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Life after Weight Loss

What will it take to motivate you? How about millions?

A multimillionaire in New Mexico wants you to get off the couch and go searching for hidden treasures.

You know how yesterday in my article about Joan Rivers I told you that I thought the world would be a happier place when I was thin and that somehow I would follow rainbows find pots of gold and discover the last living unicorn. But no such luck? Well  maybe Forest Fenn has other plans for me.

Mr. Fenn believes that too many Americans spend their free time playing video games and watching TV said that he hoped a chest filled with millions of dollars in gold coins, diamonds and other gems will prompt people to get out and explore the outdoors.

Mr. Fenn has a self-published autobiography, which contains a map to the treasure and a poem with 9 clues in it. The book is titled “The Thrill of the Chase.” A title that no doubt comes from Fenn’s own love of rare artifacts, a passion he has been devoted to for over seventy-three years.

Now, I am one to call a spade and spade, so let me say this, what a BRILLIANT marketing strategy! You write a book that contains clues to a buried treasure worth millions of dollars. Whether people want to read your story or not, (Which let me say I do!) you have a whole other sales tactic because they stand to win millions of dollars from reading your book.

Give things away and people will come flocking. It’s just a sad truth. People rarely do something for nothing these days, we forget too often to stop and be kind to each other, half the time we even forget to stop and say hello. I have to tell you that is one of the things I love most about runners. No matter where you go you can be running down the side-walk and you can almost always bet someone will make eye contact, give you a nod of the head, or often times, a wave or a hello. Runners are very courteous and friendly to each other.

Bloggers experience the same thing. In fact when I first started my blog I realized very quickly that most of the successful blogs did big giveaways to help boost numbers and readers. There was a time in the beginning that I was after that, a big following, a huge readership, and then I realized that I was investing more time in that then I was in what really mattered to me, becoming a trainer, helping people find the fun in fitness and fundraising for the organizations I am passionate about to help make sure that other people have the chance at a happy healthy life. I don’t have a big following with thousands of likes and I may never, but I can pride myself on the fact that according to my site stats, my page got as many views when I talk about my experience with Reconstructive Plastic Surgery as it did when I gave away my 4th Generation IPod touch to try to inspire people to get in the gym with music.

LittleOleDaddyThat is what I love about Forest Fenn’s story, it may be a brilliant marketing strategy, but it is also an amazing story of someone who wants to motivate others to break out of the unhealthy couch potato stereotype, get fit and have fun doing it. Since this is my own personal goal as well I feel I have found a kindred soul. Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but my Father was Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is approaching, a day that was always celebrated in my house because it was also the day my Father choose as my parent’s wedding day. My Dad LOVED and I mean LOVED rainbows and if my Father had heard my Negative Betty comment yesterday he would have told me a story about why rainbows existed. He would have reminded me that nothing worth having ever comes easy. He would have reminded me that there are still pots of gold in this world and that sometimes that magical unicorn you are looking for sometimes appears in a different form than you expect. He’d remind me that good people are hard to find, rare gems, but that they are out there. ( BTW I love stories like this where I get to reference my Dad and post his picture! ) And if my Dad was still here, and he had told me those things, and he read this story this morning; he’d have sat it in front of me, winked at me and said, “See there Jaime Lee, I told you, now that man, that’s a hero.” I talk about people who I consider my personal heroes Chris Powell, Ellen DeGeneres, NKOTB, if you ever notice, it’s the people who have taught me what I know about kindness and generosity, about not just helping people, but really caring about the people who you help and appreciating the people who help you.

The article I read on Today News ( See: Want to find his hidden treasure worth millions? Head outdoors ) said that Fenn has received close to 7,500 emails about the treasure some filled with questions and looking for guidance and some just wanting to thank him for the inspiration and motivation he has inspired in them. I will be buying Forest Fenn’s book, even though I likely won’t ever make it to the location of the treasure to look for it, I love the concept, I just want to be a part of the whole experience and I can’t wait to follow this story and see how long it takes for someone to find this buried treasure. This blog is my way of saying thank you, for showing me that there still are pots of gold in life. I just love it when something like this happens right after I make a comment like that; I believe it is the Universe reminding me who I am and re-instilling my positive outlook and pay it forward theology.

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If you happen to read “Thrill of the Chase” yourself or you happen to go looking for the treasure, or Forest Fenn has motivated you into the outdoors or a healthier and happier life  please share your experience with me! I’d love to hear it! You can email me at pandora@desperatelyseekingslender.com

As of yesterday, March 1, 2013 a 10th Clue was revealed on Today News ( See: New clue revealed in hunt for hidden treasure worth millions ) Below is the text of Mr. Fenn’s poem with the original 9 clues embedded in it.

 “As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is drawing ever nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and waters high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
Happy Hunting!”

You can find out more about Mr. Fenn’s Poem and the 9 clues embedded in it on the Today News website. ( See: Follow these clues to find Forrest Fenn’s treasure! )

For more information on The Thrill of the Chase, Forest Fenn and his treasure buried in the mountains of North Santa Fe his book is available from thrill@cwbookstore.com or 505-988-4226 You can also find The Thrill of the Chase on Facebook

Forest Fenn, I wish I could meet you and shake your hand, your “If I’ve got to go, well I outta just let somebody else have as much fun with this as I have,” attitude reminds me so much of my Father. This is just the sort of thing that my 1926 born, old fashion Texan to the roots Dad would have done if he had the means to do it. I’m always so touched by the generosity of others, it is people like you that keep my faith in humanity renewed and my spirit to motivate and help others kindled. As I said when my Father passed away a couple of years ago, I don’t believe they build men like you and my Father anymore. I think you are a dying breed in our society and it saddens me. I hope that others are learning from your examples so that we may pass it on for generations to come.

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WLS Plastics from the Patient Perspective

This is likely one of the hardest blogs I will ever write for you, even as I do it, I am nervous, I am scared and I am self-conscious, but I feel that there is something we’re not talking about out loud in the WLS community and that is, the realism of results and success of body contouring and reconstructive plastic surgery to address the sagging skin that so often occurs after we have successfully lost a good amount of weight.

I get so many questions from readers and fellow Bariatric Surgery patients about plastics; but the thing I get asked the most is, “Can I see your before and after pictures?” I’ve usually quietly avoided the topic; I mean who in the world wants to show someone some of the most unflattering pictures of you ever taken, pretty much naked, with a bunch of extra skin hanging off your body?

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The Before Part of Plastics from the Patient Perspective:

Let’s talk about those before pictures for a moment. I hate them. I hate everything about them. For me personally, the skin hanging off my body was worse than the weight ever was. At 420 lb it was very easy for me to look at myself in the mirror and say “I’m cute, if you don’t think so flip off.” That got harder and harder for me as the skin started showing itself. I’d find myself standing in front of the mirror trying to see the 195 lb body that was underneath all that skin that was left behind and I was more self-conscious, more unhappy and found myself more unattractive than I had ever before.

For me, the biggest emotional success of my weight loss journey is the fact that I can honestly say that I have gone from being a victim, to being a survivor, to actually living for the first time.  For me there were several things I wanted from Plastic Surgery.

  • I wanted a body that represented the hard work I have put into it.
  • I wanted to remove the excess skin that I saw as remnants of my abusers hold on my life and their ability to still affect my life nearly twenty plus years later.
  • I wanted to enjoy exercising more because I didn’t have all this skin swinging off me when I moved.
  • I wanted to feel pretty again, or to be happy enough with myself at 195 lb that I could look in the mirror and say “I’m cute, if you don’t think so flip off.”

I did my research. I looked at before and after photos. I consulted with two different plastic surgeons and I selected my surgeon based on which one’s staff was more willing to work with my insurance. I had spoken to my insurance company several times about the possibility of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery after losing 260 lb and I had several ideas, tips, hints, and suggestions about how I might get the skin removal surgeries covered.

My approach was three-fold:

  1. My insurance covered “complications” of Gastric Bypass so my first approach was that the excess skin was a complication of Gastric Bypass surgery.
  2. My insurance company had told me that they would consider anything that was “Medically Necessary.” With the amount of extra skin I had on my body, I still had skin folds and rolls of skin on my body that allowed for things like rashes, infections and sores and removing the skin would alleviate these issues.
  3.  I have a diagnosis of Discoid Lupus. It is a skin disease that causes rashes and legions on your body, usually in sun exposed areas. For me however, with the excess skin, instead of just the normal photosensitive Lupus issues, I developed Lupus symptoms in the skin folds, in places where my skin touched skin, under my breasts, under my arms, under my stomach. Because of this diagnosis, the “Medical Necessity” of my plastics was even more prevalent.

Getting the insurance approvals on the surgeries wasn’t ever difficult. Of the three surgeries that I did, the insurance company denied only the second one the first time we submitted and that was largely due to the fact that we had included a breast augmentation and implants in the paperwork. All it took was a letter from my Plastic Surgeon clarifying what was medically necessary which was sent the day after we got the denial and just a few days later we had an approval.

We had the insurance approval. We were ready to get started. I was elated… and I had completely unrealistic expectations.

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The Hardest Part of all: The Recover, Recoup, Re-cut Phase

There are so many things about this phase of Body Contouring after plastic surgery that I feel I should share with you I am not even sure where to begin.

First let’s address one of the other questions I get all the time. “Was it painful?” – Yes. It was by far the most painful thing I have ever done in my entire life. I’ve had my tonsils pulled out, my wisdom teeth yanked, my appendix removed, I’ve had a hysterectomy, I’ve broken bones, I use to be a self-mutilator who liked to cut myself and I’ve been physically abused by people a lot stronger than me. NOTHING has ever hurt as bad as reconstructive plastic surgery. Was it worth it? Yes a hundred times over. But did it hurt? Yeah it sort of felt like I had been hit by a truck, severed in half and sewn back together.

And it wasn’t exactly easy on the emotions and feelings either. There were phases that were so difficult. Between surgeries I would hate the parts of my body that were not fixed. I’d stand in front of the mirror grabbing my skin, yanking and pulling on it to trying to envision what my body was going to be like when it was gone. I stopped going to the gym and swimming because I couldn’t handle how much skin was on my thighs and how horrible I felt I looked. It was amazing to me, at 420 lb I had no problem putting on a bathing suit even though I knew people would start at the size of my thighs in astonishment of their girth; but now, I couldn’t handle having anyone see all the skin hanging from them, it embarrassed me and humiliated me more than being heavy ever did. This is hard for a lot of people to understand and wrap their head around, so let me help you…

The hall was crowded, kids bustling around as they rushed to their lockers to get their books for their next class. She stood at her locker with her back against it, cradling her books to her chest as if she were protecting them.  Her right foot moved slightly as she readied herself to leave but it halted as a frown appeared on her face. Standing in front of her, blocking her way was one of the more popular girls; one of the “mean girls” if you will. “Awe look at the little fat girl hugging her books because nobody else wants to hug her. Stop eating Ding Dongs and Twinkies and you might not leave high school a never been kissed virgin.” The blond-haired girl clutching her books as if there was safety in them, took a deep breath and even though her voice cracked as tears threatened to stream down her face, she responded courageously, “I might be fat, but I can lose weight, you’re just ugly inside and out and you can’t ever change that.”

At 420 lb I had two things that I could console myself with whenever I felt ridiculed about my weight. I had the control in the knowledge that I could somehow change my situation, and I had the vision in my head of what I would look like when I did that.  Those two things are what helped me get through nearly 25 years of different unhealthy levels of obesity between the ages and sizes eleven to thirty-two.  Now that was gone.  Prior to my thigh lift surgery in November, I wouldn’t wear a bathing suit because I was so embarrassed of my thighs and because with the skin hanging off them, weighing 165 lbs  there was no more change that I personally could evoke to improve the situation. No amount of exercise was going to make it better, losing more weight would only make it worse, there was no more control and no more hope and it was an emotionally defeating place for me to be living.

Setting aside the physical and emotional aspects there were the financial ones as well. Now I will say I had some complications after the first surgery, but pretty much my year went like this.

  • January – Move Heather here so I had someone to help take care of me after the surgeries.
  • February – Reconstructive Surgery #1
  • March – Healing
  • April – Healing
  • May – Healing / Walked a Half Marathon
  • June – Healing waiting for Surgeons Release to move forward
  • July – Preparing & Submitting for next surgery
  • August – Reconstructive Surgery #2
  • September – Healing
  • October – Healing – Attended the OAC event and spent  1 month in CA with Family
  • November – Reconstructive Surgery #3
  • December – Healing

Now after the first surgery in February I had some complications that took a bit longer to heal from. But pretty much after each surgery for about 6 to 8 and sometimes even ten weeks I was pretty much a lump on a log healing unable to do much and definitely not working. I was very lucky, in that my insurance covered my surgeries thus allowing me to use a $22,500 loan I took out to pay for these surgeries to pay my portion of the first surgery and then, to live on throughout the year when I wasn’t working to keep the bills paid.

Even doing all that, by the end of the year I ended up $30,000 in debt on top of that on credit cards. But you know what, going into this my Family and I expected to end up somewhere around 60,000 in debt on plastic surgery, we’re not surprised to be here, but that doesn’t make it any more comfortable or less stressful and even though my household makes a decent amount of money, when you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet and you’ve maxed out your credit cards and taken out loans for your body that cost more each month than your car payment, it can be a bit overwhelming.   All that said would I do it again in a heartbeat? Yes. I would.

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After the plastics: The Realism of WLS Plastics

This was probably the hardest part of the entire journey for me. In fact, I am not sure that I can tell you with 100% certainty that I am beyond this part. What I can tell you is that my expectations coming into plastic surgery, despite what anyone told me, is that I would have a tight, lean body when all was said and done. Now is my body better than it was before? Hands down and I am grateful. But there are still some areas of my body that I would like improved. I would like my arms tighter and more symmetrical. I would like there to not be puddles of skin hanging from my abdomen when I do a push up. I’d like my breasts to be a bit fuller and I’d like there to not be extra skin hanging from my forearms.

These are things I want, and someday, if and when I can afford them, I will do them because they will make me happier. I’m not sure when that will be, but it will happen someday. In the meantime I won’t allow the little things that I am unhappy with myself about hinder where I am, what I am doing or invalidate the hard work and effort that has gone into having the body that I have, even if that body isn’t perfect.  The truth is I can never expect it to be. I am never going to have the body of a playboy model or a personal trainer who has never been 260 lbs overweight. What I do have is the body of a woman who used to weigh 420 lbs  lost weight and put it back on for years, and finally managed to get to a maintainable healthy weight and is working on being as fit and as healthy as her body will allow her to be. What I do have, is a body that can serve as an example to others who have lost or need to lose huge amounts of weight and give them a realistic idea of what they can expect afterwards so they are not as shocked and disappointed as I was when I realized that plastic surgery wasn’t going to get me the body I first envisioned.

It is with that goal in mind that I am publishing a Before and After Gallery of my Reconstructive Plastic Surgery.  If you’d liked to view these photos you can do so by visiting this link. The page is password protected to insure that you realize that the photos you are about to view are for educational purposes, and may be considered offensive to anyone that has a problem with partial nudity.  You will need to enter the password: PANDORASPLASTICS in order to open the page. By imputing the password you agree that you wish to view these photos.

Comments are not allowed on the gallery page itself but please feel free to post any comments or questions that you might have on this page instead. Please remember that I reserve the right to remove any offensive comments from my blog.  Basically, be kind, I am doing this to help educate people, not to be ridiculed or teased.

Excess Skin, Body Dimorphic Issues,  Weight Dissociation, Plastic Surgery, and Unhealthy Emotional Associations are something that I don’t think we talk about nearly enough in this community and that I do not feel there is nearly enough, patient side information out there on.

It is my intention to open the doors of communication here, and to try to be one of the voices that can both answer some of these questions, and, hopefully, advocate for others so that they might get the sort of medical coverage that I did paying for these life altering reconstructive surgeries.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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