Jane is a 51 year-old database administrator and part-time singer songwriter. She recalls reading journals from 8th grade where she was keeping track of food and calorie intake. Her weight has been “a life-long monkey on her back”. By the time she reached her top weight of 275 pounds, she felt as though “she’d been trapped in a fat suit and couldn’t get out”. Jane movingly discusses the humiliation that comes with being obese. At 45, she decided to have gastric bypass surgery primarily because of the Dumping Syndrome that acts as a constant reminder if you are not staying true to your post-surgical eating regime.
My name is Jane. I'm 51 years old, soon to be 52. I work in administration and I'm a database administrator, project manager, wear a lot of hats at my job, but my passion actually is music. I'm a singer/songwriter, so I've always kind of had the double life.
I did Weight Watchers for the first time right after I became a teenager when I was 14. I actually came across some journals recently where I was in 8th grade writing down what I ate, keeping track of my food and my calorie intake so this is definitely been something that has been a lifelong monkey on my back.
As I got older, I went through depression when my father died, when I was in my early 30's, and my weight seemed to balloon at that time and no matter how much I dieted, not matter how much I exercised, I just couldn't lose the weight, and it just kind of creeping up every year, a couple pounds, a couple pounds, a couple pounds, until I kind of reached my top weight which was about 275 pounds, and I just kind of felt like I'm trapped in this fat suit, I can't get out.
My mother and father both struggled with their weight. I have one sister who's always been thin but three of us actually would have thyroid disorders so I think that also contributed to the weight issue, too.
Food was a comfort to me. Food was company to me. If I was lonely, food was a reward. If I felt stressed or I felt taken advantage of. If I felt overlooked, food was the way I would comfort myself.
I went to a conference for work to Florida and we were at, I Orlando at Disney. And there was a ride, some kind of crazy rollercoaster ride everybody was going on. I could not fit in the seat. I was mortified. When I think of it now, it breaks my heart; it breaks my heart. It was really hard. It was humiliating because they had a sample seat you have to be able to sit in the seat and I couldn't fit in the seat so that was really embarrassing. And that's what it felt like as an overweight person, that I was just trapped in this fat suit, you know, and I couldn't get out
I was turning 43 and kind of got to that point where I just felt like I can't do this by myself and I had a physical with my primary care physician and I asked her, would I be a candidate for gastric bypass surgery? She said, well, it depends; your BMI isn't quite there. But she said this really horrible word, you do have a couple of other co-morbidities, so I thought, what is that, so what was happening was I was starting to get a little pre-diabetic. My blood work was showing that and the beginning signs of having high blood pressure. So I got a referral and I went to the weight loss center and met with the doctors and got all the information and I wasn't ready emotionally yet; it just seemed so permanent. To change my plumbing on the inside permanently just seemed like such a huge step so I thought, no, I'm not ready for that yet, so I tried yet another diet and another huge exercise effort, only to two years later be 20 pounds heavier.
I was turning 45 I thought, with any luck I'm half way through my life. I don't want to spend the second half of my life as a sick person. I thought this is the time so I asked my primary care physician for another referral, went back to the center for weight loss, and went through the steps. They were having support group meetings at the hospital so this was actually nine months before I had my surgery. People were sharing things; and I was kind of wide-eyed because I was hearing all these stories of people about having trouble swallowing food and I thought, oh my gosh, this is terrible. But, the nurse actually stopped everyone and she said, I'd like to ask everyone a question, does anyone regret having their weight loss surgery? No one raised their hand. They would have done it again. So I hung in there and I kept going every week and by the time it was time for me to schedule my surgery, I felt emotionally prepared.
I told everybody at work. I'm having gastric bypass surgery. I'm going to out for six weeks and I'm really excited about it because I wanted it to be on everyone's radar. I didn't want there to be any shame or any weirdness around it. And I also wanted support from people and I got it.
I know this is going to sound crazy, but what if this doesn't work, either? What if I've gone totally public; everyone knows I'm having this surgery; I've done all this preparation; I've been preparing for nine months. My sister flew out from the East Coast; she's here to take care of me. What if I don't lose weight? And that was on my mind, like, this is so extreme; what if this doesn't work?
I did have some pain when I awoke in the recovery room. They moved me from the gurney into the bed, and I guess I was getting intravenous pain meds so they gave me another administration of that at that point, but a nurse had told me before I had my surgery, get up and walk as soon as you can. what I did is right after they would administer pain medication it was, like, it's my golden hour, let's do a lap.
What I would have done different is filled the prescription at the pharmacy there on site at the hospital so I had the pain meds on me. My sister drove us home, going over all the potholes. I was at that threshold where I was ready for another dose and we hadn't filled the prescription. So I would have done that differently. So that day after the surgery the pain was the most intense but the smart thing is to kind of stay ahead of the pain and I have heard other people don't want to take any pain med no your body needs to heal, not to be dealing with pain so better to take it and stay on that schedule as prescribed.
What was really key for me is having my sister with me. I'm a very independent self-reliant person. I thought, oh, no, I'll be fine, but my sister said, no, I'll come. I'm so glad that she did because right after the surgery there's a little bit of a fog from being under anesthesia and there's a lot to remember cause you're having to take in a certain amount of protein and you can only have certain things the first week. And it was just a lot. And the pain meds, making sure you're taking the vitamins and iron and this and that and it was a lot. It was great to have my sister there helping me get a schedule, and I would write down when I had my medication and what I ate and my liquid intake, my protein intake. Making sure I went for a walk so that I was moving and increasing that every day. So it was really key to have her there that first week to get me on a routine, and she would check in with me on the second week, what foods are you introducing this week? Well, I get to have yogurt this week or I get to have a scrambled egg, and I mean I know that sounds weird but it was like after seven days of chicken broth and protein shake and sugar free jell-o, the scrambled egg was like the best thing I had ever seen.
I would have reactions and I heard about this in the meetings so it wasn't strange to me, but introducing a new food, I would, like feel gas pains and something that's unique to the gastric bypass surgery as opposed to bands. Dumping syndrome. You know, it always seems so mystical; what is dumping syndrome? I don't mean to be gross but like you have to go to the bathroom really bad but you're constipated and having this horrible gas pains I'd buy something at the store that maybe had a little sugar content in it that didn't seem like a lot but I was sensitive to it, maybe a couple tablespoons would be fine, and I thought, oh, that's good, I'm tolerating that fine. So the next time I'd have it at the next meal, I'd have three tablespoons, oops, that was too much. I had a reaction. It was scary cause I didn't know how long that dumping syndrome feeling would last. Usually it was about an hour at the beginning. I still have it occasionally, which I'm grateful for. That's the cue to you're going too far. Jane dial it down. dumping syndrome can be your friend if you pay attention to it. It's one of the tools. We talked earlier about using food as a drug, as a comfort, as a reward. That's been interesting. I can't use it that way anymore.
Right after I came back to work from my surgery was just before the holidays. And I've heard people talk about opting to not go to a big Thanksgiving but I just made sure there were things that I could have and I just had really, really tiny portions of everything. I was so happy to be around my friends and already I had lost some weight. I just felt so happy that I was having these positive changes in my life and it was kind of fun, oh, look at my plate, I have like this much turkey and, you know, this tiny bit of mashed potatoes and I think I brought a sugar free pudding as my dessert. I didn't care. It was okay but it was a challenge to figure out, how do I go out in public and how do I go to restaurants; a normal portion is like five times what I can have. My stomach is the size of golf ball; so I just asked people, would you mind sharing, can we share an appetizer. It was just kind of something that I accepted.
It was completely key to me being in a support group because there are so many changes that are happening from week to week. I went back to the support group the week after my surgery and the enthusiasm of people feeling so happy for me that I had had my surgery, and there was actually a gentleman who had surgery two weeks after me, so we always looked at each other as surgery buddies. As you kind of go through these peaks and valleys and the trajectory of the weight loss journey, it's really helpful to be going to these meetings and hearing someone else who's a little further down the road and hearing what they're going through so that you know what to expect. So I continued for several years in the support group meetings and I actually went on to actually speak at informational meetings for other people coming to investigate surgery and that was such a privilege.
The first year to two years that's the honeymoon, that's when the magic of the surgery is working, but once you get a year and a half, two years out, you're in the trenches with everybody else and that was so true. I would say by about four years, I could eat more than I could at six months, but that's when I had to start counting calories, being accountable for what I ate.
At first I could kind of get away with just walking, that was fine. I could walk a few times a week. But once I got to about the four-year mark I joined a gym and started to work with a personal trainer, and I was blessed to get matched up with a trainer, a young woman who had also had weight problems and lost about 50 pounds, and so she really keyed into me. I was never an athletic person. I ran my first 5K three years ago. I never dreamed in a million years that I would do anything like that. I go hiking straight up for two hours. I mean I'm 51. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life I'm lifting. I'm doing push-ups. It's crazy.
I'm almost at the seven-year mark. I have to make sure I exercise. I have to watch my food intake. I can't eat like I did prior and I don't want to find out if I can. I emptied my closets of all my bigger size clothes on purpose, so if my pants get tight I need to get busy. I'm not going backwards. I know people personally who have had weight loss surgery and have put on the weight again. I've seen it. I know there are those statistics. I don't want to be part of that statistic so I'm doing the hard work. I would rather do that and stay in the size I am and have the quality of life that I'm having at 51. I've had the privilege of being able to implement a wellness program at work. We have a couple of boot camps a week. Someone who just went through boot camp, an eight-week boot camp at work came and brought me a bracelet as a thank-you for encouraging her to do it. Her blood pressure's gone down so like all of a sudden I'm like the patron saint of everybody at work. It's great. It keeps me honest.
I can eat chocolate; I can drink wine but I have to watch it. So I just choose to exercise more so I can indulge a little, you know, once in a while, but also I find that my body performs better when I eat cleaner; when I'm eating nutritious food
If you would have told me nine years ago when I was at 278 pounds that I would be sitting in this chair and telling my story and being an inspiration or a motivation for someone else who was in that same position that I was in 10 years ago, I would have never believed it. I just would encourage anyone who's considering the weight loss surgery, it's a tool to take off the bulk of that weight fast, but then you have use all those other tools, journaling, exercise, support groups, blogs, chat rooms, all those different things, to stay on the path cause it's a lifelong journey.