I wrote this the day before I went for my first appointment at the Bariatric Center
I have been fat as long as I can remember. I wasn’t horribly overweight as a little kid, but I knew I was…because I got made fun of. Not a lot, but enough. I was always a bit of an oddball kid, not to mention a sensitive soul…then to be fat on top of it…oh joy!
I’ve gone through a variety of weight-loss plans, starting in 7th grade. I lost about 20 pounds then. I think at the time I weighed about 150 pounds. That diet lasted about a year…then I fell off the wagon. It wasn’t overly restrictive…I just lost the discipline to eat properly, I guess.
In the spring of 1994–my senior year of high school, I joined Weight Watchers. At this point, I weighed 264 pounds. Again, I didn’t feel it was restrictive…I just had to learn how to eat better. I lost 74 pounds in 5 months. During my first year of college, I gained about 20 of it back, which I would say is not too shabby. A year later, it all went to hell.
Shortly after moving to Washington, DC in 1999, I had dropped about 20 pounds, mainly due to walking a lot and being on my own. I was probably at 290 before I moved out there and was back down to about 270.
I first hit 300 around 2003…by early 2005, I was at 340. I went through a variety of “mystery” illnesses in 2004, but also quit smoking in May that year, after smoking 2 packs a day for almost 9 years. I think I gained about 20 pounds after I quit smoking, but then again, I was eating out of control at that point.
In the first days of 2005, I was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy: an enlarged heart with no idea how it happened. I suspect it was due to a chipped tooth that I let sit untreated. After going on a variety of medications, my doctor put me in a cardiac rehabilitation program to help strengthen my heart and to help me lose weight. I went on short-term disability from work in early March of that year. When I started rehab, I was at 336.
After…10 weeks of rehab? I was at 313, walking 6 miles a day through the parks and streets of Philadelphia. Even though my world was going through great change in the spring of 2005–my fiancee of 6 years and I had split and I was in the process of relocating back home to St. Louis–I felt the best I had in many years. After returning home, I was able to keep up the routine…for a while anyway.
I made various attempts at eating right and exercising over the next 2 years…the next 5 years. I was around 360 or so when I got married in 2007. I was at 440 when my divorce started in 2010…and that’s pretty much where I’ve been ever since.
I used to take pride in the fact that I was pretty flexible and could move well for a big guy…and was fairly healthy for a big guy. All that has disappeared over the past 10 years. Of course, I am now approaching my 40th birthday as well, so things start to fall apart naturally as well.
At 39, in addition to my cardiomyopathy, I take blood pressure and cholesterol meds. I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but they helped ease the pressure on my heart and reduce the risk of a heart attack, respectively. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, and started taking medication for it last year. I’ve had acid reflux and allergies for years and have taken medications for them since I was in college. I’ve had anxiety issues probably all my life, and have taken medicine regularly now since 2004. There are also migraines that I’ve had off and on since I was a kid, and have been taking medicine for regularly since last year…the medicine is also supposed to have the side-effect of controlling my appetite, and it seems to do that.
Then there are the various side issues…occasional gout attacks that last for weeks that sometimes require steroids. The back pain that gets so bad that I need to use painkillers. The anxiety that gets so overwhelming that only a Xanax seems to calm me down. Skin issues so bad that I have permanent scarring from scratching and picking scabs.
And then of course, my reclusiveness. My fear of going places because the chair might not hold me…I may not fit in a booth…I’m going to look like shit, even though my clothes fit me fine…I can’t handle being outside for too long, so I wind up spending time in cooler places by myself, looking antisocial…my general shame at letting myself get to this point.
I KNOW what I need to do to get healthy…I KNOW what kind of diet will help me. I KNOW that exercise is good for me and I should do it. I KNOW these things. And yet I don’t seem to have the willpower or strength to do it more often than not.
I have tried to avoid any talk about weight-loss surgery. I don’t knock anyone that has had it done, but I felt like that was an absolute last step…I didn’t think I was at that point. I had seen a few friends have complications with it and didn’t want to deal with those kinds of risks. But I will admit that I was jealous of the success that people were having with it.
About a year ago, my doctor asked me if I wanted to go to an information seminar about bariatric surgery…I was open to that, just to see what the options were and to see if things had changed. Unfortunately, Michelle’s insurance did not cover it at the time, so I saw no point in going. I was actually pretty frustrated about it…it was the first time I had ever considered the surgery, and now it wasn’t even really an option. About 3 months ago, Michelle started looking into it, as her insurance was now going to cover it. Quite frankly, I was mad at her. I didn’t feel like she had done enough to where she should be considering surgery. (Yeah…like I have a right to make such a call. I’m such a dick.) I knew that my insurance with KU covered it already, but still wasn’t feeling right about the surgery. I felt like I was being pressured by Michelle about it, even though no pressure was really being applied. Just being a caring wife and looking out for herself as well. (Again, I’m such a dick.)
So we went to the seminar presentation at The Bariatric Center of Kansas City. Look, it’s a sales pitch…they want you to buy what they’re selling. But I was impressed by their success rates and accolades…and they were honest about the “after” process. I knew Michelle was seriously considering it, and I was not going to let her get it before me.
Yeah…that’s originally how I made the decision. I don’t know why my wife is married to me. But obviously that rationale was replaced by serious deliberation…actually, I didn’t need to give it that much deliberation–something big has to happen. I am falling apart and have been fearful of dying young for the past couple years. It’s like knowing what you need to do to get out of debt, but there’s just so much debt that bankruptcy is the most reasonable option. I don’t think the surgery is going to be the end-all-be-all…but a major lifestyle change has been a long time coming. I want to be healthy, but I’m so overwhelmed at this point that something major needs to be done.