|Then and now.|
By Brian E. Clark
Editor's Note: When Mr. Clark was asked to write about his weight loss adventure, he replied, "I don't know who'd be interested in hearing about a fat guy losing weight, but I'll think about it. Maybe it's time to write about some good news for a change..."
This brought about such responses as "Go for it" from Chassidy and "Me" from Ann.
My response; ". . . everyone who has commented on this post (would be interested), other people trying to lose weight or who lost weight would like to hear another's story of their struggle and it is just a good human interest story; one of courage, determination and perseverance. Go for it, my friend."
And so he did, and here it is!
In researching how I would compose this article, I searched other magazine articles to see how someone who lost weight narrated how they went about it. I saw some good writing but, I was profoundly disappointed. Every article in any number of magazines was about some celebrity who was celebrating losing 20, 25, or 33 pounds. The problem I saw is they were skinny to begin with! I pushed on though and read a few articles just to gain some inspiration and, as I figured, the big secret in all of these celebrities diets was . . . diet & exercise. Do I need to buy a $5 magazine to figure that out?
I’ve been the “Chubby Kid” all my life, but in spite of that, I’ve done some pretty amazing things. Just because I am bigger, I never let it stop me. And just like every other person in America, my weight has fluctuated and I’ve gone through a series of diets to get back to a size that was acceptable to me. For the longest time, that was all that mattered. I didn’t care that my BMI (Body Mass Index) said I was obese, I was comfortable with who I was and that was all that mattered. That was until I came down with a terrible sickness in December 2014 that would change my life forever.
In early December of that year, I came down with what I thought was a stomach bug. Though, as time passed, it only got worse, not better. I ended up being transported to the hospital by Ambulance where I found out that it wasn’t a stomach bug at all, instead, one of my major organs had failed and I was within hours of dying. Surgery was needed, and I was rushed to the OR. I wish the story ended there, but it most surely does not. Because mistakes were made, over the next year I endured a total of 15 major abdominal surgeries. In 2015, I was in Middlesex Hospital more than I was home.
During the recovery, I was very sedentary, and between that and different medications I was on, I gained weight rapidly; 163 pounds in total. It was exactly one year later when the last of the open wounds healed, and it took another year to heal completely. At the end of everything, sure I was alive, but I now weighed 463 pounds and I couldn’t walk more than 150 feet without wanting to die! When I was younger, all I had to do was eat healthier and the excess pounds just fell off. Not the case this time around! I was really in a tough spot. And, I was scared. I have been big all my life, but my parents are big too. My Father has serious health problems and is only 65, and my mother had died in 2009 due to lung cancer. I also have a Step-Brother that is so big that he can’t walk. So, this was very real for me.
Dieting sucks. It always has. If it didn’t, then 68.8% of Americans would not be obese. It’s hard, and I know that everyone who is obese doesn’t have the resolve it takes to grasp the problem and begin to solve it. I ended up going to my doctor to discuss if Gastric Bypass Surgery was an option. Fortunately, it was. But, I was in for a reality check when I found out how arduous the process was. However, if you’re at the point where Gastric Bypass is a serious option for you, your options are severely limited to begin with. I met with the Gastric Bypass Surgeon, Dr. Robles on November 16th, 2016 and was told what had to be done to get to surgery.
Going through this process, I’ve heard that other people think that Gastric Bypass Surgery is “the easy way out”. I couldn’t disagree more! When I met with Dr. Robles initially, he told me I need to lose 50 pounds for him to do the Gastric Sleeve Surgery on me. Not just that, but I needed to be checked out and cleared by a cardiologist and pulmonologist, have a sleep study done, have my general surgeon clear me, have a psychologist evaluate me, have 3 different sets of lab work, and ultimately, have a pre-surgery physical done by my Primary Doctor. Also, I have to meet with a nutritionist every month for 6 months and keep a daily log of everything I eat. Finally, there are support group meetings at the Hospital every month, and I’m required to attend 2 of those. (Which I have, and I keep going to them, anyway. This is all spelled out in the beginning of the process, so I was taken aback a little. Easy? Hardly!
My biggest obstacle was losing 50 pounds. I couldn’t walk 150 feet; how was I going to lose 50 pounds? I looked at the problem as a medical issue. The problem was a lack of mobility, so how do I begin to correct that? Well, the natural answer was Physical Therapy. I knew that every time I’d dieted in the past, I failed because the changes were too sudden. It wreaked havoc in my life. It may have lasted for a month or so, but it most certainly failed. So, the key to this was slow implementation. With both diet, and exercise. I started this right before Thanksgiving, so I didn’t stop eating the bad things all at once. What I did was, I started to log everything I ate, no matter what it was, and through that practice, I became more aware of what I was eating. So, with my physical therapy, I slowly began to become more mobile, and slowly started to eat better.
Changes were far from immediate. I was in physical therapy until February. That got me to the point where I could walk almost a mile. (.80) My Physical Therapist gave me the best advice I’ve heard yet for anyone just starting out exercising; "If you’re planning on walking a distance that will be a challenge for you, make sure you bring cash with you, because if you walk too far, and get stuck, you can call an Uber to get home." Luckily, I’ve never had to do that, but you can bet I always had cash on me in the beginning. Diet-wise, I slowly made changes to my meals and snacks and I followed the suggestions of the folks in the support group and of the nutritionist. I don’t know when I fully made the transition to the meal plans for Gastric Bypass because it was such a slow and smooth transition.
Finally, I made this whole thing fun! I have a sarcastic sense of humor, so I’d broadcast Live streams on Facebook called, "As the Fat Guy Turns" and updated my friends how I was progressing. I usually did the updates while walking. I had a scary moment when at one point, I’d walked so much, I ground my left knee down to a such a point, it was hard to bend anymore. And I had an extreme wakeup call during this time - I’d put on 3 pounds! Luckily, I was able to get a Cortisone Shot and a knee brace. I adjusted my diet a little and once my knee felt better, I really started exercising quite a bit. I’m happy to say, that I lost those 3 pounds again, along with another 18. All told, since I began this journey, I’ve lost 63 pounds. I’m about to break the 400 pound mark. That’s quite an accomplishment for me because back in November, I never thought I’d get here.
Gastric Bypass is not the answer for everyone. Being healthy is. I’m not big on statistics, but I know a lot of people struggle with weight and body image. I’ve used the word “Diet” a lot in this article, but it’s funny; I’ve never once called what I’m on a "diet". Diets fail, and I don’t want to fail. I’m on a plan; a plan for healthier living. If everything goes according to this plan for healthier living, I’ll have my surgery in the next 2 months. I’m much happier than I have been in a while, and I’m looking forward to being even happier and healthier.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this. It means a great deal.
Right on, Brian; I'm proud of you! Editor