Before & During: 2 Years & Counting

It has officially been two years since I underwent a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (aka weight loss surgery or bariatric surgery) on July 17, 2015.

It honestly does not feel like it has been that long. My first year I spent learning to eat right and change bad habits. This past year I took a different focus. My time has been spent on two things: maintenance and excess skin.  What do I mean by this?

Maintenance

There are a few common misconceptions surrounding WLS, including the idea that you can eat whatever you want and lose weight. Weight loss surgery is a lifetime commitment and requires that you eat right and exercise regularly.  It is not the answer to weight loss but instead, it is a tool to guide you in your efforts to live a healthier lifestyle.

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2017 Panther Dash 5k

With that said, when I decided to get surgery, I was really concerned about returning to old/bad habits. So, this past year I have spent my time trying to maintain my eating  habits while also focusing on strengthening my body (especially now that all of my health concerns are gone). From running my first half marathon to working out regularly, I try to remain active at least 3x/week. Additionally, I have noticed my body can tolerate a lot more food like junk food (I love me some Doritos) and larger portions of fried foods. So, I try to watch what I eat/how much I eat. I do not deprive myself but I focus on striking a balance.

 

Excess  Skin

With my weight loss (close to 140 pounds) … came excess skin. Even with working out to tone by body there is only so much one can do to tighten the skin.  At a certain point, excess skin is inevitable. For me, I have/had excess skin on my arms, breasts, thighs and stomach. To be honest, I am fine with the excess skin on my arms and thighs but the excess skin on my stomach and breasts took a toll on me emotionally this past year. I used to get rashes on my stomach since the skin rolled over. I had prescription powders and creams to help and even wore Spanx to help with the issue but deep down, I was feeling really unsure of myself. I have always loved my body but for the first time, I was afraid to wear certain clothing and even be naked in front of my boyfriend.

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Day After Surgery

So, I decided to start seeing different plastic surgeons to learn more about the procedure/recovery and to see if insurance would cover the procedure. After many struggles in Chicago, a surgeon named Dr. Neil Tanna  in New York came to my rescue.  With his support and with fundraising/saving, on February 20, 2017, I had the excess skin removed from my stomach and the skin tightened (surgery: penniculectomy and abdominoplasty). My grandmother flew to New York and stayed with me during my entire 2+ week stay before I could safely fly home to fully recovery.

I have spent the past few months recovering and I am now starting to enjoy this new found confidence and body I have. I can run now without my skin flapping and getting rashes. I can wear a size medium underwear instead of having to wear a size XL just to cover the skin. Clothes actually fit me how they should. I must say I am truly happy. I am still deciding whether or not to get my breasts done (purely cosmetic and to just simply better my personal standard of living). Until that time comes, I plan on enjoying myself to the fullest.

 

 


These past two years have been life changing. I would not change anything at all. I like to put “Before and During” when I post about myself because I feel as though “Before and After” doesn’t accurately showcase my lifestyle change. I am and will always be a work in progress. My work is not done and I plan to live the healthiest and happiest life I can, taking it one day at at time. Here is to many more years of self-love, self-care and happiness.

 

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My boyfriend’s perspective on my weight loss

I am Christopher Maxwell; the esteemed-awed partner of Dionne Gomez. I have heard through the grape vine that many of you have been curious about my experience being her partner during her health journey. Well you have come to the right place. I have been with Dionne since she started her journey at 300 pounds and couldn’t even run a block without breaking into a heavy sweat.  I have seen her change a lot over the past 3 years.

Before I get into sharing my thoughts, I feel it would make sense if you got to know a little bit about me aside from what Dionne has shared.  And p.s., she is a sweetheart for painting me in the light she has in her posts.  Anyway, let’s see… I was born in Michigan and went to Central Michigan University. I am the oldest of five siblings, son of two loving parents, and a lover of learning.  That last part is important to me because in order to learn and grow, I have to understand what makes people who they are and how to engage them accordingly.  My value in humility has helped me be the support Dionne deserves in this ever-going process.  It is important to not only be present and involved in their experience, but to also learn about it too so that you can play a positive, contributing role in their success.  And like I said, I love to learn so it was a win-win for us both.  Now that you have an idea about me, let’s get into those questions.

 

  1. Did you become more or less attracted to her when she lost weight?

The woman I had met back in 2013 became smaller right before my eyes.  And it was sudden too.  She became much smaller in the waist, her face was smaller as well, and she had excess skin hanging on her mid-section.  When I would go and hug her, my arms could wrap around her much easier.  However, my attraction never faded. She still looked attractive and appealing to me as she did when she was larger, because for me the attraction always stemmed from her personality, drive and curviness – not her size. She was smaller than what I had known, but her body was still proportionate and curvy.  I’ve always had a thing for curvy and glad it was not lost. In terms of her personality and drive, that did not change.  If anything she was happier due to her ability to be able to do more like running and sitting on roller coasters without worrying about the safety belts hurting her.  She now even has a better chance (not too much though) of being able to run away after talking smack when winning Monopoly.

 

  1. How did her size change and excess skin affect intimacy?

This is a doozy of a question here.  Well, to be honest there were obvious pluses and minuses in terms of intimacy and her changes.  The obvious plus, with her being smaller she looked more slim in her waist, her hips poked out more on her side, and she was curvier.  You could notice it as her hips popped left to right as she would walk about.  The minus was her excess skin on her stomach.  I am sure you have seen pictures and it is not eye appealing.  We struggled with physical intimacy mainly because of how her skin looked. It made her reluctant to engage in intimacy at times and I didn’t have the responses to immediately reassure her that everything was okay.  To help combat that, we worked to reinforce the notion that the skin is a part of her weight-loss journey and the success she had achieved not with just the surgery, but being consistent with her daily habits of being healthy.  So in a way, I treated it as a trophy in my mind.  I made sure to compliment her physically every day in various ways.  From her smile, her hair getting done, breasts, smooth skin.  Whoo, I better stop.  A gentleman never kisses and tells.  A thing to know is that seeing the hanging skin did affect me at first glance, but not to where it took my attraction away from her.  Not at all.   It served as a reminder of her healthy progress and that fact helped me know how to express my overall attraction to her.

 

  1. Were there any psychological changes you both had to deal with?

Plus-size Mentality: For those that have known her, she was large all her life and she connected with that aspect of her identity very much – she was proud to be a plus size woman.  When Dionne lost the weight, while she KNEW that her body had become smaller, she still had the mindset of a larger woman. What do I mean by this? I am sure you have read the story about her and Halloween costume shopping experience.  If not, check the story out here.  Long story short, she thought that she needed a much larger size than what was in the store.  I told the clerk to get a medium.  Dionne tried the medium and was stunned to see it had fit her even with it being almost two years since her journey began. It is understandable though.  I mean, if you spent the past 27 years being very large and thinking a certain way about yourself, flipping the switch to smaller sizes takes quite a while to adjust to being 2nd nature and to embracing it. It is one thing for me to see her change and remind her she is still amazing and wonderful, but I am not going through it.   She is.

Compliments: We had talked before the weight loss took place and she expressed how that she did not want for me to be more attracted to her due to being smaller.  Hearing that, it worried me that by complimenting her smaller size, she would think I did not appreciate her before the weight loss. But, not saying anything about my thoughts made things awkward, as she would wonder how I felt and go to worst-case scenario.  It would freak her out.  It took time for both us to see how much her original size played a role in communicating to each other, but we embraced the reality as her being not better, but healthier. Now I just tell her like it is and sometimes she wishes I would stop.  That bashful little minx.

Diet: Surprisingly, the most impact full adjustment was to our diet.  I am the kind of guy that can eat 10 tacos and not worry about the excess piling up in my body.  I should be careful with that since my metabolism is slowly going away as I get older.  But when it came to eating at home, what we prepared, what we had for take-out, I had to bear in my mind that while I have more free range than she does, my habits around her can be discouraging.  So instead of having pizza, having salads with chicken breasts is the switch.  Instead of chips, having edamame beans works.  I gotta tell ya, those beans are pretty good.  I’ve also become more fit in the process.

 

  1. Do you have any advice for a spouse going through the same thing?

Please take what I am about to tell you very seriously because without it, everything that happens in your relationship will take you both down a bad spiral.  Don’t take my word for it, check this out here.

Now hear is what I have to tell you… YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE A PIECE OF THEM IN THIS JOURNEY.  Not just physically, but also in terms of how they view themselves and the world as well.  For someone that was heavy for a substantial portion of their life, how they’ve interacted with the world, and with you, had some basis on their size.  So to lose that, to lose part of that identity, and to adjust knowing how to properly engage them in their new size, it means that your outlook and theirs will change.  That aspect of how you connected with them is gone.  But that also means that new possibilities come with the loss.  More hiking, more delving into what makes your relationship real, more understanding of how you view the world based on size.  But most importantly, refining your connection with their body.  Being able to handle them being smaller or you being of vastly different weight than them.  Being able to handle how you two interact with the world and vice versa now versus then.  It is a tough process, but only one that will make both of you stronger.

Fat Shamed By Online Trolls

My weight loss journey was recently picked up by two of the largest newspapers in the United Kingdom: The Sun and The Daily Mail. Sounds exciting, right? Not entirely. 

The articles that were written about me correctly mentioned about 65% of “my story,” specifically highlighting my weight loss journey,  my bariatric surgery, the sagging skin, my fundraiser and my attempt to be healthy. However, I felt like 35% of “my story” was missing, which meant readers did not get an entirely accurate or complete view of what I stand for. Nonetheless, this is not what shocked me the most. I started reading the comments on The Daily Mail article. Immediately, I started crying.

While some of the comments were funny….

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A majority of the comments (and there were A LOT!) consisted of people attacking me, my size, my looks and my character…

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(For context: The Daily Mail newspaper is a conservative, middle-market tabloid newspaper known for its misleading journalism and slander (in my opinion), which might explain why some of the readers attacked me.)

Since the published date of these two articles, multiple other newspapers/ bloggers have  written about my story. And those comments have not been all pretty either.  Some have even been derogatory towards my loved ones…

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I could not stop reading the comments and crying. I wanted to respond to EVERY bad comment. Initially, I talked to my significant other Chris, my BFF Kike and my sorority sister Lia, who eventually calmed me down and finally convinced me to stop reading the comments. I thank them for that.

I was shocked by how I reacted. I consider myself a pretty confident woman even though I sometimes get comments from people telling me “I took the easy way out by getting the surgery.” However, this time around, I just could not seem to ignore the gravity of the comments. I have not really told anyone about the articles or have not been blogging for the past month because I wanted to take a breather. This honestly affected me and hit me at the core. I am still working through my feelings about the articles and am still sensitive.

So, why become public about this horrific experience now? Plain and simple, the comments have been haunting me.  I feel like I need a place to voice my opinion and reiterate a few things (even though I do not owe an explanation to anyone). I feel like I need a space to vent about my experience being fat shamed by these online trolls.

A few points that I want to reiterate about my experience:

  1. As I have mentioned time and time again, getting bariatric surgery DOES NOT mean you are taking the easy way out. There seems to be a misconception that WLS means those of us who have surgery can still sit around all day long on our bottoms eating Snickers and that there is no dieting or exercise involved. This is very far from the truth. Weight loss surgery is a lifetime commitment and requires that you eat right and exercise regularly.  It is not the answer to weight loss but instead, it is a tool to guide you in your efforts to live a healthier lifestyle.
  2. There is nothing wrong with being “Fat,” as some comments called me.  Big is beautiful!! My size is not the issue, nor has it ever been. I am beautiful and will rock it at any size. Do I have insecurities about my size now that I am smaller and have sagging skin?  Of course! It is natural. My new size/excess skin is the bittersweet part of my weight loss that I am extremely uncomfortable with and proud of at the same time. This is my new reality and I am learning to accept/embrace it. It does not mean I regret anything I have done to get my health on track; it just means I am taking the time to learn what these changes means to me. 
  3. Regarding my fundraising page, for those that think I am lazy and begging for money, simply do not donate. With or without donations, I plan to get the surgery to remove/lift the skin. My insurance will not cover the surgery. I am currently working two jobs to make this happen. However, any support is greatly appreciated.

In conclusion, it is not okay nor has it ever been okay for individuals to hide behind computer screens and attack other individuals. It is darn-right pitiful. I am proud of the progress I have made with my health in 1.5 years and am working hard to maintain and improve my strength daily. While I am still working through my contentions with the comments made about me, I REFUSE to let these online trolls dictate my story and progress I have made. I am way better than that. So to the online trolls…YOU ARE NOT WORTH MY TIME, TEARS OR ENERGY.

 

 

Halloween: One Size DOESN’T Fit All

I consider Halloween to be one my favorite HOLIDAYS. Yes, I said it…HOLIDAY! I love anything scary (especially paranormal things) even though I am such a chicken. So dressing up for Halloween is a must for me!

For years, I have been dressing up for Halloween. However, I could never shop at your typical Halloween stores like Party City.  Even the plus size options at these stores were always too tight for me. So, I had no choice but to pay an arm-and-a-leg for my costumes at…guess where?  Drum roll please……. I had to shop at sex stores or Torrid.  The clothes tend to have stretchier material and are more accommodating to plus size, curvy women.

This year was my first year shopping for a Halloween costume ever since the weight loss. It was also the first year I would be shopping for a couples costume with Chris. I love anything that involves synchronization, so a couples costume sounded perfect!

We decided to try Party City. Of course, they only have two sizes: Standard and plus (online14882259_10100187633857262_1385330311062870329_o-copy
only). When asked which size I wanted for the Flintstone costume, I immediately hesitated to respond.  Chris had to respond for me. The big scary moment came when I tried on the standard size in the dressing room. It was snug on my chest but it actually fit me.

Instead of feeling excited that for once I could fit the “normal” size, I was actually indifferent and kind of annoyed for a second. I was excited that my Halloween costume was finally cheaper than usual and quicker to find but I also was torn…Why was this tiny outfit considered “standard,” considered “normal”? I felt my body was normal at a size 22, it is normal now at a size 10 as well. It was not so much the fact that there  were only two size options, it was the terminology used to describe the smaller option that bothered me.

To these larger stores that put “one size fits all”on their packaging, please:

  1. Consider more size options: The average woman is now a size 16.
  2. Reconsider the terminology used for the clothing: Who you are to dictate what fits and what is normal?

My First Half Marathon: From 0 to 13.1 miles

This past weekend I participated in my first half marathon. One years ago, if you asked me to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) I would have laughed in your face.

At 300 pounds, I could not even run a mile. It took me 22 minutes just to do one
img_0006 mile. I struggled my first 5k (3.1 miles). I walked the entire time due to a horrific pain in my ankle (in large part due to the pressure on my ankles from the weight). Luckily, I still finished and had a blast because my friends walked with me the entire time and supported me.

When I started this journey to live a healthier lifestyle I decided to test myself with things I have never done before, things I did not think I could do…like long distance running. Fun fact, I actually do not like running.

I started off small. Fabi convinced me somehow to do a 10k (6.2 miles). With consistent training, I managed to complete that in 1hr 4min with a mixture of walking/jogging. After the run, she immediately asked me, “So when are you going to do a half marathon?” I thought she was crazy. With a little convincing though, I signed up for my first half marathon, the Women Rock Half, not too long after with my bestie Monica. Boy, was I nervous.

With my current work schedule and travel, training was really hard but Monica helped to plan a schedule for me. But, let’s get this straight; training was not all peaches and cream. I walked/jogged during a lot of my training and also gave up a few times or skipped training days due to LIFE. What helped is that I always got back up and tried again. Before the run, I managed to get to 10 miles only once and that was with a great deal of struggle and body pain.  My average time went way past the 3.5 hour time limit. As a result, I went into the run on Saturday completely TERRIFIED that I would be asked to get off the course.

Race day came. With my biofreeze on my knees and my gel packs in my fanny-pack, I set off to test myself. The first 6 miles went smooth except for the fact that my headphones died on me for some reason and I CANNOT RUN WITHOUT MUSIC. Luckily, Chris and Kike ran to Walgreens and met me at mile 6 to hand them over and apply more biofreeze to my leg. And, to my surprise, Kike decided to run with me at mile 6 since he knows I struggle shortly after that. Keep in mind, Kike runs for nothing, not even TACOS!

Mile 9 hit and I started feeling the usual pain in my leg. I was cramping as I was running and my left knee was giving out. I started walking at certain points and even crying. I was so tired that I could not even respond to Kike as he talked to me or to Chris when he called to give me encouragement.  Shortly after, Monica finished the half marathon. Chris and Monica started sending me snapchats via Kike to keep my mind on the end goal. It honestly helped a lot.

Mile 11 hit and the pain was unbearable. My leg cramps usually subside as long as I step and apply pressure to the floor. That did not occur this time. It was like a permanent cramp and pain shooting up my leg. As I approached mile 12, Chris switched off with Kike and began to run with me. I was so gas’ed that I did not even notice when they switched. I cried the entire last mile while Chris encouraged me to keep going.

As I saw t14372374_10100172214911952_1056431965181156586_ohe finish line in plain view at mile 13, I realized that I was going to not only finish the half marathon, but that I was going to finish it in under the 3.5hr time limit. I started balling even more with pure joy and pain. I crossed that finish line and immediately all the pain seemed worth it.

I finished my first half marathon in 3 hours (averaging about a 13min 45sec mile). I was limping, crying and hugging my friends like a crazy lady but I honestly did not care. I earned that finishers medal and was so grateful to have the support of my friends there to celebrate.  To think, a year ago I could not do this and here I am today as proof that it is possible. I realized that I was the only one standing in my way. It was not about how fast I finished, it was the fact that I finished. It has only been 48 hours since the run and I am still in shock and SORE lol.

I have already been asked to do a full marathon (26.2 miles). While I doubt that this will ever happen due to my current commitments and the fact that I feel I have closed this chapter for myself, I do still want to challenge myself in other ways. I want to switch my efforts on more strength training and maybe do a Spartan Run or take up Latin dancing (which I love!!!). Until I decide, don’t judge me if you see me walking around with my finishers medal still in awe. 😉

A Potential Side Effect of Weight Loss Surgery – Dumping Syndrome

I experienced dumping syndrome for the first time this weekend and boy, did I learn my lesson…I need to better watch my sugar intake.

For those that do not know, dumping syndrome, or “rapid gastric emptying,” is extremely common following bariatric surgery (aka weight loss surgery). It occurs when food, especially sugar, moves too fast from the stomach and is “dumped” into the small intestine. When the rapid “dumping” of food occurs, your body responds by adding a large amount of fluid to the small intestine. This fluid is what causes extreme discomfort.

Symptoms of dumping syndrome include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • diarrhea
  • sweating, flushing, or light-headedness
  • weakness
  • dizziness, fainting, or passing out
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • fatigue or weakness

On Sunday, I experienced all of these symptoms except the diarrhea. It was honestly one of the scariest things I have gone through.

My weekend started off great. I noticed lately that I could eat sugar without much consequence  so I decided to test my limits even more on Saturday and Sunday. I splurged on Skittles, Reeses, Hersheys, Runts, Sour Patch, alcohol and natural sugars like watermelon. I could not help it; I am on my period. I had not had issues before so I said, “What the heck, I’ll be fine.”

Sunday midday, I was watching TV with Chris and I noticed that I started getting really hot and my stomach started cramping. I ignored the pain and heat because I am always hot when I lay next to Chris and I figured the cramping was my period. Ten minutes later, I could not lay down anymore and felt like throwing up. The pain rapidly got worse. I started sweating. I could not stand up because I felt like I was going to faint. Chris had to bring a garbage can to the living room because I could not move. He drenched me in cold water on the couch as I vomited and cried from what seemed like my stomach being stabbed by a million needles. To make matters worse, my lower back started to become inflamed and I could not bend. This went on for an hour with Chris at my side the entire time to make sure I did not hit my head as I fainted. By the end of it, I laid naked on our living room couch, make-up smeared down my face, eyes red, drenched in water with a garbage bag in my hand. I was terrified to move because I felt the pain might come back.

I honestly do not know what I would have done if Chris was not there. I was extremely scared and considered going to the hospital. After the pain subsided, Chris cleaned me up and sat in the bed to the side of me for the next few hours. It has passed.

Today is Monday, and I feel extremely weak and fatigued at work and it’s only 9am. My lower back is also still in pain. I did not think dumping syndrome would occur to me. It is one of those things you read about but never think will happen to you. I have learned my lesson.

For anyone that is considering getting the surgery, please remember that this is not the easy way out as some say.  I am an example to the fact that there are consequences if you do not eat right. This surgery was and is the tool to help me live a healthier life, but I more than ever realize now that only I can be the solution to maintain my lifestyle long-term.

Considering getting the surgery? Have questions? Feel free to message me.

Why the SLG Convention gave me a reality check

This past weekend at Sigma Lambda Gamma’s National Convention in Dallas I had the opportunity to reconnect with sisters who I have not seen in a year. I should have been extremely excited for this but I actually dreaded it.

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2015 National Retreat

For those of you that follow my blog, within the past year, I have lost close to 130 pounds with the support of bariatric surgery (aka weight loss surgery). The photo taken at National Retreat in 2015 literally happened right before my surgery. At this National Retreat, I announced pubically to my sisters in an EmPower Session that I would be undergoing the surgery. I had not clue at the time how much my life would change in a year both physically, professionally and mentally.

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2016 National Convention

A year later, Chris and I walked into Convention healthier than ever. Chris and I have worked together to both live healthier lifestyles day in and day out. I think proof of that is shown in the picture at Retreat compared to the picture at Convention. But even with all of this progress, something was wrong.

Going into the SLG Convention this year, I should have been ecstatic to show the progress I have made. But honestly, it terrified me. While I have had many supporters along the way, some of you know that not everyone has supported my lifestyle change. I occasionally get messages from individuals informing me that “I took the easy way out” or that I am “conceited” for showcasing my transformation.  So, I thought going to convention this year would trigger some complaints/dirty looks from those who follow me on social media.

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2015 National Retreat 

Convention came around and to my surprise I was welcomed with open arms. Sisters were honestly sooooo supportive of my transformation and even asked me questions.  I even had sisters come up to me that I did not even know. Even sisters, like Nicole Nimmons and Crystal Cavey, who I presented with at the EmPower Sessions last year, reminded me about how far I have come since leading that session and how proud I should be. I honestly was in shock sometimes and would just smile because I did not know what to say. This encounter with sisters like Nicole was eye-opening.

Going to the SLG Convention gave me a reality check. Now that I look back at this past weekend, I honestly do not know why I was soooo intimidated by going to Convention. From day one, I have been extremely honest about my lifestyle change. By showcasing my story, I hope to do a few things: utilize social media to hold myself accountable/be a support system, inspire and educate others about healthy lifestyle habits and promote body positively at all sizes. I worried for nothing.  I should be proud of all of the progress I have made even if there are the occasional haters.

Honestly, the sisterhood reminded me this past weekend why I joined this sorority….we truly are sisters beyond graduation and strive to empower one another no matter how near or far or close we are. I am in awe of my sisterhood and what we stand for.

So with that said, thank you sisters for empowering me and for lifting me up this past weekend without even knowing it.