Losing To Gain: When Seeking Help With Weight Loss Changed My Life For The Better
I wrote this paper for a class at social work school. The assignment was to write about a time when you had to ask for help.
This is what I came up with.
Hope it helps you.
I am not one to ask for help. I am the person that others turn to for help because they believe me to be strong, wise, capable, and supportive. While I cannot disagree with those descriptions, I will admit that it took a series of unfortunate events for me to reach a place when I accepted that seeking help was not shameful and would not make me any less of those adjectives. Because people expect me to be strong all of the time, they rarely ask me if I need help. Most people simply assume that I can handle any and everything thrown my way. I cannot fault them because, for the most part, I am quite good at doing just that. When I do ask for help, people are often taken aback, unsure of what to do or say, or how to respond to your request. People generally have good intentions, though, especially if they genuinely care, and I find that most people offer the best support they can when I do seek it. After almost a decade of stubbornly refusing to get the help I desperately needed to get healthy and improve my quality of life, I finally made the decision last year to have weight-loss surgery. I’d previously rejected the entire notion of surgery as an option to losing weight, even tipping the scales at 406 pounds, because I was convinced that I had to do it “on my own”. When I realized that I could not, in fact, lose the amount of weight I needed to lose in order to be healthy “on my own”, I decided to seek help. In doing so, I changed my life completely and for the better. The experience has not been an easy journey, however, as change often impacts not only self, but those around oneself.
I wasn’t a large child. I was active, slim, and never had issues with battling the bulge. At age 11, I began experiencing the trauma of molestation by my mother’s partner. At the same time, I’d grown to a full 6’0 height and my body was changing shape. I developed a comfortable addiction to food in the form of emotional eating. In hindsight, I realized I was trying to create a protective shell to hide me from anyone who may have desired me. Creating this shell was empowering; I was protecting myself the best way I knew how. I spent my teen-aged years and early 20s afraid of being seen as desirable and I later realized that the comfort I took in overeating made me feel protected from the trauma. In high school, I was drugged and gang-raped by a group of White males while at boarding school. When I was in college, I was date raped and became pregnant as a result, a pregnancy I terminated. The more traumas I experienced, especially at the hands of men who sought to exert power over me, the bigger I became. The highest recorded weight was 406lbs. I refused to get on a scale for years after that, but I am sure I weighed more than that. There have been studies that suggest that a serious emotional crisis may be experienced after weight loss due to loss of the obese state as a defense (Burbach & Schomer, 1987). I know, now, that every effort I made to lose weight I ultimately sabotaged because I was afraid of being exposed. My weight was my defense mechanism and the only powerful weapon I felt I had.
“In our society, there is something shameful in admitting that one is incapable of dealing alone with the demands of living” (Brill, 2005). When I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes at age 23, I knew I had to face my demons and get rid of the weight. I threw myself into eating better and working out. I sought help from a friend who was a personal trainer and more than willing to support me. I lost about 75 pounds and felt good about myself initially. Having recently completed undergraduate studies, I was trying to establish myself in a career as a social service worker. As the demands of my job increased and my roommate situation went awry, I was unable to remain focused on my weight loss efforts and stopped making progress. Rapid weight gain has been found to be associated with significant changes in employment status (Sarlio-Lähteenkorva, 2001). I gained most of the weight back after work became more stressful and after a bad break up. Since I’d already conditioned myself to use emotional eating as a way to comfort myself through hard times, it again became my go-to coping mechanism. I’d not yet found appropriate ways to cope with the stressors in my life and I was incapable of admitting to myself that I was struggling and in need of help, simply with dealing with my daily routine.
When I got married and had my son in 2006, my mother was dying of pancreatic cancer. I reached out to my family for help and support, but they provided little to none. Financially, I bore the burden of getting her the best care I could find and emotionally, I bore the responsibility of being a new wife and mother and having to attend to the needs of my husband and son while trying to be supportive of my mother at the end of her life. I was afraid to admit to my friends that I was in need of help and support because many of them did not like my ex-husband and I felt somewhat alienated by being with him. “An individual may not acknowledge the malevolent motivation of another who hurts [her] and may continue in a relationship in which [she] is hurt easily” (Goldstein, 1995). My friends always come to me for help and advice, especially with their relationships and I didn’t want to end up looking like the one who really needed the help, even dealing with an abusive partner.
One friend suggested I see a therapist, but I could not seem to find the time. Between working, being in school (again), having a new born, and going back and forth to the hospital, I was running myself down and making no time to care for the one person everyone else needed to be strong: me. I suffered from postpartum depression, my marriage was showing signs of falling apart, and then when my mother died, I reached my end. I tried to take my own life. When I awoke in a hospital room, stomach having been pumped after swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills, I knew I could no longer move forward in my life without seeking the help I needed. “No one is ever totally dependent or totally independent” (Brill, 2005). Coming to this realization helped me get on the path to achieving the balance I knew I would need in order to maintain my grip on life.
My ex-husband and I separated and agreed that he would become primary caregiver of my son. Though it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, it was made in the best interest of my son. I learned the much-needed lesson that I needed to get my life together and heal so I could be better for him in the future. I identified the areas in my in which I needed improvement and set on a journey to fix them. The biggest undertaking was losing weight. and facing the demons of my past. I tried, again, for about 18 months, using the same methods I’d used previously, but found them to be ineffective this time around. I decided to seek medical intervention and therapy. I also decided to tell people close to me that I was going to look into having weight loss surgery because I finally admitted to myself that I needed help and could not lose the weight myself. I needed to lose, at that point, at least 150lbs and could not seem to lose more than 30 “on my own”. The responses varied from questions about the safety to declarations that it was cheating. I was chastised in online forums and via social media by some and praised by others for having the strength to admit that I needed help with something as difficult as weight loss. In one study, it was shown that only 6-10 percent of extremely overweight people can sustain more than 5% weight loss for longer than a year without significant interventions (Sarlio-Lähteenkorva, 2001). We often have these unrealistic expectations that everyone can handle challenges the same way. Instead of ridiculing or chastising, we ought to do more to support people in reaching their goals, by the most effective, sustainable means possible while keeping in mind that “asking for help is as difficult as using help” (Brill, 2005).
Another lesson I learned was that I had to use better judgment when it came to making the changes I needed to live and be healthy. “Judgment involves the capacity to identify possible courses of action and to anticipate and weight the implications or consequences of behavior in order to engage in appropriate action” (Goldstein, 1995). Facing the social backlash about my decision made me question it a few times. I experienced quite a bit of psychological stress. There is often a sense of identity loss or the experience of an identity crisis with significant weight loss, especially rapid weight loss (Sarlio-Lähteenkorva, 2001). My biggest struggle has been coping with the changes in my body and how others perceive those changes. I look in the mirror and sometimes don’t recognize the person I’m seeing or am just shocked by the transformation. When others see me, especially those who have not seen me in quite some time, years even, the responses are always shocked facial expressions followed by congratulations. They always ask, “How’d you do it?” and I’m very open about having had the surgery. In fact, I’ve become somewhat of an advocate for weight loss surgery for those in severe need to lose weight.
Someone recently said on an online forum, “Congratulating someone for losing weight after weight loss surgery is like praising a woman with a hair weave for having long hair”. I realized that there is still a negative stigma about those who seek help with weight loss via surgery. I liken it to a smoker using Nicorette or Chantix to quit smoking, or someone with high cholesterol using Lipitor to lower levels. Medical interventions to help people improve their health are accepted in most situations aside from weight loss, even when the risk of relapse is the same or greater. People often perceive overweight people as being lazy and therefor demand that bigger people prove they are not lazy by losing their weight with no medical help or intervention. I learned that overweight people are stigmatized in ways that strip them of power socioeconomically and in interpersonal relationships. Social perceptions around obesity have led to discrimination against larger people, especially women, and have cost larger people promotions at work, for example (University of Manchester, 2012). We live in a society where almost everything is designed with “average” sized people in mind, which affords those of “average” size a certain privilege and greater access. Having lost the weight, I’ve become more aware of just how deeply affected by these things I was when I was larger. While I don’t think I was ever denied a promotion because I was larger, I do know that I missed out on many opportunities because I couldn’t fit on a plane seat or I was nervous about sitting in a class where I didn’t fit into the seat. Being obese left me often feeling powerless and it was in seeking help to make this drastic change that I feel I’ve regained some of that power and privilege.
Since losing 184lbs since graduating from undergraduate school ten years ago, I’ve definitely learned the value of seeking help, especially when it comes to saving my own life. I’m glad I made the decision when I did because I’m young enough to make a complete lifestyle change and prevent many health problems that plague obese people as they get older. I’m more fit, healthier, and happier than I’ve been in my adult life. Accomplishing this feat of losing a massive amount of weight empowered me to capitalize on opportunities that I avoided before because of my weight and image. I’ve been on TV shows, in fashion shows, and have become a fitness advocate. I finally feel like the woman I have been on the inside is reflected in my outer appearance and it is liberating.
Brill, N. (2005). Ch. 11Dealing with vulnerability, dependency and resistance. (8th ed.), Working with people: The helping process. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Burbach, F.R. and H.H. Schomer (1987). The relationship between stress and weight loss in a diet-exercise programme for obese women. South African Medical Journal 71, 93-97.
Goldstein, E. (1995). The ego and the defenses. (2nd ed.), Ego phsyoclogy and social work practice. New York: Free Press
Sarlio-Lähteenkorva, S. (2001). Weight Loss and Quality of Life among Obese People. Social Indicators Research, 54 (3). 329-354.
University of Manchester (2012). Obesity affects job prospects for women, study finds. ScienceDaily, April 30. Retrieved September 24, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101034.htm
“You had four vats of oil that you cooked fries in. After about two days, the oil got too dark for fries. So we switched it over to the ones for chicken. Since it was darker, it was ok. Then that goes on for a week. After a week of massive frying. The oil is black as motor oil. At that point, it’s switched to the Fish Filet vat. That’s the only thing you cook in that vat”
"I accidentally left a whole bag of about 100 chicken nuggets out on a counter for way too long.
They melted. Into a pool of liquid. I never understood why. But they were completely indiscernible as being the nuggets i once knew”
I am down 6.4 lbs after 1 week of the sexy shred challenge.
Around days 3 and 4 I began to feel withdrawal effects, not unlike those one experiences when giving up nicotine, coffee, or illicit drugs. I was dizzy, listless, annoyed, irritable, and craving SUGAR and CARBS like nobody’s business.
It passed, as I knew it would.
I’ve been feeling greater than I have in a long time, physically. That 6.4 lb loss crossed my overall weight loss goal which was to make it to 225lbs. My overall goal for the challenge in 10lbs. I’m setting a new overall goal of 215. We’ll see how that goes.
Right now, I’m working on adapting this clean way of eating as a new way of life. While many others on the challenge will go back to eating their normal ways, this is a launchpad for me to make a complete lifestyle change and live the healthiest life I can, while I’m still young enough for the change to have an impact on my future.
Clean eating has been amazing. I’m learning to enjoy the real taste and flavors of the foods I eat. I’ve become creative in the kitchen and have been working up some amazing dishes using only “clean” items. The possibilities are endless when it come to clean eating.
I wish I’d started sooner.
Now we’re into week two and I’m back in the gym for real, for real. Let’s see what this week brings.
The #SexyShred challenge is officially underway and I feel good about it so far.
Today I learned how I can make black coffee flavorful, simply by adding fresh berries and stirring. Others suggested adding freshly grated cinnamon, which I will try. It’s funny how we make lifestyle changes, but also find ways to adapt new plans to our current behaviors. I can’t give up coffee…not yet at least.
I also realized that I can’t work out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My days are long enough with work and school. I need my rest, so that extra 1.5 hours of sleep is crucial. I’ll work out Mon, Wed, Fri mornings and Sunday afternoons.
I went shopping for the week (I don’t recommend buying food for any longer than that as fresh food doesnt hold as long). Spent $23.14 total on chicken, turkey, and fresh veggies/fruits. Last night I made curried eggplant and grilled chicken. Also make a pot of collard greens. Yum!
First day has worked out well so far. I’m going to class and will grab a salad from the deli on my way. I’ve weaned myself off of most dressings, so that doesn’t concern me anymore.
I’ll be posting periodically throughout the challenge, checking in!
As a designer, these are some of the critical questions I receive daily. I believe my job is to dress women in beautiful clothes but that’s just the half of it. The other half is helping women become more stylish.
On Twitter, I announced that I’m starting a personal challenge and I invited my followers to join in. I’m going to use this tumblr (which I’ve neglected lately) to keep people informed.
What is #SexyShred?
For one month, we are going to commit to CLEAN EATING, and regular exercise. Regular is defined as no less than 4x a week. You can go to the gym, workout at home, workout outside, whatever you need to do, but it must be an hour of rigorous exercise at LEAST 4 days each week.
We will begin on 9/4, the day after Labor Day and will continue until 10/4.
You will commit to:
1. Personally tracking your weight and measurements. Get a scale and measuring tape now. How can you measure progress if you don’t… measure… progress? Weigh in every Tuesday. Measure first Tuesday(9/4) and on October 4.
2. Journaling your food intake. Get a notebook or use an app like MyFitnessPal. Tracking what you eat keeps you conscious of your intake. You can see where you did well and fell off. Post your meals on Twitter or Instagram with #SexyShred tage, photos or descriptions (ex: Spinach, grilled chicken, sliced avocado for lunch #SexyShred)
3. Tracking your exercise. Again either write it down or use an app like MyFitnessPal, CardioTrainer, or Nike, etc. Post your stats on Twitter each day with #SexyShread hashtag
4. Joining at least 2 of 4 #SexyShred chats that will take place during the challenge. This will be a chance to talk with others and share ups and downs, offer support, and motivate each other.
5. Being honest. Don’t lie to use because you’re only lying to yourself. How will you get support if you don’t own up to your struggles? We’re in this together.
1 Chance to reset and bounce back from the summer.
Are you in?
Email me at feministajones @ Gmail.com with your Twitter handle. I’m going to create a #SexyShred list so you can subscribe to it and follow along.
One of my followers told me about this study that showed people rate women’s attractiveness differently based on whether or not they lost over 70lbs or were naturally thin and maintained “stable” weight. There were negative reactions when participants were told that now-slim women were once 70+ lbs heavier; they were seen as less attractive.
The researchers couldn’t draw absolute conclusions, but they theorize that it’s related to the stigma of obesity that leads people to think negatively of overweight people not simply because of their aesthetics, but because of their perception of their personal ethics and values.
Overweight people are often stigmatized as being lazy because many people believe that it’s fairly easy to keep healthy and keep weight off. Few people understand or take into consideration the idea that weight loss/gain is different for everyone, and there is no one perfect answer that applies to everyone. People dismiss overweight people as being less valuable, less productive, less attractive, less everything. It is part of why many overweight people face employment discrimination and other issues in various settings.
The study calls for more efforts to reduce the “obesity stigma”. They argue that working on ending obesity is important but so is working to end the stigma. They argue, correctly, that stigma is often what leads overweight people, women especially to give up their efforts. When you feel shamed around others who dismiss and ridicule you, it’s hard to press forward. You know how people sneer at fat people who go to the gym? That’s unfair but people do it. Why? To feel better about themselves by ridiculing others.
Here’s my take: This is troubling and discouraging. I’m currently single and almost everyone knows about my weight loss journey. People still say mean things to me about be being “fat” and insult how I look now, despite having lost 130lbs in a year. People who have only encountered me post weight loss don’t seem to treat me like that. This study made me think about how I’m perceived, though. I talk rather openly about my weight loss and how I weighed 406lbs at one point. I talk about my weight loss efforts over the years, as well as my weight loss surgery…rather openly. This study made me wonder if I’m being viewed as less attractive because people know I was one almost twice this size. It made me wonder if people still judge me and see me in a negative “Fat” light. I wonder if people assume I’m lazy, have no will power, can’t commit, am a cheater because I didn’t lose the weight the “right” way, or whatever else. I know some do, as the insults have been hurled my way. But I wonder how potential romantic partners view me.
Do they think I’m lazy? Do they think I’ll be unable to keep the weight off? I think that’s another “fear” people have when dating folks who lost a lot of weight— that they will gain it all back again. Do people who knew me back then still see me as Fat Michelle? Or do they feel weird about approaching me now because they fear I won’t take them seriously because their approach seems superficial now? (That answer is Yes, by the way). I don’t want to be judged in any way, certainly not because I was once 172lbs heavier than what I am right now. I’m the same person, for the most part, just a healthier, happier, freer person now.
I just found this study interesting and thought I would share my thoughts.
This article summarizes a new study that says the circumference of your waist, as related to your height, is a better indicator of overall health and life longevity than measuring BMI.
Why is this important?
BMI is a faulty measure of body mass and in determining “obesity” because it doesn’t account much for muscle mass. For people of the African diaspora who are genetically more muscular, this isn’t exactly a fair measure of our health. Yes, many of us are obese, but it also doesn’t take into account those of us who workout regularly and have dense, weighty muscle mass.
Then, belly fat is more harmful than lower body fat. One thing I learned during the surgery prep process is that the way I was shaped was no imminent threat to my overall health. My weight wasn’t resting in my midsection, crowding my organs, depositing fat onto them, etc. My doctor said my problems were more orthopedic and that I’d develop severe bone/joint problems as I got older. It’s been long accepted that being pear shaped is “healthier” than apple shaped, but we also know it’s harder to lose lower body weight.
Anyway, this study makes sense. The article goes on to say
“"Keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world," said Ashwell, as reported in the Telegraph.
Thus a man who is 6ft or 72 inches tall (183 cm), should keep his waist under 36 inches (91 cm), and a woman who is 5ft 4 in or 64 inches tall (163 cm), should keep her waist measurement under 32 inches (81 cm).
Ashwell said the measure should be considered as a screening tool.
The idea of using Waist to Height Ratio (WHtR) to predict cardiometabolic risk is not new, but is coming to prominence as more studies reveal its value.”
I’m 72 inches tall. My waist is 30 inches. Well done, kid. Well. Done.
I don’t normally respond to these things, but she asked nicely. And she’s cute :)
My questions for you:
1. Dick Clark once said, “Music is the soundtrack of our lives.” What songs would be included on the soundtrack to your life?
"The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" and "D.M.S.R." (Prince) "Human Nature" and "Oh Father" (Madonna) "Cater 2 U" (Destiny’s Child) "The World Should Revolve Around Me" (Little Jackie) "I’m Prettier" (Jill Scott) "Stranger In Moscow" and "Leave Me Alone" (Michael Jackson) "The Art of Noise" (Cee Lo) "Moment In Life" (Musiq) "Visions" (Stevie Wonder)
2. What milestones do you want to cross in the next five years (e.g. graduate, get married, etc.)
Obtain another master’s degree; Move out of NYC; Fall madly in love with a compatible partner; Travel to at least 3 countries
3. What qualities do you look for in a mate?
Honor. Respect/Respectability. Loyalty. Compatibility. Earning potential. Sexual Liberties and Skill. Calm.
4. They say never judge a book by its cover. What is something most people would never guess just by looking at you?
That I am a submissive woman.
5. Has any book, poem, story, or author change your perspective on life? If so, please share.
I’ve been shaped by those who have come before me in many ways. Malcolm X’s and Marcus Garvey’s writings for sure. Angela Davis and bell hooks. Anais Nin. Baldwin, however, is my favorite author and The Fire Next Time really made life worth living.
6. What or who can make you instantly happy?
Garvey X, my son.
7. What do you REALLY want to be when you grow up? What would you do even for free?
I’m grown. I’m a social worker.
8. If given the time, opportunity, and finances, what improvements would you make for the social issues you care about?
I’m strike down bipartisan politics, increase taxes for the wealthy, and reallocate funds towards the improvement of public education, sexual health education, mental health treatment and support, diversity initiatives, and the eradication of homelessness.
9. What do you want your lasting legacy to be?
She got a lot of people off the street.
10. If you could pick anyone dead or alive to play you in the story of your life, who would it be and why? How would you want the movie to end?
Me. I have a theatre background so I can play myself #NoFantasia. The movie would end (To Be Continued)
11. What do you want your famous last words to be?
Dance. Music. Sex. Romance.
Bonus: Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? If so, what is your plan?
After losing 100lbs, I decided I wanted to turn my focus on body shaping and sculpting. One of the things I wanted to do was lift my booty a few inches. Rapid weight loss can often lead to an overall sag in the body, between deflated skin, muscle loss, etc. I wanted to do everything I could to combat that, so… Operation Booty Lift came to be.
**Disclaimer** This is not necessarily going to give you an ass if you don’t already one. I don’t want anyone getting mad at me if, after 3 months, your long back is still going to be long as hell.
The most important thing you need to know as you begin Operation Booty Lift is that most of this is related to diet. You must must must change the way you eat if you want to see any results in reshaping your body. You have got to minimize simple carbs to start. Breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, juice, soda, cake, candy, donuts, ice cream, danishes, etc. all contain simple carbs that convert to sugar, then into fat, when the energy isn’t used. If your body is using the energy from the carbs, how is it going to burn any fat? Take out the middle step and encourage your body to focus on burning FAT. Low carb, high protein diets are helpful when going through a body sculpting process like this.
So, map out a healthier eating plan for 3 months. Absolutely no juice or soda. No more than one serving of cake, donut, cookie, ice cream per week. No breakfast cereals of any kind. No bread (not even whole wheat), switch to brown rice, but no more than 2 servings per week. Whole wheat pasta is ok once a week. Get into protein shakes. I recommend GNC Lean Shake, which is 170 calories, 25 g of protein, 6 g of carbs, 4g of sugar. I drink this for breakfast every morning after my workout. Don’t need anything with more than 25 g of protein because your body isn’t going to process much more than that in one setting. You can also make shakes with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and protein powder at home. Supplement one meal with a protein shake!
Now, the workout:
When I go to the gym, I never do long cardio sessions. They’re basically ineffective in fat burn after about 20 minutes. Think of your body like a car. You get more highway mileage because you’re using less energy once your car gets into a consistent pace. It’s the stop and go of city traffic that burns more gas because it requires more energy. Your goal, for your body, is to use more energy. Stop and go cardio is the best way to do that.
Stretch: Spend 10 minutes or so stretching your lower limbs. Hold your stretches steady; don’t bounce. That can lead to muscle injuries.
Warm up: 18 minutes of cycling. First week start at level 1. Each week, you’re going to go up one level. Choose the random hill option. Keep your RPMs above 50. Month 2, above 55, month 3 above 60.
Now that your body is warmed up, your muscles are ready to be worked out.
Lifting the booty isn’t just about strengthening your glutes (butt muscles). You’ve got to work your core and legs too.
3 sets (groups) of 12 rep(etition)s. This works your quads. The weight depends on what you can handle. For perspective, I’m at about 70lbs.
Seated Leg Press
3 sets of 10 reps. This works most of the muscles in your legs. Again work with weight that is comfortable, gradually increasing every 2-3 weeks. Weights vary by machine, but I’m at 120lbs on most machines.
45 Degree Seated Leg Press (my preference)
I’m at about 90lbs for this.
Seated Leg Curls
3 sets of 10-12 reps. This machine works your hamstrings. I’m at about 110lbs.
This is a full lower body move that hits all of the muscles we need for this operation. It’s an alternative to the seated leg press. 3 sets of 12 reps.
Hip/Thigh Adduction/Abduction machines
These machines work the muscles in your hips, upper thighs, lower back, and booty
3 sets 15 reps. I’m at about 110lbs.
Lunges are great, when you do them correctly. I struggle with balance, so I only do these when I’m at home and won’t look like an idiot. 3 sets per leg, 12 reps per set.
Most gyms have some variation of this machine. Targets the butt directly.
3 sets, 12-15 reps per leg.
Round out the session with 15 minutes on the elliptical OR on the treadmill at at least a 4.0 incline, 3.0 speed.
These are the exercises I do. I work my lower body 2x a week.
Hope they help you. If you have questions, hit me on Twitter @FeministaJones or hit the inbox here on tumblr.
I received an email from a friend about a casting call at O magazine seeking women 25-60 who have gone through major transitions in their lives and wanted to get a make-over. They mentioned things like caring for a sick loved one, moving on post-divorce, weight loss of 100+ lbs, etc. My supportive followers encouraged me to apply when I tweeted about it, so I submitted this email, along with before and after pics
My name is Michelle Taylor and I’m writing to be considered for the O Make Over
I’m 33 years old and I am a program director with Community Access, Inc, a non-profit organization that provides housing primarily for homeless people with psychiatric disabilities. I’ve been in this field of housing/homelessness for 10 years.
How I Overcame
As an adolescent/teen, I experienced certain traumatic events that led to me seeking solace and comfort in food. I found myself eating to create a shell that would protect me, if that makes sense. Over the years, the weight piled on and I graduated college weighing a whopping 406lbs. It might have been more, but I refused to weigh myself after that. At 23, shortly after leaving college, I was diagnosed with type II diabetes and immediately set to work trying to lose weight. My mom had received the same diagnoses when I was 13 and I was scared of having to take medication every day. I was only mildly successful, going up and down over the next few years. I got married and had my son in 2006 at age 27 and was still tipping the scales at 375. My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer in April 2007 at the young age of 51. This scared me, being a new mom myself. All I could think of was “What if the same happens to me and I leave him motherless at a young age?” Around the same time, my marriage began to fall apart and I suffered through a brutal depression dealing with that, the death of my mom, and a bad case of post partum depression. After attempting to take my own life, I finally decided then that I would no longer hide behind my shell and be burdened by the weight, that I wouldnt give up on life, that I had so much to live for, yanno? My ex husband and I physically separated in 2009, I got a new job making double my old salary, and I was living on my own, and co-parenting my son. I decided to take control of my weight so I threw myself heavily back into trying to lose weight except this time, I couldn’t seem to get past a certain point. Over the years, doctor after doctor suggested weight loss surgery and I said “No way” every time, feeling that it would be cheating. I didn’t want to give up on myself and felt that if I couldn’t “do it myself”, was it worth it? I also realized I had a lot of emotional healing to do and began going to group therapy and individual therapy to try and confront some of my personal demons. Eventually, I realized that no matter how much I “dieted” or exercised, I wasn’t losing the weight, so I consulted a bariatric surgeon. Long story short, I had weight loss surgery on June 21, 2011 weighing 364lbs. Today, I weigh 241lbs, am divorced, and I am loving the positive turn my life has taken. I now exercise 5x a week and have become more active/fit. My divorce has been finalized and my son is happy and healthy. I want to lose another 20 lbs or so and get rid of all of this loose skin. Unfortunately, my insurance doesnt cover plastic surgery for that and I have some insecurities about the loose skin, but… I’m healthier and I’m lighter, and I feel that is a minor consequence. I have my good days and my bad. I still battle with emotional eating but I’m in recovery and getting better. My outlook on life has improved drastically and I’m focus now on being the best mom I can be to my son. I’m a work in progress, but.. Im making progress. I struggle adjusting to this new body and finding appropriate clothes to wear. I still go into plus sized stores, knowing I can’t fit most of the stuff in there.
I’d love to be considered for the make over and share my story with others. Maybe I can touch someone else’s life
I got a call to come in for an in-person “Go-See” next Monday and I’m nervous but elated. Wow. This would be a great opportunity for me :)
Hi, My name is Michelle and I’m an emotional eater.
Emotional eating has long been the biggest influence on my weight issues over the past 2 decades. I’ve treated food as a comforting reprieve from the struggles in my life. At first, it felt GOOD. Literally. Eating felt like the best thing to do, especially when the food was deliciously tasty! I had favorable physiological responses, too. Felt the goodness spread from head to toe, stomach to fingertips. Why would I stop doing something that felt good to ME?
And then it stopped feeling so good. Instead of having positive effects, I gained ridiculous amounts of weight. I stopped feeling as good as the early days and I would eat MORE to try and regain that feeling of good, warm comfort. It didn’t work as well as the years went on.
And now, I’m in recovery. At least that’s how I think about it. I developed an unhealthy dependence on food in the ways that alcoholics depend on alcohol and drug addicts depend on their drugs of choice. Like with those substances, latter “highs” are never as good as the first or early ones, and the quest to replicate those feelings seems almost never-ending.
Like many substance abusers, I tried to quit this addiction “cold turkey” on my own for years. I’d have mild successes then always relapse, falling right back into the same cycle of emotionally relying on food to comfort me through the bad times in my life. I didn’t think of finding other things to duplicate the good feelings that would be less detrimental or even beneficial to me; I stuck with what I believed would work. Most times, I thought it was helping when it wasn’t. I know that now. As someone who works in the substance abuse counseling field, you’d think I’d know better, right?
And like many abusers, I finally decided to get extra help. I got weight loss surgery and found a tool that would help my transition in being addiction-free easier. I often compare my weight loss surgery to methadone maintenance programs or money management programs. Methadone maintenance programs help transition people off of heroin by supplementing their bodies with a medication that duplicates the feeling. Then, by gradually reducing the dosage, people can get completely off of the drug. Money management programs limit the amount of money a person receives at a certain time. Less money you have, less you can spend on drugs. Right? Not exactly.
While these interventions certainly have proven success with reducing the actual drug use, they aren’t failsafe. On methadone, some people still use heroin or stay at a certain meth dosage far too long, never quite weaning off. OR, they start abusing other drugs. With money maintenance programs, people use the little bit they’re allotted on drugs. Without addressing the core issues of substance abuse, overarching, long-standing change won’t happen and “success” will remain a distant goal.
The same goes for emotional eating. Yes, I have the tool that restricted the amount of food I can actually eat but it did NOTHING to address the emotional connection I have to food. That is something I’m still working on and in recovery for. I recently lost a friend in a tragic death. I was so hurt, confused, literally at a loss and I didn’t know how to process it. My problem is that I don’t want to “burden” my friends with my struggles, so I felt myself relying on the default coping mechanism: food. I bought one of my favorite foods, fried crabsticks, and sat on a bench and began eating. And dammit, I felt so much better. I swear even the sun came out while I was eating. Birds were chirping, people were laughing, and all was right in the world.
But then, it happened. I looked down at the greasy bag in my hand and was like “What the fuck are you doing? Why are you eating this crap?” and I stopped feeling good. A few minutes later, I began to feel sick, literally. My new stomach rebelled against this bag of fried greasy garbage. I wanted to vomit. It was horrible.
In that moment, I felt my body protected me from the emotion-induced destruction I was about to throw myself into. And that horrible feeling was like the physical manifestation of the pain I felt from losing my friend. I needed that. I realized that I needed that help. Saying that I needed the surgery to help me with this is not me being weak; I’m admitting that I can’t do this alone.
I wish more people would do that… or at least be more sympathetic to people who opt to use surgery as a means of helping them along on their journey.
Surgery isn’t the end all be all. If I really wanted to, I could have eaten the entire bag over the course of a couple of hours. In that moment, however, I threw it in the trash and realized that this was more of an emotional set back than a physical one. I made up for it by walking 3 miles home from work. During that walk, I had to admit to myself that sometimes, I still seek the comfort of food to get through the bad times. I don’t do it nearly as often as I did before, but that’s what being in recovery means. I’m working towards being in a better place, one where I can find other means of coping with emotional issues that don’t involve food. I’ve gotten good at taking my frustrations out at the gym or spending time a lone in thought or practicing yoga. I’m still working on it.
This is a process. Surgery isn’t a quick fix. Many of us can’t properly identify what caused our weight gain, so we have to start there, in my opinion. If you know the root cause, you can start the path to recovery, using tools and interventions you find most helpful.
i think your arms are beautiful and i honestly don't see a batwing situation but if your arms bother you, you should try tracy anderson. She's amazing a little crazy because she wants you to workout 6 days a week. But her arm exercises are my favorite and are unlike anything i've ever since and they really work. Check her stuff out on youtube.
I don’t talk about it because nobody gets it and nobody knows what to say. But it’s getting to the point where I feel like nobody gives a shit because they don’t understand what’s going on. And that’s probably my own damn fault.
Hi :) one of your posts crossed my dash and I said to myself "who's this woman, let me go check our her tumblr". I've actually been following you for quite some time, but sometimes I don't pay attention after I've clicked the follow button, anyway, I just wanted to say that I think you're beautiful. You're a beautiful woman in both your before and after pictures and I want to congratulate you on your hard work and dedication to being healthy, it truly is admirable :)