Not just a pretty face...

My issues with being heavy go back as far as I can remember say maybe 2nd grade or so when I started to think of ways to get more food.

Ironically, my mother was a professional body builder. She was Ms. Florida, Ms. Tallahassee, and Ms. Southern USA. To say discussing health was common would be a severe understatement. My father on the other hand is a “three square meals per day” kind of guy. Though born in Washington State I was raised in Florida by my mother and stepfather, who is also very athletic.

From the age of two until about twelve, I would visit my biological father in Washington, a few times a year. These visits were somewhat of a ‘food vacation’. Instead of having all of my meals monitored by my mother I was encouraged to eat whatever I wanted by my father. Bacon and eggs, root beer floats, macaroni-and-cheese, pizza hut, and my favorite, Big John’s Burgers, where you dip your fries in mayonnaise! I loved it! Then it would be back to Florida and working to get rid of the extra pounds I had piled on. That was the routine every year.

I then started to realize I didn’t have to wait to visit Washington to eat what I wanted. I became a master of sneaking my favorite foods any and every time I got the chance.

The Catholic school I went to had pizza day every Wednesday. My mother would give me $1.00, which would buy me one slice of pizza. This was just not enough! I began to take as much money as I could from my mother and buy as much pizza as I could, often as much as five slices. All the while I knew that my mother would be very disappointed in me.

As you can imagine this terrible lifestyle quickly started to rule my world. From then I was always on a diet; it became part of me.

High School was a little better as my curves became a bit more acceptable with an older crowd. I was on the volleyball team freshman through senior year but my coach and stepfather would continuously remind me of how I was short changing myself by staying heavy. Instead of these talks encouraging me to take control of my health and weight I would do the opposite and eat even more.

High School romances were far and few between and none of them were genuine. I knew it was the weight! I’ve always been told I have a dynamite personality and a pretty face but my size was often a topic of discussion.

Many people don’t realize how different living obese is. The world itself is built for the average sized person. Chairs, public restrooms, hotel towels, roller coasters, movie theaters, airplanes, cars, trains, you name it! Clothing was another constant reminder of how it was to live within a restriction of real life. For the past 17 years of my life I was only able to shop at stores that catered to the obese, or as we like to use the more socially acceptable term, “plus size.” Not only did I have to shop in the “plus size” store, I had to pay more too!

This is where my addiction to shopping began as well. After all, I had lots of extra time considering I was not eager to spend my time doing what most people my age liked to do (go swimming, exercising outdoors, go out in groups, etc). The mall quickly became on of my favorite pastimes. I began building an extensive collection of shoes, purses, and accessories many years ago. I may not have been able to fit into the size 4s and 6s, but I could always shine with some sassy shoes, or a cute bag with earrings to match!

Before having my lap-band surgery, I attempted and succeeded at almost all of the infamous diet solutions: Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, NutriSystem, Adkins, you name it. I would lose 70-80 pounds at a time, only to gain it all, plus a little more back each time. Nonetheless, when you need to lose almost 200 pounds, 80 pounds is only a small drop in the bucket and the journey ahead is still very long. Until now, the last time I felt good about myself was senior year in high school; I had lost 80 pounds over the summer on Jenny Craig. It was amazing! Nobody recognized me as I walked down the halls. I saw smiles I had never seen before.

I first moved out of the house at 17 from Tallahassee, Florida to San Diego, California. I wanted to go far away to begin my own life with my own rules. I remember being so excited to be able to eat cold pizza chased down by a nice cold coca-cola for breakfast. I went on a daily food binge. To be honest, I don’t know if I ate more because I enjoyed the taste, or for the mental satisfaction of being rebellious and eating out of spite.

As a business professional my weight has also played a role in my actions. Before losing the weight I worried that my clients would think I was lazy when they met me in person. I worried that if they thought I was lazy with my personal appearance, I would also be lazy with their personal affairs.

When I met my current husband Jimmie, I knew he was “the one” within the first hour of meeting him. There was an instant comfort with him and for the very first time, I felt like I was with someone who saw me for me. It was while with Jimmie that I realized I needed to do something if I wanted to be here in the future for my husband and my children.

I gave myself permission to explore the possibility of weight loss surgery. I needed to be honest with myself and accept the fact that I could not lose the weight on my own, and without the assistance of the lap band, my future was going to be short and filled with complications. I never felt comfortable with the thought of permanently altering my body with gastric bypass, so when I heard about the lap-band, I felt like it was my winning ticket!

I came clean with my fiancé and confessed that I needed to make a change for me to feel complete and to be the woman I wanted to be. I felt like if I didn’t make a change, not only was I short changing myself, but I was short changing the love of my life and our future family.

Upon making up my mind to proceed with the surgery, I confessed to Jimmie that I had been living in a constant battle. I was constantly tormented by thoughts of whether he would leave me because of my size. A simple hug made me notice that my fiancé’s arm’s couldn’t wrap all the way around me and my mind would fill with anxiety.

Deciding to get the lap-band was the best decision of my life! The last year and a half has been filled with such amazing journeys of success and many supportive, encouraging experiences along the way. I feel like for the first time in my life I am complete, no longer limited by the burden of bearing the weight. I finally have control over my life and I really do have so much to catch up on. I make daily discoveries of new conveniences I was missing out on, more of the every day basics such as tying my shoes or shaving my legs with ease, fitting in a standard size towel, not feeling like the largest person in the room everywhere I go. It’s so new that I often feel like I’m still the big girl on the inside, in a magic “thin” suit of armor. It’s amazing!

I look forward to embracing the new me each and every day. I make it my mission to help as many people as possible. I want everyone to know that they are not alone and that obesity is a disease, a mental and physical monster that controls all angles of your life.

Making the decision to take control of my weight has been the beginning of countless memories to come.

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