Mike and Cathy Jones (not related to this reporter though I wouldn’t mind it, considering Mike is my funniest Facebook friend) of Kingston are in it to lose it. The couple whose collective weight was 765 lbs. has begun to purge their pounds the old-fashioned way —through gastric bypass surgery. The Joneses, married nearly 23 years, both said they were heavy growing up. Living in Kingston, to which Mike refers as “Foodie Central,” hasn’t made it any easier. Cathy just had the surgery May 21, and it’s already changed her life.
Cathy had the “gastric sleeve” operation, which involved cutting out three-quarters of her stomach, and now can only ingest four to six ounces of food per meal. Her daily intake now ranges between 400-600 calories daily, and her doctors project between 100 and 150 pounds to be lost in the first year alone.
Cathy said she has been “the big girl” all her life, and was tired of it. “I have never been able to go into a regular store and buy clothes or share clothes with friends,” said Cathy, who added that her primary reason to opt for surgery was because of pain all throughout her body from the weight, particularly her knees. Cathy had two knee surgeries on the same leg, and still requires a replacement, But she was turned down by her doctor citing her weight. Thus far, she’s dropped from 369 lbs. to 339 and reports feeling better already.
“So what I am hoping for is to shop in a regular store, but more important not to be in as much pain,” said Cathy. “I never really wanted to go the surgical route, but in the long run that is what I needed. People always say its just willpower. Well it’s more then that.”
Cathy said it’s about portion size and discipline. “I need help with that, and the surgery is the way I had to get my help. It’s not like I woke up one day when I was being teased and ridiculed and said, ‘Let me eat my way to obesity, I like people being mean to me.’ I am not fat because I wanted to be fat. I am fat because obesity is a disease.” Cathy said her surgery date of May 21 was the start of her new life, “A new birthday and a start to being healthy.”
Mike is on his way. He said he usually weighs in around 395 lbs. or so, and wears 52-32 pants and 5X shirts. He said he distinctly does not have a “weight-loss goal” for fear of feeling discouraged by a plateau, but wouldn’t mind seeing 225 to 250 lbs. go away. Mike has already lost over 25 lbs in advance of his surgery. “He did that well because I changed his diet and stopped letting him eat crap,” said Cathy.
Cathy said she believes that she has missed out on employment opportunities thanks to society’s harsh attitude regarding obesity, and that the couple is often judged very harshly when going out to eat. “People look at our plates and give us ‘the look’ which says, ‘why are you eating that?’” Cathy added that kids lacking filters or good social skills exclaim, “Oh wow, look how fat that couple is,” and the parents don’t even bother to correct or apologize. Cathy said that disrespect hurts at a whole other layer. “Like maybe since the parents are fit, then at least they’re OK.”
There was no Eureka-in-the-bathtub moment for Mike that delivered him to such a drastic decision. “I have trouble getting up all the time, like this morning,” said Mike. “I dropped my cell phone when I got out the car at work and it bounced under the car. Had to get down on both knees and almost couldn’t get back up. I’ve never really had that epiphany moment [when I realized I wanted to have surgery]. I just got tired of not being able to do what I want at this stage in my life because of my weight and health issues.” Mike said he’s never been very fond of exercise apart from walking. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea are all a part of Mike’s health-woes constellation. His endocrinologist has been pushing him to have weight loss surgery for the last five years, but Mike was always leery. “After an appointment with him back in January, I gave it a lot of thought and did some more online research and found out it’s a lot safer now. I brought up the idea to Cathy and she told me she was considering it too, so she called our primary care doctor’s office and they referred us,” he said. Mike will also have the “gastric sleeve” as well.
The other side of the coin
Laura Conklin, program director at Ulster County’s Boys and Girls Club, said she had a very humbling eye-opener regarding her unhealthy relationship with food. Conklin was bulimic for nine years, starting at the age 13. Conklin volunteered in a Tibetan orphanage, she recalls, “and I realized I was being an ass,” she said. “You go to a third-world country, and you kind of feel like an ass thinking anything about yourself. These kids have to worry about getting food into their stomachs for the sake of surviving, and I felt ignorant and stupid.” Conklin said she was 82 lbs. when she graduated college seven years ago, but thanks to eating healthy and exercise, she is a healthier 109, which she says is not a bad weight considering she stands under five feet tall. Conklin is not without permanent damage and lingering problems, she said, like daily digestive issues and embarrassing dental enamel erosion from daily vomiting. “Also I think my immune system is weaker than it would be,” she added. “The reason I am so vocal about [eating disorders] is because it’s a daily battle, and I know that people need to know that it’s something you can get past. Being skinny does not mean you’re fit or healthy — it just means you’re skinny.”
Conklin was in a relationship with the same man through much of her stint with bulimia, and now questions why he didn’t intervene. “It actually opened my eyes to finding someone who was more supportive,” she said. “When I started to get better I found someone who actually cared. I have a lot of friends and family who were incredibly supportive.”