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Saturday, June 04, 2005

The side effects of weight loss

Originally published June 4, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

I’m constantly amazed at the differences between the person I was before surgery and the person I’m becoming. I say “becoming,” because I’m changing in various ways all the time.
I’m not the first person in the world to lose weight — nor am I the only person who has ever undergone weight-loss surgery — so most of the changes aren’t unique to me. And yet, for me, they are unique. In fact, they’re shocking.
Every woman's dreamEvery women’s magazine features stories that tell of better body image, increased self confidence, new-found energy and a general improvement in quality of life after weight loss. But few of us get to experience those feelings for ourselves because, as the media frequently points out, dieting has a 95 percent failure rate.Having spent much of my life among the 95 percent, I would read those articles and dream that I would one day have similar success. I could probably recite the basic formula for those published success stories on demand.
Giving upI was a loyal subscriber of both Shape and Self magazines from the time I was 17 years old until late last year. I spent so many years reading the magazines because they provided what I considered to be balanced information regarding diet and exercise, and I was hooked on the readers’ success stories featured in every issue.
I stopped subscribing because I realized those magazines negatively affected my self-esteem. Every issue featured a new eating plan that I didn’t have the money or time to start or stick to and a workout plan that I didn’t have the physical ability to follow.Every month, I’d feel like more and more of a failure, until I eventually stopped reading them all together.
A new perspectiveI hadn’t so much as glanced at a fitness magazine until last weekend, when I picked up a copy of Shape at the newsstand. I grabbed it because it had a workout plan that I thought could help me add a little variety to my exercise routine.
Flipping through the pages, I found myself easily sucked in to the success stories, as always. The difference now was that I didn’t look at those stories to be a measure of my failure.
As I looked over the workout plans featured, I saw quite a few exercises that I would be comfortable incorporating into my routine. The most useful feature I saw was “Remodel Your Butt,” which professes, “Big butt, no butt, droopy butt? Reshape your assets just in time for swimsuit season with our six super-effective moves.”
I know it won’t get me to my “best bikini bod” in 30 days, as the magazine promises. But the exercises shown are an appealing addition to my workout routine.
Aside from my new outlook regarding fitness magazines, I have an ever-changing outlook on myself.
A month ago, I was jumping up and down because I could reach my feet to paint my toenails. Last week, I indulged in a pedicure, because I finally wasn’t afraid of being “too big” for the pedicure chairs. Of course, the fact that my feet don’t swell up like potatoes anymore makes me a little more interested in their appearance.Speaking of appearances, I’m rarely willing to leave the house anymore without at least a little makeup and some attempt at styling my hair (what little I have).
In the months before surgery, when I felt like I was choking on my own fat, I would have said that I just wasn’t vain enough to worry about trivial things like makeup and hairstyles.But the truth is that I don’t think vanity — in healthy doses — is a bad thing. And though I wish I could have felt this good about myself before gastric-bypass surgery, I’m thankful I’m experiencing it now.

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