I am almost there, but where is that?
Transformation literally means going beyond your form.
When I was 28 years old, I weighed 420 pounds. Unless you have been that big, you cannot fathom it. Trust me on this. Personal hygiene was a nightmare. When I bent over, it felt as if my skin was about to split. I was scarcely human in the eyes of most people and that included myself. They tortured my daughter at school for having a mother like me.
There is a condition called dysmorphia where the person involved literally cannot see their physical status. This is usually associated with anorexia. Sufferers typically think they are morbidly obese when they are at their most skeletal. However, I can tell you it can affect any size person – I truly had no idea how big I had become, despite the physical evidence and having plenty of mirrors available.
My moment of truth came at an optician’s, sitting in a chair that was probably silently screaming in anguish at bearing my weight. As I waited to be fitted for my glasses, I caught a glimpse of an absolutely enormous woman out of the corner of my eye. I was aghast – how had she let herself get to this state? And then I stopped, literally gobsmacked by the realization that…this was me.
This was me. That enormous woman was me.
I sprang into action literally the next day. I joined the YMCA and arrived as soon as they opened, 8-year-old in tow. I tucked her into a nest made in a playpen and went upstairs to swim, the only exercise I could manage. I was so big that I could only do breaststroke. My arms were too heavy to lift out of the water.
I began eating mostly vegetable soups and salads. I was soon able to get back on a bicycle (visualize people’s reactions to me zipping by on a black, English bicycle, 40 mph downhill since the more you weigh, the faster you go). I bicycled to work each morning, downhill and back home, uphill. If you think I got some interesting looks going downhill, imagine the looks I got going uphill. I’m sure it seemed improbable.
I lost 225 lbs in perhaps a year. I honestly don’t remember how long it took. It’s been a while.
It would be nice if that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t. The commonly accepted measure of a diet’s success is if the person keeps it off for five years. This actually means that if you are at the precisely the same weight as when you started the process five years before, you are still considered a success. I kept about 100 pounds of it off, most of the time, for the next 30 years. That’s a success, right? Problem was the 125 pounds I had put back on.
It’s not as if I didn’t do a good job of living in my big body. I did exceptionally well. I was a power lifter so strong that the big guys used to ask how my workout was going. These are the guys who speak only to other big guys or women they’re pursuing. I nearly fell over the first time they acknowledged me, but soon realized that if you can do the weight, you qualify for membership in their club. I was 38 years old and weighed 340 pounds at my peak.
Some years later, I got a red belt in Mixed Martial Arts. That’s considered the first step of the black belt series. I was 56 years old and weighed about 290.
Still, despite having spurts of weight loss, I could never keep it off, and my diabetes was getting worse. When my doctor offered to get me into my HMOs bariatric surgery program, after a week’s hesitation, I said yes.
My surgery date was May 28, 2013, my surgeon the amazing and accomplished Dr. Jeffrey Landers, who is on my short list of the three best doctors I have ever known. Despite needing an extra hour to deal with adhesions from a previous hernia surgery, I sailed through and have bounded easily through my recovery period.
I am now two pounds from being 200 pounds lighter than I was at age 26. I weighed 222.6 pounds. I probably have 20 to 30 pounds of extra skin. Remove that, and I have about 40 pounds of fat to go before I am at the 160 pounds I hope to be. It’s heavier than the recommended chart weight for a 5’2”, 58 year old woman, but my physical infrastructure grew and densened to support all this weight – not to mention all that power lifting. I will look great at 160 or so.
Even now, even not finished, I have more energy than I have had in years. I can do the full ballerina bendover with my feet together, wrapping my arms around the back of my legs, then bending a little further to stand on my fingers.
These are other things I can do that I couldn’t do before:
- Pull my leg up while sitting on the bed in order to tie my shoes, or
- Just bend over and tie them.
- Cross my legs. Seriously. I’ve never been able to do that.
- Fit into most chairs, comfortably.
- Move the driver’s seat up in my car because my butt’s that much smaller.
- Hug my husband, children and grandchild much closer.
- Climb up a stepladder without fear of mortal consequences.
- Climb up and down stairs without being out of breath.
I am quite sure there are more goodies to come. What astounds most is how differently I’m being treated. The hate is suddenly just gone. I smile at people at the supermarket and I no longer get the “don’t look at me, you disgusting, subhuman monster” response. Men I’ve known at work for years are suddenly a bit shy or are rather more attentive.
It seems I’ve gotten exponentially more intelligent in this process, and oddly, my opinions are more interesting than irritating. I no longer sense I need to grovel apologetically for being visible – or audible. It seems I’ve regained my right to a place in this world. I worried at first that this would make me angry, and I suppose it does if I dwell on it, but honestly, I’m just so damned relieved that people are nicer that I’m just going with it.
My fair-weather husband, who has loved me regardless of body size for these 28-plus years, has hied himself abroad once more for his annual six months of world travel. He will return on the one-year anniversary of my surgery. It will be fascinating to see if he recognizes me when I come pick him up at the airport.
I’ll keep you posted on that one.