Towards the end of an 8-mile hike through slot canyons.

Towards the end of an 8-mile hike through slot canyons.

Cleaning out my computer files, I ran across this journal entry titled “NOT Forever Fat”:

I have been fat for so long, it’s hard to imagine that I can ever be thin. I stare at my body in the mirror and I see layers of fat, stretch marks, and floppy skin. Can it ever be that my body will be svelte and “normal” looking again? 

For so many years, I have followed diets, worked out to the point of injury, dieted to the point of starvation, and still, my body was lumpy, over-sized and unhealthy. It’s really hard to imagine that there is hope. I’m afraid to hope. So many times I have hoped and so many times my hopes have been dashed. I have gained and lost enough weight for four people. Is it really possible that I can once again be a healthy weight? Is it really possible that I could be a size 12? A size 10?

I wrote this one month before undergoing Gastric Sleeve Resection surgery for weight loss in October, 2012.

As of today, I have lost 107 pounds, and I am a size 14.

With 50 pounds more to go, I still have “layers of fat, stretch marks, and floppy skin.” Some of that will never go away, but losing the weight so far has helped me feel comfortable in that floppy skin. My confidence grows with every hike and with every pound I lose.

What helps is a club I joined over a year ago: TOPS. It’s a support group for people losing weight. I spent this past weekend in Casper at State Recognition Days where we celebrated people’s successes. As part of that success, I shared my story, which is reprinted here for you to read:

For as long as I can remember, I have had a weight problem, and for as long as I can remember, I have been dieting. Like countless other dieters, I have lost and gained hundreds of pounds. I have been on every diet and spent who-knows-how-much money on weight loss programs. I lost some weight, but it always came back, and I never reached my goal. Finally, exhausted and hopeless, I gave up.

In 2010, I was forced to take my health seriously when I was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer six weeks before my wedding. Desperate for a silver lining, I told my doctor, “at least I’ll lose weight!” My doctor shook her head: “You’ll gain weight with all of the steroids we’ll be pumping into you. Don’t diet. You need your strength. You can eat whatever you want.” At first I thought that was the silver lining, but honestly, I didn’t feel like eating much at all. My appetite vanished, and food I love, like chocolate, no longer appealed to me. Despite having no appetite, my weight ballooned to 315 pounds.

Dealing with cancer was difficult, but I finally found the silver lining: cancer forced me to examine my life and make health a top priority. After treatment, and with my doctor’s permission, I began dieting again. I lost some weight, but I needed help.

Help came when a friend gave me a book called My Choice. I read the book from cover to cover, and that was my introduction to TOPS. I tried the program on my own—even purchasing an online membership. I realized, however, that I could not and I did not want to be alone. Finally, I took the step and found TOPS, Chapter 20, in Sheridan. My first TOPS meeting scared me. I sat in my car for several minutes working up the nerve to walk in. I did go in, and immediately, I felt welcome. I felt like I had found my place.

Finding my place helped me, but it didn’t make losing weight easier. I still struggled. The scale yo-yo’d up and down week after week. The hardest part of losing weight was dealing with my emotions. After cancer, my hormones and emotions fluctuated wildly (just ask my husband!). My metabolism also changed. Losing weight was nearly impossible. Granted, I had lost 26 pounds in a year, but still, every week, I felt more and more helpless. Despite following my doctor’s program, the weight would not come off. My doctor told me that if I didn’t lose weight, the cancer would return. I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to die. TOPS helped give me the courage to face reality: willpower was not enough. I needed more help.

In October of 2012, I decided to have weight loss surgery. Many people think that weight loss surgery is the “easy way out.” It is not. The surgery gave me a tool to help lose weight consistently. I still struggle daily with what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and when to exercise. I also struggle with emotional eating. The difference is that, for me, it is physically impossible to binge on unhealthy food. If I do, I become ill. Surgery has forced me not just to deal with my physical health, but also my emotional health. Instead of turning to food for emotional support, I deal with my emotions, and my TOPS family helps. From February to December 2012, I lost 48 pounds. Since January, I have lost even more. I did not do this alone. I had help from several entities: cancer, friends, family, surgery, doctors, and TOPS. Without this help, I believe I would not have been this successful, and I look forward to continuing my journey with their support.

Hiking a steep trail in the Big Horn Mountains

Hiking a steep trail in the Big Horn Mountains

I share this not to trumpet my own success, but to help others who may be struggling with such a journey.

Weight loss, no matter how you go about it, is like climbing: it isn’t easy, but getting to the top is worth every struggle, ache, and pain. It just takes one step at a time.


Creating Style

instylecoverRecommended Reading: In Style, April 2013.

Few people know that I used to be a runway model. It wasn’t anything fancy, and it wasn’t with a large modeling company, but I learned how to walk a runway and how to put together a fashionable look. I did it at first to help a friend, but she asked me to continue, and I thought I would make some extra money. I made some, but mostly I got some nice clothing.

At the time, I thought of the fashion world as glamorous. I also thought being a runway model would be fun. It really wasn’t. Only one store hired me for their shows. It specialized in plus-size clothing. At the time, I did not consider myself plus sized. I could wear a medium or large, depending on the style, and my weight fell into the healthy category (probably one of the few times in my life when this happened).

However, the other stores wanted sizes 2-6. That was not me, so I got “stuck” with the plus-sized clothing. The smallest size in that store was too big for me, but they pinned me into the clothing and made it work. I felt horrible about myself every time. About three runway shows later, I quit. Although I got to keep the outfits I modeled, it seemed pointless because they didn’t fit. I did sell some of the pieces and made some spending cash, but that ended my modeling “career.”

The modeling company I worked with pushed the envelope at the time, hiring models of all shapes and sizes. I supported that. Today, however, the clothing industry seems to be slightly more progressive–only slightly. I see more plus-sized models and a push for “real” women models and mannequins. Progress is slow, but it’s still better than when I modeled. Now, as a true plus-sized woman, I have more shopping options. Still, some doors are closed to me.

For now.

For years, I have dieted…and dieted…and dieted. I finally found something that works for me, and I have lost a total of 95 pounds (the details are for a different topic). I have more pounds to lose, but what’s most exciting right now is that I’m in a size I thought I would never wear again. I’m still in plus-size clothing, but in another ten pounds or so, that won’t be true anymore. In the meantime, clothes entice me, and I am powerless to their pull.

A wonderful friend of mine in the retail industry is also losing weight, and she passes down her clothes to me as she shrinks out of them. She’s one size smaller than me, so as she moves to the lower size, I move into the size she just vacated. I love it! And since I have little money to replace my wardrobe every two months, it provides me with new clothes!

Typically, these are not the kinds of styles I would choose for myself: color, lace, sheer material, and patterns, but they fit me, flatter my ever-changing figure, and they’re in style. Consequently, I find myself curious about fashion.

This curiosity drew me to In Style magazine. The cover also enticed me. Zooey Deschanel graces the cover dressed in red, her dark bangs brushing her eyelashes. I’m not particularly fond of her new show, but her acting and singing voice entertain me. Inside the magazine pages, Deschanel talks about style and a little bit about the ridiculousness of it. She also reveals her intelligence.

Despite not being very academic, I recommend this issue of In Style magazine mostly because it’s spring. I’m ready for color, skirts, and strappy sandals. If you don’t love it for the fashion or the beauty tips, it is still worth reading about Zooey Deschanel.

Although I am enjoying my new-found interest in fashion, part of me feels like a traitor to plus-sized women. I may not wear those sizes soon (and hope to never wear them again), but that image will still be a part of my inner character. I hope that I will remember where I came from, though, and never participate in discrimination and judgment of plus-sized women.

~ K