My name is Kamie Stephen and I’m fat.
My BMI is 47. Depending on which chart you look at I’m severely obese, morbidly obese, extremely obese or equivalent to one beluga whale (almost).
I’m fat because I eat too much sometimes, and because sometimes the things I eat aren’t what I should be eating. I’m fat because I have a weakness for Amigo’s tacos and those weird little garlic bread bites you can get at Dominos. Through a series of poor decisions, I lost control and got fat.
This column was originally going to be my way of announcing a medical leave later this month to undergo bariatric surgery and take control of my life. I was working on that column on Thursday when Vicky from Great Plains Health told me she had bad news. My insurance wouldn’t pay for the surgery.
When my phone rang, I was in the middle of the pre-op diet, which has an 800-calorie-a-day limit. The bad news mixed with hunger was way too much. When I hung up with Vicky I cried and sent my editor, Joan, an email telling her I needed to go to lunch because I was too much of a wreck to actually go talk to her. She chased me down in the hallway and hugged me, and I ugly-sobbed all over her (sorry, Joan). I hyperventilated in my car for a little bit, then went home and had a Smart Ones mini cheeseburger.
I decided to fill out the financial assistance forms and see what kind of discount I would qualify for. It’s a very expensive procedure — we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars — not something your average person is equipped to pay for and certainly not what the average 23-year-old journalist is equipped to pay for. For now, I’ve canceled my surgery until all of that is figured out.
I no longer need to announce my leave. If it ends up being a financially viable option down the road, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s OK too.
Why am I OK with throwing out all the time (and money) from the process leading up to Thursday’s phone call? Because it was worth it. The team that I’ve been working with has already changed my life.
I was devastated and I went home and ate a Smart Ones mini cheese burger. Actually, I ate two, but it was still below my calorie limit. The point is, a few months ago, I would have eaten those cheeseburgers, and some popcorn, had a soda (or four) and maybe a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles. I’m an emotional eater.
My starting weight at my first pre-surgery consult in April was 300 pounds. I stepped on the scale on Thursday and it flashed 281.5 – for those of you who are bad at math like me: I’ve lost 18.5 pounds, and 4 inches around my waist.
Bariatric surgery comes with a complete lifestyle change. Most successful candidates start changing their habits before the surgery so it’s not a terrible wake-up call when the anesthesia wears off. At first I was lazy about it, and I didn’t always watch what I ate or force myself through the doors at the gym. But a few weeks ago I decided that if I was going to shell out money to get healthy, I was going to make it worth my while.
I stopped kicking and screaming when my husband wanted to drag me to the gym. I started watching my calories and actually being honest with myself when I tracked them.
On Wednesday night, for the first time in probably my entire life, I completed a mile in 10½ minutes. It used to take me half an hour. I was a little worn out on Thursday, but I still crawled on the elliptical and made it 1.8 miles in less than 20 minutes. It’s Friday morning as I write this, and I’m sure I’ll do the same tonight. And Saturday and Sunday.
I kind of enjoy getting all gross and sweaty and wearing obnoxious neon shoes and feeling strong. It helps me feel like I’m in control, like I’m not a slave to my hunger, my emotions, or the nagging voice in my head saying, “Why bother? You’ll still be fat when you leave.”
Maybe when it’s all said and done, I’ll have surgery. Maybe I won’t. Either way, the program changed my life and the way I look at food. Honestly, I think that’s the ultimate goal. If you had told me a few months ago that I could survive eating a measly 800 calories, that I could give up some of the food I love, that I could go to the gym and actually enjoy it — I would have laughed at you really, really hard.
My name is Kamie Stephen and I’m fat (but I’m working on it).
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