Weighty Matters

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Why Did I Bother?

on May 22, 2014

I’ve been struggling over something and wanted to get it more square in my head before I blogged about it. Problem is that I’m still not sure I’m square with it but it’s been several days since I posted. So, I decided to plunge in and write about it and see if that helped me even it out.

While I was away, someone I have a “conference aquaintanceship” with chatted with me about my weight loss. I’ve seen her once before since I had the weight loss surgery and the change in my body size is pretty dramatic. She was amazed and largely complimentary. Like many people, she wanted to talk more about my process and journey. I don’t mind. Often, if someone isn’t asking for their own benefit or need, they talk to me for information because someone they care about is obese and is either contemplating surgery or they wish the person would think about it. For the record, I never tell anybody they should have surgery. It is totally not for me to suggest to anyone that they should undergo a life-altering, potentially dangerous, operation. I can only express what has worked for me and how I feel about it.

Anyway, this acquaintance and I chatted for a bit and it was fine — up until the point where she realized that it’s been more than two years since my surgery and I’m not yet at goal weight. The woman asked, “If it’s taking you this long to lose the weight, why did you bother having surgery? Why didn’t you just do it on your own?”

She sounded a little scornful and disappointed, like the time duration had burst a bubble or destroyed an expectation she’d fostered.

I immediately experienced a range of reactions. I felt criticized for not losing all of my weight faster. I was shocked at what I thought was insensitivity on her part. Then there was a healthy dose of my asking myself, “What the f**k does she know about it?”

At the same time that I was trying to process my reactions, I also wanted to formulate a decent response that didn’t include obscenities and an abrupt departure. My fall-back position is to not reveal when someone’s words hurt or upset me. It’s a natural, animal reaction. Don’t show injury, illness or weakness. If you do, predators will kill and eat you. I didn’t particular feel the urge to educate her either. Normally, I’ll give as much time and talk as needed if someone has an honest desire or need. That I just wanted to vacate this conversation told me that what she’d said had pushed a button inside and I wasn’t prepared to deal.

I mustered up a smile and said, “If I could have lost all of this weight without surgery, I would have done it decades ago.” Then I excused myself and left.

I just had my breakthrough on why this has bothered me so much for so long. Her comments, although I don’t believe she meant them in a hurtful, malicious way, triggered my disease, believing-I’m-not-good-enough (B.I.N.G.E.) reaction. In that instant, I felt like I’ve somehow failed because I’m still not at goal weight. Even while I type this, I know that it’s screwy and untrue. I have not failed. This is a lifelong journey, not something with a finite beginning, middle and end. I’m still walking the walk, one step at a time. I’ve been on this road for more than two years. I’ve never before sustained an effort this long.

For the record, what I said to the woman is also the absolute truth. If I could have lost so much weight and kept it off without surgery, I would have done so. Years and years ago with every diet, I wished that I would get to goal weight and keep it off. I was never successful for longer than a year. Why did I bother having weight loss surgery? That’s why. I couldn’t do it on my own but I’m doing it now.

That’s victory, not failure.

Ok. I feel better now.

9 responses to “Why Did I Bother?

  1. hoperoth says:

    You’ve lost an entire person worth of weight! If that’s not a major accomplishment, I don’t know what is. You’ve accomplished that weight loss with real, sustainable, healthy changes. And you’ve discovered an entire new side of yourself. And gone zip-lining and paddleboarding and zumba-ing to boot.

    Poo poo to that lady. You should have said “Well bless your heart” and walked away. That’s the nicest way I know to say “screw you, lady.” 😉

  2. Jai Clark says:

    Mary, I also think people want that instant satisfaction not realizing if you lose weight it takes a bit of time. You didn’t put it on in one day or even a week. This so reminds me of a lesson I learned recently when I posted my video-when people saw the number they went all ape sh-t-when they saw the before and now picture they said good job.

  3. pinkpelican says:

    Something I’ve been pondering for a while about why WLS is so helpful …

    First, our bodies are geniuses at fighting us tooth and nail. I think it takes a tremendous shock to the system to start breaking all the frustrating metabolic fucked-upness that occurs when one reaches morbid obesity. Because by that point, it’s not always a simple calculation of calories in/calories out. It’s all kinds of complicated chemical reactions in the body. Dropping down to an intake of only a few hundred calories a day really helps get the weight loss started, and helps keep it going.

    Second, maintaining any kind of diet (whether it’s lifestyle or weight loss or whatever) of only a few hundred calories a day without some kind of appetite suppressant is incredibly difficult. In the first six to twelve months following weight loss surgery, we generally reach satiation on next to no food, and we don’t have to deal with physical hunger. In fact, in the early months, sometimes the thought of actually having to eat is its own challenge.

    So the suggestion that any of us could manage a long term 600 calorie a day diet “on our own” with the kind of success that comes from having WLS as the major tool in the tool kit, is laughable.

    Third, after the first 9 months or so, I started journaling my food, mostly to make sure I was getting in enough protein and water. I started to see, in reasonably accurate terms, just how many calories there are (or aren’t) in food. It’s literally mind-numbing, the amount of calories a person can eat, even when addressing “normal” to half-size portions. I don’t even like to *think* about the amount of calories I was consuming when I was at my full weight, even when I was *trying* to be good. I still have to try to be mindful of how much of what I’m eating, and I still eat less than “normal” portion sizes. I MUST make time as often as possible to exercise, not just because it makes me feel better, but because I need that calorie expenditure to balance some of my food intake.

    Fourth, it took the stringent requirements of undergoing WLS to truly make me examine my lifestyle and start making serious, functional changes. I was not able to do those things “on my own”. Having the surgery was, again, a tremendous tool for me.

    The rapid weight loss was a huge bonus … talk about major motivation! I lost a hundred pounds over about 2 years “on my own” doing Atkins, but it was a long, hard slog and the results were harder to see when I needed to be able to see them. With the WLS, it happened a lot faster, and let me tell you, having to buy an entire new seasonal wardrobe TWICE in each season is FABULOUS, once you learn about consignment shops and Goodwill. (Literally; I had surgery in July. In mid-September I bought an entire cold weather wardrobe. In early January, I had to turn over the entire wardrobe of cold weather clothing because I was down 2 more sizes. Same thing in April & again in early July. Same thing the next season. It didn’t ease until the following winter.)

    Getting down into “normal” clothing sizes (from 5X to size 10/12) in 20 months goes a long way to helping create success. With Atkins on my own, I went from a 5X to a 2X, which was nice, but not the same.

    Along the way, the other thing WLS surgery gave me was peace from the “Cookie Monster” in my head. Once upon a time, I would see a cookie, & the Cookie Monster would badger me mercilessly until I gave in and ate the damn cookie. And then it would start all over. For the first year after surgery, the Cookie Monster was silent. Blessedly, gloriously, silent. I could hear other thoughts for the first time. Cookie Monster didn’t go away; she’s come back and I hear her more now, but not like before, and not as loudly, and I have the tool of the much smaller stomach that helps me limit the damage, and she’s easier to shut up than she used to be. But before WLS, the Cookie Monster NEVER EVER shut up.

    Maybe at first, the goal was attaining good health BY ACHIEVING A CERTAIN WEIGHT. But in the first year, if you pay attention to yourself, the goal subtly shifts to attaining good health by eating better and exercising and paying attention, and as you do that and the weight comes off you continue to be more motivated to keep going. The reasons become a lot more nuanced and more varied. That never happened when my only goal was LOSING WEIGHT FOR THE SAKE OF LOSING WEIGHT and as a side benefit, be healthy.

    WLS helped me stop focusing exclusively on numbers on a scale and on a measuring tape, and see things way more broadly. That helps me understand where my problems still are and likely still always will be, and THAT helps me work on long term stuff like maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.

    But that’s a hard thing to explain to someone who has never dealt with the issues first hand, and thinks its all about the numbers. It’s just not that easy to explain. And understanding THAT helps me to deal with the very rare people who thing I chose the “easy way out”, or are critical of my decisions, or who simply think it’s a failure on my part that I couldn’t do it all by myself. They just don’t get it. I can try to explain, but some folks just aren’t going to get it. And ultimately, that’s *their* issue, not mine.

    Good for you for being so patient, and for not letting the exchange knock you too far off kilter, Mary.

  4. Lynn Viehl says:

    I think you showed great tact and grace to someone who didn’t offer the same to you, which is always a victory. After you go home and punch a pillow a few times, at least.

    At my weekly PT last year I had to work with a new therapist who apparently hadn’t read anything in my chart but the doc’s script for my session. She was impatient with me and complained about me “dawdling” several times as we went through my shoulder and neck strengthening exercises (this was right before lunch hour, so she was probably in a hurry to go on her break.) She also wasn’t impressed with how I performed on the weight machine and told me her first-grader could have done better.

    I didn’t respond to any of this, but when we finished she informed me I’d have to work a lot harder or I’d end up in a wheelchair. For me that was the last straw.

    I told her I wanted to show her something, and turned and lifted up my shirt so she could see the scars from my back surgeries, and then did the same with my trouser leg to display the ruins of my knee. While she was gaping, I mentioned that I’d already been confined to a wheelchair for several years but over time I’d worked my way out of it — slowly and painfully — and I would continue to do whatever I can to retain my mobility. I was tempted to then tell her to go to hell, but I settled for sweetly thanking her for her patience. Then I went to the front desk and got my case assigned to another therapist. 🙂

  5. Cathy M says:

    While I understand the “goal weight” concept as a motivator, it doesn’t seem like reaching “goal weight” should be the absolute measure of success. I think you have achieved success because you’re active and leading a healthy lifestyle which, to me, seems like what the whole weight loss surgery should be about. You’re treating your body with the respect it is due so that you can lead the life you want to have. I think that’s a tremendous success. I think what Marti said is true, people have a false sense of the weight loss process because of TV.

    • Mary Stella says:

      Cathy, this is a perfect example of how I can hear and consider things a hundred times but not really “get it”. It takes hearing it at the right time in a certain way to resonate.

      I am so focused on the goal weight and that really isn’t the goal at all. Thanks!

  6. Marti91257 says:

    Honestly, Mary, I doubt you’d be as far along as you are now without devoting every waking moment to exercise and weight loss… “reality shows” like Biggest Loser give the masses a false sense of what is “normal” when it comes to weight loss

    • Mary Stella says:

      Marti, I agree that many people have a skewed view of reality. Popular culture shapes us to want bodies like the ones we see in photoshopped-airbrushed glory in magazines. We’re conditioned to want results right now.

      This is a process and journey. It takes daily attention and determination. Thanks for reinforcing what I’ve been doing!

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