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A journey of less every day

About a year ago, I appeared in this space to relate my story of weight loss through bariatric surgery. It began with being told I was "morbidly obese" and ended with less of me every day. At that time, I expressed wonder at what was happening and how much better I felt already. Well, here I am, about 14 months post-surgery, and I can still express wonder at what I am looking at in the mirror every day.

Do the math

First, let's look at the mathematics of it all. On November 18, 2004, I weighed in at a whopping 336 pounds, my blood pressure had leveled out at 220/110, and I was wearing the largest clothes available from local retailers - size 34. On December 23, 2005, I weighed in at 203 pounds, my blood pressure was 138/85, and I was wearing a size 16 petite. That's a loss of 133 pounds, or 40% of my original weight. Volume-wise, at size 16, I am less than half of the woman I was in 2004.

When I began the journey to have gastric bypass surgery, I did some in-depth research about the numbers game. What I discovered was that the average weight loss in the first year is about half of the excess body weight. For me, that would have been 93 pounds. At the one year mark, I weighed 127 pounds less than pre-surgery or 34 pounds more than my "goal". That is an average weight loss of 0.35 pounds per day, or around 2.5 pounds per week. By anyone's standards, that is a considerable weight loss.

Weight vs. volume

While decreasing one's weight by 40% leaves an impression mathematically, reducing one's volume by more than half leaves a visual impact difficult to express. I was told by several people before I had the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass that I should spend less time watching numbers than watching myself shrink. I followed their advice, and only weighed in when I had an appointment. I was, however, watching myself in the mirror every day.

I think after all of the hype every weight loss program has gotten in recent years, everyone realizes that, by volume, fat weighs much less than muscle. So, losing one pound of fat is a greater volume loss than losing muscle would be. While my weight was dropping 0.35 pounds per day, my VOLUME was dropping at a much greater rate. So, one day I could wear my favorite pair of jeans, and the next day they were too big.

Literally. It happens that fast some days.

Following the rules

Is there a reason for the success I have experienced? Absolutely. Prior to being accepted for surgery, I was thoroughly schooled in The Rules for Successful Weight Loss through Bariatric Surgery. Those rules have served me well.

I drink plenty of water and unsweetened fluids all day, every day. I eat a diet comprised largely of proteins. I eat only when I'm hungry, and only until I'm comfortably satisfied. I stay away from sugar most of the time, and I keep in motion as much as possible.

Am I satisfied with the dietary changes I had to make? Let's see, 40% of the former me is gone, I'm wearing off-the-rack clothes from any store, my blood pressure is dropping, I do pretty much whatever I want to, and I fit almost anywhere I want to go. Yes, I'd have to say I'm satisfied. I have had an opportunity to see what happens to the patients who choose not to follow the rules. Initially, we all lose weight. There really isn't any choice in the matter. You just plain can't eat enough to support the weight. So, you lose it. Successful patients will continue to eat in a manner which allows weight loss to continue or to be maintained. Those who are not successful do not make the necessary changes and revert to their old habits - they don't follow the rules.

It's as simple as that.

Not just the weight loss

Losing 133 pounds has benefits beyond looking better and fitting into attractive clothes again. I have energy - EXTREME energy. Poor Dave - he asks me to slow down at least five times a day now. I have stamina, too. I can work-work-work and still have energy to play-play-play. I have four part-time jobs, and do a bit of volunteer work as well. Not much stops me.

I can walk and move around again. That may not seem like a big deal, but ask anyone who is badly overweight about walking for any distance. With 40% of me gone, I walk wherever I want to (including up and down stairs) and rarely have to stop to catch my breath. My knees, hips, ankles, and back are all far less cranky than they used to be, and whatever discomfort there is goes away with a short rest.

I take no prescription medication for any condition. I do, however, take plenty of the right kind of vitamin and mineral supplements. I also make sure that I am watching fluid intake, which can be more critical than anything else to maintain weight loss and health.

The True Key to Weight Loss Success

After losing all this weight, going through several wardrobe changes (thank you, Clothing Depot!), and learning to control my new-found extreme energy, I can now look back and identify the factors which have combined with my surgeon's skill to make all of this possible.

First, and most important, I had all of the loving support anyone could ask. Dave has endured all of the process with the devotion and caring of a truly loving husband. He held my hand when I needed it, and said prayers every day for my healing and continued success. Our daughter and son-in-law have been there through it all, and say their own prayers of thanksgiving that I will be there for them and for their dad. My church family continues to support me with prayer and plenty of hugs. My family charts my progress and cheers me on. The community here has also expressed support in many ways, stopping to ask how I'm doing or just giving a quick thumbs-up when they see me. In other words, if I hadn't had prayer, support, and faith in prayer and support, I wouldn't have made it.

Second, while there are rules which were made to be broken, the rules for weight-loss success weren't among those made to be broken. The law of gravity says that when something is dropped it will fall until it meets with an immovable surface. I consider the rules for weight loss as unchallengeable as the law of gravity. Follow the rules or fall flat on your face.

Third, accept that life is about to change and enjoy it. The pathway to here hasn't all been smooth and happy. I had a rough patch last summer where I required more surgery to remove my gall bladder, and then had to change my diet even more afterwards. It took about four months to get everything back on track, but I stuck with it. When I relaxed and laughed about all of the new restrictions instead of whining about it, I started enjoying the changes. It was worth it.

In November, when I went to St. Mary's Duluth Clinic for my one-year check-up, my surgeon, Dr. Jay Lenz, asked me if I would do it again, knowing what I do now. My answer? "Yes - twice if I had to." Dave just nodded his head in agreement, bless him.