4 months ago, Jo Bowden (one of our most determined gym members) sat down with me to share her monumental weight loss journey . You can read It by clicking the pic below.
In September, she summarized 21 months of intense fitness sessions and dieting, with life changing excess skin removal surgery. It ended up removing a total of 7kgs worth!! I wanted to catch up with her and get the good, the painful and the beautiful. With real pics included.... The ones they probably wont show you in a glossy mag. The ones that exemplify what happens when you live in an abusive relationship with your body for 31 years and decide to end the abuse by taking charge of your health. The ones that show immense journey and healing. Physically and mentally. We are so privileged to join her along this path. But with achieving anything worthwhile, usually includes hard work and struggle, punctuated with glimpses of success and progress!
As Jo healed on the outside for 4 weeks, she sat confined to her home. Kept away from her sanctuary the gym and the daily boost of endorphin's, fed by the well meant sweet food gifts of others, She faced a revival of old destructive thought patterns. Jo enters a new challenge chapter, 'recovery'. Lets find out how she went and where to now?
A: So what was your main motivation for having your excess skin removed?
J: To increase mobility, to get in a boxing ring and not be conscious of the large skin flap clapping against my legs to not look in the mirror and be reminded of the abuse I put my body through what felt like a life time ago. Some things are better to be forgotten.
A: The surgery experience. How were you feeling right before you went under? If that isn’t the climax moment of every sweat session you had under your belt, I don’t know what would be! You worked So. Very. Hard. So, that moment as you drift off to go under.. tell me your last thoughts?
J: Well funny you should ask because I was just plain excited right up I nearly passed out. The surgeons were drawing on me, while my friend Emma was sitting watching how it was all done, we were having some casual banter then boom I lost vision and had to lay down. My mind and body had become separate. My mind was pumped it was all like "come at me! Hear me roar!" It was so loud I didn't hear my body crying in fear. I don't like been touched and when two strange men were touching my body, it just couldn't cope and shut down.
A: Wow, that sounds deep. We know so little about the mind body connection really!
I am trying to imagine going to sleep and waking to parts of me removed… How was that? Did you identify with your excess skin as.. ‘you’? What was it like?
J: When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was my pants were too tight (I had felt this sensation MANY times before) but wait where was I?? Oh, that’s right I'm somewhere else. OMG it's done I LIVED!! I'm not wearing pants, this is the after pain! Wow weird feeling but definitely doable. Then blank.
Also I'm super keen on having big de clutterings in life so the "amputation" felt like a clean out. I don't miss it but I still feel it some times and when I've been doing certain exercises I wait after a jump to hear it slap against my legs and then I'm like oh right that's bye Felicia.
A: How many days before you were allowed home? Was there any post operation complications you suffered? Was it sore?
J: I stayed 2 nights (had lamb shanks) I know you didn't ask but it's important! They were like, 'when in movies and the happy ending happens and there's a song and a bright light' , that's what it was like when they walked through the door. (I was on some pretty heavy pain killers, it was probably meatloaf but in my mind that's what heaven is) anyway, yes there was complications, the drive home. I had two of my besties pick me up (Liz and Tia). I'm sure I popped like 50 stitches from laughing and it was actually a real fear at that point! During a large dip in the road, Tia thought was a good time to show Lizzy this joke and we sped up the bump and my little bottle of liquid blood stuff nearly flew out the window!! (Slight exaggeration). But it was touch and go! Haha, na the only real complication was the wound got a bit infected and I was going to cut it but Arnika (my midwife friend) came and did some handy ribbon bandaid work bless her (the tube was in a awkward "new level friendship zone")
A: Do you have any fresh scar pics/ progress pics you want to share? I’m thinking we could help prepare others who might be about to do this same surgery or similar.
A: Moving on to the initial recovery faze.. Honestly I did find it a little odd people bringing you junk food as like, congrats & welcome home gifts etc. (Similar to how I felt in the earlier part of our last article). I feel almost like…. I Don’t know. Its awkward for me to ask this. But as you and I see food as a potential addiction issue for some. I would think bringing you junk food like that would be like me bringing wine to a recovering alcoholics house. I guess this part of the addiction story.
No one will know where you’re exactly at with everything. On my list of “to reads” is Russel Brands new book ‘Recovery’. He writes from the perspective of once being addicted to pretty much everything you can be addicted to and how to become free from your addiction. Can’t wait to read it!! Love his work. Anywho..
This leads me to… where are you at with food now? Is it still a daily challenge?
J: Ok down to the important part! Food will always be my addiction and recovering/surgery recovery was super hard. My mind was at a weak stage and was accepting all the junk with a sweat on. I don't blame other people for bringing me junk as it's how our society is programmed to show a type of congratulations or 'feel better' gesture. The weight I lost in the skin removal was pretty much what I put back on post op. I knew I was in a bad place but I wasn't as deep as what I could be. It's like when people diet then lose a certain amount and go celebrate eat and put it back on. I did that. But I snapped and pulled it back in.
All I wanted to do was be like everyone else who could eat crap and exercise and only put on the weight of a magazine. No I eat a chocolate and my body swells and adds encyclopedias on. A lot of people have the food addiction but people like me can't hide it as well because our bodies are allergic and react badly to bad food. I've lost a kilo now so the scales are going back down my head is back in its strong state but I'll always struggle. The way I explained how I feel about those shanks is how I feel with junk food around. The struggle is so real and easy.
I was recently in a really bad place and food was my best friend for a bit. I hide it well but every day in that state is like counting down the hours till you can sleep so you don't have to be alone with your own mind because the control is lost and your soul is dark. I'm out again now back in the light so it's all good. I see it as a challenge I keep over coming now.
A: Thank you for being so open about your struggle. We see the pics of your recovery, but we can't see the inner battle. Your words let us in to understand all of ourselves that much better. In our last post we really touched on food as an addiction and it is a topic we're sure to revisit in the future.
Week one and Jo is back in the gym with wonderful cheerleader skills!
A: How did having a good level of fitness pre surgery help your chances of successful recovery? Did your doctors mention anything about it?
J: My surgeons were surprised at how fast I recovered and that was put down to my level of fitness. They said that when they looked at my abs under my skin they could bounce a ten cent coin off them, if they tried haha.
A: What are the things you couldn’t do with the skin, that now you can do without?
J: I can do a lot more with the skin gone now. I'm noticing small achievements every week. I'm not sure if those achievements are a mind thing as well though, there's not that mental "I can't do that because of the skin" block anymore.
A: So where to from here? What’s your next chapter shaping up to look like?
J: From here I want to continue to master my mind, still box in a ring and help people if I can. I feel like I've mastered the foundations of the life plan but need to work on the bricks in between the building of my life... if that makes sense?
A: Totally makes sense! What words would you give to someone considering this surgery or similar?
J: The words I'd use to others considering this surgery are absolutely do it. I love my tummy now!! The physical journey was a piece of carrot!! Just be aware that your mind is still the boss and you need to be kind but firm with yourself.
Pre op surgery pic 5 week post op pic
A: Once again. Thank you so much Jo for talking with me and sharing your journey! We have a lot to learn from those who have conquered mountains in their minds and who keep climbing in the most humble of ways. I think you look amazing in your newly earned body. I hope you enjoy having the freedom from that excess past. Also, biggest congrats on reaching your Deadlift PB already so soon after the op!!
For those wanting to reach out to Jo, with help on your own journey or in words of support. You can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org