Since I was about 10, I've been overweight. At that time, I weighed 180 pounds--as much as my dad. Although my family was supportive, kids at school made fun of me, saying things like "Fatty, fatty!" or "Hey, two-by-four!" In ninth grade, a boy put donuts on my chair so I'd sit on them. The pranks really got to me, and I'd go home in tears. In time, I learned to block that stuff-out of my mind. Every day, I just tried to look my very best and be a good person.
Filling the Emptiness
Food has always been a comfort to me. When I was little, my parents had problems so I ate to forget about what was going on at home. I also ate out of boredom, and it became a vicious cycle. When you eat because you're bored or depressed, you get bigger--so you get even more depressed and bored because you don't want to do anything. So you eat some more!
When I hit my teens, my brother was incarcerated for a minor offense. Suddenly, there was a ton of pressure on me to be a "good girl" so I wouldn't turn out like my brother. My parents became super strict and homeschooled me, which I hated since I was already so isolated. My solution? Eat more.
I tried many diets, but nothing worked. Finally, I accepted being fat. But aside from the emotional problems that went with being overweight, I developed physical problems. I got polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is when cysts grow all over your ovaries. That really messed up my hormones and made me extremely moody. And I constantly had to go to the hospital with painful, ruptured cysts.
There were many things I couldn't do because of my weight, like walking up and down stairs without losing my breath! I couldn't go to amusement parks because I didn't fit on the rides. I hated the zoo because it was too exhausting to walk. And I'd never worn a bathing suit, so I couldn't swim. Everywhere I went, kids stared and pointed so I avoided going out in public.
The worst thing was that I couldn't walk into a ballpark or some dance clubs if there were turnstiles at the entrances. It was humiliating. By the time I was 16, I was miserable and felt my life was completely out of control.
Finally, I thought I'd figured a way out of my rut. I swallowed a bottle of my dad's epilepsy pills in an attempted suicide. My mom found me unconscious and rushed me to the hospital. I was admitted for a week and watched carefully so I wouldn't try to harm myself again.
But in the hospital, I looked around at all the kids with really horrendous problems and realized my life wasn't so bad. I decided I wanted to live and be healthy. But I knew I had work to do--I was up to 312 pounds.
Once I was home, I caught a TV show about a woman having gastric bypass surgery, or "stomach stapling." It's a surgical procedure in which the stomach is made so small that the patient can't overeat. The woman on the show lost a ton of weight after her surgery. This gave me hope.
When I told my parents I wanted to have the surgery, they were very supportive. So was my boyfriend Roberto, who had never pressured me to lose weight. My mom took me to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, one of the only hospitals where this kind of surgery is performed on kids. I was interviewed by a psychiatrist, physical therapist and dietician to determine if I could handle the surgery. They told me about the dangers and the strict eating requirements I would have for the rest of my life. Certain foods, like breads and most sweets, would be totally off limits. I could only eat one cup of food at every meal, and I'd have to eat four meals a day. If I broke these rules, I could end up with severe nausea, a racing heartbeat and "dumping syndrome," which is simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea.
I was required to drink more than eight glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration, and I would need a B-12 shot every month. I'd need a daily multivitamin, Turns for calcium, and drugs to prevent gallstones or ulcers. I could lose my hair if I didn't have enough protein. But even after hearing all the gruesome details, I wasn't upset or nervous. I couldn't wait to have the surgery and start dropping weight. The surgery took about four and a half hours. My stomach was cut down to the size of an egg, and recovery was painful for a few days. But by the fourth day, I was released from the hospital. And on the fifth day, I went to the mall.
Her Loss, Her Gain
Roberto took care of me, making sure I had my pills and ate the right foods. I immediately lost an average of three to five pounds a week. Within the first six months, I had lost 100 pounds. Now, my weight loss has slowed to about a pound a week.
At first, I thought I'd miss chocolate. But when I tried to eat it after the surgery, I got incredibly nauseated and stopped craving it. It definitely took a while to adjust to a new way of eating. I'd really lost my appetite and had to force myself to eat.
My meals now consist of protein, veggies, fruits and carbs, but I can't eat the skins of any vegetable or fruit--even grapes. I accidentally ate some potato skin once and ended up in the emergency room with shortness of breath and chest pains. I also can't chew gum. If I were to swallow it, I would need immediate surgery to remove it.
To me, though, these potential dangers are a small price for my new life. My depression has virtually disappeared. I socialize more, walk constantly and go to the gym three times a week. I can keep up with my friends now--and even share clothes with them!
The only bummer is when I look at my bare body in the mirror. My bra size went from 40 C to 36 A, so the excess skin hangs. When I get the money, I need surgery to remove the skin. I'm a size 14 now and, in two months, I should reach my goal of size 10. It's a relief to have lost the weight I've lugged around all my life.
Even though weight loss alone doesn't make my life perfect, I get a lot more attention. Guys flirt, and I get asked out. Roberto doesn't get angry because he knows how much I love him. He's glad to see the ego-boost. He was there for me when I was over 300 pounds. I'll never forget when Roberto hugged me and said, "Wow! I can put my arms all the way around you!" He loved me when I was overweight. But now, he is genuinely happy that I'm so happy.
Weight should never be an issue for me again. The first thing people see when they meet me is not my obesity. They get to know me for me. And kids don't stare anymore. And my relationship with my parents is better because I'm confident. Plus, my cysts have disappeared so I'm not as moody anymore.
Before the surgery, I had to come to learn to accept myself. If you have the surgery and still don't love yourself, what else do you need to fix? You'll always find something wrong with your outer appearance, but what matters is what's inside of you--not outside.
The startling truth about stomach stapling
Think having your stomach made smaller seems like an awesome way to get your bod into those tight-fittin~, low-riding' jeans? Not by a long shot. Although stomach stapling may be a surgical option for someone who is severely obese, it is definitely no miracle cure for being overweight,
Almost a quarter of patients who have the operation lose no weight at all. Only 30 percent achieve a normal weight--and many of those patients regain the pounds within three to five years. Not great odds, and there are tons of serious risks.
More than one out of 300 patients die from the surgery. There's also the possibility of leakage from the stomach, a serious complication, which requires more surgery. Add to that the possibility of gallstones, infections, hernias, bah loss, anemia, diarrhea, intestinal obstruction and nerve damage, and it becomes pretty obvious that this surgery is an absolutely last desperate measure!
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