Being extremely overweight is definitely like being bound in chains. For over 50 years I felt bound by the chains of delicious, sweet-tasting, mouth-watering delicacies. Today, I want you to know that by the grace of God I am free to choose to live a healthy life.
I can speak with some authority on this subject because I have lost over 230 pounds. Yep, that’s me over there in the picture. I was as miserable as I look. I’m sure you want to know how I lost the weight.
Before I tell you my story I want you to know the bottom line. There is no substitute for healthy eating and daily exercise. Even though others may be thin and not do those things, if you have an issue with food, the only way to overcome it is some difficult decisions on your part. It might not be easy but it will be worth it.
For years I was morbidly obese. I knew I needed to lose weight and would lose 100 pounds by some diet or another. I’d lose weight and then go back to eating what I wanted. After about the fourth time of losing 100 lbs and putting it back on plus 30 to 50 more, I just gave up. I decided this was the way I was and I would have to live with it.
The moment of truth came, though, when I found myself in the hospital with fluid build-up around my heart. The cardiac surgeon came into my room followed by scads of residents and med students. I had seen all the want-to-be docs all that morning. They were nice. The attending cardiac doc was no nonsense.
“Here is your situation,” he said. “Your body is too big for your heart. It can’t keep up. Unless you lose at least 100 pounds and keep it off, you will be dead in five years. You need gastric bypass surgery.” There was no patting of the hand. There was no comfort in his words. He turned and walked out. The others looked at me sadly and followed him.
At first I was shocked that someone would be so blunt. I think I went through all the steps of grief before finally going to an appointment with the gastric bypass doctor. The surgeon’s office had set it up. I didn’t like the way they did the surgery at that time. They did everything like they did today but put a small ring around the bottom of the esophagus.
I felt that could be a major problem if a large piece of food went down accidentally. Apparently I was right because several years later they changed the surgery. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to show you my transformation and then tell you about my continuing journey.
Chains—they come in all sizes and kinds from small, dainty, 14K gold ones that you can wear on your wrist to monster steel chains that are used to hold anchors that moor ocean liners. In our lives, there are all kinds and sizes of chains, as well.
To illustrate this concept, in the fall of 2003, our pastor preached a very unique sermon. He held up a small gold chain and said some of the things that have us held down are like the small chain. We can get over them ourselves. We don’t need any help. And he broke the chain easily.
Then, he brought increasingly larger chains up on the platform. He noted that some chains we needed other people to help us break. Then he and another man broke a medium-size chain. He said some chains needed some additional intervention such as a treatment program of some type. He brought a large log chain with a fairly big cutter. While a man held the chain on either end, he used the cutters to break it.
Still others, he said, were so big they needed a different kind of intervention. That’s when he had six men bring out the largest chain I’ve ever seen. They drug it up to the platform. A massive chain cutter was brought up that two men could barely hold. They tried to cut the chain with the cutters. They tried several times but could not do it. They needed a God-sized intervention.
It was this sermon that changed my life. I knew that there were small tendencies I had such as watching too much television, speaking negatively about other people, speeding. These were not overwhelming obstacles in my life. They were things I was tempted with from time to time, but I could handle them. However, there was one major problem in my life that needed a God-sized intervention. I knew it and God knew it. It was food.
Diets, diets, diets
As I mentioned, I had been trying to break this chain myself or with help from other sources such as Weight Watchers, Diet Center, Nutri Systems, The Atkins Diet, weight loss supplements or anything else that came down the pike. And they worked…for awhile.
After discarding the idea of gastric bypass surgery, I lost 100 pounds on Nutri Systems. Then gained most of it back. That Sunday, I felt realized I had a bondage to food that I felt needed a God-sized intervention. I knew that intervention was the one thing I hadn’t tried— weight loss surgery.
Two other things had happened prior to the sermon that helped alleviate my earlier concern about the safety of the surgery. The first happened at a garage sale where a woman was selling lots of nice plus-sized clothes. I could tell they were all much larger than she wore. In casual conversation I asked whose clothes they were. She said they were hers.
When I asked how she lost the weight, she said she had lost over 100 lbs in a year by having weight loss surgery. I told her I had looked in to several years before and I was concerned about several aspects of it. Every aspect I mentioned to her had been revised since I had looked into it. She gave me a website to go to for more information. I started there and continued to read everything I could find on the topic.
Several days later, I got a call from a very good friend of mine who is a family nurse practitioner. She told me she had just gotten back from a seminar for medical professionals where current changes in the gastric bypass operation were explained. She had cautioned me about the surgery before. Now, she was encouraging me to check into it. She said that God had been urging her to speak with me about it. She even apologized for talking to me, saying she did not want to offend me.
In addition to searching websites, I read books. I went to information seminars offered by various surgeons. I spent hours on the phone tracking down surgeons who would do the type of surgery I needed and were covered under my insurance. After about five months, I found the surgical program I felt would work for me. It took four months before I was approved.
It took another three months to find the right surgeon in their program. After being turned down by two surgeons, I was forwarded to their head surgeon who had done over 2,000 surgeries. He accepted me. Little did I know at the time, he is one of the foremost gastric bypass surgeons in the nation. He retired a month after doing my surgery.
I finally had surgery Sept. 27, 2004 with no complications and a relatively easy four-day hospital stay. Within two years I had lost 230 pounds. Gone almost immediately was the diabetes and congestive heart failure.
Weight gain again
Although gastric bypass was successful for me, I slowly started putting the weight back on. A couple of years ago I learned I could eat certain kinds of candy. After gastric bypass, it is difficult to eat sweets without some major rebellion from your body. But being more than five years out from my surgery I decided to give it a try. Bad decision.
I couldn’t eat a lot at once but I could eat one piece wait awhile and eat another. That can be quite a bit of eating candy even if you wait 10 minutes between each piece. Of course that also led to eating more sweets and before I knew it, I had gained about 50 of those 230 pounds back.
Again I needed help but I had played my one winning card. Where would I find another? I overheard a friend asking psychologist Russ Hardesty if he would consider starting a weight loss group. I told her I would be interested as well.
During one of the first meetings he asked us what we wanted and what we wanted to do to get there. He also reminded us that whatever we decided we wanted to do we needed to keep that agreement with ourselves. In addition, we should replace the negative behavior with a positive one.
What I want
What I want is to be healthy. What I decided I would do as a first step to get there was give up candy, not for a little while, but for the rest of my life. My thinking was if alcoholics can give up alcohol, I can give up candy. I can’t give up all food, but that I can give up.
In place of eating candy, I started exercising at least five days a week. Not just when I want to but as a scheduled event. The exercise I do is to walk in the water. It is a non-weight bearing exercise which I can do despite some knee and leg issues. Recently, I’ve started adding some resistance training to the regimen.
After candy, it was an easy step to giving up sugar. Next, I decided to give up white flour, then yeast. To date, I’m pretty much gluten free and eat a diet high in meat, vegetables and protein. There are some grains I still eat and from time to time have a little sugar. The key for me is to know that is not the way I eat the majority of the time. Instead of telling myself what I can’t have, I tell myself what I can have. I remind myself of my goal to be healthy.
Thankfully, I’ve lost that 50 pounds and I’m working on the rest I’d like to lose. I know I will continue to lose weight but the most important thing is to be healthy. That’s my goal.
The better way
Let me just say that anyone who can lose weight any other way beside surgical intervention, should. At age 50 with a death sentence hanging over my head, I felt I had no other options that would take the weight off quickly. At that point, I had done major damage to body. I needed the surgery.
There are better ways to lose weight and be healthier but they aren’t popular. They include eating healthier and exercising. The long and short of the matter of becoming healthy is this: it will take hard work, dedication, and consistency.
Have a meeting with yourself and decide what you will do this week to take a step towards becoming healthy. It may seem small but first steps always are. Then, keep that agreement with yourself even when you try to talk yourself out of it.
I lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time with gastric bypass and I’m grateful for it. If I had started much earlier making and keeping agreements with myself, I would not have had to go to the drastic measure of gastric bypass. Believe me, Friends, it is not the easy way out.
Nothing tastes as good as peace feels
I love the book “Made to Crave: Satisfying Life’s Deepest Desire with God instead of Food.” One statement thoroughly resonates with me: “Nothing Tastes As Good As Peace Feels.” I printed it out and have it on my refrigerator.
Peace to me is doing what I know God wants me to do. Among other things, I know He wants me to be healthy. I’m not perfect. I have days I don’t do what I know I should. As soon as I mess up, I try to remember to ask for forgiveness from God and myself and start over. There were certainly years and years and years whenever I messed up, I just gave in. I remember the turmoil that caused me emotionally, spiritually and physically.
I knew God as my savior so why couldn’t I resist and do what I knew He wanted me to do? All I can say is I thank God that His mercy continues even when I don’t do the things I should. In reality, I was fighting against myself because the chains that I allowed to continue to bind me were literally killing me.
God allows us free will. He doesn’t force us to make decisions that He knows are best for us. When we turn our backs and go the other way, His love continues to draw us back. When we make a choice that benefits us, He rejoices with us and tenderly wipes our tears away.
For me, it took three of the well-known 12 Steps. First, I admitted that I am powerless over food and that my life had become unmanageable. Second, I believed that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. And third, I made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God. In doing that, I cut the chains of bondage. I became free to make healthy choices. I became free to be at peace. I became free to choose life.
“My chains are gone. I’ve been set free. My God, my savior has ransomed me. And like a flood his mercy reigns, unending love amazing grace.” —Chris Tomlin