Today marks a year since surgery, and I’ve been thinking for months now on what I might want to share on this anniversary. There’s a lot of important anniversaries in my life, but I think this one might be the most important – because none of the others would be possible otherwise. Even though there’s so many tips, tricks, and feedback I have about my journey – today I want to share with you the story of what led me to my decision. I think it’s important because it’s a path many have walked, and more importantly – one that many have walked alone. Such should not be the case.
Almost two years ago now, I was well on my way to 300 pounds when my primary care physician took a deep breath as she looked over my chart. She took one look at my labs, and then at me – with pleading eyes that signaled bad news was on my way – and she said “Kristine, you’ve gained more weight since the last time I saw you and your labs don’t look great. You’re already on high blood pressure medication and it looks like I’m going to need to up the dose. You’re also pre-diabetic, so we now need to keep an eye on it in case I need to put you on something for that. And, I’m going to have to put you on cholesterol medication now as well.”
I remember just blinking and looking down at my hands. I knew how I got here, but when your weight has been an issue for most of your life, the health conditions that come with it just seem part of the package. You also know you have a problem, and you may know how to get yourself out of the hole, but you’re too busy emotionally eating a pack of Oreos to worry about the consequences.
I was ready to walk out of that office with additional prescriptions and just accept this as my reality, but God had another plan. She grabbed my hand and continued “Kristine, I need you to do something about your weight or you’re not going to make it to 30. I say that with the utmost care for you, because your life is important, and I need you to see what you’re doing to yourself.”
Tears started welling up, but I told myself not to cry and she opened her mouth to continue. My face was burning and my stomach turning, each moment becoming more difficult to hear.
“You’ve mentioned wanting to start a family in the next few years. If you continue at this pace, you won’t be able to get pregnant. And If you do, you’ll probably be on bed rest for 9 months as a high-risk pregnancy. I don’t think you want that for yourself or your future family.”
As she kept talking, I remember the tears started to run down my face and trying to process the millions of thoughts running through my head. Not be able to have a family? Or forget that, not even make it to 30?
At first, I imagined myself in a wheelchair, unable to do anything for myself, eating a tray of cupcakes. Then I stared trying to picture my future children, and my dream of running around a yard with them and having the energy to do so. I thought of Ireland, my dream trip, and not being able to make the walk to the cliffs of Moher. I thought about not being able to grow old with my husband. Then as quickly as these thoughts came, they were gone – because it hit me that none of these visions, even though all heart wrenching, would even have the possibility of becoming a reality if I kept down this route. If I kept on this path, I wouldn’t even be able to live out the worst version of myself, because I was slowly killing myself with this lifestyle. That was a painful realization, and one I still thank my doctor for to this day.
I refused to take the prescriptions she wanted to write me, and I scheduled another appointment a week later. I told her I’d be returning with a game plan for weight loss and I didn’t want to take anymore medication than I already was taking. Reluctantly she allowed it, and I went home that night to talk to my family about the surgery. A week later I walked back into her office and began the lengthy process of prepping for weight loss surgery.
Today, on my one year surgiversary, I want to encourage you to find, define, and feed your “why”. Weight loss surgery is not for everyone, the same way keto, paleo, whole30, whatever diet – is not for everyone. Running is not for everyone. Yoga is not for everyone. MMA is not for everyone. Most of the people who reach out to me about my journey are interested in WLS for all the wrong reasons, and they always seem shocked when I advise them against it.
It’s not that I’m not an advocate for the surgery, but I also know firsthand that it’s such a challenging journey and if you’re not ready to change your relationship with food and fitness, it just won’t work. Not only that, but if you’re doing the surgery for the wrong reasons, you will NEVER be happy because even though it is a physical procedure, it is an extremely emotional and mental process. I’ve had many people reach out and proudly share about a detox or weight loss program they’re trying... and I always tell them the same thing: ditch that detox AND that program because there is no easy way out and that is just false hope and not sustainable. You want to better your health? You need to make the choice to put in the work. If that doesn’t seem possible, you’re not mentally ready yet. I’ve also had people reach out to me with ZERO health issues but feel they need to lose weight because they feel shame around their body and tia and abuela told them they need to shed those pounds to be beautiful. Girl, you cannot embark on this journey until you come to terms with what you’re working with and stop allowing the people in the cheap seats to have an opinion over your body. My favorite are those who try to sell products to attain a “dream body”, if only you’re willing to spend that money you will finally have the body you want. Honey, you are in your dream body. This is not about being thin, this is about quality of life.
I did the surgery because I wanted to grow old with my husband, and play outside with my future kids, and hike Ireland’s gorgeous cliffs, and LIVE. I did the surgery because I wanted to know what it felt like to not have to see a cardiologist and take medication 2x a day. I wanted to change my norm. I understood that the surgery was not going to take away my struggles, but it was going to be a helpful tool to get me a to healthier place so I could make better decisions and live my best life. Seeing family members almost a decade after surgery still struggling to have a healthy relationship with food but NEVER as heavy as they once were – it was a promise to make my health a priority once and for all. It was, and still isn’t, about being thin or weighing a certain amount on the scale. I see victories daily when I carry my energy throughout the day, walk 15k steps like it’s NBD, climb up a flight of stairs, put on clothes I actually like, cut my hair short and without feeling self-conscious about the length making my chubby face look rounder.
The biggest revelation I had through my weight loss surgery is that I truly did not realize just how much I HAD ALLOWED my weight to hold me back, and not just from attaining my goals and dreams. I allowed it to be an excuse and stop me from being who I was meant to be. Just as I had made a decision to let it shackle me, I had to make a decision that I was going to fight my way out of them. I didn’t realize this until I was on the other side and I wished I had realized it sooner. Every single person who has had an inspirational journey will tell you the same: it all starts with a choice and a purpose.
There is no secret and there certainly is no easy way out (no, not even surgery). You get to decide that this has had bondage of you long enough. You get to control what happens next. You get to define your why and find what works for you. Motivation doesn’t come from following fitness models on Instagram. Motivation comes from looking at your spouse, your kids, your dreams, and realizing that ALL these things are more important than your attachment to food.
What if this time you embark on this journey without the intention of giving up? You focus on the process and how it makes you feel instead of obsessing over results. You decide to never go back. You finally keep that promise to yourself and start living. At the end of the day if comes down to this: You are your greatest motivation, and you are also your greatest obstacle. Which one are you going to listen to?