Friday, April 30, 2010

Perception Is Everything

I really can't believe how my own perception has changed since the surgery. I used to think that how people reacted to me, whether good or bad, was a direct result of what kind of biases they held and misjudgments they made about me. How wrong I was! Since losing the equivalent of a 13 year old supermodel (they don't weigh more than 80 lbs or so, do they?), I've noticed a marked difference in how people treat me. People I know, people I kind of know, even perfect strangers...they all seem to have a different perception of me now that I'm no longer morbidly obese. They seem to be more accepting, friendlier, they smile and make eye contact more, offer their assistance more readily - all the way around, I seem to be more "accepted" in society with my new appearance, and I've chalked it up to society's bias against folks of size. But I've been reading up a lot on this, as well as chatting with some of my surgery sisters (the go-to gals I meet up with about once a month to discuss our trials and tribulations), and I'm starting to realize that it has precious little to do with how I look or how much I weigh. It just dawned on me that I'm different on the inside. This weight loss has freed me of some of my own hang-ups, like shyness, insecurity and a lack of energy that bordered on apathy. I'm the one who has changed how I interact with people, and their reactions mirror it. For example, I make eye contact where I never did before. I smile more (and mean it!). I'm more open to communication, whatever the form, because I'm not expecting rude comments about my weight. And now I'm reaping the rewards. I can't believe that all this time, I thought it was them. It was me all along.

Now, that's not to say that when you're fat you don't get way more negative reactions and harassment. I'd be a fool to assume that fat-bias is a myth now that I'm leaning towards lean. But I am saying that if I had behaved differently at the size I used to be, maybe I would have had an easier time. What's that quote? "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.." for thought ;)

Monday, April 12, 2010

And the truth shall set you free....

Well Happy 2010 everyone, and thanks for your patience over the first quarter of it while I let the blog slide :) I'm happy to be back, and have missed writing about the big and the minute things that make me wonder on a daily basis!

So, I have to say, this blog entry is late for one really big reason - I was deciding if this would be a forum for me to come clean on something. I've been running through things in my mind, wondering if I should or I shouldn't tackle this topic. After much contemplation, I finally decided to go for it! Honestly, I think what I'm going to tell you about has become a part of who I am, so it would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to ignore it. So here it goes...

As most of you probably noticed from some of my previous posts, weight issues have plagued me for my entire life. The topics of weight discrimination and in particular, fat biases, in our society have always been of interest to me because I've lived it every day. That, coupled with the health issues surrounding obesity, made me consider every option available to me to finally kick my obesity issues for good. It took me about 5 years of researching, a move to another province, and 14 months of waiting on a veeerrrry long waiting list, but I finally got to the bottom of (or, rather, on top of) my problem. And the results have been stunning.

On December 7, 2009, I had Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery at Toronto Western Hospital. Now, most people probably have little to no understanding of what this surgery entails, so let me enlighten you. Basically, my very qualified surgeon took my extremely over-sized stomach and cut it down to size (figuratively speaking, of course) by sectioning off a very small portion of it to create a pouch. The two parts of my stomach are separated by staples, with the largest section being the portion that produces the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for physical cravings for food. With the ghrelin contained and a much smaller receptacle for incoming food, I don't crave anything anymore, and I can only eat about a cup of food at any given time (and to be honest, it's usually less than that). That's the restrictive part of the operation. The other half is called malabsorptive, because my intestine was cut so that food being digested would bypass my duodenum, the portion of my intestine that's responsible for absorbing calories and nutrients. I had a new portion of my intestine attached to a new "out port" in my new pouch, so most of the food I eat doesn't get absorbed completely. Combining both of these methods (restrictive and malabsorbtive) helps me to control what I eat and how my body digests it. And to be perfectly honest, although it sounds extreme and a little kooky to someone unfamiliar with it, my RNY was the best decision I've ever made. But for you to understand what drove me to such an extreme, you first have to understand the kind of day-to-day difficulties I endured by being morbidly obese.

A slug. That’s what I would have called myself a year ago, with my lack of energy, motivation and drive. I sat. A lot. With my heaviest weight of 281 lbs oppressively smothering my 5’1” frame, it’s no wonder I couldn’t move without pain, couldn’t sleep without severe sleep apnea, and couldn’t fathom another day trapped in my own personal fat hell. I had high blood pressure, asthma, circulation issues and couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without almost passing out. And I knew that at 34years old, it was only going to get worse if I didn’t do something drastic. But after years and years of failed diet attempts, gym memberships, personal consultations, pills, potions and prayers, I did what Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and Bob & Jillian couldn’t. I asked my doctor for a referral to a weight loss surgery clinic. Thus began my journey towards health, wellness and living (for the first time in my life!) as a “normal” person, free from the bonds of obesity.

That first appointment I had at the Toronto Western clinic was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. Somehow I managed the courage to continue through a rigourous screening process that involved a nutritional team, social worker, psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, surgical team and now, a support group. I found out all of the info, weighed my options carefully, and went for it. And at this point, 4 months later, I couldn't be happier.

I've lost 79 lbs (and counting - on average about 5 lbs a week!), I no longer take any medications at all. My lung function is normal, no need for asthma puffers. My high blood pressure has disappeared. I no longer suffer from sleep apnea. My joints don't hurt anymore. I walk everywhere (and fast, too!), climb stairs at every opportunity, don't obsess over food, and I go to the gym as much as possible. And I've shrunk a whopping 5 dress sizes, which allows me to shop on the large or extra large rack of any regular-sized store in the city (Sorry Lane Bryant and Penningtons, you won't be hearing from me again!) All this at 4 months out, and I'm not done yet. I'm actually giddy with anticipation for what the future holds.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to delve into what an emotional and psychological journey this has been for me so far, in particular in relation to how I was an emotional eater who used food as a crutch in my daily life. I'm also going to go into detail about the struggles (and there are many!) a post-op patient goes through, because believe me, this was no "easy way out"!! But for now, I'm content to finally let this cat out of the bag. It's one more weight lifted from my shoulders, and I have to say it...I feel as light as a feather.