Originally published Sept. 24, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.
I turned 28 this week. Not a milestone birthday by any means, but it’s given me reason to reflect.This time last year, I weighed about 330 pounds. I was patiently awaiting my preoperative orientation, scheduled for October. I hadn’t yet decided if gastric bypass was something I wanted to pursue for weight loss. I was working hard to eat right and exercise while weighing the pros and cons of surgical weight loss.
A trip to the cityFor my birthday, I visited the wharf in San Francisco with a friend. We had planned to spend the day shopping till we dropped on the piers. I wasn’t able to do much shopping before I dropped. I didn’t have a lot of energy. I was hot and sweaty and generally didn’t have that great of a time.My family joined us for dinner at Tahoe Joe’s, a steakhouse in Modesto known for its gigantic portions. What I remember most about the evening is trying to educate the hostesses on why our party of six (three of whom were large women) could not squeeze itself into a booth.Finally, I compromised with a hostess that we would sit outside if she could provide armless dining chairs for the table instead of plastic patio furniture.Aside from that, the evening was pleasant. Most of us ate too much, drank too much and complained about it as we were doing it.
A very different birthdayThis year’s birthday was markedly different. There was a weekend picnic that involved me traipsing up and down a steep grade to travel between the picnic grounds and bathrooms more than twice. We had water-balloon relays, some people went fishing and others took long walks. Most attendees enjoyed KFC chicken and a potluck of side dishes and appetizers. I was perfectly happy to have a few Wheat Thins with sliced turkey and cheese.On my actual birthday, my husband and I went out to dinner with my mom. I had a craving for prime rib and horseradish, which led us to Black Angus in Stockton. I enjoyed a cocktail shrimp off the appetizer platter, a spoonful of the baked potato soup, a few small bites of the prime rib and a nibble or two of zucchini. And I was done — not too full but satisfied. Our dinner came with a huge slab of gooey chocolate cake, but I had no trouble asking the server to box it up so I could take to work the next day for my coworkers to enjoy.
Quality of life improvesAs I think of the changes I’ve experienced in this past year, I realize that my weight may be the most obvious, but quality of life is the most meaningful.A year ago, I was scared to have gastric-bypass surgery because I thought it might mean that I’d have to give up everything I thought I loved in life — like chocolate, good food and socializing. Yet I find I enjoy life so much more now that I can ever remember before. I see how small a role eating and drinking without limits played in my happiness. Or maybe those were keys to my happiness before because I was trapped in a prison of obesity. Not any more.