No More Wallowing

There are a couple of things that have been on my mind lately and as always I am wanting to open up a dialogue about them. I can remember when I was first contemplating WLS again back in 2017. This was after my failed and horrendous lap band fiasco at the hands of a surgeon in QLD. I had my doubts that WLS was really going to be a good idea for me and I also wondered how effective it would be in the long term.

I do not jump into things without truck loads of research first. I read medical journal posts, I read the Monash studies, I read the US medical pages, I read THOUSANDS of posts from sites all over the globe (yes I am the info lover)!!! I read posts from normal people, like you and me, who typed things like “60lbs gone forever” “70 kilos gone for good” and I used to wonder, “wow is that true? What makes that true? I know people that have had WLS and regained……. so what is the difference? How do we define success?” On and on and on my questions would go. That rabbit hole does have a bottom but it probably isn’t always popular to talk about.

Eventually I got past asking my 56 billion questions because I was so tired of my life becoming more and more limited by my ever growing size! I also realised that no one, no surgeon, no matter how spotless their reputation, no WLS guru, no body could tell me that I was going live a complication free, thin life for the rest of my life after surgery! I wanted, for years, to not be responsible for my outcome. I was actually looking for some kind of reassurance that bypass or The Switch would be my “golden ticket” and I would be able to keep up my unhealthy relationship with food – just eat less of it. If I am honest, and it is only in the last few days that I have been bold enough to admit that my TOTAL reason for delaying having WLS again after my band was because I was frightened that I would have to change my relationship with food and I didn’t want to.

Finally I got to the point where I decided that any weight loss, however small, had to help! So in June of 2018 I bit the bullet, jumped up onto the operating table and had RNY. Since then I have learned a lot of different things! One of the most frustrating is that there isn’t a standard “one size fits most” approach in the way to walk the journey after WLS. Everyone has different thoughts and opinions – this makes it so interesting but it also can be very scary and frustrating at times. What I have learned is that I cannot eat the same diet I used to have and expect that my results will be good in the long term. What I eat has changed and will never be the same again. I have learned that for me – changing my relationship with food would transform my whole life.

I have learned that food is not my comfort, my treat or my friend, it’s just a tool to fuel my body and I have learned that I have to face my emotional shit and I hate that part!! I don’t eat my feelings anymore. This has been harder than I bargained for but I know it will pay off in the long run. I have also learned that sometimes their are complications that we just have to work through!! I didn’t plan to get as thin as I have so that has taken some adjusting to. But I am grateful for an amazing team and brilliant friend here that support me.

It is not about being a certain weight or a size for me. It’s about knowing how to work with my body, giving it what it needs to be healthy and how to be resilient when the challenges come. It is about keeping in mind the reason that I did this and understanding that I am not a powerless victim of circumstances. I decide how this story plays out so if I am knocked down then it’s on me to get back up. I have been knocked down for a few months now but I am back up again 🙂 I didn’t want to get back up. My heart has been broken and I wanted to stay down and stay hurting. What woke me is I have seen the way that my kids have been broken. The tears of my boys are the fuel that drives me and they NEED to see me get up, so I am! It’s okay to feel a bit lost at times, and it’s okay to say “I need help” it is also good when you can finally see clearly again. We got this guys and I refuse to wallow anymore.

Binge Eating

Over the past few weeks life has been difficult here. I have struggled terribly with some personal situations and quite honestly I have wanted to fall back into old habits. It is easy to be virtuous and a lover of all things health, when no one is asking you hard questions, when your heart isn’t breaking, and when you feel well able to cope with life. This is not my current experience.

For 33 years (I was about 10 when my eating disorder began to manifest itself) I have been aware that I used food to help me with inner turmoil. I was anorexic by the time I was 11 and I suffered with bulimia well into my late 30’s. Binge eating was a way of life for me.

The best way to explain the way that it felt to binge is that it took me into a place of calm. The things on my mind melted away and I focused my attention on the joy that would come from my next mouthful. I would open my mouth and feel my troubles start to slip to the back of my mind. The food was the thing that frequently calmed my anxiety and I used it ALL DAY EVERY DAY. That is how I became as large as I was. I was a closet eater. It was kind of obvious that I loved eating – You don’t get to be this size because you don’t eat. 👇🏻

I have spoken to so many people that tell me “I don’t eat much, I don’t know why I am so big” Excluding medical reasons – consuming more calories than we burn IS how we are overweight. It sucks but it’s true 😫 It doesn’t kid anyone when we don’t take responsibility. I thought that I was fooling everyone and nearly had myself convinced that my little problem wasn’t really that bad. I cannot believe how much I used to eat on a daily basis. I consumed at LEAST 3500 to 4500 calories a day. I can now cop to my dysfunctional relationship with food AND just when I felt I was getting a good grasp on it all, I have found that I could easily fall back into damaging habits given the “perfect storm” set of circumstances.

Over the last few days I have felt an overwhelming urge to eat. The urge has been at the same level that it used to be. I have wanted so badly to just put food in my mouth and feel my worries melt away. It isn’t logical or rational to think that food will fix anything and I know that but I hate feeling like I do. I have struggled with my mental health in recent days. I felt myself slipping and struggled with depression. The difference is that I CANNOT eat the volume of food required to give me that calm feeling anymore. So what do I do now?

My coping strategies haven’t been keeping up with the levels of stress. And that is how I identify that I need help. Right now it seems like smashing a tub of ice cream or eating a few cheese and bacon pies would be a good idea 🤣🤣 My post WLS reality is that I can fit half a cup of food in per meal, so I can’t do what I want to do. It frustrates me and has caused me to feel unusually overwhelmed. I have tried a lot of things ….. I am currently at a Trauma Psychologist waiting for my appointment along with my kids, I am working out, I am letting myself feel the negative emotions and letting myself cry. I have struggled to do that because of years and years of being accused of overreacting. Well 🖕🏻 to everyone that ever said that to me – I am just as entitled to emotions as the next person 💞 In this hard time I have found such kindness and I am grateful to the kind souls in my life that have been there for me and for my family. This is still a victory story and I am thankful for where I am at – but I am also thankful that I am not stopping right here.

Hard days do pass and no matter how black and dark things seem there is Hope. For me right now, lots of redirecting my thoughts, lots of keeping myself occupied with other things and lots of giving my brain other – positive things to work on. I don’t feel positive and please don’t bother whopping me with the Jesus stick. I can out quote most anyone I know with Bible and would bash myself with it if I thought it would help at the moment.

So for me today – Hope looks like thinking about my birthday and not totally hating the idea of celebrating it. Even though it’s hard right at this moment. All Gluten free cake suggestions and recipes warmly welcomed. Oh and does anyone have any great blogs that I could read on indoor plants. I am not overly great at caring for them but I am hoping to improve!

Inspiration and finding things we weren’t looking for

This morning I woke up thinking about all the things that I have found on this little walk I have taken towards health. Most of the things that mean the most to me now, I wasn’t even looking for, and I certainly didn’t expect to find. I was reading something today – a story I have read a lot of times before and I was struck by the fact that the Hero in the story, the person who did not give up, even in the face of horrific circumstances, was actually motivated to a very large extent, by anxiety. Suddenly I could relate to this story in a whole new way! I had one of those light bulb moments because I saw myself in the story – I have viewed much of my life through the anxiety filter also.

I could tell you lots of tales about all of the reasons why I ate. I have a good many sad and truly devastating things that have gone on in my life. No one that knows my past hurts and pains would think the worse of me for becoming a very large person. Except that fact that I refuse to allow myself to be the product of my hurts! All of those stories begin with the actions of others – but guess what – others don’t live my life, I do. Others didn’t open my mouth and put the food in it, I did. Others don’t determine the trajectory of my life, I determine that. It’s only really in the last few months that I have started to understand the very great power that we give “others” when anxiety runs unchecked.

My life was a product of continually making choices that empowered my dysfunctional coping strategies. Anxiety was and is a horrible task master and my “go to” response was EAT!! I, by no means profess to have mastered this old enemy of mine, however, I am working on it because I refuse to allow myself to be a watered down version of what I could be. I don’t want to hold myself back because of fear or disqualify myself before I even start. What would we dream for ourselves if we truly believed we were worthy and deserving? I have asked myself this over and over in my grateful moments and oh how that story has changed over the last 2 years.

When anxiety started to lose its grip on me I booked in with an incredible surgeon. I also started to make small changes in my daily life to give myself room to grow and change. I am that proverbial “old dog” and I needed to learn new tricks! The first thing that I did, and still do now, is practice being grateful. Every day I used to wake up thinking of food and how I would fill the empty feeling in my heart that day with whatever I was planning to eat. Now, I wake up and I don’t move until I remind myself of at least 10 things I am grateful for. Repetitively practicing this caused a shift to happen in my thinking and by the time I was about 8 weeks post op, I realised that I had other things in my life besides food.

From when I booked in with my surgeon until my op, I had 6 months. For 6 months I had no idea that arguing with myself in my bed every morning and being grateful – not looking at recipes and planning menus, feeling anxious and out of control, was going to change my whole outlook on life. Learning to feed my anxiety monkey a banana has been a revelation! I found a tiny little answer in my gratefulness exercises. I hope you celebrate your little answers too xx

From the start to the middle
January 2019 – September 2019

Part 2

We live with ourselves right? Like, I know things about me that NO ONE else knows. There are things about me, secrets that no one will ever know, things that I will take to my grave.

Things like – how many times I sucked Ice Magic directly from the bottle or ate peanut butter out of the jar, how many times I rubbed one out over Patrick in Dirty Dancing, the amount of times I thought about a beautiful girl back when I wasn’t sure if I liked guys, girls or both in equal measure, how often I escaped to the beach to sit and be alone because sometimes a girl just needs to hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks 🌊🌊 okay okay sooooooooooo it was more to do with my booty call and his proximity to the beach, but I did like that whole wave crashing thing too ….. I just like the rock hard surfer abs more 🤤😍

Do you remember those days? The care free days? The days when the worst thing that happened was that your best friend didn’t like you at that moment or the person you adored didn’t know you were alive? The days when you felt everything! The teen years!! Heightened hormones and everything that went along with it. Well I have found that the weight loss journey feels a whole hell of a lot like that! Still interested? Then read on my friend, read on.

I remember the day that I decided I was actually going to do this. I was going to turn my life around and have WLS. And just quietly – I didn’t really think that weight loss surgery would work. I had been the unfortunately recipient of a failed lap band that had been removed. I was TERRIFIED of going under the knife again! And things like that worked for other people but they didn’t work for me. The ‘genetic predisposition towards fatness gods’ had not smiled upon me! I was doomed to look like a beach ball with arms, legs and a head for the RESSSST OF ETERNITY!!!!! I was a bit like Pooh Bear …. I was “short, fat and proud of that” constantly “rumbly in my tumbly” and looking for something sweet ……. or savoury …… OKAY OKAY ….. I just LOVED food. But a little idea was brewing on the inside of me. I wondered what I would look like without all of the excess me.

In my adult life I have been fat for 95% of it. And in all honesty it was hard for me to imagine what it would be like to be a non plus size. I didn’t even know what that would feel like! So to help myself focus on all of the good reasons to move forward with the surgery I wrote a list of the things that I would do when I was thin. I was also a little bit intentional about writing things on that list that were for me and me alone. I know that may sound selfish but if you can remember what I was talking about last time – I knew that I had to make this change for me. Yes everyone around us benefits from our lifestyle change but this time it wasn’t about everyone. It was about me.

So I wrote a title for my list MY WHY and I sat and stared at the blank piece of paper and couldn’t think of anything!! WTF!!! It took a couple of days of staring at that blank piece of paper on my desk before I got brave enough to write my first WHY on it – To look gloriously hot in a pair of high waisted skinny jeans! I sat at my desk smirking and laughed to myself but in that moment HOPE bubbled up inside me, the dam broke and out poured all of the things that I secretly dreamed for myself. It’s not selfish to want a better health outcome for your life, it is NOT selfish to prioritise good health, it is not wrong to dream of being unhindered by excess self, of running a marathon, of going on a holiday to a tropical destination without fear of being sweaty and chaffed the whole time, it isn’t selfish to want to see your own genitals or dream of having hot sex up against the wall – but all of those things are just a dream when trapped in a morbidly obese body. So on and on and I wrote! By the time I finished my WHY list it was pages long. I can write a compelling argument – I even convinced myself that this was probably my last chance to ever have my WHY list.

My WHY list helped me overcome my first hurdle, the YOU BAD AND SELFISH WOMAN HOW CAN YOU DO THIS!! My WHY list was more compelling than the thought of WLS being 150% selfish. “Oh but its just so selfish to remove my income from the family for 6 weeks while I recover, and how can I consider doing this to the kids? What kind of monster am I to do something like this for myself? We could use that money for so many other things!” Armed with my WHY list, ever the voice of reason, the one and only Stevie J (hubster and bangable best friend) said “What will the future look like if you don’t do this?” He handed me my list and he smiled at me, kissed me on the nose and left for work! Ummmm what the fuck was that? How does he disarm EVERY single one of my arguments with a sentence? Can I encourage you to write down your WHY’s – Keep them with you. Let them motivate you both before and after surgery. Make sure that they are compelling enough to keep your focus.

So there began my determination to actually do something this time. It wasn’t going to be like every other time I had backed out of something, changed my mind, or just found it all too hard and put it in the “fuck it bucket” and ran screaming the other way. This time I was going to relearn what it felt like to look after myself, I was going to take my health back, I was going to be the me that I was on the inside – on the outside! I was so pumped for about 2 hours!! And then reality came crashing in around me. HOW THE HELL was I going to do this!! Why would it be any different this time? So, armed with the tiny little bubble of self love that was brewing in my heart, kept my WHY list with me at all times and read it a few times a day! That list became fuel to the genuine desire that I had to make steps away from my beach bally self – so I formulated my BE GONE FAT PLAN.

Step one of my BE GONE FAT PLAN was as far as I could go to start with. I had made an awful mistake with my Lap Band Surgeon years prior. This was the part that frightened me beyond words!! I didn’t want to make a terrible mistake again soooooooo. I set myself some Goals. I am good with that kind of thing – business background blah blah. I knew that I needed to be really specific about what I wanted. I needed to give myself a time frame in which to achieve my first goal which was “FIND GOD OR GODESS OF GASTRIC SURGERY” that I can trust to get this right for me. And so the challenge was set. FIND THE SURGEON AND I gave myself 4 weeks to do it!

The things I do

I am super humbled to be part of an incredible team of inspiring individuals who moderate the largest Weight Loss Surgery Facebook page in Australia. I am constantly inspired, motivated and totally moved by the stories of the fabulous people that I have met on the page. One thing that becomes overwhelmingly obvious as you read thousands of posts and tens of thousands of comments, is that when we loose weight it isn’t just a physical thing.

As our page is in a phase of rapid growth and change, I was asked by our fearless leader to write a new regular piece around the topic of self love. The following is the first instalment in that series. Much Love Tash xx

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to love and care for others. I think it is hard wired into my DNA. I became a mother for the first time when I was just 19 years old and she was and still is the best and most life changing thing that has ever happened to me and it would happen 4 more times. My God – I never knew that kind of love existed until I saw her little face for the very first time. I loved my husband – adored him actually but her, oh my heart – she was a dream. He was my High School Sweetheart, of sorts. Meaning I wanted him to notice me and he was busy being adored by many LOL! Eventually, at length, he noticed me! Lets face it, how could he not haha! We married young and when I fell pregnant I was delighted. I had always wanted to be a mother and I immersed myself in my role, I loved everything about nurturing her, caring for her, being there for her and did everything within my power to give her all of the things that she wanted.

Nearly 6 years later the first of our 4 sons was born – and I’ll be damned – all those nights that I cried myself to sleep because I was filled with legitimate fear that I wouldn’t be able to love anyone as much as I loved our little girl were proven to be a baseless fear. I adored everything about him and loved being his Mumma too. I gave my everything, every single thing, into being there for them and doing all that I felt that they needed and deserved. I know that I did not do things as well as I would have wished, and I have not been a perfect Mother but I tried so very hard.

Fast forward through the years and our girl married and the day that she left home my heart broke in ways that no one ever told me it would. I was so incredibly happy for her and remain that way to this day. However that day changed me, I looked down at myself and saw myself for exactly what I was. A middle aged woman who had let herself go completely, giving everything to everyone else 100% of the time. There was no spark left, nothing that resembled the me that I hoped was still in there somewhere. In that moment I imagined what my life would look like if I continued to travel the same path for another 10 or 15 years and I realised that I was in trouble. I didn’t want to continue to get larger and larger, I didn’t want to lose even more myself under increasing layers of fat and I wanted out of the prison I had build for me to live in.

This is how terribly bad things had become for me – I didn’t own a single pair of underwear that didn’t have frayed elastic or holes, I didn’t own a single bra that wasn’t tattered and worn. I had given up on myself – forgotten my value and it still breaks my heart to think of it. My clothes reflected my feelings about myself, they were just whatever was cheapest so that my kids could have every brand name. I looked into my make up bag and realised that all of it was years old. I had nothing new, nothing that I even liked, nothing that reflected anything but self loathing and when I looked in the mirror I was gutted by what I saw. Skin that was stuffed to bursting with every single dream that I had willingly pushed aside, skin that stuffed full of every hurtful judgement that had been passed at me over the years, skin that was marred with my own unwillingness to acknowledge my deep trauma that I had survived, skin that wore the marks of carrying and giving birth to amazing humans, skin that was marked by surgical interventions for all kinds of health problems……… and I cried. I cried and cried because the last time that I looked at myself, really truly looked, I was in my teens. I had been full of so many dreams, plans and ambitions and even though a good many of them had come to pass, I was looking at a morbidly obese, middle aged woman. And I knew that I had totally forgotten the things that I loved about myself. Not how I loved my children or my husband or their wonderful traits – myself, the things that I loved about me.

That was the day that it all changed. That was the day that I decided that I couldn’t keep living like I had and that I had to give myself a chance. I had to remember what it was like to love me and if I couldn’t remember that, then I had to find out how to love myself and value myself again. That was the day that I saw a tiny spark of the hope filled teenager looking back at me in the mirror. From that day forward I had to make a plan because I REFUSED to accept that my future was going to be filled with the results of my morbid obesity. I refused to allow myself to become a memory to any of my kids, especially my 8 year old son. On that day I decided that I was worth it, I deserved to be able to do the things that I had dreamed of and that my future was not over – it hadn’t even begun yet. I had no idea how to love myself, I didn’t feel like there was a path back from where I was at, but I knew that I had to try. That was the day that I spoke to my husband and we upped our health insurance. That was the day that I decided that I was going to have RNY Gastric Bypass surgery – I was 40 years old.

A whole lot less obnoxious

In the last 14 months I have learned a lot of things. Not all of the lessons have been fun to learn! One of the most heartbreaking lessons is that I used food as a coping mechanism 100% of the time for 40ish years of my life. Everything that I did revolved around food. I didn’t mean for it to be that way – but it doesn’t change the fact that it was that way. I have so many regrets that I have had to deal with. Making birthdays, holidays, important celebrations and Christmas about food and not about people. This was so wrong and my heart breaks when I think about how I lived, how I didn’t realise how sad it was and the fact that I can’t get back those lost years with my kids. In all honesty, I fucked up in some pretty big ways.

Weight loss has deconstructed my fatness and my arrogance at the same time. I am heart broken for my mistakes but hopeful for my future. I have learned that facing your demons is easy when you just look yourself in the face and see yourself for who and what you are – the good, the bad and everything in between.

Food Nom Nom Nom

I wasn’t 100% sure about sharing this part of my journey but meh – I have been open about everything else so here goes. 

Food has been a bit of a friend to me, albeit a bad friend. Food was something that I turned to in times of stress or anxiety. Most of us now know and acknowledge the chemical response in the body to food. That calming sense of well-being became a friend to me as a child when things happened to me that were beyond my control. Yes years later I confronted my abuser, but the abuse that I have inflicted upon myself – triggered by the past – has become my lifelong fight. 

I was anorexic by the age of 11 and by the time I was 14 I had developed bulimia. I haven’t had a bulimic episode for about 10 years now. The thoughts have still come from time to time but there is a huge difference between thinking of something and acting on it.

Do you know that gastric bypass is not a cure all – it is possible to stay fat, gain weight and make poor food choices after bypass? For the rest of my life I have to knowingly and thoughtfully make good choices. Slider foods are real – they are things that you can eat that will go down easily and are not good for you. I seem to have little to no restriction when it comes to drinking so I am fairly sure that it would be possible for me to make poor choices if I wanted to but I don’t want to because I have realised a lot about myself over the past two or three years! When your substance of choice is one that is needed to keep you alive ….. well it isn’t like you can just quit it! It becomes complex dealing with a food addiction, BUT I know that it is different for me this time around. I know that I am different this time. 

At 41 I have finally come to grips with the things that have happened to me and I am comfortable in my own skin. I have decided that while I remain imperfect and flawed, this doesn’t mean have less value – this would seem a simple lesson – but when you are filled with a sense of self loathing it is not that easy to see clearly! For me, suddenly the fog lifted and for the first time in so many years I am happy to make choices for my own good and I am grateful for all of the changes that have happened in my life. 

The next thing is a change of direction work wise and then returning to my passions. I am going to be working on my fitness and once I hit a certain weight I am starting back taking adult dance classes again. For no reason other than I miss it so much. In other words – I feel like I am waking up from a long long sleep. Returning to the things I love and being kind to myself for a change. This is the difference that hope makes, it is the reason that I WILL celebrate each milestone because I am beating a lifelong addiction one day at a time. #gastricbypass #onedayatatime