Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Breaking Barriers - ONEDERLAND!

Okay, blah blah blah, I wrote this massive diatribe in advance, thinking how I would feel on the morning that I broke two hundred. Today, I didn't just break it, but broke it decisively! I'm 198 pounds this morning!! Everything I wrote below still holds, but how I *really* felt stepping on the scale this morning can be summed up simply:


You can slog through the rest, if you'd like. It feels a little melancholy to me, but believe me, melancholy ain't on my emotional palette this morning! ;)

This is a truly joyous post, but I want to start with some reflection, because I think it's important to remember how I got here.

Something broke inside me when I passed two hundred pounds on the way up. I don't remember where I was, how old I was, or any of the details. I remember distinctly, though, the feeling of complete and utter failure and hopelessness. While I had always struggled with my weight as an adult, passing two hundred was the first time I felt I would not win the battle.

And for many years, I didn't. I stopped caring. I stopped caring about myself, my health, my body. I think I completely stopped caring about Julie and anything that concerned her specifically. By then, I was a mom and I threw myself into parenthood and my kids. No more makeup, no more pretty clothes, nothing. Julie was gone - Mom was here and the kids were all that mattered. I was doomed to be fat, doomed to continue gaining weight indefinitely, until one day it just killed me.

When my son Blake was born in 2001, I tipped the scales at 275 pounds. In my mind, I was as huge at 275 as I was at 200, a giant amoeba-like mom-blob. Now, feeling the difference between 263 pounds and 198 (!!) pounds, I know there is a *huge* difference in health, vitality and self-worth.

My 18-year marriage ended abruptly in 2007, and was finalized in 2009 (after a brief but futile reconciliation that I still am glad for and regret deeply). After the divorce, I went through a tremendous amount of self-destructive behavior, wanting to feel loved and wanted but feeling so repulsed and disgusted with myself that I only reinforced how terrible, and valueless, I felt. There was no hope for me: I had a man, but I lost him and I was too terribly gruesome to ever be able to find one again. When I thought of diet and exercise to rebuild self-esteem...there was no self-esteem to rebuild. I was so far gone, there was no way I could reverse the damage I had done to myself. It felt absolutely insurmountable to me.

Through the love and support of my wonderful friends, including a very, very dear friend, I started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. While she would not condone my self-destructive behavior, she stood by me through it. She had been through a divorce herself and remembered what it was like to feel alone and scared. She treated me the way she had wanted to be treated in her divorce, and I can never express how grateful I am for her friendship. Ironically, we had lost touch for nearly twenty years and had reunited through facebook either just before or just during the start of my divorce, and we picked up our friendship like we were still in high school, although we are much closer now than we ever were then.

Anyway, through Kim's constant nagging  ongoing support and prodding even from across state lines, I started working out and feeling good. I took off some weight, I was feeling strong and my competitive spirit was rejuvenated. I *wanted* to succeed at weight loss.

It was about that time that my extremely frequent blood donations (every 56 days, like clockwork) caught up with me, I think. And inexplicably (to me, anyway, since I have already confessed numerous times on this blog that you have to hit me in the head with a clue about my body in order for me to see it), I was exhausted. Lifeless. The work outs ground to a screeching halt. That was probably May 2010. I had lost 25 pounds or so, which I promptly gained back. I had started smoking again (after quitting for TWELVE YEARS) with the divorce, and I held firmly to the vile habit, like a spoiled child. Twice in 2010 I quit for 3+ weeks, only to pick it up again at the drop of a hat.

My spirit was completely broken then. I had tried to take control of my weight and lost. I was utterly exhausted, it was all I could do to go to work and wait until it was time to put the kids to bed. I spent all my free time laying on the couch while they were with their dad . It wasn't until months and months later that I had pre-op blood work done and found out my iron (ferritin, specifically) levels were negligible, as were my vitamin D and B12. I was rushed off to a hematologist, who gave me four or five iron infusions and mega-doses of vitamin D. I started to feel human again. :)

One day, in late September, I was on the hospital website looking for some sort of class. Our hospital does very cool classes, and I am a total school geek. I'll take anything. :) I saw that there was a weight loss surgery seminar that night. I had considered weight loss surgery in the past, when my employer started covering it a few years earlier. I had naively thought I needed to go to the hospital about 30 miles away, and that seemed like a hassle to me. My doctor had recommended several times that I attend an info session. But while I will get up and drive to eastern Washington on a whim (as I did Saturday) or will happily drive several hours to Oregon to see my friend Kim (as I will next month), that 30 miles was a deal-killer to me. Nuh-uh.

Huh. They do surgery at the hospital five minutes from my house. Imagine that. And it's a "Center for Excellence," whatever that means. On a total whim, I registered for the session. I knew by the time I left that I would have the surgery, and I knew I would have the gastric sleeve. I called the surgeon's office the next morning and booked my first appointment with him. Had my appointment later that week and told him then, I'm having the surgery, what do I need to do to make it happen?

From there, it was a mind-boggling array of appointments with a wide variety of specialists. I made a deal with myself that if I was going to have the surgery, I had to quit smoking first. I quit on 10/16/10 and am happy to report it was for good this time. I started this blog very early in the process, so you can always go back and read, if you're interested.

And in the process of it all, I started to be reborn. My original "Free Julie" blog was about my divorce: "My Divorce, Survival and Triumph," I subtitled it. While I had many, many ups and downs, I wouldn't say I was feeling particularly strong during the process. I was surviving. I was finding myself. I was TCOB (Taking Care of Business). But I was doing a lot of things to kill my spirit, too, instead of rebuilding it.

After I decided on gastric sleeve surgery, I started to find my spark. I felt much better with the iron IV infusions, so I started feeling human again. I had a plan. I was going to kick this extra weight to the curb once and for all. I found a way, through surgery, to feel strong and powerful and in control of my life again. My biggest fear in dieting was gaining back even more weight than I had lost, and thus I had put myself in a state of paralysis when it came to addressing my weight.

Since the surgery, every day has made me feel stronger and healthier. Well, not every day! Some days I feel 263 pounds again, but those days are fewer between, and have much less hold over me. I'm tracking my food and exercise, which is making me be honest with myself about my weight loss - almost without fail it is showing me that I am eating *just fine* and not doing anything to sabotage my surgery. I am a MASTER at beating myself up at any opportunity, so forcing myself to acknowledge that I am doing nothing wrong has done a lot to make me stronger.

I am saying goodbye to an old version of myself. There are two incidents that I always think of when I think of my obese self. Both happened many years ago, but within a pretty short timeframe of each other. One time, I walked across a bridge: Deception Pass Bridge in Washington. I am deathly afraid of walking across bridges, but I made myself. I was with my kids (was I with my husband? I don't remember. I must have been.) and it was a beautiful sunny day and I was KICKING ASS on a big fear of mine. About mid-way through the bridge, a car or truck passed by. There were so many people walking on the bridge, so I was mortified when some punk yelled out "WIDE LOAD!" as he passed. I felt my spirit crumple, I truly did. Here I had been feeling victorious and strong, and it was gone in a heartbeat.

Shortly after that, I was in my car waiting for carryout at Outback Steakhouse. You know how they bring the order out to you. Now, what happened that day and what I felt like happened that day are two very different things, but I wouldn't acknowledge that for a long time. I know now that I was so filled with self-hatred and loathing that I read a lot into a ridiculous exchange with two young men in the car next to me. It was simple. I caught the eye of the man in the passenger seat, and he made a sultry face and blew a kiss at me. I burst into tears almost immediately. I was so mortified and so humiliated, and it wasn't until days later that I realized he hadn't *done* or *said* anything to warrant this distress. It was just so unfathomable to me that two men could interact with me with any intention at all except to mock me.

That's the old me. The damaged, worn out me that had stopped caring about myself and couldn't think how anyone else could feel any differently.

The real me - the one I was before all the weight gain, the one that I am rediscovering everyday - she's not like that. She feels sexy and smart and funny, and knows she makes a positive mark on the world. She loves to laugh and doesn't care who hears. She is strong, and vibrant, and pretty. She is the one about whom a high school teacher once remarked in class, "has the most zest for life of anyone he's ever met." That's me. That's who I'm finding under layers and layers of fat, under years of a not-bad-but-not-good-marriage, under years of self-neglect and abuse.

And I am excited. So very incredibly excited. I get to become this person, and quite frankly, I get to do it without a nice-but-not-much-else ex-husband who is a great father and a terrible, terrible fit for me. I get to find myself *and* remake my life the way I want it to be, without summoning the courage to divorce, which I doubt I would have ever considered. I truly feel like my life is just opening up, just reinventing myself, picking up where I left off when I closed the door in my own face.

So, to pass this threshold back into "onederland" (like "surgiversary" I hate the word, but you can't deny how well they fit, haha), I feel every bit the degree of passion and emotion that I felt passing out of it. But at the opposite end of the spectrum! Under two hundred for me feels like "normal" weight, like a manageable goal with an end in sight, like something I can not only accomplish, but accomplish easily. Okay, not easily, but with strength and power!

It is an awesome, indescribable feeling. I will feel incredible success when I reach goal, when I hit other milestones such as one hundred pounds lost, etc. But those feelings will pale in comparison to how I feel today, passing through this huge mental barrier that has played such a key role in my self-esteem and feelings of success or failure. Today, I feel reborn. Today I feel strong and successful. Today I feel so proud of myself and my accomplishments, and so hopeful and optimistic about my future. Not just in terms of weight lost, but in terms of every facet of my life. It is an incredibly joyous feeling and I want to savor every second. I want to be able to come back and read this post when I am feeling frustrated, or sad, or angry, or hopeless. And when I do, I want to tell myself this:

Close your eyes and remember how you felt writing this post. How you felt stepping on the scale this morning. Strong, overjoyed, successful, renewed. There is nothing that you cannot do when you set your mind to it. Think hard about exactly how you felt writing this post, and summon up that energy again to push through your challenges. Think of all the many obstacles you've faced and overcome in the last several years. This is what it feels like to take care of yourself and your family and to understand your strength and courage and power. Never forget.


  1. Awwww, Julie, you almost have me in tears. That is beautifully written and most definitely worth 'slogging' through. I think I just learned more about you in that ONE post than I have from every other post you've written.

    Congratulations on making Onederland! I love love love the note you wrote to yourself at the end of this. It is perfect!

  2. YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR!!!!!!!!!!! You are in inspiration - you stood up and showing what a beautiful person you are on the inside to the world! Congrats on your sucess!

  3. You are amazing, I can't believe how determined you are - sheesh, makes me wonder why you even mention stalls, when you are so far ahead of many of us! And yeah, you are ahead. I know it is not a competition, but you got me beat by a good margin -- and I am OK with that because you deserve it. You may not have felt like a winner for a long time, but let me tell you, you are in my book, and that is a very small book I have. I am not from the "gold stars for everyone" generation :-)
    Carry on soldier, there are a few more battles to fight but it looks to me like you won the war!

  4. Hey, you forgot to check "Breaking the 200 lb barrier (199.9 pounds)" off your list!

  5. Yaaaaaaahooooooooo!!!! You are so awesome and I am soooo proud of you. You have overcome SO much in the last four (wow) years and thank you for letting me share in that time in a small way. :) *happy dance* for you!!

  6. Aww, thank you guys so very, very much! You just make me feel incredibly special with all your wonderful comments. You have no idea what a tremendous source of support you are to me!! I get so excited to blog things, just knowing you are out there to share it with!

  7. This was so beautifully written.

    It makes me even more excited for you then I already am.

    I know you're destined to do great things. And, I'm glad to know you're well on your way.


  8. This post was a very nice read. Hearing your pain, I felt it, too. Something you didn't explicitly say, but hopefully you feel; you are worth the effort and worthy of all good things. =)

  9. So proud of you and the way you are walking through this weight loss journey! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us, and congratulations on reaching Onederland!