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My Father's Footsteps

Everyone has heard the quote, “The apple never falls far from the tree.” As we get older, we tend to rebel against the notion that we will eventually become our parents. As we age, it seems less a notion and more a certainty. Well, in many ways I have fought against this my entire life because of some of the consequences my father has to endure. Of course, everyone has flaws, and I strive to correct and improve mine all of the time. However, there is one that is threatening to destroy me.

Pain

Like my father, I have been fat for most of my life. Not just overweight, but fat. I can remember getting into fights with neighbor kids about it. I’d come home all marked up from a fight and my father would ask me why. “Because they called you fat,” I’d say. And he’d just respond with, “David, I am fat. Who cares what they say?” Well, as a kid, you have to care as teasing and bullying can be brutally painful. Anyway, as I got older my weight continued to grow.

Being fat is painful. It affects your social life and your career. People assume that if you’re fat that you’re undisciplined and discount your intelligence and abilities. I usually don’t take it personally as it’s not malicious, it’s just natural. A few years ago a friend from the PASS community asked me to apply to their company because their team could benefit from my skills. However, the Human Resource person didn’t recommend me for a second interview. The friend asked why and the HR person stupidly admitted that I was too fat. They didn’t want to incur extra health care costs and openly doubted my skills. Keep in mind that this is a person charged with protecting employees with disabilities and also has no understand about what DBAs actually do. I was rejected simply because I was fat. I was angry, but got over it.

Dieting is painful, dealing with deprivation, and eventual failure. I’ve gained and lost tons of weight during long term diet and exercise stints. The most recent was 2 years ago when I lost over 50 lbs. However, I had to ride almost 200 miles a week on the bike to do it. This lead to terrible saddle sores which required periodic surgical procedures to remove. Your body is programmed to hold onto weight and tends to sabotage your efforts. This can be demoralizing.

Revelation


As time goes on, I’ve become closer with my father. His health has been declining in the past decade and his obesity and related problems have been devastating. He suffers from diabetes and has impaired vision because of it. My father, who used to throw around 400lb tool boxes with ease can no longer walk. His knees and hips have completely eroded and he’s confined to a wheelchair or walker and in extreme pain. He’s on the most powerful pain killers available and still in agony. For the longest time surgeons refused to fix his problems because he “wouldn’t” lose weight. However, its nearly impossible to lose weight when all you can do is lay around.

A few years ago, before my last dieting and exercising stint, I had a talk with him. Although it may sound weird, I thanked him for being an example for me. My father is like the Ghost of Christmas Future for me. I have a living example of what will happen to me if I cannot fix this problem. His response was telling. Basically he apologized for what I have to go through, but that none of us avoids it. His father died of diabetes related complications and presumably his grandfather did as well. My father, who was one of the strongest men I have ever met, apologized because I was doomed to follow his path.

So far, he’s been right. Despite my best efforts I am still fat, and suffering physically from it. Two months ago I tore the meniscus in my knee when I got up off the couch. Now my knee hurts constantly. I am becoming my father.

I simply cannot accept that because it’s terrifying beyond words.

My Decision

I’m having Gastric Sleeve Surgery. Basically, they are going to remove 80% of my stomach which reduces the amount of food I can eat as well as suppress my hunger. I’ll be in the hospital three days and will require some time to heal. The decision is scary and the surgery is painful, but not nearly so as being morbidly obese the rest of my life.

I made the final decision after appointments with a registered dietitian and my physician. Independently they both told me that because my metabolism was so slow, as it is with most morbidly obese people, that I would need to restrict my daily caloric intake to between 800 and 1200 calories for the rest of my life. This is the only way I can remain at a normal weight. When told this, I realized that I should have done this a decade ago. I don’t know of anyone, even my thinnest friends, who would be able to voluntarily restrict their eating that much. Heck one of my favorite meals, Prime Rib at a national chain restaurant, is at least 1700 calories. I would never be able to achieve this without the benefits of surgery.

I understand that this will permanently alter my relationship with food. The surgery is a tool which will allow me to eat less and stick to the healthy foods which will allow me to avoid this fate. The next year will be very hard, but I simply have to do it.

Why am I sharing all this on my blog? Well, the surgery is next Monday and I’m presenting at SQL Saturday Houston this weekend. I’m on the preparatory diet right now and that’s hard to conceal since I can’t eat anything but 800 calories of protein shakes a day. Since I’m still attending the networking events, I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. I thought I would just let my SQL Family know as you folks mean a lot to me.

I’m hoping that some of you who are struggling with similar issues will read this and take strength from it. If I can inspire someone else to make this commitment that would be great too. It doesn’t matter to me if people think my decision is rash or crazy.

It is what I need to do for my health so I don’t continue walking in my father’s footsteps.

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