by Ginger Costen
Do you remember the 1960’s American sitcom I Dream of Jeannie? The show starred Barbara Eden as a 2,000-year-old genie, and Larry Hagman as an astronaut who becomes her master, with whom she falls in love and eventually marries. When Jeannie needed to make something happen she’d cross her arms, blink her eyes, nod her head and POOF her master’s wish would be granted.
For the longest time, I’d follow those steps and fall asleep at night imagining my life without a wall of fat around me. Having been on a “diet” since I was 12 months old and then weighing more than 250 pounds as sophomore in junior high school I guess you could understand why I’d dream of being thin. If only it were that easy.
I’m 63 years-old now and it’s been four years since I began my current weight loss journey and eight months since having had the bariatric surgery that reduced the size of my stomach and altered the functions of my upper intestines. In July, 2010, I weighed 367 pounds and quite honestly looking back now, I realize that I was waiting to die. And, if it hadn’t been for witnessing firsthand the medical crisis, financial burden, family pain, and societal disgust that a close morbidly obese friend was encountering, I know I wouldn’t be here today.
My friend almost lost his life and I knew the moment he slipped into a coma and was admitted to intensive care for the second time that, but for the Grace of God, it could’ve been me. I also knew from that same moment I no longer wanted to walk that path and with every fiber of my being, I wanted to live.
I’ve lost 156 pounds and have 45 to go to reach the goal my medical team feels would be a healthy weight for me. Has it been easy? Not ever and certainly not nearly as easy as it could’ve been if I could’ve crossed my arms and blinked. Has it been worth the time and trouble? Well, that’s not an easy answer either.
The mere fact that I have more energy, motivation, determination and self-respect than ever before in my life I’d say it has been worth every long hour spent in group and individual therapy sessions. The fact that I no longer have to take 14 different prescriptions daily to keep me alive also makes the answer a resounding, YES! However, if you ask my family and friends they may have something different to say.
Gone are the cupboards and refrigerator filled with junk food and empty calories. Food labels are read with a Biblical dedication. There’s never an idle moment in the Costen house as I have so much living to catch up on. With every pound I’ve lost, it seems my bucket list has gotten bigger and longer. I actually want to run a 5K race next summer and sky dive for the first time. There’s so much to do that my husband un-retired and found a new job just so he could relax. My closet is empty and happily my XXXXXL sized clothing has gone out to thrift stores for someone else to wear or use as a small tent.
I love surprising people and seeing the look of shock on their faces as they were expecting the larger size Ginger and not the new improved model. So where’s the negative? I miss the food. As some of you may remember, I buried my addictions in the backyard the day before the surgery so I don’t struggle with the guilt or weight gain of consuming bags of M&Ms, drinking gallons of Dr. Pepper, etc. The best part of all this is that my trigger foods no longer control my life.
However, I miss food. It's summer and I miss the flavors of a good hamburger, homemade potato salad and ice cream. I miss being able to find something to eat without having to worry if it will go instantly through me. I miss the communal gatherings centered on food and good times.
But you know what I don’t miss? I don’t miss being disgusted and feeling like a failure. I don’t miss the self-hatred for not being able to control my unhealthy behaviors because when all is said and done nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.