I thought by the time one year rolled around all of the changes I was going through would be old hat. I don't know why I thought that, but I certainly did. But, this is not the case. If anything, there's more change evident to me now, but it is also much more subtle.
As I thought about writing this essay I came across a persistent problem: the things I wanted to say were going to sound pretty mundane and predictable, yet the experience of these changes is both profound and sublime, and I wasn't sure how I was going to get across the dimensions of their impact. Here goes: I am much more comfortable in my body. Everything is easier. Everything works better. I am constantly discovering new positions in which I can now comfortably be in my body. I understand why other "normal weight" people move the way they do, at the pace they do. I like my body now. I like being in it. I like the way it looks. It pleases me to use it. I am happier, I struggle much less. Things are just much easier.
I've lost about 130 lbs, almost 60% of what Bariatric science calls my excess body weight (a term so frequently used and cited that there's a common abbreviation for it--%EBW) over the past year. My surgeon told me this is the typical outcome for my procedure at one year. My reaction, half in jest, was "that's a disappointment! I don't want to be typical!"
But as I reflected on that later I realized my reaction was actually 100% wrong. Typical is exactly what I want to be, just in a slightly different way.
I wanted to be a typical size, sit in typical seats, wear typical clothes, walk at a typical pace, have typical physical endurance, take the typical medicine a 50 year old man might take, have typical problems with women, and not stand out in a crowd. I wanted to blend-in with groups of people like I do now. Typical is new for me. I like it.
I think I mentioned before in another essay that a new friend of mine over last summer shocked me with the revelation that "obese" is not a term he would find useful in describing me to someone else. I've lost about 30 pounds since he said that, and while I still have excess tissue I want to be rid of, I really think describing me as "obese" would mislead someone needing to identify me. That's too huge of a change to describe in words. That used to be the best way to identify me--I was the really fat guy.
Now, in at least the superficial ways, I'm just a typical 50 year old man. I could be in better shape, and I intend to be, but I like the way my clothes look, my body feels, the things I can do, and simply what it is like to move and use this body all day. My eating will never be typical, of course, but I have eaten dozens of meals among people who did not know I was a bariatric patient, and while I eat less than people expect, it's not so much less that it predictably and regularly draws commentary. I imagine I just resemble a picky eater who must not have been very hungry at this particular meal to people who don't know what's going on with me.
I want to lose about another 30-50 pounds, and my surgeon tells me that the plastic surgery he expects I will need is going to take some more poundage off me too. My BMI is now about 38 (it was 54 when I went for surgery), and we'd both like to get it below 35, or perhaps even around 30. I think that is well within my reach, I just know it is going to happen when the weather warms up again and I can ride my bike as much as I want to.
While I can make myself go to the gym, and I certainly like the after work-out glow, I know that's never going to be a part of my lifestyle if I don't feel like I *need* to go, it will always be something I have to make myself do. If I can get adequate exercise doing things I actually like to do, like cycling and hiking, then I suspect I will resign my gym membership for good at some point. Right now, I still go, but it still feels like an interim therapeutic measure. Cycling and hiking are things I do because that's who I am.
Funny, one thing that hasn't changed in the way I anticipated it would is my romantic life. Before the procedure, if you had asked me what distressed me most about being overweight, not being able to have a girlfriend would have been in the top three stressors I would have reported to you (along with physical discomfort and the health problems). Now, I still don't have a girlfriend, but that doesn't bother me all that much. I know well that the relationship I could have, as wonderful as it could be, would be accompanied by a portfolio of problems I don't have right now. I'm okay with that. It seems like a pretty even trade. I want a girlfriend, but I'm not in a hurry to have girlfriend issues.
I get flirted with plenty often, my smiles at attractive women are returned regularly, and my close long-time platonic female friends have all subtly reoriented themselves with me in such a way that lets me know that things have changed for them, too. I guess what really bothered me about not having a girlfriend all those years really was what my more insightful friends told me--I concluded it meant there was something awful about me. It wasn't other people's rejection that tortured me, it was my own.
One thing that is also clear to me here at the one-year point is that this story isn't over. While I actually am satisfied with this weight, I would consider it no great tragedy if I couldn't lose any more, I know that there's more weight to lose, and along with that, more changes to come. I am not looking forward to the plastic surgery, but it is clear now that I am going to need it.
I have not plateaued with my weight loss. The rate has slowed, but I am still losing. These jeans I wear as I type this are looser on me than they were last month. I've been buying 2XL shirts, but now they are a bit loose, I really am an XL. I have excess skin on the lower abdomen, the insides of my thighs, and on the back underside of my upper arms. All the typical places. Yay for typical!
The plastic surgery will be physically more of a challenge than the sleeve procedure. It will be longer, and the recovery will be more painful and complicated. I just don't see a way around it. This loose skin is a problem that needs to be addressed, it's really not so much about my looks, though it will be nice to normalize my body contours. The issue is excess skin. It is useless to me, and having it encourages rashes and such.
I have not yet decided that I will definitely do it, but that's only because it isn't yet time to make that decision. I don't make decisions like this before I need to make them. While I could probably go as early as this summer, I don't want to lay myself up during the summer months, so it is probably a decision I will make more near to the two year mark.
For a man who has always been the exception, typical is a welcome relief, and it is anything but ordinary. Being run-of-the-mill is a wonderful thing to be.
next - 33 months later