How Weight-Loss Surgery Changed Me: A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

4 years ago

Sometimes, you have to see it to believe it.

When you're morbidly obese and want/need to lose a couple of hundred pounds or more, it's hard to notice any changes in your body in the beginning of your weight loss journey. You could lose five, 10, 15, even 20 pounds or more and neither see nor feel any differences. Sure, all of the doctors and "gurus" promise you that even losing a few pounds helps you in the long run, and you really want to believe them, but... You want to SEE it. When I was first diagnosed with Type II Diabetes at age 23, I was able to lose almost 100 pounds "on my own," and only went down two pants sizes (from a 30/32 to a 22/24). All of that work for absolutely nothing!

Of course I gained it all back and then some. It can feel defeating to see the scale move, but see no real changes physically. I thought I'd be able to wear cuter clothing after losing so much weight, but that wasn't in the cards. I decided that this time around, with the help of my "sleeve," I'd document the journey so I can have tangible proof that change was happening. Inspired by newer advances in social media and over-sharing, I decided to use these new media as sources of self-motivation. It worked!

Image: Feminista Jones

Taking before and after pictures kept me motivated. From June 2011 to December 2011, I'd lost 100 pounds. When you have weight-loss surgery, you're told to wait at least a month before you begin any strenuous exercising. I was already someone who loved being in the gym, but I felt discouraged not seeing results that mattered. My issue was with food and portion sizes (and emotional eating, which I will address later on). With the sleeve, I could continue to go to the gym, but actually see it paying off. I cheated and went to the gym after three weeks (don't do this). From July 2011 on, I was in the gym no fewer than five times a week. Each week, I would take a different picture, usually in the same pose and wearing similar clothing.

Like the first time around, I didn't see a lot of changes for the first 100 pounds, though people around me said they noticed. Except... they were estimating 20 to 30 pounds less, not the 100 I'd actually lost. It was disheartening, but part of it came with being bottom-heavy and packing most of my weight in areas that have been deemed culturally acceptable to be larger: buttocks, hips, and thighs. My face was thinning out, which was what was most noticeable, so I received a lot of comments on that.

That all changed suddenly when I went from a size 22 to a size 14/16 in less than a month. All of a sudden, it was like everything was melting away, though the scale was barely moving. All those months of going hard in the gym started to show, and I was going through clothing like crazy. I was glad that I kept taking pictures, because the changes were finally becoming glaringly obvious. The best comparison pictures, in my opinion, are the ones that are as similar as possible. That way, you can see the changes in your body and how the clothing fits your body, while controlling for possible illusions.

The downside is that sometimes I look back on old pictures and am overcome with sadness, reflecting on the things that led to me gaining so much weight and how unhappy I was at times. To counter this, I placed pictures of myself that I actually like from my larger days around my bathroom mirror to remind me of where I've been and where I am now, but without the negativity. I see beauty in both the pictures and the mirror, so it helps me reconcile some of the then-and-now issues people go through after major weight loss.

Take pictures. Record the journey. Celebrate the accomplishments. Explore the sadness and disappointment, then tuck it away. Focus on how going through this has improved your life and set new goals. 

How have pictures played a role in your weight-loss journey? What are some tips you can share with others?