“Transformation is an ongoing process that tends to appear ordinary, when in fact something extraordinary is taking place.”
– Suzy Ross
In every great story, in every great transformation, there is an instigating event. Some pivotal moment or experience that forces us to make hard choices where we were unwilling to before. I happened to have several. The first was during my 37th birthday, on a trip to Mexico in August 2015. I was nervous to leave the country because my mother’s health had been quickly declining, but she was insistent that we go. So, my sister and I set out traveling with both of our besties, Megan and Lisa. It was going to be fabulous. We going to get great tans, ride in fast boats, drink fruity beverages with umbrellas in them, and we were going to swim with sharks. That’s right, sharks.
On the day of our excursion, I could not contain my excitement. But I had been a “big girl” for most of my adult life and because of this, I often thought through new experiences a bit differently. How big is the boat? What kind of ladder would they have to enter and exit? How many people would be joining us? Was there a weight limit? Would the sharks want to eat me for dinner? The list goes on. As we arrived at the dock, my heart suddenly dropped. I forgot about the wet suits. EVERYONE HAD TO WEAR A WET SUIT. I panicked as I quickly scanned the group, all of whom were lackadaisically zipping up their second skins over their tiny bodies. Giggling and swinging their drinks, like little nymphs prancing through the forest around a fire. Fuck them, I thought. My suit wouldn’t even fit over my hips. Fucking skinny people. To me, life appeared easy for them. They didn’t have to worry about anything, leaving them free to be in the moment. How desperately I wanted to be in that moment, too.
I tried everything. Sucking in air, I stuffed and squeezed, trying to shimmy my 360 lb pound body into this stubborn sausage case; but it was not happening. Instead of a wet suit, I was permitted to wear a life vest. But along with this back-up plan came a bitter dose of humiliation and shame. I was the only one without a wet suit – and it didn’t help that the life vest was bright ass neon orange. No one could miss me. Although I rarely let my weight get in the way of my zest for life, this was different. My weight had become a barrier. It was starting to seriously limit me and prevent me from having the experiences I craved (not to mention paid for). Moving and navigating was becoming more difficult and was now accompanied by constant back and knee pain. Other challenges in no particular order include: flying on airplanes, walking through crowded rooms, fitting in chairs, standing in line, and generally going anywhere without feeling like people were staring at me. Just a friendly FYI, big people always know what you’re thinking. How could she wear that? How could she let herself get that big?
As I entered the water in my neon vest, I realized it was time to get really honest with myself and ask if this is how I wanted to live the rest of my life. Passionate for travel and desperate to see the world, the answer came quickly, and it was a resounding HELL NO. I left that trip resolute on my decision to change. This was no longer a choice but a necessity; the quality of my life depended on it.
A few weeks later, my mother passed away at age 63, and I found myself reflecting deeply on my own mortality. She was reasonably healthy for most of her life, but had always struggled with diabetes and later became bedridden after battling Parkinson’s disease for 8 years. I didn’t want to deteriorate but more than that I didn’t want to lose my quality of life over things that I could control. Nutrition, exercise, and breaking the habit of consuming in excess. I knew I wanted my power back and I wanted to take it back now. I could have less than 30 years left on this earth and dammit, if that’s the case, I want them to be a life shaking, soul moving, beautiful 30 years.
I had thought about weight loss surgery many times, but always had been stopped by the stigma that it was an “easy way out”. Those weeks leading up to my birthday and the loss of my mother irrevocably changed my mind and pushed me on the path to real change. Right then and there, I shed myself of judgement and made the choice to have the gastric sleeve.
I had gained and lost over 80 lbs five different times in my post-college life. I would now need to lose at least 175 lbs – and that journey would be difficult. It would be an all-out rumble. But I wasn’t old Beth, I was new Beth, and new Beth wasn’t afraid of a fight. I began working out with a personal trainer four days every week in January 2016. In February 2016, I scheduled my weight loss surgery for May 6, 2016. I successfully dropped 51 lbs and went in for the procedure at 309. One year later, I weighed 204. I have not reach my goal weight yet, but damn I’m proud. Saying how you feel, what you dream, and what you want is hard. Changing how you feel is harder and taking the steps to make the change makes you a hero. Your own hero. Your own hip hop dancing, downward facing dog, world traveling, life living, skinny jean wearing, swimming with shark’s kind of hero.
This was my beginning, and from here on out, I invite you to follow me on my continuing journey of transformation. I hope it inspires you, I hope it helps you, and I hope it moves you – however big or small – to take steps towards your own transformation. Because if I can do it, you can do it too. FO REAL.
Love, Lashes, and Lipstick,