How I Almost Got in My Own Way and Didn’t Have Bariatric Surgery
My story is a long one. And I don’t mean long as in a story littered with detail. The plot is simple. But it has played out over 11 years. It’s like one of those three-and-a-half-hour movies that seemingly won’t end but could have been wrapped up in just two. Mine is a story that reeks of senselessness, stubbornness, weakness, despair – you get the point. It’s a classic story of someone on top, who then drops, and then continues quite a bit lower. And I did it to myself – classic self-sabotage.
I’m not sure – I can’t assume the circumstances of anyone else’s journey – but maybe this is a familiar story amongst those of us who needed a life-altering change like bariatric surgery.
May 2011 is where this all begins. But first some quick background. I’ve struggled with my weight since I was a young boy. Then, when I got into high school and played team sports, I got involved with weights and took my fitness much more seriously. Still, I had years throughout college and in my mid-to-late 20s that my weight would fluctuate. But for the most part, I would consistently frequent a gym. At times, it became an addiction. I was obsessed with intense daily workouts – like two-to-three-hour sessions. I even monitored my meals down to weighing, measuring, and macro-nutrient calculating.
And then…just one day…it stopped. I stopped.
It was May 2011. I remember it so clearly – a personal situation broke me. I completely stopped living my life and I didn’t care about anything. It was a struggle to get out of bed day after day, let alone go to the gym or watch what I put into my body. And ironically, the obsessive nature that I had with my health would carry over into my downfall. Over the next decade, every aspect of my life suffered and eventually shattered. My weight ballooned, and I put on almost 300 excess pounds. And that led me to where I am today. Or I should say, where I was about four months ago.
A complete collapse. Jaw-dropping. When I think about it now, I still shake my head.
Not only did I STOP going to the gym, but I began to eat EMOTIONALLY. Further, I wasn’t eating the same things I would eat to fuel my body and support my workout habits. I ate because it gave me a brief bit of pleasure. Think about what you eat that gives you pleasure – subs/hoagies, cheeseburgers, fries, ice cream – whatever you can think of that should not be a regular staple in your diet. Those types of foods became my staple. And that’s one of the problems with emotional eating – the pleasure derived from eating unhealthy junk lasts only a moment. And then you’re regretful. And then you ruin your body. And then your once promising life slips through your fingers. Maybe it’s not always that dramatic, but for me, it was.
So, I got myself to this point. Would I do anything about it? No, I wouldn’t. I acted like it was the point of no return. And I acted that way almost the entire time. There were sporadic periods when I tried to rein myself in and find my way again, so I could say I tried, but I don’t know if I really did. They were futile efforts that only fueled my belief that I was going through the motions until my “time” came to leave this world. I’ll be honest, too; most nights, I went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t wake up the following day. Suicidal thoughts were a daily thing, but I never actually attempted anything. I didn’t see any point in living. And frankly, I didn’t want to.
Weight loss surgery was something I NEVER considered. NEVER. And my family would make suggestive comments about it from time to time, not too often, but their concern for me was obvious. There was even a week in 2013 that my little sister – mind you, she was maybe 110 pounds and had always led a healthy lifestyle – went away with me for a week to what I always referred to as “fat camp.” It was a resort created by the popular TV show The Biggest Loser. I shouldn’t say resort. The housing accommodations were very nice, but the week was about working out as hard as you can – all forms of exercise – while also learning about proper nutrition to carry over after returning home. Being fed by a world-class chef that tailored the menus to aid in weight loss efforts.
So, my little, healthy sister took a week out of her life to support me, hoping I could catch some momentum and turn things around. My dad paid for it for me, too. So, the whole family made sacrifices to get me back on track. I lost 17 pounds in that one week. I worked my ass off. I thought that I might be able to keep it going once I returned home. It lasted about a week.
So why was I so against the idea of getting weight loss surgery?
My ego. Quite honestly, that’s the primary reason—my ego. Many thoughts and perspectives fueled my ego. The list is long and not distinguished!
- I’m too good for that. It really doesn’t even make sense, and looking back, it is laughable that I was so idiotic.
- No way in hell I’ll ever get that surgery. I got myself to this point; if I’m going to fix it, I will fix it myself!
- That’s taking the easy way out!
- I don’t need help!
- Only weak people get weight loss surgery.
- I’d rather die than get that surgery. No kidding – I embarrassingly said this many, many times.
- I don’t even really think it will help me.
- Will it even help me change my unhealthy habits? (Great question many people probably have) I still questioned it until I got to post-surgery.
- Here’s a big one – I’m still going to look horrible, even if the surgery works because I’ll have pounds of loose skin. I’ll be disgusting, and I’ll still loathe myself. I’ll be honest again – loose skin will be a reality; there’s no way around it. But it can be fixed with surgery, too. I will be doing that, and I’ll write about that experience when the time comes.
- I didn’t want the stigma of bariatric surgery attached to me.
So, you see, I was adamant and decisive that bariatric surgery would not be an option for me at ANY point in my life. My mindset was firm.
The takeaway is that it’s genuinely embarrassing now to think how irrational and blind I was.
I mentioned the “stigma” of weight loss surgery. That honestly wasn’t one of my biggest concerns. But I think the stigma, combined with other misconceptions, plays a substantial role in preventing many people out there from moving forward with this process. So, what exactly does this stigma mean? What are some misconceptions about bariatric surgery?
Dr. Brian Chin, a bariatric surgeon with BASS Medical Group in Walnut Creek, CA, says that one of the more common misconceptions he hears from patients is that they don’t need it. If they had enough willpower, they could diet and exercise on their own.
Other significant stigmas and misconceptions about weight loss surgery include:
- It is ONLY for the morbidly obese.
- Weight loss surgery is the “Easy Way Out.”
- It’s too expensive.
- Shouldn’t insurance be paying for this? Ironically, insurance companies also hold this stigma and are not always fond of paying for these procedures.
- This is cosmetic surgery; it’s not about your health.
- Actual fear of the surgery and potential complications.
All right, hang tight with me just a little longer. I know I said the plot of this story was simple. I’m getting to my “Aha Moment!”
Building up to that moment…
It was August 2020 – I remember the exact day and approximate time this occurred, but I’m going to spare you my neurosis. A person from my past randomly re-entered my life. I will just say that this person turned my world upside down. I know you’re laughing at me – how ridiculous I must sound. I’m serious, though. More serious than the actual physical condition I was in! So literally DEAD serious. For the sake of anonymity and privacy, I will refrain from details. Just know that this person gave me something I did not have, could not find, and did not think I would ever have. They gave me something no one before them could give me.
Motivation. Inspiration. Proof that there was reason to live my life. Very good reason. A burning desire.
Well, for about 18 months following that flame being lit in August 2020, I tried so hard to do it. To change me. To change my life. And there were periods when I would leap great strides forward. I would feel like I had finally jumped the hurdle and was on the right track. I had regained some of my old habits and could build upon them, and eventually, after much hard work, return to my pre-2011 form. But there was always something missing. Something would always trigger me. The trigger would snap me backward. It was like a rubber band – I would stretch it out as far as it could go, push myself to my limits and think the breakthrough was coming any moment, and then the rubber band would slip a little and snap back in my fingers. Snap hard. I lost a decent amount of weight at one point – I had gotten to my lowest weight in almost five years. And then, tragically, I snapped back and put more weight on than I had before! Devastating. And right now, I feel ashamed even admitting that. I’m sitting at my desk typing this and literally shuddering at this thought.
I cannot tell you how badly I wanted to make these changes in my life. How much I wanted to fix myself. I thought I had fully committed to the changes and that I could ride the rollercoaster and push through all the low points. I wanted this probably more than anything I’ve ever wanted. Sadly, I couldn’t get out of my way – or so it felt.
And then it came – The Aha Moment. My moment.
It was Tuesday, April 12th of this year, and it was the day I made the call that I never thought I would.
The morning of that Tuesday, I had a team meeting with my colleagues. Let me preface this by saying that I work for a medical marketing company, and ironically most of our clients are bariatric surgeons. That morning, the meeting started with an incredible success story of a patient on whom one of our surgeon-clients performed bariatric surgery. And when I say great story, I mean incredible. This patient lost over 300 pounds from the time of his surgery in late December 2021 through March 2022.
At that very moment, upon hearing this man’s results, I told myself that I was getting that surgery. And getting it as soon as humanly possible.
That ego of mine that I told you about earlier…well, I told him to eff himself, stuffed him in a box, and threw it in my closet. And I’m living proof that you can, too. Sometimes you have to say, “Eff it!” Eff all the people that want to judge you! Eff the misconceptions about why people get weight loss surgery! Forget your fears! Forget your ego!
If you’re blessed enough, like me, to have a “why” magically appear in your life, then great! But if not, FIND IT!
Find your very own “why.”
There is much more to this story and the journey following that meeting.
But that IS another story.
Sources of Information to supplement this article:
- Stigma About Bariatric Surgery
- Don’t Let Stigma Keep You from Weight Loss Surgery
- Common Misconceptions About Weight Loss Surgery
Chad is a recent bariatric patient that now shares his experiences and a renewed passion for life with the Bariatric Surgery Corner, as well as through his personal Instagram account. He is also an account manager for Fortris Corporation, helping to manage marketing and SEO strategies for bariatric surgery practices. He was a journalism major at the University of Florida for two years before transferring to Penn State University to finish out his bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Chad spent time traveling and living in different states on the east coast, but he now resides in Western Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh.