What they never tell you about losing a lot of weight

Shannon Britton, (CNN) – At 27 years old, I weighed 486 pounds and decided to have gastric bypass surgery. I know what you might be thinking: “Oh, you took the easy way out.”

Let me tell you, having weight loss surgery is far from easy. It involves a total commitment to a lifestyle change.

Before my surgery nearly three years ago, I met with my surgeon, nutritionists, exercise coaches and a psychologist. I went to classes and learned about meals, exercise and how my body would change. We learned about plastic surgery — how many weight loss patients have their skin tucked because they have all this excess skin hanging from your body in weird places.

I was prepared, or so I thought.

On November 23, 2011, the day before Thanksgiving, I went under the knife. Since then, I’ve lost 268 pounds.

But the thing they do not prepare you for is how you change emotionally after losing a large amount of weight. At first, I thought I would just have this newfound confidence. I’d be thinner and want to run around naked. OK, maybe not naked, but I had this fantasy in my head that one day I would wake up with a body that I loved and would feel comfortable putting into a bikini — that I’d have no body shame whatsoever.

People would accept me more because I wasn’t seen as obese and unhealthy. Dating would get easier. Clothes would fit better. I wouldn’t be judgmental toward other extremely obese people because I was once huge.

Boy, was I wrong.

First off, even though I feel amazing and I am starting to like the way I look, there are days in which I hate my body. I hate how certain clothes push against my excess skin, making it bulge out (think muffin top, but worse). I hate the way the skin hangs down on my arms, and thighs, back and stomach. I hate that it will take at least $15,000 (if not more) in plastic surgery to rid these last 30 to 40 pounds off of my body.

I also have stretch marks and surgery scars across my abdomen and stomach, so being intimate with my boyfriend can be intimidating at times. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this, but that knowledge doesn’t erase the self-consciousness I feel when I get out of the shower, or when a stranger or child snickers because they don’t understand why my body looks the way it does.

My relationships also changed. When I first had my surgery, the guy I was with had been a best friend of seven years. He found me attractive at 486 pounds, though I’m not sure why. But once I lost my first 68 pounds, he left.

My surgeon explained that this is common among his bariatric patients. For some reason, it can shake the other partner psychologically when one loses weight, gains confidence and starts getting more attention. But the experience taught me that someone who is jealous of something that makes me better, healthier and stronger never had my best interests at heart.

Dating after that was a struggle, until I met my current boyfriend six months ago. Most guys got scared because they were afraid to take me to dinner, afraid they would break my new diet resolve, and when they saw a picture of what I used to look like, they started to wonder what would happen if I gained a few pounds again.

What else has surprised me about losing weight? No one ever told me that it would upset me when severely obese people get special attention because they choose to be heavy — like when TV shows feature people who are happy to weigh 600 pounds, or people who post YouTube videos professing love of their excess weight.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that people are comfortable in their own skin, because many times I’m not always comfortable in my own skin. But for me, being heavy wasn’t a choice. So I guess I have a hard time identifying with them.

Obesity is debilitating to your health. I used gastric bypass surgery as a tool to save my life so that I wouldn’t develop diabetes, have a heart attack at age 35, have a stroke, and to hopefully lower my risk of cancer. Now I have no tolerance for excuses about not being able to eat healthy and exercise.

See, here’s the bottom line: The biggest thing that no one ever tells you about losing weight is that eventually, the number on the scale no longer matters.

What matters is how you feel, how you look and how happy you are. I know at my current weight I am still medically obese, but I have a clean bill of health. Through my bad days and my good days, I am happier now than I have ever been. When I struggle or feel myself about to slip into old habits, I pull out a picture of what I used to look like.

And I remind myself that nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.

8 comments

  • Maeda Krizmencic

    I still struggle with the same issues having had gastric bypass surgery in 1998. But even though I’m flabby and cannot afford plastic surgery to remove the last 20-40 lbs of excess skin and weight I have hanging around, I thank God every day for helping me make the decision to have the surgery! I weighed 387 the day of surgery, and today weigh 184. I truly believe I would have died by now had I not had the surgery! Congrats to this brave young lady!

  • tim

    i am soon getting the surgery myself and i am excited to do so. I suffer from diabetes,high blood pressure plus i wanna live. I have been obese my whole life and been on diets with no success so the positives will out weigh(no pun intended) the negatives. My friends and family are 100% supportive in in this life changing decision i made.I did get hit with some negatigity and i told them to walk a mile in my shoes,so in short,im doing what i feel is best for my own health and welfare.

  • beth kuhns

    I have felt the same and also divorced ex husband since surfer in 2007,remarried a wonderful man and love my new expanded family. But suffer with skin and scars and I have other health issues like vitamin deficiency, hair loss, bad teeth, and embarrassment of skin that insurance refuses to remove. But would do it all again. 425 pre and post 190

  • Theresa

    My husband had gastric bypass surgery July 2010 and lost 224 lbs . Even though I did not have surgery I totally agree that having the surgery is not the easy way. My husband had many complications due to surgery and was ill for 2 years! He still fights vitamin deficiency, hair loss etc… But asked if he would do it again- he said absolutely! I attended with him 6omtha of classes and appt prior to surgery…even after all that there are many things you are not prepared for…. For the spouse or significant other involved – we are not prepared for how this surgery will affect our life. We may not have has the surgery but we deal with so many issues we were unprepared for… Mostly emotional!!! I loved my “teddy bear” husband but at one point he lost soooouch weight that I felt I was married to someone I didn’t know! I still love him with all my heart but it is not the man I married!

  • Cindy

    Congrats to ALL who have the courage to make the changes in their lives in order to feel better and live longer! May God bless you and keep you in His arms through your best and worst days. May you always know that God loves you,
    no matter what you look like or feel like, He will ALWAYS love you!

  • J

    Five yrs out. 305 down to 150 and have kept it off. I read the story and comments and got a little choked up. I so agree that NO one knows how life changing this is. Good and bad. I still have dumping syndrome, iron deficient anemia, vitamin deficiencies, the sagging skin (although I did manage to afford a tummy tuck), and a few other minor issues. But the worst is the emotional changes….if you’ve been heavy all your life like me you are used to way people treat you. It’s normal, safe almost…then bam you are physically different but on the inside you are still the same person. It’s affected my marriage which is soon ending, my friends..some stuck by me and others didn’t, and just my over all psyche. I have gone through quite a lot. I don’t regret having had the GB but I do wish I had continued therapy afterwards to learn how to deal with all the changes. I’m doing better. Have a great job, small circle of wonderful friends, and possible a relationship. It’s taken five years of struggle but I see a rainbow in my future. Good luck to everyone who had gone thru or is contemplating this lifestyle change. I wish I could hug each and every one of you.

  • ilka

    I didn’t get the surgery I decided to lose weight on my on with the help of counseling , nutritionists, doctors, and went to the gym 6 day’s per week ..
    And I’m still very emotional and i have the with getting nude in front of my nude husband because of my extra skin…
    It’s also going to cost a lot of money for restructuring surgery. .. so I know how u feel. … and I’m still in counseling! !!

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