I'm about to take off for ten days in Europe. Two things about that relevant to this space:
1) I'm a little bit grumpy about the fact that I'm disrupting a really good groove. I've been interested in losing a little more weight, and lately that's been working out well for me: I've been in a good, easy, pleasurable routine that's made that feel very achievable. I'm seeing scale weights below the bottom of my usual range—the last few mornings have been below 177. You know what's not like an awesome step towards losing five or ten pounds? Eating in nice restaurants in Paris. That said, am I complaining about heading off to eat in nice restaurants in Paris? Good lord, no. I'm not an ungrateful idiot. I'm going to do what I've done before successfully during travel: hit my water hard, walk around a lot, and eat enjoyably in moderation with a focus on protein. In my other stops I'll be staying with friends, so there it'll be easier, although of course I'll still want to try things, and will in fact try those things. I'm going to try to keep near the forefront of my brain the fact that it would be really nice to come back still in range of that low point; I'm also not going to be super strict and regimented about my behavior while I'm away. I'm not taking protein powder or anything special. Just being a normal person who keeps an eye on things.
2) I've never been in Europe as not a fat person. It's always been a presence in my travel, that sense of alienation, of being looked at, simultaneously conspicuous and invisible. My last stop is Berlin—the last time I was there was fifteen years ago, the summer before I was inpatient for ED treatment. I remember the way it felt to be in that differentiated body. I remember how much it defined my experience there. This is going to be different. I am nervous and excited. I have fussed a lot over my packing. What clothes, what shoes, what makeup. But as I'm headed out the door, I feel okay about my ability to move through the world.
I'll check back in when I get home.
I signed up for a local bike ride in late September called the Square to Square ride. If you want to know where I"ll be September 22, it's here: http://fayetteville-ar.gov/1931/Square-to-Square-Bicycle-Ride
The ride is 30 miles on very hilly roads (but that's just how it is here - haha!). We have an amazing trail system here! The Razorback Regional Greenway spans 36 miles with some offshoots that provide even more mileage (especially in Bentonville and Fayetteville - two cities that have an avid cycling scene). As many issues as we have with the Walmart corporation, they sure are generous when it comes to bikes and art!
Anyway, I'm working on a training schedule. So far, the longest I've ridden since I started up again is about 10 miles. I will say, though, I felt like I could EASILY ride twice that. So I feel like I can fairly easily ride 30. Still, I want to make sure I can get it done in a reasonable amount of time and feeling great at the end. So I"m working on a training schedule. After this, I want to train for a century ride!
I’m still working toward the low end of my surgeon’s year out goal range of 167. This morning I’m at 168. Next goal - 150. After that I will likely focus on maintenance and quit weighing outside the doctor’s office.
(The colors don’t mean anything other than I like lots of colors and I have a lot of pens and highlighters. Haha!)
Well my org had a happy hour event. I drank half a Kentucky mule and ate a wing with the skin taken off and the cheese off some cheese fries. It was tough, honestly. Those social situations where there’s communal food and an expectation to drink are weird and difficult. I did have a nice time though. My coworkers and bosses are goofballs.
Last night I went to a launch party at my weight loss clinic where they were introducing the new minimally invasive cosmetic procedures they are starting to offer. I ended up winning a $250 gift certificate that they let me use as a deposit for future work. If we put down a deposit last night, we get 20% off if we book something within the year. At the very least, I can have some laser hair removal done. Ha! But I’m going in for a consult on my arms, thighs, and neck. We’ll see what they say. It might be worth saving up for.
Hopefully this won't just get annoying, but I'm going to try to blog about my WLS stuff every day, partially in an effort to get it out of my brain and get on with my life rather than focusing on it overly much in my day to day. I'm starting to want to move on somewhat, but I still recognize that it's a huge part of my daily experience currently. So I'm hoping that taking a few minutes to write down my thoughts about it in the morning might help.
I've been struggling with eating more carbs than I "should" (according to my clinic's eating plan - which I honestly feel is a little on the strict side), so I've been paying closer attention to that. I'm not necessarily cutting them, but rather just trying to pay attention to when I eat them and why. The problematic ones are at night when I'm bored, so I'm taking a few steps to curb that, as well as build better overall habits. I've cut out TV watching for the next 4 weeks (for multiple reasons), so that should help. I won't be eating mindlessly in front of the laptop while binge-watching. I've also gone on a social media diet - where I only check my Facebook and Instagram once in the morning. That's more of an anxiety issue than anything else. If I can keep that in check, my anxiety goes down and I can focus a bit better on what's important.
I'm still struggling so much with exercise. I'm riding my bike 3 days a week now for around 10 miles a day (give or take, depending on my work that day). That's awesome, but that's pretty much all the exercise I get outside of my general day to day activity. This week, I'm working on changing my sleep/wake schedule and just getting up at 5:00 a.m. After a week of that, I'll start planning exercise in the mornings. On riding days, I'll do stretching stuff. On non-riding days, I'll do strength training. I'll take Sunday as a rest day and just go for a walk then. Hopefully that will help.
And hopefully jotting down my thoughts in the mornings will help, too.
So my return here for the two-year mark has me wanting to think out loud about some stuff, I guess. I do really like this space for thinking through things.
I often feel pretty out of step with the general discourse here or elsewhere in WLS support internet space. I have a sense of myself as a "bad" patient, I think, someone who gets away with things, who breaks or bends or disregards the rules, who doesn't work hard enough. The constant vigilance! The culinary monotony! The things that aren't delicious! How do people do it? I feel simultaneously concerned that I should be doing it and delighted that it seems like I don't have to.
For example: you hear a lot of people talking about how they gain on fourteen hundred calories a day, twelve hundred calories a day, a thousand calories a day. I am not one of those people. I don't track, but I have been a disordered eater and a recovering disordered eater for long enough that if I stop and think about it and adjust for the human tendency to underestimate, I can ballpark my daily intake in my head. I would say it is pretty much always north of fifteen hundred, probably more likely usually around 1800-2200. There are definitely days it's above that, too—sometimes I go out for ice cream/fall face-first into a box of See's candy/drink three cocktails instead of two Jameson-and-sodas/end up reverting to symptomatic late-night-secret-eating habits while visiting my parents/pull an all-nighter fueled by sour cream and onion chips and citric-acid sour apple gummy straws/have a terrible hangover that ABSOLUTELY REQUIRES as much of the neighborhood's best bacon egg & cheese on a roll as I can comfortably contain. That makes sense as an estimate, because when I go to my favorite calculator and calculate my approximate total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) I get a number just above 2200, which is to say, if my normal range is at or just below that mark, and then there are some higher days, I am eating in a way that maintains the weight I'm at now. Energy balance is a beautiful thing. This number suggests that I have a normal human metabolism, which is particularly delightful news given that my endocrine system has been borked since childhood.
I'm tempted to say that I have a hunch that folks who swear they gain on a thousand calories tend to underestimate their own consumption (which is an empirically observed phenomenon and not a personal flaw) but it's also true that a lifetime of dieting is a predictor of metabolic damage (it's also empirically observable that people who've lost a lot of weight often need to be more active and consume less than people of the same weight who've been weight-stable most of their lives). I wonder if the years I spent as a superheavyweight (this is the technical term for the weight class, not negative self-talk!) powerlifter, training twelve hours a week and radically increasing my caloric needs and then increasing my intake to match them helped me repair some metabolic damage. I also wonder if because of the degree of peace I came to with fatness I'm simply content at a higher weight than some others might be, which means I don't have as much of the psychological need to fight my body all the time to maintain a weight lower than the one to which it's internally calibrated (even after the recalibration effect of a surgery like the VSG, which is one of the reasons I chose it in the first place).
I also eat regular food, mostly, which seems sort of not to be the way of things for a lot of folks after WLS. I keep Fairlife high-protein milk in the house for coffee (though I sometimes use regular whole milk and sometimes buy half-and-half), and Breyer's Delights protein ice cream in my freezer, but on the whole, I just eat regular things. (Not always the same things I ate before surgery, but things that are normal food items.) It's a holdover from ED treatment, really—they did whole milk there, no reduced-fat things, and I never switched back; also diet foods make me uncomfortable because they feel shamey. And I dislike artificially sweetened things, as a rule, except Diet Coke; yes I know it maybe kind of gives you cancer and Alzheimer's but I simply do not have the energy to deal with rather than indulge my Diet Coke habit; there is a lot going on over here and it doesn't even crack the top ten on the priority list.
Yesterday I had four strips of bacon and two-thirds of a piece of toast with mayonnaise and two fried eggs for breakfast; I finished the egg toast with half a grapefruit a few hours later; I slugged coffee with Fairlife chocolate milk all morning and much of the afternoon; I had six homemade chicken & vegetable dumplings (pan-fried) for a late lunch; I had some feta cheese with tomato and olive oil and garlic and about half a pint of protein ice cream for dinner; I had four ginger chews before bed. Oh, and some home-brewed kombucha, because I'm that person these days (frankly, I worry about the sugar but apparently the yeasts eat most of it).
Today I had another egg toast (four strips of bacon and two fried eggs on top of tomato, scallions, and feta cheese; it was a significant achievement in the field of breakfast and kept me full all day), more coffee and Fairlife chocolate milk, a prefab ma po tofu for dinner, some protein ice cream as a snack, a jerky and two ginger chews even as we speak. This one's on the lower end of things. I'm okay with that.
Like pretty much I'm a normal person. I do still have significant volume restriction—I notice it most when I eat out with others, when I am conscious of how little it looks like I've eaten in comparison—but these are pretty normal amounts of food for a human to consume. Which I enjoy! But which also seems out of step sometimes. Equally unusual: I employ no diet plans (i.e. I eat carbs, albeit in relative moderation that has more to do with space in my modified anatomy—and not just the "good" ones, either—and I have no macros and I have no calorie goal and I will try a bite of anything. And if failing to plan is planning to fail, baby, I'll take the F. I run out the door running ten minutes late figuring I'll grab something later a lot.
I have also been known to play pretty fast & loose with the no-drinking-and-eating rule. I could maybe experiment to see if it matters—it honestly hasn't really felt like it does for me. If I drink while I eat, I take little sips slightly less often than I would ideally like to until it's been an adequate amount of time.
But here's the thing: when I really think about it, I actually do think I'm a pretty good WLS patient.
I do plan on a longer-term basis—I think about what I want to have in my fridge for the week, and I certainly consider my nutritional needs a priority in that planning. I build around protein options (and try never to eat a meal without a substantial protein hit, and ideally not snacks without them either). I keep an eye on what I have a tendency to overeat (chocolate, popcorn, those perfectly sweet-salty butter toffee cashews from the coop, sesame sticks, pasta, takeout, good bread) and make changes if things are going overboard (stop bringing them into my house for at least awhile, figure out what I need to/can sub in for them)—I don't just beat myself up about it and get into cycles of compulsivity, I actually just change the thing (I mean, it takes a minute, but for awhile I was overeating chocolate and now I'm not). I batch-prep things I want to be able to grab quickly (beans, tuna and chicken salad, poached shrimp, dumplings for the freezer). I try to add a little greenery to every protein thing. I usually keep a protein bar and a stick of jerky or two in my bag so I don't have to eat any old thing if I'm running around the world (I also eat a lot of drugstore string cheese; so sue me).
I've expanded my culinary horizons in ways that work for me, and enjoying expanding them keeps me getting pleasure out of my kitchen life, which is super self-caring for me. I'm really having a tofu moment. I've also established new rhythms in the kitchen that work for me now around what and how I'm eating. I've done some pickling and fermenting (kombucha; I'd like to start doing sauerkraut again). My favorite want-a-food-experience-don't-actually-need-one-want-one-anyway snack is just chopsticking (bought, not homemade) kimchi right out of the jar. I also like hot sauce and spiciness in general way more than I did before surgery—I think it's about sensation. I want more POW from my food now, often. Which has the interesting effect of making a lot of easy-to-overeat foods kind of less thrilling.
I was scrupulously compliant when scrupulous compliance was necessary. The only thing I ever advanced on early was seltzer, and that very cautiously and only slightly before my surgeon had said I could try it. I weighed and measured food, tracked it, counted my calories, hit my numbers, took my vitamins, and drank my water. I still take my vitamins and drink my water—I'd let it lapse, then noticed that it was affecting me and got it back on track (I literally text my partner every day she's not here with a picture of a palmful of vitamins).
Even though the amount of food I eat is a pretty normal amount of food for a human to eat, it's also true that it's not historically a very normal amount for me. Like, six dumplings would have seemed like not enough dumplings. I really like dumplings and sometimes I'm mad that I can't eat more of them. (Sometimes I eat eight dumplings. Sometimes six is fine.) A box of mac and cheese definitely felt like not enough mac and cheese, like it just looked so small; if I get one now it lasts two meals and maybe a snack (also I still glow it up with extra cheese, which definitely makes me feel like a bad WLS patient, but honestly otherwise what's the point?). And when I see the box, it doesn't look so small anymore. It's getting to be normal, is the thing: I'm recalibrating. A few weeks ago I caught myself exclaiming over how giant the ice cream cone I'd just been handed was, and then felt like it was a kind of jerky diet-culturey thing to say (especially in the context of my family), but the thing was, it just looked so giant! (It was objectively giant.) A recalibration of perception. Another recalibration: figuring out what my hunger and fullness cues are now. When I worked with an ED nutritionist for years, we did a lot of this: rating hunger and fullness in the food logs I kept for her. I realized recently that I'm figuring out when I'm hungry post-VSG. It's a different sensation: it's not in my stomach anymore so much as in my gut. I think that it has something to do with my actual body needing fuel even if my stomach isn't yet actively distressed by its emptiness. I had to look for it a long time in order to find where it had gone. But I'm catching on. It's there if I look.
The point is, there's getting to be an auto-pilot in there, I think. I mean, that's what I'm hoping. I feel self-conscious about saying that I eat like a person and my weight is stable; I feel like someone's going to swoop in here and slap my hand and tell me I should be weighing and measuring and counting and don't I see I'm still quite fat? But I'm doing what works for me. This works for me. I guess I think the reason that I'm actually a pretty good WLS patient is that I'm in command of my own choices. Could I do the weighing and the measuring still? Yes, sure, I guess. Could I lose another ten, fifteen, twenty, even thirty pounds if I did it really rigorously? Yes/probably/maybe. Do I think the effort is worth the reward? Not really. There are a lot of things in my life that need my energy right now! It is frankly kind of insane! I don't have the brain space. But I do think it's potentially worth it to see if I can take another little step down without doing those things, just paying a little more attention. And I definitely think it's worth it to squelch any symptomatic eating that threatens my long-term stability. I feel good about the fact that I'm not denialist, avoidant, or helpless about that. That needs my attention, it gets it, my attention can change the behavior. That's reassuring.
I definitely don't want to sound like I have everything all together. I am still paying a lot of attention to this thing. I have some moles to whack that other people probably don't—symptomatic behavior and the things that trigger it, my slightly intense aversion to being too diet-y, etc. I worry because when I'm making a conscious effort to eat on the lower end, I am also on and off the scale all day, just like I was my freshman year of college when the disorder really got me, closed the walls in around me. And I'm sure that someone will think that my consumption of a box of mac and cheese every couple or three months is a slippery slope to hell. Please don't comment to tell me so! I respect your opinion but am okay with the choices I'm making. That's sort of the thing: I'm okay with the choices I'm making. I'm making my choices consciously, with respect for reality and the difference between want and need, which puts me in the driver's seat. And as long as I'm there, I feel good about where I am.
...it turned out I had a lot of feelings about this!
It's been two years. I had surgery two years ago—well, two years and a week or so.
Things have settled in. My goal with surgery was always the same: stop dieting, stop white-knuckling, find stability that works.
I've succeeded at doing that.
I never hit my tentative goal, but I also (as readers who were reading back when may recall) didn't really have a goal weight—I never set out to reach a goal of thinness, or of a particular number. I did what I had wanted to do: found a place at which I do not have to diet, a way of eating that can autopilot and course-correct without tipping into obsession. I operate pretty comfortably in the range of about 177-185: when I go above 185, I tighten up a little until I'm closer to 180. I eat basically ad libitum. This morning I made four strips of bacon and a piece of toast with mayonnaise and two fried eggs; I ate all of the bacon and about two-thirds of the egg toast. I drink a ton of seltzer (my surgeon said I'd likely be able to drink carbonated things again & I feel very grateful he was right). These days I'm devoting a little effort, a little thought, to maybe kinda losing another fifteen pounds or so, but I'm never going to be the person who sweats the fact that my BMI isn't below 25. I had surgery so my weight and my eating could stop running my life, not so they could run my life differently. I wanted my weight to stop being the focus of my life. I wanted out of the cycle of dieting, of obsession, of shame. I got what I wanted and now my job is to refuse to give it up. If I'd have to diet obsessively to lose that fifteen pounds I'd kind of like to lose, I won't ever lose fifteen pounds. Stability and sanity are more important to me than size.
I've worked with a therapist (the one I'd already been seeing for years) all the way through this. She's aware around both eating disorders and bariatrics, which has really helped. I always said to her that if I got what I really wanted, I'd be a nice stable size 14-16—I have built a lot of sense of self around fatness, and I was uncomfortable about giving it up. I'm more like a 10-14, but I was pretty on the nose. I do wonder if my identitarian attachment to fatness is part of what makes it hard for me to get lower than I am on the scale, if I'm scared to divest myself from a claim to fatness.
I still have flickers of discomfort, dysmorphia. I was walking through a street market with the person I've been seeing a year now, who wanted to buy me an anniversary present. A bracelet caught my eye, but when I picked it up, it looked teeny-tiny. I said it would never fit. It fit. It's sitting on my dresser. I do the same thing with clothes sometimes. Whose tiny pants are in my closet? (I wear pants sometimes now. Before surgery, I hadn't worn pants since college.) And I frequently begin my weight in my head with a "2," as if I only read the last two digits and then just substitute in the thing I know on some bone-deep level. If the scale says 180, I say 280 in my head. Then I correct myself.
Sometimes people don't recognize me, and that's hard. Whenever I see someone I haven't seen in a long time, I gird up for their surprise, their compliments. Sometimes it's fine. Sometimes I hate it.
It's strange to be thought of as pretty, even beautiful. It's strangest still to begin to be unsurprised by that, to consider it part of the normal way I navigate the world. Beautiful is a hard word for me—the first time this year-long partner used it on me, I said "'beautiful' is not a word with which I identify" (why yes, I AM a delight to go on a date with, why do you ask?) but I've gotten used to hearing it since.
And yet I also think I look pretty much the same. My face is my face—its bones are all still where they used to be, even though they're more visible now. I inhabit my body the same way. I walk the same way, sit the same way. The swagger that sometimes tinges the way I move reads a little (or sometimes more than a little) differently now, but it was all still there before, too: I think often of a time that from behind me I heard a man behind me say, "Girl, I see you, walking like that." I was pretty much runway-stomping it out, I confess; I weighed around 300 pounds at the time.
I think about plastic surgery, but have neither the time nor the money to consider it an immediate possibility. Part of the reason I'm thinking about losing another little chunk, though, is because I'd rather lose it before plastic surgery than after—so I do consider it a possibility. I feel embarrassed about my saggy arms, my saggy breasts, my loose tummy and thighs and @*#. But I can live with some embarrassment. I don't have to like everything about my body in order to inhabit it happily and completely, which I feel grateful to get to say that I pretty much do.
With my weight and size stabilized in a place that feels good, I have turned to my life instead, and have been making some painful progress on things that matter to me. I have learned how many things I was, in secret often even from myself, considering myself not entitled to, afraid of, or simply deferring. It's time to stop deferring and start living. For me, continuing to fine-tune, to perfect, to define myself around what I eat or don't, what I weigh or don't, would only be more deferral.
This months stats:
Well. I'm not sure.
See, I was having a mental battle with the scale as it dropped weight even more slowly this month. I so wanted to hit 100. I was jumping on it every morning and night and stressing the actual hell out of myself. So I handed my scale to my husband about 10 days ago and told him I didn't want it back until after my next medical appointment (August 21st). On the one hand, I wanted to go grab a ladder and get the scale from where he hid it so I could have numbers today. On the other hand, I'd only lost 3 pounds up to 10 days ago, so chances are, the numbers would not have made me happy.
Ever since having my toenail pulled off (sorry, such a gross visual), I have felt worlds better. I was able to get out and go hiking several times again this month, which does wonders for my mental health and physical! I got DH to go camping with me - albeit at an REI hosted campout where they had all the fixing for smores and made pancakes for us the next morning - but still, it was something (actually, thats the way to camp, man. someone else cooking for you?). It was fun to meet people and hang out by a fire all evening. The next morning, as we gathered around the fire again for breakfast, a boat on the lake started blasting music - smooth jazz, of all things. It was amusing and also made for a fun atmosphere.
I have a longterm goal to be able to do an overnight solo backpacking at a trail nearby sometime next spring. So by next spring, I need to be able to carry some heavy stuff and have the stamina to do 10ish miles in a day, so getting to pick the brains of REI staff and some guests who were thru-hikers on many big trails was great.
I also did my first ever organized 5k this month! A group of us from work got together and went. The weather threatened repeatedly to rain us out, but thankfully held off. It was a color run, so we got doused in powdered paint at different run-through stations, and after the finish line, everyone is given a packet of color to go join in a "color party" at the main stage. Next, we're planning on doing a "Muddy Miler" obstacle course as a group next month.
I also went on a good number of hikes this month, including one to the Mill Creek area, which is just gorgeous. I'm trying to build up to 5 miles of hiking by fall. I can do 3 pretty comfortably, although the last half mile or so starts to bother my repeatedly-reinjured foot. Slow and steady progress, though!
In actual WLS news, my EGD with pH monitoring is scheduled for August 21st. In the meantime, they have me on protonix twice a day and sucralfate four times a day, plus tums whenever I need it. The meds have helped some, thank goodness, but aren't a long term solution. If my body could go back to whatever it was doing from February to May and just stay there, that would be great. It's a bit of a head trip to fight acid feels all day, as sometimes it feels like hunger - and feels better after I eat a bit - so I'm sure that's not real helpful on the weight loss front.
August is sure to have a good few events in it, and hopefully plenty of time for honing my hiking skills and making progress on different goals. Onward
So today I rode my bike to work, rode to the downtown entertainment district/city hall after work to grab some dinner before a housing commission meeting, then rode to the trailhead that my husband meets me at after the meeting (actually I left early - it went REALLY long and I left at 9:30. My community is very passionate about public housing....). Anyway, all of these times I could have gotten a ride. All of these times I chose to ride instead. When I got to the trailhead, my husband wasn't there yet and instead of getting off my bike and waiting, I rode in circles in the parking lot until he got there (for about 10 minutes! He didn't get my text when I left city hall).
ALSO, I didn't walk any hills. None. Rode up every one of them. And I live in a very hilly town. I'm going to have incredible calves! Now I just need to remember to turn on Map My Ride so that I can get that elevation counted. LOL
And now I am thinking about riding to my morning meeting, even though it's mainly street riding (as opposed to trail riding). I rode on the street a little tonight and it went fine. But if I rode in the morning, I would have to ride on a very busy street and turn in kind of a dangerous area, so I'm still deciding. I may ride a portion and walk a portion.
Maybe not as fast as before, but I'm having a loss week this week. I admit, I struggled this month, mentally and emotionally. Intellectually I know that my weight loss is periodic - I stall for about 3 weeks a month, then lose over one week, then stall again for 3 weeks. It's like clockwork. But somehow I felt sure that this month's stall was different - that this was the stall that wasn't going to break, that I wouldn't lose anything, that I might even end up regaining. I'd gone up about 2 lbs in the middle of my stall weeks, then dropped down one and stayed. And stayed... and stayed - I was 186.6 for ten. days. straight! without variation. Didn't seem to matter what I ate or how much I drank. 186.6 started to feel PERMANENT. The brain is a scary device, y'all. And it will screw with you just for giggles.
But then I went down to 183, and that's where I am today. I *hope* I have a few more pounds of loss to go before I settle into the next stall. One of my little mini-goals was to be below 180 by my August vacation, which starts on August 8th. I know missing that won't mean anything in terms of how my body feels or looks - nobody is going to be weighing me to the tenth of an ounce with their eyeballs! But I just *want* it, so I'm hoping I can get there. Also, if I don't, it'll mean I only count 2 lbs of loss for this month - because my 3 week stall will likely still be in effect by August 8.
ANYWAY. That's enough of scale numbers. Time to talk about other numbers... like my heart rate and BP.
I thought very hard about subtitling this post "Still Not Dead!" My pulse is super low these days. My resting heart rate is in the low 50's throughout the day, and (according to my apple watch) dips into the low 40's while I'm sleeping. I know this because I got a new sleep tracking app, and it requires that I sleep with the watch on. The first night, my watch kept waking me up to alert me to my low pulse! That was kind of freaky. It's even dipped down to 39 once or twice at night.
And then: Today is the 2nd day of my every-five-to-six-weeks IvIG infusion for my autoimmune issues (which don't do me any harm as long as I get the infusions). Every 5 weeks or so a visiting nurse shows up and I have two days of infusions - 4 hours each day. Then I'm good to go for another 5-6 weeks. During the infusions, the nurse has to check my pulse, temp, and blood pressure at the start, once an hour, and again at the end. Today my first BP reading was 86/59! I was like - "Uh, that can't be right, can it?" At my last infusion my average was something like 115/80. We re-checked it a few times over the next five to ten minutes and got 100/60, 95/59, 106/55. I asked my nurse if I were, perhaps, dying. She asked me how I felt - and I felt basically fine. Normal. I certainly didn't feel anything that would indicate a suspiciously low BP. She said as long as I felt ok, I shouldn't worry about it.
I know a lot of you vets have the same issues - suddenly low BP and pulse rates after surgery. I did a search for "bradycardia" and low pulse and low heart rate here, and found a LOT of posts on it (including one of mine, from back near surgery day!). So I know this isn't something to be really nervous about, but honestly - since when have I needed a reason to have health anxiety!? It doesn't help that yesterday my nurse told me how she ended up in the ER a few weeks ago with an extremely low pulse - in the 20's. She had RNY 10 years ago, so she's also a serious vet, but this was the first time she ever had that issue. (For those of us who worry about regain, here's some inspiration: She did regain a LOT of the weight she had lost originally... and has now lost it all again, just by getting back on the program.)
I'm just going to keep an eye on it, and see how it goes. If I stay worried, I'll talk to my PCP about it. But I suspect she'll say the same - if I feel good, don't worry about it! I wonder if this is somehow related to how hard our bodies had to work to get our blood around when we were much more obese? Maybe we DO have the hearts (and heart rates, and BP) of elite athletes from doing all that work!
In other numbers news, I'm wearing size 14 pants now! Granted, they are pretty damn tight. The first time I fit into them, I told Leah it was like having an external lap band on top of my RNY! But they fit well enough to wear in public, so I'll take it.
I'm eating mostly (I'd say about 95%) on plan, and the 5% off plan moments are few and far between. I'm much better at getting my protein in these days, and my liquids. I use Fairlife Milk instead of Premier Protein shakes unless I'm in a SUPER hurry. And I'd say that most of my food still falls into the category of "mushy". I still eat a lot of greek yogurt, some eggs, some refried beans, some chili, some cheese, and the occasional protein bar (I like Kirkland brand these days, which have a ton of fiber and protein and taste "okay" but not great). About 300 of my daily calories (which hover around 1000 each day) come from Fairlife whole milk. I don't do a lot of vegetables, but I do go through salad phases sometimes, and I love berries - mostly blackberries and strawberries, but also some blueberries. I'd love to eat apples, but they're a bit too stiff/woody for me still. My new "sister in law" (Meg's brother's wife) made us brunch this past weekend, and made two LOVELY quiches - which may be the only way I eat eggs from now on, they were SO delicious. As far as meat goes... I mostly stick with easy stuff like bacon, ground beef (in chili or in "burger" form with cheese and lots of mustard). And lately, scallops! What else... oh, so those Mission carb balance tortillas with 4g net carbs and a whole bunch of fiber? I eat those sometimes. Usually with refried beans in the middle and a bunch of shredded cheese melted on it, and then dipped in greek yogurt (which is exactly like sour cream!). Leah makes fajitas some nights, and I'll spread guac on one of those tortillas and then shred chicken on top of it, and layer on onions and some sour cream. It is FABULOUS, and essentially the only way I can eat chicken - which 9 times out of 10 is just too dry for me.
With regard to exercise - I'm still mostly walking. But I have joined a gym and intend to start using it! I just need to get through this infusion, which takes a lot out of me for a couple of days, and then I'm going back in to start my official workouts! I'm smaller now, but ready to get STRONGER too.
Finally - I FINALLY had a follow-up appointment with my actual surgeon! I had most of my immediate follow-up with his PAs and with the NUT. I was supposed to meet with the surgeon at 6 months, but it was rescheduled... and then rescheduled again... and then again. The last time I asked what was up, and learned he had had some health issues of his own. But I did see him last month, and it went great. He was really impressed with my progress - he said I had lost over 70% of my excess weight in just 9 months, and if I never lost another pound I was still one of the best outcomes he'd had. Then he went on to say that he expected I would keep losing for a while yet - and asked me how I was doing with loose skin, etc. So we talked about that for a while, and he said if I ever wanted to have anything done, just let him know, and he'd refer me to a great plastic surgeon. And he told me to document EVERY skin issue I had, no matter how small, to make a case for insurance covering it. I made a point of telling him that I'd really been looking forward to meeting with him just so I could thank him, because he had changed my life for the better in ways I couldn't even begin to describe - and he said I'd just made his day.
So another month down - two more to go before my Surgiversary! I can't wait to get there, and see where I've landed after a full year. I have Great Expectations.
So, first of all, five months of maintenance success! Hooray! I’m basically always between 132 and 135, even when my calories and exercise vary a fair bit. That makes me feel fairly confident that I can do this. That’s a good feeling. I still wonder if I’ll be able to eat/exercise like this forever, and I have that old nagging feeling like things are going to come crashing down around me and I’ll start the regain process (again), but those feelings are a little quieter than usual right now.
Swimming in public, pretty frequently. I’m growing more comfortable wearing a bathing suit. My thighs are a bit saggy and wobbly, but I kind of don’t care that much, particularly if I’m somewhere I don’t really know anyone. (I mean, deep down inside I care, but I try really hard to look at the bright side on this). I love love love swimming, and it’s been really fun to remember that. Sometimes I see a larger person rocking their bathing suit and feel like “Good for you! I was not strong enough to do that!” Yesterday was my birthday, and I went swimming in the sea to celebrate. It was wonderful - the air outside is infernally hot, but the water is just cool enough to be refreshing. I also went to the gym on my birthday, which is its own NSV, I suppose…
I went to the Dead Sea last weekend (it’s a pretty quick getaway from here) and was totally comfortable parading around in my bathing suit, down to the water, back out to the showers (wow, so salty, gotta get that water off fast!!) and to the mud pots! Dead Sea mud is renowned for its healing/restorative mineral content, so people smear the mud all over themselves, let it dry, and then go into the water to wash it off. Like a mud mask for your whole body. I felt OK enough doing that (laughing pretty hard the whole time) that I was OK with another tourist taking my picture for me while I was all full of mud. Photo. Stranger. Bathing suit. I know I don’t need to explain any further why that was such a novel experience. I had a really good time, and I know that I would have had a really bad time if I had gone when I was a lot bigger. I would just have been too self-conscious to do all the things I did. I probably would have stayed in a long flowy maxi-dress and pretended like I didn’t really want to swim. Maybe put the mud on my face. And felt awful and depressed. I also found a place where I can float like a champ: the Dead Sea has like 10x as much salt as the ocean, so you actually can’t NOT float. Like physically impossible to put your whole body under the water at the same time. I may not be able to float very well in a pool anymore, but Dead Sea floating is a cinch. Vertically upright, I was floating with everything down to just above my elbows out of the water. Laying flat, it’s like you’re laying ON the water instead of in it. Weird!
There’s only so much damage I can do at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet! Breakfast buffets - like the fancy hotel variety - were always my favorite favorite favorite. And, to be fair, there are always a lot of good, healthy options there: omelettes, cheese platters, yogurt, fruit, and in this part of the world, hummus, veggies, and other Middle Eastern things. I’ve had a few of these now post-op, and although I’m basically never going to get my money’s worth, I can definitely find a wide variety of things I can have small servings of, which altogether add up to be a pretty healthy although sometimes too big breakfast. The size is very much self-limiting, though. Whereas before I would have had multiple plates of amaaaaaaazing things, now I can have really one one small plate not very full, and I usually leave a fair bit on it. I have snuck in some less healthy options on occasion (mini pastries) but the world has not ended, and I have not been triggered to eat all the pastries in the whole wide world. One and done. Not super, but not terrible.
I still seem to eat things that disagree with me fairly frequently. Sometimes this is self-inflicted, for sure: if I eat something too soon after having eaten something else, or if I eat too much, or if I eat something I know has caused problems in the past. However, it is sometimes a huge surprise: I eat something that should be OK, I eat it at a totally OK speed, I don’t eat too much, and still I have problems. By “problems” I mean I have to run to the bathroom and revisit my meal. This happens more frequently on vacation - unfamiliar food, not being in charge of my eating times, and being served large quantities all seem to be things that make it more likely. This is not fun, especially if I’m at a restaurant. I suppose I will learn in time, but right now there’s a lot of trial and error going on.
Traveling. I didn’t take enough bars/shakes with me to Jordan, and I was staying with a friend, so I wasn’t really in charge of what to eat or when. This led to some hungry times when I should have had a snack, and to some bad restaurant times when there wasn’t really much available that was suitable for me. This is a friend who doesn’t know about my surgery, so difficult to steer my actions in a non-weird way when I was needing food for the fifth or sixth time that day, or not really wanting to go to a pizza restaurant for dinner. Also not a person with a firm understanding of low-carb or dieting in general. Some awkward times. Next time: bring more bars and other snacks.
Some observations on my body:
My skin is tightening up some (come on, faster!). I’m also lifting weights a fair bit now, so I presume that is helping. I actually have arm and leg muscles that you can see pretty easily. Like even in my forearms!
My hips and other joints are slowly changing in their angles and my posture is therefore changing. I no longer have a really big thigh gap - my hips have moved enough so that I have a very small thigh gap. This is a good thing, because it felt kind of weird, like my legs were too far apart. Biomechanics. I just move around better now.
My body is changing composition a bit. I’m the same weight I was when I got to GW, but I wear one or two sizes smaller now. Clothes I bought when I got to GW are now too baggy. This is also a good thing! It means I’m leaner. I don’t have one of those impedance scales (however well they work) but I can tell that I have more muscle and less fat now.
When I’m at the gym, I look like a gym person. I look pretty lean and somewhat like I know what I’m doing. If I look down at my legs when I’m doing leg presses or whatever, I can see muscles working. If I look at my arms in the mirror when I’m doing arm exercises, I can see muscles working. Fascinating. Now I know why those horrible gym people are always staring in the mirror at themselves.
That's February on the left and yesterday on the right. Not much difference in size, but different posture. My arms are thinner, too.
Some observations on my brain:
I’m feeling more like an EX fat person now. I can remember clearly what it was like, and I can imagine my own reactions to various situations based on being heavy, but my first thought in most situations is not a fat-person-thought. The “I can’t do that” reaction is fading somewhat. The “I couldn’t have done that before, but I’m sure I can now” reaction is winning at the moment. That said, I look down at my thighs and they look big. So it’s not the body dysmorphia that’s going away.
I don’t feel like I’m on a diet anymore. Partly this is because I have a pretty high daily caloric requirement (about 2000), so I’m mostly trying to eat more all the time instead of less <— (I know, if you’re struggling with eating less, this is not what you want to hear from me. I totally get that. Somehow I won the WLS lottery and my metabolism is pretty much “fixed.” I feel extraordinarily lucky about this and do not take it for granted. On the negative side, this means I have to eat very frequently, which is a total pain.) I still eat pretty much by the book, just more food. Sometimes I have things that are definitely not on my list of “stuff I should be eating” but they are occasional indulgences, and they don’t send me into a feeding frenzy, so that’s good. I had half a small Pinkberry on my birthday, and while it was good, the sugar was a bit of a shock to my system and it made me feel like I was going to have a heart attack for about a half an hour (no dumping though, for better or for worse). The things I really don’t eat (bread, rice, pasta, sweets, fried things), I mostly don’t eat because they make me feel bad, or too full to eat things I need to eat. I eat whole wheat crackers with cheese everyday (this would have been my downfall previously) but I can only eat so many/much before I feel full, so it doesn’t really trigger an eating binge. It fits in my daily MFP numbers, too.
What’s coming up:
I’m going home to the US this week for a visit, so I’m sure that I’m going to be facing a lot of family/friend conversations about my weight and appearance, and I’m really dreading most of them. I kind of wish it was all over with - like it will be next year, I suppose. Having lived thousands of miles from my people during much of the losing phase, I haven’t really had to face much of this, besides on social media. This will be real life, and I worry a bit about how it’s going to make me feel. There are some people who I’d like to tell, but I worry about whether they will keep this information to themselves. There are some people in my family with their own weight struggles, and I worry about making them feel bad about themselves when they see me. Oh, they’ll be happy for me, but also feel bad about themselves at the same time - I know how that goes. Wish me luck.
I have this coworker who whenever she gets stressed out she says “Breathe, Tina.” I work in a call center and sometimes life can be pretty overwhelming. There’s always one more call to make, one more dollar that needs to be collected to hit goal, 1 more minute that I need to be chained down by my phone cord to make my productivity goal.
I feel like all week I’ve been telling myself to breathe. “Breathe, Emma.”
Not just because I’m overwhelmed by a lot of things, but because there are a lot of things in my life. Blessings, burdens, fears, anxieties, questions. Sometimes I just find myself telling myself to stop thinking and just breathe.
This week I took a really big step. I went to my GP and talked to her about my weight. I had a really crazy realization as I was talking to her. I realized how important the mind stuff is going to be in this journey.
My GP showed me my chart and I crossed over into the obese BMI category in 2011. I was 16 years old. It was also the summer that my life got really, really messed up.
My aunt, who was one of my very best friends died. She was 53. She had a massive heart attack. She worked as an in home caretaker at an agency that helps adults with disabilities. It was 10 days after my great grandma passed away. It’s also when my future step father started being more verbally and emotionally abusive toward my mom, sister, and I.
Whoo. “Breathe, Emma.” Isn’t it kind of crazy how we have these really major life events but we don’t process them until much later? Or how they manifest in ways we didn’t even think were possible?
I realized where I am at currently, my future health isn’t very bright. Both sides of my family have morbid obesity, alcoholism, and heart problems. Those are a big deal. Especially in that combination.
I was totally terrified to take that first step this week. I was terrified to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and to take that really big plunge. I am terrified of heights, and I feel like a kid trying to jump off of the high diving board at the pool.
My doctor said she was really proud of me for making that choice. We talked about getting my weight on track, and what the probability of getting to my goal weight of 140 with and without surgery, as well as what that looks like long term as far as keeping the weight off. It’s not in my favor.
As of right now, my game plan is to meet with the care coordinator in my doctors office biweekly for the next 6 months, then I can have a follow up with my doctor in January, 2019. The goal is to get me educated on my diet, and exercise routines, and how I can better care for myself.
I found out that my insurance does cover bariatric surgery, and I don’t believe they require a 6 month education/nutrition plan, but the surgeon in my local area does require it.
After that period, if my doctor thinks things have progressed well, and I’ve managed to lose a good chunk of weight, she said she will be happy to refer me to the local surgeon to see what my options are.
This week I also have my first counseling appointment to start addressing some mental stuff.
Weight this week: 282.4
Wins: I took the first step in taking control of my weight, and taking responsibility for my life and my choices.
Setbacks: I’ve been really upset by some family members who I think mean well, but aren’t very supportive at this point.
Verse of scripture I’m finding especially encouraging this week:
First of all, the lady who was taking information said to me “how much to you weigh?” And for once I didnt’ have to whisper (or lie!) and I just said 166 like I was “normal people” and then later I got a free T-shirt and she asked me what size and I said large, she said “that is going to be huge on you, you look much smaller than a large!” WHAT??? You are my new BFF, lady!!! Never leave my side and just keep reminding me that I am MUCH SMALLER!!!
I think that is my weird thing I am dealing w/ this month, is being a NORMAL person. Part of me feels so out of place, like I’ve entered the land of the regular people and I don’t belong, yet, I’ve been given a pass to enter and see what it is like. I don’t know if any of you are dealing w/ that or if I am just a weirdo but I just have this weird feeling of “so this is what it feels like to be normal” I am not thin or skinny and never will be but I am just normal and regular! It is bizzzare like I am in wonderland w/ Alice and everything is different than i am used to. I feel like I don’t belong here and will be asked to leave when i gain the weight back. Such odd feelings!
I ran into my surgeon on the way up from the train and he said he really doesn’t recognize me anymore when he’ sees me! Awesome! I reminded him that just before surgery I told him I was going to be his ideal patient and he laughed today and agreed and said “I wish they all were like you!”
I went to my support group meeting tonight and I just want to scream to them, STOP DIETING AND CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE! They are talking about eating rice cakes and whole wheat pasta w/ just a “little” Alfredo sauce...what????? We had a NUT there tonight (tho she never works w/ Baritatric pts, just diabetics, so it was a poor choice). She was suggesting for breakfast 2 hard boiled eggs, an apple cut up and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter...and I said “I am 8 months out but there is still NO way I could eat an entire apple and 2 eggs and PB!” She didn’t get it anymore than the ppl at the group did! My leader gets it. I told them I eat mostly meat at dinner....I just get my protein into me first and if I have any room left a bite or two of veggies, I don’t have a side salad like they were talking about, I don’t have room. I just think they don’t get it. I feel like the WLS ambassador to them all, explaining things. Which I dont’ mind but still, they are just so clueless!
I'm not obese anymore! I'm overweight! At least according to one BMI calculator on the internet. But I'll take it!
I'm feeling pretty good these days. Exercising more, though I really have to find stuff that's fun or I just won't do it. Riding my bike is good. So is roller skating. But so far the getting up in the morning to run or do body weight stuff just ain't happening. I HATE IT SO MUCH. I figure that instead of fighting that, I'm just going to find fun stuff that I'll actually do. Maybe one day I'll find running fun. That day will probably not be in Arkansas in July. LOL! At least there's a breeze when I ride my bike!
Speaking of riding my bike, I did not walk up any hills today! I rode them all! That's a big deal. I've noticed my balance is way better. I used to not be able to take my hands off the bars at all or I would wobble and that's not the case anymore. My knees don't drift to the sides to make room for my belly anymore, so my cadence is better. Curves are easier to take. It's just all around better.
And I look like this now (pardon the crappy lighting - I had my mirror in my closet this morning). Yes, I have pastel pink hair. Also, that's a dead MacBook Air. Something my husband rescued form a trash pile. We don't just leave our computers lying around. Haha!
Another month?!? I can’t believe how fast time flies. Sometimes it feels that I recently had surgery but sometimes it feels my sleeve has been part of my life for years! Honestly I’m glad it’s part of my life and will be with me forever! Before my surgery I remember wondering would I regret my choice to barbarically have the majority of my stomach severed off and stapled back up just to be thinner? Of course in my research I found it was not all that barbaric and most people are fine with it. Obviously I went ahead with it and had it done. Not. A. Single. Moment. Of. Regret. Ever! Even when it hurt when I woke up, no regret. Even when I was on my fourth week of liquids only, no regret. Even when I was sitting at Thanksgiving dinner eating pureed, no regret. Never, ever once. Of course now that I’ve lost 75#, hit my doctor’s goal weight, am out of plus sizes forever, lost tons of inches, and went down 5 sizes there isn’t even a thought of why I’d even HAVE a second of regret!
My weight loss has slowed considerably and I’m trying different things to see if I can change that up. The inches lost is slowing as you can see in the ribbon picture but my body shape is still shrinking (as you can see in my monthly shots). It’s been a bit of a mind game when my Dr was so impressed, I started resting on my laurels. I added more carbs into my diet and that hasn’t helped. It’s been mostly good carbs (fruit) but I’m responding by holding on dearly to every ounce and I want to make this year work for me so I decided to wait until after Nov 6th to add them back in on a regular basis. I still want to continue to lose weight and I want to make the most of these next 4 months.
I do like how I feel like a totally different person. Like I’m getting a glimpse into the world of normal size persons and not fretting 100% of the time if I’m the biggest person in the room or if I look dumpy in these clothes or if I will fit in that seat etc. I spend a lot less time worrying over silly (though real) things like that! I’m still not thin but I’m not morbidly obese either! My back is much thinner (my front is smaller but loves to hang on to it’s overhang!) and I occasionally catch glimpses of my reflection and don’t recognize myself! (Specially from the side, where i was so big) I was attributing it to “good mirrors” and “good angles” at first til I realized how consistent it was and my dear husband is always trying to convince me how thin I am because I don’t always see it.
I can’t stress enough how my mental outlook has changed also. It’s too difficult to explain but I suspect you guys get it bc you’ve gone through it! (Which is why it is so comfortable here….you guys GET IT!). I do find myself in a weird limbo of not being fat but not being a dieter either. Like my friends are either skinny or fat and not trying or desperately trying every diet out there in order to yoyo up and down. I don’t fit into any of those categories. I wish I was able to admit to the surgery bc I feel like I’m playing into the ignorance about it but there is just too much prejudice around it for me to be able to admit to it right now. I feel like if I kept it off for years and was a really WLS success story then I could admit it but right now I feel they’d be watching for me to fall/fail (and part of me is afraid of that too!). I find myself in my old brain wondering when this will be done. It’s been a great ride, but when will the regain start? I keep wanting to see ppl I haven’t seen in a long time bc this is my thin summer….who knows what next year will bring? It’s a terrible way to think of things and I’m working on rewiring my brain but from so.many years of the cycle I’m just used to going back up after my skinny season. So it’s a continual process of discovering and growing and changing as all of you know from your own journey!
Here’s my pictures from today (I couldn’t find the tank top so I have a substitute one on). And look here, I got my 8th month surgiversary post and pics up THAT DAY and not 3 wks later…haha!
This months stats:
Pounds lost since last month: 8
Total since surgery: 76
Total since highest weight: 93
Current BMI: 37.4
I actually took progress pictures earlier this month, and realized afterwards I'm wearing compression leggings, which is kind of cheating! I'm posting them regardless, because there is progress in my arms and the like as well. And I finally had to change shirts, because the original shirt is now a tunic on me!
The past month, I've gotten several compliments from my new(er) coworkers on my weight loss. I started here in February, so they never saw me at my biggest, and met me after my two biggest weight loss drops in months 1 and 2, but it feels good knowing its still showing through!
I have a huge amount of loose skin/fat hanging around under my arms. I expected to have issues with my belly and the like (and still will, its definitely where Im currently carrying most of my remaining weight), but wasn't expecting such an issue with my arms. I've been dermarolling the area a couple times a month just to firm it up a smidge and that's been working okayish. It at least got rid of the stretch marks I had there
I finally redid some measurements earlier this month, which I haven't done since February. April 18th last year is when I started my six month pre-op program. October 12th is when I ended it. February was month 2 post op, and these are just after my 6 month mark:
So in total, I've lost nearly 2 inches from my neck alone, which is crazy to me! Also 12 inches from my waist, and a couple inches from my calves. I'm glad I redid my measurements, as the scale was a bit sluggish last month. This helped reassure me, especially since adding in strength training and upping my calories has slowed my weight loss.
I posted in general chat about my nutritionist upping my calories and carbs this last month. While I did lose weight still this month, I think I need to revert to my normal post-op eating, if for no other reason than this: old habits sneak back in when I am constantly in the mindset of "I need to up my carbs". Things like chips made their way back in this past month, and while last month I lost the same amount of weight without the cals and carbs, I simply dont feel comfortable with this all right now. I want to take advantage of every "good" month I can, and I feel as if the extra carb allowance has just turned into a rationale to eat things I shouldn't.
We talk a lot about how that first year is to establish new habits and a new relationship with food, and I just can't put myself in a situation of falling back into what got me here so soon after surgery. I'd like to think my mental fortitude was higher 7 months out, but the truth is - it isn't!
My foot situation continues to be a boor. I graduated from physical therapy finally (yay!) only to get waylaid by a severe paronychia/infection of the cuticle in my big toe. Goodness only knows how I got it, but after a round of antifungals, antibiotics, and as of yesterday, having the toenail actually removed (ugh), I hope its on the mend.
In other news, I don't mind pictures nearly as much. We had a lot of parties this week at work to do a "farewell tour" for a doctor who is leaving. Each day had a different theme, and I found myself jumping in to the group pictures, and even (gasp!) sharing them to my facebook without shame. That's a nice damn feeling
Until next month
I have not been on here in a while - my apologies! I took on a new project at work and I'm spending a lot of time working with people experiencing chronic homelessness, so when I'm not working I'm drained from work and can barely think. If I'm honest, my self care looks a lot like binge watching Supernatural and ignoring the real world. I see enough of the real world these days.
A couple of weight loss updates:
I have lost more than 100 lbs! I've lost a total of 103 so far. Things have slowed, but the chart still trends down so I'm not worried. To be honest, I would be ok if I didn't lose another pound. I mean that. But I'm eating what I need to eat and still losing, so that's fine too.
I have some clothes that are a size 12 now. They FIT ME. That means I no longer *have* to shop the plus sizes. That is so weird to me. It's been at least 20 years since I've been in a size 12.
I have made my peace with carbs. I eat them now. I make sure they're not crappy ones. I still don't do sugar or white bread or rice or pasta - and really have no desire to. However, I don't sweat my bits of fruit and whole wheat crackers with cheese and the occasional bit of potato. I was really freaking out about it, but I haven't had any issues losing weight as long as I keep the carbs at a reasonable level, so I'm focusing on building some sustainable, healthy habits there.
Also - HOLY MOLY do people flirt with me now! I can't turn around without someone striking up a conversation and asking if I'm married (I am - but my rings are too loose so I don't wear them on the right fingers) or offering to carry stuff for me or telling me they like my hair, dress, whatever. I haven't had any creepers creepin', so it's not been unpleasant. It's kinda nice to feel like I "still have it." Ha!
V - ictories (non-scale and scale!)
N - ew home
This eleven + month update (one year surgiversary is just 4 short days away!) brings together so many changes and excitement in my life. A year ago about now, I was on the pre-surgery diet, excited and nervous about the changes this surgery would bring. I have not been as active on this forum as I was in the beginning and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Perhaps I should make it more of a goal to post more than I do but I have never been a big one on social media, which blogging and forums fall under in my book. I do know how helpful I found everyone's posts while I was in this pre-surgery process so for that reason, I do make sure I come back at least once per month for this update (okay, so this one is a little late...sigh). There is great accountability in this forum and it is somewhat comforting to know that is here as a resource. I am one of the lucky ones that did not have complications following my sleeve surgery and while I am not yet at goal, it is within my sights!
Now, on to my eleven month update....
I live a very active summer lifestyle and scuba diving is a big part of it. One of the biggest ironies (to me at least) was that the more you weigh on land, the more lead weight you need to pile on to sink in the ocean. Talk about the ultimate insult! Not only did I have to schlep this bodyweight around on land, I have to add even MORE and schlep it to the bottom of the ocean!? This time around in my scuba diving adventures, I am wearing way less lead weight (from ~26 lbs to 14 lbs) and while the excess skin does make strapping everything down an interesting challenge, entrances and exits to the water are soooo much easier. So while this is technically a scale victory, there are some non-scale victories roped into it. When I went to the dive shop, I needed to rent a BC (buoyancy compensator device/jacket). The guy looked at me and gave me a medium. A MEDIUM folks!! Say whaaaa...? And it fit!!!
My team down in Florida hasn't seen me in a year and were shocked by the changes - it always starts with the hair (I have much shorter hair than I used to), then they scan my body, exclaim on my diminished size and they all seem to think I have longer legs. LOL I keep telling them they can notice my height now that I am not so wide. I also reconnected with some colleagues that I have not seen in over 10 years. I don't know that I would have reached out, nor pursued an actual meeting, had I not had the weight loss surgery. I would have been ashamed of how I had let myself go and the size I had attained.
I will be returning to New Jersey with even more changes - a new home! and my entire family in the same state for at least a few days. My family has been spread across the globe for the past 20 years as my brother lived the military life with my nieces, my parents retired and I roamed the planet in pursuit of my education and career goals. I am closing on my very first home purchase (a lovely condo I am excited to make my own) just in time to celebrate my one year surgiversary. Keeping to good eating habits will be important during this exciting and stressful time. I am up for the challenge!!
Stay tuned for the one year surgery update!
It's been absolutely a break neck speed I've been functioning at for the past few weeks. Our oldest daughter had a new baby (our 5th grandchild!) and I got to be there for the birth again, one of our sons graduated, my husband's car died which left us scrambling for a few days searching the web for a good deal that we could pay cash for and we found a terrific car for only $7K, my husband is having his ordination service this weekend and I am hosting a party/reception for 150 ppl afterwards, the kids program I run at church (3yr-5th gr) started up last week (I have to organize my 25 leaders, write the curriculum and teach two classes every week) and our dear friend passed away suddenly Tuesday, leaving a vacancy in the preschool room so I had to go in there and teach last night which was very difficult to do. Saturday we have her funeral (my husband is doing that) and our granddaughter's dance recital and then back to church to set up for the reception. So it's a mixed bag of joy and sorrow and a whole lot of late nights and work. The long and short of it, is life is precious ....and I CAN DO this! I haven't stress eaten or turned to my long lost friend, the refrigerator. It may be hard to keep up emotionally but physically I got this. I remember back in the day when I'd get so overwhelmed that I'd nearly give up. Now with my new sleeve, my new body, my new brain and my new outlook, I don't get that same way. I still feel plenty confident that there is nothing God and I can't handle together. (Addendum: I wrote this yesterday morning but didn't have a chance to post it bc my brother in law got rushed to the ER with chest pains (he was fine in the end) so my husband rushed up to be with him. He was there for ten minutes when he (my husband) dropped his phone, bent over to pick it up, and passed out and hit his head on his brother's bed! So then they threw him on a stretcher and checked him into the ER! Turns out my husband was fine...he was prepping for his colonoscopy today so he was on just a liquid diet but he hadn't had anything yet (just a little water) when he rushed off to the hospital so his blood sugar had dropped (he's not used to the difference of fasting with being diabetic now) plus his BP was low bc he has lost weight and his BP meds are too much for him (his doc had cut them in half but may have to cut them out altogether). So anyway, another brother of theirs left work to rush in and be at the ER with BOTH of them! I told him to be careful bc there is only one more brother that could come help him out if he ends.up as.a patient, and he lives far away in Florida!!! What a bizarre day, right?!? You cant make this stuff up....my life is indeed interesting to say the least! I was keeping my adult kids informed via group chat and they were cracking me up talking about how the guys were doing a three stooges schtick there..."paging Dr Howard, Dr Fine and Dr Howard"! Haha! At least we can all laugh about their crazy day.)
As for my past month, the scale didn't move tons, which was disappointing, but one day into my 7th month and I got to my doctor's goal weight of 170 he set for me to lose in the first 12-18 months! Then I went up a few, down one for days and now I am consistently in my 160s (168.6, whew!) and pretty content there. My personal goal is 160 and I would be thrilled with that. I know that is totally doable now (where beforehand I doubted even 170 was doable....I hadn't been there is years. Last time I was in my 160s, the calendar was in the 1980s!!!!). (addendum #2: down more weight today...down to 166.4!!!! I've been losing every day this week...like back on the beginning! Whoo hoo! I'll take it!)
I am in a size 14 pants and a L top. My pants always look big so I get a new smaller size that seems snug until I look in the full length mirror at work and see the baggy thighs and then I know it's time to go lower again! (Again, I'll take that!)
My husband and I walk 3 miles (5 makes total for the day). most every night except when it rains. I don't make excuses. Last night I was emtionally and physically drained when we got home from church (where I was running the kids program and teaching my departed friend's class in her place) so that would've meant come home, grab a snack (or two) and crash on the sofa. Last night, it meant have a cheese stick and go walk three miles for an hour with my hubby! I like my new life!
I have my 6th month check up next week with my bariatric surgeon and nutritionist (a month late bc I needed the new insurance). I'll be interested to see my lab work afterwards. I'm sure he will be proud I made it to his goal already.
As for the way I look, I'll post my pic but I couldn't notice any difference. However I know I don't hate my pics that candidly get snapped. (I don't have to edit them and crop out my butt or fat arm etc) Between my new grandbaby and my son's graduation I've had lots of pics I didn't know were being taken and I am shocked at how different I look. Oddly enough, our oldest DTR was behind us taking pics (see attached) at the grad and I was so surprised that my shoulders and the back of my neck were normal looking ( they used to be very rounded and almost hunched looking ).That is a nice surprise I never thought about as a result from my surgery.
I'm adjusting well to my new job and I'm fine with the fact that I'm not off during the summer like when I was teaching. I am getting to know my co-workers which is much easier when I'm not so self conscious of myself. I have a walking buddy that walks as fast as I do so we can get about 1.75 miles in during our our 30 min lunch.
Last night my husband was prepping for his colonoscopy (translate: couldn't leave the house) So I walked without him last night. I got 10K steps but then kept walking. I had a call to make about the party we're hosting this weekend and so I just did that while I kept walking. Ended up with 14K steps! I also added HIIT into it and did half the track speed walking or light jogging and was fine, not work out.
So all in all I am in a great place and loving it. Never a millisecond of regret!!!
After a long vacation in France, I’m happy to be back home. Just to cut to the chase, I weighed exactly the same today as I did the day I left, surprisingly (132).
What’s surprising about that is that I didn’t *lose* weight. I was on a walking vacation, walking each day from one town/village to the next, with my suitcase being transported by a service so it would magically arrive in my next destination before I even got there, thereby eliminating the need to carry a heavy backpack - very civilized. I walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago/Chemin de Saint Jacques pilgrimage route, which is a group of trails that have been used for many centuries by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. This trip is exactly the kind of thing that I had in mind as a goal when I decided to do WLS. I walked 521,821 steps over 17 days - that’s about 250 miles(!), an average of about 31,000 steps per day. That’s around a half marathon every day for two and a half weeks. It’s not exactly mountain-type hiking, but it’s a lot of fairly long uphill/downhill stretches on sometimes extremely muddy trails, so pretty energy intense. I was walking about 6 hours per day.
My Fitbit informed me that I was burning around 3000-3500 calories per day, which is 1200-1500 more than normal. I started by trying to eat mostly on-plan, just more, but after a few days, I was visibly losing weight (in a bad way), so I knew I had to ramp up my intake a lot, which meant one thing: carbs. I don’t want to turn this post into food-p0rn, so I’ll just say this: if they have it in France, I ate it. Lots of it. Apparently, this was an OK strategy, because the scale is on target today, although I was actually expecting losses. My body composition has changed a fair bit due to the increased exercise, though, so I’m smaller at the same weight, and a little scrawnier looking. I was thinking I’d be down 5 pounds or so.
Eating was actually a pretty big challenge on this trip, partly because of the nature of the places I was staying. I was walking out in the countryside and staying in small BnB type places, but in France, those places include dinner, and are more of a family-style sort of thing. Picture me and my husband, sitting around the dining room table with a French couple and perhaps a few other guests (we were sometimes the only people, though). Full French 4 course dinner. Two to three hours at the table (on the plus side, my French has benefitted enormously from this intensive refresher course!). No idea what was coming out of the kitchen next. Yikes! It was a recipe for disaster on several occasions. France has a very strong food culture (obviously) and it was SOOOOO hard to try to politely eat enough to not be insulting while still not killing myself with food. I know, I know, I know: just say no. But that is NOT HAPPENING at a French chambre d’hôtes (BnB type thing). It’s not like a restaurant - it’s like being invited to dinner in someone’s home, where they’re showing off their culture to you via food.
So, some dinner strategies I used: warn the host that I’m tired from walking and won’t eat much (effectiveness rating: 2/5 - abandon after two attempts), push food around and play with it a lot, perhaps hiding it under garnishes and such (effectiveness rating: 3/5, continue to use throughout trip), warn the host that I have a tiny appetite and normally don’t eat much (effectiveness rating: 4/5, continue to use throughout trip), drink while eating (effectiveness rating: 5/5, would not have survived without this, now I really understand why it is so dangerous to do this).
I also ate a lot of things that were new to my pouch on this trip. I have been a vegetarian for about 16 years, with the exception of fish in the past two years. I had not eaten any other meat at all since around 2002. I decided that between my WLS food issues and my vegetarian food issues, the easiest way for me to get the nutrients I needed without being a hugely boorish guest (and American, might I add, another strike against me, culinarily speaking) would be to just suck it up and eat meat. I was very proud of myself for doing that. It was not easy at times (duck andouille sausages? gag). This also set me up for some epic dinner fails. One dinner I had to get up and go puke TWICE. I know, what was I thinking? Eating after puking? Yeah, we were only on the second course by that time, though, with two more courses to go. I have it so strongly beaten into my head to be as polite as possible about food when I’m a guest (particularly in another culture) that I just cannot say no. Let’s just say that my hubs has developed a keen sense of what my face looks like when things are about to go sideways. Anyway, I managed to make it through, and the dinners were the worst thing about the trip - an odd thing to say about a trip to France. I mean, I had some really nice food, but the stress of trying to eat an acceptable amount of who-knew-what-was-coming-next made it really hard.
Some things I learned:
I don’t dump from sugar. This has now been very firmly established.
I can drink a lot more alcohol than I thought (that stops today, though).
I eat amazingly slowly, even compared to normal slow eaters.
I can sometimes hide the fact that I eat strangely small amounts, but that depends a lot on the day and the type of food. Soup is fabulous for this. Refined carbs make it just about impossible.
The easiest things on my pouch are the worst things for my health, generally speaking (dessert is a cinch, frighteningly).
Pasta and rice are just no-go zones for me.
I really prefer to eat at home rather than in a restaurant.
A nice cup of herbal tea makes everything feel better.
Eating meat won’t kill me, but I’d still prefer not to.
Duck andouille sausage tastes no better coming up than going down.
Some non-food observations about my trip:
It’s been maybe 5 years since I was last in France, and I was surprised to find that even in this short amount of time, the number of overweight French people has increased. When I was a teenager, there weren’t really any overweight French people - like nearly zero. Now, overweight people are pretty common to see, and there are even some obese people. That has got to be pretty hard to live with in a society that is much more toxic toward overweight people than the US is.
My brain is obsessed with body size right now. I’m sure this is because it’s trying to work out its own self-image still, so it’s trying to figure out where I lie on the spectrum of sizes it sees, but it’s almost intrusive how much I think about it. “How about her? Is she bigger than me or smaller than me?” This is my brain all day long. And, honestly, it’s not very good at judging that - it’s still really working things out. I’m not looking forward to continuing this for a long time. It’s a very unkind and evaluative way of looking at other people. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but in the meantime, it’s on a constant loop in my head.
I’m so fit right now! It’s awesome! I can power uphill for half an hour without stopping, and it’s enjoyable. I’m not out of breath. I can just keep going and going. Even at the end of a day of walking 14 or 15 miles, I feel fine walking around town to go sightseeing, climbing up things and down things and just being active. I’m so glad I was working hard at the gym before going - that helped a lot, I’m sure.
When I’m 70, I want to be like the 70 year old French people I met out walking. They are in fine shape to walk 15 miles a day for weeks, or even months for the ones who were going all the way from the middle of France to the tip of Spain. I think that must have a really positive impact on their whole life - just to be in good enough shape to do that at that age means that you’re a healthy person doing healthy things with your life.
Some non-WLS observations about my trip:
Walking all day every day is a pretty zen way of spending a vacation. I’ve done this kind of walking vacation before, but only for 5-6 days. That’s about the point in this trip where I felt like I was really getting into the swing of things, so I’m glad it was longer this time. Would I want to keep going for the full 2-3 months to complete the whole trail, from beginning to end? Not sure. That’s a long time.
I’m just enough of an introvert that having dinner around the table with a new group of people I don’t know every evening is a bit much for me. That’s a whole lot of small talk.
There’s a little pocket of SW France that has been my favorite for many years. Our trip took us through it, as well as some areas around it, and my opinion is reconfirmed: this is my favorite part of France. Fairytale villages and castles, beautiful rolling hills and forests. So pretty.
And now without further ado, some vacation pix.
It's been a month since surgery and a couple weeks since I got home. I'm feeling almost normal. Most of the pain gone and my strength and energy is rebuilding. I've lost 40 - 50 lbs in a month. Which feels awesome but strange. When I got out of the shower and started getting dressed, I was like I feel smaller! And yes, I still feel like that. If it weren't for the blood issue, I'd rate this as perfect.
Tonight, I watched my 600lbs Life. A patient got his 2nd skin removal. On the operating table, blood drained into him. So much blood leaked into him that he flat-lined for a minute or so. I guess what happened to me isn't that rare. Not sure how I feel about that.
Just a quick update because I haven't posted a progress pic in a while! I spent a lot of time in Boston today, shopping for a sleeper sofa for the new house. Most of that time was in Room & Board, and when I found myself in front of a huge wall made of mirrors, it seemed like a good time. And since I'm feeling a bit brave, here is a night before shot I have never posted. I reserve the right to yank this down tomorrow if my nerve fails me! I regret my choice to do my "before" practically undressed... it makes me super anxious about posting them, and I'm totally not posting in bra and undies for my afters. I tried to get them about the same size/perspective so it would be a good comparison otherwise, though. I can't help the fact that I was in a ball cap and look like a Newsie, though. It was a bad hair day!
The trip was full of little victories. I went to Boston via the Orange Line and Green line, and if you know the train stations in Boston, it's a ton of stairs to get too and from the trains. A year ago if I wanted to take a train, I had to take elevators to get from one floor to another in the station. This time I climbed all those stairs, without even holding on - going up OR going down. Sometimes two or three flights in a row. Then spent at least a couple of hours in Room & Board (though part of that was "testing" sofas by lounging on them!) and going up and down THOSE stairs - there were four floors.
Then we went to Muji, a "minimalist Boston retailer" that had a little of everything - housewares, clothes, furniture, pens & stationery, just a bunch of fun stuff. I found out I'm a medium for the purposes of linen sack dresses. Riding on the train provided another NSV. Not only did I fit comfortably in a seat right next to Leah - there was SPACE between us!! About an inch of it!!! I found it so exciting I had to take a picture, of course - mine is the leg on the right.
And now on to the life update...
I may not be around much next week, and I absolutely won't be posting on my 9-month surgiversary. Turns out we're not going to have the leisurely move-out week we had hoped for. Events have conspired against us. Instead, we're going to have to have all of our stuff out of our house on the 7th, and camp out on a futon with a cat and a dog in an empty house until the morning of the 8th, when we'll have the closing on our current house. Then we will have the closing on the new house that afternoon, and move everything, including three frazzled women, five unhappy cats and a dog, ...into a house that won't have any internet until the 9th.
On the plus side, we get to the house early! I'm super excited about that. On the minus side, we have to be ready five full days before we had planned to move, and we have 24 hours in which to accomplish it when we'd thought we'd have a week. (I have already said my "I told you so's" to Meg and Leah, who have been making fun of me for packing like a mad thing for the past week or so when "we have so much time to move!")
Anyway, I will be around when I can, and I'll still be reading and reacting - just probably not posting much after this coming Monday! I'll leave you with these bonus pics of the beasts, though:
Stats: I lost 6 pounds this month, bringing my total since surgery to 68 pounds lost and my BMI slowly nudging down to 38.8.
I'm kind of sad that my six month doesn't boast better scale stats, but the difference is here: I _finally_ got cleared to restart strength exercises by physical therapy. It seems the day I started that, I hit a complete roadblock: I've been exactly the same weight since the day I started. My nutritionist says "water follows glycogen" and when you work your muscles, they uptake more glycogen. He cautioned it may be a couple weeks before I see the benefit, but promises I will actually see the benefit.
If nothing else, this whole post-op thing has been teaching my patience
In other news, I'm sorry I haven't been here as much! I've been running, running, running it seems this month. I went to VA with my mom for a couple days for an antique show, I've been studying for my GRE, hiking, and gardening every chance I get. My little garden is going nuts It's so much more fun to get outside and hike or garden! I love gardening, but the lugging and squatting and pulling was not my favorite. It seems so much easier right now!
Similarly, on my hike a couple weeks back, there were actually a few areas that had trees down over the trail and other obstacles, and I grinned and dug in to climb over them. I plan on redoing a trail I did last October, 70+ pounds ago, just to feel that difference.
I had my 6 month followup. The improvement in my cholesterol is crazy! I never had truly bad cholesterol, but we have a massive genetic issue with triglycerides in my family - all of us children started showing high trigs even as teens - even when thin - and my dad continues to have horrible issues even after his liver transplant (often higher than 500!). To see mine in the 80s makes me so happy!
I am somehow fighting a vitamin A deficiency. My multi has it, but my level dropped pretty low with my six month labs, so I'm taking a separate supplement for A now. All the rest of my labs were just peachy, and my surgeon says I'm right on track, weight loss wise. My nutritionist has me aiming for 1300 calories a day and (gulp) 130 carbs a day. So far this week, I managed to hit 1200 a couple times, but overall Im finding the adjustment rough.
Otherwise, I'm continuing to chug along and Im crossing my fingers hard that the scale starts moving again soon!