Goodbye Gastric Band!

It has been over a year since I began my journey from fat to fit. My priorities and goals have changed dramatically during that time.

In January 2015, my priority was weight loss to become a thinner person. My goal was fiercely driven by shame, vanity, and embarrassment. I so wanted to feel small, to not take up so much space in a room, on an airplane, in a theater seat. I wanted to wear a clothing size whose number was not also accompanied by an “X”.

After a shower, I would stare at myself in the mirror and gape open-mouthed at the expansion of my flesh – it oozed in every direction like a marshmallow in the microwave. I couldn’t remember exactly how I got to that very moment except for the vague recollection of cumulative moments that involved lots and lots of food and the belief that I was so far gone that no amount of exercise could change what I had become. I also felt deep, hot shame over having had gastric banding in May of 2012. Now I was even heavier than when I had the procedure 3 years ago. Could I be a bigger failure!?

Today is April 26th 2016 and I have whittled myself down from a weight of 320 pounds to 273. I am an athlete. I have become a runner, completing three 5k’s with more races on the horizon. I have begun a yoga practice. I have tried a zip line and swung through the trees on a fine June day. I have kayaked and been able to pull myself out of the boat. I have made wonderful new friends. I went to a New Year’s Eve party. I started working as a Nurse Practitioner. I have discovered a community of body positive athletes. Somewhere along the way, my goals shifted focus from becoming a thinner person to becoming a happier person.

I am happier when I exercise. I am happier when I achieve concrete goals. I am happier when I use food as fuel and not as a friend, reward, or punishment. I am happier when I am surrounded by supportive, like-minded people. I am happier when I am strong enough to do the activities I’ve avoided for years. Am I “thinner”? You bet! And don’t misunderstand me, it feels exhilarating to pull things out of the closet that I couldn’t wear for 2 or more years to have them slip right on. That feeling is icing on the cake, though, because most of my joy is now derived from becoming the person who says she is going to accomplish something and then does so. I don’t know if I will ever be considered a “thin” person but I am becoming more and more comfortable with focusing on the journey rather than the destination. I love that there are others out there who agree; who believe that you can still be “fat” AND fit, that your fitness is not equal to your dress size, that you don’t have to keep yourself hidden away until you’re ready for that “after” photo (Mirna Valerio and Tulin Emre  have some very powerful words on these topics).

This week has been a true milestone for me. After 2 years of complications stemming from the gastric band, I had it removed yesterday. I feel so liberated. I am free from that young woman who thought that she had to have surgery to be healthy and happy. Free from that young woman who was depressed and despondent. I am so excited to eat raw vegetables and to not have to leave the table in the middle of a meal and to be able to fuel my body properly to continue to achieve the fitness goals that I set. I got some skeptical looks yesterday from the surgical team – “you? a runner? riiiight” – when I asked when I could return to my training plan. I think they were put in their places when my resting heart rate  of 48 caused the monitors to alarm. We still have a lot of barriers to break through in the healthcare industry when it comes to the obesity debate. I feel that I am a better Nurse Practitioner because I can use my own experiences to inform my interactions with my patients.

I took photos to commemorate this moment. I am proud of the progress that I have made. My skin is not taught, my belly is not flat, and now I have 5 extra scars to add to the landscape. I am wearing my first pair of Katie K Rushhour Capris, though, and that is very exciting. Talk about a woman who supports #fithasnosize. I am inspired by women near and far who are also putting in lots of hard work to achieve their own dreams. In a world where we focus on how social media can be used for so much evil, isn’t it nice to see all the good that it does, too?

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*Can we also talk about how I bought this City Fit Girls tee 2 years ago and it finally fits! It’s 2XL and my Katie K capris are a 3x plus. Get them before they are gone – they are on sale now!

 

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Post-Op Day 6

Being that I am a nurse, I am a terrible patient.

“What do you mean I can reset my own IV pump?!”

“Do you think you could have the doctor check x,y and z on my morning labs to make sure my kidneys are alright?”

“I’m pretty sure they could discontinue the heart monitor now.”

Yes. That was me.

I was blessed to have an amazing nurse overnight after surgery who withstood me freaking out about my low blood pressure and increase heart rate while in a morphine-induced phase. I’d be surprised if she got to see her other patients.

It’s hard not to micro-manage.

It’s hard to be a patient. I had an inkling of this having been the family member of a patient, but it’s hard to really know anything until you’ve lived the experience.

Truths about being a patient:

…sleeping for more than an few hours at a stretch is impossible.

…narcotic pain medications really do work wonders.

…it is possible for your lips to become so dry from lack of fluid intake than they cave into your mouth as if you forgot to put your dentures in.

…you will want to brush your teeth at least 4 times a day. See above.

…tape residue will remain with you for days. Maybe even weeks. You will find it in hard to reach places in the middle of your back.

…some doctor, without a doubt, will place an IV in a very awkward spot.

…you will, at some point, question your judgement about the decision to have surgery in the first place. Especially, if it is an elective procedure.

…you will definitely want your mom.

Overall, the procedure went smoothly. I remember being in the OR on the very narrow table with people flitting around me to prepare for the case. I could see the robot they use for laparascopic procedures as the scrub-tech prepared a variety of instruments that would soon be poking around my insides. I kept staring at those huge, bright lights that they would use to illuminate my nakedness and flaws in all their flourescent glory. I heard the anesthesiologist tell me she was administering propofol (MJ’s drug of choice) which left a big blank wall in my time-space continuum between sedation and consciousness several hours later when I awake mumbling about how I was going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro once I have shed numerous pounds.

Six days after the procedure, I am sore and a bit cranky about the lack of fruits and vegetables I can consume while on a liquid diet. I really don’t have any regrets at this point about my choice to use a gastric band as tool for weight loss. If anything, I feel relieved – like “I think I can actually do this now!” I have never felt optimistic about my success before because I have so much weight to lose. The mountain was always looming before me in the distance and I could barely make it to base camp.

Bariatric surgery has its supporters and its detractors, but it is by no means a magic bullet or an “easy way out” of a life-long struggle. It does give me hope, though. And hope is a very powerful tool in and of itself. It is the “thing with feathers”.

The 1st of 1000 Miles

I tend to wince when I hear those hackneyed sayings like “The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” and “Today is the beginning of the rest of your life” or “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. I’ve sat through many a speech where someone, failing to find the words to communicate what they actually wanted to say, relied on a cliche.

Sometimes, though, those cliches really do seem appropriate. Tomorrow is the day that I start a completely new way of existing on this planet. This change has involved two years of contemplation and research and 10 months of planning, testing, and therapy to completely change the way I think about food. In a sense, it will be the beginning of the rest of my life – the beginning of a life that I am really excited to start living. And while my preparative journey ends, I now have to start putting everything that I have learned into practice. One step at a time.

For the most part, I am a person who has enjoyed change. I like traveling to new places and not knowing a soul. I relish the challenge that comes with learning to adapt to a new school, a new job, a crowded room full of strangers. Sometimes the changes have been frought with sorrow and upheaval – like when my father died – and sometimes, they have felt like a breath of fresh air – starting nursing school. Be they tragic or not, each change I have weathered has led me to a good place where I have been able to derive joy from those who were along for the ride and pleasure at knowing I survived.

Changing my body has been a much harder challenge, though. It seems to have wanted to keep the same doughy shape since I was in grammar school. Even after changing many behaviors, I have still had a great deal of trouble seeing the results I want. Tomorrow, though, I’m going to receive a really fantastic tool to better help me make the change from a doughy frame to something that’s a bit more athletic and capable of doing some serious hiking.

This, below, is Point A. I’m excited about the journey to Point B.