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Failure Lab: Weight Loss Surgery Was Never the Plan

I will still fight being an emotional eater. I will still meditate to avoid binges. I will still have to talk about my weight. And I will likely have moments of failure. But that's OK. I'm committed to the process and have finally accepted that I am a life-long weight watcher.
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When I started my journey to health I only knew one thing for sure. That I would lose weight and get healthy by any means necessary -- except surgery. I would not submit to an invasive procedure to do something many people are able to do: control themselves. That would be a complete and utter failure. That would be rock bottom.

I've never voluntarily admitted failure. This post is the result of an intervention. One night last spring my therapist excitingly started a session asking me to share my story at an event she was sponsoring. I'll admit my ego stroked. But then she continued, "It's called Failure Lab. A few storytellers, successful business people, and writers come together and share their experience with failure. And your current failure with your weight loss and what you're doing to move past it is so inspirational!"

I replied, "So you're trying to tell me I'm failing right now?"

I had no idea. I never do! Sure, in the two years working together to get my behavioral eating patterns under control I lost 82 pounds, gained them back and was thinking about having a smothered enchilada after I got off the phone with her. But I swear I was going to the gym right after that. I WAS ON TOP OF IT! I wasn't failing. I was struggling.

My story of failure in the weight loss department starts with a perfect mother, a chubby childhood, and lots of love and indulgence. My parents were amazing. My mother the right reverend and teacher and my father an aerospace engineer raised my brother and I to believe that we could do anything we wanted to. They raised us in God's grace. I had no doubt that God loved me, and I definitely had no doubt my father adored me. I was spoiled rotten. I could have joined the circus and my father would have screamed from the crowd "that's my baby -- go get 'em girl."

I was an achiever, I never thought twice about failure. So my story starts with a fixed mindset of achievement -- even in the smallest forms. I also ate freely, and I had no limits or boundaries. My parents were strict and expected a lot from their children, but they created the right environment of love and support to get those results. But when it came to food there were no expectations. When successful parents grow up knowing what it's like to not have any control of what or when they will eat; they tend to give their children what they didn't have-freedom to eat .Food was fun in my house. It was a reward and a right. My favorite question was often, "What would you like to eat?" It still is.

When I wake up, food is on my brain. Sometimes I make egg whites and turkey bacon. But many days I don't, and I have to fight the school office food dumps. I'm a vice principal, and at our school breakfast usually consists of Corner Bakery's delicious cinnamon bark bread with the sugar crystals -- epic fail. Once I make it past breakfast, I'm helping my teachers and my kids and then it's time for lunch. Did I pack my lunch? If I didn't, I have to fight the urge to get jerk chicken from the Jamaican Grill up the street. Then dinner? Am I cooking after a 10-hour day? Probably not. So my day contained a lot of food failures.

But finding the initial motivation to change was hard. My weight never kept me from much. I'm generally active and I've never had a problem catching the attention of men. But for the latter, I honestly never understood why? Sure I was smart, always successful, and I told you I never fail right? But I was fat. Always, Never small. Always more than I needed to be. More than what the world told me I should be. And I hated my body for it. And deep down I think I hated the men who loved my body -- I thought they were idiots. And promptly dumped them all. But then I fell in love with my best friend (let's call him partner), who watched from the sidelines as I broke hearts and got mine broke a time or two also. He also watched my body grow with each passing year.

When we finally decided to be together, I heard the excitement in his voice but also the caution. He wanted me to face my failure. He asked me to deal with my unloving nature toward myself. I failed at loving Akela, and it was time I faced that.

I fought him and failure with every fiber of my being, until I learned to fall into it so that I could do something about it.

At first, I did all the right things. I bought my A game to therapy once a week. I logged my food. I walked my 10,000 steps, I squatted, I burpeed, I ran races, I lifted weights, I did bad salsa in Zumba class. I denied my self dairy, chocolate, fats, and sugar. I started a blog. I had a following. I told my story ("When the Man You Love Asks you to Lose Weight"). I had a gorgeous after pictures and an ego that was celebrated. I lost weight while losing the war. Six months later I couldn't keep up my winning position against food. I binged-stressed out about the young broken lives I serve every day. I left my demanding job exhausted and said no to the gym way more than I said yes. I cried myself to sleep thinking about the weight and feeling powerless to fight my food demons.

I fed into what society has conditioned us to believe; that I should be able to control my eating by sheer will power alone. Never mind that people don't so something that's good for them on a daily basis. Most people don't take their last day of antibiotics or stick to a budget. People don't do simple things like keep their car clean by taking all the daily stuff they put in there out. I was facing something we need -- food -- and it had turned into a living-breathing enemy.

So here I am. I'm one of the many human beings that have not succeeded in the battle of the bulge. Many will say that my mind has not changed and that's why I gained the weight. But it has. I'm not who I was two years ago -- I'm better even if I am fatter. Many will say it's a lifestyle change. I did that too; but it wasn't what I thought it would be. But I get it, it's easy to judge me -- because my failure is something you can see. Most can hide theirs for a while. And yes, some will say that I lost my weight for the wrong reasons. But they too are wrong, love motivated me not vanity. And that man is the most supportive loving and honest man anyone could ever ask for, and we're both loving each other through our personal failures.

In 3.5 months a very skilled and highly-lauded surgeon will meet me at a hospital in VA at 5:30 a.m. I will be put under anesthesia and he will sleeve off a portion of my stomach. About 25-35 percent of it's current size. He will reduce appetite hormones by sieving that part of my stomach. The larger part, the part that's not chosen to take me on my righteous path of health and athleticism will float in my body unharmed and unused.

I will come home two days later and only be able to stomach clear liquids for the next two weeks. The subsequent 4-6 weeks will consist of only pureed foods and slightly thicker soups. At about the three-month point I will be able to eat 2/3 cups of food and feel Thanksgiving full. I will not be able to drink while I eat. I will not be able to drink 20 minutes before or after. And after about six months I'll be 100 pounds lighter. But that's all I will be.

I will still have to go to work and make it pass the corner bakery cinnamon bark. I will still have to pack my lunch to avoid jerk chicken. I will still have to go to the gym and do burpees, squats, and bad salsa in Zumba class. I will still be facing food on a daily basis. I will still fight being an emotional eater. I will still meditate to avoid binges. I will still have to talk about my weight. And I will likely have moments of failure. But that's OK. I'm committed to the process and have finally accepted that I am a life-long weight watcher.