Everyone tells you that if you lose the weight everything will be different – and it was. There are stories about fitting into compact cars, restaurant booths, airplane seats and pants you’ve never been able to wear. All true. There are stories about having more energy, recovering from chronic conditions and throwing away your meds. I’m here to tell you those are all true as well. But it turns out that there is plenty that nobody tells you about ahead of time and you wish they had. I don’t exactly know why nobody talks about these things. I go to the meetings and there’s nobody there saying “first rule about fat club is nobody talks about fat club.” On the other hand it may be one of those unspoken rules I don’t pick up on due to the Asperger’s enhancement. So I’ll commit to writing here those things I wish someone had told me about massive weight loss and if I disappear without a trace you’ll know there was in fact an unspoken rule about this kind of thing. Which I suppose would qualify retroactively as yet one more thing I wish someone had told me. Here goes…
Losing weight is expensive
What they tell you is that you will save so much money on food and from the ability to buy clothes at regular stores. What they don’t tell you is that while losing the weight you will buy all the sizes of clothes you went through on the way up. Except that gaining weight took years and you spread that expense out, whereas losing weight takes months and you spend it all at once. In my case my job as a consultant meant I needed a full set of clothes every other week for several months so I could go to customer offices to work. I wasn’t able to reliably find what I needed at thrift shops so I was buying retail. At one point I had a standing order at the Big & Tall store: “get me exactly these same pants and shirts one size down in two weeks.”
The first time I bought new clothes I was so happy that I even picked up some non-dress items for yard work. Then I realized I could just wear the baggy dress clothes for yard work and this saved me a lot of money. Of course at one point I was weeding the garden wearing a brand new pair of dress pants and a long-sleeve button-down shirt and my neighbor wandered over and remarked “you are the BEST dressed gardener I’ve ever seen!”
One day arrived at the Big & Tall store to pick up my standing order and the clerk, a wonderful gal I’d known for over a decade, informed me they didn’t have clothes that small. I’d shrunk right out of their store. We hugged and shed a few tears before saying goodbye and I walked out the door for the last time. Every year on my birthday they still send me a card. “We miss you! 25% off on your special day!”
(Side note: if your Big & Tall store has the same size door as all the other stores, they lack sincerity. Find another store.)
What I wish someone had told me a year in advance is “Start stocking up on clothes in smaller sizes now and buy from thrift stores and discount houses. Just get all the sizes, you will go through them one by one anyway.”
(Other-side note: this does NOT apply to full-face motorcycle helmets. If, like me you lose several sizes IN YOUR HEAD then wait until your weight levels off to buy a new one because those things are freaking expensive!)
To help lose the weight I had gastric bypass surgery and immediately afterward stopped my blood pressure meds and gave up the CPAP machine that helped me breathe at night. Eventually I stopped being bothered by asthma, edema and most allergies. But just as I was beginning to feel invincible I noticed a hard lump in the center of my chest. “This is NOT good,” I thought and immediately made an appointment with my primary care doctor.
“Doc, I am feeling so much better and I’m free from all those chronic conditions I used to have. Just when I thought I put all my medical issues behind me, I find this lump in my chest. What is it? Cyst? Cancer? Am I dying?”
She examined the hard mass in my chest, took me by the shoulders and looked directly into my eyes. “That’s your sternum,” she announced. “It holds your ribs together in the front.”
“Really,” I asked with amazement. “Has that always been there?”
So in this category what I wish is that before surgery someone had pulled out a skeleton model and given me a quick refresher anatomy course. “This is a human skeleton. You actually have all these bones. No, it’s true, you do. Soon, you will begin to see and feel some of them for the first time. This one here is your sternum. Over here we have a collar bone. This thing at the tail end of your spine is called a coxyx and sooner or later when you have no butt to speak of, it WILL make you leave the movie theater in the first hour. Don’t be alarmed, this is all normal.”
Fitting into pants you haven’t worn before
Many folks in the support group tell tales of wearing pants they’ve had in storage for years. In my case I was heavy early and gained slowly but steadily for years. Even if I had saved pants of the waist size I wear now I would not be able to fit in them today because I WAS THIRTEEN then and the legs would be too short. Maybe if I’d thought to save some shorts I could still fit in them but I don’t think I’d want to be caught dead in shorts from the ’70s. So I had the experience of getting to wear pants of a size and style I’d never worn before in my life.
But why, you might ask, do I wish someone had told me about this in advance? Because unhappily there was a mix-up in the closet and I had the misfortune to walk out and model the wrong new pants for my wife.
“Hey, check it out! How do I look?”
“Wow, Sexy! Those look pretty good. Turn around so I can see the back.”
I sashayed across an imaginary catwalk, spun on my heel and returned. Her expression had changed to something between anger and tears.
“You think that’s funny? Take my pants off!”
She practically shouted the order. I was getting mixed signals here but who am I to argue? I reached for her waist but she slapped my hands away.
“No, dammit!” She unbuttoned my pants and pushed me backwards on the bed. The expression on her face did NOT say “you are going to enjoy this.” More mixed signals. Then as she yanked the pants off by the cuffs I caught sight of the pocket stitching on the back and the designer label. These were her jeans. Worse, they were her skinny jeans, and of the two of us I was the only one who could fit in them at the time. Oops.
So in this category what I wish someone had told me in advance is “Look, after surgery there may come a time when you can fit into your wife’s clothes. You must never, EVER let her see you wearing them. Best case, she believes it was an accident but you sleep on the couch for eternity because she now thinks you look better in them than she does and she is alternately depressed and pissed off at you. Do you actually look better in them? Hell no. Does that matter? Hell no. She will believe it regardless.”
“The worst case is that she doesn’t buy the story that it was an accident and you sleep on the couch for an eternity. How is that worse? You also have to start watching the Women’s Network, taking her clothes shopping, attending Girl’s Night Out and appearing to think about the question ‘do these make my butt look fat’ before assuring her that they do not.”