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Losing 268 pounds, and what they DON’T tell you about weight loss

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By Shannon Britton, Special to CNN

(CNN) — At 27 years old, I weighed 486 pounds and decided to have gastric bypass surgery. I know what you might be thinking: “Oh, you took the easy way out.”

Let me tell you, having weight loss surgery is far from easy. It involves a total commitment to a lifestyle change.

Before my surgery nearly three years ago, I met with my surgeon, nutritionists, exercise coaches and a psychologist. I went to classes and learned about meals, exercise and how my body would change. We learned about plastic surgery — how many weight loss patients have their skin tucked because they have all this excess skin hanging from your body in weird places.

I was prepared, or so I thought.

On November 23, 2011, the day before Thanksgiving, I went under the knife. Since then, I’ve lost 268 pounds.

But the thing they do not prepare you for is how you change emotionally after losing a large amount of weight. At first, I thought I would just have this newfound confidence. I’d be thinner and want to run around naked. OK, maybe not naked, but I had this fantasy in my head that one day I would wake up with a body that I loved and would feel comfortable putting into a bikini — that I’d have no body shame whatsoever.

People would accept me more because I wasn’t seen as obese and unhealthy. Dating would get easier. Clothes would fit better. I wouldn’t be judgmental toward other extremely obese people because I was once huge.

Boy, was I wrong.

First off, even though I feel amazing and I am starting to like the way I look, there are days in which I hate my body. I hate how certain clothes push against my excess skin, making it bulge out (think muffin top, but worse). I hate the way the skin hangs down on my arms, and thighs, back and stomach. I hate that it will take at least $15,000 (if not more) in plastic surgery to rid these last 30 to 40 pounds off of my body.

I also have stretch marks and surgery scars across my abdomen and stomach, so being intimate with my boyfriend can be intimidating at times. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this, but that knowledge doesn’t erase the self-consciousness I feel when I get out of the shower, or when a stranger or child snickers because they don’t understand why my body looks the way it does.

My relationships also changed. When I first had my surgery, the guy I was with had been a best friend of seven years. He found me attractive at 486 pounds, though I’m not sure why. But once I lost my first 68 pounds, he left.

My surgeon explained that this is common among his bariatric patients. For some reason, it can shake the other partner psychologically when one loses weight, gains confidence and starts getting more attention. But the experience taught me that someone who is jealous of something that makes me better, healthier and stronger never had my best interests at heart.

Dating after that was a struggle, until I met my current boyfriend six months ago. Most guys got scared because they were afraid to take me to dinner, afraid they would break my new diet resolve, and when they saw a picture of what I used to look like, they started to wonder what would happen if I gained a few pounds again.

What else has surprised me about losing weight? No one ever told me that it would upset me when severely obese people get special attention because they choose to be heavy — like when TV shows feature people who are happy to weigh 600 pounds, or people who post YouTube videos professing love of their excess weight.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that people are comfortable in their own skin, because many times I’m not always comfortable in my own skin. But for me, being heavy wasn’t a choice. So I guess I have a hard time identifying with them.

Obesity is debilitating to your health. I used gastric bypass surgery as a tool to save my life so that I wouldn’t develop diabetes, have a heart attack at age 35, have a stroke, and to hopefully lower my risk of cancer. Now I have no tolerance for excuses about not being able to eat healthy and exercise.

See, here’s the bottom line: The biggest thing that no one ever tells you about losing weight is that eventually, the number on the scale no longer matters.

What matters is how you feel, how you look and how happy you are. I know at my current weight I am still medically obese, but I have a clean bill of health. Through my bad days and my good days, I am happier now than I have ever been. When I struggle or feel myself about to slip into old habits, I pull out a picture of what I used to look like.

And I remind myself that nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.

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  • Sexy Bitch

    I lost 150 pounds by cutting calories. I now weigh 150 pounds. It took five years . I have stayed normal weight for three years. I am 59 years old 5’7″ mother of three . Started size 24 now size 12 . Skin is what would be expected if I had not been morbidly obeses those 25 years….

  • Gail weaver

    Be kind to yourself and love your body at every stage. It is a miracle, after all. Sending blessings of love and acceptance. You clearly are an incredibly strong woman!! Go get em beautiful!

  • Rene

    I lost 93 lbs in 132 days. I agree with some of the comments above – I thought I would immediately be “cooler” and everyone would like me. Well, I am just the same girl. I do have to say that I wouldn’t go back, though – I am soooo glad someone told me about how to lose the weight. I had tried everything and nothing worked. Weight loss is not a cure for all your problems, but it is nice to be able to do physical things without the shortness of breath, and, yes, I do like to look at the new me in the mirror. Do it for yourself –

  • Susan

    Though it was only 45 lbs for me (I was 190 at 5’5″), I look different and do understand your comments… When I see those who are overweight I have little patience. I want to let them know they CAN and need to lose it… NOW. That my only regret is that I waited 15 years too long. My husband never minded my weight and now worries I am weak. I’ve had knee surgery for a bone chip (after a fall) and diverticulitis, so it seems he is correct…. Honestly, I’ve not been able to do my usual yoga since the fall and I AM weaker. I do hate that… But positivity! We are healthier, my knee will heal, and food is no longer an enemy!

  • Bill

    There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance in this article. “But for me, being heavy wasn’t a choice.” Really? Nowhere in the article does she say why she weighed nearly 500 pounds, but I seriously doubt it was unavoidable.

    “I had this fantasy in my head… [that] I wouldn’t be judgmental toward other extremely obese people because I was once huge.” So she’s saying she is judgmental about extremely obese people, but her situation is different because she didn’t have a choice.

    Lastly, “Now I have no tolerance for excuses about not being able to eat healthy and exercise.” She doesn’t say whether those are her excuses or someone else’s. But she had to go under the knife to lose the weight, so who is she to judge people who do not exercise?

    I’m happy, if she is happy, that she lost the weight. But she’s deluding herself if she thinks her current viewpoints are anything but destructive.

  • stacey kelly

    Are you kidding hunny? How can you judge people for being obese when you yourself are still big? Your even worse than a skinny person judging an overweight person. You still tip the scale. As a former obese woman i would never judge a person because of there weight. You should understand. You should be ashamed of yourself . You have an ugly inside.

  • Michelle12

    After a year and a half and a lot of ups and downs on the scale, I’ve lost 120 pounds. No surgery, just determination. I don’t judge anyone for the weight loss journey they choose to take. I ate off of a child’s plate, the little compartmentalized one, and if the food didn’t fit in the compartments without being mounded or overflowing, I didn’t eat it. I also didn’t deny myself any foods. I just ate half of what I wanted and worked my way down to what is an actual serving. I also worked out some, but not excessively. I say any way you can lose the weight and be a healthier you is better than sitting on a sofa bemoaning the fact that you are obese. I have no metabolic disorder nor is my thyroid out of whack. I ate myself into my 230 pound state. Depression is the reason, but not an excuse. My then 16 year old daughter is the reason I lost my weight. She told me she was scared I wouldn’t be there for her wedding because I was unhealthy and it made her so sad that my weight could kill me. That was my wake up call. As far as bariatric surgery or dieting goes, I say kudos to them for doing something. And for those that choose not to do anything and are actually happy in their own skin, I actually have a bit of envy there. I’m 5’4″ and weigh 110 and I’m still not 100% comfortable with me. I hope to get there one day. It’s a work in progress and every day offers an opportunity for me to improve. Now that I’ve got the body thing under control, it’s time for working on myself as a person and learning to love me for who I am, obese or thin. I’ll get there one day at a time! Volunteering in my little community has given me a sense of purpose and that has helped tremendously! Good luck to all of you on this journey. It never ends for me. My weight is a constant struggle, but I’ve got this! I wanna be able to dance at not only my daughter’s wedding, but also my grand kids weddings. Goals. I have them. :)

  • Jeannie

    I too have had the wight loss surgery. What they didn’t tell me is the ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster. I had the vertical sleeve gastrectomy. I had been married for 10.5 years, had 5 children in that time, and then he was always jealous after my weight loss. It caused me an emptiness inside. I didnt know what to do. When I got the right support group of friends, the emptiness disappeared. Today I am much better and healthier for my children. I can play with them instead of sitting on the side watching. The emptiness has disappeared with my new found positive outlook on life.

  • Laura Lynne Britton Kaija

    My niece lost 100 pounds in one year and looks great and feels great. Not only that, but she put her diabetic father on this diet and he was on insulin, had a recent fall, was in the hospital and not expected to come home, and now his doctor checkups are the best ever and he is home and doing well. My niece, Lorna Shelton, wrote a book called, “From Beautiful to Beautiful” about her journey. She included recopies and her workout program. It’s low-impact because before she lost the weight, she had to have knee replacement surgery. I think she’s worth an interview!