Beating Regain. Gina Getting to goal 9 years later.

Yvonne and GinaPlease meet my beautiful and inspiring friend Gina…. inspiring because she has one of the best regain success stories out there and she has graciously accepted my request for an interview.  We have a long history and it began at the Obesity Help event in Texas in 2004. We’re pretty OK for a couple of old broads.  I’m 56 and she’s 53!  (we are young in our minds)  This picture was taken at the recent Houston Obesity Help event where there were actually four members who also attended that event in 2004.  I hope that Gina’s story will resonate with everyone because it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey.  This will help you understand what it’s like if you don’t know and it will help you if you are in the middle of fighting regain.  Perhaps it will especially help someone to continue to make good choices.  

Yvonne:  Gina please start by telling your story.  When did you have surgery, how much did you lose at first? 

 Gina:  I first started seriously researching surgery in the summer of 1999.  That was when Carnie Wilson went “public”, had her WLS on the internet, etc. I found an obesity website thru “Ask Jeeves” (remember HIM???-before Google), and was hooked from there. I read everything I could get my eyes on. I finally took a job, in the summer of 2001, with the number one objective being to have WLS (they had the RIGHT insurance, etc). I went to 5 different seminars, of 5 different surgeons, before I chose the one I “clicked” with-a real “no nonsense/straight from the hip” little guy. It took me until 9-14-01 to make my appt with my family doctor. Fear? Self loathing because I couldn’t lose/keep weight off “on my own”? At first my doctor was VERY reluctant-remember this was 2001 and WLS was not as “popular” as it is now-but my doctor knew me well and trusted ME, so he gave me his support. He had ME write my own referral letter and then he signed it.  He ordered the blood, etc the surgeon asked for.  It took 5 months from PCP visit to surgery-5 very stressful months of “hoop jumping” for insurance.  I should have lost 200 pounds from the exercise of all that jumping!! I lost 102 pounds the first 6 months…effortlessly (as you know-a “trained monkey” could do it-you CAN’T screw it up at that point).  Over the next 6 months I lost another 40..then….OOPS…I was in “ONEderland” for about a hot minute… 

Yvonne:  When did you start to regain and how much?  (I like that …a hot minute) 

Gina:  At about 1.5 years out I took a weekend, overnight (8pm-8am) job, doing one on one bedside nursing with dying people. I didn’t really “test the waters” as much as I just “dove right in”. I’d give most anything to have never, ever done that.  But-I had no idea what I was really doing.  I gained probably 40 pounds within a few months.  This was around the time of my first big “conference”, where I met other post-ops, and found out things I SHOULD have done (and met YOU!) 

Yvonne:  What happened that caused you to decide to get back on track and what did you do? 

Gina:  I had joined a local support group-my first. I felt like such a HYPOCRITE. I was telling newbies “what to do”, but sure wasn’t doing it MYSELF…but nobody there had known me at my lowest weight, so I could keep my “secret”. I finally got SICK OF MYSELF.  I think it was turning 50 that was “turned me around”. I made up my mind, that month, that either had to GET A GRIP, or give up.  By this time I had gradually gained ANOTHER 30 lbs…so that made for 70 lb regain..after having NEVER made it to “goal”–being 30 pounds shy of first goal before the REGAIN ever began…Sigh… 

Yvonne:  How much have you lost so far? 

Gina:  As of when I weighed on 12-1-10 (I only weigh on Tuesdays), I have lost ALL the regain, plus MORE, and am now NINE pounds from that elusive goal “number” set all those years ago.  I have now lost 161 pounds. I TRY not to get hung up on numbers….but I WANT this one…I really, really want it. I want it badly enough to train for the White Rock 1/2 Marathon, bad enough to track my food and exercise every day, I want it badly enough to drink my water-even when it’s cold outside. I’m happiest to report that, in training for White Rock, my 21 year old son has lost 50 pounds-just my hanging with me and logging HIS food (he’s a non-op). 

Yvonne: If you could share something with a post-op that has regained and feeling like it just can’t be done, what would you tell them? (how to get started and what you believe help them get started) 

Gina: At first it feels SOOOOOO overwhelming and TOTALLY hopeless. 

My best advice: 

1. Pick a day to “start”-and not a Monday-we’ve done that a million times-try a THURSDAY 

2. Get SUPPORT. I just cannot IMAGINE trying to go this alone. As humans we NEED those kudos 

3. Have a WRITTEN PLAN-for the WHOLE day-even if you have to change something-you HAVE a plan to work from, so you’re not “snatching and grabbing”-that GRAZING is probably what led to REGAIN in the first place 

4. Contact me-I’ll help ANY way I can 

Yvonne: Is there anything you’d like to add?   

Gina: Anyone who has NOT experienced regain (and KUDOS to them, too!) just CANNOT understand how truly awful it makes you feel-MUCH worse than being fat pre-op. It’s tough, but regain CAN be lost. I did my second half marathon two days ago-at age 53-and FINISHED THIS ONE!!! I can’t begin to put into words how I feel. No cracker/pizza/cookie could make me feel the way that finish line and looking at my metal does. 

Thank you Gina! 

The written word cannot begin to show Gina’s incredible personality so if you’d like to see more, click on the link below where I interviewed Gina a couple of years ago.  She is SO funny that I still laugh every time I see the video.  Gina probably doesn’t know this but no matter what size she was….she was always “Gina” and I loved her dearly.  I never saw her big or little….I saw her heart and soul. 

Gina’s Obesity Help Profile (you can send her a message there) 

I hope this will open a forum for those that wish to ask her questions or leave a comment here.  

Gina will be celebrating her 9 year surgiversary in April.  It’s never….ever….too late.

 

Do you want to be perfect or happy? Stop toxic shame.

i am enoughI saw this article by Brené Brown who is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  I feel like she lives in my head.  This is the perfect example of how so many who have weight loss surgery believe that life will be perfect when…..

I lose the weight…

I get that man….or that woman.

I get that job….

I get reconstructive surgery…..

And yes I’ve mentioned all this before but I’m going to say it again.  All these things are the greener grass on the other side of the fence.  If you are always looking to get to the other side of the fence you never get there!  Even if you do get over the fence  there will just be another fence and another….  You never….ever….get there.  So what do you do?  You start to look at the things in your life you are fortunate enough to have and you start being grateful.  When you covet someone else’s “anything” there are just as many people wanting what you have.   No matter what your life is like there are hundreds of thousands of people on this earth that would LOVE to be in your shoes.  We are generally spending so much time wishing for things we don’t have that we never appreciate the things we’ve got.  You may think that’s silly and no fun but I believe it’s equally silly and no fun to wish for something you don’t have.

Many of my blog posts have said how we can ill afford guilt/blame/shame/judgment but I love how Ms. Brown points out that we believe perfection will alleviate the pain of those emotions.  So if we understand perfection is not really possible and that means we cannot avoid the pain, what do we do to avoid it?  We stop doing things that cause the dehumanization of others.  We stop actions that make others feel “less than”.  Forums and Facebook are full of people making others feel “less than”….they are full of people dealing out toxic shame. 

John Bradshaw wrote a book called “Healing the shame that binds you”.  He discusses dehumanization or otheration (others making you feel less than).  “Toxic shame is either inhuman or dehumanizing.  The demand for a false self to cover and hide the authentic self necessitates a life dominated by doing and achievement.  Everything depends on performance and achievement rather than on being.  Being requires no measurement: it is its own justification. Being is grounded in an inner life that grows in richness. Toxic shame looks to the outside for happiness and validation, since the inside is flawed and defective.  Toxic shame is spiritual bankruptcy”.

Ask yourself the next time you type something or say something about others…are you contributing to someone’s toxic shame? 

I am enough…

I AM enough!

I think you are enough too.

Stop toxic shame and we can just be….enough.

 

Conversation with a vet post-op back on track

Yesterday I asked a friend of mine named Gina if she would consider an interview because she has one of the best regain recovery stories out there.  Last night another friend came forward when I was telling her about Gina and wanted to offer her story too.  She is a WLS vet like Gina but did not want to be identified because she has never told people at work.  I will call her Carly.

Yvonne: Carly why did you want to tell your story?

Carly: I regained 50 pounds and I was ashamed. I didn’t want to show my face until I got most of it back off.

Yvonne: I wish you hadn’t felt ashamed, you lost so much but I know that doesn’t matter when you start to beat yourself up.  Unfortunately I think that’s why some of us disappear from our support system.  I wondered where you were because you didn’t answer me until recently.  What happened?

Carly:  I started testing the waters after 3 years.  I was doing fine for 3 years and I got over confident.  I screwed up.

Yvonne: I wish you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself.  Why don’t we call it a life lesson instead?    I’ve heard that phrase before “testing the waters”…can you explain what that means to you?

Carly: It means that I decided to have a little this and little that and was sure that I could knock off that ten pound regain when I wanted to.  I was eating things I missed and I “thought” I was deprived and I “thought I was rewarding myself.  Instead I deprived myself from what I wanted and that was to keep the weight off.  The stupid part is that I had to give up that crappy stuff to lose the regain so I should have never started it in the first place.  I didn’t miss it for 3 years and it started with a little taste.  To be honest I sometimes had more than a little but I would think that I could start over tomorrow so I might as well eat it anyway since I had already blown it for the day.

Yvonne: I so get that.  I did that for years and years. A lot of people thought I was on a binge but I was just making up for all the things I had skipped for several days.  Now I look back and wonder why I thought I had to eat junk and sugar in the first place.  By the way, you are not allowed to call yourself stupid OK?  🙂 How did you get back on track?

Carly:  I was really mad because I didn’t want to go on another diet. Another damn diet.  After I got mad enough I decided that I would get it off.  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I’ve got five pounds to go and I’m never going to mess it up again like that.  I’ll fix it as I go along.   I wish I had listened before I regained but I thought I had it made after doing OK for so long.  I ate great for 3 years and then started to try things that got me in trouble.   I tested the waters and I nearly drowned.  I deprived myself from my weight loss, not that stupid food I didn’t need.

Yvonne: What changes have you made and have you come up with any “absolutes” that you won’t do again?

Carly:  I followed your suggestion about sugar and I don’t eat over 8 grams.  I weigh every day and I don’t freak out.  I know that if I do what I need to do I will get there and stay there.  I finally realized that a few minutes of junk food is not worth what it does to me.  It makes me want it more and I started feeling like it was the same as drugs!  I mean drugs could be fun too but at some point I have to stop so it’s better to never start.

Yvonne: I understand that better than you know.  I have a story about eating Quarter Pounders when I was below goal.  It made me crave them and it wasn’t until I didn’t have one for a long time that I forgot the craving!   There are so many people that think I’m too tough on this sugar and junk food thing.  I have to be careful EVERY day and adding sugar and junk food would definitely make me gain weight.  If I am struggling to keep the weight off why would I eat sugar and junk?  If you are able to do it and keep it off, more power to you!  I can’t do it but I’m super happy for anyone that can.

Carly: That’s what I thought I was going to do.  Then one day it’s 5 pounds, then 10, then 15 and every time I thought I’ll start tomorrow.  It was sort of insane that I was eating that stuff when I was trying to lose weight.  I mean really, I’m not at goal and I’m eating crap.  The weight made everything in my life unmanageable.

Yvonne: I call that feeling you get “looking through the weight regain glasses”…when everything in your life gets messed up because of the regain.  I got an email from you once that sounded just like you were looking through the weight regain glasses.

Carly: Everything was messed up but the truth was that it was only the regain that bothering me.  I would have had those other problems anyway but I’d rather have them when I’m thinner.

Yvonne:   I’ve explained many times that life will always be life and you’ll always have something not going exactly like you want but I would rather tackle those glitches as a thinner person.  Thank you Carly! You’ve been really helpful.  Will you answer questions if someone asks?

Carly: Of course.  Thank you for your support and thanks for not giving up on me.

Yvonne: Sweetie I’m so proud of you and all you’ve accomplished.  Don’t give yourself a hard time for anything in the past…it’s gone.

I wonder just how many feel lost and ashamed due to regain when they shouldn’t.   So many pull away from their support system when they start to get overwhelmed and I have talked to many that just won’t show up because they think we don’t want them around anymore.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Shame and guilt are two things we can ill afford to feel and they suck the life out of you.  Please…. if you are one of the “lost”, come back to your group, your WLS friends or a therapist.  I will be following up with Gina’s story who proved it is never too late to turn it around.  Please feel free to leave a question if you have one.  You don’t have to use your real name.

Big hugs, Y

 

Re:Morning Confessions of an Ugly Girl

This morning I read an incredible piece shared on facebook.  It’s called “Morning Confessions of an Ugly Girl”.  Many of my friends in the weight loss surgery community are relating no doubt.  Here is an excerpt.

I heard snatches of gossip. I was the “ugly girl” of the class.  No one bothered to learn that I loved to read.  No one ever found out about my warped sense of humor.  No one cared to read the stories I would stay up writing.  No one asked for my opinion.  I was just the ugly girl.  One-sided.  If someone’s pretty, people want to find out more about them. They pay attention to the positives and ignore the negatives.  If someone’s ugly, people dismiss them as being “a nice person to talk to.” For a while.  The more they learn about the ugly person in question, the more they concentrate on the negatives.  Good looks are like a get-out-of-jail-free card for life.  You could be the meanest, most sadistic bitch out there, but if you’re pretty, people use that to cancel out your faults.  Ugly people just fall deeper and deeper into this pit of loathing.  Not just the disgust of others, but the repulsion of ourselves.  They tell us that it’s what’s on the inside that matters.

I felt every word of this story and it was my truth for nearly thirty years.  So sure that being released from my prison of obesity would make it all better somehow….I wasn’t expecting a perfect life but I expected better.  My life improved so much that I could hardly contain myself.  I was passionate about this new lease on life and it became my purpose to share and support others in their journeys.  How could this possibly be anything but wonderful?  How could I have known that members of that same community would be so unkind to those that are all just trying to see a way out of their formerly miserable lives?  We are all the same…we all have pain, we all have joy.  Although I cannot control those who wish to do harm I certainly look to the many that are just like me, the ones seeking a kindler, gentler journey. 

If I could tell the person who wrote that article one thing it would be that no matter who you are or what you look like there will always be someone telling you that you are ugly and no matter how beautiful someone is on the outside it eventually fades.  A well known actress said “Being born beautiful is like being born rich and getting poorer every day.” When I looked at my 70 year old mother who was slipping away every day to cancer I didn’t see the wrinkles or her age…I saw the most beautiful person I have ever known in my life.  She taught me so much…I would have loved for her to see how my life changed for the better.

I am clearly healthier now and I am free from my prison of obesity. 

Freedom that I am grateful for…no matter how ugly someone is I cannot let them affect my life on a day to day basis.  Misery loves company so don’t invite misery to your party anymore.  There is something beautiful in every one of us and there’s a simple way to find it. 

Stop looking for the ugly…ugly is easy to find if that’s what you look for.  Ugly is….ugly.

It’s just as easy to seek out the beautiful. 

 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Ugly is in the mind of the beholder too. 

Choose carefully.

 

Thanksgiving and a new beginning.

I am grateful that I spent another Thanksgiving with my father who put his big, strong arms around me and hugged me.   After he hugged me tight I told him that I spent many years dreaming of the day he could do that again… put his arms all the way around me.  When I was a little girl I thought my dad had the biggest hands in the world.  I wasn’t so far off. One of my most valued possessions is a mold I have of my parent’s hands.  Shortly after that was made my mom lost her battle with cancer.
Even almost ten years after weight loss surgery I still remember most of the little things I wanted to be able to do…the really important things that I believe are important because we can get complacent.
We can start to take things for granted.
We can forget some of the little things that we longed for. 
Take a moment and remember some of the things that come easier now and be grateful instead of concentrating on what you do not have.  Isn’t that time better spent?
I hope you had a good holiday.
I had a great one … my daddy could wrap his arms around me all the way. 
Many blessings to you and your family, Y
 
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