Jen did not date when she was morbidly obese. Period. Three-months after being "sleeved" (gastric sleeve bariatric surgery), Jen decided to dip her toe in the deep end and give online dating a try. That was back in 2010. Since then Jen's life has changed dramatically. She's lost 135 pounds. She's been in three dating relationships. And Jen found love. She will marry the man of her dreams on October 17, 2015. But I'm revealing the end of the story, the payoff. Let's start with the beginning. Before Jen could love another person she first had to find the love within that she had for herself. Today Jen shares that journey with us.
My Bariatric Life: Jen, how do you feel about your "self" today compared to your obese "self?"
Jen: In some ways I am the same person and in some ways I am a completely different person. The morbidly obese Jen obsessed about food, experienced constant lower back and foot pain, avoided being seen by friends and family, and was moody. The healthy Jen is confident, happy, grounded, has control over what she eats, and loves to be active. At the core I am still the same person in terms of personal values. I just stand a little taller and smile more because I have so much to live for and be thankful for. MBL: What people and experiences helped you achieve self-acceptance and self love?
Jen: I owe a lot of gratitude to Dr. Heinberg, a bariatric psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. I went to see her three weeks after having weight loss surgery because I knew I needed a lot of help. I was an extreme binger. I knew the surgery wouldn't let me binge but I knew I had to work through the reasons WHY I turned to food and used food in such a destructive manner. I knew if I didn't get underneath those thoughts and issues I couldn't be successful in the long run of overcoming a major eating disorder and getting healthy. Being obese I carried a lot of guilt and sadness because my Dad passed away when I was at my all-time high weight of 275 lbs. I know how much it hurt him to see me obese and so stripped of personal happiness. I mentioned to Dr. Heinberg how upset it made me that my Dad passed away seeing me at my absolute worst. She said something that helped relieve a lot of the burden of my feelings. She said, "Well Jen, why don't you view your weight loss journey as a tribute to your Dad?" In that moment I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. To this date I dedicate certain miles of my trail runs to thinking about my Dad and I sometimes visualize him at the finish line of my races, cheering me on with the biggest smile on his face. my bariatric life Jen after her 25k trail run.
MBL: Why was spirituality an important component of this work?
Jen: Change, to me, requires being open to being guided and looking for the lessons and messages in that guidance. I was humble enough to admit I didn't have the personal strength to do it on my own. I spent so many years in my professional career as a marketer who looked at the possibility of what could be, so why couldn't I apply this same principle to my personal life? I went to Church once (sometimes twice) a week and went on silent retreats. I sat in silence for long periods of time in the woods of Minnesota to get in touch with myself and just, "be." It is amazing what silence can teach you if are willing to humble yourself and listen.
MBL: Please tell us about the importance of your "joy board."
Jen: I love my joy board! It makes me smile. Right around the time I underwent weight loss surgery I had been working with a life coach by the name of Coach Joelle. I worked with her to define a next career step for myself when I was contemplating starting my own business. Joelle recommended to me that I put together a board that represents all the things that bring me joy. The idea was to explore new professional avenues based on personal interests. But as I got into the exercise I realized I was reacquainting myself with things that used to bring me immense joy that I hadn't in a long time because I was either too self-conscious because of my weight. These were things that made me feel alive, whole. So much of being obese for me was losing touch with things that used to make me happy because I let food rule my life it was all I cared about and focused on. Doing ballet, snowboarding, running, riding roller coasters, etc. didn't appeal to me anymore. Actually, the idea of them appealed to me but the idea of me doing them didn't appeal to be because I had become so self-conscious.
Read Jen's fairy-tale ending in part 2 of her story, [Dating after Weight Loss Surgery: One Patient's Story.](Finding Love after Obesity: One Patient's Story)