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Describe your behavioral and emotional battle with weight control before learning about bariatric surgery.
Before surgery I spent most of my life on the diet roller coaster. The first diet I remember was when my mom told me to ask the doctor to put me on a diet when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I had been told so much of my life that "you'd be so pretty if you would just lose 10 pounds." It was humiliating and I was very isolated and scared most of my life - I didn't want to be different, but I was. Deciding to have the surgery was not easy. I needed to make sure I was doing it for me and not the other people in my life who thought I was fat. There were people who I thought I needed to "please" by being thin, and I knew if I did this for others, I would gain the weight back again. There was a lot of internal work to do before I went under the knife. Even after the...
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Since I had my surgery in 2004, I've recommended Dr. Kemmeter and Grand Health Partners to friends and family and seen a number of them go through the surgery there. Three of my husband's family had surgery with the doctors there on the same day and had as much success as I did. I had no complications, very little scaring and have continued to maintain a good relationship with the staff there. I go back every year for check-ups and have gone back for periodic testing - the staff at GHP are wonderful. They treated me as though my obesity were an illness, rather than just a problem I could overcome.
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“We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people or presently may be, has to be smashed.” Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 30
That paragraph speaks volumes to me in my journey. First it says I want to be normal, and second it says I can’t be – all I ever really longed for my whole life was to be normal.
Somewhere along the broken ladder of my family’s home, I always felt like the least. I had the least aptitude for success, the least ambition, the least athleticism, the least self worth of the five children. What I had the most of was loneliness, fear and weight. I was berated for my low self-worth, sloth and lack of appeal. “Put a smile on your face,” came right after comments like, “You’d have such a pretty face if you’d lose ten pounds.” The mixed messages about my body image and worth nearly drove me to suicide in my teens. Fear kept me from taking action.
My mom’s fear of losing my step-father because of her own weight issues pushed her to put me on diet after diet beginning when I was a pre-teen and I watched my sister become a bulimic and anorexic. I was always compared to her, because she was thin, pretty and popular. No one knew the pain we shared. She was addicted to diet pills and speed and I became addicted to diets.
My first significant weight loss was about 50 pounds in 9th grade followed closely by a massive gain of 70 pounds by the time I was a senior. Mom gave me a membership to a nationally known diet club for my 18th birthday and I lost 18 pounds before graduation. I followed the program and lost 65 pounds all together.
A year later, I sorely disappointed my step-father and my mom when 3 pounds kept me from getting into the Navy. They sent me home to lose the three pounds, and although I exercised excessively, purged with laxatives and tried to fast, a one-day binge kept those three pounds right where they were, and I was land-locked. They didn’t speak to me for four months. I was left homeless and alone at 19.
Fear drove me to the proverbial “geographic cure.” I moved 1,700 miles away to live with my father and his wife. There I found alcohol, sex and food. I regained much of the weight I’d lost and thought I was safe for a while. Two years later though, I was back within the scrutiny of my parents and back on the diet roller coaster. “You’ll never find a man that way,” I heard over and over again. “You may as well get a job that will support you in your old age; you’re going to have to support yourself.”
The cutting remarks about my weight were painful. So I lost a few pounds, met a man I thought I could live with and got married. I settled into a life of relative happiness in a place I abhorred. But, I’d quit drinking, so I thought everything was OK. I didn’t realize that I was stuffing everything down with food.
I was an angry woman. Yo-yo dieting became the norm in my life because after my third child, my blood sugar began to swing. I didn’t know what was happening when it would drop and I would eat to stop the shakes and rage. Finally the doctor told me I was hypoglycemic. He said I needed to get my weight under control. He was a thin man and would joke about my weight. It was as painful as the remarks my step-father and mother had made. “Don’t you want the rest of your body to be as thin as your ankles?” Or worse, “maybe we could just sew your jaws shut.”
At the same time I was suffering severe headaches, and hiding the fact that I’d been throwing up. I would get so angry when people would say things about my weight, I’d hear a voice inside my head, the one that says, “I’ll show you.” I didn’t realize I was really showing myself. I’m an addict and the insanity was telling me to hurt myself.
Finally, fed up I contacted a surgeon about Roux-en-Y gastric by-pass surgery. I had heard about women who’d had it and that it had saved their lives. The surgeon very nearly scared me into thinking another diet would work better. An acquaintance sent me to Dr. Kemmeter an his associates at Grand Health Partners. It was a much better experience.
I had surgery on May 12, 2004, and lost 100 pounds. I can say I have no complications and no regrets. The caveat is that it was a tool I put into my toolbox for a lifelong recovery. It was not a cure for the disease of obesity that affects me spiritually, mentally and physically. I still obsess over certain foods, am a sugar addict, bulimic and an alcoholic. Those things remain. Only the weight has changed.
What also hasn’t changed is my parents don’t love me any more or less. When I planned the surgery my then-husband said, “I hope you’re not planning to do this for your mother, because if you are, I won’t support you.” At the time, I said I was doing it for myself. And I wasn’t lying, really. Part of me knew I was doing it for me, but also for my mom and to prove to all those other people I could be who they thought I should be.
About two years after surgery the food-obsession and eating disorder were back, along with that other old obsession - alcohol. The weight loss had left me vulnerable in ways I hadn’t expected. Without the shield of my fat, I was visible to other people and fear was overwhelming. Food and alcohol became my friends, but I couldn’t regain the weight and look like a failure. Back came the bulimia. I needed help. I picked up a book by a woman in Overeaters Anonymous who wrote about her success in that program, and I looked it up on line.
It took quite a while before I started trusting people in the program, got a sponsor and started working the steps. I had a hard time admitting that I was just like everyone else in the program. I’m still a work in progress.
I continued to see a therapist as well, who counseled me in my addiction. He asked me one day, “Do you have to be someone to somebody else before somebody loves you?” I didn’t understand at the time, but after spending time looking at the problem behind my eating disorder and addiction, I do.
All I ever wanted was to be like everyone else, but really, I’m a child of my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God. He gave me this unique gift – I’m a compulsive eater and bulimic. I was somebody to my God before I was born and worth loving from the beginning of my life.