My first blog post provided a bit of information about myself as well as the reason why I wanted to blog for the site. This next post is a bit longer, but as a history nerd (I do teach 8th grade Social Studies) I think that it is important to know someone’s history in order to understand how they became the person they are today.
About a year ago I was fortunate enough to get engaged to the love of my life. Around that time I was making some pretty big changes in my life. I just graduated from a Master’s Degree program and was about to start my first year of teaching. One day I took a look at myself and realized that this change that I was doing needed to be reflected in every aspect of my life.
I have always been fat for as long as I could remember. I am very blunt and brutally honest about it because why sugarcoat it? In elementary school, I was the big girl who wore boys clothes all of the time. Even with my rapidly developing body, I was always the biggest person in my class. I didn’t have soft curves, but round lumps and rolls that continued to grow, no matter what I did. My mom made sure that I was very active in a variety of things. I had academic camps, played tennis, basketball, and golf, and acted in the local children’s theater. Towards the end of elementary school and into middle school I began to largely focus on Tennis. I loved being on the court. It was such a whirlwind feeling for me that I felt at home. I played at least 5 days a week with additional practice, private lessons, and tournaments regularly. Even then I was on the heavier side. I would walk onto the court and have people make fun of me, “Look at that fat girl. Who does she think she is? This is going to be a really easy match.” Little did they know that I was blessed with an ace serve by Jesus himself and they would end up losing miserably, to the fat girl. I never really got over that and it was something that I always had replaying in the back of my mind my entire life.
Fast forward to high school. I was still putting on weight and trying to navigate the horror that is high school. By this time I had become more of an academic. I still did play tennis from time to time, but my main sport was marching band. I was also very active in numerous clubs and organizations around campus. As an academic I was nominated constantly for some type of award or honor at the school and throughout the city. I was always embarrassed to be nominated for such awards because of the dreaded ceremonies that came along with it. At these ceremonies, one was expected to dress in “professional wear” in order to receive their award. As a bigger girl, this always posed a problem. There was very little in the way of options in the “juniors plus size” section at stores. Also, due to my rapid development that had come with a few curves by, this time, my chest size was waaaaaay beyond that of a junior. I would then have to go to the small upstairs section and look at the “old woman’s clothes” in order to find something to wear. The clothes always came with built-in shoulder pads and were in horrible prints. I always tried to stick to a neutral solid color, but there were never any guarantees. I hated these awards ceremonies because as my classmates went to get their awards in their age appropriate dresses and skirts, here I was in my ill-fitting grandmother style dress. Time and time again, ceremony after ceremony, I was nominated and I had to bite the bullet and “just find something” that would work.
Dating never really interested me and I was not concerned with my weight in that manner. I did have the fleeting moments when dancing in the basement of Tri-Kap or the AAm (both dorms on my alma mater’s campus) that maybe I would have more people dance with me if I was skinnier, or prettier, or a host of other things. Looking back I realized that those parties were jokes and I had ample fun dancing with my friends and was lucky to not be harassed or receive any unwanted attention. My diet at college was that of a typical college aged student—junk, fried food, and midnight pizza. My weight fluctuated up and down. I went to the gym and I started eating salads. I had a paper due. I binge ate pizza and ice cream and started the process all over again. My weight was something that I had lived with so long that it was just as much a part of me as my name or where I came from.
There were a few instances in college that made me cringe, but as I said, I was fairly comfortable with who I was. Anytime I wrote an Op-Ed piece or was interviewed for something in the newspaper the Internet trolls would inevitably point out my weight and say that it was the cornerstone for all of my problems. Maybe if I just weren’t so fat then my peers would speak to me outside of the classroom. Maybe if I weren’t so fat, I would be presented with better-paying job opportunities on campus or I would get better grades. Most of the stuff sounded completely and utterly ridiculous and I looked at it just as that. Yes, many times I wished there was a magic pill I could take to help me lose weight. Yes, I thought about starving myself or purging after eating a meal. It never manifested, but they were definitively things on my mind.
Fast forward to more recent times and my life today. Kids are some of the most brutally rude (there is definitely a difference between being honest and being rude, they haven’t mastered it yet) people I ever met. Whenever a student wanted to insult me in the classroom, they would inevitably point out something with my weight. As if that was the worst insult that I had ever heard and as if I was going to go running from the classroom, tears streaming down my face, because of their comments. Because I had 25 years of being me, in my body, I always had a snarky comeback (you either laugh about it or come after the person—figuratively speaking—that has always been my ultimate defense mechanism) to say to them. But, I also knew that it was something that I needed to bring up to my students because I had both female and male students who I could tell struggled with their weight and were made fun of because of those things. I tried to have many candid conversations with my students about this issue. How much they absorbed, who knows, they are 8th graders. I hope that they will one day realize that there is so much more to a person than a number that may pop up one day on a scale.
When I began to see my last primary care provider (moving to Boston, I cycled through plenty) she recommended that I begin to work with the Center for Weight Control at St. Elizabeth’s hospital. At first, when she brought up bariatrics, I heard geriatrics (an old people’s doctor) and was utterly appalled. After we fixed the word miscommunication, I felt a heavy burden on my shoulders. I had struggled with my weight my entire life. I had tried personal trainers and diets and counting calories and not eating. I honestly wanted to be healthy for not only me but also my fiancé and my future children. My mother died when she was young and I did not want my children to worry about me struggling through that same kind of trauma. I decided to go check it out, what would it hurt? If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to go back.
Almost one year later and I got the gastric sleeve surgery done. The choice for surgery was not one that I made lightly. Along with lots of soul searching and personal meditation, I also had to meet with teams of doctors and nurses and all kinds of other people in order to even begin the process for surgery. I had to meet with nutritionists to make sure that my eating habits were where they needed to be. I definitely had to make some major changes to my diet, but having someone who has studied this and creating an individualized plan for me was so very beneficial to me. I had to meet with my shrink to make sure that I was doing this for the right reasons. Some people do the surgery in order to fit others ideas of who they should be. I have no set weight in mind. I don’t care if I’m a size 20 or a size 2. I want to be healthy and happy in my body so that I can pass along all of my amazingness to the next generation. I had to meet with the anesthesiologist, a sleep specialist, and a neurologist, while having an EKG and barium swallow along with an unscheduled mammogram done. It has been a long road, but one that is well worth it.
Now what? I am out of surgery, I spent two days in the hospital (one day extra due to nausea and lack of fluids), but now I am back home. It has been slow going. I am working on getting enough protein and water while being stuck on a liquid only diet. I can only have a few ounces of food at a time and I have to make my meals last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size. I have to walk in order to get my body to heal the stitches and rest so that it can do the work properly. I will have to take antacids and multivitamins for the rest of my life. Every. Single. Day. In hindsight, multivitamins are better than shots and amputations any day of the week.
At the end of the day, I am happy to say that I am using surgery as a tool, not a get out of jail free card. For people who think I took the easy way out by having surgery how about you go through it first and recover and then tell me if it was worth it. But honestly, I could care less if you agree with it or not. Some people have fast metabolisms; some people are into steroids; I chose to do a healthy alternative to help make me the person both inside and outside who I want to be. So if you want to follow me through my journey great! If you don’t great! Either way, I am working to be a healthier and happier me. I am looking forward to the changes and preparing for the good and the bad. I know that it will not be smooth sailing all of the time, but I am dedicated to making this workout. Whatever I want to do, I make it happen, so watch out!