I avoided pictures in my 20's, though there is a small collection that captures my "livin' large" years.
Those shown feature smiles, though I remember always feeling very self-conscious and uncomfortable
in public, or at social functions. The pictures of me that exist are mostly taken at business events or
ceremonies such as friends' weddings, when pictures cannot be avoided.

Something that always did make me feel a bit better, strange as it may seem, is when friends would
make general "fat jokes" or weight comments (never at my expense, mind you). That they could be with
me and not be so overly preoccupied with my weight to avoid these topics made it feel as if they saw me
for more than my super-sized exterior. While I was always hyper aware of these references, with
thoughts being focused on my unhealthy appearance nearly 24/7 in those days, I found some comfort in
knowing it was not a defining characteristic to those that cared most about me.

As mentioned in the bio, at age 29, I had finally had enough and devoted a year to losing a dramatic
amount of weight through,...what? That's right: Eating Healthy and Exercising

My 30's were a much more enjoyable time, due mostly to feeling as if I "fit in". Living in Los Angeles, so
much emphasis is placed on "standing out" in a crowd of beautiful, perfectly chiseled people.
To me, there is nothing better than just blending in. If I can walk down the street or eat at a restaurant
without raising eyebrows or turning heads,...that's when I'm happiest.

Unfortunately, there is one downside to losing such a significant amount of weight: skin doesn't just snap
back after being stretched out over many years. After living with what appeared to be a flappy-skinned
Shar Pei dog hanging around my midsection, I finally made the decision (10 years later) to have this
reminder of my former self removed surgically.

The belt lipectomy procedure I had involves making an incision entirely around your middle beneath the
hanging skin (hence "belt"). Excess skin that will no longer retract is cut away, and the top edge pulled
down and sutured at the waist. During this process, a new opening for the belly button is made so that
this earliest of our life's stitches can remain intact, albeit repositioned.

The above photos show me days before surgery, after having stuck to a decent workout routine for a year
in preparation. Below is a photo taken just weeks after surgery, with the crinkly excess skin removed,
though much swelling still present.

If considering this procedure, allow yourself a couple weeks of recuperation at home, two months of
wearing a waist binder (reduces swelling) while returning to most of your normal routine, then a month
or so of light exercise (walking, hiking, biking) before feeling 90% again. At that point, while there are
still some numbness and newly connecting nerve sensations, you should be able to do just about anything
you would have done before surgery workout-wise. For me, abdominal exercises were the most difficult
to resume given all that had been done in this area, though working through the initial discomfort
has helped facilitate the speediest recovery.

The image below was taken 9 months after surgery, AND following 5 months of circuit weight training
combined with intense cardio spinning classes taken up to 5 times a week.

Having the skin removal surgery instills a great deal of confidence, as there is no longer a feeling of hiding
beneath your clothes, tucking pendulous folds of skin into the top of your pants, and creating bulges that
are leftovers of your former self. What one does with their bodies following surgery makes a tremendous
difference in the level of happiness that can be achieved. For me, it provided additional motivation to
further improve myself, as I could finally see the results of my workout and weight toning efforts.

Still don't enjoy having my picture taken, though no longer find it to be quite so torturous an experience...