• Destiny Neekole

Compassion Beneath 520lbs: My Weight Loss Journey

Updated: Feb 11

I was born into obesity. I never had the choice to choose it, it chose me. The adults around me who had choices, were shrouded in their own limiting beliefs and short-comings.

A mother's addiction turned into a daughter's friend.

My mother is a simple woman, born to nine brothers and sisters in the piney woods of Northeast Texas. Her mother, my “Momma” taught her to cook at an early age and she was employed in a kitchen before she finished elementary school. Southern cuisine is not often the healthiest, the added weight of poverty made choices even more slim when it came to being health conscious. By the time I was born my mother was thirty and had battled with her weight for most of those thirty years. She ate to survive more than just basic means, she ate to survive her emotions. Food was her choice when life got hard or harder, food was her crutch when her world was crumbling.

I’m an only child. Brought into this world on a beautiful spring morning at the end of March - Aries with a fiery spirit. I was introduced to food well before babies are to have food, often sampling what was on my mother and grandparent’s plates - none of which being suitable for a growing child but wow, was it delicious.

By the time I was six years old I was what medical professionals would call ‘morbidly obese’. My weight was a talking point for everyone around me but this wasn’t enough for any form of intervention. On the contrary due to my mother’s false sense of security I was kept home mostly unless escorted by herself or my grandparents out of the house. Football games, sleep-overs and movie nights weren’t a thing in my world. Instead large pizzas replaced the desire to be with friends at football games and fried pork chops tasted much better than anything the theater had to offer anyway. I was convinced by my mother that food could and should solve my problems like it had for her, minus the deteriorating health. Though this reality was the case there also remained a different reality where I desperately wanted normalcy especially when it came to my body.

At my highest weight
Age 20 - 500lbs

At the age of 18 I was 520lbs and a candidate for gastric bypass weight loss surgery. The caveat of having weight loss surgery is to prove you can in fact lose weight on your own without medical intervention. At the time I was certain I wanted gastric bypass so I set out to lose the 100lbs required before surgery. There’s a lot of different ways to lose one-hundred pounds. I was taught by my mother that there’s always a fix in a bottle. I turned to over-the-counter weight management pills and began working out at a gym five times per week while drastically cutting down my caloric intake. Essentially I was starving myself, over exercising and taking pills to get down to my goal weight, which I did in a matter of 12 months. The ability to do so was so astounding to me that I made the decision that I didn’t want surgery anymore that I can do it all on my own. I had managed to drop 100lbs with a deformed ankle that was chronically inflamed and swollen. Though with the loss of 100lbs it was feeling much more capable at supporting my body weight.

From the outside in everything was seemingly great. I was working full-time, going to the gym, losing weight and maintaining what seemed to be a healthy life. I had even gotten myself a boyfriend. Everything seemed to be in place.

First the gym was taken away due to my inability to afford it’s membership, soon after my strict eating routine which had stood up against my mother’s still unhealthy habits also faded away. Piece by piece of my life seemingly fell to pieces.

Alcohol soaked and saturated most of my wounds, I was drinking constantly from the age of 19 up until I was 22.

At the age of 23 I would pack up and move across the country with a man I barely knew but was convinced that I loved him. Once separated from my mother’s house I was able to maintain and keep promises to myself about my health. It wasn’t long before I was on the path again to receive gastric bypass. This time around I lost the weight with simple dieting and a round of Beach Body P90x.

490lbs - Last Dr. Visit before Gastric Bypass Apr. '14

All while this was occurring the man whom I’d moved across the country with, leaving any form of familiarity 700 miles away, was emotionally and eventually physically abusive. Again, I kept things together on the outside. I was working full-time, pursuing a degree and focusing on my health in order to have surgery. What I didn’t know about this ‘keeping it together’ was that the more I forced myself into this preconceived notion of myself, the more I separated from myself. I wasn’t being present in my own life, just filling the roles in which I thought were appropriate. Gastric Bypass was the first choice I made solely for me and my well being.

I won’t say life got instantly better once I had surgery but aspects of my life began to greatly improve. Besides the obvious: mobility, energy and ability - my advocacy for self had a fresh start. From choosing the foods I decided to feed my body to the choices I made when I wasn’t working. To inevitably leave the abusive man I was with during this transformative time. Slowly but surely I began showing up more for myself in ways I had never imagined even existed. With each small shift I chose myself and with time it truly began to pay off.

When I would face the hardships life will always throw at us, I was able to battle the storm and come out triumphant each time after learning the set of skills and coping mechanisms that propelled me through those years of healing. Healing my mind, healing my body and my spirit.

May 2015 - 360lbs June 2020 - 260lbs

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