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.
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.
This is just a general update - I haven’t done one yet this month, so here goes.
I’m three and a half months into maintenance, and so far, so good. I’m eating quite a lot, but getting used to that, so it feels pretty normal to be stuffing my face all day now. I’m at about 1800 to 2000 calories per day, which is what online caloric needs calculators say I should be taking in for my age/sex/weight/activity level. Here’s what I’ve been eating most days lately:
Breakfast: Syntrax shake with berries blended in
Snack: Greek yogurt with frozen berries
Lunch: Tomato and pepper and feta salad with olive oil and lemon juice
Snack: Bean and veggie salad (usually Indian style stuff that my husband makes, like chickpeas and peppers and carrots and cabbage, sometimes with halloumi cheese, and lots of spices)
Snack: cheese and crackers (I found Triscuits at a store here, a once in a blue moon find, so I’m having 6 crackers per day and hoping they never run out…)
Snack: Peanut butter protein powder balls - this helps keep my calories high
Dinner: beans and veggies, usually (again often Indian food; my husband has been great about cooking), sometimes a veggie burger patty, or Thai curry with tofu or shrimp
Snack: often a square of 85% chocolate and a date or two - the dates have a ton of sugar/carbs, but they don’t seem to trigger cravings or hunger.
That’s about 1800 calories. Sometimes I swap out one of the snacks with a protein bar or some nuts. I found a new brand of protein bar called Fulfill (Irish, I think?) and they are awesome like candy bars, but similar macro profile to Quest. Fortunately, I'm OK at stopping at one
Last night I went to a friend’s house, and she had a bowl of Smartfood (yummy popcorn with cheese powder, but real cheese not chemical stuff). This is my kryptonite. I mistakenly had a handful, which due to the magical properties of Smartfood turned into several handfuls. I. Couldn’t. Stop. So crunchy and delicious and moreish, as the English like to say (so good you just want more). It’s easier to just say 100% no, as stopping after one handful is harder for me. I was berating myself for letting my snacking impulses get the better of me, which they did. But when I got home, I checked the nutrition info and two cups was less than 200 calories, which fit into my day OK, so no real harm. However, I did feel that *urge to snack* that I fear, so I know Smartfood is probably not a great idea to keep in my house. Fair enough, I could have guessed that. I would have taken out the whole bag pre-op, so two cups is a pretty good stopping point for me.
I’ve been stepping it up at the gym lately, doing weights instead of just cardio. It’s interesting and kind of fun and motivating to see the amount I can lift go up. My little teensy muscles are getting bigger. I actually have arm muscles now and some definition in my shoulders and biceps and triceps and stuff. I’m just mostly doing machines at the moment. It’s really helping to tone things up and make me feel a lot stronger.
This, in turn, is probably driving some of the changes I’m seeing in my body (I’m sure it would be changing anyway, but it’s actually changing pretty quickly). I’ve just today gotten rid of the rest of the clothes I bought when I got to my original GW of 150 (let this be a lesson to you: don’t spend a ton of money on clothes until things settle down!). The things I bought when I got to my current GW of 132-137 are now getting kind of baggy. My weight has stayed the same, but my body is gaining muscle and losing fat, I suppose. I still have more loose skin than I’d like, particularly on my upper arms and on my thighs and bum, but I think that will continue to change for a while, so I’m not going to get too worked up about it quite yet.
I’m wearing about a size 2 or 4 US, but had the surreal experience of trying on a size 0 pants at The Gap the other day and having them fit. They were a little snugger than I want to wear in this part of the world, so I went with the 2s (!!!???) but the 0 fit on my body just fine. So strange. My normal top size is XS. I really never thought of myself as a S anything in my life, let alone XS, and had always told myself I had “big bones” (that comforting phrase most big people apply to themselves, usually after parents have applied it to them, I suppose). I don’t have big bones. I have medium size bones. Not small! But also not big. I mean, I realize there is definitely size inflation in the world of fashion, so I’m taking my size 0 and 2 with a size XXL grain of salt, but I looked at an old clothing catalog from the 1920s the other day, and my measurements would still put me on the small end of the size spectrum. So, I guess I’m legitimately small now. I don’t feel it, but I’ll accept it.
I’ve had the lovely experience, a few times now, of trying on clothes at a store and needing a different size while in the dressing room and calling out to the shop assistant to have them get me the right size. Smaller or bigger, doesn’t matter, I’m not embarrassed! I never never never had shop assistants do that when I was heavy because 1) I was often trying on the largest size in the store, and 2) even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t want the scrutiny so would get dressed, leave the dressing room, and go get it myself. This is a lot easier! Just yell for it.
Still having problems saying no to things I try on that fit but maybe aren’t the ideal piece of clothing. I’m so used to buying anything that fits and looks halfway decent that I have a hard time putting something back because of the color, or construction, or price, or even just because I might find something similar that might fit more perfectly. “But it fits, buy it!” says my Old Me brain. “In fact, buy one in each color!” My Old Me brain needs to catch up.
On Sunday, I’m leaving for a trip to France for a few weeks, so I may not be around here much during my travels. Here are some reasons why this whole trip is a huge NSV:
Comfortable plane travel!
It’s a walking holiday, so I’ll be putting in 10+ miles per day on the trail, going from village to village - I have done this several times before, but it had gotten to be pretty unpleasant at my higher weights, and I had basically given up on ever doing it again. But here I am! Ready to walk.
I’m not stressed about gaining weight on vacation - I suspect I may lose, just due to walking a lot and not having my normal food around.
I’m not going to track my food intake! <— *record skipping sound* What!?! No, no tracking while in France. Also no food prep, which is a little scary, but I’m taking bars and shake powder, so I’ll get my protein in.
I’ve gotten to buy a bunch of hiking-ish clothing for the trip that looks pretty good on me! Usually this is a style of clothing that I shy away from because it makes me look like an unfashionable potato. But now I look like a hiker! Still fairy unfashionable, but in a fit, hiking sort of way.
I’m going to be in France and not in a 24 hour a day battle with myself over what I’m allowed to eat. Usually 75% of my brain is busy figuring out what to buy at the next boulangerie or patisserie because “I can’t get this at home, so might as well take advantage while I’m here.” That was a mind-set that always saw me gain a lot on vacations to France (and other places) before, but served me particularly poorly while I lived in France (both times) and led to enormous weight gains each time. Now, I may have a treat now and then, but that’s it. I’m fine with that - my brain is just way less interested in indulgences.
I’m going to be in France and be a thin American person, not a fat American person. I hate hate hate how French people generally perceive Americans, and weight is a major factor in that. I’m anticipating that they will be quite a bit more friendly.
I’ve actually been training for this! I’ve been going to the gym like 4-6 times per week for ages, and also hiking 1-2 times per week. I honestly never did that on previous long walks. I just avoided the gym and hoped I’d be OK.
Here’s hoping my poor, usually blister-plagued feet hold up. I think I’ll get fewer blisters being lighter, but my feet are the weakest link, for sure. I’ve got a lot of miles to walk. Wish me luck.
Last but not least, an update on my prediction about student evaluations. A few months ago, I said I was pretty sure my student evals would be better now that I’m thin because student evaluations are crap and stupid and based on totally irrelevant factors, such as appearance and gender and age and other things, rather than actual teaching proficiency or effectiveness. My evals put me at number 4 in the department, which has 200+ teachers, so yay me. Of course, now I’m pretty sure those numbers say that I’m an awesome teacher and student evaluations are completely relevant and 100% accurate and based on totally legitimate factors…
I weighed in at 134 on my 14 month surgiversary, which puts me right in the “holding steady” window. I lost a couple of pounds and was down at 132 for a couple of weeks or so, but started piling on the calories to stop that. It worked. Or, something I did worked, but I have no idea if it’s that or something else. This is all just experimentation so far.
I am now eating (hang onto your hats, people) between 1800 and 2000 calories per day and maintaining. That seems totally incredible to me, in several ways. First of all, I’ve always gained weight eating that much - when I’ve been thin before, I’ve gained while eating 1200 calories per day and feeling like I was starving. So, apparently, something in me has been fixed. I can eat how much I should for my body size, sex, age, and activity level. Shocking. Second, I can’t believe I can stuff than many calories into my body after a year of eating 800 per day. It’s taken some work, and it takes some strategizing, but I’m managing. Third, I’ve had WLS and was expecting to top out at, what, maybe 1200-1400 calories per day afterwards? We’ll see how this goes long-term, but so far, I just keep losing if my intake is in that neighborhood.
I’m eating about 6-8 small meals per day, which means eating a meal, waiting an hour, drinking a bunch of water, and then eating the next meal. It’s a lot of eating. I’m also focusing on calorie dense stuff, so lots of cheese, olive oil, coconut milk, peanut butter, and other stuff like that. I’m getting like 100+ grams of protein per day, easy, not even trying, just because I’m eating a lot of high protein stuff still. My carbs are between 50 and 100 per day (I can feel it if they go higher - I tend to get that gnawing hungry feeling). The rest is fat, so lots of that (about half of my day’s calories). It’s very very very strange to feel like I HAVE to eat so much. Nice problem to have, though, I suppose, all things considered. I’m not eating unhealthy stuff at all still (no refined carbs even, just fruit and veg carbs, plus a teensy bit of whole grain, like wheat berries in a salad, plus a square of 90% chocolate most nights) so I’m not going crazy or anything.
My size is shrinking a little bit still from going to the gym a lot. I’ve been lifting weights and getting stronger, so that’s nice, plus now I look like a gym person, so I don’t feel out of place there. Although my weight has stayed the same, I lost an inch off my waist this month, so my clothes are still getting a bit looser over time, although not at the rapid pace that was happening for a while there.
A nice NSV today: I went bathing suit shopping. I’ve been swimming in rash guard type thing (top with sleeves, bottom with legs) since last fall (after not swimming at all for a long time, which is really sad because I love swimming, but hated putting on a bathing suit). However, next weekend, we’re going to a nice hotel with a pool and since it will be full of Western people, the rash guard will probably look like overkill. It’s practical for swimming at beaches with a lot of locals, as I’m not offending anyone with my uncovered flesh (I live in a Muslim country), but at a hotel will be different. I went to the store, grabbed three suits, and all of them fit just fine and looked fine. I didn’t want to jump off a bridge or run screaming and crying from the store (this is genuinely a first for me). My legs are pretty jello-y and have some loose skin, but hey, it’s nothing like I was before. I went home with the most glamorous of the three, a black tankini style one with ruching and structure and straps that make it look like an old-fashioned 1950s type of suit, but without looking matronly. I think I will look somewhat elegant. Let’s hear it for tankinis, so much more comfortable that normal one-piece suits. I generally find two piece suits to be more comfortable, but bikinis are a no-go at the pool at work, so that’s out the window. Most of my colleagues are Muslim, so bikinis are a step too far for the staff club pool. Scandalous!
Another funny NSV happened when going to visit a bunch of Bronze Age tombs a couple of weekends ago (Oman is full of these things). We came upon a bunch of them, and these were pretty well preserved with little tunnels in the sides - one of the people we were with crawled inside and convinced me to, as well (hello, Indiana Jones). We went inside a few others, but then happened upon one with a smaller entry to the tunnel. Here are the surprising words I heard at this point: “Get Jen. She’s small. She’ll fit in this one.” And I did, although it was a bit of a squeeze for my shoulders and booty. And I was the only one who did, so I had to take pictures inside to show the others, all while I was quietly dying of laughter and smirking with glee.
Long-term NSV - I’ve been going hiking about twice a week recently - this is fantastic. I’m really enjoying it now that it’s so much easier, and I don’t even usually get winded at all. I still have to be very careful of my knees (and now hip, hello old people problems) but otherwise am just fine. This is an extremely treacherous place to hike, so careful is fine. It’s mostly loose jagged rocks on unmarked trails - not for the faint of heart. Anyway, I’m busy planning tons of hiking trips in my future, which is a great feeling, since I had all but given that up for lost as I gained a lot of weight.
My current project is trying to figure out my style and dress more in a coordinated, purposeful way. Fortunately, the blogosphere is full of people wanting to help me do that, so I’m busy reading blogs and looking at stuff on Pinterest. It’s nice not to have to dress in whatever fits and covers me up well and doesn’t draw attention to my fat, but it’s a bit daunting to be able to wear basically whatever I want. The available choices drive me a bit crazy - I can buy anything anywhere. It was easier when it was, “Hey, this long dark somber number covers me up just perfectly! I hardly even look fat if I squint hard enough and stand at this weird angle and dim the lights. I’ll take one of each in black, charcoal, and navy, please.”
One blogger I like pretty well is https://anuschkarees.com/ - she has a lot of advice on how to pare down your wardrobe to useful stuff only, not buy too too much, and still have a good style (including tips on how to figure out what your style actually is), without any preaching about what different body types should wear. Female Fashion Advice on Reddit has been fairly helpful, as well - just to get an idea of what other people do, and to see how other people put outfits together in a way that seems way more purposeful than how I do it (make sure everything is black or white, then if you decide to wear a color or print it will look fine!). Anyway, I’m searching for direction on “how not to just buy everything you try on just because you’re so thrilled that it looks good on you, even though it totally does not go with anything else you own and you may never actually wear it because it’s so far outside of your fashion comfort zone, daily practicality requirements, or is age- and/or situation-inappropriate in your life.”
Still suffering from weird body dysmorphia. Photos of me usually look to me like I’m thin. In the mirror, I usually look OK to myself (although less thin than in photos). But when I actually look at myself directly, like not in a mirror, but looking down at my body, I look pretty big to myself still. I’m looking down at my lap as I type this on my laptop. My thighs look big. My stomach looks like it sticks out too far. My knees look fat. Now I’m standing up, looking in the mirror. Nope, I look fine. Pretty thin. Sit back down. No, I was clearly mistaken. My thighs obviously need to lose a bit more weight. (no they don’t) It’s a constant battle. The voices in my head are a bit crazy-making at times.
Some annoying things this month:
I bought multivitamins at GNC. They seemed good. Good numbers. Then, I had a weird bout of insomnia for a couple of weeks. Randomly reading the back of my vitamins (as one does), I see they have added caffeine!!!! What?!?! I’m very sensitive to caffeine (that’s why I don’t drink coffee, well besides the fact that it tastes like poison). So, back to GNC to buy the ones with the same formula but without the word “Energy” in the name. Energy. Hmm.
When I went back to get the non-caffeinated multis, I bought calcium, but of course, as I do, I bought a whole big jar of calcium carbonate. This, despite the fact that I know I do this and try to be careful about it. I think I just looked at one and grabbed the one next to it. Sometimes it’s like I’m illiterate when I’m at the store.
Next misadventure at GNC: buying papaya enzymes. Looking for 45mg. Hey! This one has 45mg. I buy it, only to look more closely and figure out that it has 45mg of papaya fruit. 6mg of papayain (the actual enzyme). What is it with me and labels.
Ryvita crackers can go to h3ll. Here where I live, finding crackers at all is hard (other than Ritz for some reason). Finding whole grain crackers is like finding the holy grail. I finally found a store that has Ryvitas! Super healthy! And they get stuck like cement in my pouch. I had them for several days in a row, and also had to vomit up whatever I ate next afterwards each day - including A. Glass. Of. Water. on the final day before I swore off Ryvitas. Yeah, it took me several days to figure out what was wrong - it was the crackers. Even if I give them more than an hour to digest, whatever I take in afterwards gets backed up and has to come back up, even if I take little bitty sips of water first to loosen things up or whatever. Now I have to eat cheese with no crackers again. Man, I’m looking forward to American crackers when I go home this summer. Which reminds me I need to throw those Ryvitas away before I get desperate for crackers someday, like maybe this evening…
And photos from hiking the last couple of weekends. First, the tomb pictures.
This weekend we went up into the mountains to see the roses blooming (we were at about 2000m - 6500 ft - so it's cool up there). They make rosewater from the roses, so they're the nice smelling kind!
After hitting 135.8 a month ago and deciding that this number would be my official GW, I’ve had the very strange experience of… success. I weighed in on my official 13 month date and I was 135.8 still. My weight fluctuated up within about a two pound window and down within a half pound window, but stayed really stable all month. This is after losing 7 pounds the month before, and after a streak of losing mostly double digits every month for a year, so I’m chalking that up as a stunning success.
So, what did I do to screech on the brakes? I upped my calories from just about 1000 (where I’ve been since hitting my initial GW in December - I was at 800 for the year preceding that) to 1200-1400 basically overnight. It has been a struggle and sometimes feels like I’m eating all day every day. I’ve had a few bouts of “my body just isn’t going to accept any more food today” but overall it’s been doable, thanks to some calorically dense foods. Here’s what I’ve been eating this month (an average day):
Breakfast: Syntrax shake with berries blended in (plus psyllium for “regularity”)
Snack: ½ cup Greek yogurt (full fat) with berries or pomegranate seeds
Lunch: Tuna or egg salad (made with Hellman’s light just because I can’t tell the difference and the idea of having twice as many calories in the mayo as the food seems weird to me). ½ can tuna or two eggs, plus a tablespoon of mayo (and strong mustard and sometimes pickles)
Snack: Small Greek salad (⅓ cucumber, ⅓ tomato, 1 oz feta, 1t olive oil, 1t balsamic)
Snack: Peanut butter protein balls - just no sugar peanut butter with Syntrax vanilla or chocolate creamed into it with a fork until it’s crumbly but holds its shape well enough to make balls out of. I then roll them in shredded coconut so they don’t stick to each other when I’m storing them. There are recipes online that have you add fake sweeteners, or cream cheese, or what have you, but I’ve found they taste quite good like this, plus they’re super easy. With the quantities I’m using, MFP tells me they are 125 calories each with 10g of protein. For my snack, I eat 2 or 3. These have basically replaced protein bars as my emergency food. I figure they’re cheaper, almost as easy, and probably slightly more natural. They’re smaller than a ping pong ball, so very calorie dense.
Snack: 2 Ryvita crackers with 2 slices of cheese
Dinner: Fake meat plus beans and veggies in some form (usually about a cup of food now, if it’s moist enough)
Snack: I have a couple of dates or some almonds after dinner pretty often - if I do, it’s a 1400 calorie day. If I don’t, it’s a 1200 calorie day.
So, see what I mean about eating all day? I feel like I’m constantly eating. I don’t think I can really eat more at each meal than I do, certainly not dinner, so this is the best way to get in as many calories as I am. I think I might try to up my calories a bit more just to see if I really will gain anything if I do. I’d like to explore my limits, I think. I suppose it probably varies with macros, but I’d like to know where I stand. If I start to gain, I guess I get to experiment further with either reducing calories or reducing carbs and seeing where that lands me. I’d rather reduce carbs, to be honest, but I’m willing to keep an open mind.
Anyway, eating like that gets me like 100g of protein per day (wow). I’m getting around 60g of carbs (more on days with dates, but dates don’t seem to trigger my carb reaction, so I feel like that’s OK) and I feel like I’m not in keto anymore, but I don’t have test strips, so that’s a total guess. The rest is fat, obviously, and there’s quite a bit of that in my diet.
Every single day, I wake up, step on the scale, and feel disappointed when I haven’t lost anything. Consciously, I know that’s my goal now, but subconsciously, I was pretty invested in that feeling of success you get when you lose. It was a whole year of that, added to a lifetime of having that be my very most sacred goal, so I suppose it’s no wonder that stopping is hard. But my mind feels a bit discombobulated at times. I can see how chasing that feeling of success and validation could lead to some unhealthy behaviors (continued losing, shopping addiction, orthorexia, exercise addiction, etc). I'm aiming to keep my unhealthy behaviors firmly in the shopping addiction realm, with a touch of internet addiction. I can tend to get a little single-minded about pursuing some new thing, so keeping it confined to non-health-related behavior is probably for the best.
I’m lifting weights at the gym now, which is good. My arms are getting stronger and are starting to look a bit nicer. With such a small amount of body fat on them, you can really see all the muscles (and veins and arteries and tendons and ligaments) which makes it funny to gain muscle. It looks like I’m way more fit than I feel like I am. My knee and hip are both getting quite a lot better after giving them more than a month rest from too much walking. I’ve been mostly doing exercise bicycle, rowing machine, and some elliptical for my cardio, which has been a strange departure from the treadmill for me, but hopefully what I need to get over my injury. I really am a gym person now, I guess, since I had a hard time giving up exercise, even to let my injury heal, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to my routine. I’ve been going to the gym about 4 days per week, plus one day of hiking per week, so I haven’t reduced my exercise time, but I’ve had to scale back on how hard I’m working.
Nice NSV: I’ve joined a hiking club. We go once a week after work, just to the foothills not far outside of town, and we go for about an hour and a half each time. It’s so nice to be able to keep up with everyone and not worry about that! Hiking is sooooooo much more enjoyable when I’m not carrying around a bunch of extra weight. It’s fun! An associated NSV is that this hiking group always has a bunch of photos posted to its Fb page of each hike, and I'm in a fair number of them, and I don't cringe! There's one of me from last week, a total booty shot of me climbing up over a bunch of rocks, and I look fine! Hiking photos attached, including booty shot.
I cannot believe the changes I’ve gone through in the past year. It’s truly shocking. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have this amazing do-over that is WLS. Long story short, one year post-op and I’m where I want to be: 135 pounds, healthy, and happy. The losing phase is over (well, I want it to be, we’ll see how that pans out).
Thank you everyone at TTF for your nonstop and sometimes even relentless support. I have received kind words, insightful advice, interesting facts, heartfelt congratulations, and sharp yet timely reminders when I've needed them. Your nonjudgmental and sympathetic ears have perhaps been bombarded by a bit too much about me from time to time, but I thank you for listening.
One year ago, I was in Mexico, waiting for my surgery appointment. I was fat, depressed, desperate, afraid, but hopeful. My surgeon, a WLS patient himself, made me feel OK about seeking help and being the “before” picture. I felt like he was going to take away some of the burden of my previous failures and give me what I needed to be successful. I felt taken care of.
Before I started down the WLS path, I had stopped looking forward to the future, as it seemed like it didn’t hold anything positive or fun, but the idea that this surgery could turn all of that around and give me my life back was like a shining beacon of hope. I didn’t quite trust that WLS would be the magic bullet for me, but I knew that it was my best bet. I’d done all the reading and researching, and the stories were amazing - but in the back of my head, I held on to the thought that there wasn’t a guarantee of success. I might not be one of the successful ones, the ones whose blogs were so inspirational, the ones whose YouTube videos made me tear up with joy. I might end up like the remorseful, desperate, bitter people with their stories of why WLS “failed them.” This thought was so frightening. I’ve done the whole “lose a ton of weight and gain it right back” thing before, more than once. I didn’t want that to happen again.
Because of these dark little doubts in the back of my mind, I swore to myself that I would be *perfect* after my surgery. I would do *everything right*. I knew that this do-over was a one-time-only offer, so I wanted to make sure everything I was in control of was *absolutely perfect*. I knew my metabolism was crap, but I also knew that my will was strong, my desire to succeed was strong, and my ability to follow the rules on a diet was strong. Maybe my crap metabolism would not allow me to get to GW, but I wanted to be sure I was doing everything in my power to give myself the best possible chance. I didn’t want to look back on my first year out and think, “Well, I guess I could have tried a little harder.” So I made sure that I tried as hard as I could. I was basically perfect for a year. Not everyone has the fortitude to do this, but tapping into my own psychological strengths/weaknesses, I knew that drawing some hard lines in the sand would be my best bet. I haven’t had a piece of bread since early January 2017. Or pasta. Or rice. Or sweets. Or soda. None. It was easier for me to say flat-out no, so that was my approach.
My surgery was an unqualified success. I had a relatively easy recovery, and despite some initial doubts about whether I was losing fast enough (OK, we all think we’re slow losers at some point, thank you for talking me down, TTF fam), I lost steadily and well (one more time for the newbies: yes, I felt like I was a slow loser and I was going to fail!). My feelings after the first month were positive enough to give me back hope for my future, so I interviewed for and was offered a job back in the place I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to be doing. The future started looking like a fun place where I could enjoy myself and live my life as a happy and active person.
For my first few months, I was unemployed (well, and technically homeless, but that was by choice, so can’t really feel sorry for myself there), so I had plenty of time to make sure I was taking the very best care of myself. I measured. I weighed. I counted. I tracked. I made spreadsheets. I ate between 600 and 800 calories per day every day until I got to GW (with the exception of maybe 5 days at around 1000). Fitbit and My Fitness Pal became my obsessions because hey, that’s who I am. I was meticulous. With a twinge of shame, I will confess that I sometimes weighed myself multiple times per day “for science.” <— not recommended but sort of interesting to me - I usually weigh the least right before lunch!
Eventually I started to feel like a normal sized person again. I was down to a weight that made me hang my head with shame (and eat to comfort myself) when I was there on the way up, but on the way down, it felt fantastic. I had to buy some new clothes. They were still drapey, and I was still working hard to cover up my fat, but I felt better about myself. I was able to exercise and be more active, too.
I moved to the other side of the world at six months out. It threw my rhythms into quite a shock, but instead of resorting to food for comfort, I doubled down and took comfort in being in control of what I was eating. Many of my normal foods were not available (no cottage cheese, omg, tragedy strikes!), so I had to find new things and be resourceful. In previous moves to new countries, or even back to home from abroad, I always always gained weight, every single time. This was new: I was still losing. Within about two months of moving, all of the clothes that I had brought with me were too big. This was the beginning of my wardrobe worries. I fretted that I was going through sizes too fast. I fretted that I didn’t know what style I would seek out for myself when I started shopping in earnest. I fretted that I wouldn’t ever get to a place where I was really pleased with myself. This was all silly, of course - I managed to find things to wear just fine. I found a tailor to take in my clothes. I bought a few things. I started figuring out my style. And I’m totally happy with my current state.
All the new people I’ve met here think of me as being a thin and fit person (I feel a bit like I’m fooling them or like I’m an impostor, but I’m not). I mean, many have noticed that I’ve lost a lot of weight since I’ve been here, but they know I’m active and that I’m a health-food low-carb whole-foods protein-shake freak. I’ve taken up hiking again - I had always loved it but finally quit doing it when I got too heavy and it just became painful and unpleasant. Now, I’ve joined a hiking club and do it regularly (every week!). It’s not hard to haul myself up a steep hill. I don’t get wheezing out-of-breath tired. My heart doesn’t pound. I don’t have to stop and “admire the view” twice as often as anyone else. All a part of the new persona. Moving to a new country has actually probably made it easier to be a "new person."
In December, at just past 10 months out, I hit my original GW of 150. Woo hoo! I celebrated by buying a few outfits that are now too big for me That’s OK, though - they were a fun way to spend the day, and I probably would have spent that money on food previously, so all in all it wasn’t a total loss. I do need to get those clothes to the tailor, though, that reminds me. Anyway, there I was, at GW but not really certain I wanted to stop. What would I look and feel like a little bit thinner?
Because I cannot simply let things be, I spent the next two months fretting about when to stop. Thank you for your patience, support, kind words, and excellent advice, TTF fam. Finally, at 15 pounds below my original GW, I had my husband take some pictures of me, and hey! That’s what it took. Yes, I need to stop losing now. That was a week ago. Since then, I’ve upped my calories to about 1200 per day. That may need to go up, but I’m experimenting. I have now had the life-changing experience of NOT TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT. Yes, for the first time in my life, I’m actually NOT trying to lose weight! I’m not planning a diet, figuring out how to sabotage myself or rationalize cheating on a diet, berating myself for failing on a diet, or in any other way dieting. I’m still tracking like a crazy fool, but I’m tracking to make sure I eat ENOUGH, which is hard.
I bought myself a pair of bright orange jeans yesterday afternoon. Because I can! For all of you pear-shaped ladies out there, I know you’ll understand. From the waist down, it’s been skirts or dark “flattering” colors my whole life. Please don’t look at my booty or thighs! However, I now have a small (absent?) booty and thinnish thighs, so to celebrate, I bought bright orange jeans. I’m wearing them right now. I also bought a pair of bright coral pink trousers. I hereby retire from the all-dark-clothes-all-the-time club. I don’t remember who on the forum said their shopping mantra was “If it’s not black, put it back,” but that has been my go-to color all my life. Well, navy blue or charcoal to spice things up occasionally, right? I’ve decided that I will wear funky bright colors and flashy stuff if I want to because I can.
While my eyes still do not always see a thin person in the mirror (I look fat to myself about half the time), I know that I am now a thin person. My sense of identity is growing to include “thin person” now, although my inner fat girl is probably here with me forever (you know, the one who thinks of excuses not to do xyz because it’ll draw attention to her various issues, or else thinks of excuses to do something food-adjacent to cash in on the treats). I can’t for the life of me pull a piece of clothing off the rack that’ll come close to fitting correctly, but I’m starting to learn the numbers game with sizes, anyway. I’m that person who always takes the stairs. I always have a food contingency plan - a carefully packed lunch and snacks, an emergency protein bar, and my ever-present water bottle. I go to the gym instead of watching TV or having a cocktail. My priorities are just very different. I’ve taken this year to cement into place some very different new habits that I hope will stick with me forever.
TTF fam, thank you so much for your support and friendship. They have meant so much to me this year - whether in awesome NSV moments or when I’m hanging my head over the toilet because I’ve eaten something that just didn’t work, you’ve been there for me when I’ve needed it! I love you all.
The exciting stuff all happened last month: goal weight.
***edit*** It just dawned on me that as of last week, I’ve lost more than I weigh now (i.e., I’ve lost half my body weight). What the heck?!? How did I miss that!? Oh yeah, I was never expecting it to happen, so I wasn’t watching for it. How in everloving heck did I carry that much of me around all the time????
So, what’s been going on this month?
Well, I’m trying to find my actual goal weight, which I think is going to be 10-15 pounds below what my original GW was. Still not certain, though.
This month, I thought I was going to slow down a lot on my losses, but that hasn’t exactly happened. I bumped my calories up to around 900 per day, 1000 on many days, and still I lost 8 pounds this month (from 151 to 143). That’s about 5.5% of my body weight (same as almost every other month since surgery) - actually quite a lot on my newly thinnish frame, so it made me shrink out of clothes I bought as a celebration of arriving at GW - not really a tragedy, of course, and my tailor is experiencing the ongoing windfall of having a WLS patient as a customer. It does make me wonder, though, how I’ll know when to stop and whether that will be hard to do. I decided to bump my calories up to 1000 for the week and see if anything happens. Doing some back of the envelope math (and assuming I believe in calories in calories out), if I’m losing 2 pounds per week right now, I should have to bump up my calories by 1000 per day to make that stop. That sounds pretty freaky, and I’m not sure how I’d go about it, but I think I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
I don’t think I’ll actually need to eat that much because I remember gaining weight while eating about 1200-1400 calories per day the last time I dieted down this low (starving on the minimum of WW points, exercising about 2 hours per day, and consuming a lot of “diet” stuff and low fat carbs). That’s when I decided maybe 140 pounds wasn’t for me - it was too hard and I couldn’t maintain it for more than a few months. I was hungry all the time and too busy with grad school and full time teaching to exercise that much every day. So I decided to let it slide up to 160… and so it began.
I’ve done a bit more shopping since last month - I went to Dubai, and it was Shopping Festival, so good prices. This is good fun. I can try on anything and it looks OK at least - even if it’s too small, it just looks too tight. It doesn’t “make me look fat.” This is a pretty bewildering space to be in. If I can wear anything I like, what do I wear? I’m thinking about this a lot, and spending a lot of time looking at clothes online to try to figure out the answer to this question. As for actually trying on clothes, it’s a long, painstaking process. I have to take about three of each item to the fitting room - my eyes don’t have any idea what size I am yet. Add to that the fact that I’m shopping at stores that hail from many different countries with different sizing systems, and wow, that’s a lot of numbers to figure out. A US 6 is a UK 10 is a French 38 is an Italian 42 is a Japanese 11 is a jeans 28…
One more getting-close-to-my-one-year-surgiversary observation: My sense of taste has mostly gone back to normal-ish. I still have a heightened perception of bitter and sour, but I proteins are tasting normal-ish to me now. I had a couple of lattes over the weekend, which would have been disgusting to me a few months ago - it just tasted a bit bitter but not terrible. Proteins don’t all taste the same anymore (thank goodness!) and cheese actually tastes basically how it’s supposed to. Or else my brain has re-wired itself to perceive the new signals in the same old way. And if that’s happened, then who cares as long as the result is the same? Fruits and vegetables still taste the best to me. That’s a good change, and one I can live with very comfortably.
Here's a photo comparison of me at GW and me yesterday (three weeks difference) to show what 7 pounds does now. It's the same one I posted in the comments on my last blog post, so nothing new, sry
Unlike what it sounds like, Phase One Maintenance is not actually stopping losing weight, at least for me. Phase One is figuring out what my real actual GW is - where my 5 pound forever range lies. I felt I was at an acceptable weight when I hit 150, so anything thereabouts would feel like a success to me, but I think I will ultimately find myself a bit lower than that. Right now, I'm at 145, and it feels fine. I'm going to shoot for 140 and see how it is there. I might go to 135, depending on how 140 feels, and whether anyone screams "Stop!" at me (that responsibility would have to rest on my husband's shoulders, since I'm not around people I know very well right now). Lots of online weight calculators put me at around 140, based on sex, height, and age, but I'm willing to consider numbers on either side of that. It’s mostly just weird to not have a goal of losing. I took a “What diet is right for you?” Buzzfeed style quiz the other day and it stopped after I put in my stats and said: “You don’t need to lose any weight. Are you just looking for a way to change up your eating habits?” I was like “What?! Oh yeah, I don’t. I forgot.” Like I actually have zero context in my life for what it might be like to not have the goal of losing weight. It’s never happened to me before.
For those who are further away from GW than me, 5 pounds may seem like nitpicking, I totally understand that. That was like less than 2 weeks of losses earlier out for me, and didn't seem to make much of a difference one way or another. However, at this point, 5 pounds makes the difference between clothes fitting and not. I bought a couple of pairs of trousers the day I hit GW, and I'm already taking one of them to the tailor's this week, as they've gotten unattractively loose. They weren't tight to start with (should have gotten a size smaller but they were out), but they went from "Those fit nicely, in a not-tight kind of way," to "Those look sloppy and over-sized" in a matter of three weeks. The other pair of trousers went from tight skinny jeans to comfortable jeans.
Most of the time now, I feel pretty thin. I feel great, actually! I have tons of energy, I feel confident, and I actually look good to myself when I see myself in the mirror (usually - dysmorphia stuff means that sometimes I look fat to myself - I am aware that this is not correct). It's really shocking to feel this way. Shocking in a good way. I saw myself in the mirror in a store at the mall the other day, and I thought, “Hmm. I look like a thin person.”
I've been shopping a couple of times recently, and it seriously feels like being a kid at Disneyland. I can try on anything. Sales associate asks what size I'm looking for, and I can honestly reply without feeling ashamed (after living in oppressive fear of this question for many years). I'm trying to learn how to pick the right size to try on (no way can I eyeball a piece of clothing and have any idea) and also to try on one more size smaller, just to see if it fits. It's pretty baffling. Everything looks way too small, like it’s a joke. I know that vanity sizing shifts over the past decade or so are working in my favor, but my mind is having a hard time adjusting to wearing size small and single digit pants sizes.
I'm still going to the gym most days. My knee is healing, albeit slowly (why can’t I heal like a person in her 20s?), so I can do the stair stepper and the treadmill and the elliptical, but just slower than before. I'm finding it more difficult to get my 10,000 steps every day, too, so my average has gone way down. I realize that my knee needs some babying right now, but I'm impatient. I went to the desert this weekend and was worried about walking around in the sand, thinking that would bother my knee, but it was actually great - the sand sort of made it so I couldn’t twist my knee no matter how I stepped. I went for a couple of very long walks through the dunes. Why can't everywhere be sand dunes? I ask myself this question a lot (the desert is my happy place).
So, food-wise, I’m really pretty much eating like I have been for the past many months. I've upped my calories to about 900 per day, most days, with a few higher when I'm doing something like going to a party. I've eaten a few crackers here and there, with cheese, but I haven't gone crazy or anything. I had some sweet potato chips last weekend - again, just a couple of small handfuls and not going crazy. It's nice to be able to have that control. I just don't feel driven to eat in the same way I was, which may very well be a sign that I'm firmly in the honeymoon phase still (thank goodness). With a couple of my social groups, they have clearly identified that I do not eat sweets or most carbs, so they're making a point of not offering anymore, which is fantastic. I feel like I've trained them. “I don’t eat sweets.” My plan is working.
Some things I've been eating a lot lately: pomegranate seeds in my Greek yogurt -yum! And nicely crunchy. Tuna with chopped pickles and Hellman's light mayo (I can't taste the difference, and it has about 1/3 of the calories, so hey. Thank goodness I can find that and Vlasic pickles here - globalization has its benefits, I guess). Indian food sauce in a jar with shrimp, or fake chicken, or paneer, or tofu added - it's nice and spicy, I can control exactly how much I eat and know the nutritional info, and it's quick and easy. Scrambled eggs are getting easier, so I have them sometimes now. I'm trying to add frozen chopped spinach and other veggies to lots of things to get more fiber and iron. But mostly more of the same: protein drinks, Greek yogurt, cheese cheese and more cheese, nuts, fake vegetarian meat, shrimp, and some salads and veggie sticks. I honestly don't feel too bored with it. My husband has been channeling his energy into cooking for himself (he usually cooks Indian food, but carbier than what I want so I usually just have a bite), and he remarked the other day that he's happy we're not eating out so much now, since we eat better at home and we're saving money better this way. I thought that was quite strange, since we used to eat out a lot, but hey, if he's happy. He’s definitely losing some weight, too, which he’s pleased about.
In case this blog entry didn't seem like it had anything very exciting, here are some pictures of the Empty Quarter to make you feel better about reading this far. It's a gorgeous place - sand for a thousand miles.
High fives all around! Happy dance! It happened!!!!
After waiting a couple of weeks, stalled out just above goal, this morning the magic numbers came up on my scale: 149.6
I took a triumphant lap around the house in my (fitting all the way around me) bath towel to high five the hubs and the cat. Yes! YES!!!
First of all, I’d like to say thank you to everyone on this forum who has been supportive, informative, caring, questioning, and interested in what I’ve been doing for the past 10.25 months (11.25 if you count my pre-op diet, which sounds reasonable). This whole journey would have been a lot harder and certainly lonelier without you. Your reassurances that my momentary brushes with WLS insanity are normal and expected have been truly helpful to my mental state. Your willingness to share your food and exercise strategies has been invaluable. To those who are further out than me, thanks for your shining beacons of hope! To those who are in around the same place as me, thanks for sharing the road together as we learn to navigate past all the rough spots! To those who come after me, thanks for your cheering, and I sincerely hope to see you here in the Maintenance Cafe very, very soon.
One year ago, I was on a “trip of a lifetime” around the US, trying to figure out what to do with my life, but mostly making myself miserable because of my weight. I took a gap year road trip (see, adults can do those, too) and turned it into a pity-fest of “I can’t really enjoy myself because I’m uncomfortable all the time and self-conscious and I hate myself.” Truly sad. I was really beginning to worry about my health, too, as I started to realize that being short of breath, having aching joints, and a sky-high heart rate while just walking around anywhere not absolutely flat were signs of impending health crises. Diabetes runs in both sides of my family. I was a ticking time-bomb.
I had been considering WLS for a long time, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. I was torn between a few possibilities: 1) accepting that my life from there on out would be limited by my physical condition to that of a much older sedentary person, 2) trying to lose weight without surgery AGAIN and facing the overwhelming odds that I just couldn’t or would gain it all back plus more (oh, the mental agony of the regain), or 3) just facing the facts and getting WLS. I did a lot of soul searching. This was all wrapped up in my mid-life quest to figure out what I was doing professionally, as well, and I knew deep in my heart that my uncomfortable and overweight body was going to have a lot of influence on what I decided to do with my life and career, too.
I read a bunch of articles and studies about WLS and the reasons it works when nothing else does, and it was enough to tip the balance on the decision. I couldn’t face living my life as a prematurely old person, limited in my physical activities to what was comfortable and easy, and limited in my thoughts and actions by crippling self-consciousness and shame. I should have decades of life left to have fun, enjoy my time on earth, and see the world, not to sit on the sofa watching TV and running out the clock. Giving in to being overweight felt like giving up on life.
I needed to take drastic action, so I started looking into WLS in Mexico as my insurance didn’t cover it. I found a reputable clinic with a surgeon who’d done a lot of surgeries over the past 20 years (and in fact had surgery himself), and booked my surgery. From the moment I did that, it felt like I had already triumphed - like the burden of trying to do this on my own was suddenly shared by the surgeon and his team, who would be helping me do this. Someone was going to help me. It was going to happen.
I found TTF not long after this, and I thank my lucky stars. Some other forums I looked into were pretty vicious places, full of nasty judgmental people, or people looking to use WLS as a short-cut (how many posts about “I can get away with XYZ after surgery and still lose weight” can you read before you start to absorb that mindset?). So here I’ve stayed, and I’ve met some amazing and inspirational people here and gotten some very sensible and practical advice (none of which involves finding slightly-less-horrible recipes for deep fried stuff at Chili’s).
Along the way, I’ve accomplished basically all of the “wishlist” goals I’d set for myself in one of my first blog posts - 50 reasons to get WLS, ranging from being able to shop in a straight size store (30 pounds ago), to wearing my wedding ring again (I have to get it resized now, it’s too big), to wearing jeans (I’ve got on a pair of too-big size 10s right now), to being comfortable with going swimming (yup, although the thigh skin is a bit sharpei-like at the moment), to being comfortable going to the gym (I’m in decent shape now and not at all embarrassed), to being able to hike (better than ever, I think), to just feeling good about myself when I look in a mirror and being proud of myself (hellz yeah). My life has totally turned around.
WLS gave me the confidence to go back to the Middle East where I had worked before and actually take the job I wanted to take - I hadn’t been able to face the idea of flying 20 hours in a horribly uncomfortable plane seat several times per year, so that had meant staying in the US doing a job I intensely disliked. Plane seats are no problem now. I mean, they’re not awesome, but my size isn’t the problem. In moving to a new country and starting a new job, my weight has not held me back - I can go do active things, I’m not embarrassed at my appearance or activity level, I know that people are (sadly) giving me the benefit of the doubt when they meet me because I look more socially acceptable now (that’s a hard truth to stare at in the eyes). I feel confident. I feel excited to do new things and go new places.
These psychological effects of weight loss are all ones I know shouldn’t exist in an ideal world - I should be proud of myself and feel confident whatever my weight is, and I should be able to pursue happiness at any size, but I just can’t. It’s not in me to do that. I’m totally happy with other people feeling good about themselves at a variety of sizes, but I just don’t. I’ve internalized the societal hatred of fatness, I suppose. I very, very purposefully work at feeling positively about the larger people around me, though - I want to make sure that my feelings about myself do not transfer to others.
So, what’s my plan now? Well, I think I’ll hold out for another 10 pounds and see how it goes (pretty anticlimactic, right?). I’m still losing now, so might as well see what happens. If I go too low, I can always gain a bit back. I was around 140 when I was 30, and I felt good then, so I think that might be where I end up if I have any say in the matter. I’m going to up my calories to around 900 per day for the moment, just to see what happens. I’ll be eating more of the same, though, I think: about 50% fat, 30% protein, and 20% carbs - so definitely still getting my protein goals in. A bit more fruit and veg, I think. If I’m still dropping, I’ll throw in some whole grains and up the calories again - I’ve essentially spent nearly a year in ketosis, I believe, so some carbs would probably shake things up. I’m going to increase my weightlifting at the gym (well, when my knee heals up from its sprain, anyway - it’s a lot better in the last two days) to see if I can rev up my metabolism a little. My skinny little arms could use some muscle, and that might help with the saggy skin there, as well.
I plan to continue tracking my intake like it’s my job. This keeps me honest, and is also very interesting to me - I like to track the data. I’m hoping that it’ll help me get a handle on how much I’ll be able to eat in maintenance, too - I’d like to be kind of sciency about that. I also plan to keep weighing myself every day. I’m fairly mentally OK with seeing numbers go up a little and down a little every day, so I’m good with daily weigh-ins. In periods of my life when I’ve gained, it’s always been accompanied by complete denial that my scale exists.
TL;DR: woman loses ½ her body weight in a year and turns her life around.
Here are my official Before and During and After pictures, as well as a picture of me in my regular clothes so you can see that I don't wear t-shirts and leggings on the daily.
Well, apparently I am not thinking or doing much that feels novel at this point, because my last update was my 9 month update. I should write more frequently. I find that it helps me think.
That said, I kind of feel like I’ve been waiting to update until I hit goal, which I THOUGHT was going to be in the last week or so. I am holding steady at 151 pounds, though, despite my efforts, which include donating blood, shaving off all of my hair, and trying to give myself a nasty stomach bug (just kidding, I’ve taken none of these steps, I’m not even doing anything to shake up my diet like going back to all shakes or anything - just doing what I’ve been doing). Come on, hit GW already. I know, it should be slowing down now that I'm close, but COME ON!
So, as a general check in, I’m doing really really well. My health feels great. I’m not hungry yet (come on, honeymoon, give me a few more months!), I’m right on track with my eating for losing (+/-800 calories per day, 50% or so from fat, 65-85g of protein per day), and I feel pretty happy with my body at the moment. I suspect it will continue to change quite a lot over the next year, but hopefully in a good way.
I sprained my knee last weekend while hiking, so I’m not exercising at the moment. I think I’ll take a couple of weeks off and see how it feels before I try to get back into the gym in any way. It’s a bit painful, and just getting around means limping and being careful of it, but it is actually getting a lot better. It’ll be a week tomorrow, and I feel I can safely say that it’s healing. It’s funny because I actually miss going to the gym. It was really getting to be a part of my daily routine that I looked forward to, and not doing it now feels a bit sad. I guess that’s a good sign.
I’m still regularly visiting my tailor to get stuff taken in (some things are beyond the ability of a tailor now, but I’m hanging onto what I can). The tailor thinks it’s pretty funny every time I bring stuff in. It’s certainly nice not to have to buy a whole new wardrobe every couple of months. The closer I get to goal, the more quickly I move between sizes, so the more frequently I need stuff tailored. I guess it makes sense that losing 15 pounds when it’s 10% of what you weigh makes a whole lot bigger difference than when it's 5% of what you weigh... Sometimes when I try things on now, I look in the mirror and think, “Wow, I look really tiny!” That’s a nice feeling.
I did buy some new clothes in Dubai a few weekends ago - the selection there is way better than here. I bought three dresses and a pair of jeans. The dresses are really cute and I think they will last through 10 more pounds of losses just fine as they have well-defined waistlines (plus I suppose I could get them tailored if not). The jeans will not last through 10 more pounds of losses and I DON’T CARE. I never never never wear jeans when I’m really any heavier than I am now. They just don’t look good on my body - I have big legs: thighs, knees, ankles, the whole bit from top to bottom. Or bottom to ankles, I guess. I prefer to disguise them. When I was shopping, I thought, hey, I’ll try on some jeans and just see how things are going in that department. Maybe I’ll be thin enough to look good in them soon. I grabbed a pair in size 14, which I figured I had a fair chance of fitting into. In the dressing room, I pulled them up easily and buttoned them, and they fell down around my butt. They were way too big. I swapped them out for 12 and 10, and went straight for the 10s, thinking that way, I’d at least know which size was actually too small. The 10s were perfect. I probably should have gone for some 8s but I could not wrap my mind around the idea of even trying them on. Like it literally didn’t occur to me to even look at them. The 10s fit, and they’ll be too big soon, but I BOUGHT SOME JEANS! So fantastic. I’m wearing them right now. It feels like one of those totally normal things that thin people take for granted: Wearing jeans. Shopping for jeans. Trying on jeans. Fitting into jeans. Not feeling like I want to smash the mirror in the dressing room and run out crying when I see myself in the jeans. It’s a good thing that thin people don’t know what goes through our heads - they’re way too fragile to deal with that sh*t I also was able to try on a bunch of stuff that, although it fit, didn’t look how I wanted it to, so I didn’t buy it. One dress fit great, but the sleeves were too short. Something that would not have deterred me before. That’s a real luxury! Normally if it fit, I would buy it because 1) Who knows when I’ll next run into stuff that fits, and 2) Who cares, it all looks bad. Oh, and 3) I hate shopping, get me out of here. Things are different now! Shopping felt like going to Disneyland, mixed with Christmas morning. I can shop in any store I want. So fantastic. I felt like skipping through the mall.
Different from a lot of people I’ve read on here, I feel like my brain is quickly adjusting to being thinner and taking it for granted, like this is the real me and fat me was a bad dream or something. I’m not sure what that says about my psyche. My brain feels more shocked to see pictures of myself fat than thin. I feel like I could almost erase the fat years, somehow, which doesn’t seem very fair to my fat self, since of course life happens whether you’re fat or thin, and I’ve spent a lot more of my life at a weight I don’t want to be than a weight I do want to be. I seem to identify with the thin me better, though - it feels like it’s who I actually AM. Weirdly, I still look down at my body at times, and at certain angles, and think, “I still look fat,” or “My legs are still fat,” or whatever. I mean, I know it’s not really true, but my eyes do still see fat in certain places at certain times. I think it has to do with being a lot thinner, but still being the same shape, if you know what I mean. My thighs are still the biggest part of me. Therefore I look at them and think “fat.” I read somewhere long ago about some psychological study where the researchers did eye tracking on men and women when they looked in a full length mirror, and when they looked at full body photos of people of both sexes. Women tended to look at specific parts and focus on areas they perceived to be flawed, and this was true whether they looked in the mirror or at pictures of others. Men tended to take in the whole package at once (and appraise more generously). I think this seems to be true for me, and my thoughts that go along with looking at those specific areas are certainly usually negative. I try to be nicer to myself. It’s hard, though. Too many years of practice with negative thoughts about myself.
That’s about it for this update. I hope I’ll be back with celebratory news about hitting GW soon. For right now, I’m going to have a camping weekend with plenty of healthy stuff to eat (camping used to equal permission to eat anything and everything, like what happens in the desert stays in the desert). There’s actually rain in the forecast for this weekend, which is amazing because it hasn’t rained since I’ve been here (since August). This is the kind of the place in the world where, when it rains, everyone goes outside and gets excited. I’ll actually be glad to see it if it happens.
Time for the old monthly check-in. It’s been long enough now that this seems like a bit of a routine. It’s also been long enough that I’m not posting as frequently now… for better or worse, things have been rolling along pretty smoothly, and I don’t always have a ton of new experiences or emotions to report. That said, I seem to have squeezed out a few zillion words here, so I must have something to say. Warning: I hope you’re sitting somewhere comfortable.
Here’s the rundown:
This is the first month since the month before surgery that I’ve lost less than double digits in pounds. However, I did lose 9.8 pounds, so that’s pretty dang close. I’ll round up. I lost 10 pounds this month, which is definitely nothing to sneeze at. It’s 5.8% of what my bodyweight was at the beginning of the month. I have consistently lost around 5.5% to 6.5% of my bodyweight each month. That’s getting to be a smaller net number, but it’s the same percentage, which is interesting. If I were to lose that much again this coming month, that would put me at GW. Not sure that will happen, but I’m not too worried about it, either. I’m under 160 pounds now. That feels pretty awesome. My BMI hit “normal” about halfway through the month, and I have to say, it felt freaking awesome, despite the fact that BMI is pretty meaningless on an individual basis. It just felt like “Whew! Now I’m normal!” I truly felt like I wanted to wear it around on a t-shirt. Like it was some sort of evidence that I’m not fat.
My 9 month comparison photos don’t really look that different from my 8 month ones, just the clothes look a bit looser. My hips a little narrower. My legs a little thinner. My boobs a little smaller. It’s not a big jump like it is between some of the other months.
I’m still going at it with 800 or so calories per day. I’ve decided to do that until I’m at goal just because I can. I’m not feeling hungry or deprived, and I’m not feeling low on energy, so hey, why not. It’ll hurry things along a bit, I think, and if I can get settled at some sort of weight where I can buy some clothes and keep them for a while, I will be happy.
My current daily menu looks something like this:
Breakfast - a protein shake. It’s easy, it tastes fine, and it gets me a lot of protein. I’ve found a company in Dubai that sells Syntrax, Quest bars, and Oh Yeah 1 Bars, so I had a bunch shipped to my friend - I’m picking them up this weekend - woo! A trip to Dubai! And familiar protein! And much cheaper than the stuff I’ve been drinking.
Lunch - Greek yogurt, ½ cup, sometimes with frozen berries, plus sometimes veggie sticks
Before gym snack - Babybel cheese
After gym snack - tuna with mayo - ½ can tuna, 1 Tablespoon mayo, plus some pickles
Dinner - shrimp or Quorn fake chicken or soy fake meat or Indian cheese (paneer) in spicy sauce of some kind, often made with greek yogurt or coconut milk. Usually Indian or Thai or something spicy like that. About 3 oz of protein and some nominal vegetables in it.
Dessert - Lol! Jk! I had you going there, didn’t I? New motto: “I don’t eat sweets.” I chant this in my head so it comes out naturally when someone offers me something.
Sometimes some almonds, sometimes some cheese, sometimes a protein bar, sometimes Eggface’s egg bites, sometimes hummus and halloumi cheese and tabbouli (tabbouli from this part of the world is like 99% parsley, so not that couscous or wheat stuff we see in the US), sometimes fish.
At the end of the day it works out to between 800 and 900 calories, with about ½ the calories coming from fat, 65-80+ grams of protein, and almost always under 35 grams of carbs.
I’m not eating a huge variety of stuff right now, but that’s OK with me - my routine stuff is fine, and as long as my food is spicy, I’m happy. My sense of taste/smell has not come back (as per earlier blog posts, the lack of smell is due to what I suppose is permanent loss after a really bad cold last year, and the weird tastes are from surgery) so everything is still a little weird, but my brain seems to be rewiring my senses now so that I’m learning what various things taste like to my new senses, so it’s bothering me less.
In the past week, I’ve had cravings for salty, crunchy snacks before/after dinner, and I’m not sure what that’s about. It may be the end of the honeymoon rearing its ugly head, or it may be that I just need some more calories and salt in my diet. Long story short, I’ve been feeling like I want to eat more calories and snacks, but I’m not really hungry, so I haven’t done that.
I did have one teaspoon of Pinkberry pomegranate frozen yogurt this week. It was delicious, but I could easily stop at the one bite. I also had a couple of little bites of a traditional Omani dessert (called halwa, but really different from the halwa in other parts of the Middle East) because they were offered by a person I couldn’t afford to offend and it would have been culturally inappropriate to say no. It was amazingly delicious. It also gave me heart palpitations since I’m not used to sugar. Lesson learned: eating sweets is a cultural sacrifice I only do if I have to
I’m doing really well at going to the gym 4-5 days per week, and doing a lot of walking the other days. After the Big Hike (see the last blog post), I have decided to work hard at the gym to make things like that easier. I’ve bumped up my cardio to be a little more challenging with the addition of using the stair machine, and I’m doing faster walking on the treadmill (7kph/4.3mph) and/or elliptical. I’m not doing much in the way of weights, although I know I should. I should probably be extending my gym time to 1:30 from the current 1:00 I’m doing. I know that’s in my long term best interest to keep the weight off. I actually like going to the gym now. It’s a nice part of my day.
I went hiking last weekend, and it was fabulous to know that wherever we ended up, I was going to be fine. I wasn’t going to be that person, trudging along at the end, wheezing and panting, that everyone looks at sympathetically. We have to walk up this steep uphill for half an hour? Sure thing. I can do that. It’s a lot easier when you’re not carrying around a 130lb. backpack, let me tell you.
Resting heart rate is 53. My Fitbit says I’m in “excellent health” for my demographic (and who’s to argue with Fitbit?!). No pouch problems. Hair is growing back. Due for blood tests again, but the last ones were good. Taking all my vitamins like my life depends on it Can run up stairs and not get winded. Get antsy if I have to sit too long.
I feel fantastic. Like I can do anything. Like I’m actually a thinnish person. I’m not sure why, but I think my body dysmorphia kind of worked the opposite of how many people’s do - I never felt like I was as big as I was. I always felt like a normal sized person who was temporarily carrying around more weight that I should have been. About 10 pounds ago, I got to a point where I’m actually a little thinner than my internal image of myself. Sometimes at this point I’m surprised to see how thin I look in the mirror - whereas before I hit that point, I was pleased that I was thinner, but I wasn’t pleased at my appearance, if that makes sense. I think I might have a bit easier time of the size change than many for this reason.
I really don’t miss anything at all about being heavy - I know that’s not true for everyone, but I really didn’t identify with it. It’s something I only hated about myself, and couldn’t wait to rid myself of. I think this might be connected to the period of my life I spent as thin previously (just before and after turning 30, when I starved and exercised myself down to 140). I have kept that image of myself in the back of my head all these years, like that was the REAL me, and this fat me was a temporary setback. Yeah, temporary. Like 10 years. Just a passing phase
In the back of my head, I have a few negative thoughts. These sometimes concern my body (Droopy skin! Not my favorite! Worth it, but I don’t like it! - or: My thighs are still fat! I hate them!) but those thoughts are not too loud, and are a whole heck of a lot better than what they used to be (thoughts of self-loathing on a constant repeating loop). Some other negative thoughts include feeling sad when seeing overweight people, knowing how hard that is, and also knowing that they would not welcome me as part of the club at this point. Since I’ve moved, I don’t see anyone who’s ever known me as overweight, so the only me they know is the normal sized one (Actually, I’ve lost 30 pounds here, but no one seems to notice, since they didn’t know me before and most of my clothes are pretty baggy). I have mixed feelings about being that thin person that fat people look at and have negative thoughts.
Some other negative thoughts that pop up from time to time include: What if the losses won’t stop? (I had a dream about this), What if I just can’t take being careful about my eating forever? What if I get tired of exercising? What if I just want to eat some junk food? What if I become a really boring person because I never eat or drink with abandon? <- fat person thoughts
On the whole, I just feel pretty fabulous about myself every day. I mean, I have other problems in my life, like anyone, but as far as my self-image goes, life is good. Right now, it feels like most of my depression and negative thoughts previously were caused by being overweight (although at a certain point, that became a recursive chicken and egg thing, snowballing into… well, into what I was a year ago: fat and unhappy.
And now, the most important thing: my wardrobe
I’ve had my second trip to the tailor (thank goodness for cheap tailors!). Some of my items have now been taken in twice. This time he said, “No more on these, madame. These are finished now.” They have been taken in as much as they can be. I’ve also got a heap of things to go to the tailor again next week. I try something on I haven’t worn in a few weeks, and it’s really surprising how awfully oversized it looks. I cannot WAIT to stabilize a bit and actually buy some things that will fit for a while.
I’m dying to figure out what kind of clothes I’m going to wear. It totally stinks that it’s winter time, because what’s available in stores is totally inappropriate for the weather here. I don’t know why, but this is a world-wide phenomenon: when it’s cold in the US and Europe, stores in hot locations carry winter clothes as if it’s cold there, too. I mean, it’s like 85F/28C every day here - I do not need a wool coat, a heavy sweater, scarves/gloves/hats, or knee high boots. So I’ve got slim pickings at the moment. I’m trying to bide my time and plot my fashion trajectory. What kind of a wardrobe do I want? What’s my style? It’s been a long time since I’ve dressed in whatever I want to wear instead of whatever fits and doesn’t “make me look fat.” I’m poring over the fashion websites (I mean, not serious fashion stuff like Vogue, I’m not that kind of person, but like what people with a good sense of style actually wear sorts of websites), trying desperately to identify a style.
It needs to be a style that’s compatible with the climate here (hot, hot, and hot), somewhat conservative as far as covering up flesh goes (no sleeveless stuff, midi length or at least knee covering length skirts/dresses, not too tight of anything, nothing low-cut) so that it works in my cultural environment. And, it needs to be fun! Because I can wear fun clothes now! I feel like a teenaged girl trying to find her sense of identity through her wardrobe. I hope I don’t go through an unfortunate emo phase.
Most of the people I’ve met since I’ve moved are very, very fit and athletic. They have somehow decided that my husband and I might fit into their world, and that’s nice - they’re fun people and do a lot of interesting stuff. Oman has amazing outdoor activities, and we’d like to take advantage of them. So, we were invited along on a hike this weekend. Hiking: I like that! However, the two women we were going with are seriously hardcore hikers, and we were nervous about this. We warned them that it might be hard for us, and they said “We’ll just go slow. You’ll be fine.”
The hike was only about 6 km (3.5 miles), so not too tough, right? Well, dear reader, the first three kilometers were straight up. Like literally straight up. We went 3 kilometers up a cliff face on a trail I’d describe more as rough stones sometimes piled loosely into steps, and in that 3 kilometers gained a kilometer of altitude. Wow. It was not for the faint of heart. We started at a little village surrounded by high cliffs, and climbed up out of it. Looking up from the bottom, I just could not accept that we were going to climb all the way up there. “There must be a shortcut somewhere,” I thought, as I started up the trail, “no one could possibly climb all the way up there.” No, no shortcuts. We just hiked/climbed up, up, up and watched the village dwindle in size as we ascended above it. There were a lot of pretty hairy moments - glad I don’t have a strong fear of heights - and my hands are actually all scuffed up from using them to pull myself up things. We actually had to use a steel cable bolted to a wall to pull ourselves up onto a shelf at one point, with a huge drop just under us. I had to really talk myself down a few times - there was often a loud voice shouting in my brain that I couldn’t do it, that I’d have to go back, that I’d never make it, that I was going to die, or that this was the worst decision I’d ever made in my entire life.
The moment we pulled ourselves over the top at the edge of the escarpment, I was elated! Whew! Done! Until I looked to our destination (a couple of cell towers where we’d parked one car) and could see that not only were they in the distance, a couple of miles away, but there were a bunch of rocky hills we’d have to climb over to get to them. Like literally climb in many places.
My heart rate was between 120 - 160 almost all day (7 hours), and I had to stop and take plenty of breaks, especially as the altitude started making me suck wind a bit more towards the top. I fueled myself up frequently (shake, bar, almonds). It was literally the hardest thing I have ever done. I can’t believe I did it. I had no idea I would be able to. If I had seen what it looked like before we actually arrived, I never would have said yes! But I did it. It was unpleasant and painful, but I did it. When we finished, I asked whether this was a hard hike, relative to others in the area. “Oh yeah. If you can do this one, you can do any of them,” they answered. Trial by fire, then, I guess. To be fair, the views were incredible, and it was an amazing thing to do - just way, way harder than I had anticipated. I worked harder than I knew I was capable of.
I got my all time high day of steps on Fitbit (27,000+), but that really just does not seem to reflect how hard it was. We spent all day climbing up, pulling ourselves up, forcing ourselves up onto the next step, the next shelf, the next ledge. My Fitness Pal thought I should have eaten 4,000 calories yesterday Well, I did eat 1,000, which is quite a lot for me.
It was steep. It was hard. It was long. It was painful. There is absolutely no way on earth I would have been able to do it even a couple of months ago, let alone any longer ago than that. And other than some blisters on my feet (which always get blisters, so nothing special there), I’m no worse for the wear. I survived. Now I just have to live in fear of being invited on the next hiking trip.
Here are some photos. In the top ones, the village is the one we hiked up from. In the bottom right picture you can see the cell phone towers we hiked up to at the top of the mountain. The white splotch behind the tree in the left picture is the same village, seen from the top. In the bottom pictures, you can see me, working hard. Some of the pictures are a little Where's Waldo, but I'm there.
Today is my 8 month surgiversary.
As of today, I weigh 169 pounds. I have lost 121 pounds (102 since surgery).
My BMI is 25.7, down from 44.
I’m about 5 pounds from “normal” BMI (whatever relevance you give this number)
I lost 11 pounds this month, making it the ninth month in a row I’ll pulled double digits (-11 for the last three months in a row)
I lost 37% of my excess weight this month - that number gets bigger and bigger as the amount I have to lose gets smaller and smaller, obviously.
I lost 6% of my total body weight this month. That seems like quite a lot.
My current, rather flexible goal weight is 150, which is now within shouting distance.
I feel like I’ve achieved most of my lifestyle goals. I can do the things I want to now without pain or discomfort, being out of breath, or feeling self-conscious.
~~~(With the exception of swimming. *prepare for long, whiny complaining ahead* My legs look pretty awful to me - I know I’m thinner, and I should be proud of my body, but I am not now, nor have I ever been, happy with my legs. I still haven’t bought a bathing suit. I need to, since it’s getting to be bathing suit weather here now. I had a dream last night that I went to the beach with a bunch of people I’ve met here at work. They were all swimming, and I was sitting on the beach, alone, feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t have a bathing suit because I would be too self-conscious in it. This is not hard dream to analyze. Two groups of my colleagues are off on bathing suit related adventures this weekend, ones that would probably be awesome but that I didn’t want to go on. I hope the next 20 pounds brings me a little peace of mind in this area. Part of it is my general self-consciousness, but another part is pure 100% pride: I know my legs don’t look good, and I don’t want anyone to see them. I don’t feel like I can just “get over it” and come to terms with my appearance. And no, it’s not body dysmorphia. My legs do, indeed, look wobbly and cellulitey, and whatever the opposite of toned and fit is. Even when I was a runner and much thinner than I am now, they did not look good. This seems like a petty complaint, but it’s pretty central to my sense of self. I have always been ashamed of my legs, like since I was a kid. So I’m hoping the next 20 pounds will do something magical. Yes, I'm trying hard to keep in mind being thankful for my health and that I have a pair of good, functioning legs that take me where I want to go. I told you this would be whiny, and it is. It is not a feeling I am proud of, but it is an honest feeling, so I'm sharing it.)~~~
I stopped running this week. The first week, everything felt fine. The second week, my knees felt a little achey after the first couple of days, and on the third day of running, they hurt. They kept hurting after I stopped running, and still feel a little achey now. ACL achey is not something I want to play around with, so I’m back to walking fast and lifting weights. It stinks because I was kind of getting in the groove with the running, going at a decent pace, and my body was feeling really good from it (well, other than my ACLs). I’ve kicked up my walking pace to varying between 4-4.3 mph, which is a pretty fast clip and gets my heart going pretty well. I figure 45 to 60 minutes of that is adequate for cardio, and with some weights thrown in, that’s enough to get in decent shape. This will do for now, and I’ll look back into running in another 20 pounds. Maybe that’s light enough to not hurt myself. Why do I keep saying "in another 20 pounds"? It sounds like this 150 GW I have in mind is taking on some psychological significance I didn't mean it to.
I went out to dinner last night with a group and had some lovely coconut curry prawns, and I don’t think anyone at the table noticed my weird eating at all - I ate most of the prawns, lots of the curry sauce, and none of the rice it was served with. It was very tasty. I had a couple of glasses of wine (probably should have stopped at one, but oh well). I passed on the dessert - a big group at the table next to us had a huge birthday cake, and were apparently impressed with the level of gusto with which we sang happy birthday to a stranger, and sent over slices of cake for everyone at our table. Cake is not my thing, so that wasn’t hard, and I just pushed mine toward the garbage disposal, I mean my husband, who ate most of my share. He’s very handy for situations like these. (He’s actually lost about 30 pounds since I started this whole process, so I’m apparently not using him as my personal garbage disposal too often.) It was a good evening that showed me how easy it can be to eat what I need to eat without having to answer any questions or get weird looks. None of these people know me as anything other than what I look like now, so they will learn to accept my tiny meals as normal for me. And as I looked around at the people I was eating with, I guessed that I was probably the thinnest one at the table. None of them are very big, but just a little more overweight than me. Very strange.
It’s update time.
I’m at almost 8 months out, and things are going really well. I’ve lost 117 pounds (!) in 9 months - I lost 20 pounds in the month pre-op. I’m 23 pounds away from my somewhat flexible goal weight of 150. That sounds crazy to me. I mean, it’s only been 9 months total. That’s a pretty quick timeframe for losing a whole human's worth of weight.
I’m eating around 800 calories per day still, with a few days that go up to 1000 if I’m being social, and a few days that are down around 600 if I’m busy or something doesn’t sit well with me. I’m getting my 65+ grams of protein per day (usually 75 or so). I’m still tracking like it’s my job. I take my vitamins daily. I drink my 64oz+ of water per day. I feel like I’m getting enough food to have enough energy to do everything I want to. I sometimes feel a little more interested in food than I was a couple of months ago, and some things have stopped tasting as bad as they have for the past few months. Almonds are OK now, and dairy tastes less weird. The things that taste the best are fruits and vegetables. My newly increased veg quantities (raw veggie sticks every day, occasional salads) means improvement on the regularity front, thank goodness. I can eat basically anything, but sometimes get that stuck feeling if I eat something really dense or don’t chew well enough. Eggs sometimes just feel stuck. Fish sometimes just feels stuck. Sometimes I don’t chew my carrot sticks into smithereens and they feel stuck. That one is totally on me, though.
A typical day’s food for me might be:
protein shake for breakfast
greek yogurt for lunch
vegetable sticks and spicy labneh dip (basically greek yogurt with spices stirred in) for a snack
a piece of cheese for another snack
maybe a few almonds
protein and a bit of veg for dinner (fake meat or shrimp or fish or tofu or cheese, cooked in some kind of spicy sauce, plus the vegetables that go with it)
I’m not really eating any junk or anything that isn’t pretty healthy, in fact. I have a glass of wine every week or so, socially. I have almonds or veggie sticks or cheese when I want a snack. I’ve been faced with pizza and pasta and chips and all that stuff I used to just need many many times, and I think I’ve just sort of grown immune to it. My diet is currently sort of low-carb, sort of keto - it’s about 50% fat, and 40% protein, and 10% carbs, which come almost exclusively from fruit and veg and dairy. I’m not really sure how I’ll change that up as I approach goal - it seems that the fewer carbs I have, the fewer I want, but I think I’ll be willing to test out some quinoa or whatever at that point. I think I’ll probably increase my bean intake then, though, because I love beans and have actually been feeling a bit deprived since I’m avoiding eating too many of them while I’m in the active losing phase, because they are pretty high in carbs (the good kind of carbs! I’m just trying to stay in ketosis).
I’m exercising as much as I should be, I think. I go to the gym 4 or 5 days per week, and almost always get at least my 10,000 steps on the other days. I’m doing mostly cardio at the gym for the moment, but a little bit of weights (I know I should focus on that more). I’m walking fast, doing a little running (15 minutes for now), and/or a little elliptical. My body is feeling really good. My cardio fitness is getting pretty good - I don’t get winded when running (albeit slowly) and I’m happy to run up and down the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. I don’t feel like I’m lugging around a 100+ lb backpack all the time, dragging myself up stairs, getting tired just walking a bit. I have, in general, a lot more energy now - I feel energized by going to the gym instead of exhausted by it, so now I look forward to going there.
My body is still doing the weird shrinking a lot quickly and getting loose skin, and then letting the skin catch up thing. Right now I’m in a tightening phase, I guess, since my arms are a bit less wobbly. Things are, in general, not too weird with my skin, which is wonderful, and also does not guarantee that it will be this way in 20 more pounds. Basically, I’m not counting my chickens yet, but I’m thankful for those as yet uncounted chickens, however many of them there turn out to be when I count them at some future date.
My clothes are getting too big insanely quickly now. I just had a bunch of stuff taken in at the tailor’s, and they are already a bit too big, and I can see that it’s a matter of weeks before I either get them taken in again or just buy new stuff. I think this tailor is going to have some pretty regular business from me. At the beginning, 10 pounds made zero difference in my clothing size. I had to lose like 30 to change sizes at all. Now, 10 pounds is totally changing how my clothes fit. Which is great. And it also sucks.
I’ve told a few friends about my WLS, not many, but a few. They have all been very positive. I feel like the more success I have, the easier it is to tell people, because, hey, what can you say when someone you’ve known for a long time who has had a weight problem since forever suddenly is much thinner, healthier, and happier?
I’m in a closed Fb group for women who had surgery at the same time as me, and I kind of wish they had the same support as I do here on TTF. They very early started to slip and slide back into some of the eating habits that I’m trying not to fall into. At the moment, there are several of them who keep coming back on to complain that they haven’t lost anything in months and are worried their surgery didn’t work and they make pledges and promises to “get back on track.” I’m happy to say that the complete and total normalization of eating in a pretty controlled fashion that happens here on TTF has helped me enormously - I don’t need to “get back on track” because I haven’t left the track. I understand that my first year or so out is my honeymoon period, when I should lose the maximum I can because my lack of hunger and my tiny stomach make that easier during this time. It is amazingly helpful to read of people six months out, a year out, several years out, many years out who still think very mindfully about what it is they’re putting in their bodies and take great care to make sure it’s protein first, then veggies, then everything else if there’s room. Seeing that people can continue in this manner without feeling “deprived” or like they “deserve a treat” really helps me think about food this way, too. When everyone helps create this climate of careful eating, I benefit by feeling I’m not alone. I don’t have any sort of god-given or constitutional right to pizza after work at the end of a long week. I have a responsibility to my body to provide it with the nutrition it needs, particularly protein. Entertainment food can come later if I have room. Thank you to all the people here on TTF who contribute to the climate of healthy eating that exists here on the forum. I don’t know what I’d do without you
I’ve been asked by a couple of people this week if I’m a “runner.” I’ve also been asked if I want to go overnight backpacking. And also which gym I belong to (because of course I belong to one). This is a new thing. I don’t think these people are being polite - I think they see it as an actual possibility that I am that kind of person (I’m trying to be). I’m still overweight: I won’t hit that magical “normal” BMI number for another 10 pounds. However, I look pretty normal.
This is all a little alarming. Number one, I’m definitely going to betray and abandon the old fat me. I’m living in a new place where no one knows me yet. I do not remotely feel tempted to tell anyone that I’ve recently lost a lot of weight. I’m trying to decide whether I’m trying to hide my past, run from my past, erase my past, or whether I’m just moving on in a healthy way. Number two, I’m going to have to do some awfully sporty things to keep up this facade. This is probably a very good thing for me. I tend to be a baseline fairly lazy person unless I’m pushed by something to work out a lot. Sometimes that something is vanity, sometimes it’s boredom, and sometimes it’s a quest to keep up with peer pressure. It’s what’s led to the periods in my life - sometimes they’ve been several years long - when I’ve been in good shape. This could be a really good motivator for me.
I went camping with a group of people this weekend. I love camping. This was just car camping, so nothing athletic about it, but it was the group of people that was athletic. This is a group whose respective hobbies include: rock climbing, backpacking, weightlifting, cycling, long distance running, kite surfing, yoga, ultimate frisbee, surfing, and… well, you name it. If it’s an outdoorsy, athletic thing, at least one of these people does it. It was a little intimidating. They were all very nice, though, and are excited to incorporate us into their sporty group. I hope I can keep up. It may actually push me to do things I want to do in theory but am a bit chicken to do without some external motivating factors.
This brings me to my love/hate relationship with running, which I am contemplating starting again. Weight loss has always been accompanied by running in my life. Chicken or egg sort of thing - not sure which spurs on the other, but they seem to go hand in hand. I wrecked my ACLs in my teens (soccer left and downhill skiing right), so I’ve had to be careful about how heavy I am when I run. Below 180, I seem to do OK. When I had my surgery, one of the things I promised myself was that when I got to that threshold, I would start running again. Running makes me feel good (eventually! it sucks for a while). It gets me in shape the way little else does. It seemed like a really long way off when I made that decision, perhaps an imaginary amount of time in the future. Maybe I’d never get there - statistically I wouldn’t, since average weight loss after RNY is something like 70% of total excess weight, and that would still put me above 180.
Well, it’s been coming on the horizon for a while now, and I’ve hit and passed the 180 mark. I’m at 175 today (-82% of total excess weight). I have not started the running. This is where I confess to my “reasons” (excuses).
Best reason, possibly an actual reason rather than an excuse: I broke some toes a few years ago and continued to wear high heels for a couple of months afterwards instead of buying some flats to let the toes heal properly. Hey, at least I quit running to let them heal. I realize how stupid this sounds in retrospect, but as a formerly sporty person, I have broken toes many times in my life, and you can’t really do anything about them. You just tape them up and let them heal. The stupid part, the high heels, was because at the time I only wore heels. I didn’t own any sensible flats other than workout shoes or hiking boots. I didn’t want to buy flats just for the few weeks it would take for my toes to heal. This was a mistake, as it had a knock-on effect on the rest of my foot. My metatarsals got a bit whacked out of alignment because of my idiocy. This led to some foot pain that led to me not getting back to running. More pain -> less exercise -> weight gain -> more pain -> less exercise -> weight gain -> more pain, etc. (depression fits into that equation somewhere, too) The good news is that the pain is getting better with the weight loss. The bad news is that my foot still hurts a bit when I walk for a long time. I’m thinking of testing out my pet theory that running will put pressure on different places and might not hurt.
Next best reason, sort of an excuse, but maybe not?: my knees are delicate creatures and have now been put under the strain of me being a lot heavier for several years. I am also older. My parents both had/have knee problems. I don’t want to wear my poor knees out. Of course, this does not take into account the fact that running on the proper surfaces with good shoes shouldn’t be a problem if I’m not too heavy, and also that running can strengthen the muscles that help support my knees. And now I’m below that magical 180 threshold…
Worst reason, definitely an excuse: I’m afraid of looking fat when I run. I know I am not in running shape, and I fear people looking and judging as I get over that first few months hump of looking awkward and gasping for breath and not being in shape. I’m jiggly and bouncy. I want to look like a tiny gazelle running. I do not look like that now. If I try running, I’ll have to do it at the gym, on a treadmill, facing a mirror (why oh why are gyms full of mirrors) and in front of whoever is there working out. It’s still really hot here, so no outdoor running yet. The only way to NOT look bad running is to start running and get in shape, I know. But what if I wait another 20 pounds?
Feel free to tell me of your thoughts on my reasons/excuses in the comments. I’m trying not to be stupid, but I’m also trying to not let my lazy and chicken-hearted inner voices control me.
So, operation Masquerade as a Normal Person is in full swing. I am a Healthy Person who eats very little, mostly protein. I am a Person Who Exercises Regularly. I am a Sporty, Outdoorsy Person. No one knows any different here, so I’m just going to go with that.
Am I betraying my formerly fat self? I’m of two minds about that. She is me, and neither of us liked being that person, suffering physically and emotionally all the time and beating herself up for her failures and shortcomings. It was awful and depressing, and leaving that chapter behind is a positive step forward. On the other hand, she is me, and erasing her from the picture is not honoring the she who became me, or the me that comes out of her suffering. I am the product of all of the experiences of my life, whether they were experiences I want to talk about and share or not. She will always be there, even if I don’t acknowledge her to anyone else. It feels a little like photoshopping out an ex from all of my photos, though.
Carving out a new identity is a big part of extreme weight loss. I know that. I’ve done that before (several times). Carving out a new identity is also a big part of moving to a new country, far from people you know. I know that. I’ve done that several times, too. Put both of those factors together, and I’ve got the potential for a whole new life, one that I can mold and shape as I want to. At some point, rearranging your life to consist of entirely new behaviors and experiences does actually make you a different person - the underlying personality is there, but with new thought processes and habits layered on top. I think that’s called growth.
This post is the follow-up to my post asking for advice earlier this week - http://www.thinnertimesforum.com/topic/120767-advice-for-post-op-dinner-party/
A few days ago, I starting really worrying about a dinner party I was invited to and asked for advice. I got lots of good pointers, mostly along the lines of “don’t get so worked up over this - people won’t care/notice.” Well, last night was the dinner party, so here I am for a post-party postmortem.
Before the party, I had emailed the hostess to say that I was a vegetarian-who-now-eats-fish (a category I once derided as “fake-atarian” but must now dignify with the name of “pescatarian” I guess). I was happy to hear that the hostess also falls into this category, as does another guest (whew! I wouldn’t be arriving at a lamb-roast! that’s a good start!). I loaded up on protein early in the day just in case, and determined to do my best to eat a little bit of whatever was served. I was also praying for salad, since I can do a pretty decent job of taking out some green leafy vegetables without getting too full. Or maybe a buffet-style thing where I could just take tiny bits of things.
I arrived to find that there were only 5 of us, total (alarm bells!) and that the hosts are sort of famous for their cooking (more alarm bells!). However, they are also very very very fit and health conscious people, so I was still holding out for something other than a giant plate of carbs. I had some wine before dinner and some veggies and hummus, which was a great option. Then, the baked brie topped with fruit and nuts and maple syrup (Canadians!! grr!) came out of the oven, and a loaded up cracker was thrust at me. “This,” I thought briefly, “would be a bad time to find out that I dump from sugar.” You see, dear reader, I have had no sugar, other than the stuff naturally occurring in dairy, fruit, and veggies, in 8 months, so I had no idea whether this would be the end of the world or no big deal. (I maybe should have experimented beforehand.) I ate the cracker with the stuff on top, and the maple syrup definitely wasn’t a selling point in my opinion, but it went down and stayed down, and I felt OK. As a non-Canadian, I do like maple syrup in theory, but do not enjoy the liberal use of it that Canadian expats seem to enjoy.
Then, to table. Out come pre-plated dinners (worst case scenario!). They served seared tuna and grilled vegetables and grilled halloumi (an excellent firm salty Middle Eastern cheese, best eaten grilled or fried, doesn’t melt, just gets crispy). Yes! I can eat all of those things! I skipped the bread (and actually the salad, too, no room with this giant plate of normal sized portions!), and attacked the tuna, which was delicious. I ate really really slowly and drank wine while eating (please just wash some of this food through so I can eat more!) and managed to eat about half of the tuna, all of the halloumi and some of the veggies. I mumbled some things about low carb and how delicious everything was - it was actually really delicious. At a certain point, I was admonished to stop eating if I was full and not worry about it, since of course I was the last one eating and the only one who didn’t clean her plate I gave up at that point.
Then, the hostess disappeared into the kitchen to get dessert. Which came back to the table already plated (small voice inside making strangling sounds). It was sitting in front of me before there was any possible way I could have politely declined or even asked for a smaller piece. These are people I don’t know at all, remember, and who are being very nice to me and my husband as new people, to invite us over for dinner - so I can’t really be rude here. It’s super ultra rich chocolate cake and ice cream (small voice takes on new urgency, sort of quietly screaming). I’m pretty sure I looked a little like a deer in the headlights, but I tried to be calm, really I did. I skipped the ice cream and got some tsk tsks for that, but I ate a lot (for me) of the cake. I maneuvered around the frosting and got only the cake itself, to minimize the dumping risk. I ate super slowly. I tried to refuse the fancy Italian chocolate liqueur that was served with it, and was allowed to share one with my husband (I took fake sips).
The cake was good. I’m not really a chocolate person (sounds crazy, I know, but I don’t love it, and since my sense of smell went haywire last winter, it just tastes sort of bitter to me), so it wouldn’t be my thing in the best of scenarios, but at this point, I’m just eating slowly and hoping that I’m not going to have a dumping episode right here at these fine people’s house. I did not. I got a bit hot and sweaty, but nothing other than that. I’m glad I didn’t push my luck with the ice cream. I was fine.
After we left, I was like “Woo hoo! I made it through being invited to someone’s house for dinner and I did OK! I ate like half of everything! I ate cake! I made it!!!!!!” I think I’ve just established myself as a person who doesn’t eat much or maybe a picky eater, which is fine. I guess that both of those things describe me now, so that’s probably a good thing. “Hi, I’m Jen, and I’m a picky eater who doesn’t eat much.” BUT, I’m a picky eater who doesn’t eat much who can go to dinner at someone’s house and not die!
I did my MFP food diary when I got home (gee, I’m so fun), and I only had about 1100 calories total for the day, even including the two glasses of wine and the cake. I guess there’s only so much damage you can do if you’re eating tiny quantities. Good to keep in mind while focusing on keeping the quantities of suboptimal things small.
I think this dinner was the signal to me that I need to experiment a bit more and figure out some more coping strategies for dealing with being served things that are less than ideal for my way of eating. Living the life of an expat in this part of the world means eating dinner at other people’s houses pretty frequently, as that’s a major portion of the social entertainment available. Since we’ve just arrived, I think there will be a good number of these kinds of things as people get to know us, and I’m hoping they all go as smoothly, despite my fears, as this one went.
I’m about 28 pounds from GW right now, so at some point in the foreseeable future, I’m going to have to learn how to maintain, which will require learning to deal with the normal everyday food challenges presented as I go through my life. Up to this point, I’ve been narrowly focused on eating *perfectly* and this has served me well, but my strategy will have to change a bit. In general in life, I find it much easier to be an “all or nothing” kind of person - I can do *perfect* perfectly, for a while, until I can’t. I have a hard time going back to something like *perfect* after falling off the wagon, or making periodic allowances that disrupt *perfect*. This is something I need to work on. The cake didn’t kill me. The maple syrup didn’t even kill me. Today I can eat whatever I like, which in this post-WLS iteration of my life means greek yogurt and protein shakes and cheese and shrimp, and I don’t have to feel bad or guilty or anything negative at all about what I ate last night. In fact, I can feel good about it. I was flexible and I ate both to sustain my health and to perform a social function, and both of those things are important in life.
And they liked us enough to invite us camping next weekend, so I guess we passed the test. I’ll make sure to bring some protein bars.
Today is my seven-month-aversary. As of today, I have lost 110 pounds (well, 109.6, but I’m going to round up here). Holy smokes. That’s a lot. That’s a whole person. My losses this month totaled 10.4 pounds, which is the smallest number since the whole thing began, but that’s pretty normal, since I weigh a whole lot less now. I’ve figured out my monthly losses as a percentage of total body weight (calculating from my weight at the beginning of the month), and here’s how they look:
M0: 6.6% (one month of pre-op low carbing)
M1: 5.8% (one month after surgery)
Pretty crazy. I am truly stunned to look in the mirror now - I look pretty good, even to my overly self-critical eyes. I exercise regularly. I’m very careful about what I eat, but I always seem to find something that works for me (to be fair, I’m fairly selective about the restaurants I go to). I’ve got new students and new colleagues who will never know me as a fat person. That’s very liberating, mentally speaking.
I had a friend, who I haven’t seen in a couple of years, come to visit last weekend, and she was really amazed. I told her about the surgery (she’s a very very close friend and a tight lipped one, as well), and she was surprised, but supportive. It was kind of nice to have someone else I care about in the loop. It was also fantastic to be able to run around and be active in the hot temperatures and high humidity here, without ending up in a puddle of sweat, panting hard, and with a red face from overexertion. We took some pictures, and I was really surprised to see how I looked in them: regular sized. My face looks thin. None of the photos were “at a bad angle” (that’s what we say when we mean “not at that one very specific angle where I don’t look quite so heavy”), and all of them looked fine. What a great feeling to not be afraid of the camera. I have very few photos of myself (particularly more than just from the shoulders up) from the last few years because I hated how they looked. Now I guess I can go back on the photographic record again… sad how our feelings about our bodies determine how we mark our passage through time with photos.
*Note that the photos I’m attaching have no pictures of me - that is because all the photos of me are with my friend, and I’m not certain she’d enjoy her 15 minutes of WLS blog fame*
While my friend was here, I enjoyed more “discretionary” (healthy, low-carb, but larger quantities) eating, bumping my calories up to around 900+ per day (over 1000 calories one day!!!!!), and honestly it felt good to go back to 700-800 when she left. I didn’t lose any weight for about a week, but not sure if that had anything to do with what I was taking in, or whether it was just one of those weeks when it wasn’t coming off (the week previous I lost 5 pounds, so who knows). It felt like I was constantly full at 900+ per day. I’m starting to wonder how many calories I’ll be able to maintain on, now that the end of the rapid loss phase is at least somewhat within my sights.
My first week of classes is in the bag. It actually went really well, both personally and WLS-wise, as well. The new students and colleagues are really nice and the program I’m working in is a good one, so I think I’ll be happy here. I took my food with me every day (greek yogurt, string cheese, almonds, protein shakes) and was careful to eat when I needed to during the day. I brought an emergency protein bar, just in case, but I didn’t end up needing it. Having it with me was a bit of peace of mind, though. I drank quite a lot of water all day every day. I exercised at the gym on campus EVERY DAY after class - I had forgotten that when I’m thinner, I actually enjoy exercising, and it helped keep my first week stress at a manageable level. All in all, it was a very good, if exhausting, first week at a new job.
Unfortunately/fortunately /, I’m going to need to find a tailor or buy some more clothes because I’ve run out of the stuff I had squirreled away from my thinner days. It’s all too big for me now. I tried it all on before I left the US, and it was definitely not tight, but workable. Now, however, it’s unwearable, like I look like I’m wearing someone else’s way too big clothes. I have three skirts, three pairs of trousers and one dress that are just too big to wear. That’s a substantial chunk of my wardrobe, since I only brought what fit in a few suitcases with me. People, these are wardrobe staples we’re talking about here! I’m having a wardrobe crisis! I’m actually kind of looking forward to doing some shopping, though: imagine that! I think I’ll try to aim for some stuff that will work for a range of weights, like dresses and skirts in stretchy or drapey fabrics, because I’m pretty sure I’ll go through some more sizes in the next few months.
I’ve been watching Chemistry Queen on YouTube this week. She’s just had brachioplasty and abdominoplasty and it was very interesting to watch her videos from just before and after. It looked like she was in a lot of pain, but the results, even so early out, are impressive. She’s a really brave blogger, though, totally willing to tell it like it is and put herself out there, showing just what things look like and feel like. Thank goodness for people like that. I’m not having a lot of skin problems yet, but I do have 30 pounds to go until I get to my (somewhat arbitrary) GW, so I don’t know if I’m going to end up a bit saggier looking than I am now. My skin all feels a bit loose at the moment, like it’s not that tightly attached to me and can slide around a bit. I’m hoping that it’ll tighten some after I get to GW and it has a chance to recover a little. It’s funny how it goes in cycles - I wake up one day and notice that my chin wattle has become a thing and looks saggy, and I stress out about it and slather it (even more than usual) with three different kinds of moisturizer. This continues for a week or so. Then, one morning, I wake up and look in the mirror and it looks OK again. The chin wattle is synchronized with the arm wings and jiggly thighs - they all get really loose for a while, and then suddenly they’re not so bad again one day.
Overall, I just feel really positive right now. I’m not really struggling with food issues, I’m still losing, I’m not hungry at all (yet?), and I’m looking and feeling good. Is this why they call it the honeymoon period?
Photos below are of one of the many many forts in Oman, plus a shot at a resort on the beach. The water/rock color combo is stunning! I'll need to do some swimming here.
Well, it’s been more than a week, and I’m surviving so far!
My in-flight meals were a WLS post-op’s nightmare: giant heaps of carbs. We always sign up to get the vegetarian option, which is great on some airlines and not so great on others. KLM and Delta seem to have a carnivore with a chip on his shoulder designing the veg menu. We were actually served a hamburger bun with some kind of gloopy rice thing as the filling for one meal. Seriously? Everyone else gets eggs and cheese? Which is vegetarian (but not vegan, but we didn’t specify vegan, just veg)? But we get bread with rice? And was that any better than the previous meal, which was pasta with bread? OK, finished complaining. Luckily I had bars, bars, and more bars with me. That’s about all I ate for two days.
Warning: non-WLS-related details ahead! Skip ahead if you are only here for the WLS stuff.
Our new place is an apartment in a building with another new person (that’s a plus). It’s only about a 15 minute drive from the university, if traffic isn’t bad, and about a 10 minute drive to the sea, which is nice. It’s in an area with big fancy houses, and is the only apartment building, which means it’s quiet - and the local mosque is even fairly quiet, which is not a given in this part of the world. The apartment itself is big, but not very nice - three bedrooms and four bathrooms all to ourselves (I guess our cat gets her own room). It’s sparsely furnished, which makes me long for all of my nice stuff that is, sadly, sitting in a storage unit in the US for the year. The walls are freshly painted an ungodly shade of pepto bismal pink.
The university seems nice so far - the campus is big enough that in the hot months you pretty much have to drive to class, but the grounds are pretty. Our department seems full of friendly, well-organized people. The classrooms and offices are nicer and better set up than I had imagined. All seems good so far. We spent the first week just doing paperwork: visas, driver’s licenses, utilities, phones, internet, bank account, etc, etc, etc. That stuff is a pain whenever you move, but at least there were people here to help with it.
The weather has been pretty hot, but not as bad as we were expecting. It’s been in the 90s (low 30s C), but not in the 110s (44+C), like Dubai is getting at this time of year. Humid, though.
Back to the WLS stuff.
My food intake is going to be different here. Some of my staples are not easy to find or cheap here. Examples: cottage cheese is available, but it’s the British kind - it is not at all the same thing. Greek yogurt is available at a grocery store a fair drive from my house, but it’s Fage, so it’s imported, so it’s like $10 for a small tub, $4 for an individual pot - this means I will be hanging my yogurt to make my own Greek yogurt (hanging it in a cloth and letting the whey drip out turns it into Greek yogurt). Fake vegetarian meat is available! Quorn chik’n roast! Morningstar patties! Hooray! I was not expecting this here! Protein shake mixes are readily available. On the more positive side concerning food, I’m back to where I can get great Middle Eastern and Indian food, which I really enjoy. The spicy flavors appeal to my messed up post-WLS palate: if it’s really spicy, I can’t taste that it tastes weird.
Some food challenges: lunch at school will probably have to be brought from home, even though I think most people eat in the dining room, so it’s a social thing. I will have to be that weird one with a Tupperware full of strange stuff instead of having what everyone else is having. I’ll deal. Another challenge: other faculty bringing nice things to eat. This is a very food-as-social-gesture culture, so saying no is hard. I’ve already had to say no to several lovely looking cakes. I hope I’m doing it gracefully. I worry about that.
I managed to go out with a big group and not make a big deal of not drinking at a pub quiz - I kept getting soda water and limes, and I think it looked enough like a G&T to not be suspicious. I also managed to kick @$$ at the pub quiz, which I’m sure helped people overlook my suspicious not-drinking behavior.
As a new hire, I have to undergo a health screening, the first part of which is over - it was just taking all the vitals plus getting a chest x-ray (for TB). It is a HUGE RELIEF to go to the doctor and not be afraid (I mean petrified!) of getting weighed and measured and stuff. I was like, lah-di-dah, sure you can weigh me with another person in the room. Whatevs. My pee test came back with ketones in it (I posted about that and others were kind enough to assure me that the doctor probably won’t suspect I’m dying or anything once I explain how I’m eating), and also I came up slightly hypoglycemic, but that was after hours and hours and hours of no food. It was a tough day. I get the real exam in a week or so, during which I’m sure I’ll be asked about my pee and also the giant nest of titanium staples that are very apparent, I’m sure, in my x-ray.
So, it’s time to join a gym. Fortunately, there is a faculty club on campus that has all the gym sort of stuff (weights, cardio machines, pool, tennis, etc.) and is very reasonably priced. How convenient is that? We looked around today, and it looks like a pretty good setup, so we’re going to hit the gym tomorrow! We’ve really just been mall walking since we’ve been here - it’s pretty hot out, and muggy besides, so a gym will be just the thing. I’m actually looking forward to it.
So far, my favorite part about this move is that I feel way more confident in meeting new people. It feels so great to just not have that 30% of my mind busy running myself down, and second guessing everything, and worrying about what I look like, and stressing about things like getting winded walking up stairs or feeling really hot and sweaty if I have to walk out in the hot weather, or trying to figure out what my next (punishment) diet is going to consist of. It’s just very freeing to not have all of those worries in my head. I can think about other things. I can focus on being more positive (I tend to be a teensy bit negative, or perhaps cynical).
My weight loss doesn’t look like it’s slowing down much - in the past 30 days I’ve lost about 13 pounds. I’m still eating around 700 calories per day, I’m getting just shy of 10,000 steps per day, but I’m not really “exercising” at the moment, just walking when I can during the day. That all changes tomorrow: Gym Day. So, we’ll see how things go in the first few weeks here, but it looks as if all is well on the WL front. I currently have about 35 pounds to lose to get to goal, which sounds pretty good to me. I feel like I’m in a very good place at the moment, so I’m not in a huge rush to lose those 35 pounds. Getting closer…
Six months! I can't believe it. It's both flown by and dragged by, depending on my mood at the moment. Me six months ago seems like me in another life.
I have lost 99.2 pounds since my pre-op diet started, one month before surgery. I have lost 80 pounds since surgery (come on, scale, can't you give me one more little pound so I can have a round number?). In the back of my head, I had a fantasy that I dared not speak of... to lose 100 pounds by my six month mark. Looks like I failed. (JUST KIDDING, I PROMISE!) I am pretty much pinching myself every day now, and not just to check on my loose skin. I'm still about 40 pounds from my stated goal weight, which I reserve the right to alter as I approach it, but that seems like a totally doable thing. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing.
My size has decreased pretty dramatically - I am getting used to looking in the mirror and being OK with what I look like for the first time in a long time. I have a bunch of new clothes that actually fit me and aren't baggy to hide my silhouette, and they look pretty good! I'm shopping in the straight size stores with no problems at all, including some medium tops and large bottoms, with 14 mostly working. As a pear shaped person, that's to be expected. My boobs have decreased to a more reasonable size that doesn't much interfere with clothing purchases or vigorous exercise, so that's good. I'm starting to see a bit of loose skin, with flappy arms and jiggly thighs, but I would trade 10x worse loose skin for the weight loss I've had so far. I can always wear compression-y things. Depending on how things go, I could see some plastics at some point in the future, but I'm not really thinking about that yet.
I can move better and more easily. Walking fast up hills or stairs is no problem. Getting up from the floor is easy. Getting in and out of small places is a breeze. Crossing my legs is comfortable. Heck, just standing and sitting are more comfortable. Everything just seems a little easier and more comfortable. *yay*
I'm averaging about 700 calories a day right now, and I hit my protein goal of 65g per day about 95% of the time. Vitamins every day (I forget now and then but not often). Water is no problem for me, so I drink about 12 glasses a day or more. I've tried a few brands of protein shakes, and Syntrax Nectar (the first one I tried) is the one that tastes the best to me (best is relative here, though - sicky sweet protein drinks are not my fav). I eat a boatload of Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, plus veggie fake meats and some fish and quite a bit of shrimp. I'm coming around to eggs (not their taste -yuk!) and can eat about 1 1/2 if I really try. I haven't really eaten anything I shouldn't yet - I mean, I've had like three french fries, five tortilla chips, and one tiny handful of popcorn over the last six months, really just to taste it. I haven't had any sweets or real junk food. I haven't had any real dumping episodes, but several fish-related very uncomfortable periods followed by losing the fish, which hasn't really been that terrible, just painful beforehand. Vomiting post-op is really more like when babies spit up milk - quick and not too gross, without the acid and nastiness.
My exercise has primarily been walking. I'm getting an average of 10,000 steps a day right now, including days when I'm in the car all day or whatever. I do some squats and modified push-ups and other stuff around the house. I'm waiting until after I move to join a gym - that'll be in less than 10 days (!!!). Due to weather constraints on the Arabian Peninsula (it's hotter than a [fill in your region's idiom of choice] until October/November), my outdoor walking will probably not continue.
My whole decision to move back to the other side of the world is really its own NSV. My husband and I have had rather bad luck in finding jobs we like here in the good ol' US of A, and we actually really enjoyed living in Dubai while we were there. However, at a higher weight, and hey, if we're being honest with each other, in the last few years there when the scale numbers were drifting ever higher, just the idea of having to sit on a plane for almost 20 hours was enough to kill my desire to go back to the Middle East. In fact, being so much heavier, I was really mentally suffering with the idea of looking for jobs at all - my self-esteem was low and getting lower. The svelter me is actually excited to start a new job and is not really worried about sitting on a plane. I mean, it'll be awful, but not like "I'd rather jump out the window than sit here for another 15 hours" awful.
So, my six monthaversary weekend: I drove to visit old friends in Seattle. We had a great weekend, catching up and chatting. I did not tell them about WLS. They are nice and would undoubtedly have been supportive, but they are thin, from families of thin people, and would not have understood. So I was just "doing low-carb" and "not very hungry." They've seen me lose and gain before, so they politely didn't even say anything beyond, "You look good." I wore great clothes, I walked around in a skirt without shorts things on underneath to prevent chafing (thigh gap is not a realistic goal for me, I think, but less thigh chafing? definitely), I felt confident seeing old friends, I was happy to meet new people, I had an evening out with a large group with no alcohol but a nice cheese plate, I walked and walked and walked and didn't get tired or out of breath, and I came prepared with all my gear to make sure I got my protein in (shakes and bars and string cheese and almonds). I am handling it
The one bad moment was a pretty bad one, though. My friend, bless her soul, has never been on a diet in her life, and has only a very general idea of what low-carb might mean. I offered to take them out to dinner (where I could order something appropriate), but she insisted on cooking. Too late I discovered that most of the dinner would be pretty carby, and served over white rice (?!). "Well," I thought, "I'll just dish up the other stuff and not take any rice and mutter something about carbs." Nope, I got to the table and discovered the dinner already there, plated nicely. Huge pile of white rice with carby stuff on top. "Wow," she said, "I think I dished up too much stuff! Those plates are really full!" "Yes they are," I replied out loud while shrieking silently in my head. It was enough for me for like three days. And that would be if it was low carb stuff. White rice? That might ball up in my stomach and get stuck for a month.
I smiled and sat down. My husband was making concerned eyebrows at me. I just gave it my all. I didn't try any of the rice, but I ate as much of the stuff off the top as I could. I ate until I couldn't, in a way that I never do now. It was really pitiful how small a dent it put in my plate of food. My friend was worried that I didn't like it, of course, which is basically how I played it off (well, politely saying that it was really good but still not eating much comes off that way pretty naturally, I guess). It was horrifying. I was really embarrassed. She was really embarrassed. The only good thing I can take away from this is: next time she'll let me take her out. It was a bad end to a good weekend, and it got me thinking about what to do in the future if this happens. I'm a bit at a loss. Any helpful tips, people who've been there?
I did run across this the other day, for situations where you get called out about weight loss if you're not open about it. It's pretty funny, if you haven't seen Clusie L's stuff before.
There's also this one, S#!T people say to bariatric patients. If you're ever feeling that those around you are not sensitive to your situation, this may be for you:
I'll leave it right there, since Clusie L is just a whole lot funnier than I am.
Please be kind with the photos - I am so freaking nervous to post these here.
So, 196.6 puts me at a BMI of 29.9, at the top end of the overweight category - whew! So glad to have finally gotten there. Honestly, I do now actually feel like I'm just overweight, not obese. I can shop at normal stores (size L or 12/14 tops, size 14 pants), I look pretty OK in the mirror, and I don't worry about all the crazy things that I used to. I feel good. I have more energy. It's great.
Just for a little reality check, here are some current worries:
My hair is still falling out some. It seems to be tapering off, but we'll see. It's fine/thin to start with, and now it's thinned to the point where it's definitely noticeable to me. I take loads of biotin and make sure my protein is good every day, and that's about all I can do, I guess. If you're interested in the science behind hair loss, Chemistry Queen on YouTube has a pretty good video on it: https://youtu.be/gI6li4nBpws
The bat wings. My arms have gotten a lot smaller (they're looking very normal in sleeves), but the sag is real. I'm doing some arm exercises to try to help out, but I realize that this is definitely a skin issue. It's been getting better and then worse in spurts as I lose - one week it's tighter, the next week it's looser, so I guess my body is working hard at doing whatever it does to the extra skin when the fat goes away. I'm hoping it ends up OK looking. I don't know if I'm mentally ready for plastics.
The sharpei skin. The skin all over my body is just a little loose, like I'm a sharpei puppy. I think this will probably go away, but it's kind of weird. I don't think anyone else has noticed it. It doesn't seem to be getting worse - I think I'm genetically blessed with fairly elastic skin, since I've lost quite a bit and am not having bigger issues than this. I also tend to carry weight sort of all over, rather than in one focused spot, so that may help, as well. We'll see as I get closer to goal.
I've started to feel the beginnings of hunger recently - I haven't really felt that since surgery. This isn't a problem yet, and I'm still eating really tiny amounts, but I can see how that might become more of a boogeyman as time goes on.
The taste aversions. Well, it's been almost 6 months, and I still don't like the taste of pretty much anything but fruit and some veggies. This may not sound like a problem for a person trying to lose weight (duh! It doesn't taste good, so I don't eat much!), but it's kind of hard to navigate life disliking all food. Anything protein still tastes bad. I've gotten used to it, as in I force myself to eat things that don't taste good, so I don't really notice the taste as part of the eating experience anymore, but it all still tastes pretty not good. This is connected to my sense of smell - everything also smells bad. Bitter things smell horrible and I can't face eating them at all. I can handle weak black tea, and that's about the bitterest thing. This means all nuts and beans taste terrible, which stinks because as a vegetarian, those are some pretty good protein sources. Even peanut butter tastes evil - like I made a horrible face when I put a little bit on my tongue. I've eaten almonds when I've been out and about and other protein sources are unavailable (so convenient, a pack of almonds!), but I just have to make myself do it. The flip side of all this is that I think if I stay like this, I run a pretty minimal risk of gaining weight again: I just don't like food very well.
OK, that's a complete inventory of my WLS woes at the moment. They're not so bad. In comparison with all the good stuff, it really seems like no big deal.
I spent some time reading an article in the NYTimes Magazine from last weekend. It's called "Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age," and the author, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, is a woman who has had problems with her weight her whole life. The focus is basically on how awful the diet industry is (statistically unsuccessful, preying on desperate people's hopes, and really really not sure of what might actually work) and also how awful life for fat people is, whether they're actively pursuing weight loss or are accepting of their bodies. A lot of the article focuses on Weight Watchers, both historically and after Oprah bought a share of it, as well as on Oprah's own weight battles over the years. The author goes on her own WW journey (not her first) in the interest of the article. She also talks to various doctors and other experts. Sadly, she gives very little thoughtspace to WLS. I think the article gives a very good glimpse into the soul of a person suffering because of her weight - I can identify with many of her experiences and thoughts, and getting back inside the head of a person desperate for a solution to this problem was a little alarming to me. I recognize that desperation. I was haunted by it for most of my life. I feel really fortunate that I decided to look into WLS in a logical, evidence-based fashion instead of brushing it off as too extreme. Any person who is that unhappy needs to do something extreme if that extreme thing provides a reasonably good chance of success.
Finally, just as an update for those who are curious, I'm eating around 600-800 calories per day still. 65-90 g of protein. 30 g or so of carbs. What that looked like one day this week:
Breakfast: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt plus 1/4 cup berries (it's strawberry season - yes!)
Lunch: Romaine salad with some olives and cheese, with one T of blue cheese dressing (I was at a pizza place and this was a side salad - nothing else appropriate available!)
Dinner: 3 oz cod cooked in a bit of butter
Snacks: 1/2 cup cottage cheese with some salsa, Syntrax vanilla shake made with Fairlife milk
I squeaked in under 200 this morning! 199.6, thank you very much. Whew! I was getting worried that I was going to stall out at 201 forever, but nope, it happened. That also puts me about three pounds above "overweight" BMI, which will be another big milestone. After obsessing about it for so long, I felt like there should have been a balloon drop in the bathroom when it happened, but apparently my husband had not arranged for that. Was a marching band too much to ask? I got a high five, which is OK, I guess.
I spent some quality time at my storage unit this weekend, sifting through the detritus of my nomadic lifestyle, getting ready for another move. I had several boxes of clothes to look through - some of them easy discards (stuff I wore last year, obviously too big now), some of them potential rescues. There was actually stuff in there that I shipped halfway across the world because I could not bear to give it up even though it was too small for me a couple of years ago. Let's focus on that for a moment, shall we? I was so in denial of how big I was getting that it was easier for my ego to pack them up and send them to the other side of the world in a container ship "for later" than to face the face the fact that I couldn't fit into them anymore. Nice work, brain. You are so good at rationalizing
I was sad to say goodbye to a few of the things, but honestly, it felt so good to be getting rid of them because they were too big that I wasn't that bothered. I'm usually pretty level headed about getting rid of stuff I don't use, but clothing that has become too small is apparently my weak point (You'll ignore the self-evident logic gap here in my claim to be good at getting rid of stuff and my admission that I have a storage unit full of things I haven't used in two years. To be fair, I have been "traveling" for the last year, and I never did really settle down enough in the US to actually get everything out of storage - that should have been a sign, I suppose) On the positive side, I did find several things that now fit that haven't in years, and they can tide me over for a few months, I hope.
This week, I haven't had any shakes or bars to get my protein up. OK, I had one shake, but I was at a hotel and there was nothing healthy for breakfast. I got so sick of them on vacation that I just don't find the idea of them appealing right now. I know I'll go back to them, particularly the shakes, but it's nice to know I can get my protein in without having to consume them. I've been relying pretty heavily on dairy (yogurt and cheese and cottage cheese) to boost up the numbers every day, but I figure that's calcium so it's all right.
I've been for a few longish walks in the last week, and I have discovered that walking is OK even in hot weather and up hills if I am a lot less overweight. It's not totally exhausting! I don't get drenched in sweat! It doesn't feel like punishment! It's like I had totally forgotten that exercise, when you're thinner, actually feels good. When I'm thinner, I enjoy being active. When I am heavier, I do not. It sort of seems like a chicken and egg situation, but I do believe there's a bit stronger evidence behind exercise avoidance after weight gain than exercise avoidance therefore weight gain, at least in my case.
The paperwork for the move is all done and dusted, with a few remaining forms to be filled out for bringing the cat, which aren't terribly complicated. Yes, poor cat has to go on the plane. We have just a few loose ends to tie up before getting on the plane ourselves (sell the car), and just short of a month to get them done. I think we're ready. I've got a couple of likely gyms to check out in Muscat, as well as a GNC for my vitamins and protein stuff (thank goodness for globalization?). That said, there will be several months of above 100 degree temps in store for me when I arrive, so probably not a lot of long walks on the beach...
Guatemala was amazing. It's such an incredible country, full of natural beauty and vibrant indigenous culture, and the people are extremely welcoming. It's very poor, and has a tragic history, but there's a lot of joy there nonetheless. After 15 years (my last trip there), some things have changed quite a lot: more tourism, better tourist infrastructure, not so off-the-beaten-path feeling.
NSVs of the trip:
Sitting on a plane for hours is a lot less awful at my current weight. I didn't feel like I was overflowing onto anyone else and my hips had room. That was fantastic.
Being really active was soooooo much easier - from climbing Mayan pyramids to hiking to kayaking (particularly getting in and out of the kayak!) to just plain old walking a lot, I was able to enjoy the trip to its fullest due to my better physical health.
I look pretty good in the trip photos! I have avoided being photographed for a while now due to hating how I look, so this is great. Lots of photos, and I look *fine* in them. No cringing.
I was able to eat. Not perfectly on plan, but generally enough food, and not much in the way of junk - a couple of french fries here and there, a few tortilla chips. Bars and shakes were necessary to keep the protein up. I ate a lot of eggs and beans and queso fresco and avocado.
I'm feeling kind of normal-sized now - I certainly want to lose more weight, but I feel like an overweight person who doesn't stand out instead of like a fat person who people might stare at. This helped me to just feel more relaxed and happy the whole time.
I was gone for 17 days and didn't weigh myself for that whole stretch, which of course completely messes up my beautiful beautiful precious spreadsheet. I was gone on my 5 month surgiversary (the 14th) so I don't have a spot-on five month milestone (sad emoji). So, this morning I weighed in at 201.8, which is down 8 pounds from the day I left - not too shabby for a vacation! That puts me sooooooo close to onederland. I was kind of secretly hoping I'd have passed that threshold by the time I got back, but 10 pounds in two weeks is a big ask. That puts my (a little bit more than) month's loss at 15 pounds. That's about how much I've mostly been losing per month, but now that I'm down almost 90 pounds (what????!!!!) it's a lot more, proportionally speaking, so it's more obvious. I've got about 50 pounds to go until my current goal weight - I'll see as I get closer how I feel about it as a final ending point. A little higher? A little lower? Secretly hoping a little lower.
Eating was a bit of a pain in the butt. I got really sick of the bars and shakes. Breakfast was easy - the typical breakfast in Guatemala is black beans, eggs, queso fresco, fried plantains, and tortillas (plus maybe avocado). Get rid of the tortillas (I tried them but sadly they kind of gum up my stomach and make it so I don't eat any more) and I'm good. I even ate some of the fried plantains most days - the oil didn't make me dump, and I was needing the calories, since my food intake was pretty low for most of the trip. Lunch or dinner in restaurants every stinking day was a bit more of a slog. I could eat vegetarian most places, since Guatemala is on the hippie backpacker trail, but vegetarian and low-carb are mostly mutually exclusive there, as with most places. I ate a fair number of salads with a bit of cheese and/or egg, I ate the toppings off a slice of pizza a couple of times, I attempted felafel once (the crispy nature of it just DID NOT SETTLE and I was so lucky as to see it again very soon after dinner), and I ate the tuna out of a couple of tuna sandwiches. I had some shrimp and some fish. It was a bit tedious trying to figure out how to work the menus, though. It did make me realize that I can have fun on vacation without being very excited about what I was eating, which is great.
I drank alcohol twice: one glass of white wine for my birthday in Antigua, which knocked me for a loop, but it was OK. I also had a sip of "caldo de frutas" (a brandy sort of drink that is bright pink from hibiscus flowers and has fruit chunks marinating in it) in a small town, accompanied by a bite of the fruit. I kind of had to - it was being served to me by the man who made it, and he really wanted me to like it. The bite of fruit had enough alcohol and sugar in it that I feared a dumping episode was on its way It wasn't, I was OK, but it certainly messed up my Spanish noun/adjective agreements for an hour or so (I was having a long conversation with my guide on church architecture and history - he was laughing and correcting me, fun for all).
Exercise was hit or miss. Some days I walked a LOT (25,000 steps on my biggest day). Some days I spent a lot of time in various modes of transport. Looking at my Fitbit data, I got at least 10,000 steps almost every day. Pretty good. Mostly the good thing was that I was able to keep up with my much more physically fit friends, even when it was 95 degrees with 90% humidity! I would have died trying to do this vacation 6 months ago. Actually, I just never would have gone
We spent several days walking around Mayan sites in the Peten (on the Yucatan Peninsula). We climbed to the top of Temple IV to watch the sun rise one day - gorgeous. We listened to howler monkeys shrieking in the trees and saw toucans and parrots flying overhead in the jungle. We toured around highland villages, watched locals devote themselves to a Mayan/Catholic hybrid local saint (Maximon) by giving him money and making him smoke cigarettes and drink the local firewater. We explored the many villages of Lake Atitlan by boat, observing the language and cultural differences between them, despite their proximity to each other in their unique location under three volcanoes. We stayed in a tiny isolated village with no cars and listened to the dogs bark, children play, turkeys gobble, roosters crow, and watched a massive lightning storm burst to life above the volcanoes across the lake from us. We entered 500 year old churches and saw the ancient saints dressed in Mayan clothing, just like the worshippers. We visited several markets and ate street food at stalls with local farmers, conversing in Spanish, which was a second language to all of us, as they are mostly Mayan speakers. We watched a volcano erupt. We spent many long hours in good conversation. It was a great vacation!
Honestly, the simple fact that I went on this vacation at all is an NSV. I kept thinking that the whole time.
Know what I hate? I freaking hate flying. Everything about it sucks, but it's so much worse if you're fat. I spend a lot of time before each flight worrying about how small the seat will be, about whether the person next to me will be annoyed that I sort of overflow into their space, about whether my hips will be so scrunched into the seat (man, airline seats have gotten smaller in the last couple decades!) that they will be a bit bruised feeling when I get off the flight. I worry about people giving me the side eye when I get into my seat. I stress about how uncomfortable it is to spend 15 hours with my arms crossed so I don't impinge on my neighbors' space. I remember overheard conversations or internet comment sections about fat people flying and how horrible the awful rude fat people are to subject all the other passengers to their horrible awful fatness. I hate flying as a fat person so much that I have not done it in almost two years. Me, a person who usually travels a LOT! Know what I'm doing at the end of this week? Flying. On purpose. To go on vacation. I'm still fat, but I'm a lot less fat, so I know that I will have a less bad time. Flying is horrible, but I will be so happy to fit better in the seat. Not so happy that I will enjoy flying (blerk) but happy enough to do it again.
I've done a little shopping to get ready for this trip, and it's been... a mixed bag. On one hand, I can go into the straight sizes part of the store and not worry that nothing will fit me (well, I worry, but stuff fits, even if it looks like it'll be too small). On the other hand, when I get it on, I am faced with the voices in my head that are always very loud in changing rooms. I look *better* than before (oh, so much better!) but I still don't look *good* to myself. The good news is that I feel a little more detached from my appearance than I usually do: I feel like this is how I look today, but I know that next week, next month, next year I will look different. So I feel like I'm judging a work in progress, rather than judging the very essence of who I am, which is an improvement.
I've already had to bail out of some plans set up by one of my travel companions. I'm going with my husband and another couple we frequently travel with, and the other couple is, well, much sportier and fitter than we are (particularly than I am). They will be climbing a volcano. I will not. It's an all day sort of deal, like hours and hours of hiking, starting out at like 8500 feet (2500m) in elevation, and I really really know that I do not have that in me right now. It felt sad to have to explain that to my friend, but at the same time, I know that because of my WLS, I will be able to do stuff like that in the future. As of six months ago, my future didn't look like it was headed in an "improving" sort of direction, health-wise, so that's a good thing.
I've got two flavors of Syntrax Nectar individual packs and two boxes of protein bars to take with me, so I should be set for protein intake. I'm going to Guatemala, and will have no opportunity to buy that stuff there. I have an idea of what awaits because I've been there a couple of times before: food should be fine, lots of beans and eggs and cheese to be had. I've got my vitamins ready to go. I think with all this WLS stuff, I'm going to have very little room in my luggage for my other stuff!
I think it'll be a good trip. I have a ton more energy now than I have in a long while, and I'm able to move around so much more easily in my body. I have a more positive outlook about things, and I don't feel so self-conscious.
I'm not going to be able to weigh myself for 16 days. SIXTEEN DAYS Yes, I know how many of you feel about daily weighings, but they are my jam. I also won't be able to log my food every day since I will be without internet at some points. I'll be flying blind for more than two weeks, and that scares the heck out of me. Logically it shouldn't, but I think we left the world of logic behind a few months ago. I'm curious to see whether no scale and limited food logging will feel freeing or frightening. Could go either way.
Wish me luck! I'm a little nervous about the flying.
I was out for a walk yesterday and this thought came to me: I am living in my own Biggest Loser season.
I am not a reality show watcher by any means. In fact, BL is the only one I've ever watched a whole episode of, but it was a guilty pleasure for me around Season 6 and 7, I guess. I was watching it at a time when I was going to the gym a lot and watching what I was eating (maybe WW? maybe low carb? maybe 5:2 fasting?), and I figured the show was perhaps good motivation. It was astounding to watch these very heavy people come to the ranch in the first few episodes and exercise as hard as they could, which wasn't much since they were pretty out of shape, and keep going and going until they collapsed/puked/cried/cursed/were injured. I was horrified and fascinated. These people were literally working their a$$es off. They didn't pay as much attention to the eating, surprise surprise, since it makes for a lot less dramatic TV.
The appeal of watching a dozen or so people totally remake their bodies very quickly was strong. These people were losing 80, 100, 150 pounds over the course of less than a year, and they were so happy and excited about it. They looked better, of course, but they also moved better - running, hiking, swimming, biking. They seemed happier. How amazing.
I thought that although I would never do that (hello, fat shaming - why make them wear skimpier clothing in the early episodes and let them put on more clothes the thinner they get? because we like to see them look awful, that's why - they have to earn their dignity), maybe it would be the only way I could do that. I mean, 100% focus for a year or however long, everything working toward this one goal. Trainers. Physicians. Equipment. Focus. Focus. Focus.
I kind of wished I could be on BL. Not really like I actually wanted to be on the show, but like wishful thinking - I wish I could do something with such magical results. Maybe a magic pill? A midnight deal with the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi?
I knew I could lose the weight. I'd done it before, several times - hey, I looked and felt great at 140 lbs! But I knew that keeping it off was the problem, and these BL contestants really seemed like they had made over their lives. With all that focus on diet and exercise for a year, and such great results, certainly they could be successful at keeping it off...
Nope. They're not. These two articles were my first Aha! moment. They're articles about a scientific study that has been done to examine the outcomes of former BL contestants, and they're a pretty good, although depressing, read. I've posted these articles before on my blog, but they really were a beacon shining in the night for me.
BL contestants don't keep it off. Or, rather, a few of them do, but for the most part the ones who keep it off have WLS. Even the big winners gain it back. Metabolism levels of the contestants plummeted during the year they were losing, but although doctors thought they would pick back up a year, two years down the road, they didn't. A 180 pound man who'd lost a bunch of weight might have to consume 400 or 500 or even 800 fewer calories per day even six years later than a man who'd always weighed 180 pounds. Talk about a punch in the gut. Good luck keeping it off with those numbers.
These next two articles pushed me in the direction of WLS, as well. They talk about reasons that WLS works when diets don't (hint: some of it has to do with metabolism).
So, at that point, I was convinced. A bit less than a year later, I had my own WLS. Fast forward a bit more than four months...
My own results are getting to BL sorts of numbers. I've lost almost 80 pounds in five months (one month pre-op plus the four post-op). I can move around better. I'm walking and hiking. I just feel better. So, am I in my own BL season? Yes and no.
Yes, I've lost a bunch of weight super fast. Yes, I'm looking way better and feeling way better.
However, I am certainly not living like the BL contestants: I don't exercise until I puke/cry/collapse, I'm not hungry (thank goodness), I don't feel like I'm being punished, and I actually stand a decent chance of keeping it off long term. It all feels a lot easier than BL looks on TV, weirdly enough. To be fair, I had to have my guts rearranged to get to this point, but I feel fine now, and I'm living my life.
I found my magic pill, or my deal with the devil, or whatever. It was WLS. No need for Jillian shrieking at me to get back on the treadmill. No need to cry it out with Bob. No getting kicked off the ranch if I lost less than the other contestants. I'm eating low carb and exercising a fair bit, but to an enjoyable degree. It's good. I'm good. It's working. It still feels a little like magic, though.
Hooray! It's been four months! This has been the longest four months of my life, accompanied by the quickest change. I am so happy I had WLS. Best decision ever.
Here's a little data breakdown:
Pre-op loss of one month: 19 pounds
Loss since surgery: 54.2 pounds
Total loss so far: 73.2 pounds
Left to lose: 66.8 pounds
Excess weight lost: 52.3%
Total body weight lost: 25.2%
Monthly losses: 19 / 15.6 / 10.8 / 13.2 / 14.6
Miles walked on Fitbit: 360 (bought Fitbit April 15)
Steps logged on Fitbit: 759,096 (what?!)
I have no idea how many clothes sizes I've lost, since most of my clothes from before were comfortably stretchy knit sort of things that are very "forgiving." They aren't fitting anymore, but I also haven't really gone shopping yet because I'm just hanging out at the beach where I don't know anyone but my husband, so I kind of don't care I have some shopping planned in a couple of weeks when I have to go back to civilization and dress like a regular person again.
Right now, I'm in a strange in-between place, much much thinner than before (see above!), but also still much heavier than I'd like. I don't look good to myself, but I do look much better. I feel like I should look better than I do for how much weight I've lost, but hey. I've still got a ways to go.
Very excited to keep on keeping on. My monthly losses have not slowed yet, and in fact this past month was a good one for totals. Fingers crossed that stays true for a few more months