I attended my first post-op support group meeting tonight. I was super psyched to walk into that room knowing that when we went around the table and said our names and placement in the program, I would be able to say, "Hi, my name is Amy and I am about three weeks post-op and down a total of 40 lbs." It was such a wonderful feeling to say "post-op" and know that I am A) Alive, B) Healing and C) Overall...THRIVING! I sat there feeling positive about my progress thus far, happy to be in the company of men and women who have struggled as I have struggled (some much more than I) and thankful that I made it this far. As I listened the all of the introductions which included reasons why some were thinking about or going through the process, I realized that my life is so very good. I am truly (and I don't say this word often) blessed to have been given the will power, courage, family and friends and wonderful husband to help me through all of this. It was a long road pre-op and will continue to be even longer post-op. Here is what I learned tonight by listening to those around me and to the most important person in the room...me.
1. I now understand why I always hated support groups/weight watcher meetings: Diet groups sit there and truly lament and complain almost the entire time. They used to drain the life out of me. The first thing we did in WW was weigh ourselves...how is that going to bring the positive every week? The hope, positivity and cheerful, encouraging smiles in my meeting tonight were more motivating than any WW meeting I had ever been through. No one complained about the struggle. Instead, we spoke about what our plans are for the new year and what we are individually doing for ourselves. I have never wanted to speak at a meeting until today because I always felt judged, but in this room full of similar people, I felt like it was completely OK to share myself. It doesn't hurt that I have not had complications so I don't have much to complain about, but still it was nice just to BE with these people.
2. I may be the healthiest fat person you know. When I say I am blessed, part of that comes from how thankful I am that I do not have any major health concerns. Most of the people in my meeting tonight were older than I, some not by many years at all and others by many many years. Every single person around me was either thinking of having the surgery or has had it already to combat serious medical issues, from heart problems to diabetes and major joint issues. I am lucky that fat is my only problem and I wish my team mates nothing less than complete cures for many of those problems. Many times, these health conditions drastically improve after surgery and some disappear all together.
3. There is a HUGE different between hunger and appetite. I realized this more and more as some of the people who are pre-op spoke about their problems with mindless eating, stress eating and location eating (as in, you always eat when you sit in your favorite chair so it is incredibly hard not to eat when you are sitting there...it's a programmed thing). I completely understand where they are coming from as I have spent some time in at least 1-2 of those dangerous places over the years, but it pains me now to hear about the things that used to plague me (college years=stress eating/drinking, post-college years=couch eating etc.) and realize that I am not even close to being in any of those places anymore. I now know that when I am hungry, my stomach will growl...and when I see a commercial on t.v. for a food I loved to eat, my brain is just telling me that I still have a mental appetite, even if I am not currently hungry. The difference is that I am not a slave to my appetite, only my hunger as I need to eat to live, not live to eat.
4. I have the best husband in the world! He has gone through this entire process with me and is thinking of going through the same as well. He has been present at every doctor appointment, support group meeting, grocery shopping trip, health food store visit and "scale day." He has taken on extra physical labor that I cannot perform right now (not that I miss shoveling) and is eating days and days of leftovers because I cannot help him clean things up that I make for the week. He has not ordered, eaten or flashed take out or any food in my face that has not been made in this house and for all of the above, I love him more. This cannot be easy for a person who has struggled as much as I have and would like to eat the same portions he has always eaten but he is working extremely hard to make all of this easier for me and, in turn, has lost about 20 pounds in the last 3-4 months. I don't know what I did to deserve such a wonderful, thoughtful, considerate and loving man but as I said before, I am blessed.
5. There is no way, no matter what I thought in years past, that this is going to be a "quick fix." There are people in my group who struggle every single day and they are many years post-op. Many have reached their target weight but they have to fight like hell, just like anyone else I know, to lose and keep weight off. They deal with some serious excess amounts of skin that doesn't help body image as one loses weight and they are horrified by the fact that when they look in the mirror, they still see that obese person they tried to lose during the process. We all have that monkey on our backs and WLS (weight loss surgery) patients are no different. Not to mention that we now have to live with the stigma that we "took an easy way out" while we fight like hell at the gym to look, if not feel "normal." I may lose a little faster in the beginning, but I am going to have to fight tooth and nail to get the last however many pounds off just as the rest of you will. I will wait my year to have an alcoholic drink and 18 months minimum before trying to get pregnant and hope that I don't have any lasting effects on my health in any way. We all just have to smile and keep plugging through. What helps is that I am part of a group of people who look at me three weeks post-op and say "Amy, you are doing great and you look totally radiant." It feels good to know that the way I felt on the inside today matched what others saw on the outside. Let's keep that going . . .