Four years ago today I had no idea how my life was about to change. On October 28, 2011, at age 58, I was wheeled into an operating room in Frankfurt, Germany, and like many of the readers here, a big part of my stomach was removed and a huge hope for the future replaced it.
My hope for a healthier life — where I looked and felt better, had more energy, and could move easily — not only came true but far exceeded even my wildest dreams.
It seems only appropriate on this anniversary date that I look back on these last four years and tell others how grateful I am to have had this shot at such a magical life. I know there are still many people who read my blog who have not yet had the surgery, and it’s important to me that this might be the push they need. That this is not just another diet that will last a few months. I’m living proof that you can have this surgery and four years later live life as a normal-weight person without dieting.
Let me rewind a bit to the first of October, 2011. My husband and I were in the middle of a year of travel after retiring, coming from Hawaii, traveling across the mainland USA, and then spending a few months in Amsterdam. It was here in the land of tall, beautiful, healthy people that my weight problems became more apparent as I limped and waddled around in sandals or tennis shoes while I watched thin Dutch women pass me by in their stylish boots. But even as I soaked my swelling, aching feet at night, and even when I looked around at all the other slim people around us, and even when my knee gave out, still I didn’t know what to do to lose weight. It seemed to me I was always eating less than people around me, and God knows I tried every diet on the planet and I could measure my weight loss in ounces.
It wasn’t until my normally quiet husband told me (let me tell, you I didn’t see THIS one coming!) that if we didn’t do something to figure this out, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of it anymore. Who could blame him? He had always kept himself in great shape, but I had gained over 50 lbs on top of an already heavy body in the time we were together. What if he were 85 lbs overweight? How would I feel?
So, unlike the previous 20+ years when we barely brought up the subject of my weight, we decided to start talking about this problem. But just like the previous 20+ years, we approached this problem together, and figured it out TOGETHER.
After some drama and tears and profanities (mostly me being pissed at him as if he caused my weight problem!) we decided to tackle it like we did all of the challenges that had come before us. We started to have really honest conversations and to look into all our options. Sort of the brainstorming approach where no idea is a bad one — just get it out there and let’s take a look at it. One of his first ideas was to cut our year-long trip in half, go back to the USA, and figure this out. WHAT? No way would I go back to the USA and try another diet — no thank you! Been there, done that. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins, personal trainers, you name it. Those did not work back then and I knew they wouldn’t work now, not in the USA, not in Europe, not in my body!
Enter the weight loss surgery option! We hardly knew anything about WLS but I knew that for my body type to lose weight I would need to eat about 800 calories a day, and I think anyone reading this blog knows that is not sustainable for a normal, active person for more than a week or two. And we won’t even talk about the crankiness factor or the fact that it all goes back on once you stop eating nothing.
But removing most of my stomach — that made sense to me. I could wrap my head around it — smaller stomach, smaller portions — and everything I read was so positive. Yes, it might be drastic, but I had dug myself into a big hole and needed something drastic to get out. I didn’t really even have to think about it for very long, maybe 30 minutes! Once I knew it was an option I said, “Where do I sign?” I was self-pay so all I had to do was schedule a date, and we decided there was no time like the present. From the time the decision was made to the day of surgery was probably three weeks.
As I said, that day was exactly four years ago TODAY. I had just turned 58 years old. I am now 62. How has my life changed in four years? WOW. Where do I start?
First, as most of you know, I wrote this blog every Sunday to document the changes in my body, my mind, my health, and my life (my wardrobe!) for the first year. And I am SO happy I did, because looking back now it was a bit of a blur — so many changes in such a short time. This past spring, my husband and I turned the blog into a Queen of Crop book because we wanted to inspire others to consider surgery, especially if you are older. We recognized that the Vertical Sleeve is a relatively new surgery and even now, four years later, WLS is still an “alternative” weight loss option despite its successful track record.
And hey, we were traveling to lots of cool places, so the blog became a Travel/Weight Loss story! We feel very proud of our book — and I say “our” because my husband put as much if not more work into the book as I did! If you haven’t read it yet, you can click on the link to buy the paperback or Kindle version.
The first year was so exciting for us! For the first time in my life I was losing weight consistently. My knee, hip, and foot problems disappeared, my high cholesterol disappeared, I was more energetic, and I finally felt like my body was starting to match how I thought I should look. We were still traveling, so besides the changes in my body we were also experiencing new places and seeing old friends. For the most part, I didn’t come out of the closet to many people, but that has definitely changed now. Funny how your perspective changes; I’m no longer embarrassed by it, but proud of it.
And like clockwork, exactly one year later in October 2012, as we were moving from Hawaii to Amsterdam permanently, I hit my goal weight of 139 lbs.
Three years later, I am still 139 lbs.
But oh, have our lives changed! I don’t think we’ve changed, we’ve just been able to express ourselves more openly because of the changes we went through — weight loss, talking more, living in Europe. During one of our deep discussions we realized that we could “design” a life that works for just us, even if it isn’t a traditional life. And that’s what we have done. I believe we have become more interesting people — to our new friends in Europe, our dear friends in the USA, and most importantly, to ourselves as individuals and as a couple. We now feel much more comfortable becoming our true authentic selves. And trust me: I didn’t see that coming four years ago!
If you notice, I use the words “we” and “our” a lot in this post and especially the paragraph above. My weight loss and my dream life have been a true joint effort between my husband and me. When he finally broke down four years ago and told me how difficult it was to see me so heavy and all the related things that go with that (health, looks, sex, ability to move around, social situations), he knew it might be the end of our marriage. I have a very strong personality, and because I had tried (and failed) so many times before and had no idea how to lose weight by conventional means, I came very close to telling him off and going our separate ways. I give him so much credit for being brave, taking the chance to get it all out in the open, and then together finding a solution. And all along the way, he gave me the support I needed, and he still does.
In 2013 I had breast reduction surgery — one of the BEST decisions ever! An overnight hospital stay, no big deal, and I now have breasts that match. (They had to remove 150 grams of tissue from one but only 9 grams from the other to get them to match.) They look pretty decent — more than decent for a 62-year-old — so I’m happy with that decision, too! This coming January I will have some extra skin removed from my stomach and torso — a more involved surgery than the breast reduction — but I am very uncomfortable with how it feels and looks and I know I will feel so much better after that’s done. I was overweight since the day I was born and hated my body every day for 59 years, so while I can I’m going to try and get a body that resembles something I like.
One of the BEST and most surprising aftereffects of all this has been that for the last four years we now talk about everything. The weight problem started the open discussions, but over these years we made the commitment to talk about all things that matter to us as a couple, no matter how intimate or uncomfortable. We learned so much about ourselves and each other, and we have twisted and turned in unimaginable ways. We have become more open-minded and more kindhearted than we were before.
Four years ago I left Hawaii (where my weight hit an all-time high of 223 lbs). I was in my late 50s, definitely looked it, was often short of breath, and although I didn’t want to admit it, I was very unhappy, and my husband was too.
We have been living in Amsterdam since October 2012, the quality of our lives is fabulous, and we are grateful every single day. We bike and walk everywhere. We have coffee and a cookie almost every afternoon and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. I do watch what I eat now, but I watch it like a normal-weight person. I don’t obsess about it and I go to the gym 3-4 times a week, like any normal person who wants to keep healthy.
One story I tell often: If someone would have said to me many years ago that the happiest time in my life would be my 60s, I would have thought they were nuts! But guess what? I’ve had a good life for the most part, but I have never been happier in my entire life than I am right now, today, October 28, 2015, at age 62. And I know there are still many more good years left in me.
And it all started four years ago today.
Wishing each of you your own fascinating journey and beautiful, magical life.
QUEEN OF CROP