Today, September 19, 2010 is a very special day for this blogger. Seven years ago on this date, I underwent weight loss surgery, also known as gastric bypass surgery, for the treatment of morbid obesity. In the weight loss surgery community your surgery date is also known as your "surgiversary." A weight loss surgery date is a milestone or rebirth in your new life. In the thirteen months following my surgery I lost 141 pounds or 85% of my excess weight. Weight reduction of 65% or more is considered a successby most bariatric surgeons.
To date, I've succeeded in maintaining 100% of my surgery weight loss. I've also lost an additional 30 pounds over the past 18 months. Total weight loss to date: 171 pounds. I'm not "thin," but I am a normal sized, healthy and active woman who wears single digit (6 or 8) size clothing.
Undiagnosed thyroid failure prevented further weight loss for several years until my condition was treated following an auto accident while on holiday in Sydney, Australia 2005. To my doctor's amazement, I kept my weight loss steady with virtually no metabolism. The formula? Diet and exercise. Behavior modification does work. Although, according to weight charts I was no longer "obese," I still considered food my enemy. Little did I realize that I still suffered from disordered eating despite my massive weight loss and new relationship with food.
Striving to reach an ideal body image is difficult in today's body/fashion/sex obsessed society. Personally, for me it was a daily pre-occupation. I refused to taste let alone indulge in anything that I considered to be a "treat." Following surgery I underwent intensive therapy to deal with the emotional issues that underlie morbid obesity. I explored the reasons I became morbidly obese. As part of my recovery, I learned to avoid "trigger" foods that would encourage eating binges. Most importantly, I learned the concept of "equilibrium." If I ate excess calories one day, I would increase my physical activity or reduce my calories intake the following day in order to maintain my weight.
Still, I refused, rather denied myself any pleasure from food. No candy, no birthday cake, no holiday desserts. Until I reached my personal weight loss goal and saw a "magical" number on the scale, I believed that I did not deserve to eat certain foods and that included cupcakes.
Sprinkles Cupcakes opened a store in the Corona Del Mar shopping center near my Orange County home. It immediately attracted cupcake loving crowds. I would stop by Sprinkles and gaze lovingly through the window at the trays of cupcakes that beckoned to the people in line. Still, I refused to buy a cupcake because I was not at goal weight.
Finally, one day, after tormenting myself for months by adhering to my self-imposed diet of deprivation, I stood in line to buy one, just one, cupcake. I purchased a strawberry cupcake crowned with pink frosting, of course. My first bite of that Sprinkles cupcake was heaven. The cake was delicious; the frosting sweet and smooth. I ate two more bites before wrapping up the other half.
Eating that Sprinkles cupcake was an important moment in my ongoing recovery from an eating disorder. Like any other addict, I take it one day at a time. However, the day I bought that cupcake was the day I declared myself "at goal " and learned to love my body.
As I removed the paper cupcake wrapper, I looked around at the other people sitting at the outdoor tables. They represented all shapes and sizes. People were enjoying their cupcakes and talking, laughing, sharing and having fun. That's what life is about. Food is not just nourishment. It represents love, culture, history, family, friendship, holidays and joy. No one stared at me eating a cupcake even though I was still visibly a few pounds above my ideal weight. I realized I was condemning myself because I still didn't look like those women in magazines. Truth be told, I'll never be a tall slyph-like cover girl idealized by our culture because I don't have that kind of gene pool. But, by all standards, I accomplished my weight loss surgery goals. Once a raging diabetic on the road to kidney dialysis, I became medication free and asymptomatic within 6 weeks of surgery. Nearly bedridden from obesity and co-morbidities, after surgery I became energetic and physically able to stand on my feet all day and walk for miles and climb stairs without tiring.
Subsequent to my surgery, I've climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, bolted up 265 steps to reach the top of the world's largest outdoor Buddha in China, walked across New Zealand in 7 hours, trekked to the top of the Eiffel Tower and seen every corner of the world up close and personal instead of viewing it from behind a windshield.
I've been able to wear 4 inch heels and shop at all the fashionable clothing stores that were off-limits to fat girls. I created and became the community manager of the largest weight loss surgery support group on Yahoo with over 7000 members worldwide. I'm loved by a man who adores me just as I am. I'm idolized by my 9 year-old niece as her new mommy. Most of all, I found self-love and learned to appreciate my physical and emotional transformation as well as limitations as I become the woman I was always meant to be.
My fear of regaining my pre-op appetite and eating a dozen cupcakes in one sitting never materialized. I eat cupcakes, albeit on a limited basis. And when I do over indulge, I remember the concept of "equilibrium" and cut back on calories or hit the treadmill.
I love cupcakes because they are a throwback to the simplier times of childhood. Cupcakes are joy. Cupcakes are cute. Cupcakes are pretty. Cupcakes are passion. Cupcakes are social. Cupcakes are fun. Cupcakes are happiness. But most of all, cupcakes are love.