I spent years trying to get my weight and health under control, but I never saw success, oddly enough, until I gave up. When I started working with Dr. Eeks, I had finally succumbed and agreed with everyone – my family, friends and doctors, who told me that I could not possibly lose the weight on my own – that I didn’t have the willpower that it took. I agreed that it was my own fault (because that’s apparently how one takes responsibility for their situation), and even though I had serious doubts about my ability to lose weight effectively with surgery, I had finally “seen the light” that I couldn’t do it without bariatric surgery, and I would just have to try and make it work.
My physical state was a mess – my top weight was 560 lbs, I could barely walk and I couldn’t even sit still for long. Anything I did, and anything I didn’t do was painful. I had multiple co-morbidities including sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, gouty arthritis and sciatica. Inside I was a wreck – depressed, disgusted, and giving up wasn’t helping things.
I had tried to make a go of truck driving when I was around 400 pounds, but sitting behind the wheel for 11 hours a day saw my weight balloon up, dangerously, over about a hundred and fifty pounds in just a year and a half. The company I was working for saw me deteriorating, and even though I was still meeting the demands of the job at industry standards, they laid me off. I doubted I could pass another physical for another company and knew I wouldn’t be able to keep a driving job long anyway. I’d been having nightmares about having a heart attack behind the wheel, or in my sleep, and my dead body being cut out of the side of the truck.
I filed for unemployment with the state in which I’d been employed and tried to make a go of getting my bachelor’s degree. I moved in with my parents and after a few semesters, found the demands of a full-time schedule overwhelming, dropped down to one course, and still found myself unable to catch up with the requirements of the only course I’d kept, and risked failing. I finally dropped out of school.
I tried to find employment before my unemployment ran out – I couldn’t get past a first interview. No one was willing to take a risk on me. I finally landed a 3-month contract position that would turn into full-time if I performed well. I strove to outperform all of my co-workers and succeeded. I wore myself out doing it, but I kept at it. In the end, though, the company I had been contracted to wasn’t willing to take a risk with my health and opted not to offer me employment beyond the contract.
I finally accepted that I was disabled and began a long fight to get the federal government to agree with me.
Until I won my disability case my financial situation was non-existent. I had no income, managed to get on welfare and food stamps to help my family, as best I could, to support me.
All of my family told me that I needed to give up trying to lose the weight myself – I wasn’t getting anywhere and I was just going to die if I didn’t get surgery soon. My doctor echoed my family, fervently. I got second opinions, but it led me nowhere new. Get the surgery or start saying goodbye.
I spent a lot of time trying to understand how I had gotten there. I could identify a number of influences that led me to my obesity. I had been overweight, and eventually obese for almost all of my adult life. But I never gained as much, so fast, as I did as a truck driver.
I finally gave in and pursued bariatric surgery. This wasn’t easy because I had no insurance. I had managed to get straight medicaid through welfare, but it covered very little. I could see doctors, but I could not get surgery. I found a bariatric surgeon that dedicated himself to getting me on the table. He finagled with the directors of the hospital system he worked with, trying to get them to cover me for free, under the circumstances. He was making headway, but it wasn’t an easy battle and I needed to kow-tow every step of the way and not only meet the expectations that any insurance company would expect a patient of such surgery to undergo (support groups, nutritionists, etc…) but to exceed them.
I started meeting with the hospital’s nutritionist. I met the first nutritionist at the first meeting and things went well enough – I explained my situation, she gave me some advice, and our conversation gave me an idea – I asked if she could take what I had told her about my diet, point out a few things that she wants me to stop eating, and point out a few things that would be very helpful in losing weight that I could eat every day. Her response was “You want me to tell you what to eat?” Well, I was talking to a nutritionist after all, so I went for broke and said yes. Her further response – “Look at the food pyramid!”
I don’t remember the rest of the meeting, I was barely there for it. Lots of nodding and mm-hmming, and a thought in the back of my mind that I’d be damned if I’d ever be in the same office as her again. The next meeting would be with a different nutritionist – I’d start all over if I had to, but I wasn’t working with that woman again.
When I got home I vented my frustrations about the meeting on facebook. I stuck with the basic facts in case someone from the hospital checked my page – these people were trying to get me this surgery for free, if I couldn’t get approved for disability in time, I couldn’t risk losing that; it was my only hope.
An acquaintance – one I’ve never met (and still haven’t!) and only knew through facebook, someone who had been friends in college with a girl I briefly dated in high school – saw what I wrote and flipped out. She wanted this nutritionist’s name, she wanted a number to call, she wanted to chew her hide and then go to her superiors. She wanted to put this woman in her place and remind her what exactly her job title was.
I told her I couldn’t possibly let her do that – pointing out all that I had to lose. She, Dr. Eeks, then asked me to let her help me; she pointed out that I don’t need the surgery. I disagreed with her vehemently. She claimed she could help me lose the weight. I found it laughable. How could a health coach in NYC, with whom I’ve never met, and wasn’t likely to meet anytime soon, help me when countless others had tried so far before. So many had offered and flaked out that I didn’t even fully expect her to try.
Still she persisted in getting me to give her a chance – pointing out that in order to even get the surgery, I’d need to lose at least 10 percent of my body weight. How was I going to lose 50-60 pounds on my own? Had I managed a loss of that magnitude before? I hadn’t. The best I’d managed to pull was 25-30 pounds, and that exhausted me ridiculously, resulting in my running out of steam and putting the pounds right back on. My answer to her query was that I didn’t know – just take on a highly aggressive exercise and diet program and keep at it until I’d lost enough weight to get the surgery.
She asked me to let her help me lose that weight, she was sure I could do it if I’d just let her try. After all – what did I have to lose?
At first, the only thing she did was make me write. What was I eating? Every day. Weight Watchers encourages their clients to record their meals as well, and points out just how important it is. But if you don’t, they won’t refuse to work with you. You still attend the meetings and take your steps. They’ll continue to point out that you need to write what you eat, but won’t put a halt to anything if you don’t.
Dr. Eeks didn’t seem to see the point in doing anything until I had at least a good week or so of meals written down. Every time I asked her what to do, she asked where my food logs were. When I didn’t have them, she told me to write anything I can remember, and work on writing down anything else I eat from then on.
Finally I had a week of meals and we went over it. The crazy thing is that she made our initial strategy the very thing I’d suggested to the nutritionist. She pointed out a few things she didn’t want to see in the food log again, and pointed out a few things she’d like me to add in. And, of course, she drove home the importance of continuing to record my food.
Right away I had some trouble. I don’t remember what exactly the problem was, but I either had difficulty cutting out the things she asked me to, or adding in the things she wanted. I went to her expecting to get chewed out, but she asked me about the difficulty and what I thought I would be able to commit to. We opted for a smaller change and went with it. The rest is kind of history.
The main things that helped me lose weight:
Eeks gave me no ultimatums. I’d had so many before, and they all resulted in the end of my working relationship with the maker of said ultimatum. Eeks agreed that there was no point in making them – that if I was having such a hard time doing what she asked of me, an ultimatum would just make things worse. She opted to make the changes smaller if I couldn’t keep up with them, and to help me to make those smaller changes until I was ready to try something bigger again.
She taught me to examine my diet by looking at my food log and identify the patterns that weren’t working.
By examing the patterns in my food log, I managed to beat Binge Eating Disorder at least a year before such a disorder even officially existed (as per the DSM-5).
Eeks never gave up on me, and encouraged me to share what I was going through with anyone that would listen. She suggested setting up a blog that helped me to be accountable.
After having lost over 300 lbs, without having ever met the person who made it all possible, I am relieved to find my health crises more or less reversed – my co-morbidities have fallen by the wayside and I’ve gone completely off meds. I can walk, I can jump, I CAN RUN! I can sit still without having to constantly change position. That said, the long time that I was down took me completely out of the game and I have to restart my life with little to go on. My family became unable to help anymore last year and some friends did what they could to help me get started – I stayed with them, found a few part-time jobs, saved up to get an apartment and moved in.
However, the car I was driving died because of something the previous owner did that we never caught in time. That caused me to lose one of my jobs the very week I moved into my new apartment. My disability comes about 50 dollars shy of the rent and the one job I have left does little more than cover the balance of the rent. I am applying for food stamps and am working the local food cupboards. I am looking at having to get rid of my phone and plan – and breaking my contract in order to do so, and will be applying for a free phone through the government.
Since I moved in, I managed to lose my car, a job, my wallet fell out of my bag on the bus and most of my ID, including my CDL was lost with it, my phone was stolen a few days later. It feels like I can’t hold on to anything and I’m just drowning, and people constantly want more and more money that I just don’t have.
Despite that, I’m still committed to losing weight. I’ve lost 300 and I’m not stopping here. I’ve come too far to let these things get in my way. I’ve succeeded, in the weight arena at least, I will not give up the ground I’ve gained, nor will I let myself rest in my quest.
I try to make the best of my situation. For example – I no longer have a car. That said, I managed to move into the best town in the Southern half of New Jersey for one without a car to live. There are buses going everywhere and I’m getting so much exercise!
Despite the issues I face, I not only refuse to give up on my weight loss, but I also have a dream to help others who are obese lose weight without surgery, to show them that it can be done, to help them do it.
300 lbs down!
Me at 560 lbs, around 2007-2008, visiting Busch Gardens with friends.
Also at 560 lbs, and topless!
This was taken about the time I started working with Dr. Eeks.
About a year ago, weighing in at probably about 315 lbs.
Me and my sister, Emmy Lee, this past Christmas. I was somewhere between 300-320 lbs.
Early 2014 – somewhere around 300 lbs.