lot of uncertainty and change coming. I feel bittersweet about moving away and quitting my job and overwhelmed with the coming changes, but I can do it. I know I can because I want this so much. Those are real results and I’m coming to get mine.


Themes That Have Been Running Through My Mind

Don’t praise me.

I know it’s because of my insecurities with my body, but I hate it when people praise my efforts to lose weight. When I come home from the gym and my mom says, “I’m so proud of you for going to the gym!” I cringe and don’t respond. I don’t tell people when I’ve lost weight because I don’t want to hear them say, “Wow! Good for you! I’m so proud of you.” I know it’s strange, but I hate it because it brings attention to my large body and the fact that I need to lose weight. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to ignore this fact, and a person bringing it up, even in a positive way, bothers me a lot. People generally wouldn’t tell a thin person they were proud of them for going to the gym, so why tell me? Because I really need to go to the gym, right? But everyone needs to be active to be healthy, not just people who are overweight. When people praise me for working out, they think they are encouraging me to continue a healthy lifestyle by recognizing my efforts, but I’m not doing this for them or for their recognition. I’m doing this for me and my future. I don’t need or want their praise, especially if they are treating me differently than others (i.e. thinner people) who are behaving the same way. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for their concern or affection; I just don’t enjoy receiving that kind of attention.

How you spend your day is how you spend your life.

This theme was inspired by me watching the last Hobbit film this week, which wasn’t completely disappointing. After watching the movie, I remembered how obsessed I was with Lord of the Rings when I was in middle and high school. I devoted so much of my time and energy reading and learning about everything that had to do with LOTR and Tolkien’s universe. For what reason? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of LOTR made me happy. It was all I talked about and all I watched; it brought me into a community, it entertained, inspired, and motivated me. But in the end, this obsession didn’t really do me any good besides encourage a love of reading. Now I can’t help but think, what if I devoted the same amount of time and energy to something more worthwhile? Not my career or education, but Jesus Christ? What if I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Him? what He said and did? What if I made Him my inspiration and motivation? joined a community just as obsessed with Him as I was? How would my life be different? It wouldn’t just make me happy, it would give me real joy. It’s not quite as easy as all that. I need to work through my misgivings concerning the church and my own stubborn resistance to Him that we all share. But, reading and learning are things that I enjoy doing, and it’s not so much that I don’t find Jesus interesting as I’ve been desensitized by a lifetime of hearing the same standardized sermons over and over. So that’s where I’ll start, reading.

I need a new job.

On a much more practical level, I’ve been thinking and rethinking my situation and decided to seriously look for a better job. Earning minimum wage is terrible; earning minimum wage in a retail position is not worth it. I had a bad experience last week when I was sick and needed to call out. But even before last week, I applied to a handful of temp agencies in Raleigh. So far, I have not heard anything from them. I’ve also applied and have an interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Fayetteville State University. To be honest, it’s not paying much more than what I’m making now, but it is in my career field and would help me develop my professional skills. There are two things that prevent me from being super excited about this job. 1) It’s an hour away from Raleigh so a lot of time and money would be spent commuting. 2) It requires a one year commitment that I may or may not be able to complete. The job runs from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, but I’m planning to start grad school in the fall of 2015. I would be willing to defer enrollment for a semester (which would take me to Jan 2016), but an entire year? That’s a long time. Since nothing is set in stone for grad school, I’m going to the interview next week, but I don’t know what to do! My gut feeling, and my Mom, tells me to let this job go and attend grad school this fall, but what if I give it up and don’t get in? At the same time, I can’t stand the thought of working at Starbucks for another eight months before grad school.

I know things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ll just bake some cookies.

Merry Christmas!