The Beginning of the Losing

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Sometimes I think about how a person gets to be 365 pounds. I think there are three kinds of people in the world. The first kind of person is one who starts out thin and stays thin. They may gain 20 pounds as an adult, but they will always be thin. The second kind is the kind who stays thin until maybe their mid-twenties and then they put on weight. Maybe a little weight, maybe a lot of weight, but at some point in their life they were thin. And then the last group is the people are people who will struggle with their weight for their entire life. I thought I fell into this third group.


Me at 13


However I look back at pictures of myself and I shake my head in disbelief. As a 13 and 14 year old, I was at a normal weight. Or at least I appeared to be. But I have long held onto this notion that I have always been overweight. Looking back, I think when I got a job at a pizza place is when the weight started to piling on. Lots of pizza and tons of soda was my downfall.

I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 22. I got engaged shortly after I turned 24. It is entirely possible that I did not eat a meal prepared by my own hands during that entire time. I ate lots of fast food and my fast food of choice was McDonald’s.

I did not gain loads of weight during either one of my pregnancies. I actually lost weight during my second pregnancy. I had severe morning sickness during both pregnancies, requiring a few trips to the ER for uncontrollable vomiting and dehydration. This lasted until the seventh month with my oldest and the entire pregnancy with my second. When I told my doctor that I was not doing well, she told me, “Well, we are not worried about you, because you had more to start with.” A doctor told me basically because I was fat, they weren’t concerned that I vomited every hour I was awake. Let us pause on that for a moment. My medical concerns were overlooked because I was fat.   After both pregnancies, I had a sharp increase in weight because I could not eat for so long that I just ate and ate and ate.

Finally, with two very small children, I started working a third shift job. It was not uncommon that I would go for 36 hours without any real sleep. We ate loads of fast food or packages processed foods.

I had a complete lack of food knowledge. I was sedentary. I was tired.

This created a storm in my body.


When I was wheeled into surgery, I weighed 365 pounds.

I went into surgery being very brave and bold, thinking to myself, “Oh I will never gain the weight back. This is going to be the last day at this weight.”

I did lose weight, but in all honesty, I followed the gastric bypass rules for about two months post-op. Then old eating habits slowly crept back in. The only thing that helped was that I could only eat about a half cup of my old eating habits at a time. My work schedule was still crazy. I didn’t exercise. I did not educate myself on how to feed me or my family properly. I had very little pre or post-operative education from my medical team. I was losing weight because my body had no other choice. It had been surgically altered and re-programmed to lose weight.

Down deep, I know I wasn’t being smart about my food choices. At some point the “honeymoon phase” of the surgery ends. I did not respect that and after mom died, I lost all interest in my self-care. I felt like a shell of myself and I was filling that shell with M&Ms, fast food, and processed stuff, which led to a 36 pound re-gain. Eventually, about six months later I started to come out my stupor.  While I am very grateful that the surgery had kick started the weight loss I so desperately needed; I needed to once and for all get control of myself.

Three things finally tipped the scales back in my favor. Pun completely intended.

1) I had to give my grief about my mom passing away to God. Only God could take away this pain. Food could not fill my heart. Crying about it will only help for a bit. My husband and children could only give me so much comfort. At some point I prayed to God to take my pain. I wanted to remember my mom with smiles and laughter and not with tears running down my face. I had to stop being despondent and stop eating my grief, for me. I literally had to make the active decision to stop grieving. I did not want to think of my mom with sadness anymore.

2) I became aware of my eating habits.

Looking back at my earliest entries in my fitness pal, starting way back in September 2012, I can say definitively that I became aware of portion sizes. I actually measured out a cup of this and a tablespoon of that. I invested in a good food scale to weigh my cheese and meats. I did not eat cleanly, but I was eating honestly. I became keenly aware of the quantity of food I was eating and I was tracking it. As long as I stayed under 1700 calories for the day, everything was fair game. This did work. I did lose weight. Not a lot of weight, but I did, slowly, start to take off the re-gain. It would take a while for me to start cutting out the processed food, but the step of counting calories pointed me in the right direction.

3) Bert Kreisher.

This one may have you all scratching your heads. Bert Kreisher hosted a short-lived TV show on the Travel channel called, “Bert the Conquerer.” He travelled America, and he did all sorts of crazy things. On his stop in New Jersey, Bert did the Tough Mudder. And then a couple of weeks later, I saw the same episode. At this point, I had been going to the gym for, oh, about a month. But this mud thing was stuck in my head. I wanted to do it very badly. I reasoned that I would not be ready for the September 2012 Mudder. so I made a public declaration, on Facebook, that I would be doing the September 2013 Wisconsin Tough Mudder.  I stumbled around the gym doing the elliptical, the treadmill, the weight machines, and the assisted chin up machine. I had no clue how I should be training, but I just kept going to the gym. I watched the Tough Mudder promotional video. I listened to that emcee’s voice almost every single day for 16 months.

If I ever doubted myself, I watched the video. If I ever thought I did not want to work out, I watched the video. I became singularly focused on this event and completing it. The Tough Mudder’s baseline fitness ability was to be able to run five miles. So I started jogging. I bought myself a pair of running shoes and opened my front door into the world of running.

On June 20, 2013 I weighed 216 pounds. That is one pound less than my lowest gastric bypass weight. It took about 15 months of focusing on my eating habits and a concentrating on working out to take off the re-gain. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Be sure to subscribe to MakingProgress.Me so you won’t miss my next post to find out what happened during those 15 months.  If you’ve struggled with regain, you’re not alone. Follow me for hope and inspiration.

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Facebook Post Declaring my Scale Victory!
Michelle Merkel

What happens to a woman, who at 36 years has gained 10 pounds every year of her life? She weighs 365 pounds. I am this woman. I had gastric bypass surgery six years ago and it did not take long for my body to shed 148 pounds. I managed to maintain that weight loss, with very little effort, for the next four years. Or so I thought. While shopping at the Mall of America, in March 2012, my clothes felt tight and I wasn’t fitting into my new weight loss sizes. When we got home from vacation, I stepped on the scale. 253 pounds. Regain. I had the grim thought that I was going to eat myself out my surgery. It was that moment that I made the active decision to make better food choices and workout. Over the past two and a half years I have gone from 253 pounds to 209 pounds, and I have participated in three Color Runs, a Warrior Dash, two Vince Lombardi 5ks, a Polar Bear Dive, a Polar Bear Dash, Run Like a Mother 5k, a Milwaukee Brewers 10k, a Lakeshore 15k, and have had the wonderful moment of earning my orange headband in a Tough Mudder. My next stop on the fitness track is hitting Onder-Land.

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