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    Featured Article: Going to Extremes After Weight Loss Surgery

    By Damon Poor

    Damon Poor Extreme CyclistSo just like many I started getting heavy at a young age going on my first diet in the 6th grade. I tried playing sports and wasn’t too bad at basketball but sat the bench in baseball. In junior high I was fairly tall for my age and concentrated on basketball. Because I was active my weight didn’t seem to be a problem but in my freshman year of high school things were about to change. Two events occurred that would cause me some emotional distress. I got cut from the freshman basketball team and at the end of the school year my dad’s job moved us to another town away from the only friends I knew. So began my journey of upward spiraling weight gain.

    By the time I got married in 1987 I was 5’9” tall and weighed 300 pounds. In 1991 I started cycling with co-workers (I looked hideous) but with Weight Watchers and exercise I dropped to 250 pounds in a four month period. This all came to an abrupt stop when a car accident put an end to my cycling (although my weight was the actual cause).

    Over the next ten years I added 100 pounds and high blood pressure, this brought beta blocker medication and the inability to burn fat. In this ten-year period I probably spent 2-3000 dollars on diets, trainers and nutritionist. All with good intentions but the weight remained. I busted my tail in the gym but really all I gained was strong legs and a bad knee. I became frustrated and disillusioned and finally accepted the fact that this is how I would be.

    In 1997 a friend of my mom’s who was concerned shared with her a story of someone who had gastric bypass surgery. My mom told me but I wasn’t interested. Over the next four years weight loss surgery crossed my mind but every time it did I found a reason to avoid it. I was still at the gym working out (I didn’t know how much this would help later) but still no progress.

    Finally in 2000 I could no longer make excuses, if I didn’t do something I was going to die. At 5’9’ tall and 350 pounds on blood pressure medication and constant back pain I couldn’t do my job as a mechanic. The decision was made I sought approval and was on my way.

    I my surgery was in March 21. I had open Roux-en-Y and spent the first night in intensive care. The second and third nights were in my own room. I had very little trouble and was ready to go home. They asked me if I wanted to shave before I went home but wouldn’t let me when I got out my razor, blood-thinning medication.

    First stop at a drug store for an electric shaver, my first walk outside and the start of a path to extreme fitness. I was determined to make this surgery work and I already knew exercise would help. From the day I left the hospital I walked everywhere. As soon as I could I was at the gym on the treadmill. Next was the elliptical cardio machine and strength training with light weight’s and then spin classes.

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    About six weeks after surgery, I was off blood pressure medication for the first time in ten years. At this point the weight began to quickly come off as I was able to get into a heart rate zone that promoted fat loss. I was soon (I think too soon) back to work. The owner of the dealership I worked for was gracious enough to allow me office work until I could safely return to being a diesel mechanic.

    At about eleven months out I fulfilled a promise to myself. I had finally lost enough weight to safely ride a bicycle so I took it up again casually. I was still at the gym and was only about 15 pounds from my goal.

    At about 13 months out I had my first setback. I was at dinner and I started feeling ill, within a few minutes it was getting painful and in an hour I was at the emergency room. The pain was so bad they gave a maximum dose of morphine. I couldn’t stand, sit or walk for more than about 5 minutes. Forget laying down that was impossible. Another dose pain medication and emergency surgery followed to correct a twisted intestine caused by an adhesion. Hospitalization lasted two days.

    Recovering from surgery set me back with cycling. I took a break and in June of 2002 I had a tummy tuck and 6 weeks later a hernia repair. Finally in September that year was able to resume my cycling but absolutely hated it.

    A friend of mine knowing I was frustrated invited me ride with a group he rode with on Saturdays, so I did. The first Saturday I rode 32 miles and even though it was hard for me I enjoyed myself. I was invited to ride the next day on an up and back coast ride totaling 55 miles. Even though I developed severe leg cramps riding was finally fun. I joined the club and I am now second vice president.

    Since then I have come a long way. When I started 32 miles hurt. Today I am training for four “double centuries” (200 miles in one day) in a 3 ½ month period this spring. I have learned a lot in this time and I have seen the benefits from exercise. I spend most of my free time training and since I live in southern California the weather is conducive year round riding.

    It has been a gradual process from where I was to where I am today. It hasn’t always been easy. My lifestyle change has presented a lot of challenges both physical and mental. The satisfaction of reaching the goal before me is my greatest reward.


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