It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Way of Life Anonymous
In May of 2010, at the age of 45, I found myself sitting in the exam room of the doctors’ office, in tears. Not only was I grieving for the incredible losses I’d experienced in the first 5 months of that year; but also for the incredible physical, emotional and spiritual pain I was in. Once again, I’d tipped the scales at 255 pounds. I was 5’10”, tall, and clinically obese. My eating habits had been spiraling out of control for years. After numerous diet failures: Weight Watchers, Nutra-Systems, injections, diet pills, South Beach and working with a nutritionist for years, etc. with no long-term success, I knew I‘d hit rock bottom, AGAIN and was completely desperate. I needed help!
In 1998, I reached my top weight – 272 pounds, more than I weighed during a full-term pregnancy. Too embarrassed to ask for help,I continued to wallow in self-pity, self- hatred and self-abuse, continuing down a very destructive path.
In 2006, I learned about Gastric Lap Band Surgery, and underwent the procedure in August of that year, hoping this would be my solution once and for all. Of course, that’s not what happened. Ionlylostabout40poundsandeverysingleoneofthemwasa major a struggle — no matter how restricted or unrestricted my band was, no matter how much I exercised. Lap Band surgery, was no the easy way out, and I was gravely disappointed that the weight hadn’t dropped off. Having paid a lot of money for the surgery (insurance would not cover it), I equated every pound I loss in terms of dollars. When I lost 15 pounds, oh that’s $1,000 a pound, yay me! Over the next few years, I packed the pounds back on with a vengeance, as I strayed from the eating plan laid out for band patients. I returned to my old eating habits — eating sugar, flour and quantities. I ate around the band. In May of 2010, my efforts landed me right back into Dr. Greene’s office. Dr. Greene discussed another gastric procedure with me, the Gastric Sleeve. This surgery would be expensive as well, and also not covered by my insurance. It would require an overnight hospital stay, more time off from work, a variety of other complications that surgery such as these carry.
Later in the visit I consulted with Dr. Greene’s Physician Assistant, Linda McGavisk, who informed me that my band was near fill capacity (very tight) and that there was not a lot more she could do in terms of providing more restriction in the band. She was very concerned for my well-being. The compassion and caring that she exuded that day gave me more hope and courage than any amount of fluid in my band ever had. I knew I didn’t have another weight loss surgery left in me, since I felt like I was such a failure after the first surgery. I needed help, because obviously, what I was doing was not working! For years I tried it my way without success. It was time to do things differently, and stop looking for the easy way out — no quick fixes. I was going to have to do this thing one day at a time, one meal at a time. From that day forward, I modified my eating habits; I began to walk almost every day, I slowly incorporated running and other exercise routines in my workout schedule. I went from being a couch potato to an exercise enthusiast. In the beginning, I was barely able to walk a 1⁄4 mile but by April of 2011, I was walking, running and exercising up to 2 hours a day, 6 days a week! The weight was coming off slowly, but still too slow for my taste. I had the exercise down, but continued to struggle with binging and uncontrollable eating habits.
A friend, who I later learned was in a 12-Step program called Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous sent me an email about this new great program she was in. She told me about all the wonderful things happening in her life, including losing a lot of weight. Curiosity got the best of me, and on April 17th 2011, I attended my first meeting at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD. There were people just like me at this meeting. I learned I was addicted to food, and jumped right in and got a sponsor that day! Not really understanding the program and what was going to be required of me I was terrified of the process. My sponsor encouraged me to give it a month; I gave it a week. I found myself stressed by the outreach calls, the 15-minute early morning sponsor calls, the required quiet time, reaching out to a higher power and the readings. I also had a lot of difficulty because my lap band was so tightly adjusted that eating the required quantity of food in the food plan seemed insurmountable; sometimes I could barely keep it down. I balked in every way imaginable. I didn’t like talking to people I didn’t know, I didn’t like talking to people early in the morning, and I could barely sit still for 1 minute, let alone 30 minutes. My friend encouraged me to hang in there, find a sponsor who understood what my life was like and who had what I needed and give it another try. I did, and fortunately, have not had to back since. Still here, still abstinent!
In May 2011, I found myself in a consult with Linda again, but this time it was different. Instead of feeling bad about myself, my uncontrollable eating, I now felt self-confident, self-controlled, and excited about the path my life was taking. Now, in FA,I’d already lost a number of pounds just from being in the program a few weeks! I asked Linda to remove the fluid from my band so that I could eat the food in my meal plan without difficulty. She was very hesitant at first, but then agreed to do it on the condition that I come back to the office in a couple weeks for a checkup. When I came back,I had lost another 8 or so pounds!
At this point, I finally came to the realization that it was NOT about the band, for me, it was 99% mental. My head was the problem. I didn’t need a device around my stomach to tell me to stop eating. I didn’t need the food backing up in my esophagus to tell me to stop eating. I needed to turn my food and decisions around food choices over to my Higher Power and my sponsor. If I wanted this program to work for me, I would have to surrender my will over to the care of God and trust that my sponsor would provide the nutritional guidance that my body needed for fuel while still allowing me to lose weight. Having a band is not a fast track to weight loss; the underlying issues of why and how I ate still needed to be addressed.
Today, my life is not about food. I’ve totally changed my eating habits by following the FA food plan. I keep a daily food journal and plan my meals the night before, and I stick to that commitment everyday. I meditate daily to renew my spiritual connection to my Higher Power(whom I‘d disconnected from more than 25 years). By incorporating FA into my life, I have loss more than 30 additional pounds in less than 4 months! It has taken me nearly 5 years to realize that it’s not about how tight the band is restricted; it’s not about counting calories, it’s all about recognizing and admitting that I have a disease, an allergy to flour, sugar products, and if I eat those food and too much, in general, I will gain weight!
I’m down over 100 pounds from my top weight; my doctor has labeled me as fit, healthy and has advised that I don’t need to lose any more weight (I have never in my life heard those words before). My blood pressure is normal, and I no longer need pain medication for my arthritis. I sleep soundly without medication and no longer suffer from acid reflux, and it’s all because I made the conscious decision to take my life back and turn my will over to the care to God! My band is nearly empty now. And I keep out of my addiction by surrendering food daily, making outreach calls, communicating honestly with my sponsor on a daily basis and working the tools of this program. It’s still a struggle, but the difference this time is that I am willing to do the work and I have the support (and accountability) that I’ve been needing and wanting for so many years. It’s not a diet, it is a way of life.
I Did It, You Can Too! Beth David-Reinhold
My name is Beth Davis-Reinhold, and I am a patient of Dr. Greene and Linda McGavisk.
I have struggled with my weight all my life. I tried every reasonable diet known to man, plus a few that were not so reasonable. I gained and lost the same 40 pounds several times, but they kept finding me again. Then they’d refer all their friends to me as a good host.
By last summer, I weighed- never mind, I’m not going to tell you what I weighed. Suffice to say it was a horrifying number that I never thought would be mine. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and my blood pressure was not what it should have been. My doctor had used the “P” word on me: “prediabetic”. That sent me over the edge. I was ready to explore the world of bariatric surgery.
I was fortunate to have two colleagues who had had weight loss surgery before me. They referred me to Dr. Greene. I came to a couple of support group meetings, and then signed up for my first appointment.
Linda immediately put me on a low-carb diet. I’d done this sort of thing before, and knew I could live with it. However, this time it was going to work! (It better had; I saw the surgery as my last chance at a normal life.) Linda also got me started on the regimen of tests and evaluations that precede lap-band surgery: abdominal ultrasound, exercise consultation, sleep study, nutrition consultation, and so on (and on and on.)
I found early on that I had sleep apnea. In fact, I had desperate sleep apnea; there was some question as to why I was still alive. I acquired a CPAP machine and used it faithfully.
Time went by. I followed the diet, did all my homework, and showed up for monthly appointments. My last pre-op appointment was in January. Dr. Greene looked at my charts and looked at me; then he told me that I’d already lost almost all the weight he expected the surgery to remove from me. He said I could back out at any time until the anesthetist put me to sleep. But my mind was made up. I was going through with it.
We set the surgery date for February 8. What I didn’t know was that there was going to be a massive blizzard on February 6. My family and I dug frantically and prayed for the snowplow to come through in time (and it did, an answer to prayer!)
On the big day, my husband and I slipped and slid to Rockville Surgery Center. I walked into the operating room under my own power. As I arrived, I noticed they were playing the old John Mellencamp song about “Oh, baby, make it hurt so good!” I said, “Now is that an appropriate song to play in an operating room?” I think the staff thought I was offended, but actually I was amused. “No, no,” I said, “that’s what I’m here for. Please, make it hurt so good!”
I woke up about two hours later in the recovery room, in surprisingly little pain. I hung around there for about two more hours, not so much because I needed to be there that long, but because my two rambunctious grandchildren were at my house. I was in no special hurry to get there. I did walk out to the car under my own steam, however. I worried about postoperative pain. Dr. Greene had prescribed fancy pain medication for me, but I was a little afraid to take it. Fortunately I didn’t need to. By taking it easy and not jumping around too much, I got by with grand total of two Extra-Strength Tylenols for the whole experience.
When I met with Linda and Dr. Greene about six weeks after surgery, they told me that in another few pounds I would arrive at the weight they expected me to arrive at. However, they had expected me to arrive there some three to five years after surgery, not six weeks.
Now I am almost five months past the surgery. I lost 46 pounds before the surgery and an additional 29 more since then, interestingly, all without ever having a “fill.” I no longer take cholesterol or blood pressure medication. I exercise at the YMCA three times a week, and a little bit at home on the other days. I have been told I look 20 years younger. People who haven’t seen me for a while look at me as if they’re not quite sure who I am. I’ve lost 5 clothing sizes, and am wearing a size I never dreamt I’d never wear again. (My credit card protests, but that’s the main downside to all this). I have more energy, and I feel so much better. I hope to lose another 10 pounds.
I have spent the last 20 years or so overcoming fears and taking control of various parts of my life. One of the last ones to elude me was my weight. Now that, too, is- if not within my grasp at least within my reach.
If you are eligible for weight loss surgery, I would encourage anyone to learn more about it. The process is not (necessarily) very difficult; it may be easier than staying heavy. It is going to take a lot of persistence and keeping your eyes on the prize. But at this point, I would say it’s worth it. Just do what Linda and Dr. Greene tell you to do. It will work. Really.