Ok… so… I have been wanting to write this post for a long time… but I haven’t been brave enough. As I write this I am not even convinced yet, that I will find the courage to click the publish button once I am done, but I am going to try!
I have been overweight my whole life. It runs in the family. However, over the last 10 years I have become morbidly obese [oh how I hate those words!] This has been a direct result of emotional eating to deal with all that life has thrown at me during that time; Dad’s illness and death, losing our home, my friends, the death of my best friend and love of my life in a car accident and the resulting depression and anxiety issues. I have had a LOT to try to cope with, and the way I found to cope was to eat. If I was happy I would eat, if I was sad I would eat, if I was tired, or anxious, or excited… any emotion, you name it, I would eat.
In 2006 I decided I would do something radical about it. After having tried diet after diet I decided to have a gastric band inserted around my stomach to reduce the amount I could eat. I was only 22 at the time and thought it would be the end of all my weight issues. I was wrong… well, not at first. In the first 6 months I lost about 20kg which was amazing, but then I started having issues with the band. Food started to get suck and wouldn’t pass down through the band into my stomach. The only way to get the food unstuck was to bring it back up again. The problem kept getting worse and worse and it got to the point that every meal resulted in me bringing my food back up. It was painful, and horrible and was actually quite traumatic.
I eventually decided to have all the fluid inside the band removed to allow the band to be as loose as possible, without actually having it removed, to see if that helped things. It did help, but it didn’t solve the problem completely. I became very anxious every time I ate. The list of foods I could eat without issues was very short and I resorted to adding sour cream and mayonnaise to almost everything to ensure it would pass through without getting stuck. Emotionally I was already a wreck, but to add this stress to every single thing I ate put me in a very bad place.
This bad place ironically drove me to eat even more. I discovered a lot of junk food like chips, lollies, soft drink and ice cream were easy to get past the band. They also helped me feel good in the moment… but only in the moment. The good feeling would pass and I would reach for more high fat, high sugar foods to help me feel better again.The weight started piling on and I started to become reliant and addicted to these foods.
Through the emotional and psychological work I was doing with my psychologist to do with my grief, depression and anxiety I discovered that the physical feeling I got when I was anxious [which was 99% of the time] was the exact same physical feeling I got when I was hungry, so subconsciously my brain thought I was hungry and was sending out signals to eat to get rid of that feeling. “Maybe if I fill my stomach up that horrible feeling would go away.” It never really did and I was just pumping my body with so much sugar, fat, additives and chemicals that my weight ballooned to the biggest it had ever been.
I was stuck. I didn’t know what to do or who to ask for help. I knew something had to be done, but I had seen two surgeons regarding the gastric band issues and their only solution was to fill it up again and get me to lose weight. But I knew it was so much more than just the food. I knew there were deeper issues.
It was around this time that I met Angie. Angie told me her story of having another surgical procedure done to help her lose weight [read her story here]. I thought perhaps that was the answer for me, so I approached her Surgeon to see if he would consider taking me on as a patient even though he is in Canberra and I am in Sydney. After a long wait for a reply he agreed and I travelled down to see him [and I got to meet Angie in person too!]. He has been a God-sent! He has such a nice manner about him and has actually taken the time to talk with me, get testing done to see what is wrong with the band and hasn’t rushed me into any decisions.
Basically, after all the testing the conclusion is 1. I can live with it as is [no way!], or 2 I can have the band removed. I am having it removed. So sometime in about 4-5 weeks [don’t know the exact date yet – I am on a waiting list] I will be heading down to Canberra again to have the operation and have the band removed. Once it is removed we will know if I am eligible for any other procedures and I can then make my decision as to whether I even want another procedure done. At this point I am totally undecided.
While all this has been going on with the Surgeon, I have found a new Psychologist [the other one I was seeing moved to NZ] who specialises in weight issues and food addiction. She has been amazing in helping me really assess my relationship with food and learn to be mindful of when I am eating, what I am eating and why.
I feel like, now, for the first time ever, I have the professional support I need to truly make significant changes in my life when it comes to food. Already in the last 4 weeks or so I have begun my own food revolution. I have finally broken my addiction to soft drink [wow was that hard!], cut out eating lollies, chips and chocolate and have made so many other food changes. I am doing it in stages, as I know this will work best for me personally, and somethings won’t be able to change until the band is removed and I don’t have the issue of food getting stuck anymore. It has been tough. I have been detoxing, battling intense cravings and been strapped in to an emotional roller coaster like none I have ever experienced! My sleep has been disrupted, my energy has lagged as I am not relying on the sugar to keep me going anymore and I have cried a lot of tears. Despite all I have been through in my life and all I have faced and dealt with, this, hands down, is the hardest thing I have ever done!
As I said at the beginning of this post, I have been so scared to share this out in the big wide world. I have shared it with a select few friends, but that’s it. Until now.
There is a LOT of misconception out there about overweight people, that they are just lazy, lack self-control and that they should just diet and lose the weight. But for me, and thousands of others I’m sure, it is so much more than that. It’s not actually even about the food. It’s about the hurt, it’s about the way we have learned to try to cope with that hurt, frustration, insecurity, whatever, it’s about the way we have found to comfort ourselves and the bad habits and addictive behaviours we have developed… and most people, unless they have experienced it themselves, simply don’t understand this. I don’t want to expose myself only to be judged and ridiculed and this has been what has stopped me sharing my story thus far.
What changed my mind was the fact that a few of the people I have shared the story with have said they are inspired by my outlook, inspired by my story and find me an encouragement in their own food journey. I thought if I can inspire these people, maybe I can inspire others. Maybe if I break out of my comfort zone I might be able to connect with others who struggle with food in a very real way? So that is my desire. I will be sharing the ups and downs of my journey here on the blog in the hopes that someone, even just one, will be encouraged or helped in their struggles. Maybe this is a way to achieve one of my bucket list items – to inspire someone.
I don’t have all the answers! Far from it! I am only just at the beginning of what I know is going to be a long and TOUGH process, but for the first time ever I am doing it for myself, not because I thought my parents expected it, or a Doctor told me to, but for me. I’m worth it [or so I am trying to train myself to believe] and it is my decision, and that in itself is making a huge difference in the day-to-day struggles I am facing. I think maybe this time the changes will be indelible.
I know this has been a LONG post, but I want to end on a high note by celebrating the fact that in the last few weeks, since the first phase of drastically changing my thoughts and eating habits, I have lost just under 7kgs! I am 1.5kgs away from reaching my first weight milestone and that feels amazing!!