Two events in my life happen every July: my birthday, and my national professional conference. Next year they will even overlap – and I can’t begin to tell you how much I will enjoy spending my birthday doing that, although it will be nice to see friends on the day and I’m guessing there will be cake somewhere. In any case, both occasions give me a chance to view the previous year in perspective.
Last year my conference met in Washington, DC where it was hot and sticky (kind of like now everywhere). The convention center was humongous and we had quite a hike from the hotels to our event location. I had been working on weight loss for a few months and was down about 20-25 lbs. from my starting weight. But I weighed so much that it barely made a dent in my appearance or how I felt.
My right knee hurt all the time and I lurched when I walked because of the pain and immobility. I used a cane to get around all week, and took cabs to go longer distances because I wasn’t sure I could manage the stairs of getting on and off buses. I wore colorful but shapeless floaty dresses and felt like a whale; the folds of skin developed rashes from chafing and heat. I had little energy and opted out of events and social things I wanted to do because I wasn’t sure I could get to them in any comfort. It was great to see people except I didn’t really want them to see ME.
Flash forward to July 2010 in Denver, which was hot but much less sticky. I lost 80+ lbs between the two Julys and it made such a huge difference in how I felt, looked, and acted. Many of my friends weren’t all that surprised by my new appearance, since they follow me on Facebook and had been following progress and pictures for months. Others were completely in the dark and didn’t recognize me, which was cool but odd.
Changes in looks, attitude, comfort, and behavior came slowly over the last year and had become normal; it’s just seeing them with the perspective of a year to see the difference:
- Fitting into one seat on a plane – and not needing a seat belt extender
- Being able to move quickly and easily
- Spending lots of time in the exhibit hall and hallways without needing to sit down every 10 minutes
- Clothes were fitted and still colorful and comfortable
- Went shopping for more clothes when realized some of what I brought stopped fitting while in the suitcase flying out
- Making good choices about food, including giving my ticket for a dessert reception to someone else. Brought protein powder and bars.
- Felt more confident, assured, and comfortable
- Had way more energy and was on the go for very long days
- No CPAP machine to lug around since my sleep apnea is gone
- Took a mountain train excursion to actually see something of the area instead of hiding in my room
Maybe the biggest obvious sign that things were different: I was happy to be photographed and even like the results. In the past, I hated it because I didn’t think I looked in real life the way I looked in pictures – even though it was an objective image. This time I thought the pictures looked really good because I knew that I looked good.
I’ve lost lots of weight before, and really did think I was the same person inside at the lower weight that I’d been at the higher one. This time I know I am different. The lapband was a big part of it, because I simply can’t do “life as usual” now. I’ve had to think about choices, actions, and consequences, and have taken responsibility for things that didn’t work as well as those that have.
Yes, I celebrate losing weight, but except for big landmarks, I try not to make a big deal about it (my friend may disagree with my success at it, but I do try!). I’m using anchors to remind me of my success in very tangible ways – I have a Pandora bracelet that I got for Christmas, with charms to mark this specific journey. And I just bought a new “anchor ring” to replace the one I started with that now falls off all my fingers.
It’s really now about just living a new way. That way includes eating healthy “pouch friendly” foods that include enough carbs for me to feel normal and balanced, including exercise on a regular but not extreme basis so it’s something I can actually continue. I weed out clothes that no longer fit and buy new (or gently used) ones that work with the changing body.
I’m not in this for a number on a scale. I’m in it for my life. I like myself, my body, my health, my attitudes better now than I think I ever have. What a nice birthday present to myself!