What they never tell you about losing a lot of weight

NEW YORK– At 27 years old, I weighed 486 pounds and decided to have gastric bypass surgery. I know what you might be thinking: “Oh, you took the easy way out.”

Let me tell you, having weight loss surgery is far from easy. It involves a total commitment to a lifestyle change.

Before my surgery nearly three years ago, I met with my surgeon, nutritionists, exercise coaches and a psychologist. I went to classes and learned about meals, exercise and how my body would change. We learned about plastic surgery — how many weight loss patients have their skin tucked because they have all this excess skin hanging from your body in weird places.

I was prepared, or so I thought.

On November 23, 2011, the day before Thanksgiving, I went under the knife. Since then, I’ve lost 268 pounds.

But the thing they do not prepare you for is how you change emotionally after losing a large amount of weight. At first, I thought I would just have this newfound confidence. I’d be thinner and want to run around naked. OK, maybe not naked, but I had this fantasy in my head that one day I would wake up with a body that I loved and would feel comfortable putting into a bikini — that I’d have no body shame whatsoever.

People would accept me more because I wasn’t seen as obese and unhealthy. Dating would get easier. Clothes would fit better. I wouldn’t be judgmental toward other extremely obese people because I was once huge.

Boy, was I wrong.

First off, even though I feel amazing and I am starting to like the way I look, there are days in which I hate my body. I hate how certain clothes push against my excess skin, making it bulge out (think muffin top, but worse). I hate the way the skin hangs down on my arms, and thighs, back and stomach. I hate that it will take at least $15,000 (if not more) in plastic surgery to rid these last 30 to 40 pounds off of my body.

I also have stretch marks and surgery scars across my abdomen and stomach, so being intimate with my boyfriend can be intimidating at times. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this, but that knowledge doesn’t erase the self-consciousness I feel when I get out of the shower, or when a stranger or child snickers because they don’t understand why my body looks the way it does.

My relationships also changed. When I first had my surgery, the guy I was with had been a best friend of seven years. He found me attractive at 486 pounds, though I’m not sure why. But once I lost my first 68 pounds, he left.

My surgeon explained that this is common among his bariatric patients. For some reason, it can shake the other partner psychologically when one loses weight, gains confidence and starts getting more attention. But the experience taught me that someone who is jealous of something that makes me better, healthier and stronger never had my best interests at heart.

Dating after that was a struggle, until I met my current boyfriend six months ago. Most guys got scared because they were afraid to take me to dinner, afraid they would break my new diet resolve, and when they saw a picture of what I used to look like, they started to wonder what would happen if I gained a few pounds again.

What else has surprised me about losing weight? No one ever told me that it would upset me when severely obese people get special attention because they choose to be heavy — like when TV shows feature people who are happy to weigh 600 pounds, or people who post YouTube videos professing love of their excess weight.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that people are comfortable in their own skin, because many times I’m not always comfortable in my own skin. But for me, being heavy wasn’t a choice. So I guess I have a hard time identifying with them.

Obesity is debilitating to your health. I used gastric bypass surgery as a tool to save my life so that I wouldn’t develop diabetes, have a heart attack at age 35, have a stroke, and to hopefully lower my risk of cancer. Now I have no tolerance for excuses about not being able to eat healthy and exercise.

See, here’s the bottom line: The biggest thing that no one ever tells you about losing weight is that eventually, the number on the scale no longer matters.

What matters is how you feel, how you look and how happy you are. I know at my current weight I am still medically obese, but I have a clean bill of health. Through my bad days and my good days, I am happier now than I have ever been. When I struggle or feel myself about to slip into old habits, I pull out a picture of what I used to look like.

And I remind myself that nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.

8 comments

  • alana

    I had gastric bypass 9\26 \13 and another on 12\3 13 and lost 150 in 5 months it was horrible and still is horrible I would tell everyone don’t do it unless they say you will die the next day it. I will never be the same and life doesn’t seem worth living. …

    • Tana

      it does get better,,,the people ive seen waste away are the ones who dont follow their program,,you need to do the basics,,take your vitamins, check your B12 and vitamin D numbers regularly because being deficient in either of those will make you feel like youre dying,,,i know a woman who exists on coffee and cigarettes after her weight loss surgery,,,i cant figure out how shes alive,,she weighs like 89 pounds,,she broke her leg getting into bed??? between her not taking care of herself and a doctor who clearly wasnt pushing the issue she is depressed,,,,i on the other hand 2 years further out than she is,,have none of those issues,,,everyone is different,,,if something isnt right,,,talk to your surgeon,,,find out whats going on ,,,if you get healthy,,you will be less depressed i promise

  • Tana

    And heres a few more for you,,,its always a struggle,,,i am 11 years post op,,,i maintained for about 5 years then started putting on 5 pounds a year,,when i hit 183 and im 5’5″, i knew i had to get this under control or i would be racing straight back into the 200s,,,my diabetes was back,,my high blood pressure was back,,now dont get me wrong i would not change what i did,,because i know i am healthier today and if i hadnt had it done when i did i might not be around to even be complaining :) my daughter in laws mother did just that,,she watched one of her daughters go through it,,lose 250 pounds in 9 months and proceed to gain it all back plus some the next year,,,it happens,,but she wasnt sure,,she passed away last month,,had a stroke from high blood pressure, complications breathing and just gave up,,by the time she realized that her weight was killing her she was to unhealthy to do anything about it
    I only know i will never enter into the 200+ catagory again,,and without this tool and getting back to the basics of my bariatric surgery hopefull i can keep that promise,,,I was 183 in January and im 155 now ( 5 pounds from goal) good luck to you young lady,,,follow the program and take it one step at a time and you will be successful,,just wanted you to know that a decade later,,you can still have the weight off and be happy

  • John

    #1- I think you look great. You have a beautiful smile.
    #2- I think you will get emotionally adjusted to your new looks in a year or so. People around you will get used to your appearance and life will settle down as far as the “awe” factor.
    #3- New people that you meet will only know you as this new look, and will accept you as you are. Your reactions to the way you are received will adjust as well.
    #4- Stay on course. I wish you well.

  • rfrstormer

    I was hesitant to post, but I used to weight 583 pounds. I way 321 now, so I still have a way to go. Lost this in about a year and half. I did not do the surgery, I instead made a lifestyle change. I was not eating too much, I was eating the wrong food (TV Dinners and Soda). While I always kept my calories low, it did not seem to mater as my body was always telling me that I was not feeding it correctly. I always had cravings, even though I ignored them. Finally I shifted from a diet of TV dinners, and various soda’s to a diet of Protein, vegetables and water. Losing 261 lbs so far.

    Also for those of you struggling, please remember it is the overall trend. Do not worry about what you loose just make sure that you loose over the course of a month. Do your best.

  • Just thinking

    I think you are beautiful. There are a lot of benefits to having this surgery. Check with your doctor and see if you can’t get a discount or for very low price to donate your extra skin to a burn center. I had heard about that a few years ago. I don’t know if it is possible but it never hurts to ask. There are so many people that have burnt so badly they have no skin to do plastic surgery, so maybe you can help. Good luck in the future and keep up the great work. Something else to think about. Out of over 9 billion people on this earth you are going to worry about what one person thinks? The only person that matter is you thoughts. Be the best you can be. But always stay a good person.

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