On Viewing Life in Technicolor: You learn something every day, it is said. Sometimes it’s a bit of trivia; sometimes it’s a philosophy-altering revelation.

October 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm 1 comment

When Dan and Jodi Kuball walk down the street these days, acquaintances pass right by without a nod.  Nobody is snubbing them, it’s just hard to recognize the pair following a weight loss of 148 pounds for Dan and 105 for Jodi.  The transformation is a source of amazement for friends and neighbors, and for loved ones, a cause for celebration.  

I am a friend and a neighbor.  I am also a constructor of pedestals, and this bright, accomplished, conscientious, kind, family-oriented couple had earned one of my loftier perches.  So when I approached them about writing an inspirational piece on the secrets of their weight loss success, I was sucker punched speechless by Jodi’s announcement that she and Dan had both undergone gastric bypass surgery – a method that scared me silly. 

My fear and distrust was based not only on the horror stories the press likes to spotlight but also on a documentary I once saw featuring a twenty-nine year old bypass patient who now ate only a half a jelly on white bread sandwich, and half a snack-size bag of Cheetos, and a half a Hostess Twinkie for her lunch.  For me, her example condemned the procedure as a forced weight-loss involving no substantial change in health habits and no sense of personal responsibility. 

Then there was the member of my church family who recently lost a sister to complications from bypass surgery, and whose R.N. friend had responded to that news by  saying, “Oh, I wish she had asked me about it first.  We’re killing people with this method.”  Pretty dramatic arguments against what seemed like a physically traumatic resolution to a behavioral problem. 

“What do I do now?” I thought when I realized my moral dilemma.  “Just follow through with the interview and keep an open mind,” I heard myself answer. 

Some things are black and white.  The bible is one example; this, believers know.  From that foundation there arises a long list of things that are concretely good or bad; evil or benevolent; right or wrong; God-pleasing or capable of breaking God’s heart. 

But in living our lives in a God-pleasing way, some decisions aren’t as clear-cut as they first seem.  Dan and Jodi’s experience raises the question, is gastric bypass for weight loss a social issue with a static negative or positive value, or is it one of many possible solutions to a multifaceted problem?  Tracing the path to their decision should help answer that question.That path originates with happy childhoods spent in loving households.  “Faith was a key element of my upbringing,” says Dan, and tenth grade bible camp, “Really made me think about how I wanted to live the rest of my life,” Jodi recalls.  “It awoke me spiritually.” 

Their lives merged when they met as Concordia College students, but they were friends for over five years before they started dating in August of 1994.  At that point, it was only a matter of weeks before they knew they “were meant for each other,” and marriage followed in July of 1995.  

It was a superb match.  Aside from their affection for each other, the new life partners shared faith, denomination, political views, and values.  They also shared a love of good food and a genetic predisposition to weight gain that showed itself at age five for Dan and age nine for Jodi.  

But Jodi was athletic as a young woman and wasn’t troubled by her weight until she started to gain progressively more each year after college.  By the time she was considered obese, she had built a sound sense of self-confidence and a solid support system.  “I’ve always considered myself attractive and talented.  I’ve always had a lot of friends and a good life,” she admits, so flagging self-worth was never a motivation for her to change.  She also continued to exercise regularly throughout her adult life.

Dan wrestled more with his self-image.  “I would say that I did struggle with myself … especially in my teenage years.  It is always [difficult]to be set apart from your peers in any way, and in my case my weight set me apart.  I did not excel at sports like my classmates.  I was also extremely shy, and that didn’t help matters either.”

As an adult, Dan fought a losing battle against the lifelong eating habits that led him to diagnoses of type II diabetes and high blood pressure at an early age.  He lost weight several times in his 20s and early 30s – as much as 70 pounds – but always regained it, along with the additional girth that accompanies the yo-yo weight loss cycle.

 By their thirties, Dan and Jodi’s future took on a new dimension as they welcomed two little boys into the family following some “trying times” of miscarriage and conception problems.  Dan also ushered in a new health issue:  vision-threatening blood clots in his eyes.  “My wife and my boys are the joys of my life,” Dan says, “And by fall of 2008, I knew I needed to change the way I approached my health and my weight.” 

Frustrated by his earlier attempts to conquer the appetite that had become his mortal enemy, Dan tuned into the experiences of friends who had opted for bypass surgery, but there was still a stigma attached to the procedure; the background thought that, “This is not the right way to accomplish this goal.” He began to pray about it daily, “asking for clarity,” and those prayers were answered with a growing sense of serenity about the idea.

In early 2009, Dan asked Jodi, “What would you think if I decided to have gastric bypass surgery?” To his relief, she responded with surprise and excitement.  Encouraged by her support, he let the idea rest in his mind until the feeling of peace that had been creeping up on him was complete. 

Finally, on March 31, 2009, Dan and Jodi attended a preliminary information session.  He knew immediately that this was the right course of action for him.   “I knew this was supposed to happen.”  Along the way, Jodi had become convinced that this was a good choice for her, as well  – a mutual lifestyle change that would ensure two healthier parents for their beautiful boys. 

Six months of preparation followed, with both completing a comprehensive educational program and both being declared “boringly normal” after only two psychological evaluation sessions.  But even though their emotional profiles didn’t seem to point to much risk, they knew they would have to take their dietary re-education seriously and change more about their eating habits than just the quantities they took in.  Characteristically, they committed themselves to being model patients every step of the way. 

The list of requirements for meeting that goal was a long one, from losing more pre-surgery weight than required, to drinking 64 ounces of water daily – before and after, but not with a meal; from avoiding sugary foods to being cautious about forcing an expansion of their stomach pouches to being prepared for the weight-loss plateau and the end of the honeymoon period that sometimes plays with the mind, weakening the resistance to the pull of old habits.  And great care is required to make sure their nutritional needs are met, which means chewing everything – including applesauce! – at least 20 chews, and taking a dozen-plus vitamin pills every day for the rest of their lives. 

For them, all of this was a comfortable fit.  As Jodi says, “Dan’s surgery was January 11, 2010  and mine was March 25, 2010.  Besides marrying Dan and having two kids, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.” 

To a spouse who no longer has to worry about her husband’s weight-related health problems, this approach to weight control has become  a life-saving blessing.  Dan no longer deals with the high blood pressure, complications of type two diabetes, and self-doubt that nagged at his peace of mind prior to the bypass surgery, and the boy who couldn’t participate in sports has become the man who recently amped up his daily power-walks to a running program.  For Jodi herself, it seems like common-sense to be in this thing together; to share a renewed perspective on their lives and new hope for their health; to be able to support each other in their successes; to learn and change together. 

But, as she says today, no one can succeed using bypass, “If you don’t have your ducks in a row.”  These two are doing it right.  As for the expense of the program, it is more than counterbalanced by the prevention of serious health problems that would inevitably have  laid ahead for both of them. 

Last summer, I got the sad, sad news that my nephew’s wife, Della – a vivacious, joy-filled soul in her early forties who was beloved for her positive spirit – had died of obesity-related heart failure following a bout with the flu.  Interviewing two people I admire for their living faith, their impeccable character, and their good judgment has softened my harsh view of gastric bypass as a weight control measure.  It has also caused me to ask myself, might my friend’s sister have died prematurely even without the surgery and might our dear Della have lived with it?  

There is, of course, no black and white answer to this query, just a rainbow of possibilities –  many of which I wouldn’t have considered before I stepped back to view the larger, more subtly shaded picture through the lens of Dan and Jodi’s informed decision.

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Entry filed under: Advice For Life. Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jodi Kuball  |  October 30, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Thank-you, Sue Anne, for taking an interest in our story and for helping to break the negative stigma that can accompany weight loss surgery!

    Reply

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

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