Kijana, the Dream-Achiever

Weight has always been a struggle for me. My struggles with weight have been fueled by emotional traumas, low self-esteem, as by my fight with multiple health issues and injuries. This is the story of my journey through the tunnel, and how God helped me to find the light at the end. I have always been a socially awkward person... As a young woman that was MUCH taller than most, I was unique in my own many ways, but very socially awkward. I've dealt with anxiety problems for as long as I can remember. In middle school, I always tried to be friendly in order to make friends. I wasn't very successful in winning people over. It's when the teasing and taunting started making my school life very painful. This continued through most of my grade school years until I graduated Highschool. I was always seen as uncool, weird, the joke, the girl who tried too hard. When I tried to say "hello" to someone, it was met with a look that said: "why is she talking to me... Ew!" Or some students would just come out and say it. Students would even spit on me from the windows of the school bus as I got off at the end of the day. I never understood why.

I just wanted to make friends. So it is certainly understandable how I developed issues with self-esteem. My weight gain started in middle school and I started to try to lose weight the summer after my first year in Highschool. My highest weight the first time I tried was 275 lbs at the age of 14. Keeping in mind that I was 5'11" tall at time and still growing. I had lost a lot of weight that summer, and I mean a LOT. But out of desperation I did it in a very unhealthy way. I starved myself. When I came back to school people couldn't believe it was me. They had noticed my obvious weight loss and some even congratulated me. I was seen as more attractive, and students were a little more friendly towards me. It didn't fix the problems but it was a little better. I eventually got down to around 210 lbs during my sophomore year. I was so afraid of gaining weight back that I was willing to do anything to keep it off. I developed an eating disorder and I fought bulimia ED-NOS well into my college years. I was even suicidal at one point. I just wanted the pain to stop.

God brought me out of that chapter of darkness with help from my therapist, the love of my family, and my best friend. During that time, I didn't tell anyone else that I was even going through this. I didn't exactly trust people. I finally started to find who I was in college. I started surrounding myself with likeminded people. For me, this was the theatre department. The friends I made there had felt more like family than anything. My weight had started to climb back up but I tried to keep it under control by training in my sport of martial arts. I was pretty successful until I suffered a pretty bad injury. The injury progressively got worse as the years passed. But I tried not to let it stop me. Later, my back injury got so bad that I became close to bed bound from the nerve pain. My weight skyrocketed over the years as my back worsened developing 5 herniated discs and degeneration, as well as dealing with other health problems. I had started singing and taught myself to play guitar as a way to zone out and express what I was going through. My experiences during this time gave birth to many of my songs. It's crazy how the best music can be created from such pain and turmoil.

During this time in my life, I was crying out to God for help. And feeling like maybe God wasn't hearing me. Or had forgotten me. Now I look back and realize that God allowed me to go through some pain in order to HAVE a testimony. In order to HAVE something to actually sing about. A friend talked me into trying to pursue my music career. It was something I had been thinking about but he talked me into trying even though I had physical limitations. I started singing when I was physically capable. It was the outlet I needed to get out my feelings. I've always felt more comfortable in front of a crowd than being a part of it. And this allowed me to help other people with my words. In 2014 my weight topped out at an astounding 415 LBS!

After praying long and hard, seeking counseling, and going through the medical program, I got the help I needed. I underwent gastric bypass surgery Feb 12, 2014. A lot of people tried to judge me and say it was a cop-out but they don't know my situation. It was either that or back surgery. I did what was necessary for me to get healthy. I did what was necessary to help myself be successful in my efforts. Gastric bypass is not a solution. It doesn't do the hard work for you. It's just a tool. If you use it correctly, the weight will come off. If you don't and eat the wrong things, then you won't lose weight...or it will come back. You see this happen every day. I lost a total of 215 lbs!!! Most of it in a little over a year and a half! I changed my eating habits to mostly clean eating. I still have physical limitations so I can't go all out with the exercise like I want to, but I do sedentary calisthenics. (Like leg lifts, crunches, etc.) My back is slowly improving and I'm able to do more than I was before. At my current weight of 198 lbs and height of 6'1", I'm only 9 lbs away from the BMI I should be for my height. This is the first time in my life that I'm actually considered slim. God really helped me get through all the darkness. To finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The weight loss has been a prayer come true! But it took me being proactive. I had to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. It has been a whirlwind of a journey... a journey that I am still traveling. My self esteem is steady improving. I am finally learning to change the things I can and truly love myself. Even my flaws.

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