I used to be fat, and that’s okay for me to say because I used to be fat. I don’t mean I was a size 12 after I had kids. I mean I was wearing an adult size 16 in middle school. I was teased from the time I was in first grade until I became bitter and angry and learned to ignore the teasing, sometime after high school.
[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on the links, I make a tiny amount of money by referring your business to that company. You don’t pay any more for the product or service; my kid gets to continue her gymnastics classes. Win-win. Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy the post enough to subscribe and read more!]
I tried everything. I would exercise, diet, a combination of the two. I tried all the fad diets and all the fad exercise regimens. I tried starving myself.
I cried, was angry, was hurt, cried some more, felt rejected, felt like an outcast, wondered why me, cried more, blamed God, blamed myself, blamed my parents, blamed my peers, then cried a little more just for good measure.
I got so sick of hearing backhanded compliments such as “you would be so pretty if you just lost some weight” or “you would be a great basketball player, and it would help you get in shape” or my personal favorite “you have such a pretty face.”
Then in 2009, things got serious. My dad died of a heart attack. He died on December 1st, 10 days shy of his 51st birthday. My dad, my father, my hero, my first love and true believer, died at the age of 50. And he was only about 30 pounds overweight. I was 24 years old and close to 300 pounds at that point in my life.
After the grief subsided and life continued, as it does, I grew larger, unhealthier, and angrier by the day. The day I stepped on the scale and it did, in fact, read 303, I knew that was the end of the rope. I had to do something or I would be reunited with my dad sooner than I had anticipated.
So I started researching my options.
After many, many, countless, probably too many hours researching all of my options, this is what I learned: There were four options for weight loss, all of which I was convinced I would eventually become a failure.
First, there was the obvious answer — diet, exercise, or a combination of the two. I knew from years of trying that exercise alone was getting me nowhere; that I didn’t have the palate for a diet-based weight loss program; and therefore the two combined wouldn’t make any sense due to my incredibly poor eating habits (that I was pretty much unwilling to change).
We all know how this works. You choose an exercise regimen and stick to it. You choose a type of diet, whether it’s eating smarter, eating less, or a prefab diet like Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, MediFast, or Atkins, and you follow it faithfully. You can do either of these alone or in conjunction with each other and voila, your pounds start melting away at a slow, steady, and healthy rate.
Except it never worked for me, even when I was true to both the diet and exercise portions, rendering myself completely miserable for months on end.
I learned about laparoscopic adjustable banding; I learned about sleeve gastrectomy; and I learned about Roux-en-Y, more commonly known as just gastric bypass.
My Godmother had had gastric bypass surgery a few years before I started my own research with pretty great results so this particular one was at the top of my list.
All in all, I was desperate to the point of definitely going forward with my decision to have surgery but so skeptical of all of the options laid out before me that I just couldn’t make a decision.
So I kept looking. I kept wishing. I kept researching.
And then I found that there was a fourth surgical option, one that was not at all popular in the United States at the time but had promise; and most of all, an option that gave me hope.
One night in the wee hours of the morning, I stumbled up on a forum of people who had undergone the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (or DS for those of us intimately familiar with the procedure). The duodenal switch is much like the gastric bypass in that a section of the stomach is removed to create a small pouch for food and the intestines are rearranged in such a way that it causes malabsorption.
The major difference is that the duodenal switch bypasses much of the large intestine, creating a much greater malabsorption effect than the gastric bypass. In the simplest terms, greater risk, greater reward.
And I so wanted that greater reward.
So I read, read, and read some more, all of the technical medical jargon; the explanations and definitions of words and anatomy that I had little or no understanding of when I initially began my research; the horror stories of failed procedures and complications of the procedure; success stories of the few Americans who had had the procedure enough years ago to share their long-term effects and results; I read it all, anything remotely related to the duodenal switch.
After a month of general research and another month of DS-specific research, I knew the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the pros and cons of all four types of weight loss surgery; and I was quite positive that my choice, the duodenal switch, was the right choice for me.
But it wasn’t that easy, not to just make a choice and have it done. It’s never that easy, right? Like I said earlier, this is not today, and certainly was not seven years ago, a very popular surgery in the U.S.
Of the handful of doctors who would even attempt the surgery at all, they always, always, always required at least two comorbidities in addition to being overweight, even in self-pay cases, as was my intention. This meant that patients had to have severe diabetes or chronic high blood pressure or heart failure or some other intense stressor that was life-threatening and could/would be “cured” by having the surgery.
I was 24 and, other than being 300-plus pounds, perfectly healthy.
So began my research into the daunting world of medical tourism. And that, my friends, is a story for another day.