By Karen Secord (Karen’s previous Food Fights posts are in the Archive.)

“Gaining weight is a choice.”

In my world this has always been the most controversial of controversial statement.

Today, for me, the point is moot. Because from this day forward – 374 days post gastric bypass surgery – gaining weight is all about choice. Plain and simple. I have been given a gift. How I move forward is up to me.

This is my weighty reality.

Moving. It’s all about moving my body. Putting one foot in front of the other. Reaching for the sky with arms stretched longingly towards the unknown. Lifting and pushing. Embracing resistance. Remembering that my shell has changed and that in addition to the fuel I put into it, the amount of exercise I offer it will determine the quality of the relationship I will have with it going forward.

Recalling the Facts

Roux-en-Y patients typically lose 50-75 percent of their initial excess weight, which is a sufficient weight reduction to cure or significantly reduce most of the life threatening medical conditions associated with severe clinical obesity.

A bypass is designed to reduce the quantity of food which patients can eat (the restrictive part of the procedure), and second, to reduce the amount of nutrients and calories which can be absorbed from this reduced food-intake (the malabsorptive part of the procedure). To appreciate how the restriction element works, remember that a normal stomach can stretch to over 1000 ml. During the Roux operation, the surgeon creates a smaller stomach (15-30 ml in size) – dramatically reducing the amount of food which can be accommodated.

The malabsorption element is not concerned with food intake, which is determined by the esophagus and stomach, but with how much of the ingested food is actually absorbed by the body. Here, it’s important to remember that most nutrient and caloric absorption occurs as the food passes along the small intestine. In simple terms, the longer the functional length of the small bowel, the more absorption can take place.

During Roux-en-Y surgery, the surgeon aims to bypass a significant section of this gastrointestinal tract thus reducing the patient’s uptake of both nutrients and calories. The combination of less food consumed and fewer calories absorbed is what makes Roux-en-Y bypass such an effective weight loss treatment.

The Good, Bad & Ugly

Things are happening to me. Things I never imagined possible. Good and bad things.

Good: I feel freer. Bad: I feel scared.

Good: I want to move. Bad: I still think I have limitations on movement.

Good: People respond to me differently.  Bad: People respond to me differently

Recently, someone told me, quite matter-of-factly, that I move like a “skinny” person. In the days since, I’ve rolled her comment over and over in my mind.  Something – whether the size of my body or past memories of movement struggles – has always held me back. I’ve felt stalked by exercise demons most of my life. So to be told that I move “skinny” shocked me.

The real truth is that movement others call exercise continues to freak me out. Exercise scares me. I hyperventilate at the thought of walking any distance, especially with someone else. The reduced size of my body doesn’t reduce the size of my anxiety.

And so, while I may have succeeded in creating this new healthier lifestyle for myself, I have – somewhat consciously — pushed the need for increased movement to the bottom of my priority list. There are consequences of this. My skin has not tightened up as it might have. My muscles are weak. Instead of a soft plump body, I am now bones covered by mounds of melted skin hanging and wrinkled, like a deflated balloon after the party.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to exercise. I have been a member of Curves for the past year. Until January I twirled around the circuit an average of 2-3 times a week. For a time last Fall I attended a gentle yoga class. I walked around the neighbourhood when the spirit moved me. But I did none of this with any gusto.

My ‘Year Number Two’ Promises:

I will move my body.

I will find activities that make me move and smile.

I will engage in positive self-talk before, after and while I move.

I will love my body because it is healthy, not because it is thin.

Happiness is a choice I choose!

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