In 2004 at age 22 I weighed approximately 330 pounds (I stopped weighing myself around then) when I came to the understanding in my heart that I was not happy with my health and something needed to change. As a cry for help I went to a local physician and talked about my health with him. He had me take some blood tests to see where I was. When the results came in he revealed that I was about 90% on the way to being diabetic. He read me the riot act and told me things needed to change. Change they did.
Over the summer I started to reduce my calorie intake. What started with better eating quickly turned into a crash diet. I eventually was down to eating 1000 calories a day. 200 Calories of cereal in the morning, a small sandwich at lunch, and a regular dinner (minus anything that looked like real calories).
14 months later I weighed somewhere in the range of 180 pounds. With the rapid weight loss came the excess skin around my arms, thighs,and waist. I carried a lot of weight around my sides and back which left what could be described as a large fanny pack around my back. I knew I wanted to shed the extra skin. After seeing a surgeon I was informed that I would need 2 surgeries to remove the skin around my waist. The arms and legs were considered too complicated/costly to do anything about. The Abdominoplasty in the front and the Belt Lipectomy in the back would be done over 2 separate 4 and a half hour surgeries and would cost somewhere in the range of $8000 each. I was fresh out of University at the time and underemployed so I said “thank you very much” and tried to get the hope of ever removing the excess skin out of my head.
By September 2008 I was back up to 280 pounds. There were many factors that drove my weight back up but I do consider a major factor to be that once I crossed the threshold of 200 pounds or so I could see no tangible difference in my physical makeup due to all the excess skin. It made it relatively impossible to gauge my weight in any natural way. It also meant that it was difficult to find clothes that fit properly (especially pants). Basically many of the advertised benefits of weight loss including (in many ways) better health were impossible to achieve without the surgery. I also didn’t exercise with any regularity, which was an enormous problem in hindsight.
I again decided being big was not what I wanted and I started to lose weight again. This time the plan was to do it the right way (diet and exercise combined). It took me two months to work up the courage/willpower to start again. I knew that it would take minimum two years to lose the weight properly. I started very slowly with only a slight calorie reduction. I started going to my local Subway every day for lunch. It started with ordering a footlong ham and turkey with no cheese along with a bag of baked lays and a diet coke. I have kept that habit for basically the last three years. I even eat it for dinner a lot.
I entered a basic fitness program at the university called TrymGym. By September 2009 I was about 240 pounds. I started a program of exercise that included weight training and cardio with a trainer. I eventually was training in a gym three days a week. I started seeing a personal training once a week to help keep me motivated. Jay, the trainer, was an amazing help and support. His positive attitude and workouts were fantastic.
In the spring of 2010 I started to play hockey again as a goalie. My longtime high school friends called me one day and invited me onto their summer team. It meant a great deal then and still means a great deal now. They gave me an opportunity to belong to a group of guys that I had wanted to be a part of for so long. We have had lots of success in our first two seasons together. Last year we made it to the league final.
In June 2010 I took up half marathon running. My uncle thought my level of fitness at the time mean I could handle the training. He was right. I was invigorated by running. We signed up for a half marathon program at the Eau Claire running room location and never looked back. Much like my hockey, my running group became another team. I felt and still feel an immense loyalty to them. The structure of the running program made it easy to follow and relatively easy to train for with the right motivation. At the moment of writing I am a week away from my fourth half marathon and I have every individual who comes to a running night to thanks for helping keep me motivated.
I have worked full time as a Fundraiser for a cancer charity for the last 4 years. The stable salary meant I could look towards funding the skin reduction surgeries on my own with the benefit of savings. In August I saw the surgeon again and walked out with 2 surgery appointments. The total cost of the surgeries was estimated at $25,000. In late November I went under the knife for 5 hours. I was given a spinal anesthetic that made me numb up through my chest for the duration of the surgery. This meant that I was fully awake (I could move my arms and head) for the duration of the procedure. They told me to bring an Ipod to the surgery beforehand (I did not), which makes a lot more sense in hindsight. I could feel them tug and pull for the duration. It was a little surreal. The second, 6 hour, surgery on the back took place in January. This time the spinal wore off a little too soon and I could feel them suture me back up with great disconfort. It was honestly very painful. After both surgeries I was put on a fairly heavy drug regime that made diet pop taste awful (which was probably the worst part of all of this ).
I am writing to you today wearing pants that fit fully around my waist for the first time since Grade 6. I now wear small size shirts. I finally have muscle definition in my front and I no longer have to deal with the pain and irritation of a large amount of excess skin flapping up and down as I run. Most of all I know that having 8 pounds of skin cut off my body with have a large impact on my overall health moving forward. I now weigh under 175 pounds and look a lot like a guy who runs a little too much.
I want to tell my story because my experiences with weight and these surgeries are something I know plenty of people struggle with and I hope that in the future a lost 22 year old will be given a hand up with these issues rather than left to do it on his or her own. Before I end I want to also mention that my amazing father passed away from ALS between the two surgeries. He was an inpiration every day that he lived. He continues to inspire me today and is one of the big reasons I stand a smaller… but much bigger person.
All the best,
If you have any questions at all please contact me!