Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Creature Feature!

Jessica just featured me on her Weight Loss Surgery support group on Facebook!  :-D

You may recognize the story...I took it from an early blog post and updated it.  :-)

Featured Member - Lori

by Weight Loss Surgery on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 3:48pm
 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 graduated from high school weighing around 180 pounds, which was about a size 12.

Then college happened.

I was going to college and working full time.  I was eating fast food for all three meals each day.  I think my top weight was around 285 pounds.  When I was around 20-21 years old, phen fen hit the market.  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...  I was also being monitored for heart problems due to the phen fen use.  I got bad news.  My heart valves were fine but my heart was enlarged.  This was due to the weight I was carrying around.  I needed to do something soon.

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.

They attempted to do my surgery laroscopically but they ran into complications and had to open me two-thirds of the way through surgery.  It made for a bit of a difficult recovery, both physically and mentally.  When I opened my eyes after surgery, I was groggy and the nurse had me sitting up and bent over a table -- trying to put an epidural in my back.  I could see down the front of my hospital gown.  I saw train tracks.  Ugly staples all the way down my stomach.  I kept asking, "what happened?!"  The nurse just kept saying, "you had surgery, honey!!"  My brain could comprehend that something had gone wrong but my mouth couldn't form the right words.  It was a couple of days before I was aware enough to hear and understand the story.

The next year was quite the weight loss journey.  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.  I had low blood pressure and low blood sugar.  But I was, by then, down to around 190 pounds.  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.  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 now 222 pounds.  So in September of 2007, I headed back to the gym.  I signed up with a small group training class.  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 a friend (at the same un-Godly hour).  I also eventually signed up for pilates reformer training.  I was in the best shape of my life.  In June 2008, my friend, 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 someone 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 my job, which created 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.

I started Twirly Girls Pole Fitness in December 2009.  I was edging up close to 220 pounds again by then.  I kept making promises to myself to lose weight, eat better, get healthy...blah blah blah.

It's now January 2011, and I was recently up to 235 pounds.  This can't be.  I refuse to be one of the gastric bypass patients who fails.  Nevermind that I am still down well over 100 pounds.  I don't want to be "fat" anymore.  In November 2010, I decided it was time to stop messing around and start taking my health seriously again.  Gastric bypass was a tool given to me to help lose the weight.  It's up to me to keep it off.  I have lost 8 pounds in the last month and a half and am down to 227.  My goal is to get back to 200 pounds, which is the goal set by my surgeon and is a weight at which my body is very comfortable.

I am doing spin (cyle), yoga, pole dancing, pilates and couch to 5k (running) to get back into shape.  I am planning to do Bay to Breakers (a 12k -- or around 7.8 miles) in May 2011.  I am using an iPhone app to track my calories and exercise.  And I am feeling pretty good about losing the excess weight (again) and keeping it off this time.  I think the biggest mistake that gastric bypass patients make when they start to gain weight is to alienate themselves.  They might be embarrassed and don't want to ask for help.  But that is exactly the time when we should be asking our friends for support.  I don't like admitting I almost failed.  But I am happy to say that I'm back on track and committed to being a healthy person.

Enjoy & follow Lori's Blog: http://lolorashel.blogspot.com/


  1. I love your story! It's so inspiring to me because I am also six feet tall. The smallest I have been after turning 14 was during a time when I burned at least 3,000 calories a day working for the Forest Service... and I was still a size 12. When we are fit, we're already shopping in the plus size section of a lot of clothing stores. So if you add a few extra pounds, suddenly nothing fits. People accidentally call me "big" because I am... without thinking about how insensitive the comment might be.

    I was talking about this to my husband... we can't do anything about our genetics, about how tall or short we are, or the ways our bodies develop fat or muscle under certain situations. But beyond that, we do have a choice. We can either hate the world because our body types aren't seen as attractive, and a lot of people can't get past that long enough to see how cool we are inside... and not realize that the "hate the world" attitude makes the inside even uglier. Or we can admit that the world is the way it is... our bodies are the way they are... and we can do the hard work to make the best out of what we were given.

    Then augment our attitudes to finish off the beautiful image.

  2. Yeah I don't want to live with all of that negativity so I try to work with what I've got, regardless of the size it is. hehe!!