I had been overweight since I was about 8 years old. I was the fat kid. I was obese by age 15. By the time I was 13, I could no longer do some of the things I enjoyed, like horseback riding.
I remember at age 17, I had gotten on a roller coaster and the cage that comes over your body wouldn't shut. I had to get off the ride. There were about 100 people who saw me. It was devastating.
That same year, I wanted to go skydiving with a friend for our 18th birthdays. I couldn't go because I exceeded the weight limit.
As I got older, I completely withdrew. By 24, I didn't really want to go out. I remember walking through the mall once and seeing myself in windows and leaving the mall in tears.
All those little things just compounded. I was exasperated with my quality of life. My health was declining, and I was tired physically and emotionally. I was ashamed I'd allowed this to happen to myself.
But having gastric bypass surgery in 2014 changed my life. My body's not in pain anymore. I'm more active. I no longer take prescription drugs for weight-related issues. I'm not terrified to go shopping for clothes. I have more friends now. I'm willing to go more places. I smile at people in the hallways at work.
Weight loss surgery was something I'd considered a while ago, but insurance wouldn't cover it. In April 2013, I began a new job at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
A friend mentioned he was going to have the surgery at Vanderbilt, so I checked into it again. This time, insurance would cover it. I thought, "This might be the tool I need to put my life back together."
I researched the surgeons at Vanderbilt and interviewed their co-workers. I looked at other programs and other facilities. I found Vanderbilt's program to be absolutely phenomenal regarding success rates, complications and support. Even after a year, they support you with annual appointments. They say, "You're our patient for life, if that's what you want."
The nurse practitioner, the dietitian, the psychologist — all these people gave me a better sense of the changes I'd be making. I was afraid I'd have to stop my current eating habits all at once, so I weaned off them ahead of time. Before the surgery, I was drinking about six sodas a day.
Giving up sugar was the hardest. And I had to adjust my head hunger. Before my surgery, I ate when I was bored or emotional. If I was angry, I'd want a fatty burger. If I was sad, I'd go for the sweets, especially cookies and cake.
I was ready for this surgery. It was what I wanted. I was calm and absolutely at peace the day of surgery. When the anesthesiologist arrived, he thought someone already had sedated me!
My breakthrough moment was about four months after surgery two weeks before Christmas. I ordered a pair of size 34 pants. I had been a size 52 waist. I left them in the box for a week until I tried them on. They fit! I was so excited that I started crying. It didn't seem real.
About eight months after surgery, I bought a size medium shirt. It was a goal shirt. But I tried it on and it fit. I took a photo with the tag still on the shirt and posted it to Facebook. I wanted the size to show!
This is the best thing I've ever done, hands down.
I've exceeded so many goals. First, it was to get down to 215. Then, it was to get under 200 pounds — otherwise known as Onederland. I reached it on my birthday almost six months post-surgery.
This is the best thing I've ever done, hands down. I put in a lot of effort, which contributed to my success. I have literally worked my butt off!
I like being active now. I walk more than two miles each day. I played racquetball for the first time about six months after surgery. I played for 92 minutes! I've taken kickboxing and yoga classes, and my next goals are to go horseback riding and then, skydiving.
I might even go skydiving for my one-year post-surgery anniversary. I've waited a long time to do it.