The first time I remember being self conscious about my weight was when I was in third grade.

I was in a clogging class at the Hurst Rec Center. (Yeah, clogging. Because I’m amazing, that’s why.) Our Spring performance was coming up and we would be performing a dance routine to “Down On The Farm” by Tim McGraw (click here to listen to this travesty of a tune and just imagine a bunch of elementary school girls dancing to it) while wearing a VERY red and sequined crop top and matching daisy dukes. I’d post a photo, but I’m pretty sure my mom refused to allow any photographs or video to be taken of me in this ensemble, so instead here’s a picture of me being adorable as a child.

This seems like a good time to take a moment and brag on my mom. She is an incredible woman who has overcome more than I can ever imagine. I am so proud to be more and more like her every day. While this story is humorous, it may paint her in a less-than-perfect-parenting light, which is NOT my intention at all. My mother is amazing.  I love her with my entire heart and I owe her so much. (I love you mom!)

When my costume for the Spring performance came in, my mom knew it wouldn’t do to let me strut around on stage with my VERY white belly hanging out. I vividly remember standing in my parent’s bathroom the night before the performance; shirt rolled up and trying not to move while my mom applied freezing cold fake tanner to my abdomen and back with a cotton ball. She also reminded me that I needed to “suck in” (something most girls hear in the backs of their subconscious at all times) during the dance.

The next morning, I woke up to find the skin on my stomach and back had turned a dusty, burnt orange color mixed with white stripes, finger prints, and patches of darker orange.

I looked sexy. as. hell.

Jk it was a total effing disaster. It was like my midsection had been attacked by an angry, drunk oompa loompa. But, the show must go on, so I donned my red sequence top and bottoms, clogging shoes, and danced my chubby little ass off to a song that I unfortunately still remember all of the words to. I remember looking at my friends and thinking “why do they look so much better in these costumes than I do? Why am I so much bigger than they are?”

Over the next 15 years I would gain and loose weight as frequently as Taylor Swift creates drama. I think I have tried literally every single diet in the world for at least a week.

Freshman year of college I went a month without eating anything more than one nutrigrain bar a day (click here for photo). Then I was like “damn I’m sad and hungry.” I was put on antidepressants for severe depression and anxiety (more on that in another post) and gained weight. Sophomore year I worked out almost every single day and didn’t eat much at all. People praised me for how skinny I was and it was my only source of joy for far too long. Then, after starting a long term relationship, I gained weight. When that relationship ended (another blog, another day), I dropped weight like crazy due to stress, working too much, and not eating. After getting into a new relationship and starting grad school, the weight started to creep back on. I use food like people use drugs. It took me a long time to realize that about myself.

Oh wait, you’ve heard this story via your own life? Damn girl, it’s like we’re the same.

On the day I married James I weighed myself. I weighed 235lbs. Even though our photographer was the BEST EVER, I hate my wedding photos. That was in March of 2013. Flash forward to July of the same year and I almost had to buy a second plane seat when we flew to France. I hate our France pictures. (Mostly because of my weight, but damn that was a bad hair cut.)

By August of 2013 my hips and ankles were beginning to hurt all the time. My back hurt after I stood for more than 10 minutes. My belly button hurt because my skin had stretched so much. James and I were unable to get pregnant and in my heart of hearts I knew that it was because I was so fat (It wasn’t, but I didn’t know any better). I remember stepping on the scale on September 1 and seeing the number 250.

That’s when I started looking for something else.

I began to research and study different surgery options. I know many people who have had surgery, so I reached out to as many people as I could, including people I didn’t know who other people knew, and asked everyone a bazillion different questions. I did, however, ask everyone the same single question. Would you do it all over again if you had to?

For me, the gastric vertical sleeve surgery was the best option. It reduces dumping syndrome and malabsorption better than the bypass does, is much more effective than the band, and also has no poor side effects during pregnancy. I found a doctor I loved, scheduled my appointment, backed out, scheduled another one, backed out a couple of more times, had an appointment, backed out, and then FINALLY had the surgery on March 13, 2014, Saint Patrick’s Day.

Now, I’ve had several surgeries before this time in my life, and I thought that the gallbladder surgery recovery was the worst. WRONG. The month following the surgery was terrible. I was exhausted because I didn’t have enough B vitamins or protein, I wasn’t allowed to eat anything that you have to chew, and I was super depressed because I couldn’t leave my house without wanting to die.

And then, it got better.

I got to eat again. I started working out. I began to feel like myself again, only this time, it was the version of myself that I was happy with. It was like meeting an old friend again for the first time and instantly becoming their best friend.

Since then, I’ve ran two 5ks and walked one, began working with a trainer, and lost over 70lbs. Yes, my skin is flabby and feels super weird in a body of water. Yes, I have a lot of scars on my abdomen due to the three surgeries I’ve had (gallbladder, ovarian cyst, and gastric sleeve). Yeah, I burp all the time and can’t drink milk anymore without wanting to die. I struggle with diet and exercise still. But I can lift, bench, squat, push up, sit up, row, and never have to switch chairs at a restaurant because the arms make it too small for my ass to fit into (that happened true story). And the next time I got into an airplane I had room to spare. I love our pictures from Italy. And dammit, I am proud of myself.

The gastric sleeve surgery was the right call for me. It may not be for you, and that’s totally cool. You do you. Surgery isn’t for everyone, but I am so thankful for my tiny tummy every single day of my life. And if anyone asks, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Thanks mom and dad! (That’s going to be the name of my mixtape.)

Every single day is a journey. Lately, due to my infertility issues, I’ve put back on 10lbs because of the medication I’m on. And it SUCKS. (Shameless plug: If you’d like to read about part of that story, check out my first blog post here.) Infertility is kinda the worst. But I am stronger, healthier, and happier than I have been in a long time. And I wake up feeling whole most days.

If you think like you could loose some weight and/or be healthier, I get it. I do too. If you feel good about yourself every single day and love your skin, please tell me all your secrets because holy shit you are a guru master. Kinda kidding. I’m working on getting there too, one day at a time.

Cheers!

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^Actual photo of me. The diet struggle is real relatable.

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