I promised that I would write this later and here it is. It's long- but I want to give a well rounded idea what life has been like for me. If it's too long, don't read it. But if you want to know how my last 17 years have played out, this is a post about my story. While your experience will be your own and will likely vary from mine, I hope that maybe there's a takeaway that you'll find in my muddled story :-)
My name is Dawn for those that don't know me - I'm one of the long timers of this group. Last month, I had my 17th surgiversary and so, I like to update people on what life is like many years out and how I am doing.
My backstory: Prior to surgery I'd been the chubby kid to obese adult. I was brought up in a very food dysfunctional house and we ate a lot of processed foods.
When I had my surgery in 2006, I was a very determined, very much follow-the-rules-to-the-letter kind of person. Goal was the only thing that mattered to me and I reached it by a year out. I was a slower loser than many around me but I got where I wanted to be and celebrated my success figuring that I had it all figured out.
but in reality, I was a little lost after that and as the months rolled on by, I started to notice my propensity for reaching for the "easy foods" increased, and at woke, I started to plan little binges of things to grab on my way home at the corner store. I wasn't as worried initially because they were small binges compared to my ones prior to surgery.
Eventually, as I could eat more, it became a concern. By two years out, I'd gained 10 lbs. I was shocked and horrified, now in the "overweight" category and felt pretty upset that I was back there again.
The next few months saw more of the same and lead me to a 20 lb regain by year 3. This is where for most of us, the self bashing comes into play. This is when the panic sets in. "I am going to gain it ALL back" is what that voice in your head tells you. "I did all this to my body and I still want to make myself fat" plays out in your head. My fathead screams and points and easily labels me, "Failure!" At this point is when I sought out therapy for my food issues.
Did therapy fix things at that point? No. It helped me get unstuck from my thinking patterns that revolved around "all or nothing" and "stinking thinking".
I also starting being iron deficient at that point. Also realized I was dealing with reactive hypoglycaemia and osteopenia. All of these were issues that I was dealing with to figure out, learn about and fix.
Surgery did NOT solve my weight roller coaster. But it's much easier to work on 20 lbs than 140 lbs. To quote my good friend, I am either very focused on program or very much off program. You know the type - "not only did I fall off the diet wagon, I dragged it into the woods and set it on fire".
So the next years after that saw perpetual Mondays being the start of getting back on track. I did everything you could imagine throughout the next few years but my weight topped out at 27 lbs over goal. For some reason that seems to be the number that always freaked me out. Every time I reach that point I hunker down, sometimes with sensible plans, sometimes with the fad diet of the week or buying some new book or exercise program that i feel might ignite my success once again. I did complete five consecutive half marathons for fun, played floor hockey, and coached Special Olympics. I was actively walking everywhere and busy and that was a good thing. At the same time, I still didn't feel like I had all the energy I had previously - iron deficiency definitely does that to you.
During these times I was pretty hard on myself. I was good at beating myself up internally. I'd pick up other people who were dealing with it, while tearing myself apart for not being good enough or strong enough or determined enough to beat my food issues. I continued to run the support groups to stay connected to groups and wls communities (even telling my regain story at wls conferences that we had back in the day).
And let me tell you -- for those of us that tell our honest stories about regain - it's EASY to post when you are being successful. Much harder when you are struggling. It's sharing your most vulnerable self and yet even in wls communities, it's terrifying to share your struggles. But please remember that struggling isn't failing. It is fighting and kicking and screaming to stay on track and it's the hardest thing to do. For those of you that find the lifestyle easily maintained, please remember to be kind and show compassion or just scroll on by. But please don't kick us when we are at our lowest. We are already incredibly aware of our weaknesses, faults and struggles. We are already increasing unkind to ourselves. Your words have impact. It's not just a case of "just putting down the fork". Food issues are complex. I was told by someone else in a group that I was a failure because I had regain. I never thought that way about myself until someone else pointed that out to me. Then my self-image was darn nasty and my eating issues became even stronger because I was a failure and I wasn't perfect at this. A chubby kid to chunky teenager to obese adult didn't know how to manage a lifestyle that was completely foreign to her. It's no wonder why I struggled... and struggle.
Despite this unwelcome comment, I briefly stopped posting but I stayed connected to the wls boards, fearing that once I chose to ignore it -- Ignore the regain and ignore the fact that I am a bariatric patient for life - I will ultimately stop checking the scale and stop caring about me altogether.
Ten years post op came and I still had iron deficiency. Osteopenia didn't turn into osteoporosis thankfully. I managed my reactive hypoglycaemia like a pro and shared my info with others hoping to make their RH experience a little more manageable.
Covid came and I had a lot of negatives in my life including the passing of my father, loss of my dog, online teaching which I hated, etc. but I was proud of myself for holding steady during that time - still afraid of that 27 lb marker for regain. I did what I call "contain the gain". Don't actively lose, just actively work to maintain the loss".
Two summers ago, saw me at my biggest low post op with energy. Exhausted, mentally and physically. Because of Covid I wasn't getting my labs done twice a year as before - just once. The time between the two saw an incredible drop in my hemoglobin numbers and I'd finally become anemic. I spent way too long in an anemic state, munching on ice like there was no tomorrow and my husband had a LOT of concern. Finally set summer I received my two sets of infusions which were a remarkable difference.
January saw me at 25.9 lbs over goal, ringing in the new year with yes- the horrible New Year's resolution of wanting to lose weight. But I did it's constantly whether it was January 1st or not so back onto program after a natural transition seemed good.
I did what I always do - return to a sensible program. My program of choice is weigh****chers because it's sensible and prevents me from doing extreme dieting and I personally need the accountability. But this time, for some reason, I was in a more positive mental place about how long it would take me to get to goal (go as long as you need, Dawn!) and I found a new leader *****sonate and motivated me. So come my actual 17th surgiversary last month, for the first time ever, I was back at my goal. Now to maintain for 6 weeks to achieve lifetime and not have to pay anymore.
I got this!
Well, realistically I don't.
I just returned for a little getaway with my work friends and I am up 5 lbs on the scale and over. Now I have to hunker down so I lose this in the next two weeks. But this proves my point well - I will never be able to say "I got this!" After 17 years, I cannot say this is easy. I cannot say that I easily follow the lifestyle or have mastered the "weight loss rollercoaster".
I will work on this EVERY DAY. The reality flat out is that if I want to be at my goal - it is the hardest work to do. I have to be accountable for every little morsel that I put in my hand. This hand feed this mouth. I am responsible for choosing healthy foods most of the time and often times, saying that I cannot eat everything they my head wants to eat. I have to weigh, measure and be aware of my portion sizes. I have to limit processed foods and fast foods. I have to navigate restaurant foods carefully. And today, like many more future days, I have to get back to being a little more strict with myself when I need to turn around a trajectory where I fell off the wagon and need to get back to where I was. This in reality will be a lifetime of work for me. But if I want it, it's what I am going to have to do. This is not the free for all that my fathead wants it to be. This is the work of maintenance.
But I have no regrets. Not one single regret.
Deficiencies in my journey: iron, vitamin d.
Current status: no deficiencies.
And just for fun, here's my proud of me, things were easy peasy, and "I am feeling a rock star" one year post op surgiversary photo along with my current photo taken last week on my deck. If I look older, it's because I am 16 years older in the second photo! I am almost 53 years old.
I feel it's important to share my story so that you know, that weight loss isn't always linear for many of us. Having some regain doesn't mean you'll necessarily gain it all back. At the same time, never underestimate how powerful the messages that you comment in groups are. Always remember that the messages that you give yourself are crucial to your success. Surround yourself with those that support and uplift you. Reach out if ever you need to know someone that shares in your struggles. Thanks for taking the time to listen to my story if you managed to get through it all.
And finally, "Be kind to others, so that you may learn the secret art of being kind to yourself."