Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Big 100!!!!
I'm definitely doing the dance of joy now, folks. Today I've officially lost 100 pounds since Aug. 29. When I got out of the hospital, I weighed 316 pounds. Today I weigh 216. I feel about twenty years younger, and I'm told I look it too.
I'm thinking back on what I've learned the last eight months since I started this journey.
I remember how scared out of my mind I was the weekend before the surgery. I basically melted down as I imagined every possible nightmare scenario. I was afraid I'd have complications -- perhaps even die. I was afraid my writing would suffer. (My editor says she thinks I'm actually better now than I was before the surgery.)
I was afraid the depression I've struggled with at various points of my life would be made worse by my new diet. I was afraid it wouldn't work -- that I'd pay out this huge sum of money only to end up regaining the weight.
I was afraid, period.
In retrospect, it was very similar to when my son was born. I was afraid of the pain, but I was more afraid of the way my life would change in ways I couldn't anticipate. But like the birth of my child, I now believe everything I went through was worth it.
I had reason to be afraid. Gastric bypass surgery is dangerous, especially if you don't do what your surgeon tells you to do, or if you don't choose the right doctor. I'm happy to say I did choose the right man -- Dr. Paul Ross, who had performed more than 300 gastric bypass procedures. If you're contemplating gastric bypass, I must stress how crucial it is to get a surgeon who's done at least 100 Gastric Bypass surgeries. Studies have shown that's the point when the complications go way down.
However, I will say that for all people talk about how dangerous it is to have gastric bypass surgery, it's far more dangerous to weigh 316 pounds. And a hell of a lot more miserable, too. I remember what it was like hauling my bulk out of a car, or getting on an airplane and having to ask for seatbelt extenders, or being afraid I was going to have a heart attack when I had to run catch a plane. I remember how my knees hurt when I'd have to get off the toilet. I remember the constant humiliation of being morbidly obese. One time I was riding with my girlfriend in her car, and her seatbelt wouldn't fit. I panicked. I hate riding without a seatbelt, but I was too freaking fat.
Another time I had been assigned to do a story about riding in a 60-year-old B-17 Bomber. They showed me to a seat in the plane's nose -- a rickety thing with a tiny seatbelt made for an 18 year old boy. I almost didn't get the belt to fit, and I was so humiliated. I was afraid I'd have to get off the plane.
And I knew good and damned well I was going to die young. I was headed for diabetes and the possibility of blindness -- and how would I work as I writer then? Sudden death from a heart attack was another real risk.
So I truly believe having the surgery, paying out all that money -- because my insurance didn't pick up a dime of it -- was worth it. It has probably added 10 or 15 years to my life. It's definitely made my life more worth living. And studies of those who've had the surgery confirm that.
But I won't kid you -- there have been times it wasn't fun. The first three months right after the surgery seemed endless. I was so damned weak there were times that just walking across the floor almost laid me out. My voice quavered as if I were eighty. I'd almost faint in the grocery store or the mall.
And adjusting to the tiny quantities of food was really hard at first. Here I was, used to eating anything and everything I wanted, whenever I wanted. That first couple of weeks, just watching TV was torture because of all the food commercials.
We coined a new phrase for the Food Network programs we used to love. I call them Food Porn, because you're watching all this decadent activity you can't do.
It's true what they said -- food is an addiction. And not being able to get your fix can be unbelievably frustrating. There were times I'd sit down and cry because I felt so weak and sick. Recently I went to a meeting of my gastric bypass group, and there was this poor girl there who kept crying. "When will I be able to eat?" She kept throwing up all the time. We assured her it would get better. And it has.
Right after the surgery, I couldn't eat salads or raw vegetables, beef, pork, or fruit, or anything with seeds. Rice was out. Sugar was off the menu, and still is. I had to give up caffeine. The only thing I could eat was scrambled eggs, soup, sugar-free Jello and sugar-free popsicles. If I even thought about transgressing, my body made me pay. I'd end up bent over a toilet, yarking.
I spent a lot of time that first four months yarking. When I ended up with a stricture -- scar tissue around the opening from my stomach to my intestines -- every time I ate for about a week, I'd throw up. But worse was the horrible pain as I waited and prayed to throw up. Once I did, the pain and sickness would abate. I finally had a minor procedure to open the scar tissue, and that problem went away. It was the only real complication I've had.
Since then, my stomach has healed, and my diet is a lot more varied. I can eat just about anything now -- salads, vegetables, beef, fruit, even the chicken that for a while there made me sick as a dog.
You may be thinking, Man, I'd love to lose the weight, but aren't you hungry? No, oddly enough, I'm not. I can remember diets pre-surgery that drove me nuts with hunger -- with little to show for it -- but hunger isn't a big problem anymore. Cravings sometimes are, especially at certain times of the month or when stress is especially great. I sometimes sneak a tiny piece of chocolate or a bite of brownie, which I can get away with without dumping syndrome. But if I try to eat anymore than that, I get pretty sick. That's good, because sweets have always been my downfall.
I've learned my willpower is a hell of a lot better than I always thought it was. If there are real, immediate consequences to doing something stupid, you don't do the stupid thing. Before the surgery, and a waiter asked, "Would you like the creme brulee?" I'd think -- "I really shouldn't -- I'm already the size of a horse...Oh, what the hell." Now I grimace and say, "No." 'Cause the momentary pleasure is not worth ninety minutes of being sick as a dog.
The weight loss has been phenomenal. I remember one week post-op, when I lost 20 pounds. Good God. Even after that, there were days when I'd lose a pound a day. I'm not kidding.
Now, recently, there was a month where I didn't lose a single pound. My grandmother was in the hospital, and I was having to stay with her to spell my poor mom every day for three weeks. My grandma has severe Alzheimer's, and half the time she doesn't know who I am. That's bad enough, but she'd shattered her arm -- for the third time since October -- and she kept trying to take off the bandages and get out of bed. The woman is 89, and if she fell, which was likely because of the drugs, she'd break a hip. So I spent hours at the hospital trying to keep her in the bed and in her cast. Not to mention trying to get her to eat, because she looked like the victim of a Nazi concentration camp.
All that was bad enough, but there was a while there she kept trying to attack the nursing staff and my mother and father. One time a nurse was trying to get a blood sample, and I saw my grandmother cranking up her foot trying to kick the woman in the back of the head. Good grief! I had to pounce on her to keep her from doing it, too.
This is the kind of high stress situation that drives morbidly obese people to eat like little pigs. I came about as close as it's possible for a gastric bypass patient to get. I even hit KFC one day, despite the fact that the thought of fried chicken makes me sick. And yes, I ended up nauseated and guilt-ridden. I won't be doing that again. It's just not worth it.
But Grandma is back in her nursing home recovering now. I've finished my latest novella, and made friends with Lean Cuisine. Those little 250 cal Lean Cuisines are now about the perfect size for me. Back in the day, I'd have to eat two of them.
I've lost four pounds in the last week. People compliment me all the time. My husband is beside himself with joy. He loves playing with my newly thin fingers and my collar bones and the shoulders he hasn't seen in years.
I've still got 66 pounds to lose, but I know I can do it. I also know the real challenge will come when the weight is finally off, and I have to adjust to maintaining. But I've learned important lessons, and I'm better equipped to deal with my eating addiction.
Gastric bypass is not magic. You still have to have to learn the self-control not to do stupid stuff, and sometimes it's not easy. But I've learned that every time I say no to something self-destructive, I get a little stronger. And that's not a bad lesson to learn.
Posted by Angela Knight at 5:27 AM