Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tipping the Scales & My Solution


Most people who saw me at my largest will never fully understand. In fact most people who knew me well don't fully understand. They don't understand what it is like to weigh over 400 lbs. They don't understand how a person can get that large. Some people don't understand why a person that large can't easily take the weight off - or why they resort to something as drastic as weight loss surgery.

This post is to help you understand my struggles and how I came to finally make a change in my life and how I decided to start my journey of lifestyle changes with surgery.

[Me at my largest]

What Do You Mean I Don't Understand?

You might understand if you have ever:

  • not been able to put a seat belt around your waist (in a car or on a plane).
  • covered up the fact that the airline seat belt didn't fit and then get handed an extension when the flight attendant discovered your secret.
  • not been able to use a public bathroom because the stall was too narrow.
  • broken uncounted chairs at work, home, public places, etc.
  • not fit in a theater seat.
  • realized that you can't fit behind the steering wheel of many vehicles.
  • realized that you can't do many activities with your children because of your health and size such as camping, theme park rides, and just playing catch outside.
  • broken many toilet seats and an actual toilet floods your house.
  • had to deal with people constantly staring at you in public
  • been worried about how your presence is embarrassing to people around you.
  • ... this list can go on and on.

It's Easy to Judge

Trust me I know how easy it is to judge. It was being judgemental that was part of the problem. I was my greatest critic and from my constant personal punishment I made things worse. Self worth becomes nothing and the mental put downs are unceasing. After years of self punishment I began to learn to just be happy. So I was - happy and carefree. This was also self destructive. I became complacent with all my issues and "went with the flow". And I continued to get fatter. Getting fat doesn't happen overnight and so people think why don't you just stop eating and get off your lazy and do something about it. Good question and for people that are less than 100 lbs overweight it is a good solution. Once you start down the slippery slope of obesity it gets to a point of near impossibility to recover on your own. Your own body and mind resist change, mental and psychological issues come into play - and then the ever increasing added health issues stack up.

The odds began to stack against my favor

The longer I ignored my demons (personal self worth issues, overeating, and inactivity) the more difficult it became to fight back. As a child I formed habits that caused problems later in life. I was a inquisitive child that loved to learn and shore up knowledge. I loved to play with others and to read. I loved school. So how is that all bad? For me it was near deadly. I was extreme. Life must have balance and I was out of balance.

I read books all the time. I became the class "know it all". I wore bifocals when I was 6 years old. I was clumsy and not good at sports at all. I was also overly sensitive from an early age and wore my feelings on my sleeve. So when the teasing started (like most kids) I took it hard. I did things to protect myself from the teasing and avoided sports and athletic activities that could lead to embarrassment and teasing. I would even stay inside from recess. I became the teacher's pet as the teachers were always more kind to me than other students.

As I aged in grade school I became interested in activities that I was naturally gifted in such as academics. It was polarizing for me though as I garnered praise from parents, teachers, and other adults and more ostracism from other pupils. I started to long for friends but at the same time detest others. I drew inward a lot. Video games were invented and grew popular. Video games along with food made me feel good and didn't talk unkind to me. I always had 1 or 2 friends and they usually played role playing games, video games, or board games with me. This was my early childhood. See what it missing is enough outside play and what is seriously starting to go wrong is my emotional development. I am growing to hate myself and the kids around me. I hate myself because I am not like the other kids and I want more friends and at the same time I hate the other kids for not liking me for who I was. It was many years before I realized that I was as much of the problem as the other kids.

I began to put on weight. The teasing grew worse. My thoughts grew darker. My world was a sad one. Constantly saddened, my eyes searched the ground. I no longer looked others in the eye. I avoided confrontation. I avoided change or anything outside of my confort zone. The mental anguish grew every year. As I grew older I became more aware of how disfigured I was. I realized that no one was attracted to me and I started to feel very alone. I spent many days for many years crying and feeling sorry for myself. Even as I type this I realize that even people close to me never realized how dark my life was even in Junior High. So much so I don't want to go down this road of self loathing any further. I think I have illustrated the point sufficiently.

By the time I decided to better my life I was a Junior in High School and I was unsure of where to turn. I never did turn to anyone for help as I distrusted others. I started lifting weights. I had been an asthmatic and had severe allergies since early childhood so weight training worked good. I tried out for sports in my Senior year. Wrestling and Shot put and Discus. Wrestling was dismal and I cracked a vertebra in my lower back throwing shot put. I was forced to stop lifting weights and this was the last exercise I did of any kind for many many years.

I was tipping the scales at 315 lbs at 5'11.5" when I graduated High School.

I take full responsibility

I don't want anyone reading this to think at any point that I am making excuses or that I blame any one else. I just wanted to illustrate that through a serious of poor decisions starting in my early childhood I created a breeding ground for depression and over eating. I can't take any of that back.

So what happened that caused me to take back control of my life and why did I opt for surgery? I lost weight and gained weight many times over the course of my adulthood. In 2008 I hit my heaviest weight of 427 lbs. I wanted to lose weight for my wife and kids. But wanting to lose the weight for others just isn't good enough. You have to want it for YOURSELF. I had thought about and researched different weight loss options including RNY Gastric Bypass since 2001. Fear caused to push it back. Fear of being rejected by insurance, fear of not being able to pay for the surgery if I was approved, fear of not succeeding and losing the weight and keeping it off if I was approved and could afford it. Fear. Fear is a powerful motivator and it was the first emotion that helped push me in the right direction.

Over the years my health issues increased. In childhood I had asthma and allergies. Those continued and got worse every year as I got fatter. Like digging a hole, it is hard to get out.

In 2002 I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. It was pretty bad and I was falling asleep all the time at work and home. CPAP machine came into my life.

In 2005 my feet began to hurt and over a few months the pain became so unbearable I could hardly stand or walk after sitting or laying. I went to a Dr and was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, basically my feet and the bones in them had fallen arches because of my weight. I was given orthotics. Problem solved - I thought, what was really happening was the problem was masked. Just like the apnea.

In the beginning of 2008 I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes. More medication to mask more problems caused by my weight.

All of this started to get me seriously thinking but life was too busy for me to worry about all this (this was my line of thinking at the time).

Then the accident happened on May 24, 2008 that caused fear to change my life. Too keep it simple I was riding on a quad (without a helmet - yes lesson learned) and I went over a hill and off the quad, head first into a sharp rock. I was a great distance from a trauma center and with my family and my wife's families at a camping reunion. My head had its scalp split for about 10 inches. I had broken my neck in 2 places but didn't suffer any brain or spinal cord injuries. The actions of several individuals in the first moments after the accident probably saved my life and saved me from even more serious injury. These individuals were my wife (first on the scene) and my wife's brothers. I can never thank them enough.

[At the hospital after I was stitched and stapled back together]

[At home getting quite swollen]

I decided then after returning from the hospital that I didn't want to die young. Beyond that I wanted to actually LIVE life and be an active participant in my own life and the lives of my wife and children. I immediately began the process of paperwork and doctors visits to have the Gastric Bypass surgery.

While surgery isn't the answer for everyone and it has its associated risks, I know that I made the correct decision for me and my situation. I needed to make lifestyle changes and I needed to break free from the chains that I had placed on myself in the form of health problems. I needed the surgery to do this.

Since surgery

I had the surgery on October 27, 2008. The weight loss chart at the bottom of my blog is a clear illustration of my weight loss since then. My diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and even allergies are gone or diminished greatly (My asthma and allergies are still there but much less severe and easily managed). I hope to be rid of apnea after a year. I no longer need my orthotics either.

A few months after surgery I wanted to start the next phase of my solution which was to become active. Cycling soon became a new passion. It is still very new to me. This blog will show me as I grow in my new hobby and passion.


jack+alli April 21, 2009 at 2:22 PM  

seriously!!! you're such an inspiration! i love the idea of this blog....good luck on the rest of your journey, you know we will be cheering you on!

Mary Lou April 21, 2009 at 4:30 PM  

Rooting for you. What an inspiration you are to all.

Charlene Taylor April 25, 2009 at 8:13 AM  

Dan, your decision to share your journey is a gift to all those who read it. Truly an inspiration. I'm sure all your family feel like cheering for you as you progress toward your goals. Everyone wants to see you happy! I'll be offline for a while with my own double knee replacement surgery coming up May 1 and 4, but I'll be checking in to see how you've done in the interim. Fantastically committed is what I read in all of this! Bravo!

Anonymous May 10, 2009 at 8:16 AM  

Your story is so inspiring. I too, have struggled with being overweight most of my life, and obesity in my adult life. Surgery is my last option after all others have been honestly executed, and I'm doing well with exercise and diet. It's such a struggle, but I could totally relate to how you feel. Thanks for being such an inspiration to others in a similar situation.

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