Tackling Weight Regain After Bariatric Surgery with PRIDEFebruary 20, 2019
My story of tackling weight regain, I imagine, might have elements similar to many of yours. Throughout most of my life, I would lose weight, gain it back plus more, and lose it again.
I was a chunky kid. My nickname in grade school was Big Butt Bonnie. I remember my mother calling out the door one day as I was walking to school and told me not to stick my bottom out. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Tackling Weight Regain - My Relationship with Food & Myself
Looking back, my relationship with food was weird from early on. When I was sent to the store for something, I would spend the change on junk food. On the way home, I would eat it as fast as I could (I’m talking about massive amounts-just stuffing it in so no one would know).
Food was something to be consumed in quantity, being totally filled up made me feel safe and comfortable somehow.
My mother, bless her heart, was heavy and didn’t want us to be that way. She tried her best, but I don’t think she had any idea. We learned from what she did, herself, and not what she said. I remember her putting me on the scales in the 6th grade. I weighed 135, and she said, “Well, ok, just don’t gain any more weight, and when you are 18, you will be just right.” Oh, my! Obviously, that was a battle plan that didn’t work.
By the time I graduated high school, I weighed 225. I already had exposure to TOPS, diet pills, and yo-yo dieting. I'd lose some weight and gain more. My dad (his way of solving the problem) tied my weight to my self-worth, and for years (and, I imagine I still deal with it to this day), I work to resolve that message completely. I didn't feel like a woman. My gender and whether I was good enough or not was tied up in my weight. Enough said.
Losing Weight Again (and Again)!
I can’t count the number of ways I tried to deal (or not deal) with my weight over the next 10 years. I'd diet, exercise, take diet pills (legit or otherwise). When I was 28, I lost down to 150 pounds and thought I had it made. Fast living and crazy relationships only take a person so far. By the time I was 30, the weight monkey was creeping up on my back again.
Just before the weight came piling on again, I got married, had two lovely children, a great husband, a career (life should be good, eh?), and lived much of my life throwing each day away. I'd wake up each morning and wonder why I wasn’t happy and, thinking that maybe the next day, my life would be together. So I'd throw that day away in hopes that the next day would be different (i.e., I would be thin and then deserving of that life, and so they could live it). It never was. The problem was that I didn’t do anything to make that happen. I was unhappy and dealt with the situation by playing the disappearing act (isolating, sleeping, and eating).
Well, years went on (about 28 of them), and my weight fluctuated between 250 and 345. I stayed at my highest weight for three years and kept waiting for my life to begin. I’d been living my life all this time and not even counting it. I tried lots of things- Overeaters Anonymous, Medifast, and more diet pills. Besides the weight, I also added some serious health issues of diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and back and joint problems. The toll on my relationship with my loving husband (who remained loyal and loving all through my “absentee” period) is just too painful to think about right now.
In June 2011, I had a hysterectomy, and they found cancer. I had a pap and pelvic only weeks before that, and it came out normal. The routine operation turned out very difficult because of my significant weight. Things did not go well, and the surgeon said as much. I thank God that he did because, for once, I heard it - the message was driven to me was what I was doing to me, my life.
I got that I was setting up a situation where I wasn't going to have to wait until my life was right to live my life. I realized that soon I wasn't going to have a life.
Determined, I started eating right, exercising, writing down everything that went into my mouth, and working on my heart, soul, mind thing, and my relationship with God. I began to understand that the decision was mine to make every day, and that only when I decided to participate in my recovery, God’s power and help were available.
The Decision to Have Bariatric Surgery
My good intentions lasted from July to January 2012. I had lost about 85 pounds, and the old patterns returned, and the weight started coming back on. By May, I had regained 40+ pounds, but this time, instead of slipping into oblivion for who knows how long, I said ” NO MORE”- and seriously started the process towards WLS.
My thinking was this, maybe I would be approved, and maybe I would not. But until I knew, I was going to practice as if. I’m glad it took a while for it all to happen. I needed time to practice patience, self-control, and get healthy enough for the surgery. I credit the “homework” I did for the relatively easy recovery after the surgery
My surgery was approved for December 12, 2012, and between July and December, I lost the 40 plus another 25.
Having surgery was my way of saying that the door is now shut and there's no going back. I’m going to let my Sleeve help me know when some is enough. I don’t want to live that black hole that was my life anymore.
Tackling Regain After Bariatric Surgery
Life happens, choices are made, and behaviors sprout out of those choices. Mine were not good. I maintained my goal weight for 1-1/2 yrs, then went batshit crazy and regained 125 pounds back. It took a mere year and a half to do that. Long story short, I came to my senses in May 2017. I was proactive and took action for myself and my bariatric surgery.
I made appointments immediately with my health care providers. I had been putting off making my appointments until I got my act together. I went to my appointment and was ruthlessly honest about what I had been doing. I took responsibility for my weight regain and resolved to turn mental intentions into a true change of behavior.
First, I detoxed off sugar and simple carbs, and all slider foods. Until I did that, it was impossible for me to stay on the wagon, as you put it. This took a full two weeks for me.
If you’ve been on the boards, you know the dance...hydration, protein forward, vitamins, logging, and food journaling. I'm following the guidelines that are given when you have WLS.
Most importantly, for me, has been in maintaining perseverance. This task of losing a great deal of regain is in understanding that it cannot be done Willy-nilly. On some days and then off again won’t cut it. Progress is realized in DAILY EFFORT OVER TIME.
It has taken me almost a year, 53 weeks, and I have lost 115 of the 125 regained pounds. My Sleeve isn’t broken..it will work if you choose to do the work. Courage to you, girl. You can do this, Bonnie!
What I Learned From Having WLS
- Past messages stay with you. I was fat all my life for all the reasons that may be common to what makes and keeps people fat: childhood messages. I remember my father telling me when I was 15 that I couldn’t take drivers ed until I lost weight. The connection between who I was, my worth, everything that made me-me was tied into and determined by my weight. I was powerless. I was nothing because I was fat. In fact, for years and years, I felt genderless, a nonsexual being because, in my father’s opinion, since I was fat, that was true.
- Dysfunction keeps you overweight. Years later, I had a wonderful husband, lovely children, a long and enjoyable career, was financially secure, a good bit of therapy since I was a child of dysfunction, and, despite losing and gaining tons of weight, I was still fat. I realized that I truly was killing myself - you know, kind of a respectable, acceptable suicide.
- Enter WLS. After having WLS, I was very successful, with no complications, steady Eddie, and I successfully reached my goal weight. I got into the thrill of it all, the success and accomplishment, the clothes, the look, the attention, the approval, and dare I say the (outside) affirmation of my worth as a person and a woman. All of the accomplishments, talents, gifts, and personality that I had meant something. I finally deserved them because I was slim. The golden ticket to happiness, right?
- The golden ticket isn't true. Wrong, because I thought by having outside validation was what I was missing and what I needed to have to be happy. How do I maintain that high in maintenance? I was now just a normal human being doing normal things, no big highs or lows. The feeling of Special Snowflake Status was just not there anymore.
- Transfer addiction. Enter the dreaded transfer addiction. I had, in a short time of 14-15 months in maintenance, discovered the "happyproducingjuice," aka alcohol. I do not mean wine; I mean alcohol. It allowed me to have those feelings I experienced during weight loss, and I wanted to keep that feeling. I drank to thrilling intoxication regularly, and for a while, it did not affect my weight, so, therefore, no problem. I would come home from work, go upstairs into my “she”-room, put on the music, get out the bottle hidden there, get out the clothes--have a great time--and FEEL HAPPY. I could do this because the kids were grown and out of the house, and, as far as I was aware, my husband was clueless (I am a very functional drunk).
- The great enabler - retirement. A few months after announcing my retirement, I dropped off the face of the OH forums. Whoopee, now I had all day to get and stay blissfully happy, and I did. Now, the alcohol was interfering with my weight. I mean, how many calories are there in a quart of vodka? In addition, not to mention how alcohol interferes with the normal calorie burning process and my appetite.
- Appetite for what, then? My appetite was for having happiness, of course, that is to say, having pleasant feelings. Food used to give me that, and I returned to it. Slider foods are just that, easy to eat, and in large quantities, small Sleeve be damned. And I did, all day, eat, eat, eat, drink, drink, drink, and into the night, then get up at night and rinse, and repeat. For a long time, I am sure I was drunk 24/7.
- The law of diminishing returns is real. More and more, the food and alcohol produced the opposite of what I intended it for, and I turned into an unfeeling (drunk and fat) Zombie. I wasn’t a Special Snowflake anymore.
- No feelings. I continued this pattern for approximately 2-1/2 years. Yep, back where I started from - daily not feeling anything--no purpose--no reason to look forward or expect anything the next day and the following forever the same thing. This is the stuff despair is made of, and recognizing that feeling, I realized there was no purpose in living further days of the same. I was depressed and knew I was once again, participating in the not so slow dance of a dispassionate suicide.
- Wake up call. What woke me up? Grace? God? A return to common sense? I don’t know, but I moved into action.
- Take action. The first thing I did was own up to someone. I made an appointment with the doctor and spilled all. I took care of the physical first by having tests, examinations, and to find out what the damage was. I also had appointments with my dentist and eye doctor. I addressed my depression and stopped drinking! Just a side note, I understand since I was mass consuming alcohol, approximately 4-5 liters a week can be life-threatening, so I don't recommend doing it that way.
- Tackling weight regain to lose it. I returned to what I already knew from losing weight the first time after my surgery. I went back to the healthy habits of hydration, logging food, protein forward, move, be thoughtful, and take care of my health.
The #1 behavior that has taken me just a few pounds away from being back to my goal weight is Perseverance and Consistency - practice these two important habits every day and over an extended period of time as long as it takes.
How I Stay On Track Now
I'm able to stay on track now. I believe this with all of my heart.
I tell myself "PRIDE = Progress Realized Through Daily Effort"
This saying goes for what I eat and booze, day in and day out. I make a choice daily to do the right thing and actively participate in my health and the hope of finding my way and working out my salvation in this area of my life.
That’s it. Pretty much the whole shaboolie. I glanced back over this, and my “small” footprint has turned into a rather large boot. There is more. I think of what has been brought up here is body image, nurture-nature-genetics, maintenance, feelings, and how I think that impacts and creates those feelings and the behaviors that come from that.
ABOUT THE AUTHORBonnie (Miss150) spent much of her life yo-yo dieting. Bonnie tried every diet she saw and wasn't able to lose weight long-term. Finally, she'd had enough and changed her life by having the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy surgery in 2013. She developed a cross-addiction and successfully overcame it. After regaining weight, she has lost it and is solidly on track!