Robin has a zest for life that you rarely see in people, embracing travel and adventure to the max. Her laugh is even zesty, powerfully erupting from deep within. I've had the pleasure of working with Robin in The Body Project and we also have a shared interest in essential oils and a mutual friend we're both quite a fan of. What I love about Robin is that regardless of what she's been through in her life (and there are a handful of things not necessary to touch on), she chooses the side of acceptance and peace, dedication and fire. This project is nothing short of that. What we will document is her pure dedication to saving her own life.
On July 17, 2017 Robin will undergo gastric sleeve surgery. In the months to follow, she has to embrace an entirely new way of living and eating. Simply, she has to be even more mindful than she may be already. Aside from the inevitable weight-loss and reversal of her diabetes, Robin said that the biggest reason she's undergoing such a major surgery is because of her nephew who she wants to be able to sit with in a rollercoaster seat at Disney World in 2018 and know that he's safe. She said, "I'm finally taking my life in my hands." I said, "Yes! Rock on, girl! High five!" and we did, with tears in our eyes.
Join us as we document her journey once a month for a year, and please (even though she has a slew of cheerleaders, myself included, by her side) send her all the love and good vibes you can as she changes not only physically, but likely also mentally and spiritually. We're both not sure what to expect and we have a pseudo plan...and that pseudo plan is to not really follow a plan. We're embracing the adventure of it, true Robin-style.
Session 1: JUNE
Our first session was marked by one emotion—excitement. Robin had secured a date for her surgery: 7.17.17. "My surgeon was like, 'That's a very lucky day!'" She was doing everything in her power to prepare mentally and physically—trying to cut back on some of her indulgence foods so it wouldn't be such a blow to not include them in her diet post-surgery, and she was practicing taking one day at a time in order to keep calm and remember not to set too many expectations for the process. All that we had left to do besides sit and enjoy each other's company was document Robin before surgery.
You got this, Robin. Let's rock it!
Session 2: JULY
Since July 17th was Robin's surgery, we had our interview over Facebook Messenger and opted out of photos right now to allow her to recover a bit more before our August session. Without further ado, here's the place Robin is in a little over one week since surgery.
K: How's everything progressing? Any changes? Worries? Happinesses?
R: So far, everyone has been super supportive which is helpful. I had a few set backs last week, trying to do too much too soon and struggling to get my liquids in. It's hard learning how to do everything all over again. This new stomach is no joke! But I found a new, thinner protein shake that tastes like Kool-aid and got 30oz of liquids in yesterday. A personal best. But I need to get to 64oz! I also get to start pureed foods today. Which is exciting. I have pot roast with carrots and onions in the crock pot as we speak. I have no idea why, but that is what I am craving, and I will puree some of it with the gravy and see how it goes. I told a good friend of mine it's kinda like being a baby all over again...instead of breast milk, I get liquid protein, then pureed foods just like baby food, then soft foods just like you would give a toddler when they start on real food....it's so weird!
K: Wow! That's intense! I hope the pureed stew goes over well. That does sound yummy! I'd be hungry for that after straight liquids forever. Lol!
R: I definitely want food. I'm tired of drinking everything, but I have to go slow so I don't make myself sick. My stomach is still sore, sneezing and such hurt, so I can't even imagine how painful vomiting would be if I over ate! BUT! It's not all in vain! I am down almost 30lbs since you have seen me. I've never lost weight this fast, so it's very emotional. I weighed myself this morning and I cried. Which I'm sure is a first of many tears.
K: Oh I bet it hurts! I can't even imagine! And holy shit that's a lot of weight lost! I'd cry too! What's behind those tears? Relief? Fear? Excitement?
R: The tears were a mixture of everything..relief that it's already working, fear and excitement of what my body will change into...I've always been the fat girl. I don't know how to be the average girl. I don't know what it's like to walk into a store and know I can shop in the regular sections and not be forced to the fat girl corner section. It's a lot to process.
K: Do you have therapy through this or are you going to focus on working through it yourself?
R: I have not set up with a therapist. I'm just going to work through it myself. I saw a therapist during the beginning part of the journey because I had to be cleared. She cleared me in fifteen minutes. Lol!
K: I'm so excited and happy for you.
R: It's crazy...you don't really realize how BIG you are, until you see photos of yourself. I always knew I was a big girl, but seeing those before pics makes me realize I didn't see myself in my mind as that big. It's always an eye opener.
K: I heard that a few times from people during The Body Project, too. I am often shocked by how skinny I used to be, but I had never really realized it. Funny how our brains work.
Is it challenging to see? Or liberating?
R: Right now, it's a challenge to see, but at the same time, it will be exciting to see all the progress photos side by side to compare. Eventually, I won't fear full body photos and will embrace them.
Needless to say, we're both excited for August. Our session will happen one month from the date of her surgery. Can't wait to start documenting the progress! Keep cheering Robin on!
Session 3: AUGUST
It was such a joy to finally see Robin post-surgery! You can definitely see weight-loss, but when I hugged her and said, “Wow, you HAVE lost weight!” she dispiritedly said, “Thanks, I can’t tell, but I’m glad other people can!”
I was excited to get our shots in to compare them to June’s photos, but instead I had a lot of questions about the post-surgery experience and process that Robin is going through. The most lengthy part of our discussion was about food and the dawning realization she (and I through her!) is having about how little food we need to survive, but how much emotional attachment we have to the pleasure of foods, both good and bad. She said that, if anything, this is teaching her to slow down. A lesson we all need to learn from time to time.
Okay! Dig in. Here’s the start of Robin’s post-surgery journey!
K: Biggest triumph so far?
R: Sleeping on my stomach again. *Laughs*
K: Biggest struggle?
K: What is the easiest food to eat?
R: Protein shakes. But everything else is trial and error. One meal will sit fine, and the next sits like a rock. So I mostly eat protein shakes, and peanut butter and pretzels. For some reason that sits well. I just don’t want to be in pain.
K: Is this all normal?
R: Yes. Everything I’ve read and anyone who’s been through this has said the same things. It’s about two-six weeks of healing what’s inside, but I forgot that there’s so much more to the journey than that. Recovery is going to be a while.
K: What makes you feel lighter? When you feel defeated, what has lifted you up?
R: Hmmm...I don’t know. I don't really have an answer...feeling defeated is a daily thing right now so I just tell myself tomorrow is a new day and this is normal...
K: What makes you feel heavier?
R: Dwelling on the struggle to eat.
K: Well, I hope for your sake that eating gets easier. Woman’s gotta eat!
R: *Laughs* It will. I look at people who are three plus months out and they love to eat and try new recipes. So I just gotta be patient.
K: Any fears lingering?
R: That I will become one of those people who get too skinny because I still see myself as fat.
K: Wow...I’ve never thought about that before.
R: I see it all the time on Facebook...these women look perfectly healthy and write, "Getting there! Only 20lbs to go!" It's a slippery slope.
K: What’s your weight loss now?
R: 47lbs! 10lbs away from my first goal. I have to make little milestones so I see the progress. At my next goal, I’m getting two tattoos. I’m also off of one and half of my diabetes pills already!
K: Wow. That’s incredible. I’m so happy for you. That was a major goal of yours! Okay, anything else you feel like sharing from the journey thus far?
R: Everyone's journey is so different, what works for one won't necessarily work for another. It's a fickle beast, this new tummy. And I can only take it one day at a time.
K: Nice answer. Very honest. Thank you. It's okay not to feel light. Sometimes, you just gotta sit in the heavy for a while, right?
My favorite part of the whole day? How much Robin’s face lit up when I showed her the photos we had finished taking for this session vs. the ones we took in June.
K: How do you feel now that you’ve seen the photos from both sessions?
R: Amazed! I’m blown away by the differences. I was actually whining to my ex before the shoot that I couldn't see a difference and it was driving me insane. He and I haven't seen each other in thirteen months and he said it was the first thing he noticed when he saw me. So after the shoot, I excitedly told him I could finally see what others are seeing!
And here’s a perfect example of her happiness:
About a week later, Robin sent me this update: Just left my 6 week follow up...BMI is down another 3 points and I've lost 21% of my excess body weight!!!! I'm almost a quarter of the way to the goal weight!!!! I'm on cloud 9! And I don't have any texture limitations, so I'm open to trying any and every kind of food, so tonight I'm going to attempt salad! And I can have popcorn again! I almost did a happy dance in the doctor's office! Lol!
Hell yeah, girl! Keep kickin' ass! And all you reading, keep those positive vibes comin'! Send Robin love, hugs, and cheers.
Are you currently on a weight loss journey of your own? Head down to the comments and let us know what your biggest feat is right now.
Session #4: September
When I did the “5 Ways That We Hide” post a few weeks back, it was because I was thinking about how if we all let go of the ways that we hide, even if only a little bit of letting go, we’d begin to see ourselves and each other so much more clearly. I want to see people! And I think people want to see themselves and others, too! This includes Robin who said the most beautiful thing during our session:
And then, of course, we both teared up.
Maybe she stopped over-comparing or over-analyzing her body. Who knows! The point is that she’s coming out of hiding!
The focus of our conversation during this session centered around food and our relationship with it, and I love how Robin is treating her relationship. She eats whatever she wants (in moderation or she’ll get sick!), and she doesn’t judge herself because she trusts that her body is doing the work it needs to do. She listens to her body’s signal to stop. And she understands that satisfying a craving curbs it. She feels like this process is already hard enough that she doesn’t need to make the process of eating even more difficult. Plus, does judging ourselves and carrying guilt ever help while navigating challenging transformations?
K: What’s been your greatest challenge this month?
R: Trying to stick to my eating schedule on the weekends. It’s a lot harder to get my liquids and protein in on Saturday and Sunday because I’m almost always in the car doing field work with my mom for real estate. Which makes my energy lag and lots of light-headed dizzy spells.
K: What’s been the easiest to overcome?
R: Nothing has really been easy to overcome...this whole journey is tough. It is getting a little easier being open with people about my surgery choice. I still haven’t come out completely about it, still afraid of negative reactions, but so far the people I’ve shared this with have been super supportive.
K: Any humor that's pulled you through a rough moment?
R: I laugh about my “bipolar” tummy all the time! What works once won’t always work a second time! *laughs*
K: What’s a food that’s easier to eat now?
R: Meats are getting a little easier. I ate a rib the other night, but still have to be careful. Peanut butter and soup are still my go to foods.
K: Are there foods that are still difficult?
R: Chicken and most meats unless it’s in broth. I tried eating lobster the other night and it made me very nauseous, but I am blaming that on my stressful work week because seafood hasn’t bothered me at all post surgery.
K: How much weight have you lost since we last saw each other?
R: I don’t remember what I was at when we last saw each other, but I’ve lost a total of 62.4 lbs since July 1st!
K: What’s your next goal?
R: To lose another 45lbs. That will put me into “onederland.” I will be less than 200lbs which I haven’t been in...I couldn’t even tell you when!
K: Any other noticeable differences besides weight?
R: My energy is better, although, because of the low caloric intake, I get tired quicker, but my arthritic pain is significantly less!
K: How are you feeling? In general or right this moment?
R: In general I feel great! I still have my moments where the post surgery depression hits, but my body is going through some crazy hormone fluctuations, so my doctor said it’s normal.
K: Anything else you want to share about what you’re experiencing?
R: This choice has definitely been life changing, it took a lot of mental preparation to get here, years worth, but I’m so grateful that I did it. Watching the numbers on the scale go down, having more energy and less pain, make the struggle worth it.
I am so unbelievably happy to hear Robin say that she has significantly less arthritic pain! As something I have struggled with on and off for the last few years, I know how relieving it is to have some or all of it dissipate from areas of the body.
Something I noted this last time was how Robin isn’t focused on numbers. She doesn’t share what size pants she’s on or what bra cup she’s made it to or what the number on the scale is. Weekly, she’s not obsessed with how much she lost.
I admire her ability to continue focusing on the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, she’s not going to give a shit that she ate five potato chips and maybe only lost 4oz one week, she’s going to remember the moment it was humid as hell in September and she realized her arthritis wasn’t acting up. Or how we had a good laugh about how she’s always cold at work now that she’s losing her insulation. ;) I hear that, Robin! Story of my life.
Right now, Robin’s sticking with her LuLaRoe clothes, grateful that her boobs are shrinking, and looking forward to eating a Taffy Apple in Disney World. <3
INTERESTED IN DOING A PERSONAL STORY PROJECT? I'D BE HONORED TO BE A PART OF IT. CONTACT ME HERE.
Session #5: October
This session was short and sweet due to Robin and me having full schedules, but it wasn't short of hugs, good convo, and laughs, as always. And there are still juicy nuggets we discuss (both challenging and easy). So let's dig right in!
K: So, how was Disney World with this different body?
R: Disney was amazing! Mom and I split all of our meals. I fit on all the rides more comfortably, and I didn’t get tired as quickly! Also, let’s talk about the plane! I could use the tray AND I had to tighten the belt! I was so excited about this!
K: That's the best. It's the little things!
K: What has changed since we last saw each other?
R: I can eat chicken now!!! That seems odd, but that has been a huge struggle till now.
K: What food is easiest to eat? Hardest still?
R: Easiest food to eat is all seafood. I still haven’t tried beef, I fear that will be a struggle.
K: What's made you feel light?
R: My amazing support system (online and close friends) helps to keep me feeling light.
R: I still deal with occasional depression from hormone fluctuations, but it doesn’t usually last long. And my hair has started falling out, which sucks! I knew it was going to happen, but damn! I didn’t have a lot to begin with!
K: Woah! What the hell?! Why?
R: Because I have lost so much weight so fast it throws the body into a crazy shit storm of wtf, so the hair comes out. I take a ton of biotin so it’s growing back in, but it doesn’t stop it from falling out.
K: Wow. That's intense! Will it one day settle and stop freaking out?
R: Oh yeah, once the weight loss slows down. I realized this morning I’m just a little past my halfway point!
K: Oh good. And congrats! Okay, explain the new tattoos!
R: I decided to reward myself with tattoos when I hit milestones. My first milestone was a 50lb weight loss. So I got some feet tattoos: my dad’s signature and a Swedish dahla horse on one foot and my mom’s signature and a clover on the other. That way, I have a part of them with me forever.
*Pro tip: Click the image to enlarge it and see the detail*
K: I love that so much. They're awesome. I might steal that idea! Anything else you feel like sharing?
R: This journey is hard...but it is very rewarding. As my body is changing, I started having fears that I would look like a different person, that my nieces and nephews wouldn’t recognize me...I never voiced this to anyone, then I get a text from my best friend, Rita, that Renly (who I consider a nephew) saw a photo of me from Disney and said, “Who's that?” He didn’t recognize me. But when she said, “That’s Aunt Robin,” he recognized me again and asked why I looked so different. She explained that I was getting smaller and he asked if I would fit in his pocket. My irrational fear was momentarily validated, but then reassured quickly.
K: Do you have a mantra/affirmation you tell yourself every day?
R: No, not really. Just, one day at a time, I suppose. If I think beyond today, I tend to get a little obsessed about what I'd look like with some of this skin removed or my butt plumped a bit or my breasts lifted. Everything is kinda saggy right now. *laughs* But I know that it's a process.
Probably my favorite moment of her session was when she pulled her pants out and said, "These aren't going to stay on me much longer!" and I attempted to get one of those classic "look at how much room there is now that I've lost tons of weight" photos and failed. That made us both burst out laughing. I get so ecstatic capturing Robin's laugh. It's infectious.
Robin's update to me on November 8th:
R: So I just had my 3 month follow up (almost 4 months post surgery due to schedule conflicts lol) I have lost 37% of my excess body weight, my bmi is down 11 points and my blood pressure is 98/60!!! My bp has always been high, even on meds I average in the 120s/70s! Absolutely amazing! My mind is blown! The nurse even commented on how better I move around, which I always thought I moved pretty good for my size but it made me realize I don’t grunt and moan getting in and out of a sitting position anymore!
K: WOAH! That is so amazing, Robin! I'm ridiculously happy for you. How relieving is all that?!
R: It's incredibly relieving. My body is changing so much that I don't always notice it until someone else makes me see it. It's crazy and exciting!
And then I looked up the word "badass" under GIFs and accidentally sent her this one:
Her response was perfectly Robin: Lmao! I can dig it. That 'stache and windbreaker are pretty badass!
INTERESTED IN DOING A PERSONAL STORY PROJECT? I'D BE HONORED TO BE A PART OF IT. CONTACT ME HERE.