I never knew Jaz at 350lbs.
The Jaz who was unmotivated and would get tired walking across the street.
Who was tired of not being able to fit on theme park rides, tired of being uncomfortable, and just all around tired of being "the big girl".
From 350 pounds to 216 and counting, this is Jasmine's journey.
The Jaz I met one morning in August of 2017, two days before she was meant to get bariatric surgery, had a fierce look of determination in her eyes.
As we sat and talked, I realized that this was a young lady on mission who was not only past contemplating change, but completely aware of and ready to embark on the arduous journey to reclaiming her health.
She met with her bariatric surgeon who broke the news that she must get down to 300 pounds (a weight loss of 50 pounds) before he could operate. She walked out of his office scared and unsure of where to start, so she did what many people do when wanting to lose weight and went cold turkey on the foods she knew were bad for her.
"The first 7 days were the hardest of my life," Jaz reminisced as she described having to continue with daily life while sticking to her commitment. At the time, she worked nights as a security guard in a behavioral health clinic and found resisting her normal snack options and the peer pressure or treats her coworkers would bring to be quite difficult.
Addicts in general, whether that is to heroine, alcohol, food, etc., must cope with issues of cravings and biochemical changes made in the brain as a result of long-standing abuse to their vice of choice.
There is often this misconception that when it comes to being overweight and/or food addiction, that that person is weak-willed, gluttonous, or lazy.
However, that is a very dated way of thinking, as it is not exclusively an emotional issue at all. In fact, it is more so a biochemical problem - like drug addiction - where hormones, taste buds, and brain chemistry are hijacked by the food industry's bombardment of junk found all over in grocery stores, social media, television and radio advertisements, and vending machines, even in hospitals!
a cruel irony
Perhaps the ultimate cruel irony of food addiction is that you are addicted to a basic human need (eating) and there is not always enough education when it comes to what and how we should be eating.
Obviously, we all grew up knowing that drugs in general and alcohol in excess, are things to be avoided, but there is a tremendous amount of misinformation regarding what we should and shouldn't be eating, especially if you come from a low income family.
After all, it wasn't too long ago, 2011 to be exact, that Congress was passing a bill stating tomato sauce on pizza equated to eating a vegetable.
Dr. Mark Hyman writes in his article Beating Food Addiction, "Although personal empowerment and responsibility are important, they are usually not a strong-enough defense against the steady stream of hyperprocessed, highly palatable, intensely addictive foods that the food industry churns out to claim the biggest market share."
Furthermore, there is growing research to support the correlation between hard drugs and food. This is proven by the similarity between the way they light up pleasure centers in the brains of the addicted individuals.
Now, I'm not saying all overweight people are food addicts by any means, that would be a pretty slanderous accusation to make in the context of this article; however, according to Dr. Hyman, "If you're overweight, there is a good chance you are addicted to certain foods and don't know it."
Shoot, overweight or not, have you ever tried to cold-turkey yourself off your favorite treats or foods? I will be the first to admit it is not easy and that resisting what we desire often causes it to persist even more. I will now flat out confess I should probably join Chocoholics (and) Gum Chewers Anonymous.
Not the Easy Road
If you are one of those folks who are skeptical about bariatric surgery, and think that people should just be able to lose weight the natural way, consider skimming The Complete Guide to Bariatric Surgery.
You may be surprised to learn it's not the easy way out.
"The surgery helped me not to put a lot of food in my stomach, but it didn't help me mentally, because mentally I still wanted to eat," Jaz shares. "I feel like a baby, I'm learning how to eat all over again. Nothing was easy, it changed my whole lifestyle. If you don't have that support system it feels like it's you against the world."
Her entire family is big and wasn't exactly supportive of her getting the surgery, but she was tired of not being able to do anything and wanted change and to enjoy her twenties.
"What a lot of people don't understand is that bariatric surgery is not a way out, I hear that a lot. It's more like sending an alcoholic to treatment, you give them that boost and take them out of their environment so they can work harder on being clean and sober. And with a bariatric patient, you are giving them that extra boost by making their stomach smaller, but you still have to learn the mental part."
Now, down 134 lbs., she is happier than she has felt in a long time and excited to experience the Alaskan summer. One of her goals is to hike Flattop.
Jaz's 7 Weight Loss Tips
A year with Jaz...