I was recently asked if I wish I had undergone WLS earlier in my life. At age 54, after two decades of trying to manage my weight – and failing miserably, I underwent the RNY procedure and in one year lost one-half of my 404 pound body. Better yet, I’ve maintained that loss for four more years.
You lose weight by taking in fewer calories than you burn up. This is accomplished by managing the food you put into your body, and by managing the energy you burn through exercise and activity. Until I weighed 350 or so pounds, I had no trouble with exercising. I played sports, rode my bike, hiked, and kept active with my three sons. But I couldn’t seem to manage my eating. No matter how much I exercised, my calorie intake continued to exceed my calorie burn, and over time I went from 190 pounds to 404 pounds.
The last straw in my decent into an unhealthy life came when I went above 350 pounds and it became almost impossible for me to engage in the types of physical activities I loved and regularly enjoyed. The decrease in exercise only made the situation worse and soon I weighed over 400 pounds.
WLS gave me the tool I needed to manage my food intake. From the day my surgery gave me the gift of food management, I have eaten well and exercised, causing a calorie deficit that facilitated a 202 pound weight loss. Today that same tool helps me manage myself such that I’ve maintained the weight loss and built a strong, healthy and fit body.
So with all of my success coming at the end of my 50’s (I’m now 59 years old – almost five years post-op), it would seem a logical question for someone to ask me: “Don’t you wish you’d have had WLS earlier in your life?”
The Author of My Life Story
Of course I’d have preferred to have stayed at 190 pounds through my 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s. It would have allowed me to have even more fun with my kids, play sports even more intensely, explore the world more completely, avoid a couple of health issues, and saved me tons of embarrassment and heartache. Yes, I wish that I hadn’t become overweight and obese. But do I wish I’d have had WLS earlier? Maybe, but probably not.
In the WLS world we say that with surgery we’ve made a life-style choice to travel a different path. We describe this path as a new life-long Journey. And we have. And it is.
However, since surgery only gives us a tool we can use to self-manage our journey, our success with WLS depends on us being able to use the tool for that purpose. And our being able to use this tool is a direct result of the things we’ve learned in life, our outlook, our attitude, our mental toughness, our resolve to accomplish this goal. It’s the total of all we are that gives us the resources we need to overcome the weaknesses and failures we’ve suffered. That and the tool of WLS.
At thirty years of age there was much I hadn’t yet learned… I hadn’t faced the adversity of building a career, the challenge of fatherhood, I hadn’t gained a true and honest picture of what and who I am, I still possessed the idealized vision of myself I held in my teens and twenties. I hadn’t grown to understand me. And without that background, I wouldn’t have been able to use the tool that WLS gave me to make the changes required for my Journey to Fitness.
It’s all Part of the Journey of ME
To me, my life before WLS and my life after ARE my life. My only life. WLS is simply a point of demarcation – a date on the calendar of MY life. An important date for sure, but not one that can stand alone. I don’t believe that WLS would have worked for me at forty years of age any more than getting married at fifteen or retiring at thirty would have worked for me. I wouldn’t have been prepared.
My grandfather used to have a colorful saying: “There are some things you just can’t explain to a virgin with words and pictures.” WLS is something that worked for me at fifty-four years of age because I was ready for it, my experiences giving me the experiences to manage the process. I believe that until I possessed these experiences, WLS would have been another failure in my attempts to manage my weight.
So while it is interesting to ponder, I really don’t waste much time looking back. I am who I am because of what I’ve done, what I’ve experienced, and how I respond to the twists and turns that life throws me. To wish it any different is to wish I was other than who I am. And I’ve got to say, I’d miss me if I was anybody else!