Jan Shepherd  


  My Journey from Victim to Victor
Life is filled with contradictions. I became a winner by being a loser. And I won by being a realist in a world filled with people shouting, “More magic, more magic, more magic.”

You might be asking yourself, “Just what in the world is she talking about?”

Good question. I’m talking about sustaining a two hundred pound weight loss for over 9 years. And, I am talking about losing and gaining well over nine hundred pounds during my 50 plus years on planet earth. But, more importantly, I am talking about the cruelty and fraud that the diet industry (while becoming a billion dollar industry literally living off the fat of the land) has perpetrated on me (and the rest of the public).

My story is far too typical. By the age of 14, I was on rainbow pills prescribed by an MD. I was living in an affluent LA suburb, going to school with movie star’s kids. Like a lot of young girls, I was about 15 pounds over-weight and had been chased home on many occasions by girls taunting me about my weight.

By 18, I had done the shots of pregnant women’s urine. I weighed 175 pounds by 19, and when I married at 21, I was down to 154. But by the time my first child was born four years later, I was over 200. So naturally it was back to diet doctors for more pills and low calorie diets or grapefruit diets and egg diets or weight watchers.

When I hit 235, I went on Optifast, and after going without food for a year or so, developed some classic symptoms of anorexia and starvation. I later learned from a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders, that this was a typical side effect for people who have starved and those who had done Optifast. I also learned later that diets are one of the leading causes of obesity. Talk about contradictions! And oh, did I mention that after each diet, I gained the weight back and even more?

The research shows that people who are obese start out with psychological problems that are no different than people of normal weight, but that the discouragement and constant “feeling like a failure” because I kept gaining the weight back, certainly took its toll on my self esteem. Little did I know that I was being set up for failure, because I totally believed the hype surrounding the newest fad diet. I believed it when the celebrities and the doctors told me that it would work. What they failed to mention, however, were the horrible failure rates associated with maintaining the weight loss. Nor did they talk about how the yo-yo effect had a worse effect on your body and your health than the ten pounds you were trying to lose in the first place.
I continued this crazy cycle  (including losing and gaining 100 pounds via The Pritikin program) until I reached a whopping 350 pounds, at which point I was lucky enough to find an eating disorder psychiatrist who finally told me not to diet - just to stop gaining. What a concept and what a relief that was. We worked for over a year on issues like my black and white thinking, my anxiety, my learning to be responsible for myself (I had already left a twenty-seven year marriage, but that’s a story for another time). And while I was by no means done dealing with these issues, I was ready (and prepared) to use a tool that can be remarkably effective when used as part of a program and not as a magic wand. That tool was gastric bypass surgery. I knew that I only had a six-month window to get the weight off. And I did. The weight loss was evident. But the operation remained a well-guarded secret.

And as a result, there was still one huge (can I use that word?) area where I continued living in shame, so much so that I was discounting my accomplishment of losing and maintaining a 200 pound weight loss. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Addiction Transfer Syndrome (ATS) coming to the forefront of the news, I would still be rationalizing to myself that not disclosing I had gastric bypass surgery was the right thing to do because other people would discount all the inner work that I had done - the real reason I have kept the weight off. But I guess a part of me really didn’t believe that until I read about ATS.

What’s most interesting is that although I don’t have ATS, 30% of the people who have had gastric bypass surgery do.  The flip side is that 5% of the people who have Gastric bypass reach and maintain their ideal weight, as I have mine. Research shows that the maximum weight loss usually reaches about 70% of the excess weight after gastric bypass surgery. There is also a tendency to regain some weight with gastric bypass, with the average excess weight lost remaining stable at fifty to fifty-five percent, from five years to as long as 16 years following surgery.

Like anyone who has accomplished a major goal in his or her life, I still have to be careful about discounting myself. It wasn’t the heaviness I carried on my body that was the major problem, it was the heaviness I carried about how I saw myself. The key was that I did not have the bypass until I had been working on self-acceptance and loving myself as I was.

And like in every healthy relationship, my love grows daily. I walk every day. I eat healthfully without depriving myself since deprivation leads to bingeing. But I am very conscious of what I eat. Balance has become an important factor in my life. If I eat too much one meal, I balance it out the next. I have learned how to take care of my needs. I give back to others what I have learned, and have become a guide assisting others where I can.

My dream is to help as many people as I can move into greater self loving and acceptance; passing on those techniques that worked for me, so that they too can live a life full of love, gratitude, health and inner peace.

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