News From ME

A Sense of Loss

One year ago today, all 344 pounds of me woke up at 8 AM. I posted two items here on Ye Olde Weblog, then called a cab and went to a hospital where I underwent Gastric Bypass Surgery. How much have I lost? Well, it depends on how you do the math…

My highest-ever weight was around 365. In February of '06, as you may recall, I was hospitalized for four days with a nasty little thing called Cellulitis. (It's no fun. Try not to get it.)

At the time, I knew I was soon to undergo the weight-reduction operation and I also knew that after I had that procedure, I'd have to do without carbonated beverages, which had become way too big a component of my bloodstream. I'd been putting away around a six-pack per day of Pepsi, 7-Up or Ginger Ale and that sure didn't help my waist line. Based on my attempts to cut back, I believed it was an addiction that I wouldn't be able to kick; that I'd wind up shivering on the kitchen table, trying to go Cold Turkey and begging for just one teensy hit of cola. Then, during my stay at Cedars-Sinai, I was served no sodas, nor did I miss them. When I got out, I decided to see how long I could do without…and I haven't touched a drop since. So there was one big reason — along with wiser eating in general — that I dropped about twenty pounds between February and May. Those pounds went before the Gastric Bypass Surgery but they were not unrelated to it.

In the first 65 days following the surgery, I lost 65 pounds. It was kind of amazing.

No, I take that back. It wasn't "kind of" amazing. It was just plain Amazing, capital "A" and all. The Monday following G.B.S. Day, I tried on an old pair of pants I found in my closet and they didn't fit me at all. I decided to try them on every Monday until they fit. The following Monday, they fit. Three Mondays later, they didn't fit…but for another, happier reason.

Since then, my weight has fluctuated a lot, which my doctor says is perfectly normal. Some of the gains have been due to water retention and/or to fat turning to muscle. The lowest I've hit on my scale has been 245, just one maddening pound shy of an even hundred since the operation. I went briefly back up as high as 264 after that. I'm presently at 255 and my doctor thinks I'll eventually settle in somewhere in the 230-240 range, which is not bad considering my height (6'3") and my frame.

A (possibly) more important gauge: My blood pressure was way too high back when my weight was. As I lost weight, it also went down and around the time I hit 280 on the scale, my doctor had me start breaking my blood pressure medication pills, thereby halving the dosage. A few weeks ago, I was at the gym when I suddenly felt weak. My physical trainer there whipped out the necessary equipment, took my blood pressure and decided it was way too low. Low — can you believe it? The next day, my doctor took me off even the half-pills and today, my blood pressure is exactly where we want it.

Am I glad I had the surgery? Absolutely. There has not been one second — not even when looking at some pretty steep medical bills — when I regretted my decision. (You can do it without huge expense if you have a decent health plan but I went the more expensive, upscale route for some elements of the process. There are things in this world you just don't want to skimp on…)

Do I recommend it to others? Absolutely not. I'm no expert on this but I've learned enough to realize my experience is not typical. Owing to an excellent surgeon and a trusted personal physician, and to the fact that — weight aside — I was in pretty good health before the operation, I had about as good an experience as is humanly possible. It simply doesn't go as smoothly for some people, including a nice lady who had the same surgery in the same hospital at the same time I did. We've been corresponding since then and while she doesn't regret the surgery either, she's had a lot of problems, including two more hospital stays, one of which involved additional surgery. That does happen and anyone who doesn't warn you of that is doing you a disservice. There are people who have the surgery and feel they are worse off. There are also a few who die.

I recommend that anyone who fits into that ominously-named category — The Morbidly Obese — at least investigate it. Most hospitals that perform the procedure have some sort of free, no-obligation orientation program that explains what it involves and I'd suggest visiting one. You can do a certain amount of research on the Internet but I found that the details can vary from surgeon to surgeon and information can go out of date faster than the websites are updated. The technology is advancing at a rapid clip so it's better to go in, hear the current lecture and see the current PowerPoint presentation and, of course, ask questions. If nothing else, you may find it interesting to not only learn about it but to be among other people with a similiar problem. At the meeting I attended, I was the skinniest attendee in the room.

If your inquiry raises any doubts in your mind, and it may, you probably shouldn't do it. I'd also suggest making sure you have a great personal physician — quite independent of anyone who'd be involved in the surgery — to guide you. If you don't have such a doctor in your life, find one before you commit to weight-loss surgery. I think it helps a lot to be so sure you're doing the right thing that you aren't the least bit scared.

Most of all, I'd suggest you at least consider the following…

There are eight thousand ways out there to lose weight…pills, diet foods, fat farms, exercise regimens, ways to better measure your calorie intake, etc. Some of these work for a lot of people and you should probably exhaust all reasonable possibilities before you even consider surgery. Then — and only then — if none of them work for you, you should not be ashamed or afraid to at least look into what I had done. You never know.

I'm convinced that ads and experts that insist anyone can lose weight through more conventional methods are fibbing or at least benevolently wrong. Some people can't lose sufficient poundage via Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or Nutri-System or whatever Richard Simmons is currently peddling…or even doctor-prescribed nutrition and exercise programs. Some of those things strike me as making you lighter only to the extent they reduce your wallet. If one works for you, great. That's the way to do it. If not, don't let them take your will and your personal esteem along with the money.

I went public with my experience because, well, first of all, I figured (I hoped) people would notice. Some don't. Some acquaintances actually look at me and go, "You changed your hair, right?" Most, of course, do notice and it was easier to explain it here than to explain it over and over to all of them. But also, I thought it might be of value to someone. If it didn't work out for me, I could be a great cautionary example. ("I was going to have Gastric Bypass Surgery but then I read on Evanier's site that his ass fell off and now he has to blog standing up!") And of course, if it did work for me, I could perhaps inspire someone else to consider it or, preferably, less drastic methods. I hope this has.

It's really been an extraordinary year, getting back some of my old sense of balance, sitting in chairs without worrying about them breaking, discovering that aches that I thought were old age were actually just joints swollen from too much pasta. And then there have been the little moments…

I keep getting called to do video interviews that go on DVDs. A few weeks ago, I did one and I was in the make-up chair, allowing a nice lady to apply a thin film of Max Factor to my puss. She asked me if I had an older brother. I said no, I'm an only child. She said, "I was just wondering. About a year ago, I made up a guy who looked a lot like you only he was much older and a lot fatter…"