On eating, then and now
Cheri Janning, a 57–year–old retired researcher in Durham, North Carolina
Weight pre–surgery in 2004: 256 pounds
Weight now: 180 pounds
I used to love to eat three pieces of fried chicken. And now maybe a wing is all I can do. Things that are very heavily fatty don’t process well in your stomach. It gives you the feeling of an overwhelming nausea.
The things I eat more now that I wouldn’t have eaten before are cheese, eggs, nuts. I wasn’t so focused on protein. I don’t eat a whole bag of candy now like I would way back then. I don’t even buy candy in big bars. I buy more in Halloween sizes because a bite of that is all I want or feel good with. I don’t ever pick up a piece of pie or something at a restaurant. I might take a bite of my husband’s, whereas before, I would have liked to eat dessert first.
By the end of college, I had developed really bad eating habits where I would basically eat one meal a day and that consisted of eating an entire large pizza by myself.
[After surgery,] I was working as a field organizer on the Hillary Clinton campaign. As you might be aware, the one thing that campaigns are never short on is pizza. We would start work at 9 am and not finish until 11 at night. So we are always doing something, and it’s kind of hard to factor in the 15 to 20 minutes to sit there and chew my food. Trying to learn how to eat on the go was my biggest challenge. And trying to navigate eating healthy. If I tried to eat a slice of pizza, I would throw up immediately and start getting cold sweats. So I would try to prepare for the day and make sure nothing like that happened.
Every day, I have lattes in the morning. At noon, I have a piece of toast with butter or a cookie, or I’ll have a hot dog with cream cheese. That fills me up for half the day. I’m a big fan of frozen burritos, so I’ll have that with a little sour cream for dinner. That’s my day. That’s all I eat.
After surgery, I was craving vegetables. Roasted vegetables. These days, I notice I crave chips and pretzels. But sugar — I can’t do a whole lot of it, it makes me sick. I used to love coconut cream cake, and I can’t look at that anymore.
Now I drink a protein shake in the morning and a hardboiled egg. I eat every couple of hours. I might be able to get a yogurt in or some fruit, like an apple, by 10 o’clock.
At lunch, I have a Lean Cuisine with a vegetable or meat and a little bit of mashed potato.
Then I go home and have dinner. It’s usually really light: a tuna fish salad with spinach, tomatoes, and I eat it with no bread.
When surgery fails
Lindsay Green*, a 27-year-old corporate wellness executive in Seattle, Washington
Weight pre-surgery in 2008: 215 pounds
Weight today: 210 pounds
I had the lap band in the spring of 2008, when I was 17. I had struggled weight with my whole childhood, but I was by no means obese. I am 6 feet tall and weighed 215 pounds. We paid $16,000 for the band out of pocket.
I was a senior in high school and went off to college that fall. The way the band works, even if you follow all the rules — eat slow, the right kinds of foods, and those types of things — there are still occasions where you get sick, food gets stuck, and you throw up. I thought if I’m going to throw up no matter what, I might as well eat what I want, and eat as much as I want. [That would often include bags of Goldfish crackers or bowls of cereal.] That’s the opposite of what you’d hope of trying to create someone with healthy eating habits.
It turned into bulimia. I had never struggled with an eating disorder before and never struggled since. I have some binge tendencies and worked through most of that. It really was the result of the band. I’d get a lot of heartburn when I was throwing up food.
I’m still settling back in to a normal body that doesn’t have a weird plastic contraption in there fouling everything up. I take a balanced approach to food and activity focused on low stress, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.
Josephine Adams*, a 67-years-old retiree in Lethbridge, Alberta
Weight pre–surgery: 280 pounds
Weight today: 125 pounds
After gastric bypass surgery, junk food went down way easier than regular food, and I didn’t have to chew it as well, I guess. The surgery made me bulimic. As soon you eat too much from having your stomach done, it just comes out. I would get this awful pain in my chest, burp, and up would come what I ate.
Even to this day, I have to puree a lot of my food to keep it down. I don’t eat junk food any more — I haven’t for 18 years, since I joined Food Addicts Anonymous. I now weigh 125 pounds. It’s wonderful. I love it.
The surgery didn’t solve a thing [but Food Addicts did help me]. If people think surgery is going to fix their whole life, it’s not going to. They still have to change their life, change what they eat; they have to change their mindset.
I used to think [my food addiction] was because we were deprived as children. My mom never put bowls of food on the table. I used to sneak extra food. I also was molested as a child. And they say sometimes you put on weight to protect yourself. And so who knows, that could’ve been a factor of why I started eating like I did.
Colette Smith*, a 50-year-old psychotherapist in Maryland
Weight pre–surgery in 2002: 340 pounds
Weight today: 150 pounds
I used lots of alcohol at certain periods in my life, as well as cigarettes, and an addiction to food. I have been diagnosed with things like anxiety and depression and bipolar.
When I got the bypass surgery, my weight had gone up to 340 pounds. I was working in a place where I had a few co-workers who had [bypass] surgery and they had started losing weight. So I jumped on that too, and got approved to have it also.
I lost about 70 pounds, and I still had a tremendous amount of weight to lose. And to get to my current weight, I had to lose another 120 pounds. But I stopped losing weight and started gaining weight. I’d eat late at night, and within a couple of years, I could eat 8,000 calories in one sitting. I’d sit there with my TV tray at night and eat cookies, chocolate, ice cream, chips — things that went down easy.
I thought the bypass surgery would let me eat what I wanted and not gain weight. The surgery limited what would fit inside initially, but it didn’t change my craving to get it down.
The weight started coming back up and the depression got worse, and that’s when I found Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. I went into the surgery at 340. Went down to 250 or so, and then regained to 270 pounds when I found FA. It worked better than surgery.
Even now, I haven’t had flour, sugar, or lots of quantities of food for almost seven years. I’ve been 150 pounds for six years.
I elected to physically alter my body to control my weight. I don’t know what else that is except an eating disorder. I have physically mutilated my insides to control my weight. That’s pretty serious. For me, we call it food addiction. That’s an eating disorder.