Shedding Weight Helped Heal Not Simply My Physique, However My Thoughts and Spirit, Too
As Kimberly Rex was said
Before December 2017, I was scared every time I had to ride on a plane. But it’s not because I was afraid of flying. I was angry and embarrassed because I hated asking the flight attendant about a seat belt extension.
I was 5 feet 1 inches tall and weighed 323 pounds. A normal seat belt just wasn’t long enough for my body. Every time I had an upcoming flight I felt anger, fear, and shame and dreaded the moment I would have to ask that question.
I’ve struggled with weight all my life. I’ve always been the chubby kid. Growing up on the Mediterranean diet of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and anything buttered didn’t help, but even when I tried to control my weight, I never had much success.
As an adult, I did every newest, biggest diet fad, but no matter what I ate or how much I exercised, I never got the results I needed. While participating in a weight loss program that was having regular meetings, I watched others in my “weight class” lose 10 pounds in a week while I only lost one or two. Any diet attempt usually ended up feeling frustrated and defeated.
I was considering weight loss surgery in the early 2000s, but after hearing about possible complications, I changed my mind.
I continued dieting and exercising. I was a guest on Dr. Oz and used what I learned to start a health initiative in my church. I lost some weight, but not a lot. I auditioned for a reality show that helped attendees lose pounds. When I wasn’t selected, I cried in my kitchen thinking, “I’m meant to be overweight until I die.”
When my new doctor brought up weight loss surgery in 2015, I was ready to reconsider. Still, I struggled with shame. I thought I could have lost weight on my own without such a drastic solution. She helped me process these feelings by helping me understand that obesity is a disease and not my fault.
She said I was the perfect candidate because I was ready to do the job. “You’re already exercising, you’re already trying to make better decisions about your food. You are the perfect person. Surgery will help you do what you can’t do on your own,” she said.
I researched gastrointestinal surgeries, joined support groups on social media, and spoke to anyone who would answer my questions. I found an excellent surgeon in Pittsburgh, and on December 4, 2017, she laparoscopically removed 80% of my stomach.
On the morning of the operation, I was nervous and excited. I took pictures beforehand so I would have evidence of where I started. I remember thinking how cool it was to finally be the girl who posts the before and after pictures and doesn’t just admire others.
After recovering at home, I continued the liquid diet I started before the surgery, eventually moving on to pureed foods and slowly back to solid foods. At first I was only allowed to go short distances to do sports. After that I started doing aqua aerobics and eventually added weight training and treadmill and then a personal trainer.
I can’t say it was easy. I definitely had to manage my emotional connection with food. But my new, smaller stomach kept me from going off course. The surgery took my hand and led me to a brand new lifestyle, one that looked after not only my body but also my mind and soul. These changes gave me the grace to move on – keep making healthy choices about eating; Keep pushing during exercise even when my muscles ached and my body was tired; Keep breathing in and out as you meditate. And with all of that, I’ve lost a total of 90 pounds.
But this journey is not over yet. It will never be. I take care of my health every day. I eat a low-carb, low-fat, high-protein diet that includes oatmeal with candied pecans for breakfast and dinner with leafy greens, protein, and complex carbohydrates. I work with my trainer two days a week, mostly for strength training with some cardio. In my free time I walk. And i love to dance. I put on a little old school R&B and have fun all by myself.
I also go to a local weight management center. When my weight plateaued about a year after surgery, I worried that I might gain weight. So I sought professional assistance knowing that it would be helpful. A year ago I started taking two weight loss drugs: one that fought food cravings and one that got my metabolism up. The medication helped me avoid gaining weight.
Another thing I will surely do is take care of my mental health. I faced a difficult marital crisis on this health trip. I had to dig deep into my beliefs to feed my mind and spirit. I begin each day with belief practices that include scripture reading, prayer, and meditation. When I’m feeling particularly stressed, I use a meditation app to calm down, go for a walk outside in the sun, or listen to music that calms me down. Sometimes I dance away the stress.
During this process I learned so much about obesity – despite my many experiences with others, even with doctors, who claimed that obesity is a result of wrong decisions with simple solution, it is a complicated disease with various causes. I’ve learned that treating and managing obesity often requires the use of all the tools in the toolbox – from good diet to exercise, surgery to medication. I learned that losing weight is not just about the physical, but also the mental and spiritual. If I didn’t take the time to work on all three, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
My trip inspired me to start a virtual support group called Let’s Talk. It is a safe place for people who have had or are considering bariatric surgery for support, information, and tools to help them succeed along the way. I also started a private Facebook group and website called Bariatrically Blessed for people looking for deeper support.
Today my goal is not really about weight loss. I want to lose more weight, but most of all I want to keep my health. Since I lost weight, my type 2 diabetes has gone into remission and I only need one blood pressure medication instead of two. I can do things I couldn’t before like sit on the floor and play with my grandson.
Two years after my operation, I got on a plane to visit my daughter in Atlanta. As I walked down the aisle, the flight attendant announced that only middle seats were available. But I wasn’t full of anger or fear. I strolled straight to an open space between two gentlemen. “Hello,” I said. “I think I’ll take this place.” I walked in line, sat comfortably between the two men, and smiled.
I reached down and took the gray seat belt off my right hip, pulled it over my lap, and snapped the buckle shut with ease. Not an extender. No shame And not a single regret.
This resource was created with the assistance of Novo Nordisk.