As I sit and write this post while rocking my VS Pink PJ’s, I never thought I would be here. Sometimes I forget that being a size 12 [give or take — for example JCrew takes (usually an XL/14 or 16) while Talbots gives (usually a Medium/10)] was a pipe dream. I sometimes forget how long and hard I worked to get here. I usually forget those things while wallowing in a big vat of “not good enough.” It is during those times that I wonder why I just can’t be a size 6, why I just can’t stop life to work out more, why I just can’t stop eating entirely to achieve societal perfection.
I was always a chunky kid. I never was thin. So until I was roughly 27 years old — I was overweight, obese. Fat. What always burned me was that I never was the kid who was pounding down milkshakes and twinkies. I played sports, I hated icing on cake (still do), I asked for seconds of veggies and fruits. So why in the world was I so fat? My doctor basically looked at me one day and said: Kid, you were born this way — you are healthy — it’s how you were meant to be.
I never truly accepted that, however. I — like most fat kids — hid the insecuirty with extreme confidence, hid the pain of being made fun of or passed over during gym class with jokes. I poured myself into extracurricular activities and my studies. I would have minor moments of weight loss, but over all I still was large. I never wore Junior sized close in high school — by that time I was living in Lane Bryant.
I remained large and (seemingly) in charge through college and law school. I had boyfriends, I had friends, and I had fun. I was not the larger person who hid in the shadows, I was not the fat girl to be pittied. I had a kick ass life — and my weight never stopped me from trying to learn to fence, belly dancing, kissing boys at frat parties, or kicking ass in class. Not all of us chunky girls were wallflowers, not all of us chunky girls were so concerned about what the skinny folk thought that we hid in oversized clothing hugging walls.
I forget that sometimes. I forget how amazingly confident self-assured, and full of life I was.
Sad to say, my path to dedicated weight loss came not from my own prerogative — but from a man. I was befrended by a man on an online dating site. Yes you read right. He somehow used this dating site to find FRIENDS. Odd I know, but that is another blog post for another time. Regardless, *I* was into him. Then one day he said that he could never date anyone who was fat. I blinked on the phone — that kind of blink that you can hear if you listen close enough. *blink, blink blink* What? Did he really just say? Oh no he didn’t!! Well friends, yes he did. We went on to debate a while…and he stood by his point. He needed to date someone who cared about her body — since being fat must mean that one does not care. I yelled, he yelled, and then we got off the phone. Sad to say my move towards desperate measures to loose weight came that night — when I decided I would NEVER give a man an easy reason to not want to date me.
Friends, I am not proud of this. I don’t know where that confident (abet larger) woman went at that moment. Honestly, I don’t know where she is now. I lost her that day, I lost my supreme confidence and self-assurance to best a man (who in all honesty isn’t that cute either). I lost who I was, to finally cow-tow to society. It was at that time that I investigated the Lap-Band.
I saw all of these things because, lets be real. Most people (not all, but most) do not go through weight loss surgery with “getting healthy” as their primary motivation. Oh, health and well being might be in the top five reasons — maybe even in the top three. But I know I am NOT alone in wanting to be “beautiful” taking the number one slot. I was already beautiful even with my size, but I am talking about the Beyonce/Heidi Klum kind of beautiful. The kind of beautiful that makes men want you,and women hate you. The “Wearing a size 4, walk into any store to buy anything, be envied” kinda beautiful. Again, I lost the woman who knew that beauty came from inside at that very moment — and she was replaced with someone who just wanted to fit in and not stand out. Sometimes that confident larger woman makes an appearance but most of the time vanity and fear of rejection tells her to shut the hell up and eat a carrot.
After going through all of the research, all of the work, all of the steps — in January 2009 I underwent Lap Band Surgery (no need to get into detail here, click HERE if you want to know more about the Lap Band (which is virtually identical to the Realize band and is NOT Gastric Bypass). Trust me that I did medically qualify, despite my reasoning having less to do with health than societal acceptance. At the time I was roughly 325 pounds, but I know I weighed much more at my highest (My best guess is that this body of mine has seen 350 pounds). I was wearing a 24/26. I was firmly a plus-size woman. Yet, even as I was about to be transfered onto the operating table, I had a moment of wondering what the hell I was doing to myself. Then when I woke up, I still wondered what the hell was so wrong with me being larger and healthy (by healthy I mean my stats and levels were all within normal range or sometimes low, I could work out in the gym, climbing stairs was not a problem, so on so forth — none of those stereotypical obese person issues). During the liquid diet phase and beyond I noticed (1) how many food commercials were on TV (cause a lapband is not gastric bypass, and I still like cake kids) and (2) that I still was questioning my decision. Yet I stuck with it.
I stuck with the surgery, I did as it instructed (generally), and I began to work for the weight loss with my new tool. I worked out, I got a personal trainer — and that IN COMBINATION with the band started to let me see results. I want to be very firm that the Band is a tool used by obese people. My surgeon told me that sucess with a band could be loosing roughly 20lb a year.
So why do people undergo life altering surgery? Because unlike many other people, they CAN’T loose that 20lbs by diet and exercise alone. I’ve done Weight Watchers, I’ve read books, I worked out at the gym — but I just could not lose more than roughly 15lbs that I would yo-yo back on and then back off. Some of us need a tool. We need a boost. We need a little medical intervention. It does not mean my weight loss was easy and I just sat around — honey I WORKED. By November 2010 I had worked so hard that I became a Zumba(R) fitness instructor. I was in class SO often, and found myself helping other students. Due to those factors my instructor encouraged me to become licensed, so I did (and I still am).
In addition to working out more and more, I had become a vegetarian (I no longer am). Yes piggies are cute — but they also are tasty. I gave up meat because I could not eat it. The thing about a lapband is that she dosen’t always like everything you eat. I have trouble with animal protein, raw veggies/salads, and many other good for you foods. Why — well the band is the “gateway” to my larger stomach pouch and sometimes foods will not slip through. When that happens, there are a couple of adverse effects. From something called sliming (it feels like a big ball of spit is welling up in the back of your throat — because it is. Your body is trying to coat that offending food — as I edit this post my body is fighting OATMEAL through this method — to get it either down and out or up and out.) to the full out regurgitation/vomit effect. Sad to say I joke that a lap band nearly constitutes a medically approved eating disorder. I am a professional vomiter at this point — gross yes, but this post is all about the gritty truth. The oddity of it all is that food that nearly-never causes any adverse effects includes things like cake, cookies, and ice cream. That is partially how many weight loss patients (band, bypass, or sleeve) find themselves gaining back all their weight. Those bad for your foods work so well, and sometimes you are just starving for any form of caloric nutrition. The good for you foods like healthy salads — those tend to be a struggle that is rarely won. So if you ever see me slurping down ramen noodles, sipping on a high calorie coffee drink, or eating some oreos — before you judge me negatively keep in mind that probably is the only thing I’ve eaten that day that has moved on to digestion.
It took me from 2009-2011, two years — but in that time I lost over 100 pounds. At one point I was closer to having lost 130 pounds. At this very moment, I’ve gained some back due to life and physical injuries, but I still have kept 100 pounds off. One Hundred Pounds is a person. That kind of weight equals another living being.
I’m a pretty firm size 12 – I’ve lost TEN sizes, stopping to wave at most all of them for a second. My basement is filled with clothes that are TOO LARGE, not too small. I’ve moved from shopping only in the plus-size section, to wearing any brand I wish. Some I like more than others, but I can walk into any store — even a store geared to teens and put something on that just fits. No pulling, no tugging, no nothing. I pick the size, slide it on, move on.
I teach fitness classes to others — I’m not the best instructor on the planet but I’m darn good at what I do. And best of all, I am one of the rare instructors who REALLY REALLY knows what that student is going through who is a size 26, 24, 18, 14 — I’ve been them all.
So why do I feel so unaccomplished? How can one person saying that maybe I’ve gotten a little rounder effect me to a devastating point, over the five who told me (this was last week FYI) that they think I’ve lost more weight? Why am I measuring my self-worth through my dress size and the perspective of people who don’t love or even respect me? Why does the love that I see shown for my mind and my body by my fiance pale in comparison to that one shirt that dosen’t fit just right — or to the jiggle in my arms when I teach? I cognitively acknowledge that I will jiggle until the plastic surgery fairy comes to town. My “bat wings” and jiggly thighs is not from a lack of exercise — it’s from spending 27 years as a fat person and are only resolvable through surgery. However, why should I hack off my arms and tummy just to make ONE person feel better? Those are my battle scars — the proof of how hard I had to work to get to where I am. Those are not a sign of laziness or letting myself go — it’s a sign that I’ve battled the beast and actually won.
I will never be a size 6 — my surgeon (who is clearly knowledgeable) never wants me even at my height-weight chart size (which is made up crap FYI). He wants me roughly no smaller than 20 pounds from where I am now. I can loose twenty more pounds, and then he would tell me to stop.
I have accomplished something great. Again — average weight loss with a lap band could be up to 20lb a year for the first three years — tapering off after that. So that is 60 pounds for the average person. I’ve lost over 100. I’m ABOVE average. I am wearing a mother-freaking VERA WANG dress in my wedding. VERA! The thin girl wedding icon! It’s in my closet! And I still think I’m too fat, too jiggly, not worthy. I need to find that other me — that large woman who was confident, self-assured….the woman who would be so proud of herself for accomplishing something so great, and the woman who would tell that person who noted my slight weight gain to kiss her ass. How easily we forget ourselves. How easily we judge others. How easily we buy into society. I told this story for two reasons. One — a good friend asked me to talk more about my struggles. So that others would know they are not alone. Others would know about the struggle. Others could talk about the struggle. I also tell this story for me. To remind myself of where I was, and where I am now. To give myself the proper pat on the back I deserve for the work I’ve done to get myself here. And to try to find the courage inside to snuggle closer to all of my friends and family who love me for me — whether I gained 10 pounds, or lost that final 20. And to tell those who only see a jiggly woman who could be a size 6 if she just tried harder to kiss my ass just like the girl in that photo below would (that’s me in 2007 in the Vagina Monologues during law school, wearing what was one of my favorite outfits at the time— knowing I was the shizzle).