Whatever Wednesday: Eighteen Months and 120 Lbs ago…

Talitha, I look at you as an inspiration. I just want to ask, how did you do it?
I’m so discouraged and you look so great? What did you do?

Can you help me, I have struggled, feel hopeless, etc.

You look awesome! I need help/advice. What’s your secret?

I love that people see me and feel like there is hope. If you’ve known me or “read” me any longer than a week you will now that I have no secrets.  This topic is a difficult one, though.

Let me say here that I do NOT mind being asked. I welcome questions. That’s who I am and I am always willing to share.

I hate that my answer, upon being given, is almost immediately discredited. Oh, that? Nevermind.

In reality, any answer to losing a large amount of weight is not going to be easy. It would not be easy to limit calorie intake, try cross-fit or boot-camps, ban carbs-sugar-grains or whatever else the current weight loss trend is.  Change is never easy.  To the uneducated, inexperienced person though, my choice specifically falls under the “easy way out” category.

Eighteen months ago, today, I went to bed, for the last time, with a “full stomach”.

Ok, my stomach was not actually full. It was completely empty from three days of a liquid-only diet in preparation for surgery.  What I should say is that it was my last day with a WHOLE stomach, my ENTIRE stomach. The next morning I had the majority of that organ surgically removed.

Now, I could stop here and go into justifying why my experience was different.  To be honest I’ve written this blog post three or four times already, always focusing on why I had surgery when I’m the last person anyone expected to do this.  The nutshell of that is somewhat, true.

I was a health freak. I sprout my own foods, grind my own gluten-free flour, make everything from scratch, and eat healthier than just about anyone you may know in-real-life.  I regularly advised others on their health and diet, in spite of being greatly overweight myself.  That is actually quite an accomplishment now that I think of it. People listened to me regardless of my extra weight, but that is exactly what made this decision harder.  I was an example to many, without asking to be.  What would choosing weight loss surgery mean to them? I love encouraging and supporting others. It’s kinda my love language. Would this make my help null and void? It’s not judgment that concerned me as much as losing my ability to speak to others. It’s a bummer when you love that part of life.

For the official background, I was not a typical candidate for surgery. Technically my surgery was a repair for a severe hiatal hernia that had become dangerous. I had suffered from it for almost my entire life, without knowing what the pain was from. When we finally had it diagnosed, the damage to my stomach tissue had been extensive.

I spent a year refusing the surgery and trying all things natural, homeopathic, and alternative I could in an attempt to avoid surgery.  Nothing stuck and after my last ER visit when the GI told me that this could eventually kill me, I knew this was no joke. . It had to be removed. I said let’s fix it.
In short, yes, I agreed to somewhat medically necessary weight loss surgery. Then, since I was afraid of going through all of this and NOT losing weight, I voluntarily added the “intestinal redesignation” that would make it a true, full weight loss surgery instead of just the repair.

I was 5′ 4″ and had bounced from a size 14 to 18 for the majority of my life, since I was 14 years old.   Most people would say I could have lost the weight myself and that is true. In fact, I had! Several times!  I had been a size 8 at least three times in my life. I wore a size 6 for 5 minutes once. The problem is that I have never maintained it.  Choosing this surgery was not, in fact, for weight loss. It was for weight maintenance.  If I was going to do it, I wanted to go all the way. I’m not one for “halvsies”. Well, now I am because I can’t eat a full meal.  See what I did there? Humor is good medicine.

So to be clear, in case anyone thinks I have hidden or denied it, I DID have weight loss surgery, not just the repair to my hiatal hernia. I am not downplaying that decision. In fact, I would go as far as to say a prayer of thanks for my crappy esophagus and stomach. I thank them for needing to be removed. It brought me to the place of considering this option, and I do not think I would have in any other circumstance. I’m a true DIYer.

Thus, I was “fixed” and for 18 months I have been the owner of a new, small stomach and all the changed that brings to life.  The surgery was not easy. Within the week I was back at the hospital with double pneumonia and a few other ghastly, unmentionable issues.   Also, as I had learned from the preparation before surgery, the nutritional advice available to me was crap and I basically paid my copay to sit and educate the nutritionist about whole foods and not eating gluten and chemicals.  I don’t think I learned a thing, but she was really sweet… bless her heart.

After surgery, I ignored the majority of their advice. I had refused to set a number goal from the beginning and the doctors didn’t like that.  I wouldn’t eat chemical sugar replacements or ban carbs.

I was deviant.
This is MacGyver Dad's favorite picture of me. I didn't want to chose one for this post so I'll use his.
This is MacGyver Dad’s favorite picture of me. I didn’t want to choose one for this post, so I’ll throw this in here. See my “What Talitha Wears” album on Facebook for more.

I hit what I believe is a healthy, comfortable goal for me at 7 months, because it felt good and right for my body. It is in the top half of the suggested range for my height and age. So far I have maintained within a 5 pound range of that for the last 11 months and hope that will continue. At my one-year appointment, I was told that I should lose 15 more pounds and that I should consider diet pills to get there. The reasoning? This BMI chart right here suggests…. Hello, I’m sitting across from you, wearing a size 4. That’s when I fired them.

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned a lot about myself.  Actually, I learned a good bit in the eighteen months before surgery — one year refusing it and six months preparing for it.  I want to share some of that with you and why I’m thankful that my sad, pathetic stomach pushed me into a surgery that I thought I was too good for. I thought it was a failure or sort of giving-up, myself, so I understand if others think it was an easy way out.  I want to show you how it was not.

Weight loss surgery is one of the best tools available for those who are facing a lifelong struggle with weight, but one of the most UNDER used because it’s somewhat frowned upon. It’s taboo. It’s just lazy.

As I move forward in sharing about this process and what my experience has been, I want you to consider something.

A few years ago I had a conversation with someone that really changed me. in fact, it was while I was considering this surgery.  In tears, this full grown adult sat across from me in despair, worn out by their own inability to control their anger.  This person felt lost in the aftermath of an abusive outburst and completely without any  hope of changing in the future.  These are the words that opened my eyes.

“If there were a surgery that would remove the part of my brain that lets me hurt others, I would go have it tomorrow.”

What if there were a surgery to cure mental illness or alcoholism? Would we tell those who struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies that having that procedure was the easy way out?  When we see a loved one struggling with one of these things, don’t we long for such an answer?

We do. We long for them to be whole and thrive. This surgery can allow that for some.

My weight is not my worth and neither is yours. My worth is beyond pounds and inches. It is and always has been in who God made me to be. That is immeasurable and incalculable by any standard.  I am amazing. So are you.

I am thankful that this answer was available to me and that God knocked me off of my high-horse with a bum stomach.  I am not a different person than I was 120 pounds ago.  It doesn’t change who I am.  What it does change is how I am able to live my life today, eighteen months later, in ways that I never dreamed after a lifetime of being overweight. I am so, exceedingly grateful that I chose this. I’m sorry it isn’t the magic bullet answer of some diet that will get you fit.  Or maybe it is and you need to think that through.

P.S. I know you would like a before and after photo. People love that stuff!  In fact, I love that stuff, myself.  I didn’t take a before because I really didn’t care how much weight I lost.  I cared about how healthy I could live. My success is not visible in size but in how my health and life has changed. No picture on earth could show you that, even if it were worth 1,000 words, which I’ve heard is the going rate and also happens to be the approximate length of this blog post.  Longevity is much more valuable than pounds. My life is good and I’m thankful that my body finally FITS ME and how I feel I was made to live it.

But if you want another photo, here’s a fun one that may pertain to worth.

Last January, 8 months after surgery.
Last January, 8 months after surgery at the Federal Reserve. Apparently 5′ 4″ is worth $1, 631,000 in stacked $100 bills. Now you know.

WANT TO READ MORE?  Next I’ll be sharing some of the  steps I took to be successful emotionally and spiritually, surfing the “Psychology Of Shrinking.”

Next week you’re going to want to hear about being “Skinny People Problems, From A Newbie Thin Chick.”

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