I’m Alive, well and I’m Back!

I can’t believe that it has been almost 3 years since I posted last.  Looking at my last post, the Fat Demon and I are still fighting and right now it is at a standstill.  Some days I look at myself and feel like a failure.  I don’t look like a male model, just an older guy, with lots of flab.  It can be frustrating, that is until the grand kids show up.  I now have five wonderful grandsons, ranging in age from 14 to 9 months.  It’s when I’m with them that I realize all the gains I’ve made.  I can get on the floor with the 9 year old, 4 year old and 3 year old and have a great time (just can’t last as long as they do, darn, youth is so wasted on the young).  I have made great strides, but I can do more.  I hate going to the gym and running is becoming too painful, so I took up bike riding.  I love it, I’ll go anywhere from 20 to 60 miles at a stretch, great exercise and I’m outside.  I plan to do a 100 mile ride on May 7th, on my new “graveler”, a Giant Anyroad carbon fiber bike.  I have a bit more training to do, but I’ll be ready, I hope.

I should get to the reason I came back.  One of the people I follow is facing a very tough time and really feeling down.  I did message her directly and let her know that she is not weak or a failure because of what’s going on, she is being a kind, caring human being (something we all should strive to be).  Anyway, it made me realize that we (WLS journeyers) need to keep up with each other and support each other.  Last time I wrote, I wrote about people knowing what they’re doing wrong and still doing it and how I’m one of them (I still am), but I’m still fighting.  I guess that defines success better than a scale, what people or yourself think.  Refusing to lay down and give up, whether it’s what you eat or how you handle your relationships.  You aren’t a failure as long as you are fighting, you’ll win some battles and lose some battles, just take each one for what it is, a part of life.

I understand that marriages fail, but sometimes it is beyond our control, sometimes it’s just the way it goes.  When there are children involved, things can be complicated.  To those spouses who put their children’s welfare above the “revenge” or “make them pay” attitude, all I can say is, “You are a success!” despite the fact that the marriage didn’t work out.  It’s not easy, in fact it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but today 25 years later, when our children have their special days and we all get together, there is no awkwardness or “I’m not coming if he/she is there.” 

So please don’t be too hard on yourself, when your life hits a bump in the road. 

 

Me and my Fat Demon

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write an entry, but I usually don’t write unless I have something to say or someone tells me to get off my lazy butt and write something.  Well today I have something I want to get off my chest, actually I’ve been trying to do this for a while now, but I’m a coward.  During our last meeting, our fearless leader brought up my last post, we discussed how I admitted needing help.  Yes a good shrink would help in so many ways, but that was not what we were talking about.  We talked about our fears and how all of us in the room are afraid of regaining everything we’ve lost, of failure.  After all, we’ve all failed at so many diets in the past, why should this one be different.  For me, it has to be different, I don’t want to go back to where I was, unable to enjoy life.  One of the things I used to do, when gaining weight, was to not get on the scales for long periods of time.  It’s been quite some time since I last stepped on the scale (two weeks or more) and when I got on it yesterday, it groaned, I mean I did.  I was up, higher than I thought.  Well I stepped on the scale this morning and up again.  The problem is that I know what I’m doing wrong, I just don’t seem to be able to face my Fat Demon and knock it out.  To make it worse, every time I see a post on a bariatric support wall saying “I know what I’m doing wrong.  What do I do?”  I mentally scream, “Shut up, quit whining and do what you know you’re supposed to do!”  Easy to say when the weight was coming off, now it’s painful to realize that I’m in the same boat, now I understand their feelings.  My issue is grazing, I’m always putting something into me.  I do get plenty of fluids, but it doesn’t give me the same feeling that chewing and swallowing does.  I know one of the best ways to control your intake and to make you see what you’re doing, is to journal your food and drink every day.  Journaling has always been hard for me, on every diet I’ve ever been on.  I don’t like to write down what I’m eating, because then I have to face the fact that I’m not making the right choices.  I’ve started journaling again today, but this time I will print out my entire week of food right here next Friday.  This is not going to be easy, but who said this journey is easy.  Let’s just see how well this works.

The other part of all this is facing that Fat Demon, where did it come from and why is it hanging around ruining all my plans?  I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.  I’ve come to realize that for me growing up, food, eating, was the only time I felt really happy and satisfied with my life.  Being the middle child, I was always too young to do what the older siblings were doing and too old to be a part of the younger kids activities.  I always felt like an outsider looking in, wanting to be a part of it all.  Food was my salvation, especially sweets (I have 32 sweet teeth).  Today as an adult, I still feel like an outsider with my family, I left Wisconsin after High School and spent 20 year5s in the Air Force and missed all the family time they shared.  Now when I visit, I am an outsider, because I don’t have all the shared memories.  Even in groups, like the support group, I feel like an outsider.  At the last meeting our leader mentioned that it was nice to see that someone as successful and supportive as me could need help.  I don’t know that I consider myself successful as much as a work in progress.  Even in a group where I do feel good, I still feel like an outsider, and that is entirely on me.  I guess it comes down to the fact that I feel like a fraud, because I’m at that place where I’ve mentally ridiculed people for knowing what they’re doing wrong and still saying they need help.  I do need help, I know that, always have, just never admitted that to myself.  Going to the support group and using the online groups is a great help and does provide a great deal of support.

This Fat Demon has had it’s way for a very long time, now I’m pushing back.  I know it for what it is and I am working to change my way of dealing with it.  We’re all fighting this Fat Demon inside of us and we always will be, getting to understand it is important.  Without that understanding, without facing it, we probably won’t be successful in the long run.  Today I’ve started that fight, to better understand me and my motives for eating.  I know I say “I eat to live, not live to eat”, but that line gets blurry at times.  To our illustrious leader, Kristi, thank you for putting me on the spot about asking for help.  It got me looking at me and has made me more determined to maintain all my gains.  Jennifer, my walking/riding buddy, thanks for listening to me during our walks.  I promise to keep on talking, you are a great help to me.  Thank you.  To everyone in my support group and those who read this, thanks for listening to a crazy man.  If there is anything I can do to help, just let me know.

Help….I need someone!

At our support group meeting today, I learned something about myself.  Something that I’d never really thought about, but now I have to, thanks to our leader for catching it and pointing it out.  This journey of ours is not always easy, but most good things in life aren’t easy, you have to work at it and sometimes you even need help.  I joined this group in Jan of 2013, a month after I joined the gym here.  In all that time I’ve made great strides, attending most of the meetings, except when I was out of town and on a couple of occasions when I got the dates wrong.  OK I forgot.  Happy now??  In all that time I’ve offered support and ideas and lost a lot of weight, ran my first 5k in almost 20 years, but I never once asked for help.  Not once, until tonight, did I say I needed help.  If Kristi hadn’t pointed it out, I would not have even remembered it. 

Here’s the back story.  My walking buddy from the group has hit a stall, but she is working hard, very hard, walking and biking and eating right.  For some reason she’s not losing the weight.  So today I suggested that she journal all her food intake for the next couple of weeks.  She said she’s not very good at it, so I volunteered to journal with her.  I too, do not journal, I hate it.  So at the meeting, as we are setting our two week goal, my walking buddy mentioned that we are going to journal our intake, I made the comment that I was helping her and I needed help with journaling too, because I’m terrible at it.  I didn’t even realize I’d said it, until Kristi pointed it out. 

Which brings me to the point for today.  Help!  When you need help, you need to ask for it.  I learned at an early age, from my father, that a man does not ask for help, especially for something like losing weight.  Either he loses the weight or he lives with it, but he doesn’t ask for HELP.  I have not asked for help in our meetings, but believe you me, I have been getting plenty of help.  It’s one of the biggest reasons I go to the support group and why I’ll continue going for a long time, because I do need the help.  Add to that, the fact that I love to offer my help to others on this journey and you can see why I go to the meetings.  If you are on this WLS journey and are not good at asking for help, go to the meetings anyway.  You’ll get the help you need and you won’t have to ask, better yet, try to ask for help.  For me, tonight was an eye opener.  I will try to ask for help when I feel like I need help.  One thing I need help with is grazing, I’ve started eating all the time, mostly healthy choices, like grapes, blackberrys, unsalted cashews, protein bars, yogurt, etc. but the fact that I seem to want to eat more and more is scary.  I’m trying to find healthy ways to combat this, but I’m losing more of the battles than I’m winning.  So I’m going to ask at the next meeting for help in combating this. 

Regardless of where you are on this WLS journey, remember to ask for help when you need it and give support whenever you can.

Making No Excuses!

My last post was about the excuses people make for not doing something they say they want to do, but deep down they really don’t.  Hence the excuses.  Today I want to talk about some people who stopped making excuses.  First case in point, at my bi-weekly support group meeting one of the members said she didn’t walk because there was no one to walk with.  I promptly asked her when and where she wanted to walk.  We met at her work place once to walk during lunch, doing 30 minutes at a slow pace was almost too much for her.  We agreed to meet after work from then on.  So the next walk was on the Greenway here in Raleigh and I think we did about a mile.  I had already started running, so despite her constantly saying I could go ahead and leave her, I stuck with her.  Nothing makes me madder than to have someone say lets walk, run, ride or something together and then they go off and leave you in the dust.  No, I won’t do that, besides, as I constantly reminded her, I got my hard work out in already, usually I’d run between 3 and 6 miles before going on the walk.  It’s a bonus for me.  Now I should explain a bit more about her.  You see she has a bad foot that starts to hurt after she’s been walking for a while, I didn’t find that out until later.  Regardless, she showed up and we walked, we now walk about three miles at a stretch and our times, which started out about 22 or so minutes per mile, are down to about 18 minutes a mile, even with the bad foot, which has been getting worse.  She could, quite legitimately, say I can’t walk because of my foot, but she’s made weight loss and an active life a priority.  The opportunities for excuses continued as she lost her mother just before the Holidays and she was the executor of the estate, so she was busy, but it didn’t stop her from walking.  Even when we can’t get together, she walks.  She now has a bike and rides a couple of times a week and is getting her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter into biking.  She’s had plenty of opportunities to quit, but she doesn’t and though her progress has been slow, she keeps plugging away.  No Excuses!

Another lady is the mother of a good friend of my daughter.  She was considering having surgery and we talked for a long time about it.  I answered her questions and I was honest about the good and bad of WLS.  She’s a year out from surgery and doing great.  Living up in Cleveland, it would be easy during the winter to say “Wait until Spring”, but she didn’t say that.  She works very hard at being a success and she is a BIG LOSER.  It goes to show that when you make your WLS journey a priority, make the changes that need to be made and make no excuses, you can be successful.  These two ladies inspire me to keep working at this and to not fail. 

If you’ve been making excuses to not make the changes you know you need to make, now is the time.  You can do it, but you have to make it a high priority in your life.

Excuses, what’s yours?

So today I want to talk about excuses.  What’s yours?  I hear people say “I really want to do that, but….”   Then comes the long list of excuses, no time, I’m sick, my foot hurts, my something else.  I hate excuses and I used to be one of the biggest excuse makers on the planet, especially when it came to my weight.  I’ll start my diet tomorrow…Since I blew it at lunch, might as well finish out the day and start over tomorrow….I’m too tired to go to the gym (ah yea…your body doesn’t like lugging around an extra 200 pounds when it works out)  I just want to see the end of this John Wayne movie (one I’ve seen dozens of times and know exactly what’s going to happen.)  Once I started on this journey of mine, I realized that excuses are easy to make and easy to keep, problem is that this WLS journey is not easy.  So I began walking that first day in the hospital, even though I just wanted to lay in the bed and not move, I took my first walk.  The next day I walked whenever I could, it was really boring sitting in bed.  When I got home, I didn’t walk the first day, just made an excuse that I was too tired and needed some rest.  Oops there’s that nasty excuse making habit.  The next day I took my first walk to the mailbox and back.  Tired me out, so the next day, which was Sunday, I went to the mailbox, crossed the street and back and the habit was born.  Every day I went for a walk, rain, shine or cold, I walked.  Then in March of 2013 I ran for the first time, I thought to myself, I wonder how far I can run, then said, I’ll try tomorrow.  Darned excuses, keep cropping up, so I started running right then.  I figured I could do about a 1/4 to 1/2 a mile, but I ran three miles.  Talk about being buzzed, and this from a guy who hated running during my younger days, when I was in the Air Force.  Now I love to run and I did my first 5k in May of 2013, since then I scheduled a 5k just about every other month and then got talked into a half marathon.  This meant running outside in the winter and we all know that this past winter was a tough one throughout the States.  Here in NC, it was rough, but the amazing thing is, I didn’t make excuses, I just ran, cold or not, I ran.  On April 13th I ran the Inaugural Raleigh Rock’n’Roll Half-Marathon and did it in 2:34:27.  I was very stoked.  I still make excuses on occasion, but most of the time, I drag my lazy butt away from the computer and into running shoes and put in the mileage.  I’m still running 5ks every other month or so.  Helps to keep the excuses at bay. 

I have noticed that I have a lot less tolerance for people who make excuses.  A co-worked says I inspire her and for a while we walked once or twice a week together, but during the winter there was always an excuse.  It’s too cold, too wet, too much pollen, etc, etc etc.  Look if you don’t want to walk, then say so, but don’t tell me you want to walk and then have a handy excuse every time we talk about walking.  I don’t have patience for that.  Then there are the people on WLS who make excuses for doing what they know is wrong and then complaining about it.  STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND DO WHAT YOU KNOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO.  Will you be perfect?  No, I’m not either.  I have days were I eat the wrong things, where I don’t run or maybe not as far as I know I should.  That’s OK, you’re human, don’t use the first misstep as an excuse for the next one.  You’ll find getting up after a misstep gets easier with practice, lord knows I’ve had plenty of practice.   Excuses are what stops you from doing the things you want to do and being the person you want to be.  Start today, the very next time you say, I’ll do it later, or I don’t feel like it or whatever excuse you use that keeps you from doing something that you want to do. 

 

Facing Our Fears – “LungLeavin’ Day”

I have been following The Itty Bitty Boomer for some time now and she’s impressed me with her journey. As I read this blog today, I felt truly humbled, here I am thinking I’ve over come this great demon of obesity and then I read about “LungLeavin’ Day”. Heather and Cameron’s courage in facing a real life threatening and usually fatal cancer is impressive beyond words. Please take the time to read this post and click the link. You’ll be glad you did. I will be participating next February 2nd.

The Itty Bitty Boomer

You never know who is reading your blog – or how they get to your blog- stumbling on it – following a blogger who follows you – they see your response to a comment – searching tag words – however they get to you, they do.

A week ago I received a comment (into my spam) from a young man named Cameron Von St. James, asking me to please email him back as he had something to ask me. Not something I would normally do, but as I “Googled” him and found that he was published on HuffPost, I figured it was reasonably safe.

Here is Cameron’s response –

“Hi there!
I really appreciate you getting back to me! I wanted to reach out to you to share something very special to me. I actually found your blog while searching for those who have overcome obstacles in life. I…

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A Big Day

I realize it’s been a while since I posted an update, but I wanted my list to have time to sink in.  Ok, Ok you got me, let’s call it laziness and a hangover from my two weeks in the Dominican Republic.  For the first time in over 20 years, I was on the beach without a shirt, it was quite the change for me.  This not what I want to talk about today.  Today, as the headline says, was a BIG or should I say a SKINNY day for me.  I passed my goal of 195 by hitting 194.5 making me less than half the man that started this journey in late Sept 2012 when I started the three week liquid preop diet.  I have lost a total of 197.7 pounds.  It is incredible to think of how far I’ve come, in fact, unless I look at pictures of me before surgery, I have a hard time imagining that I was ever just short of 400 pounds.  Now you would think that in the face of the fact that I made “MY” goal, not my surgeons, I should be ecstatic and on one level I am.  BTW my surgeon’s goal was for me to hit 235, he thought that was “doable”.  Of course I agreed with him, while keeping my fingers crossed, because 195 has been my goal from the beginning.  Now that I’m here, I’m scared.  Losing weight is hard enough, but at least I know what works and how to do it.  Now I have to maintain my weight and this is going to be the challenge.  I think most of us who are on this journey are always in fear of being a failure, of regaining weight, of not being able to maintain this new us.  I still have a hard time believing in the new me.  I know what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, yet lately my brain is calling for food all the time.  There was a long time during this journey that I had to remind myself to eat, I even set an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat.  Now I can’t seem to stop obsessing about it.  The good part of it is that I still managed to hit my goal and that I am eating healthy, no cookies, cakes, candies and other really bad foods that I used to eat on a regular basis.  I know that eating the way I did was going to kill me, in fact I’m very certain that I had a minor Heart Attack, that at the time I thought was the arrhythmia that I have.  As I look back at that episode, I remember the pressure and pain, which none of my previous experiences with arrhythmia caused.  I believe now that it was indeed a minor heart attack and it was one of the major pushes to looking into and eventually going down the WLS path.  All of that is to say that I’m afraid of becoming that person again and I know that others out there are probably feeling something similar, if not the same fear, but are afraid to talk about it.  I was at a support group last night where we were talking with a new sleeve patient, who had surgery two weeks ago and has some questions.  I did mention my fears, but we never really went down that road, so I think for the next meeting, I’m going to see if we can’t go down that road.

We expend a lot of energy to lose the weight and we are very focused on reaching our goal that we don’t look past it.  Now that I’m there, I’m looking past my goal weight and what I see is scary, but also full of promise.  I am running all the time, don’t do much time at the gym, but I’m getting plenty of exercise.  I am currently training for a half-marathon next month, my first in 20 years.  I was a much younger man then, than I am now.  I did 11 miles today and am I feeling it now, I hurt.  But for me it’s a good type of hurt, I got it doing something that I used to hate, until I had almost 20 years where I couldn’t run, but now I love.  A big part of my plan, that’s just now starting to come into focus, is to continue running 5 and 10 K runs.  I really enjoy the race day crowd and it will keep me running.  I also am purchasing a bike to ride on the Greenways of Raleigh along with scuba diving and I hope to add kayaking to my activities list.  Eating right is going to be easier, but I will be fighting the “Head Hunger” longer than I thought I would, but I need to find a way around it.  To those you out there fighting the fight, remember you are never a failure on this journey until you quit trying.  If you make a mistake, and I’ve made a few, pick yourself up and start again.  It’s never too late, until you arrive at the Pearly Gates.  

Earlier I mentioned my two week vacation in the Dominican Republic, well I gained almost 10 pounds in that time, since I’ve been back I’ve lost 16.  Do I regret gaining the weight?  No because it was vacation and I followed my food plan fairly well, though I did have more bread than I normally do, hey it was really good bread.  Also I drank lots of Bailey’s Irish Creme, I know a lot of calories, but I didn’t care, I just enjoyed myself.  When I got back and went back to my normal routine the weight came off, so if you gain some weight because you didn’t follow the plan exactly, it’s OK, you’re human.  Just get back on track and it will come off.  

That’s it for today, I will keep you posted on the head hunger thing and my plans going forward to maintain my weight. 

Advice to those who are heading into Weight Loss Surgery.

On one of the chat boards I belong to a new person said “I’m having gastric bypass on the 14th, any advice?” I responded with the items below, though I’ve added two more.

1. Take a before picture the day of surgery.  Take pictures along the journey, you’ll be amazed by the changes.

2. Weigh and Measure yourself before going in.

3. Hide the scale or have someone hide it for you for at least a week. (You will gain weight during your hospital stay, all the IV fluids they give you.  I don’t want you throwing the scale out of the window.  I almost did.)

4. As soon as they say you can, get up and start walking, as much as you can. (Helps get rid of the gas they pump you full of to see what they’re doing.  It helps dispel the gas and speeds recovery. )

5. Remember that the weight didn’t come on over night and won’t come off overnight, be patient.

6. You will not be able to get all your water and protein in at first, no worries. It will come as you heal.

7. Follow the advice of your Dr and Nutritionist, they’ve seen it before.

8. If you want to try something and people who’ve had WLS or your Doc, Nutritionist or other person from the office says don’t, you might want to listen.  We know what we’re talking about.  Been there done that. 

9. Sip Sip Sip, keep a water bottle with you at all times and Sip Sip Sip all day long, from the very moment they say you can. Hydration is very important (along with protein) it is instrumental in your losing weight.

10. Join a live support group, as well as use this board.

11. Every time you weigh yourself, measure yourself. (This is to show you that even though the scale says you aren’t making progress, the tape says you are.)

12. Never compare how fast you are or aren’t losing weight to someone else. (This is not a race but a journey that is unique to you, so work it, experience it and enjoy it.) You’ll be happier, I promise. I learned this the hard way.

13. When you’re a BIG LOSER, keep going to the support group and chatting. Share what’s been given to you with those coming along behind you.  (It is such a great feeling being able to give back, I can’t tell you how much hearing that I helped someone feels.  Try it, you’ll like it.)

14. When you make a mistake, don’t think of yourself as a failure, just get back up and start again. Most of us have done that, so don’t be ashamed to admit to being human.

I would love to hear from others on the WLS journey, what advice would you give to someone who’s headed into surgery? I will post all the ideas that I get.

More Advice

Lots of great response to my last post, that I’ve decided to talk more about the decision to have surgery and what you have to go through to even get to the operating room.

So you decided to have the surgery, prepare to jump through hoops like a well trained performing animal.  There are a multitude of appointments you have to complete, cardio, psychological, nutrition, dieting, among others and of course talking with the surgeon and choosing the surgery that will work best for you.  Each insurance company is different in their requirements and many of the appointments are the result of those requirements.  When I started my journey, I just needed to show that I’d tried to lose the weight, which wasn’t hard to do.  I had tried and failed with Weight Watchers, through no fault of theirs, and I had the data to support it.  But because I didn’t get the paperwork done fast enough, the requirements changed.  Now I had to have six consecutive months of Doctor supervised weight loss.  If I missed a month, the six month period started all over again, what a pain.  Worst part was, my Dr. office did not have a scale that went high enough for me to stand on.  So I weighed in at home before the visits and gave it to the nurse when I was checked in.  I got all six months in, but it pushed my timetable back seven months.  Oh well my fault for not moving fast enough.  The cardio exam was to be sure my heart was still working and was not a risk during surgery.  Fortunately my heart is in pretty good shape, considering I was at almost 400 pounds.  Another item ticked off the list.  

Then there was the psychiatric exam.  I haven’t spoken with a shrink since my first wife left me 20+ years ago.  Talk about nervous, I kept thinking if I fail, I can’t have surgery.  So I thought long and hard before I went in, which was really a waste of time.  I already knew why I was doing this and I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  I had a couple of friends who had the surgery and pointed me in the right direction.  So Antwan Van Der Stap and Jody Fulgham, I owe all that I am not to you. Thank you.  Anyway I’m in the shrinks office and she is going over what’s going to happen and that there will be another and possibly more meetings.  I’m getting really nervous about this time.  So she asks why I want to do this.  I simply told her the truth, and I highly recommend you do the same, lying is not a good option.  I told her how my Dad lived the last years of his life, in a wheel chair, unable to communicate very clearly.  I was afraid that I was too sedentary and I knew that I would be in a wheelchair with oxygen if I didn’t do something.  I also mentioned wanting a better relationship with my Grandsons, that I wanted to be able to play sports and rough house with them when they were young, and be there when they are grown and be able to celebrate their accomplishments with them.  She then asked what I thought surgery would do for me.  I told her I regarded it like re-imaging a computer.  Basically I was cleaning out the system and starting with a new install.  For me it was an opportunity to break bad habits and introduce new, good habits.  Just like when you re-image a computer, it’s clean until you start loading programs on it, then it can get bogged down.  I’ve been pretty successful so far, but I still have a long way to go.  I then filled out a “test” and waited.  Our next meeting was short and to the point, she thought I was an excellent candidate for surgery.  The meeting with the Nutritionist was about what I expected, here’s what you can eat and not eat.  Added to that was the post-op schedule for when you can go from clear liquids all the way to solid food.   After that it was waiting for approval from the insurance company, mine would not cover the sleeve, so I opted for R-N-Y.  It was a long journey, at least it felt like it at the time.  I never thought I would get to my surgery date.  You have to remember as you’re going through this, your weight didn’t show up overnight and six months or so is not all that long in course of your entire life.  Patience, which is something I’m not great at, is something you need to have during this process and the entire WLS journey.  

Next time we’ll talk about the surgery and the first six weeks after.

My best advice to someone considering WLS

When I was visiting family in October, my brother-in-law, Barrett asked me what I would say to someone considering having Weight Loss Surgery.  I gave him a quick easy answer, but it isn’t that simple.  So this week, I may be a bit more serious, then again maybe not.  I haven’t written the blog yet, so I don’t know. 

The first thing I would say is “Why do you want WLS?”  What I’m looking for is their motivation.  We had a gentleman, who said he was over 500 lbs, come to our support group to find out about WLS.  Why, because his doctor is doing a hernia repair and while he’s there, they might as well “do” a WLS.  What is that Doctor smoking?  WLS is a major bit of surgery, compared to a hernia, and has lifelong repercussions, not something to just “do” while you’re in there.  It got worse as the gentleman claimed he could lose a hundred pounds any time, he’s done it before.  Good thing I wasn’t at the meeting, but they did warn him about how I would react.  When I heard such an absurdity, I laughed.  I’ve lost a couple hundred pounds in my pre-surgery life, and found every last pound again and then some.  For me, I’m looking for what a person’s motivation is for having the surgery.  It has to be personal and not something you’re doing for someone else.  For me, I was tired of being tired all the time, of not being able to do things with my grandsons and I was afraid of ending up in a wheelchair on oxygen.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my 4 year old grandson asked me to lay on the ground, so he could practice climbing a mountain.  That’s when I knew it was time, but I was already well into the consideration phase.  Another gentleman from our support group told us of watching his father die of diabetes caused by being overweight.  He didn’t want to end up dying too early.  He’ll make it if anyone does, because he has the right motivation. 

Then, once we’ve talked about why, I ask what they expect WLS to do for them.  Most people say it’ll make them lose weight, to which I respond, yes it will, at first.  The looks I get when I say that are hilarious.  From incredulity to “shut up” to “you liar”.  The truth is that WLS by itself will help you lose weight, simply because you can’t eat as much and early on it’s even less, but if you continue to put the same garbage in that you were before WLS, then ultimately, you will gain it all back.  PEOPLE, WLS is only a tool and will only benefit you if you work at it along with truly and permanently changing your way of eating and how you look at food.  Used to be I looked at food as two things, one something to stop the hunger, which happened very rarely.  The second was as a friend and comforter.  This friend and I were inseparable.  Any time something went wrong, I coughed, sneezed or forgot to blink, I would have a bite of something….ok lots of bites of something.  Any time something went right, I would have lots of bites of something, anything.  When my first marriage fell apart, I would bake a cake and eat it, while baking the next one, which I would eat when it came out of the oven.  I have made a real change in the way I look at and use food.  It no longer is about comfort, but rather about fuel for my body.  I eat the kinds of foods I’m supposed to eat and I do not touch sweets of any kind.  I’m a junkie when it comes to sweets and if I start I will not be able to stop, so like an alcoholic, I have to give them up permanently, one day at a time.  I’ve gone without sweets since Sept of 2012.  It wasn’t easy at first, but now it’s not too bad.  I have twinges at times, especially when there is cake and other goodies in the break room at work, but I never give in.  So I tell people, you need to understand that this is not easy, it takes work, hard work, dedication and perseverance to be successful.  You can do it, but you have to work at it.  When you make a mistake, and I’ve made plenty, you have to pick yourself up and start again.  Each and every time.

Then we talk about exercise and it always starts with them saying I’ll join a gym.  That is great to hear, but me, I hate gyms, so I don’t always go.  I tell them find an activity that requires you to move like running, walking, swimming, and biking.  It really doesn’t matter as long as you start moving.  A gym is great and I know of plenty of WLSers who go to the gym regularly, I’m just not one of them and you don’t have to be.  You do have to be more active if you want to lose the weight and keep it off.  Find what works best for you and do it.  I plan to try kayaking on a lake this year, then maybe do some river and rapids kayaking.  We shall see.  Point being exercise comes in all forms and does not require a gym to get it in, but it certainly can.

Finally I talk about support groups, both online and in person.  If you are not in a local support group, find one close to you and take the time to go, whether you are just starting out or are a year and more out.  Why, because we all need support at one time or another, and sometimes we get to be the one who gives the support a fellow traveler needs to keep from falling.  I believe that we should all give back to others for the support we got during the early days of our journey.  I need support this month when I had my umbilical hernia, and my support group was there.  One of our members lost her mother right before Thanksgiving.  I called her to offer my condolences and I attended the memorial service.  She was touched that I would take my time to attend, when I’d never met her mother.  Didn’t matter to me as I told her, I knew enough about her mother from her.  She gained some weight during that time and was feeling like a failure and I told her to get rid of the scale until she was done dealing with the issues as executor, focus on taking care of that, eating right and getting as much exercise as she can.  I said that worrying about the scale was something she didn’t need to do and that when the worst of the stress was gone, then take the scale out and step on it.  I’m willing to bet she loses weight. On line groups are great, because they tend to be a lot larger than the live groups and people are from all over the country.  I belong to americanbariatrics.org and there a lot of good people on there, successful people and those just starting the journey.  Well worth the time and effort to join the group.

 

To sum it up, when talking to someone considering WLS, I cover three main areas:

  1. Why are they having WLS, what is their motivation?
  2. What do they think WLS will do for them?  It’s not easy, but it’s worth every second of it. 
  3. What type of exercise are they planning, being a gym rat, walking, running, biking, etc.
  4. What kind of support group do they belong to, or are planning to join?  We all need support sooner or later and it pays to have a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

Thanks and have a great New Years.