I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t chubby, fat, overweight, Rubenesque, full-figured, or whatever you wanted to call it. All I know is that I wasn’t happy with the body I had and felt horribly self-conscious about it. I was teased as a child, ostracized as a teenager and pitied or stared at with disgust as an adult. I tried not to let it impact my life, but how could I not?!
I tried diet after diet, starting at the age of 7. Over the years, I lost hundreds of pounds.
But after every diet I would invariably gain back what I’d lost — and gain a little more. My weight continued to climb until I had reached 330 pounds by the age of 50 and I was starting to have medical problems due to years of obesity. I was sure I was going to end up in a wheelchair before I turned 60. That scared me into taking what I considered at the time to be drastic action.
On March 21, 2004 I underwent gastric bypass surgery. I was afraid to hope for too much. But my hopes grew stronger and my excitement skyrocketed as the pounds began to melt away Within 18 months I lost 170 pounds! What a ride!
I kept a journal of my journey from day 1 and offered to share it with others through a regional women’s magazine. Curiosity was high out there and people were thrilled to get a first hand account of this procedure and its impact.
For the first time in my life I began to feel like a normal person. In fact I felt better than normal! I could do things I’d only ever dreamed of, like run and bike, wear beautiful clothes, walk down the street without being stared at, fit comfortably into airplane seats and on and on – hundreds of rewarding changes big and small. Discovering my new life was magical!
Yet it certainly wasn’t always easy as I tried to adjust to all the rapid changes. My inner self struggled to keep up with the outer metamorphosis. I worked hard to change my thinking, eating, and activity habits of 50 years especially as the hunger and cravings returned.
I quickly realized my focus wasn’t just on losing the weight but rather on keeping it off the rest of my life. This surgery was my last-ditch effort and I was determined not to blow it. But maintaining my weight loss proved an even bigger challenge than the losing.
The further out from the surgery I got, the less support I found. Support groups, books, and most websites were geared to patients who were within their first year or two of surgery. So I spent a lot of time exploring and looking for my own answers and trying not to freak out when old habits grabbed ahold and tried to pull me down. I lived each day in fear of failing.
After much searching and learning and self reflection, and life coaching, I reached a place where I knew I had enough faith in myself that I wouldn’t gain the weight back. I wanted to share what I had learned along the way. So I took the articles I wrote and used them as a basis for a book, which I titled Fat No More: Long-Term Success Following Weight-Loss Surgery.
The reactions to Fat No More have been extremely positive and it thrills me to see how this book has inspired and helped other people.
I began mentoring people considering WLS through the UW Health Weight Loss Surgery Program in Madison, Wisconsin. I started speaking to support groups[RM1] , providing inspiration and information.
I finally decided I wanted to help motivate individuals make their own lifestyle changes, whether through surgery or other means. So I spent a year going through intensive training as a co-active life coach. I now coach, mentor, speak, and write on the subject of weight loss and maintenance, especially through WLS.
I still struggle with food from time to time and find myself putting a few extra pounds on, especially during a good old Wisconsin winter. But I have the tools and resources and support to always find my way back to my new healthy weight. I also continue to research and explore new information about our bodies and food and health and what I can do to stay vital. I am currently 60 years old, eight years out from my surgery, and loving life!