by Johnny Webb
My youth was filled with amazing success. I played with many great artists and musicians and I was a fairly good looking man. I was so happy and blessed. I was a self-taught musician and my career had taken off. I was on tour opening for many well-known bands in the 80’s. I absolutely had the world at my feet, and I was fit, trim, and feeling great!
Upon meeting and marrying my first wife, I left everything I had known due to her jealousy and our continuous arguments. I just wanted everything to be calm, and what really happened by giving up my music career, was I found myself lost. I began to go thru a very bad marriage where my environment was sucking the life out of me, and I sank into a horrible depression and begin eating to feel good. I no longer had music in my life and I settled into an Architectural career and spent most of my time sitting at a desk/computer. I was no longer active, and bad health from bad food choices was my reward. I lost everything from a very bitter divorce, and moved back home. I really felt like a failure, and I had no idea how to pick up the pieces of my life.
After seven years of bad habits, I had reached the point of no return; I struggled for every breath. I could not even be weighed on a normal scale; I had to be taken to a much larger scale that exceeded 400 lbs. I found myself going to the hospital 3 to 4 times the following year for bouts with congestive heart failure. My heart and frame could not handle carrying the new 430 lb body around much longer. I finally found myself telling everyone around me that I pretty much was ready to die. Bands would not entertain my talent due to my weight, and it took a friend to find me another architectural job as a referral or I would never have been hired by anyone. I lived an amazing life up to this point, and thought why not just continue the process until the day comes where God calls me home. I had no motivation to change my life, and no hope to lean on. People would come to me, to use me.
I married a friend from my past because I believe nobody else would have me. She was pretty much my caregiver, and demanded that we marry, and so without care, I did. That was another mistake. It lasted a year and I sank deeper and deeper into my health troubles until finally the word “Diabetes” came into my life. I was afraid. My doctor kept telling me that he’s pretty much done with telling me that I need to lose weight. He finally sat down with me and said “at best, you have maybe 3 to 6 months to live with your horrible condition”. My immune system was almost non-existent and every time I got sick I had to go to the emergency room. I was also living with a woman who smoked and I developed horrible allergies to smoke, and she was not considerate enough to take it outdoors. It was a scary health period for me to say the least, and I did not know who or what to turn to. People kept talking about Bypass surgery, but I was afraid to have a procedure done where my internal organs would be altered and moved. The risks were high. In addition, I had no health Insurance at the time and even the thought of a surgical procedure for my weight to be removed was totally out of the question because I did not have the money.
With all things against me, near the end of my second marriage, I began delving into my artwork and started to sell my work on a social networking site. I tried to friend as many people as possible between Charlotte and the eastern seaboard to try and sell my specialty art. I am a self-taught artist too (www.johnnydwebb.com) , and loved the therapeutic feeling I got Painting Sand Dollars and Conch Shells. My art literally gave me inner peace and took my mind off of my bad living situation. It was at that time I friended a lady that just caught my eye. It was not sending her a request to say “I would like a relationship”, but she had a sweetness and Intelligence about her and I loved her taste in art and music. I wanted to know her, and also be friends. About a month later, she ordered artwork from me. We began to talk, and to make a long story short, this woman was everything! She was my heart, soul and what my mind and heart needed to feel alive. I told her every negative thing about me. I showed her every repulsive photo of what I had become. She did not see me as I saw me and I had never known anyone like her. Just the positive feeling I received with her friendship, prompted me to go forward with a new quest for life; I wanted to live. As my marriage dissolved and we parted ways, I pursued my new love to the fullest. I felt reborn. Although I found my true happiness, my health was still critical and only a miracle could save me. I went to Phoenix AZ to bring her back so that we could be together.
Changing My Outlook on Life
My new life and my new love is Susan. She took the bull by the horns with everything. We changed our diet, and we took off to where our hearts felt free; we settled into a small home away from my current life, and began anew at the beach. She loved to walk the beach, and I loved to paint the scenes on my shells. We lived there happily and began our search for complete health and happiness. Susan herself has a terminal illness known as Huntington’s disease and yet, she was not experiencing an onset to her illness yet, so she put her needs aside to help me try to make better health choices. She and I were determined to defy the odds of giving into death at such a young age. What is important is that you begin the process and have faith that your immediate changes will lead to something better. When you have someone by your side that is willing to help you help yourself, that my friends, is a true Love.
After spending so much money in the search for someone that could help me with my blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and congestive heart issues, we came upon a Doctor at a “Free” Community Health Center in Wilmington, NC. The staff really took my health seriously by helping me to begin fighting a very new battle. At the time, I was on 7 different medications for high blood pressure and Diabetes, including injecting insulin twice a day. Although the insulin helped get my blood sugar in check, it also made me gain weight and my lower legs began to blacken as the circulation became an issue. If I did not change my diet quickly, then no meds were going to help me. So the drug that would save my life (insulin) would ironically contribute to my demise because the side effect was weight gain. It felt like nothing I did was going to give me an advantage. This drove me back into depression. I couldn’t do anything but watch the world go by, but I still had my sunshine in Susan. She would not let me give up.
My Doctor finally said that if I did not get surgery soon, I had very little time on this earth. That same week that my doctor suggested the surgery, Susan’s sister had just gotten Lap-Band Surgery in Mexico for $6,500 and this was a far cry from $45,000 in the USA. This was my only chance at life that I could consider. I didn’t have the money, so I had to approach my parents for a loan for the surgery and they said “Yes”. We immediately made plans to fly to San Diego California where we would be transported to a family owned and operated Surgical Center in Mexicali, Mexico.
The surgery and my treatment turned out to be incredible. The only bad part of the trip was a 5 hour flight back to Charlotte two days after major surgery. I was counseled by my Lap Band Doctor that this was not a solution to my problems, that the hard part was about to begin. I would have to make better medical and food choices. The Lap band was only a vehicle for a new way of controlled eating. The surgery was only the beginning.
The first 2 months were very difficult. My instructions were to consume nothing but liquids. After a short time, I finally moved into soft foods and then slowly to a normal, controlled diet. Now when I say normal, I mean solid food choices. Eating at this point took a lot of planning, record keeping and chewing everything thoroughly so that it would properly pass through the band. The most important part of this whole process is keeping a DAILY LOG. I was told to have five small meals throughout the day and to maintain only 800 calories a day. Being 430lbs, and eating 800 calories a day was not easy. I learned quickly that if you do not keep a daily chart, you will go over the limit and it’s so easy to fail and stretch the band; easy to gain back everything. So you must keep in mind that the Lap-Band/Bypass is only a tool. It is up to YOU and you alone if you are going to succeed in making the proper choices to see the best results. I have seen several others have this surgery with little success because they think that the band will do all of the hard work. This is not true at all! You have to follow the rules now for the rest of your life.
The diet is what I call my new way of life. Daily, I am committed to making this work for the new me. My diet consists of
- HIGH PROTEIN, LOW or healthy CARBs WATER/COFFEE only (no soda, or sugared drinks)
I gave up soda all together after being a man that consumed a 12 pack of soda daily. I now eat a lot of grilled chicken and fish. FRESH Green Vegetables, such as Broccoli, Spinach, Beans, Lettuce, etc., are the only vegetables I eat. I really have to watch my fruits, because they are full of natural sugars (diabetics beware). Breads are hard to digest and it best if you completely give it up for at least one year. After you have trained your body to digest foods properly and proportionately, you may consider a single piece of toast per day and it must be multigrain or 100% whole wheat. Peanut Butter is the best alternative spread for toast, as it is high in protein and healthy for you. Salted butter must be omitted. There is a product called “No Salt” that you can use with your “Unsalted” butter.
Charting My Progress
75 days after surgery, I had lost about 53 lbs.
My diabetes and high blood pressure disappeared. I was amazed! I stayed committed as I tracked my progress and tried very hard to stay within my 800 calorie day. I cannot tell you how positive and inspiring that first 40 lbs. felt to me. I could actually feel a difference in my chest, and felt hopeful that my weight loss would show soon. I would send my progress to my doctor in Mexico via email, and he would continue to counsel me on the choices I was making. He and his staff were my cheerleader team. They would suggest adding or omitting food and exercise. They were more than happy to review my progress. Between my Susan, and my medical professionals, I began to feel like somebody cared about me, and I began to care too. It is a must to have positive influences while you are going through such a life changing event. When you are used to turning to food for comfort, it is a difficult transition to hold a hand vs. mood food.
Six Months after surgery, I had lost 90 lbs. I continued to chart my eating, drink my water, and consume myself in the loves within my environment. If you keep your spirits high, and track your progress you will actually remain motivated and also able to celebrate your milestones.
12 months came and I found myself at a total weight loss count of 100 lbs. but, I was at a standstill where my weight loss was concerned. I was worried that my body may be done with losing weight. I contacted my Doctor again in Mexico, and he suggested that I begin light exercise. He talked about a walk in the park, or swimming to take the pressure off of my joints. I agreed to try that but I was still discouraged that even after a fill to tighten the band, I was not losing any more. The positive thing in my life at that time was that I found my doctor making changes to my medications.
My legs started to lose the pigmentation, I was no longer needing insulin, and my diabetes and blood pressure medications were moved to minimal doses. I felt like a million bucks! I was halfway to my goal before the one year mark. I was excited that there was something about me that was still moving positively forward. My doctors began to refer to me as their “Poster Child” I now am off all medications including insulin.
Almost Two Years Later
It’s been almost two years now, and my weight loss total is now at 160 lbs.
I still have about 40 lbs to be where I would like to be. It now takes exercise and patience and maintaining the daily calorie intake from 800 to 1000 calories. I’m staying on it and I feel reborn. I slip occasionally, but I know that I have to follow my daily chart as a reminder and not beat myself up; know that I am only human.
My Music Career has once again taken on new form, my art continues to keep me inspired, and yes, my home is a happy one with a mate that loves and supports me. I thought I would never see a smile again; never have a desire to just live and be healthy. But here I am, loving the “Me” that I once lost, and thanking God that I am alive.
Johnny D. Webb