Battling obesity an everyday struggle

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Mike Thomas / The Advocate

By Mike Thomas, Scene Editor

Being morbidly obese is often viewed as a physical struggle. But after going through the process of post weight loss surgery, it became a mental battle for me. Three years ago, I made a life-changing decision to get the duodenal switch because I was a 654 pound 20-year-old.

The DS switch is a type of bariatric surgery where the patient’s stomach is cut and stapled into a two-ounce pouch, and the small and large intestines are re-arranged, which makes the food go straight through the large intestines. This prevents the body from absorbing as many calories from foods, so the body mal-absorbs the calories that turn into fat.

Since the surgery I’ve lost 353 pounds from the DS switch. I was born with asthma and was diagnosed with sleep apnea at the age of 16, and the surgery cured all of that. The DS switch is also known for curing people with diabetes and high blood pressure. Looking back, however, I realized getting the surgery was the easy part.

During my time of recovery, I was in an emotional stage where I fell into a depression. I used to sit in the dark all day watching TV, overthinking everything. I remember staring at myself in the mirror everyday to see if it the surgery was working. The day I knew I was making progress was when someone sat next to me on BART. I was shocked and in disbelief, but then I remembered I am not that 600-pound person anymore.

Going through that emotion, I can say it was not the challenging part for me. The challenging part was learning how to break out of my shell and be myself around people. It felt like I had to remember who I was all over again because I started to doubt my abilities and always thought less of myself.

My experience of being over 600 pounds was little kids looking at me with terror, and people treating me like I was a monster because of my weight issues. I used to think “why should I share my thoughts with people when all they do is ignore and judge me based on the way I look?”

My perception of self-worth led to apathy, social dissonance and is what made me into this shy quiet person I have become since returning to Contra Costa College after my surgery. I became a staff writer for the The Advocate because I wanted to confront my fear of another person’s opinion of myself.

The thought of talking to another person terrified me and being a journalist was going to be a problem in the long run.

Since joining the newspaper, I have learned a lot about myself and the culture of socializing as a human being. I’m not afraid to be myself around people, and I have done numerous things. I got to enjoy an amusement park again, and that was a wonderful experience to ride on roller coasters again. I got to fly on a plane to Chicago, and that was the first time I traveled outside of California. I also realize that I will always be considered a big person, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, and “Big Mike” will always be my nickname.

I sometimes realize that I still live the morbidly obese lifestyle, and I always hold back in social situations because of it.

But socializing is becoming a little bit easier for me, which is a skill that I just need to work on. Just think, three years ago I stayed in the house playing video games all day.