Becoming Half the Man I Used To Be – Part 1

My name is Mark, and I am a 39 year old Child and Youth Worker, currently working for a school board.  I am in a 16 year relationship, and have 4 dogs, that are my life.  Some of you may already know who I am.  I have served as the Tupperware rep for events in Brantford, and at Horseshoe Valley Resort.  I am relatively new to the WLS community, and want to share my story of how I got here.  My highest ( and admittedly, current) weight is approximately 380lbs, which at 5’11” still makes it difficult for me to find pants without going to those big and tall stores that charge a premium simply because they can.

I have struggled with weight since puberty.  I remember getting my first pair of jeans in grade 6, and they were size 38.  I outgrew them before grade 8.  I lived my adolescent years with a solid group of friends, but also with my fair share of snickers and comments from those who felt they were better than me, simply because they were skinnier than me.  I also had three pairs of jeans that I had to alternate, because 1) my mom would and could not buy me more, and 2) I would rather wear the same jeans twice than be caught dead wearing track pants. Being fat has been part of my life for so long, I simply don’t know of any other way to be.  As a young adult, I don’t recall getting too many comments about my size, or feeling that the way I looked was bad.  I knew I was overweight, but seeing as I was doing everything I needed and wanted to do, I wasn’t overly concerned.

It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I began to think about losing weight.  Clothes were increasingly hard to find in the mainstream stores; I wanted to be healthier, and since I work with children, being a lower weight would help with movement and energy levels.  So I joined a gym, and if you haven’t personally endured that humiliation, let me tell you, it was awful.  I went to a gym that no longer exists, and signed up, including the “Custom” diet.  I met with their representative, who completed a “fit” test to see my level of ability.  When we got to the push-up part, I looked at her deadpan, and said “I don’t do push-ups”.  When she encouraged me to try, I politely, yet firmly reminded her that I am paying for this, and that there would be no push-ups done today.  We then discussed goals.  I was about 320lbs then, and so I realistically said that I would like to lose about 75lbs.   Believe it or not, the response I got wasn’t “That’s great!” or “Sounds good!”.  It was “You should be losing 120lbs”.  This is the kind of support you get from corporate entities.  I followed my custom designed “diet” for about 3 weeks before I caved, and then stopped going to the gym. 

While working in a secure facility for mental health treatment, and young offenders, I started doing the points program with a coworker.  We kept each other on track for the most part, and also held each other accountable.  We did have some fun with it, and our go to phrase was “It doesn’t count if you don’t write it down”.  This program was probably the most successful in terms of seeing results, but I found that I got away from it, and not really sure why.

My next step was to attend an OHIP approved weight loss clinic, a medically supervised weight loss program with a customized plan to help you lose weight slowly, mostly through diet and food choices, with some exercise.  I was referred to the clinic, and first time was not bad.  I learned some info about healthy eating, and how to make better food choices, discovered a line of low carb protein bars that I LOVED, so of course I have not been able to find them in years, as is my luck.  I’m not sure of the reason, but I stopped attending the clinic, and life moved on. 

At the age of 32, I was at work one day and felt like I was on fire, and that there was so much pressure in my head; though not a headache.  I went to the doctor, and I was sent for bloodwork.  The results came back that I had some issues with my kidneys.  I was then referred to a nephrologist.  After an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, or Berger’s disease, in which a certain protein gets into the kidneys and essentially shuts them down over time.  Sounds horrible right?  It is, but I was diagnosed at 50% function, where normal diagnosis doesn’t occur until 10% or less.  One of the first things that my nephrologist told me was to lose weight and quit smoking.   I was again referred back to the weight loss clinic.

My second tour did not go as well.  Since my first visit several years earlier, I had gained 40lbs and had quit and started smoking several times.  On one visit, I was actually seen by the doctor who started the clinic, who had looked at my previous history, and without having any conversation simply stated “there’s nothing we can do for you, you need weight loss surgery”.  I was not open to bariatric surgery at the time, and so this became my last visit to the clinic.  I went home, left him a horrible review, and told everyone I knew to stay away from that clinic.

Over the next couple of years, my nephrologist mentioned bariatric surgery, and I continued to say I wasn’t interested.  I tried dieting on my own, increasing my exercise, and nothing seemed to work.  What I did find though, was that I was finding more and more people that I knew that had either known someone who had bariatric surgery, or had done it themselves.  In every one of the people I knew, they said it was the best thing that they have done and that they wish they’d done it sooner.

So my next nephrology visit, I discovered my kidney function was about 20% (this was last fall) and that I would eventually, in the somewhat nearish future, need to go on dialysis or have a transplant, neither of which are easy at my current weight, so I asked for the referral to the bariatric program at St. Joseph’s in Hamilton.  We’ll get into that next entry.  Read More

Mark Middleton

Mark Middleton

WLS Patient