Healthy Choices

by Luis Bueno

When I was at my biggest – didn’t weigh myself but I’m guessing I was around 320 at one point – fitting into anything smaller than a size 44 pair of pants seemed like a pipe dream. When I would consider my options for losing some sort of weight, it seemed to me that the best – and perhaps only – option for me was surgery.

Gastric bypass. The lap band. Something. Lots of overweight people went under the knife and changed their appearance, so why not me? Aside from the cost of course, that seemed like a viable option.

I’m not sure what path I would have chosen had I continued to live a sedentary life beyond March 2006. Perhaps a present to myself sometime in 2007 or 2010 would have been a surgery. Maybe a few more years of despair and hopelessness would have done the job. I certainly seemed headed in that direction.

I wound up on a different path, though. In March 2006, I paid for a trainer, found some motivation, unearthed some determination and work ethic. I kept on that path and by the end of the year was down to 250. By November 2007 I had lost 120 pounds. In February 2010 I became a marathoner and now have run four marathons. I don’t know what I weigh but I know that I am not overweight. I’m fit. I’m active. I’m happy.

Would I have been fit and active and happy had I chosen the surgery? Had I changed my appearance as drastically as I did?

It’s really difficult to say but I do know one thing – I am beyond ecstatic that I chose to lose weight the hard way. I did not just lose weight – and honestly losing weight was never my goal. I changed the way I think, the way I live. When I saw my trainer for the first time, my goal was to have a 1- in front of my weight. It wasn’t to lose weight. Of course I’d have to lose weight to get there but losing weight was just a part of my goal.

If losing weight would have been my goal, perhaps the surgery would have been a better option for me. After all, in theory the surgery is quite simple and straightforward – once you are ready to have it, you go under the knife, recover and then you eat less. Somehow that equates to drastic weight loss.

That’s the quickest way to lose weight. The way I did it took me 20 months. That not only required some determination and discipline but also some patience and a lot of faith.

So do I look down on the surgery? On those who choose surgery to better their lives, change their appearance and get healthy?

I think at some point I did. Just being honest here. At some point, in 2008, after I’d lost all my weight, I viewed the surgery as the easy way out. I took offense when people asked me if I had gotten operated on. I’d tell them that my formula was hard work and exercise, because it really took just that for me. Hard work (the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life) and exercise (more than I had ever done in my life). That was my gastric bypass, my lap band.

But somewhere along the way I realized that what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve taken up running and I see all the variety of runners there are. Some can run a marathon in under three hours, others need five or six hours to get it done. Some prefer to run 5Ks and 10Ks and others like the challenge of the half marathon. Still others run ultramarathons – 50K, 50-milers and beyond. All sorts of distances and speeds and races and everything under the sun.

The common thread between runners is that we all run.

The common thread between myself and those who have had the surgery – we all have changed our appearance. Well, in a perfect world we all would have changed it. However, some who lose weight put it back on, whether they had surgery or not.

But if someone chooses surgery, changes their appearance and changes their lifestyle, that’s great. Changing a lifestyle is very hard. It takes major dedication and some major discipline. And no matter what method of weight loss you choose, changing a lifestyle and making healthy choices is what matters the most.