From Pain to
A Shocking Weight-Loss Chronicle
By Gloria Kay Vandiver Inman
From Radiance Spring 1992
WARNING! This material is rated X! No, it doesnt
contain explicit sex, profanity, or violence. So why the X rating? Because it contains
humiliating and graphic descriptions of medically and self-inflicted abuse heaped on the
body in the name of weight reduction.
I speak from first-hand experience. I've had a lifelong obsession about
my weight. I am five feet three inches in height, with a medium bone structure. I was a
slightly pudgy child. When I was thirteen years old I consulted a doctor, and my weight
gain-loss cycle began in earnest. At first it was just 10 to 15 pounds, but after five
years of dieting, I had gained 50 pounds. After ten years I had gained 100 pounds. By the
time I was thirty-five, I had gained 150 pounds.
My first serious dieting effort consisted of medically prescribed small
doses of amphetamines. As I took larger doses my personality changed, and I became
dependent on the pills. Getting unhooked was difficult, and my weight increased.
When I was eighteen, my Aunt Minnie told me how she had controlled her
weight for years with self-induced vomiting. If you really can't stop yourself from
eating, at least get rid of it, she advised. I tried that for about a year, but found it
Next I tried diuretics (some prescribed, some not). They were effective,
enabling me to drop a couple of pounds rapidly (usually just before a visit to the
doctor). But diuretics only get rid of fluid, so they never produced any significant or
lasting results. And excessive use can lead to dehydration and more serious problems.
Laxatives were my Idea. They prevented any further weight gain for
almost six months, but didn't cause any reduction. I stopped this practice when I became
anemic and caught every virus within a hundred miles.
I tried chronic gonadotropin shots, a derivative of cows urine. The
doctor didn't explain how the shots worked. I took the shots every day, and the only
things I was allowed to consume were water and diet sodas. Of course the program
worked-until I became too weak to get out of bed for the next shot!
Another doctor admitted me to the hospital for total fasting and
regimented physical therapy. My only nourishment was through an intravenous tube. After
two weeks I had only lost three pounds. Even my doctor was mystified. He joked about doing
plastic surgery over 100 percent of my body. The awful truth is, if the doctor had been
serious, I would have consented.
I tried all the popular liquid diets, all the supplements that came out
in the 1960s and 1970s. Next came the Cambridge Diet, the Pritikin Diet, and the list went
on. I'd lose a few pounds and then gain it all back, plus more.
Lets not forget my yoga stint. I learned I was very limber for my size.
I could turn myself into a pretzel, chant mantras, meditate, and even stand on my head.
But I didn't lose weight.
I underwent surgery in the mid-1970s. The procedure is known as an
intestinal bowel bypass, or ileal bypass. This was an experimental surgery, and I signed
legal documents absolving the surgeon of all responsibility.
The results were devastating. If you have a delicate constitution, you
may want to skip the next two paragraphs.
An ileal bypass severs the large intestinal tract at the top and bottom.
Doctors stitch the center (90 percent) of the ileal together, creating a loop that remains
alive, but useless. They hook the two remaining short ends together, leaving a short link
that goes directly to the anal canal. This results in the immediate evacuation of any food
consumed, including liquids. The bowel movements are immediate, almost totally liquid,
painfully explosive, highly acidic, irritating to the skin, and disgustingly malodorous.
Even a sip of coffee would precipitate a run for the bathroom. Visiting a friend became a
humiliating experience. Inviting friends to my home proved equally embarrassing, and
evenings on the town impossible.
But I lost weight, lots of it. So did others who had undergone the same
procedure. I stayed in contact with most of them, and we became a special club-until they
started dying off.
Different portions of the intestinal tract absorb different nutrients
from the food as it passes through the colon; each fraction of an inch has a different
task. Without all the unused intestine, some vital nutrients would never enter the system
again in the normal manner.
The potassium deficiency was the first serious shortage noticed in my
case. I had to consume large doses of foul-tasting liquid potassium supplements daily.
The first sign of actual disease began as an arthritis attack in my hips
and knees. When I could no longer walk, my husband wheeled me back to the doctor. While I
waited in my cubicle with the door slightly ajar, I overheard the doctor speaking to his
nurse about another bypass patient who was having problems. His comment was, These cows
come parading through here, expecting us to make them beautiful, and then have the
audacity to complain when it hurts. What in the hell do they expect? I changed doctors.
Out of our club of nine ileal bypass patients, five died of
complications in the first year. Two of the remaining four became very ill in the second
year and had the surgery reversed. Their weight began to climb immediately.
That left just me and one other woman. The other woman lived for seven
years before she became too ill to work and finally had the procedure reversed.
In my third year, another doctor told me I was in imminent danger of
death if I didn't have the bypass reversed immediately. The doctor who did the reversal
convinced me stomach stapling was the correct thing to do. He performed the two procedures
in the same operation, but not without complications that almost cost me my life. That was
When the stomach staple works correctly, it limits the capacity of the
stomach to an ounce or two. Anything more is vomited right away. It also limits the types
of foods that can be digested; meat and pasta are the most difficult. Today my staple is
still in place, and I can and do eat any food in any amount, which means the staple is not
working. After the bypass reversal and stomach stapling, I tried to recover my health and
lose weight with items from health food stores. One manufacturer claimed its product ate
away unwanted pounds while you slept. Soon I was restless at night and needed tryptophan
to help me sleep better (a product the FDA has since withdrawn from the market). Another
health product was glucomannan, raw fiber tablets that are really just an expensive
laxative. Next the store recommended I purchase their miraculous chocolate-flavored,
chewable tablets that promised to burn more calories than they contained. My first visit
to this store cost plenty. When my purchases didn't work, I went back. The clerks
recommended other products to use with what I had already purchased. I was desperate and
played their game for almost six weeks and several hundred dollars.
The health food approach had failed me. Next I tried professional
hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and subliminal tapes covering everything from general behavior
modification to metabolism modification.
Finally, about three years ago, I spent five weeks as in inpatient in
St. Lukes Eating Disorder Clinic in Phoenix. This program consisted of a restricted diet,
regimented physical therapy, in-depth psychiatric counseling, group therapy, biofeedback,
nutrition classes, behavior modification techniques, assertiveness training, and family
For the first time I acknowledged the traumas I had experienced as a
child. If I could have remained in this totally supervised environment for six months, it
might have been more effective in helping me recognize what triggered my obsession with my
weight. But I had my job to consider, family conflicts arose about my absence, and we were
having difficulties with our finances. I did learn to quit blaming myself for things that
had occurred in the past over which I lacked control. I acquired limited skills in the
assertiveness training program that had a positive effect on my personal relationships.
These were my first accomplishments.
I lost twenty pounds in those five weeks, but I gained twenty-five
pounds within six weeks after discharge.
The new medically supervised modified fasting supplements became my last
hope. Everyone with eyes and ears knows they work, right? After two weeks of not eating, I
went into a severe depression. Thoughts of suicide drove me back to my doctor in tears. He
withdrew me from the program immediately and sent me to another psychiatrist.
I was lucky. This counselor was sensitive, caring, sincere, and
responsive. She selected one major issue for each session and assigned me an assertiveness
exercise to do before the next session. This counselor concentrated on self-esteem and
self-confidence and goal setting. Week by week, the number of small successes grew.
Success breeds success. I was finally on the right track.
It was the combination of the eating disorder clinic and the final
therapist that turned my life around and gives this story a satisfying conclusion. I have
finally learned to deal with the past and to like myself. I have achieved a much higher
degree of success and happiness.
I now keep a goals list. I continually meet (and often exceed)
everything on my list. It has three main categories: career, social, and health.
The main items under career are to enhance my wardrobe and reward myself
with manicures and pedicures to feel better. There is a long list of goals in the social
category. I have stopped being reclusive and started taking some fun classes, have gotten
involved in two professional organizations, and have initiated more friendships.
At first my health category contained several rigid exercise schedules.
But I have found that I do better with a more relaxed fitness routine that tones me up,
rather than wears me out. My favorite is water aerobics, which I do regularly. I am in awe
of my newly acquired fitness. I am exhilarated by my agility and health, by the sensation
of real muscles in my legs and abdomen, and by the knowledge that I am improving myself,
day by day.
The special thing to note about my goals list is that it does not
contain the destructive four-letter word, diet, nor will it ever mention losing weight. I
have dropped about thirty pounds without dieting, which does make me happy, but reducing
is not the issue anymore. It is more important to like myself, to be physically fit enough
to remain active, and to be an involved, functioning part of my family and community. I am
all that, and my husband says Im beautiful. But then he sees me through the eyes of love.
There was a time when thin and happy were the same word to me, but I've
learned there are many thin people that are unhappy. Pride in my career, spiritual growth,
and physical well-being make me happy. Watching a beautiful sunset or listening to
Rachmaninoff makes my spirits soar. That special look from my husband, the one that sets
little butterflies dancing around in my heart. Communicating with friends. Reaching out
for someones hand and touching his or her heart. That is happy.
Yes, I'd be happy if I lost more weight, but I don't have to lose weight
to be happy.
©GLORIA KAY VANDIVER INMAN is a computer systems analyst,
genealogist, wife, mother, grandmother, and a published author living in Tempe, Arizona.
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