Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Pole or not to Pole...that is the question!

*WARNING*  This story ended up being WAY longer than I expected...and is just a back story of how I got to where I am now (body-wise).  It will probably be very boring to most people, but I wrote it so I'm posting it.  :-)


While pole fitness is definitely my new, shiny toy, I am not new to the fitness world.  I have spent a lot of time and money trying to get myself into shape.

I am six feet tall, so regardless of my weight, I've always been a "big girl."  I probably started getting chunky in my teen years.  My dad said he noticed it after he and my mom split when I was 12.  I don't really remember it that way.  I don't remember feeling "fat" anyway.  I remember at age 4, people sometimes thought I was already closer to age 8.  So I think I considered myself tall, not fat.  I remember being in PE my freshman or sophomore year of high school and just being a huge disappointment to one of the male instructors.  I didn't run or jump or do anything really physical.  My junior year of high school, I went on a bit of a fitness kick and joined a step aerobics class.  That teacher was much impressed by senior year of high school.  I wasn't small by any means but I had toned up and was clearly a little more interested in my health and fitness.  I was probably still 180 pounds then.  Maybe a size 12.

Then college happened.

I was going to college and working full time.  So I was out of the house a good portion of my day.  I was eating fast food for all three meals each day.  I packed on some weight.  And a lot of it.  I think my top weight was around 285 pounds.  Maybe a little more or less.  I don't think I had quite hit 300 pounds.  When I was around 20-21 years old, phen fen hit the market.  I was on it for 8-9 months.  I got down to 235 pounds.  I was around a size 22.  But after you've been almost 300 pounds, that feels pretty good!  I looked and felt a lot better than I had in years.  I suffered a lot of side effects, but I didn't care because I WAS "SKINNY!"  Unfortunately, after they took that drug off the market, I skyrocketed back up to 300 pounds pretty quickly.

I worked out a lot.  When I was overweight, I was sometimes at the gym seven days a week.  I did Weight Watchers.  I'd lose some weight, then put it back on.  My doctor made me try Overeaters Anonymous.  Unfortunately, when you're food obsessed, talking about it all day just makes you want to eat more.  So neither of those programs were for me.  They say that once you have so much weight to lose, you just can't do it on your own.  Only 1 person in 20 can lose such a large amount of weight.  The body fights you.  It thinks you're starving it to death, so it creates plateaus.  Most people give up and then they gain all of their weight back plus some bonus weight. 

I was around 23 years old when I went to the doctor's office for my yearly visit and had hit 300 pounds.  The next year, it was 315.  The next year, 330 and the next I was 345.  I was easily a size 28 or 30.  No clothes fit well or looked good.  My feet hurt if I walked.  I was a sweaty mess if I did ANYTHING.  I was facing a life of health problems if I didn't change something fast.    And I was only 26 years old and I was looking at a lifetime of possible ailments: diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, sleep apnea... 

The year I went to the doctor and hit my top weight of 347 pounds, I begged her for help.  My friend had recently had gastric bypass and I hoped it would help me.  If I didn't have to THINK about food, I just knew I could lose the weight.  She agreed.  There were some bumps along the way (I'll spare you the boring details) but on March 17, 2004 (at age 27), I had my RNY gastric bypass surgery at UCSF.  I'm now a St. Patty's Day "baby."  I call it my new-birthday because it was the day I was re-born.  I lost 30 pounds before surgery.  I was 317 pounds on surgery day.  Hey I just put that together!  I was 317 pounds and I had my surgery on 3/17.  Now if the lottery Gods could just send me my $317 million, I'd be set!  :-D

Sorry...I digress!

The next year was quite the weight loss journey.  I lost so much weight each month that I had to completely replace my wardrobe every two months.  I never plateaued and, at around 9 months out, I started blacking out.  I was losing weight too quickly and my body was letting me know.  So my doctor made me force a plateau by eating more food than a gastric bypass patient normally should (which is accomplished by just eating more meals throughout the day since my stomach was -- and still is -- limited on how much it can take at one time -- but this is also how a lot of gastric bypass patients fail).  I had low blood pressure and low blood sugar.  But I was, by then, down to around 190 pounds.  I hadn't been that size since high school!  I was ecstatic.  And I also looked like a shar pei with my clothes off.  I have to admit that, because the weight was coming off so easily, I got lazy at the gym.  Why work out when you don't have to?!  Big mistake.  And I tell all potential gastric bypass patients that working out is the most important thing they can do after surgery!

After my body finally settled down, I hired a personal trainer and lost another 10 or so pounds.  My lowest weight after surgery was 179 pounds.  I was a size 12.  I was back at the gym, working with a personal trainer (this was in early 2005), but the skin just can't recover from that.  Eventually, I did suffer from the correction that most gastric bypass patients go through...I gained back 15 pounds. 

In 2006, I had three rounds of plastic surgery to tighten and remove the saggy skin (Big THANK YOU to my plastic surgeon, Kevin Degnan in Walnut Creek.  He's an artist!!!).  I had a lower body lift and breast lift/augmentation in February.  I had my arms and inner thighs done in June.  And then I had a little clean up work (the "bra overhang") done in November.  It was a difficult and painful year.  I don't think I stepped foot in the gym once.  I had 14 pounds of skin removed from my mid-section with the lower body lift (basically, a tummy tuck, but you are cut around the entire body instead of just the front).  I ended that year weighing around 195 pounds.  Strangely, though, despite the skin removal, I never saw that weight loss on the scale and I still wore around the same size...a 12 or 14, depending on the brand. 

I started a medication in early 2007 that caused me to gain 25 pounds pretty quickly.  My top weight (post-gastric bypass) was 222.  My scars hurt when I gain weight.  They really are what keeps me honest.  So in September of 2007, I headed back to the gym.  I signed up with a small group training class where I met my now-good friends, AJ and John (among others), as well as our awesome trainer, Kim.  I am not a morning person but for six months or so, I met the group at 5:30 AM to train.  When I couldn't afford to pay for training anymore, I continued working out with AJ (at the same un-Godly hour).  I also eventually signed up for pilates reformer training with John.  I was in the best shape of my life.  In June 2008, John took me to the top of Half Dome.  It was the most amazing and draining experience of my life.  I had gotten myself back down to 201 pounds.

In September 2008, my office went virtual and I began to work from home.  I tried to keep up the early morning routine but it is sometimes difficult when there is no reason for me to be up that early.  By February/March 2009, I couldn't do it anymore.  What a huge mistake.  Having a reliable gym partner is probably the most helpful tool you can have when trying to get in shape.  I would go into the gym later in the morning to work out but I was definitely not working out as hard as I was when I had AJ pushing me.  The weight didn't start creeping up immediately, but two more medication changes/additions put more weight back on me almost overnight (with the first medication change, I put 15 pounds on in two weeks...that hurts!!).

In September 2009, I started commuting to Alameda and in October, I moved to Clayton.  This usually creates a two and a half to three hour round trip commute each day.  So, skipping the gym was getting easier and easier.  My weight was creeping up again.

Rita and I started Twirly Girls Pole Fitness in December 2009.  I was edging up close to 220 pounds again.  I set a goal:  lose 5 pounds a month for 8 months, so I'll be down 40 pounds by my birthday.  That means I'm setting a goal to be back to my lowest post-gastric bypass weight.  I can do this.  Of course, the day after I set this goal, I got sick and had some more medication issues (post-gastric bypass, I am VERY sensitive to medications and PMS water weight).  I gained 8 pounds of water weight within a couple of days.  Those pounds started coming off but haven't completely gone away.  So, as it stands TODAY, I am 225 pounds.  I hate saying that.  It makes me feel fat.  I mean, I am still wearing the same clothes...they just fit a little tight and I don't like how I look in them.  But I am committed to making the change to be a healthier person. 

So, I sit here on the 2nd day of February in 2010.  I am starting my third month of Twirly Girls.  I am having so much fun and I am meeting so many amazing people.  I can already tell a difference in my arms.  In addition to pole fitness, I am also doing yoga twice a week (battling some hip and lower back pain issues...I'll save the "old lady hip" stories for another day), cardio DVDs at home three to four times a week, spinning (on a bike) once a week, and doing a circuit training class one a week.  Long story (VERY long story) short...I am back in business on the work-out front.

I feel like working out is so important.  I know that the gastric bypass surgery is a tool, not the magic fix.  For the rest of my life, I will have to watch what I'm eating and exercise.  And finding something fun and interesting is what will keep me working out.  I know that, if I'm working out consistently, my food doesn't matter.  I can eat almost whatever I want (my stomach fills up quickly so I feel full still and I am still sensitive to sugar so I can't overindulge too much).  So, why wouldn't I want to work out?  If I love food so much, working out is the key to continuing to hang out with my buddy, FOOD!  Whether its pole dancing or another type of exercise, I know I need to be doing something.  Then why not pole dancing?  Its fun and I enjoy it.  That is all that matters.  This is the point where I could launch into how irritated I am that some people judge me for that choice, but I will save that for another day.

Last but not least, regardless of my weight or size, I am learning to love myself no matter what.  I need to be healthy.  Not skinny.  And Twirly Girls has helped me with that. 

So, to pole or not to pole?  Of course...I choose to pole!


  1. As always, an inspiration for me to keep my twirl on. Love you girl.

  2. WOW....What a STORY Lori! I had no idea all that you have been through. Your story is so many things: sad, frustrating, empowering, enlightening, motivating...the list goes on! You are SUCH a STRONG woman. I hope everyone reads this and learns from it. It just shows that we really can endure and overcome just about anything we experience in our lives & you are living proof. Keep up the FANTASTIC work ;) Know that you will always have a cheerleader in Salisbury, MD <3

  3. You are a very strong person and I truly admire you and all you have accomplished. Keep up the great work - you ROCK!

  4. Ok...looks like it works, finally...I wrote the longest response and when I went to post it...it wouldn't let me....So Lori...looks like WE have a goal and Twirly Girls has a mission! As a trainer, I know how hard it is to commit to train without backup..What I mean about backup is having support...not only physically but mentally...so..We..and yes I did say we..because as you know Twirly Girls is not just a studio but a place to be there for each other...You and Rita...and I'm posting it so its for real...because you 2 are so awesome and exactly what I want Twirly Girls to represent, and, also because I want all the Twirly Girls to get the opportunity to meet the girls behind all those pictures and amazing posts, your monthly cost for classes is unlimited...yea baby..that means you can come everyday if you want and train and mingle and laugh and giggle and take millions of pictures..hehe..every single day...Mama Twirl hehe

  5. BEL! You're amazing!!! You seriously just made me cry!!! Thank you so much!!!

  6. Lori - you are truly an inspiration and a great writer! You don't give yourself enough credit! And you are beautiful, inside and out!! I can't wait to meet you and all the Twirly Girls!!

  7. Lisa, thank you so much! I look forward to meeting you as well!!! :-D