Not Your Typical Weight Loss Story

This is Not Your Typical Weight Loss Story – Part 2, “Susan”

This is the second in a series of posts I am publishing that have been written by friends at my request.  If you listen to the narrative of the media and diet industry, weight loss is simple: lose weight, live happily ever after, the end.  However, this is rarely the something that actually happens.  My purpose in sharing these stories is to give others a platform to share their experiences and help people with similar histories see that they are not alone.  Issues surrounding weight and body size are far more complicated than many would like to believe.

My second post is written by friend I have met through my Facebook page.  Because her story is very personal to her and she has not shared all of it with everyone in her life, she prefers to remain anonymous.  Let’s call her “Susan.”  Her story is one of many I have encountered that forced me to change my own point of view regarding weight and weight loss: specifically the belief I used to hold, that many still hold, that a person’s bodyweight is a simple calculation of calories burned vs. calories consumed.  That if you eat less and move more, you will become small and stay that way.  Susan’s story is not unique.  I have encountered many others with similar histories.

This is Susan’s Story:

Body-Size-01

I ask you, the reader of my story, someone whom I will never know, have no vested interest in deceiving, make every effort to believe what you are about to read. I share this information tenderly, knowing that most of you will pick it apart, look for what I have done wrong, think of what I should do.  I ask to take me on my word, that I bear witness to a body that I have resided in for 46 years, a body I have treated often like a science experiment, trying to make it behave according to the rules of thermodynamics, make it obey all the calories in/calories out rules, make it lose weight or at least not gain weight at the expected rate that science predicted.  Please give me this, a moment of credibility, entertain the idea that I just might be telling the absolute truth. Then imagine how you would feel if no one believed YOUR truth about YOUR body (if every person on the planet thought you weighed what you weigh for reasons other than the truth).

I remember the day I lost stopped living in my body. I remember the exact second that it was no longer a safe place to live, and stopped being simply a vehicle for my little soul.  Probably most females can remember a time when someone else first stole their space, and I remember as clear as day the moment that my sexuality was simultaneously revealed to me, and the understanding that my body was a target, was something wanted, something not mine. I was eleven.

I was of a “normal” weight as a child, whatever that is, and I ate what I wanted, played from dawn until dusk, and perceived my body as an insignificant part of who I was. During the summer of my 13th birthday, I rapidly put on 30 pounds without explanation. I was away from my hometown for a few months, and when I returned, all my friends commented about how much weight I had gained (I weighed 160 pounds at 5’9”). I suddenly had breasts, hips, tummy, and butt. Men began treating me quite differently. I truly did not understand this new way of being related to. In my mind, I was still a child. In their minds, I was something to look at, make lewd suggestions to, grab, and disturb. Women offered up diet tips and dire warning about being fat. I declared war on my body that year.

I started freshman year of high school at that same weight, and quickly got used to being the “chubby” girl. All of my friends weighed 120 pounds and wore a size 8, while I was a size 14. I started dieting then, keeping detailed food journals (I still have them), monitoring my calories to be strictly under 1000 a day, on good days under 600. I walked 3 miles each day to and from school, and rode my bike everywhere. Cottage cheese, pineapple chunks, yogurt, Jello, mushroom soup, and milk were my staples. I remember sitting watching my skinny friends eat take out from the Italian place across the street from my high school, noodles dripping with alfredo sauce, washed down with a soda, while I nibbled my carrots, dreaming of one bite, just one bite of their lunches.  My self control was insoluble, but my weight would not budge. My hungry days would eventually lead to lapses at night when I would eat extra cottage cheese or oranges (my family kept ZERO junk food in the house), and the next day, every day, I would wake with the same resolve. Mondays were “start a new diet” day. I am amazed that I never turned into a binge eater or bulimic. I was a fat anorexic.

My dad struggled with his weight, and twice we went on two week “juice fasts”, consuming nothing but water and freshly squeezed vegetable or fruit juices. I remember starting the first fast at 165 pounds, and breaking it with chocolate chip cookie dough at 150 pounds. The second fast I added 5 miles of daily jogging to, spending my nights at the track of my high school, occasionally having to sit down because I became light headed. At the end of that second fast, I was treated like a champion by my friends who acted like I had done something awe inspiring. Boys paid attention to me, perhaps too much attention, I actually felt good about myself for a few weeks until one of the most painful moments of my life occurred. I had managed to continue to consume only 400 calories a day because I was enjoying the positive attention. I was walking down the street, I remember the weakness in my knees, the gnawing emptiness, the soulless hunger, my smug feeling of victory over my body, my appetite, and my brain, and suddenly two boys drove by, honked, and yelled, “NO FAT CHICKS!!!!” at me. I sat down in my exhaustion, leaned against a tree, and something in me died. I don’t know what it was, but it died. It surrendered.

I stayed at a stable 180 pounds when I stopped starving myself, eating healthily, and getting minimal exercise. When I began college, I was working 3 jobs and taking an average of 18 units of honors courses per term. My diet consisted of inexpensive carbohydrates gulped down between classes. This usually ended up including no breakfast, two bagels with cream cheese for lunch, and a giant bowl of pasta for dinner. I had zero time for exercise, and in the space of about 2 years, I put on 100 pounds. It wasn’t that it crept up on me, it literally jumped on me. I met my future husband, learned to love to cook, and we enjoyed our nights cooking inexpensive meals that usually involved white rice or pasta, all that we could afford in those days. He loved me at my size, I was healthy, and there was little I could see that I could do about my weight.

I began exercising regularly in 1994 when I was awarded a room and board scholarship at UC Berkeley, and was able to drop down to 1 job. I remember my dorm mate marveling at how little I ate, considering how much I weighed, as did my close classmates. I think that no one actually could fathom how meagerly I ate, and assumed that I must be sneaking food. The only 2 people in the world that believed me were my husband and my best friend, as I had lived with both extensively. Just knowing that 2 people in the world took me at my word kept me going some days.

I got married, began a successful career in information technology, and had 2 children whom I conceived easily and quickly, despite my “advanced maternal age” of 35 and 37, respectively, and my morbid obesity (I weighed around 300 then). I remember going into my first prenatal appointment, glowing with joy, and my OB/GYN giving me dire warnings about my weight, that she was certain that I would have a pregnancy complicated with high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. She was wrong. I had ideal pregnancies, and continued to work full time and exercise daily during both. During my first pregnancy, I had chosen a birthing center, as I preferred the ambiance to that of the hospital across the street. I got there, heavily in labor, so happy to be in a non hospital environment with colors pink and peach. The nurses there had me undress, took some vitals, and then told me that “I was too fat to have my baby there”. They explained that if I needed a C-section, they would not be able to handle a person of my weight, though I was perfectly healthy. I walked across the street, in shock, in labor, so shaken. I think that experience resulted in me having a c-section, as my labor ceased, and never progressed.

When my second child was 2 years old, I decided to have weight loss surgery. The lap band was all the rage then, and I was tired of being fat. I was the mom pushing 2 babies in a double stroller up steep mountain trails, I was the 334 pound mom going down the slide with her babies in her lap. I was the mom who knew her children would be embarrassed of her some day. I was very active, working full time, exercising nearly every day, eating a nearly vegetarian diet, yet my weight stayed at 334 pounds, and I knew that eventually my joints would betray me as I aged, and I would not be able to hike, swim, and walk into old age like I dreamed. I had read fat acceptance literature for years, I knew many fat positive, sexy, confident fat women, but I was simply unable to turn myself into one of them. I was tired of dreading social events, being asked to be the fat bridesmaid, buying ugly clothes, wondering if I could fit into the booth at the restaurant, I was over the self consciousness and self hatred that I simply could not shake. I had achieved every single thing I had set out to in life, but applying 10 times the diligence towards unsuccessfully losing weight had left me defeated, and I am not a person that can easily resign to a fate.  I seemed unable to alter the weight gain trajectory that my body was on., so in September 12th, 2007 I had weight loss surgery, and over the next 5 years slowly lost 110 pounds. I was eating so little that my hair was falling out, I was anemic, but I worked out 2 hours every day, getting up at 4:00 am to do an extremely strenuous boot camp class before work, then hiking after work. I felt like I finally had a “normal” relationship with food. I could eat anything I wanted, but only a bite. I no longer had to count calories, I simply ate literally nothing, or threw up most of what I did consume.

Everything in my life changed. Everything. My marriage fell apart because people began treating me differently, suddenly I mattered, doors were opened, attention lavished on me, men who previously had ignored me now wanted me. I realized I had settled greatly for a passionless, dull, safe marriage with a man really not suited for me intellectually or emotionally.

About 5 years after I had the surgery, I began to experience nighttime saliva reflux. I would wake up choking, and usually ended up coughing up copious amounts of saliva that was pooling in my throat. This put me at great risk for pneumonia, as I often aspirated saliva into my lungs, and developed a chronic cough. My food intake dipped to about a cup of food a day, so I began drinking milk in large volumes, up to a quart a day, and my weight crept up. I went to my doctor who ran some tests, and determined that my lap band was too tight, and that I had damaged my esophagus from throwing up. He suggested that he remove all the saline out of it (which removed any restriction and appetite suppression), and let it rest for 6 months. He also suggested that I consume 800 calories a day or I would likely regain weight.

I tried. I really and truly tried, but without restriction, a normal appetite returned, and though I was religiously consuming 1500 calories a day (the minimum amount that I can consume without being obsessed with food, and constantly ravenous), and burning off 300-500 calories a day with exercise, my weight quickly climbed back to 290 pounds.

So here I am today, at 290 pounds, with a lap band inside of me that likely needs to be removed. My odds of keeping off the remaining 40 pounds is less than 5%.  My doctor has advised that I get the vertical sleeve, an irreversible surgery which involves 90% of my stomach being removed.

I don’t know what I am going to do. I hate being fat again. I hate it more than anything, and I hate that I feel trapped in a body that I cannot seem to control. I hate that once again, I am the fat one eating the salad, surrounded at the table by friends eating normally who are slim. I hate that I am the fat girl hiking up hellish mountains, counting calories burned again. I hate that again I am the girl that everyone assumes eats a lot and never exercises. I hate that no one believes me. I hate it. I hate it.

I miss living in a body that felt like friendly territory, even though looking back, I know that I was dying by starving slowly, just to feel alive. Just to be believed. Just to feel like I existed, even in a body that was really not mine.

I would like to thank Susan for sharing her story with us.  Although many parts of it are different from my experiences, other parts are very similar.  I have learned that we can all have different personal truths and different experiences in life without invalidating each other.  I would like to add myself to Susan’s list of people who believe her.

33 thoughts on “This is Not Your Typical Weight Loss Story – Part 2, “Susan”

  1. I do believe everything Susan says too. Body acceptance issues aside, has any doctor done a full work up to check for thyroid issues, hormone problems, etc.? My heart breaks for this woman, as she’s clearly been through hell and back. In the hands of the right doctor (not an easy thing to find, I know) I feel like she could get some real answers. This is not a “finally you’ll be thin!!” issue, but she may be able to get some answers as to why her body reacts to food so abnormally.

    1. Reading this made me think the same thing, I’m only young and have a thyroid problem which causes food to act differently to my body, I have tablets for the rest of my life but it is slowly helping me lose weight.

  2. I believe you too. Not being believed is one of the most painful things we can experience. Being fat is hard in this world, and being called a liar on top of it is excruciating.

  3. I, too, believe you. I am struggling with the same issue, although my weight doesn’t settle at quite a high number. I feel like I eat and live a healthier lifestyle than most of my social network, but the weight simply will not go down. I ultimately decided to focus on individual issues I was having, rather than weight. First I worked on my sleeping issues, and have better energy and stable moods, then I worked on skin issues (which I’m still struggling on and off with). Then I moved onto my insatiable appetite, trying to find the best life-long eating plan FOR ME, for the long haul. Foods I enjoy, foods that nourish me, foods, that I tolerate.

    I feel a million times better, maybe better than I’ve felt since high school. I’m active, strong, sleeping well, have lots more energy, and feel confident and happy. And I haven’t lost a single pound. In fact, I’m up about 10-15.

    I still have hope eventually my body will heal on the inside (after years of abusing it with little sleep, way over-caffeination, alcohol and junk food), and I’ll find a healthier weight. But I’m in no rush. Even when people push me for things like weddings, I have to keep reminding myself that I need health forever, not for one event.

    Hang in there! Look for health across the board, and find happiness in all things beyond how you look. And forget those who judge you based on how you look, or question your sincerity. As you know, weight doesn’t define health. And being overweight doesn’t make you lazy or a glutton. More people realize that than it seems.

  4. I believe you. Because that story could have been written about me. I get it. You are not alone in your struggles, or your journey. You can’t see me, but I am giving you a great big hug. And, my real name is Susan. 🙂

  5. That is a heartbreaking story. I hope you can finally find peace in your heart over your body and come to love yourself just as you are. In this incarnation, we have but the one life. We don’t get another. It would be a shame to go through your life, never having appreciation for the body that has done so much for you. Your body, no matter what it looks like or how much it weighs has climbed hellish mountains for you, even while feeling starved. It has given you two beautiful children. It continues to serve you today, all despite the challenges of body mass and diet. Please learn gratitude for your body. Thank it, be thankful for it, and give it the love it starves for. Only you know what it needs. Only you is the person you have all your life – just like only me is the only person who will be with me until I take my last breath. Don’t discriminate against your body any longer. Show love to the lady in the mirror ❤

  6. Wow I am so moved by this story. I am going through so many of the same things. I have been considering bariatric surgery and Susan’story
    is making me think hard about the path I might be choosing.

  7. I believe you Susan. I also have no idea how I can eat less than anyone I know and weigh so much. It is maddening. Last time i went to the doctor he actually told me I was fat, like I did not have the sense to know it! Of course he gave no help and just said I needed to lose weight. As others above are doing I am concentrating on one thing at a time. I quit smoking several years ago. Now I have changed to clean eating. I keep a food journal. Next I have to change my exercise habits and go from there. Too bad we cannot get some medical researcher to believe us and start looking into this

  8. I believe you as well, and I agree with Bonnie, has anyone ever done a full assessment of your health? It definitely sounds like something isn’t right, but that your weight and the stigma surrounding obesity is preventing professionals from looking for a more complicated problem. So they choose not to believe you.

    I really do feel for you and hope you find the answer to your weight problems.

  9. “Susan” I, too, believe you!!! I know that it is so hard. My body fights me all the time too. All I can say is never give up. I am 52 and it took me until a year and a half ago to get myself together. I found I wasn’t eating enough and I was starving myself. My metabolism had stopped completely and I was gaining. I hope you can find a balance somewhere in your life and you can love yourself. God Bless you and thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone……..

  10. I believe you too ‘Susan’. And I feel the same way even though my journey is different. I want to say this: I totally admire you and respect you and reading this makes me want to know you personally and give you a HUGE HUG!!!! Some people said about having a full assessment of your health, I think it might help to find a holistic doctor that might be able to see you as a whole rather than parts to fix which might wreak havoc on your health. I haven’t had any luck finding one that doesn’t cost horrible amounts of money, but my research has led me to look into alternative health care and natural ways of dealing with health issues (so far i’ve found essential oils and homeopathy work wonders). HUGS HUGS HUGS HUGS HUGS HUGS HUGS HUGS HUGS!!!!! ❤

  11. I believe you and you are not alone. I hope you can get to a place of peace and acceptance, regardless of size. You deserve that.

  12. What an incredibly brave and honest story. I can feel the pain in the words. Although my struggle is different, it is also the same. Thank you for sharing this piece of your life with us. I believe you and I honor you. Keep writing and sharing. The world needs to hear this.

    -Kristy

  13. I believe you as well, though I wouldn’t place so much weight on others believing you…..the truth is within you and as long as you’re truthful with yourself, that is all that should matter 🙂 I am no expert but would hazard a guess that you have a very unhealthy metabolism due to lifelong battles as you mentioned. I think the biggest thing is that you have starved your body for years. I would seriously consider getting some solid advice from a nutritional coach – one that wants you to heal first, one that wants you to think differently about food and one that knows that your body requires far more than 800 calories a day!! Never mind your weight for awhile, you need to heal your body and your mind. I do wish you the very best – weight struggles are an awful prison to be in. You deserve some freedom in your life but you are going to need patience and also a new relationship with food….and to eat lots of good, nutritious food!

  14. Thank you for sharing, Susan. It is so frustrating to be judged by body size when you KNOW your truth. To look at me, people would think I sit around and watch TV and eat cupcakes all day (I actually just wrote a blog post to that effect). I don’t. I probably eat healthier than most people I know and I certainly exercise more. Luckily – I’ve come to a point where I enjoy eating healthy and I enjoy exercise. Most importantly, I’m learning to not give a ‘rats ass’ about what others think. I know my truth.

    Best wishes.
    http://www.krisdoeskettlebells.wordpress.com

  15. Susan,
    Not sure if this will help at all, or if you will even see it. And please know what I am saying is from the heart and full of good intent. I am not meaning at all to blame or point a finger, lest anyone read it as such.
    I think the reason you are not losing weight is because you are not eating enough. When you do not consume enough calories, your body will think it is starving and in turn will hold on to fat because that is where most energy resides.
    Also, get rid of your Lap-Band. Allergan is looking to selll Lap-Band and you soon will not have a sponsor for the product that resides inside of you. What happens when there is a band erosion? Who will be able to provide assistance?
    In addition, several studies have shown that gastric bypass is superior to maintaining a weight loss over time. If you truly feel that you cannot manage your weight without surgical intervention, I would recommend going that route.
    Here are some articles to read in case you need some unbiased guidance:
    * Weber, M., Muller, M. K., Bucher, T., Wildi, S., Dindo, D., Horber, F., . . . Clavien, P. (2004). Laparoscopic gastric bypass is superior to laparoscopic gastric banding for treatment of morbid obesity. Annals of Surgery, 240(6), 975-983.
    * Hell, E., Miller, K. A., Moorehead, M. K., & Samuels, N. (2000). Evaluation of health status and quality of life after bariatric surgery: Comparison of standard roux-en-Y gastric bypass, vertical banded gastroplasty and laparoscopic adjustable silicone gastric banding. Obesity Surgery, 10(3), 214-219.
    * Sampsel, S., & May, J. (2007). Assessment and management of obesity and comorbid conditions. Disease Management, 10(5), 252-265
    * Angrisani, L., Cutolo, P. P., Formisano, G., Nosso, G., & Vitolo, G. (2013). Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding versus roux-en-Y gastric bypass: 10-year results of a prospective, randomized trial. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 9(3), 405-413
    * Cortez, M. F. (2013, February 5). Allergan seeks to sell lap-band and obesity unit by june. Message posted to http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-05/allergan-seeks-to-sell-lap-band-and-obesity-unit-by-june.html

    1. Totally agree. I believe everything you have written but I feel that the main issues here have not been addressed. I see that Susan has suffered from a lifetime of self esteem and body image issues A full work-up, counselling about self image and self esteem, and some support would go along way to helping here. You will never be successful if you don’t have a good relationship with food. I would also look to other means of support. Try an online community or go to a support group. Try http://www.sparkpeople.com or http://www.caloriecount.com.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this story. It’s hard to be healthy and not have others see it. I want to say I hope you find peace, and by that I mean that you know that even people who “find peace” have moments of doubt and self conciousness. I am not perfect. 5’6″ and 250 but 80% of the time I think I’m pretty awesome/badass/fabulous. Am I fooling myself? Maybe. The 20% that says mean things about my weight or my skin or the stupid thing I may have said under the influence, well, when she chimes in I let her speak. When she is done I say “thanks for your input. Now sit down, buckle up and get ready because we are on the MandyMcAwesome express”.

  17. i believe you and empathize with your issues. I have been through very similar experiences and feelings. What was essential to my recovery and normality was a thorough workup by an endocrinologist who specializes in thyroid and adrenal issues. I hope that you are validated in your experiences.

  18. I believe that’s a story we can all relate to if we’ve ever delved into dieting at all. Add to that, most women are not satisfied with their self image even when they’re what a normal weight would be considered, and it becomes epidemic. It sounds a painful nightmare to anyone reading it, but to those who can understand from walking a mile in those shoes, we can’t help but nod as we read. It’s a great story to see made public. Thank you for having the guts to post it.

  19. Of course I believe you. I’ve spent most of my life struggling with weight and body issues and though I’ve been truly blessed not to come out of it as an anoretic or bulimic, I know what it’s like to eat very little, continue to gain weight, and not be believed. Much of my life has been spent being told that I should “eat less” or eat more of these foods that I absolutely detest because they (usually apples) are the “key” to weight loss.

    I’m trying again to get healthy. I’m not weighing this time around because I’ve decided that it’s not about what I look like, but about how I feel. If I can stand and not have my knees or hips cry out for relief — not because I weigh that little but because my body is that strong — then I have reached my goals for myself. This is an important step for me away from the hopelessness that comes from a cycle of dieting.

    That being said, I’m also working on changing my diet, removing all grain from my daily food intake, eating more protein and reducing the amount of pork and shellfish that I eat. For me, it’s not about eating less, it’s about eating the right foods, the foods that make and keep me healthy.

    Body image sucks. But it’s good to know that you feel *healthy*.

  20. I believe you, and my heart breaks for you. It’s just absolutely unfair, how hard you’ve worked and how it feels like your body has betrayed you in some sense. As Bonnie mentioned above, have you ever had a doctor do tests to determine if you might have some sort of thyroid or hormonal imbalance?

    Thank you for sharing your story, and I wish you happiness and health.

  21. You are so brave to share your story! I hope you find the answers you’re searching for, and can move toward an emotionally healthy, physically healthy life. I have struggled with my weight from age 13, but I know exactly why, and I have been able to turn it around. My heart goes out to you for not being able to get the weight off like other people so easily can do, if they make the decision to do it. Thank you for sharing. I am sending you positive energy & the answers you’re looking for!

  22. As an athletic, 39 year-old male who, while being fit right now, has upped-and-downed my whole life, your story really resonated with me. My heart sunk as I read your “drive-by” story. I found this website through GoKaleo, and I highly recommend you go to her website. Now. And I agree with others that you have not been eating enough. It seems counterintuitive, I know, but Amber at GoKaleo shares your story.

  23. I had to comment on this, i just had to.
    I am absolutely WEEPING right now for this lady – her story reflects many aspects of my own struggles with weight, food and slaughtering myself with exercise yet the weight creeps higher and higher.
    To know that someone else experiences that pain is terrifying because it’s the most horrible thing in the world, i literally am sobbing while contemplating what i have just read because it hits so close to home.
    To be 300 pounds plus and be obsessed with food and exercise as much as the body can handle, and have no one believe how every morsel of food you eat racks you with guilt and how tired you always are from thrashing your body at the gym – but because you’re overweight, you’re branded a liar.
    This hit home so badly, i KNOW that she is telling the truth because i am there, i’ve been there, and i want to get away from it all.
    Her mental health must be totally shattered, i wish i could give her a huge hug.
    My own experiences have ruled out any health problems potentially causing clinging weight, and i’m willing to bet the same for her as well.
    It’s a heartbreaking journey, every day is miserable because everything is focused on exercise, food and weight.
    I wish her the best of luck in finding a solution, and anyone else who suffers like this too.

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