Yup. That’s right. I’m fat. At my highest adult weight, I was 408 pounds (hence the name of this blog collection). Of course it didn’t start that way, but it definitely ended at that. In this collection, I’m going to reflect on my life, tell you a little bit about the influences on my weight and decision making. Why now you may be asking? Well, on May 31st, 2017, I had a consultation with a bariatric surgery program to learn a little bit more about what that surgery process would entail, and, as of this writing, I’m T-minus 7 days until my surgery date.
What was the final straw you may ask? When did I finally really come face to face with the fact that if I didn’t do something, I’d probably die much earlier than I’m supposed to? I needed to have an endoscopy due to some long-term gastric issues. My weight precluded me from having that at a traditional outpatient center and instead, I needed to have a full OR presence. There was just too much concern from my GI team about my weight to do that without the support for possible complications. After that process, my GI specialist told me that most of the pain I was dealing with in my abdominal region was due to the fact that my liver was so fatty that it was trapped and couldn’t expand anymore. Big. Slap. In. The. Face.
What did I do when I went home? I inhaled a box of Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. Bing. Bang. Boom. 10 in 15 minutes maybe? As my dad might say, “poppin’ ’em in like cookies.”
See, Little Debbie was always there for me. She and I never fought — well, when I was on a diet we fought, but as we’d like to say in any relationship hurtling toward its end, “It’s not you, it’s me.” And I was realizing that it really was about me.
At this point, May of 2017, I had just turned 38. I was living with my parents during a period of underemployment. While my mother would sometimes give me a disapproving look about what I chose to buy on our weekly trips to the local supermarket, all I had to do was volley one right back at her and she didn’t say anything. She knew my weight was a problem–it had been since I was 9, but I had damn well made sure that she wasn’t going to say anything about it. Instead, I could just bury my head in the snack bag in my bedroom: cookies, snack cakes, little pies, Entenmann’s (and yes, if you’re wondering, my mouth just watered).
My job consisted of getting out of bed in the morning, having breakfast, returning to my bedroom to my trusty recliner, propping my feet up, and facilitating my online courses. Between that and my chronic overeating, was it a surprise that I had put on 40 pounds in just under two years? Not that my weight was super awesome prior to this, I had steadily hovered around 365 or so for the previous three years, but still.
I needed to do something about this…and it couldn’t just be another diet. See, I damn well knew WHAT to eat. But who wants to eat frickin’ KALE (other than my bestie), over donuts?? I had cycled on and off diets for years. Weight Watchers. Calorie counting. Exercise programs. Dietary exchanges. “Just cutting down.” “Day One!” I’d lose a bunch, gain it all back, lose some more, gain more, and just keep cycling and cycling and cycling. I just didn’t have the psychological energy to go through the diet again when I knew that I’d most likely go off the diet and put it all back on. I couldn’t do it again without knowing that this would be the last time.
There are some out there that believe that surgery is the easy way out. I sometimes think that too. That if I were just…stronger? More committed? Less self-loathing? If I just LOVED running 5Ks instead of housing donuts, or if I just found some strict, drill sergeant type trainer to whip my ass into shape, or if I just had a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a sensible dinner, even pasta (don’t lie- you said it just like they did in the commercial didn’t you…) that I could be just as skinny as I’d want. Then I remember that I’m not the only person who struggles with this. That yes, some have found long-term success with those strategies, many do not. I hadn’t and I needed something different.
I met with Dr. Jila Kaberi-Otarod, a medical doctor and nutritionist at the Geisinger Center for Nutrition, Weight Management, and Metabolic Surgery in Scranton, PA. I was…embarrassed. I was FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHT FUCKING POUNDS. Ashamed that I had let it get this bad. I was almost “fatting out of” my size 58 waist pants. Soon I wouldn’t be able to buy clothes even at the Big and Tall.
She never judged me. This was key. I already felt the stares and the looks, the constant rejection from my fellow gay/bi/queer men. She accepted me, explained the program to me. Here are some of the highlights:
- Six months of supervised weight-loss which needed to result in around a 10% loss prior to surgery approval.
- Daily caloric intake of between 2000 and 2500 calories using a tracker.
- Integrate exercise–nothing crazy, but better than sitting in the recliner.
- Various classes: nutrition, behavior management, surgery.
- Attendance at support groups and clearance by behavioral medicine.
I’m right now in the pre-surgery phase, which is a 2-week all liquid diet (protein shakes, broth, a little bit of dairy, tons of water). It was more difficult when I first started, but it’s better now on Day 8. I’m down a total of 40 pounds- yup, 368 pounds now. That’s intense when I think about it.
Here’s some general statistics about my body when I started the process:
- Weight: 408 pounds
- Pant Size: 58 inches, with motion relaxed comfort fit pants
- Shirt size: XXXXL (yup…that’s FOUR Xs)
- Daily caloric intake: between 5,000 and 6,000
- Medical issues: significant back spasms which required three different medications; GERD of such severity that I needed two medications, one twice a day; significantly low iron and Vitamin D; mild sleep apnea; severely weak knee that inhibited walking and exercising
- Exercise program: Does walking to and from the fridge count? Non-existent.
In the coming days and weeks, I’m going to try to share how I’m doing, what I’m struggling with, what I wish I knew before I did it, etc. Check back often and please feel free to comment on my journey if you’d like!