author Olivia Peake CNA
Have you ever seen a committed relationship that you question if there is any struggle at all? I dreamed of such a relationship filled with love, security, and compassion. But as early as childhood, I had formed my own relationship and filled my needs with food. Eating was my everything and it always has been. It was my sadness, happiness, disappointments, and ultimately my depression.
I recall what was labeled as my “addiction” beginning when I was in first grade. My parents and family told me they were concerned that I used food when things got hard. I can remember clear as day doing weight watchers and counting points in elementary school. I can remember exercising and running around the neighborhood trying to please everyone, but myself. It was hard being an overweight child, always being compared to the size of the rest of my family, and receiving looks of confusion when my weight didn’t change as I matured. My transformation never happened, even after all the dietitians and countless therapy sessions. I remained the topic of conversation and my appearance was always a concern. I understood their concern, but they never struggled with weight like I did. It wasn’t that I was inactive, I was always in sports, going to the gym, lifting weights, and jogging. But nothing I did on the outside changed the fact that I was in a committed relationship that my emotional state would not allow me to end.
After years of struggling I decided to have the gastric bypass surgery. I knew that in order to handle this toxic relationship once and for all I needed to quit cold turkey. It has been roughly three years since I had my procedure, and was definitely not the “quick fix” some may assume. I went from years of eating my feelings to waking up drinking tiny shot glasses of water to make sure my staples were all intact. I started out great determined to defeat this struggle. I did excellent and the weight just seemed to fall off every week. Mentally it was overwhelming, but exciting. I could wear clothes that I always envied my friends wearing. I was getting attention from guys, something I’ve never experienced, but always wanted. I went from 360 pounds to 215 pounds within that year alone. My eating habits had drastically changed, and I was determined not gain any weight back. I made sure I was in the gym every night no matter how late. I read blogs about how some people gained weight back even after 3 years post-surgery. I was sure I was not going to be one of those people.
Well, here I am three years out, and have gained back 30lbs. They were right, I did hit a plateau. The fear of stretching my stomach out from eating bigger portions was inevitable. This last year has been difficult emotionally, and I turned back to my familiar partner to numb the pain, despite the terrible nausea that comes along with it. Beyond disappointment, I find comfort in knowing I am not the only one that this has happened to. I have read countless accounts of others who found themselves in the same struggle. Unfortunately, now I have to work even harder to get back in a healthy routine.
If I could go back I would change many things before I had the procedure done. I wish I would have had a longer span of therapy to prepare me for the drastic life change. I wish I would have been taught that along with losing weight comes with not recognizing the “man in the mirror”. I would have liked to know that along with feeling confident comes some cockiness, and loss of your true self identity. I met with many friends that had the surgery not far behind me. I wanted to know their struggles and share mine. One of my friends said, “It’s like I lost myself while trying to find myself.” I cannot stress enough how true this statement is. After a few conversations I came to this conclusion. Within the first year after the surgery girls like myself with a life long struggle of food addiction, limited friends, no boyfriend, and no kids tend to fill that void with other things. Through conversation I have discovered some commonalities that I find true. First, you are never really yourself again. There is something about going under the knife and anesthesia does to your brain cells. Secondly, you turn to partying and alcohol. Thirdly, the alcohol doesn’t fill you up and you venture to other substances to abuse. I am fully aware that this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I found it odd that all of us had gone through the same seasons right after having the procedure.
In conclusion, I did not write these words to discourage anyone from having the surgery. I am happy I had it done, but there are things I wish I would have fully understood beforehand. If it wasn’t for the surgery I know without a doubt I wouldn’t have been able to lose over 100 pounds on my own. Life is a journey and by having the surgery it has allowed me to explore more avenues in my life. If you have friends or a group you can attend before and after the surgery then I highly recommend going. There is nothing like having a mentor that knows the ins and outs personally for support. Finding relationships that understand are invaluable.