My Truth…

unconditional love of myselfFor over a decade, I struggled with unexplained weight gain AND the inability to lose the excess pounds even with diet and exercise; all this weight kept inching its way onto my 5’ 6” frame slowly but surely taking up what felt like permanent residence. How was this even possible? I was a tiny kid and in middle school had my “chubby” moment for about half a second and then really thinned out to 125-150 pounds in high school and college (for my height my ideal weight is 150-160). Then it all changed. It all went south; and by south, I mean to my waistline. Below is a picture of me at my 15th birthday… blonde and 125 pounds.

1988 - My 15th BirthdayMy #1 health issue is: PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which is called a syndrome instead of a disease because it is an entire host of symptoms that are not consistent with every patient. Nearly 10% of the US female population have PCOS.

PCOS symptoms include:

  • metabolic syndrome
  • significant weight gain
  • excess facial hair
  • blood sugar problems
  • insulin intolerance
  • high cholesterol
  • darkening of the skin (under breasts, back of neck, inner thigh creases, etc.)
  • significant hair loss
  • depression and anxiety
  • infertility
  • cysts throughout the body; not just ovaries
  • acne
  • excessive blood loss
  • irregular or extreme menstrual cycles
  • lack of ovulation

Basically, women with PCOS have more testosterone in their body, so weight gain is in the belly (picture beer belly) rather than the butt and thighs which is more typical for a female. Gee, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Congrats! You’re pregnant!! When are you due?” Ugh. Really? I promptly trash whatever shirt I was wearing that day. As my sorority sister says, “THE ONLY time it is appropriate to ask a woman if she is pregnant is when you see the baby crowning!!” Ha! Love her!!

Of course this extra male hormone is the cause for acne and excess facial hair too. Lovely. Also, estrogen and progesterone levels are flipped – whichever one is supposed to be high is low and vice versa. That is why it is impossible to get pregnant and if you are lucky enough to get pregnant then it is really difficult to STAY pregnant. I was lucky that I didn’t have diabetes, but it was a real possibility for those who suffer with PCOS. Doc said I was “pre-diabetic” – but isn’t everyone really?

Measuring tape - heartPrior to my PCOS diagnosis, I was being treated for my symptoms separately by each of my doctors. I was taking Lipitor for my cholesterol as prescribed by my family physician; taking meds as prescribed by my dermatologist for acne; my OB/GYN was telling me it was normal for women to have irregular periods and/or not ovulate and she also told me the very dark, nearly black skin in the creases of my inner thighs were a result of insulin resistance.

Every one of my doctors told me the MAGIC CURE to all of my woes was to lose weight.  Yeah, easier said than done! Grrrr….

Watching TV one night in early 2007, I saw a segment on the local news which featured a doctor discussing PCOS and magically before my eyes was a description of all of my symptoms! Surprisingly, I saw one of my coworkers on the segment. She was being featured as a sufferer of PCOS. Of course I called her the very next morning and listened intently as she told me her story and then she urged me to call her doctor.

exercisemotivation1No amount of working out helped me lose weight. I ate normally, but packed on the pounds. My new endocrinologist (doc specializing in PCOS) gave me a personal trainer and nutritionist. She put me on a strict diet. Carbs are a PCOS woman’s worst nightmare, so the goal is to limit those and to cut out any “bad carbs” and only eat the good ones. A group of us, all women afflicted with PCOS, worked out 3x a week for one hour… it was intense. After 16 weeks of grueling workouts and eating like an organic, healthy bird, guess what… I lost THREE POUNDS!! Yeah, I kid you not. Three.

PCOS is an auto-immune disease which causes your body to attack itself. Nice. My hormones were so out of whack that I was gaining weight, and more weight, and EVEN more weight. Yet, I needed to lose weight to get my hormones in balance. But, how? Only a quarter of PCOS patients have trouble with weight gain/inability to lose. Oh, great. I’m in this 25%. And, others do not have infertility issues. I pray when it is my time to have children… I will be okay in the fertility department. Time will tell.

size 26 - 1My highest weight was 265. Ouch. I was wearing a size 26. I kept the one pair of jeans that I wore all the time and were growing tighter each day (see picture… how my size 16 self fits in them now). Scary! My inability to lose weight was beyond frustrating. My waistline was expanding so rapidly that I felt like the little girl who ate the “meal gum” in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and she blew up like a ginormous blueberry. Much like that little girl, I was fearful I might eventually explode. I had to do something DRASTIC. The only answer for me was surgery. On Feb 4, 2008 I had gastric bypass surgery. The surgery bypasses the duodenum part of the intestines (about a foot of the small intestines that absorbs all nutrients) and this causes rapid weight loss.

My stomach is now 1 ounce, the size of an egg. Keep in mind, the average human stomach is 32 ounces, the size of a football. I now eat 3-6 ounces every three hours. I don’t eat and drink at the same time and I limit sugar, fats, and grease because they make me sick as a result of my rearranged anatomy. Now, I’m 90 pounds smaller. I meet with my surgeon annually to test my nutrients because gastric bypass makes a patient malnourished. I take 18-20 vitamins a day; every day for the rest of my life. And, due to my body’s inability to absorb nutrients, I must take two of everything – morning and night.

woman-obesity-chartThe reason I chose bypass rather than the gastric band was because it was the ONLY thing that would rectify my health issues. I did loads of research and thought initially I wanted to do the band because it was less invasive, but ultimately, it would not have been the right answer for me. Bypass changes the chemical makeup of your body (hormones = chemicals) and I needed the chemical change to force my PCOS into remission. I joke that I did a bit of internal spring cleaning and rearranged my anatomy in order to rearrange my lifestyle!

frontSix months after my surgery another blood test confirmed my PCOS was in remission – it never really goes away, but I will take remission. WHHHOO HHHOOO. I was so flipping excited my hormones were back to NORMAL. Surgery wasn’t easy. Luckily, the only side effect I’ve experienced is I’m now lactose intolerant. Who needs milk and ice cream anyway, right?

As my weight loss started to plateau, two years post-op, I started to notice a few of the PCOS symptoms coming back… a bit more acne, a few more hairs on my chin and neck, and little bit of weight gain. I only put on three or four pounds, but isn’t that how it all starts? I wasn’t about to put any weight back on after surgery!! Ugh. A blood test showed my PCOS was coming back. All of this was enough to scare the CRAP out of me, so I started working out at boot camp every morning. Yes, 45 minutes of heart-pumping workouts starting at 5:30am with a personal trainer. I would walk out of there with sweat dripping off me. It felt good AND it felt bad (sore muscles). Some weeks I was there three days and other weeks I was there five days… depending on how sore I was at the time. I lost the few extra pounds that had crept back and I finally started to feel better. The pictures above and below were taken at my one year surgerical anniversary… by then I had lost 85 pounds!!

sideWhen I had my annual visit with my surgeon in 2012, I asked him why I would wake up one morning at 177 pounds and the very next day weigh 184. I didn’t gorge myself the day prior by eating high amounts of sodium or junk food… I ate normally. What gives? He said, “It is your hormones. Sorry. You’re a woman AND you’re a woman with PCOS. My wife has PCOS too, so I know what you’re going through. She battles it every day. You’ve lost 90+ pounds remember that!! You’re a testament to just how hard someone has to work to MAINTAIN weight loss. This current weight may be you. It may not be destined for you to lose another 40 pounds. And, you’re going to fight your hormones for the rest of your life.” Oh, G-R-E-A-T! Sigh.

My #2 health issue is: Prolactinoma (a benign pituitary tumor). If you haven’t already, you can read more about this diagnosis here: https://candycoatedreality.com/2012/10/18/a-mustard-seed-and-me/

tumblr_m09ha9MM6E1qb5607o1_500February 4, 2013 was the five year anniversary of my surgery and I mustered up the courage to share with my Facebook friends just how much PHYSICAL change I’ve experienced. I was frightened to post my before/after pics as many friends from high school and college had never seen me at my heaviest. To be honest, 265 pound Renae is a time of my life I’d truly like to forget. It is incredibly difficult to look at my before pictures. Sigh. But I put on my big girl panties, took a deep breath, and decided to live my truth. I’m so grateful I did and I’m overwhelmed by all of the positive support!!!

It is time to do the same on Candy Coated Reality. Now, you too know my truth…

bmi_chart_table

this-bmi-chart-lies_thumbIn the matter of five years, I went from morbidly obese to my new and improved obese self according to BMI charts. My weight is right on the cusp between obese and overweight. Whoever thought my goal would now be to become overweight, ha! Yes, I know I’m more than just a number on a scale, a size on my clothing, or a label on a BMI chart… that is until I look down and see my big ol belly saying, “Hey yo, what’s up? Me? I’m good… just chillin… all comfy here!” Ugh.

Thank YouI’m thankful for the art of modern medicine. Surgery was the BEST decision I have ever, ever made. However, with all of this said… not everyone needs bariatric surgery. My case was severe. I’m incredibly thankful I went from a size 26 to a size 16. This was something which would have been IMPOSSIBLE for me to do without drastic measures like surgery. I gained my face back which was buried below three layers of fat… aka additional chins.

Please consider yourself lucky if you have none of these chemical issues going on in your body and if you think you might have a similar experience, then here are some helpful websites…

Increasing PCOS awareness: http://pcosfoundation.org/index.php

Details PCOS: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.cfm

Outlines insulin resistance: http://www.medicinenet.com/insulin_resistance/article.htm

Explains metabolic syndrome: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Metabolic_Syndrome/hic_Metabolic_Syndrome.aspx

Provides a great support system: http://www.pcoschallenge.com

AND…this is a general woman website that is PHENOMENAL: http://www.womentowomen.com/

© Renae Rossman and Candy Coated Reality™

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50 thoughts on “My Truth…

    • Amazing? Awe, THANK YOU!! Well, while in Cancun the first two weeks of February, I decided my next post would be about my weight loss journey. Yet, I let fear hold me back and for 2.5 months I didn’t write a thing!! Not one thought hit paper. Then, I took a deep breath and just WROTE… the 1755 words you read is what magically appeared. Dunno why I let fear hold me back because it really wasn’t that bad afterall 🙂 Your positive words of encouragement certainly help too!! xo

  1. i always suspected we were battling some of the same things. 🙂 we’ve also taken similar paths to try to deal with them, with similar results. acceptance was my big thing … i’ve finally accepted that this hormonally challenged body is what i’ve been given and what i’m going to have to deal with for whatever time i’ve got on this planet. once i accepted that as fact instead of trying to constantly fight against it, a funny thing happened: i learned how to be comfortable in my own skin. it’s an amazing feeling!

    • KUDOS to you on being comfortable in your own skin, Pam. I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds and I still haven’t accomplished that feat!!! WOW!!! If you’re looking for a BRILLIANT Endocrinologist, Dr. Bradley Eilerman is top 3 in the nation!! He specializes in Endo (hormone issues), Diabetes, and just passed his Obesity boards as well, so he is NOW a triple threat!! He uses cutting edge drug therapies for PCOS and other auto-immune diseases. He discovered my congenital adrenal hyperplasia (I’m deficient in an enzyme that processes and uses Cortizol, the stress hormone, correctly) and he found my pituitary tumor!!! He said most women with PCOS also suffer from one or two other undiagnosed conditions. He is located in St. Elizabeth Hospital in Covington, KY (859) 655-8910. It will take a while to get in…. ONLY see him at the practice. It took me 9 months for my first appt, but he was SO WORTH THE WAIT!!!! Good luck with your journey!!! Yes, I’m on four drugs now that I will be on for the rest of my life… but I don’t care because my hormones are FINALLY regulated 😉 xo!!

      • I just saw Dr. Eilerman for the first time yesterday, and I finally feel like someone is listening to me. Glad to hear that other women have had this kind of success under his care.

  2. I am also diagnosed with PCOS. I have been since 2008. I didn’t have the surgery, and it took over a year of being misdiagnosed and shuffled through the health system while being looked at like I was a lazy, fat woman, who just didn’t want to eat right and exercise, even though that wasn’t the case. I had the help of the “happy’ little pill, metformin. It is a rough pill to say the least, but then your surgery was rough also. There is no easy way to go into remission with PCOS. Just like you, I have lost about 80 pounds since I started my regime. My start weight was just a bit higher, though, at 296 lbs. I ma 5’7”. We aren’t so different in that department. (I used to try and convince myself as long as I didn’t hit the 300 mark for real I was okay, what a joke). I wanted you to know that you wrote this article beautifully. It really is well thought out and written. I am very impressed and inspired by this, your success and determination. Good job to you! May things continue to go in such a positive direction.

  3. Reblogged this on Shadow in the Mirror and commented:
    I struggle with PCOS as well. I spent years wondering why every time I was menstruating I would want to kill myself and I’d be filled with this incredible rage that had no source. It wasn’t until the year I had my child that I discovered I had this awful condition. I had been infertile before but that year I found a wonderful doctor who found out what I had and gave me fertility drugs. I never felt better than when I was pregnant. I began eating better and for once I felt healthy. This is a struggle (one of many I mentioned in The Loudest Voice) that will continue throughout my life. Its also made me think about why I feel more male than female. This condition certainly adds to the feeling but it is separate from my gender identity (I know many of you may not understand that). This blog post sums up the lengths people have to go through to lessen the damage of something going out of whack for no reason. Its a reminder that you never know what someone else may be going through so just be kind.

  4. Hooray for life changing attitudes! Which…is what really has contributed to the largest portion of your success. I know women who have had your type of surgery and are still horribly miserable because it still takes discipline and determination to do daily life. I applaud you girl! I sorta went off in this same direction not long ago…why are we our own worst enemies? Blessings!
    http://dancingonthedash.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/pretty-is-not-good-enough/

  5. My hero……you are so brave to show before and after. I don’t think I am as courageous. The article is written so well and from the heart. I’m sure it will be so encouraging to others going through similar challenges. Live your truth.

  6. I’ve never heard of this before. Thanks for having the courage to share. This information will undoubtedly help others. You are a very strong lady! Keep going – you’re doing great!

  7. Reblogged this on Us Fat Girls and commented:
    Medical issues making her battle weight gain. She went the route of surgery, and it’s still a struggle!
    Keep on workin, it Renae!! We’re cheering for you! Thanks for sharing your story!
    #Inspirational Weightloss Stories #UsFatGirls

  8. Thank you for sharing your story! As a fellow endocrine disease-fighter (Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism), it’s hard to accept that you need to fight for your body, even when your body is fighting itself. Your story is an inspiration to stay with it!

  9. Well done!

    I don’t even look at BMI anymore, myself, as it fails to take many things into account. (See: http://boingboing.net/2012/02/28/the-problem-with-body-mass-ind.html for example…)

    Since my eyesight degraded to the point where I could not do my favourite outside activities without sighted help I have been off and on depressed at my yo-yo weight issues. (Yes, I assure you there are guys who worry about this, too. )

    You and everyone here have given me some inspiration today, for which I thank you.

  10. Pingback: My Truth… | Living with PCOS

  11. This is a wonderful post – thank you for sharing…It’s difficult to understand the inherent frustration that comes with PCOS regarding our beloved hormones and that damn weight loss issue…it’s great to see the different ways in which people approach it and what works for each person – I’m so pleased that your surgery was successful and helped you on the road to reaching your goal weight and feeling fabulously trim! It’s an everyday battle for us and the most frustrating thing is trying to get people to understand that we are trying to lose weight, we aren’t just eating 24/7 and/or lazy…this is a lovely inspirational post and I hope it helps others take those initial steps in battling the PCOS demon! 🙂 Lisa x (http://harmonywithpcos.wordpress.com/)

  12. Wow you are an inspiration!! Thanks for sharing!! Those BMI charts are currently being reviewed for validity! You look great to me

  13. Pingback: On Being Brave | My Own Happiness Project: Creating Joy

  14. This is wonderful post, very inspiring. And i love your tag ” I accept my self unconditionally right now ”
    thank you for stopping by and for the liked my post “Miracles”. God bless you 🙂

  15. Congratulations! And well done for sharing your story. Blogs like this can help so many people suffering without understanding or knowing what is wrong. A great blog x

  16. Thank you for sharing your story. Congratulations on your success ! you are so brave and I am happy that all your effort, and perseverance were well rewarded. Blessed be ! Noemi

  17. Hi Renae!
    Am sorry to hear that the surgery seems like the only thing. I was 240 lbs about 5-6 yrs ago. I have been using books to look up what my doctor told me I had for health problems & using the library to get them. I have been just eating fruits & vegetables along with some pasta. I seriously go to a market called Sprouts or Sunflower Farmers Market. There is nothing different in there other than a few items & less than places like King Soopers & Safeway. I don’t know what stores you use, but most of the food in these stores have a lot of pesticides on the fruits & vegetables I’m sure. I would hope that knowing what I went through as I was growing up & how I trashed my body along with me being like a crash dummy sometimes for all the sports I played as I was growing up & until about the age of 40. So exercise was a big part of my life. I find prices at the grocery stores I had gone to didn’t have a lot of what my body needed. The refined flour & sugars that are used & aren’t that pricey are nothing for nutrition. Anything that has a big price is what is got all the nutrition. I have read that stores follow what their customers want all the time. It’s sad that there is nothing that would get a store owner to know about how to convince his or her customers on what is good for them & know how to keep the prices down too. I do believe in finding ways to make smoothies & homemade bread with the right flours & sugars or whatever the recipes call for. That is a big part of how I keep my weight down & actually have some things on nutrition that I can find for at least the part of testosterone changing into female hormones that seems to be a part of what your body is lacking. I am getting a book ready for putting on here & other places to make it available to all who want & need to make changes to feel good about what is needed for them. Am sorry that my reply is so long, but is needed so that you can see a big difference in helping you as I read more & more about my health problems that bring up what I learn from them to help others too who see my posts daily. Reply with an email address so can give you food items & some vitamins, minerals & spices that would help to correct some of the problems that your body is having.
    Rodney

  18. Pingback: Has Your Immune System Turned Against You? (Please pass on to anyone you know who suffers from PCOS) | Night Owl Kitchen

  19. Kudos to you for having the courage to go for the surgery and I thank God that it was successful because at times one might go for surgery and there is no result or good result. Thanks for stopping by at my blog and for liking one of my posts ”REST IN PEACE NELSON MANDELA”. I do hope your visit was memorable and I look forward to more of it while I frequent yours as well. May the Lord richly bless you in the name of Jesus Christ.

  20. I have autoimmune disease
    Hereditary angioedema 1:50,000
    IgG deficiency (also rare)

    People say work, excercise…
    I blog… on SSDI. My senator says keep it up!

    Thanks for the like… cute picture of the blonde… =-)

    | § | Syntaxsinner. Aka Andy

  21. Hi Renae, I am so glad I stopped by your blog, what a wondeerful post. You write with honesty and passion and I was totally immersed in your inspiring story. You are awesome, well done Lovely Lady, I am now a follower:) Kind regards Eily

  22. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    I am 47 years old and I struggle, too. I lost a huge amount of weight in 2007 and again in 2011. Then I gained it back again. I don’t suffer from PCOS to the best of my knowlege, although I do have the facial hair problem. I am only 5 feet tall and I am even a little more overweight than you were at your heaviest. I recently went back on the plan that my body usually seems to respond to this week, and I am hoping for the best.

  23. Pingback: On Being Brave | The Madness of Joy

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