Why I Run and Run FarJanuary 13, 2019
I was ALWAYS the big girl. I was the biggest of my friends growing up, I was the biggest cheerleader, some friends told me that boys would like me more if I was smaller. They didn’t call me fat to my face, but I knew what they meant. I’ve “dieted” since I was in middle school. I’ve lost track of all of the things I tried and the money spent.
Being big didn’t really stop me though. I always had confidence, excelled in many things, had a lot of friends in school and in college who didn’t see me for my size. As an adult I have a great husband, family, wonderful friends and play an active role in my community. Life is VERY GOOD.
But…. my weight always bothered me. It’s not that I always looked in the mirror in disgust all the time, but I just wished I was a normal size. I would work and work and work towards losing weight and I would do OK with it, but a glance at a bowl of ice cream seemed to pack on 5 pounds before I even lifted the spoon while somebody else could eat ice cream every other day and it seemed nothing would happen to them. I was constantly comparing and seeing myself as the failure.
After my youngest son was born in 2008 I was a stay at home mom and decided I was going to spend time at the gym. I spent A LOT of time at the YMCA – three hours per day or more. It was a place to work out AND see friends. I was STRONG, but still big. I lost weight, but, as always, it came off slower than everybody else and I was slower. I was STILL comparing myself to others. Between 2010 and 2014 I did half marathons, triathlons and the Warrior Dash. I was slow at all of these things, but I did them. Even with all of this, and eating well, I was STILL big. I was so frustrated.
I went back to work in late 2013 and my time at the YMCA scaled back… a lot. I still tried to keep moving, but wasn’t moving nearly as much because I no longer had 3 hours in my day to work out. I was lucky to find one hour between work, family and the house. The pounds packed on…. and suddenly I found myself so big, my biggest ever, that I had no energy to even TRY to move anymore.
I really did reach a point of giving up. I figured there was no reason to even try to lose weight anymore because I would just end right back in the same place eventually… big and uncomfortable. Why bother??
You want me to do what??
In late 2017 I went to see my doctor, the same doctor that looks like a string bean (his words, not mine) and has seen me fluctuate and work hard over the years. I was ready for another speech about moving more and eating less, but this time was different. He told me in 10 years (or less) I was going to be diabetic and have high blood pressure and probably a long list of other issues. He recommended having gastric sleeve surgery – he said he had other patients that were very successful with it and this was the reset button I needed. I was shocked because I never thought I was “big enough” for something that drastic, and I also never really thought about something like this, and I was surprised HE suggested it. I asked why he never suggested it before and he said it wasn’t the right time – he said he knows the work I’m capable of doing and he could see I was heading in a direction I probably couldn’t get out of without help.
I went home and did some quick research and decided it wasn’t for me. I called my doctor the next day and asked about a prescription or other kind of help like a regular nutritionist. He said no…. he said he was certain the surgery was what would be best for me and asked me to research it some more and go visit the surgeon.
I did more research, joined a few Facebook groups, talked it over with my husband and saw the surgeon. I decided I was going to go for it. A scary decision, but there was so much success and very little risk for somebody like me that was in otherwise good health, that I knew I was in good hands. With this type of surgery you can’t just sign up and do it the next day, there is a 3-6 month long process of regular visits with a nutritionist, the surgeon, my regular doctor and even a psychological evaluation. I recommend to anybody considering this path to go through this process even if you are paying for it yourself or your insurance company doesn’t have that requirement. The mental preparation is part of the success of the surgery.
In August 2018 I had gastric sleeve surgery (the other option is gastric bypass). Gastric sleeve is NOT a sleeve over the stomach. It is called gastric sleeve because the stomach is shaped like a sleeve after 85% of the stomach is removed. This surgery doesn’t re-route anything so everything works like it did before, there is just a lot less space in my stomach.
It is NOT easy
A lot of people think surgery is an “easy way out” or “less work” to lose weight. I assure you that is not easy and the work is far from over. Although the surgery is a tool that initially takes weight off quicker than I have ever experienced before, there is a lot of work that must continue to make sure there is lifelong success. Think about putting together an IKEA bookshelf. You can use a power tool or that tiny hand wrench that comes with it. Think of the surgery as the power tool. The shelf will be put together faster and maybe even more sturdy with the power tool, but whether you use the power tool or hand wrench there is still a finished bookshelf to maintain. If you don’t take proper care of it or if you fill it with things that are too heavy, your bookshelf will break, no matter how you put it together in the first place. THAT is the hardest work of the surgery and that work lasts a lifetime. Exercise is important. Food choices are important. Protein and veggies and NO bread, pasta, rice, soda, beer, fried foods and very little sugar. If I choose to eat the bad stuff, the tool does not work. Some may ask why I couldn’t just do these changes without the surgery. I assure you I have… over and over again. The surgery is the tool I need for ME and MY body to be successful. THIS was the missing piece for me. I have less space to fill so I am fuller faster. That happens to be what works for me. It may not be the right tool for everybody, but this is what I needed to help me. I also consider the 30 years of “dieting” and exercise, learning about nutrition and attempts to lose weight and keep it off part of this overall process.
What do I eat? What about exercise?
I think the most common question I get – “can you eat……?” The answer is yes, technically I can eat anything I want to. I can eat cakes, cookies, bread and rice, but I choose not to. I’ve had the occasional bite of a cookie or some ice cream, but those things are in no way a regular indulgence. I don’t even miss it. I eat protein and veggies first – a lot of it is meat and cheese. By the time I finish eating those things I am usually full and satisfied. I have also had to learn to eat much slower.
I am still making adjustments. I recently realized that I was having an issue with a candy dish that I keep on my desk for customers. I was starting to grab at it a little too often! I have replaced the chocolates (bite sized snickers, twix, etc.) with individually wrapped life savers because I know I won’t grab those.
I try to exercise daily. I lift weights, do sit ups and get on the treadmill or walk outside. I have a stationary bike and an aerobic step that I use when I just don’t want to get on the treadmill. I keep thinking I’m going to get back on my road bike someday, it has been way too long.
Why the honesty?
I started this process without knowing how I was going to handle all of the questions after I started losing weight. Some close friends and family knew I was going to do this, but I didn’t really think about what I was going to say when others were going to notice later. Do I give vague answers? I didn’t want to risk being judged and criticized. Was it their business? Probably not, but I knew they’d be curious. I saw a friend of mine a week before the surgery – this is somebody I would not have told ahead of time, mostly because we didn’t run into each other on a daily basis and we never had health, weight or exercise discussions. Somehow, during our conversation, I told him about it. His reaction was supportive, understanding and kind. It was at that point I realized that I surround myself with good people both in real life and on social media and if I am excited about my surgery and success that they would be too. I knew I was going to be much happier if I didn’t hide anything. Best. Decision. Ever. There may be people out there who are judgmental about this, but in the end what matters is that I am happy and proud of what I’ve done and if my family, friends and village see and feel that, the journey is that much better.
Where am I at?
I have lost 103 pounds in 9 months. I’ve had to buy a lot of clothes and shoes (yes, I even lost a shoe size). All of that is wonderful and fun (for me, not my wallet), but what really matters is how good I feel! I weigh less than I did in high school, possibly middle school. I am now considered to have an average BMI. I am nowhere near a level of high risk for diabetes, my blood pressure has decreased and my resting heart rate has gone from the high 70’s to 60. I definitely hit that reset button my doctor talked about.
Where am I going?
The short answer is I plan to continue to eat healthy and keep moving. The tool only works if I use it properly. I’m so very lucky that my husband and family is supportive and very encouraging!
Now that most of my excess weight is gone, I have decided that I am going to do the Halloween 5K. I’ve done it several times before, and I hope I can work my way up to my old “speed” from 2012. I was never fast – my fastest 5K is 33 minutes. I may weigh 60 pounds less than I did back then, but I am much slower and still have trouble running for more than a few minutes at a time. My goal is to finish my next 5K in less than 33 minutes. For many runners that is so easy to do, and that used to bother me, but now I know that none of that matters and what matters is that I work toward my own goals…. and hopefully achieve them!