On May 24, 2010, in Uncategorized, by Andrea

The family

I’m going to talk about a dirty topic in the WLS world – regain.

It’s something that no one ever wants to think about, but inevitably, it comes up.  And it’s generally discussed with hushed tones, malice, pointed fingers, disdain, snickers (and not the good kind with peanuts, either), and of late?  Discussions of suicide.


Yeah.  That caught me, too.

But it was mentioned at the SoCal event by Yvonne McCarthy (Bariatric Girl) that she gets letters from WLSers that have regained 10-30lbs that are now suicidal and don’t know where to go.  And that we need to deal with this.

And then there was the whole Newbies vs. Oldies brawl a few weeks back in which some newbies tried to go after Beth because how could someone possibly regain when one can’t tolerate sugar and with only an ounce-sized stomach?

So let’s put this out here, and make it really, well, gritty.  It’s long, so sit down with some coffee, and, well..

I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  And yeah?  I’ve kept the big, fat tee-shirts that go along with it.  A few times now.

Now, to be fair, two of my regains were medically-sanctioned – I got pregnant post-op.  One is supposed to gain weight when pregnant.  Not quite 60lbs, perhaps.  But when you have daily migraines, confined to bed, don’t want to breathe much less move, or have such severe hypoglycemia that only Snickers will keep you awake and cognizant of your surroundings, it’s not terribly surprising.  One of my regains was due to hanging with Bariatric Bitches — people who sabotage your behavior so their weight loss  looks better.  Gotta love that.  But we’ll get to all of this in a bit.

Let’s do the whole story from the beginning?

January, 2004

I had surgery on August the 3rd, 2004 at 320lbs.  I had no co-morbidities, but wasn’t naive enough to believe I wouldn’t at some time.  But let’s be honest, I did it for vanity at that point.  I was fat and tired of it.

Not long after, we moved away from our home in Owensboro, Kentucky to Wilson, North Carolina when the husband got offered a job.

Size 18, 197lbs

I think it’s built in.. when one buys a new house, one thinks about starting a family.  We got the go-ahead at a year post-op and in September at 197lbs, we found out we were pregnant.

It was hell.  I’m not going to go through my horrible pregnancies in detail here, but suffice to say?  People who love being pregnant?  I hate them.  I didn’t get the glow, I looked sick and sallow.  And very, very, very FAT.  I didn’t get the cute baby belly.. my skin filled back in and I just looked cow-like.  AGAIN.

May 15th, 2006

Kaitlin was born on June 17th, 2006 – the day before Father’s Day and I weighed in at 260 lbs – 50lbs shy of my pre-op weight.

I lost about 30 lbs of “water weight” fairly quickly, which was a relief, and settled in around 230 “comfortably” for quite some time.

July, 2007 (With Farmor - Swedish Grandmother)

And that’s when we found out we were pregnant.. again.

History repeats.  Pregnancy for me?  Blows.  There’s no getting around this fact.  And there’s a reason why there’s not going the be a 3rd viking in this family.  And I shot up to 290 lbs.  Daniel was born on February 12th, 2008.  I only lost 20 of “water weight” so only down to 270.

February, 2008

But here’s a difference?  I immediately started back on track.  I started watching my diet.  I went back to the gym.

I also had deficiencies out the wazoo – and this was the beginning of my “enlightenment” — because my ferritin had tanked (it was now a 9), my B12 was in the low 200′s, and my vitamin D was a 29.  I had osteomalacia, which is adult-form rickets.

This is when I started doing my research into vitamins and supplements.

On 3/2/08, I weighed 267.  3 months later, I was down to 231, and 3 more months saw me down to 208.

I was feeling good about myself finally.

But then?  I got lax.  I met some other Bariatric friends who had recent surgery, and even though early out?  They had bad habits and I let them influence me.

I never had friends.  And the draw to belong is very strong for me.  Especially now, being so isolated with my kids.

And… I stopped paying attention.

December, 08 during my other life..

I don’t know exactly how high I got back up to.  I know that at some point during November of 09 I got to 220.  I know that some of my jeans weren’t fitting as well as I’d liked them to have.  And I knew that I didn’t like it.

And after those friendships fell apart for other reasons, I got back on track.  And really?  I have no desire to go back.

Since November at 220 (which is the only number I’m sure of), I’ve gotten back down to 180 through diet and exercise.

Playing Dress-Up - Before OH SoCal

So why did I lead you down this path with pictures?

To prove that I’ve been there, done that, and I’ve got the tee-shirt to prove it.

In fact?  I still have my favorite pre-op shirt.  I still keep “just in case” clothes for regain because, make no mistake, regain can happen to anyone at any stage of surgery.  I keep them as a precaution, an insurance policy.  And when I was pregnant with my son?  I needed them.  God, how did I hate needing them — but I did.  And I hated that I needed to go back into Lane Bryant to buy more clothes.  But I did.

Regain is one of those topics that WLSers will use against each others — much how mothers will use how we raise our children against one another.  There’s very little else that can cut so very deep as a topic that is wielded by those who are supposed to be sympathetic with the weapon they are utilizing.  But it seems these are the ones that know how to slice and dice the best.

Let me put it plain as day – it can happen to anyone.  And statistically, it will happen to someone reading this blog.  Period.  End of story.

The question I have is this: how will you deal with it?  And this goes either as the person looking at the scale creeping up, or at the person who stops coming to support group due to the whispers in the corner.

Regaining weight is painful — but it’s not worth killing your life over.  Literally, folks.  Really it’s not.  You have to remember where you’ve come from and see the whole board rather than a single move on the chess board of life.

And standing by and watching others trash another?  Well.  I bet you can imagine what I’m thinking about that.  So we’re not even going to spell it out.  Because otherwise I’ll get a nasty-gram from people who think four-letter words shouldn’t be on a blog.

Let me tell you — seeing that number on the scale go up and up again?  Being shown a physical manifestation of your failure once again?  It hurts.  It snatches at your soul and it stings.  It’s a slap to your face that once again, even this very heavy-duty thing — for me stomach stapling — could not contain the weight.  That even cutting up the stomach and intestine and stapling my gut could not keep me from being a fat pig.

And I’d see this, not even on the scale, but getting out of the shower every day when I’d look in the mirror.  Or when I’d get dressed and my clothes would not fit as they were supposed to.  Yet more screaming clues that I was a big, fat, failure once again.

It’s humiliating to admit.  And I had the medical reasoning behind my weight gain.  I could not imagine the pain that would come from non-medically sanctioned weight gain.  It shatters your emotions, it breaks the spirit, and it hurts.

But one has to make a choice — heal or fracture completely?

Am I in a better place today than I was at 208 a year ago?  Sure I am.  Of course I am – but not just physically.  I am much more stable emotionally than I ever was at even 197 before I got pregnant.  I needed to have those regains to see this very ugly side of our world and to see what never to become.  But compared to where I was at 320lbs, even at 230lbs, I was at a much better place, even with a regain in place.  Look at what I had gained!

This is real life, folks.  And while I’d love to be 145 lbs and super-model thin?  I’ll never be there without a Hoover wet/dry vac, a scalpel, and duct tape.  And I know it and won’t deprive myself to try and get that way.  To believe any differently is to be naive and more than a bit stupid.  I’ll still have my coffee, and diet sodas, and occasional cupcakes (more than 3 bites, even!), and pizza, and hamburgers, etc.  But I can accept the fact that I am healthier and happier than I ever was at 320 lbs, and that I am only getting better as I pad along this path known as life.

And really?  What more can one hope to gain from anything than that?

So here’s to my regains.  All three of them.  And the life lessons each have taught me.  And may I never let myself get complacent about that.

So I ask again:  how will you deal with it?  This is OUR community, and we have to take care of one another.  Through the good times and the bad.  And that includes regains.

Because if we don’t take care of each other, who will?

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29 Responses to “Regain”

  1. rny_alison says:

    I have been struggling with maintenance. I can very easily overconsume and gain weight. In fact, I gained 25 lbs that way very quickly. My BMI was still normal so my docs did not take me very seriously when I pleaded for help. Luckily, I’m back at a weight where I feel much more comfortable.

    I am jealous of folks who get full on 2-3 oz of lean protein. I do not feel satiety. Ever.

  2. We must have people like you and Beth to keep things real. I started following MM before my surgery and thank god I did. Honestly, before I found her, I was feeling all sunshine and rainbows and such. I needed the honesty, cause, well.. that’s the kind of person I am. I got lost in the “moment” or “magic” that a newbie can easily find themself in. Good thing I didn’t see the feud between the the oldies and newbies, I curse like a sailor lol. I will try to break through my wall and introduce myself at the Cinncy OH convention.

  3. Beka says:

    It’s a bitch. Put a refined carb in me & I gain 5lbs like *that*. “So avoid them” you say. Not always easy. It takes a lot of planning to eat properly all the time, & to not give into temptations, cravings, head hunger, etc. And to be sick & not able to exercise doesn’t help either. Ugh.

  4. Penney says:

    I agree with Beka…whoever thinks this is the “easy way out” doesn’t realize all the thought and effort that goes into every day. Food and vitamins, portion control and head hunger. At first, I was disappointed when my tummy was done eating, but my mouth wasn’t finished. Preop, I was a pathological eater, and postop I still think about food all the time. I am scared to death of regain. Every time I eat til I’m really full, I worry that I’ve stretched my pouch. But. Will it be the end of the world? Probably not.

  5. Nikki Massie says:

    Andrea, thank you for talking about this. My lowest weight was 172 (for about a hilccup). I am back up to 202 and have decided that’s about big enough for me. I am back to the gym, walking and eating better. But I refuse to beat myself up about it. I am human. I make mistakes. I don’t know why we should be held to any higher authority than anyone else but I do admit as a newbie that I snickered at regainers. I am now eating humble pie. And it doesn’t taste good at ALL.

  6. Wilma says:

    I am so glad I found your site. You and Beth have helped so much. At 3 years out this month, I am facing deficiency scares and weight up and down with medicine changes. Down now, but realize no guarantees. I started realizing last year this was not a ‘rainbow’ journey. Took me long enough. And yes, I can totally understand the desperation of the suicidal; I was passively committing it at 349.5 lbs..

  7. Andrea says:

    If you need help with anything, let me know.. that’s what we’re here for.

  8. Tammy says:

    I’m pre-op, having surgery on June 2nd and one thing I knew before going down this road is regain is a reality and this is not an easy road to travel. I really appreciate your honesty and bravery for not giving up and showing that these issues are very real and not to be taken lightly, but not so horrible as to take one’s life either. You’re post was inspiring and lets me know that I can do this, but I will always have to work hard at it.

  9. Patti says:

    Awesome, just awesome! I am currently back to almost where i started. My band is broke, and I am getting it fixed, but when is the question? I hate that I have NO control at all right now and the scale is starting to show it. I am so grateful to you and Beth for keeping it real, because like you said this is not the easy way out. I exercise my butt off, but that isn’t helping one bit, only making me hungrier. But I will keep it up or I will be 250 again!

  10. You’ve attacked a difficult subject and made it well understandable and manageable. Coming to terms with my “honeymoon” phase being over has been hard for me. Realizing that I had picked up just 8 lbs since my lowest has been horrific. The old attitude of “this diet didn’t work either” had snuck in. Well Duh?!?! By-pass surgery was because the fad diets had never worked for me. I’ve had to spend some time getting my head right —–It’s time to use my tool (that still works wonderfully) along with the knowledge that I’ve collected over the past 2 1/2 years and get busy. Is it possible that my body has reached its happy point and wants to stay at 215 lbs.? Possibly. BUT if I don’t push it and take care of it then I’ll never know and I simply don’t like that scenario.

    Yet again, you’ve given me something to think about. Thank You!!!

  11. Nessa says:

    still too new to this to have to deal… but aware and worried…

  12. Lora says:

    Thank you for being honest about the way some WLS folks treat those who experience re-gain. Anyone who has taken the drastic step of having WLS is understandably terrified of weight gain, but it is appalling that people who were ALL formerly obese can become so judgmental when it comes to someone who has regained.

  13. Mary V. says:

    Wow, I am impressed! This was so informative and I truly am very grateful for the reality check. We are all in this place in our lives be it at the beginning of this journey or in the middle that we all need eachother. OH is a lifesaver!

    Being fairly new to this journey I am always in a panic to think of a re-gain! I know it’s a definate possibility, but, I am hopeful it does not occur. If it does, I plan to confront it with going back to basics and staying in here, OH is the place to come to for guidance, comfort and/or just plain old companionship, just knowing there are others out there like you is so comforting and basically it’s nice to know you can go to a place where there are others like you who are in your situation or been there. God bless you for sharing your journey this far. I feel honored to have read this and I am taking it all in with an open mind and heart.

  14. Tara says:

    Thank you for writing this – I’m sometimes mortified at the way formerly obese people look at those who experience regain. I think it’s because we all fear regain so much that we attack just out of fear. We even have a clever name for regain – “bounce back”.
    Call it what you may, I know very few WLS post-ops that haven’t had to deal with it. It’s been my #1 fear from the moment I woke up in the recovery room. It’s insane to worry about regaining weight that you haven’t even lost yet!

  15. Marilyn T says:

    Spot on! At almost 9 years post-op I’ve had my share of regains. One thing I haven’t seen addressed is the roll of unrealistic goal weights as it relates to regain. I know for myself, deciding to “live” at a higher weight allows me to more easily maintain than I could at my ideal weight (ideal being defined as mid-range in the healthy BMI category). Thoughts?

  16. Andrea says:

    I don’t think we should necessarily let a piece of paper or a stupid chart determine what our “goal” is. Health isn’t necessarily 145 versus 160.

  17. Ruby Sue Robinson says:

    Thanks for the blog..Well said…That is so right it can happen and even the doctor told me you probably will gain some back.. Does not make it easier to deal with. Each day you have to make a decision to do the best you can and that life..There is no magic number that we should weigh..Our goal is to be healthy..Yes we are one community that should be there for each other. Great post.

  18. Kasey says:

    Thanks Andrea for posting this. I am a year & half out. I’ve watched MM & Eggy & Amelia & Taunia & many more WLS folks I could go on & on…
    I’ve followed a lot of folks on their journeys whilst I went back & forth deciding if this was something I wanted to do. I had lap rny 12-17-2008
    Highest recorded weight 374 & lowest was 221 around Christmas…NOW 259. So I TOTALLY understand re-gain. People in the WLS are reaching out & supporting me & some more than others. I am thankful for their assistance & while sometimes I feel like a loser, like I’m the only rny failure, I am standing tall patting myself on my back because I am NOT ignoring this gain & I am making the strides needed to get back on track, I will not allow obesity to consume me. I will always fight this & never give up!!! Thanks again for sharing your story. LOVE your blog!

  19. Goody says:

    Thank you Andrea. I needed to read this and today was the day it was needed the most.

  20. Melody L says:

    This was a great blog Andrea, you have always been very realistic and I’ve always enjoyed your posts at OH, but I just wanted to leave a message and say wtg for being brave enough to tell it like it is, to post about your own very real struggles and failures (as we ALL have them and will continue to have them), and for being strong enough to jump back on track and lose the weight again after each regain and see it as a positive, growing experience along the way. It’s so hard to look at our failures and see them as a growing experience, but it’s true, that if we never fail we never learn and we all need to continue to learn or we fail to grow and become better people in our lives.

  21. Valerie says:

    As I struggling with regain again, your story provides much needed encouragement. Thank you for sharing and bringing us back to reality. It may be hard for newbies to grasp this as the honeymoon period can give a false sense of security. Once you get past 2 years, and maintenance kicks in, this perspective becomes more real and the blinders come off. I am thankful that I am not letting a number on the scale dictate my happiness as the accomplishments I have made this far have attributed to a better quality of life. Your story reminds us that we are not failures and have a powerful tool in our arsenal that can help us achieve our desired results if we use it!

  22. Debra Kay says:

    I think that having WLS immediately isolates us from the world of people who have not had it. A regain then isolates us from the WLS people who have not yet experienced it. Or, in the case of lap bands (I’m a bandster) some people just don’t lose the weight in the first place. Being told at that point that you are an idiot and just chose the wrong surgery, when you are sooooo very vulnerable, has to be painful beyond belief. And I see it all the time.

    My regain is due to lack of exercise (I was injured early this year) and some terrible choices while convalescing. What’s really interesting is that when I’m somewhere that is not WLS related, and I mention how fat I’ve gotten, no one freaks out. They just say “oh, well, you were laid up, you’ll get it off soon.” Mention a gain to a WLS and you’d think I had just given birth to the anti-christ or something of that magnitude.

    WLS is relatively new, the communities are new, and it’s up to us to shape them to how we want them to be. I want MY WLS community to be supportive and REAL. I don’t tolerate fake friends in any other communities I belong to-WLS communities should be no different. If someone gave me clearly bad dog training advice, I’d tell them straight off to go to hell-maybe I should flex those bad girl muscles more.

  23. [...] be cheering you on all the way from down here in NC.  Keep kicking ass.  I came back from a regain as well, so I know this is definitely a “means” rather than an “end.”  Way [...]

  24. Erin says:

    I know I’m a year late to this post but I just found your blog ;)

    I had rny back in 2002, highest weight 405, lost 200 pounds in just over a year (I’m 5’9″). Got married in 2004, and have since had three pregnancies (and babies!) since then, last year being my last (and final!). I’m up about 25 pounds from my lowest (205), but finally researching plastic surgery to get rid of the pannus, batwings, and possibly address boobies… Regain sucks, but I also find it hard to notice the regain as readily as I think i would when I still have all This Skin… doctors estimate I’ve got atleast 15 pounds of skin.

  25. Lynn N says:

    This is so inspirational for me. I’ve had a major regain, and although my intake is still about 6 oz max, I know I eat far too often. As well, I’m presently staying with the most aggressively passive- aggressive person I’ve ever known; she knows I must not eat refined carbs, then leaves them out with a little smile “have a cookie”!! I, of course, will do just that, hating myself all the while.

    Thank you, and I will be working on this even harder, knowing that I can be successful once again,

  26. Karen H says:

    Thank God I found you.. I need to feel I belong again. I have gained my weight back and feel I am lost out here all alone. I just knew I couldn’t be the only one that has gained back and that wants to talk about it. So here I am I will be 10 years out this coming Feb.2010. Gosh do I know what you are talking about. And the cruel looks and remarks I have heard.. I feel I have found friends that understand.. Thank you..

  27. Pjs says:

    Thank you I really needed this

  28. Cheryl Zelek says:

    Thanks so much for this blog, Andrea! I am now 3.5 years out and watch every bite that goes into my mouth, logging it religiously, and go to the gym every morning at 4 am because that is the only time in my day I have for it. Eating 1200 calories or less AND burning 400 calories and still terrified I will regain the 100 lbs I lost. We are so used to failure when it comes to weight loss that it is almost ingrained in our dna. the drs admit that my metabolism is really broken and this was my only hope. When I was not losing like everyone else on OH, I was sure I was going to be the only one who was failed by RNY. I can see where the suicidal thoughts would crop up. The hardest thing to remember is that if you fall back on your old habits [they rerouted your gut, not your brain], you can get back on that proverbial horse and start anew. Keep inspiring us, Andrea and I hope to get back into the habit of going to support group again and maybe I will see you there.

  29. chele says:

    I really needed to read this today. After having my WLS in 2003 and losing 202, yes two hundred and two lbs, ive been struggling the last 6 years with regaining 50 lbs because of a chronic back injury. i cannot have surgery for my back so i take the pain meds and shots the pain clinic has to give me. DDD, arthritis and muscle damage have set in and im not able to exercise as i once did to lose the 202lbs. I do not like the weight gain and am not comfortable with it. just dieting alone does not “melt” the lbs away. I want to exercise so bad yet if I overdo it then I am paying for it with my back. im still not going to accept the 50 lbs i have gained! somehow, someway i am going to get it off and be comfortable once again! Fail the RNY? NO. I did not regain the entire 202 lbs. Andrea, thank you for being honest and posting your life for us to read. truly, i do believe i saw this tonight for a reason.

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