“Growing up, I had always been the biggest kid. I was never considered ‘little.’ People would make comments about my size all the time. It became something I was accustomed to. I was always the slowest runner and the flag football belts never fit me. My swimsuit on the team had to be special ordered. It was mortifying.
I always liked to eat, however in college I really started to pack on the pounds. Late night studying led to making terrible decisions. You could say I never had a healthy relationship with food. Binge eating became something that was a comfort to me. A pack of Oreo’s here, half a pizza there and throw in half a box of pasta for good measure. I would eat anything because it gave me comfort. It’s sad to realize looking back I needed comfort from my own weight. I was always told, ‘you’re really pretty for a big girl’ or ‘you have such a pretty face, but you would be prettier if you lost a few pounds.’
As I got older, I realized I was ‘the big girl’, a label I used humor to hide behind. I tried for so long to hide the insecurities that came with that label. I had no self-confidence, I tried to get people to ignore my weight with my personality. I thought I could overshadow my weight by being funny. Then they would forget about me and I would magically disappear. It was painful to shop for clothes which always seemed to be going up a size and kept getting tighter and tighter. I won’t ever forget a date when a guy made the comment, ‘I wouldn’t have taken you out had I known how big you were.’ Needless to say he never got a second date. I cried the whole way home then probably drank way too much that night to numb the pain.
I work as a nurse and realized I give so many people the tools and inspiration to help themselves and want them to be better so why not try and better myself? I was depressed and I didn’t want to go out with friends, I didn’t want to date. I wanted to hide, from myself and everyone else. I had no idea what to do. I tried years of failed diets, failed exercise routines, and every diet pill on the market. I knew if I didn’t make a major change, I was going to kill myself one bite of food at a time. I had tried everything short of having an eating disorder and had no hope. My parents were supportive. They wanted what any parent wanted which was for me to be happy in a healthy way.
I looked into a weight loss center through my job. I remember working with two of my good friends and talking with them about even making an appointment. I was nervous of what others would think of me and what they would say. One friend said to me, ‘What does it matter what they think? Is it their body? No, it’s not. It’s yours. Make the call.’ Another said, ‘She’s right. If this is going to make you happy, that’s what you deserve. You deserve to be happy. Call them.’ I remember walking away from both of them, knowing they were right. Crying and making the phone call.
I went to the weight loss center, but I was so overwhelmed. They have surgery options and they have physician supervised options. What do I choose? Which is best for me? After researching for what seemed like months, I made my decision. I was going to have the gastric sleeve surgery. A surgery which would remove approximately 75% of my stomach. I kept my decision pretty quiet; I told a few close friends, and my immediate family members. Thank God they all supported me. I started going to the weight loss center and continuing with my appointments. I had to get so many clearances before surgery would commence such as family doctor, cardiologist, psychologist, dietitian, labs, EKG’s, etc. As time went on my date for surgery was set. I wondered if I was making the biggest mistake of my life.
I had a pre-op diet which included protein shakes and yogurt for two weeks. I thought I was dying during that time it was so awful, and then the big day finally came, March 28th. It was an easy surgery; I woke up at recovery in pain which was to be expected. My hospital stay was one night and then I was sent home. The first few days were rough, I was in severe amounts of pain, I was nauseous, and I couldn’t do anything but drink clear fluids. As days went on, drinking got easier, the pain got better, and the nausea went away. I started doing my daily walks. I was told during my hospital stay that walking would be the best thing for healing. I didn’t have anywhere to walk that was flat so off to Walmart I went, every day I walked the aisles while pushing a cart. After a few weeks I was finally comfortable enough to walk outside. This went on for a full 6 weeks. Walks and protein drinks filled my life. I had an allergic reaction post-op that made me question everything. I was covered in a rash and itching like crazy. I thought ‘this is my life now, what did I do?’ Luckily my rash went away thanks to steroids, and I quickly forgot those negative thoughts.
After the 6 weeks were up, I had to start back to work. I was nervous going back to work as I work in a female dominated field, and as we all know ladies talk. My first shift back I tried to hide the fact I had been gone at all. Then people started making comments like, ‘How was your surgery? Oh, you lost weight, how did you do it? You took the EASY way out.’ That last comment is one that hurts me, it hurt me then and it hurts me now. I underwent a surgical procedure to help better my life and my life has completely changed since surgery, but you think it’s the easy way out? If it was easy, anyone would do it. I was talking with my friend Nicole again, who is one of the most confident people I know, and I look up to her in so many ways. She said, ‘Let them talk, let them hate on you. You did this for yourself, not for anyone else. It does not affect them in any way shape or form. You did this for the most important person, you did this for you.’
After our conversation, I really started to focus, I focused on myself. Yeah, I did have surgery, but I still have to put in the effort. I started meal prepping, weighing my food and tracking everything I put into my mouth. I made sure between work and outside of work, I was walking 5 miles a day. That’s a lot of changes for someone who used to win the couch potato award. I started drinking a gallon of water a day, and I have a huge jug at work that everyone loves to laugh at. I started seeing weight come off. I stopped hiding my surgery, it was not something I was ashamed of, it was something I was proud of. I started documenting my progress, along with my daily activities on Instagram. I never expected anyone to see it, or for people to message me thanking me for sharing my story.
A new co-worker said to me the other day, ‘You look nothing like your picture.’ I smiled and said ‘no, I’ve lost some weight.’ I told her my story then showed her some side by side photos. She was amazed it was still me. I laughed, still me, but in the same sense a completely different person. Alyssa, another friend said to me, ‘I don’t mean for this to sound rude, but I never realized you were that big.’ She was not being rude. I told her I agreed with her as I never saw myself as that big either. I knew I was large but until I started to lose weight, I never knew how truly big I was.
At my heaviest I was 283 pounds, that’s a lot of weight for someone being 5’1. I was in 20/22 pants, 2x/3x tops. For scrubs I was in 3x scrub tops, and 2x bottoms that were tight, I had just hoped they didn’t bust open while I was working. To date I’ve lost 97 pounds with the help of surgery and I still continue and will continue to lose weight. I am now in a size 12/14 jeans, medium/large top, and medium scrub top and bottoms. I hit amazing milestones I never knew possible. I fit in a standard size towel and it wraps around me. I can shop in the ‘normal’ sized sections and not plus sized. I had to buy smaller rings and my bracelet had to have a chain taken out. I see my collar bones. My naturally high cheekbones are now something everyone can see, and I show them often when I smile.
This surgery didn’t just change my life by removing a part of my stomach. It gave me so much more than that. I have confidence I never had before, and I have no worries or cares of what people think of me. People see me, they don’t see my weight. The person I have become is someone I never dreamed of, someone I thought would never exist. She’s a person I have always wanted to be but didn’t know how to become. I have finally found myself and am very happy to say for the first time in my life I actually and truly love myself. You have the ability to change your life. It’s going to be hard and not everyone is going to agree with the choices you make. But it’s not about them, it’s about making yourself and your health a priority in your life. If I can do it, so can you!”
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