As promised, here is Part 2 of The Challengers of WLS – Keeping Inspired & Staying Focused.
This is the post where I discuss what helps me stay inspired and keeps me focused on staying the course.
First, I want to say that this past year has been absolutely amazing. The changes that have happened to my body, my health, and my life have been many. People think losing weight through bariatric surgery is the easy way out. Nothing could be further from the truth, and yet at the same time, it has sometimes been easy.
I have really ridden the emotional roller coaster from the moment I started this journey. I had a lot ups and downs. I dealt with a lot of very strong emotions before I had the surgery, and many of them were amplified after the surgery. It was a difficult decision for me decide to have surgery. I resisted it for many years even though friends suggested it and family begged me to consider it. Once I made the decision to have surgery, I had no idea what I was in for. I knew that through the surgery, I would lose a lot of weight, but I had no idea where the journey would take me, and the emotional ups and downs I would experience. This has been a hell of a journey, and although I’m not done yet, I have no regrets.
That said, how do I stay focused and keep inspired? Here are some of the things that have inspired me over the last year. The first part of the list will be the people who have supported and inspired me over the past year. They say when you face adversity, you really learn who your friends are, and I believe that is true. The second part of this list will be the changes I have made and other things in my life that keeps me inspired.
- My niece – I have to put this at the top of my list since she is, in part, the reason I wanted to take steps to drastically improve my life. I have written in the past about how I have wanted to improve my health so that I could keep up with her and be there to watch her grow up and experience life. That little girl has changed our entire family, not just my life. She’s the first child that any of us had. She is our next generation, the future of our family. She turned this motley collection of adults into a family the day she was born. She loves the new Auntie Colleen. In fact, I don’t think she even remembers the old, pre-surgery Auntie Colleen. We go to museums together and hang out all of the time. I love experiencing the world through her eyes. It’s like living life for the first time. To think that I would miss watching her grow into a child, teenager, young woman because of my addiction to food broke my heart.
- My sister Sandy– I have the greatest sisters. I really do. My sister Sandy lives about 20 miles from me. She has been the greatest inspiration. She changed her own life by changing the decisions that she was making. She has her own incredible story. But she also helped me change mine. She confronted me about my health and my weight and begged me to do something. Once I made the decision to have the surgery, she stood by me 100%. She helped me with the many Dr. appointments. I stayed with her for a month after the surgery. She bought me new clothes after I lost 100 pounds. She writes my new weight and total weight loss on the wipe-erase board on her refrigerator. She’s amazing.
- My sister Jenny – Jenny is an incredible young woman. I have seen her take terrible situations in her own life and completely turn it around. She is another woman who has an incredible story of triumph over adversity. But she has also been there cheering me on through mine. When I tried out for The Biggest Loser show on TV, she drove to Richmond, VA with me and sat out all night on the sidewalk waiting for me to have an interview for the show. She could not be here physically the way Sandy was because Jenny lives in Minnesota, but she texted me words of inspiration. We had many tearful phone calls as she talked me through some pretty difficult times. She reads my blog all of the time, comments, sends me emails. I know she reads my posts to her husband, (Hi Dean!!). They are both wonderfully supportive. She even cut, styled, and colored my hair for me for free. I couldn’t have done all of this without her.
- My brother & his wife – They have been so supportive of everything I have done. While everyone else was cheering my decision to have the surgery early on, my brother was the voice of reason. He expressed his concerns about the surgery and asked me some very difficult questions, making sure that I had truly considered all of the consequences of the surgery. He was definitely worried. He wanted me to improve my health, yes, but he also knew that this surgery can have complications. He was worried. His wife was wonderful as well. She helped me get a Baby Bullet so that I could puree my food. She cheered me on and celebrated all of my changes with me. And she’s always included me on every celebration with her own family.
- My mom – My mom was so happy when I decided to have the surgery. She was one of the people who had been asking me for years to consider wls. She came here for my surgery and has celebrated all of my successes. She also helps me keep things real when she thinks I might be falling off the wagon. She knows how sick I was and does not want me to go backwards.
- My friends – I really do have the greatest friends. My best friend Jerry came to stay with me for a week a month after my surgery. He helped me get my apartment set up after the surgery so that I wouldn’t have to exert too much energy to live my daily life while I healed. He’s also been one of my biggest emotional supporters through this whole thing. My friend Sushmita has also been a source of inspiration. I have never met a more positive, energetic, happy person. She inspires me. My friends Lisa, Vicky, Jennifer, Joanna, & Lauren (hello my RHLS friends!) have also been hugely supportive; reading my blog; listening to me tell my weight loss stories; celebrating my successes; telling me how great I look, which I can never hear enough.
- The Arlington Writer’s Group – Some of the people I mentioned above are members of the AWG, but I still have to make a special mention of this group of people. The group has a whole has been supportive and celebrated my decision. The day of my surgery last year, they had a writing session dedicated just to me. They took words that described me and used them as inspirations for a writing exercise. Then they mailed me the stories to read while I recuperated. They have all also cheered on my successes. Every week, they tell me how great I look; ask how much I have lost; given me exercise suggestions; the list of the support I have received from them is endless. I am so lucky to have them in my life.
- My former & current co-workers – The day of my surgery, all of my co-workers at the time called all day to check up on me. They came to see me while I recuperated. They really cheered me on. When I saw my former co-workers a few weeks ago, they all cheered on how well I have done. My current co-workers also congratulate me on all of my success. When I show them pictures of what I looked like before the surgery, they cannot believe it. They all also comment on the weight I have lost since I started working there.
Those are many of the people in my life who keep me inspired focused. Here are the other abstract things that keep me inspired and focused.
- Pictures of myself – I can really see the difference in the before Colleen and the after Colleen. I have never been able to see that in previous weight loss journeys. I think that is pretty remarkable especially since the weight has come off relatively quickly. That is a huge change from my previous attempts to lose weight.
- My breathing – I can breathe! I have struggled with asthma since I put on so much weight. I really had difficulty walking and moving because of that asthma. That has mostly cleared up. I know I still struggle a little with asthma, but it’s nothing like it was before.
- Back pain – My back pain is nearly gone. I could barely stand or walk because of back pain before the surgery. Now, this does not bother me very much at all. It’s still there a little bit, but it does not prevent me from doing what I want.
- Walking – I can walk! I can walk for miles and miles if I want. Before I could barely make it a block before I had to stop and rest my back and catch my breath. I do not have to stop for that anymore. Whenever I feel frustrated with my weight loss, I just talk a walk and revel in the fact that I can do it so effortlessly.
- Clothes – I know this is shallow, but still, it is important. I look good in clothes for the first time in a very long time. I love that.
- Cheese – I can each cheese again! OK, I know this is a crazy thing to include, but it’s important to me. I was allergic to milk and cheese for a very long time. Some time shortly after the surgery, I started including milk products into my diet in an attempt to try to get some protein. My allergies have apparently gone away for the most part. That alone makes the changes I’ve made worth it.
- Attention/Being Visible – OK, I admit it, I’m an attention seeker. I have written posts in the past about the invisibility that comes along with being obese. This is very isolating and lonely. Now people see me. I see men looking at me, which is crazy to me. Before men did not really talk to me much. Now random men strike up a conversation with me. One gentleman a few weeks ago talked to me in Starbucks for almost an hour continually looking for reasons to interrupt my writing and ask me questions. Then later when he saw me in Trader Joe’s, he came running up to say, “Hey! I just saw you in Starbucks!” And the whole online dating thing has been interesting as well. So many of the men tell me how pretty I am. I’ve never really had that much in the past, certainly not while I was obese. Even if I never actually meet a man that way, but having the ones who see my picture tell me how pretty I am is a huge ego boost.
- How incredible my life has become – I know this sounds vain, but it really has. I am having so much fun. My life has become so busy that I can barely keep up. I am out all of the time. Yesterday, I did some campaigning for the guy running for governor here in VA. Then I went to a political rally where Hillary Clinton (omfg!) was speaking. Then I went to my friend’s art gallery where I was one of the people speaking. Every weekend is like that now. OK, maybe every weekend I don’t go see extremely famous politicos, but I am always out and about doing stuff. I barely have time to clean my apartment and do laundry; or write in this blog.
OK this post is getting very long. But I think you get the point. My life has changed in incredible ways. I have wonderful people in my life. Nothing is better than seeing the joy in their eyes when they see how well I am doing. I am doing incredible things with my life. Even the simplest tasks that took so much effort before are a joy and inspiration.
I never want to be the girl who could not walk and breathe again. I never want to look in the mirror and see the 300 pound person that I was staring back at me. I never want to look in the eyes of the people who I love and who have supported me only to see their disappointment reflected back to me because I went backwards and gained the weight back.
I want to make the people around me happy. I want to see my niece grow into a beautiful woman. I want to be an inspiration for her to emulate. I want to live each day to the fullest. I want to be open to whatever good things life has in store for me, for however much time I have left in this world. I want to make it difficult for death to find take me from this world. I will not go quietly from this life. I want to spend the rest of my days raging against the dying of the light.
The fact that I see that as a possibility now, is the biggest inspiration of all.