Friday, December 21, 2012

Bariatric Betty, Centurion, has a long week

It's for real this time.  After I stepped on the scale and it read 143.4 pounds this morning I didn't get excited.  I stepped off and let it recalibrate - because it's faked me out before.  Three times later, I believe it.  I have lost 100 pounds!  My BMI is down to 25.9 from it's high of 43.2.  So, today isn't really that different than every other day that I work the program, and nothing changes other than how I'll answer people when they ask how much I've lost and my new nickname for myself.  Centurion.  Wikipedia says it was a professional officer who commanded sometimes 100, but more often 60 - 80 soldiers.  I'm in command of my body, and I've discharged 100 pounds that were not fit for service.  :)

This is not to say the road has been easy.  Last Friday I had an epic fail - my first dump from knowingly eating something I shouldn't.  Damn glaze.

Like everyone else, the news from New Town hit me hard - especially because I work in an elementary school and I couldn't help thinking of all of "my kids" as well as my sons in such a tragedy.  So I thought I was handling it well when my first thing I did after work was take my dog for a 2 mile walk.  Then my 3rd grader son got off the school bus and told me he got in trouble for telling a friend he was "going to beat the crap out of" him.  What?!?  My first response to him was "I'm just happy you're home safe - give me a hug".  But then I spent the next couple hours talking with him about why "using your words" doesn't include threatening someone.  About how some children are not as lucky as him and come from homes where they get hit - sometimes so badly that they can't live with their parents anymore.  That while he knows he wouldn't actually beat someone up, that doesn't mean that anybody else should believe that.  I prepared my husband for the possibility that he could be suspended for threatening a student.  I prepared my son for that possibility as well, explaining that if anybody threatened him I would want them to have serious consequences.  The teacher gave some consequences and defused the situation, but she would still need to involve the principal, and we wouldn't know the outcome until this week.  Then we talked about his consequences at home.  After lengthy conversation, we decided that we would try to focus on something positive and use his saved allowance for December to go shopping for Toys for Tots on Saturday.  He picked out a toy that he hopes to get for Christmas himself and paid for it.  Then he put it in the donation box and we talked about how that was going to help a kid less fortunate than him have a happier Christmas. 

Back to Friday night, and I was finishing some cookies for a coworker.  Cookies that get dipped in glaze.  I licked my fingers, and then started scooping up the drops of glaze that dripped of the drying cookies.  About 2 tablespoons later, my stomach started to feel bad.  I threw out the rest of the glaze as soon as the cookies were finished, but the damage was done.  I had to call my 12 year old in to finish making dinner while I crawled into bed.  Owwwwwwwww.  My moaning scared the heck out of my husband when he got home.  I felt nauseous as well, but there was nothing to throw up - the thick sugar water had been absorbed and I was blessed to dump.  So that's how I celebrated the 7th night of Hanukkah - being thankful for the small miracle of dumping.  My guilt over my husband having to jump in to take care of the kids while I recovered was significant.  And then he came and talked to me.  He told me that he knew I got a lot out of baking, and that I seem to do really well controlling my intake except for when I get glaze all over my fingers...  He made me a wonderful offer.  From now on, when I make the cookies with glaze, he said HE will glaze them for me.  How cool is that?  Not only is he going to help me keep making healthy choices and enjoy my hobby, now he is going to turn something that I really enjoy doing into something every better - because he is going to do it with me!  I'm so excited!  I won't be making any more until next November/ December, but now we have a plan and I'm really looking forward to it.  His idea gave me control over this ever happening again.  I'm so lucky to have him as my husband. 

Of course, having a plan for cookie baking doesn't take care of the emotions that come with the death of innocent children.  We decided that our whole family should try to look for opportunities for random acts of kindness for the next 20 days.  So far we've donated some toys, given away closer parking spots, helped a stranger find something and opened numerous doors for others.  Last year we helped pay off someone's layaway, and we'll probably look into doing that again this year.  I'll keep looking for ways to help others, be grateful for the health and safety of my family, and keep working the program. 

Speaking of work, my job has shifted again.  I'm now working the same hours but instead of being a monitor for kindergarten, 1st, and 3rdd graders during lunch and recess daily I'm working with two special needs kids (one kindergartener, one 4th grader).  They both have significant issues that require 1-on-1 attention and help eating.  Some parts of this are very fulfilling, other parts are not - like chasing after them when they bolt/ have a tantrum.  Or yesterday when the 4th grader bit my arm (luckily not breaking the skin) hard enough that it's still sore with bruising today.  The main down sides are that (except for running after them if they bolt) I don't get my extra 5000 steps in walking around like I ued to checking in on all of the kids, and I also don't have the chance to help kids with the jungle of playground drama issues they have to figure out as they get older.  My major accomplishment this week is that I've gotten my kindergartner ward to actually eat most of his lunch without running away screaming 4 days in a row.  That's huge. 

When I see kids struggling whether with special needs like autism, or behavioral issues, or just normal growing pains ("...she said she was my friend, but now she says she's not!") I want to help.  It's easier and more fun when it's helping kids be better friends than helping someone toilet or eat.  But, in both cases I feel like I'm having a positive impact on others even if I don't feel it every day.  That's something I need to feel in my life - even if they're not able to verbalize "thank you".  Luckily, my bosses have reacted positively to my request for more training so I know how to handle physical outburst more safely for both the kid and myself in the future!

My son ended up working with the school psychologist on a social story/ plan on what to do when he gets angry, which I sincerely appreciate.  While part of me wishes they had given some additional punitive conequences so he understood how seriously the schools take threatening to beat someone up, I'm glad they took the opportunity to help him figure out how to deal with tough situations in the future.  When he was first diagnosed with developmental delays and a speech disorder, we never guessed that he would be ABLE to speak well enough to get in trouble for verbally threatening someone.  So I guess as long as he has learned never to do that again, maybe I should think of this whole thing as a reminder of how lucky we are. 

Christmas is around the corner (we're an interfaith family, so we celebrate a lot of holidays) and my boys are excited.  My third grader sent a letter to Santa in his elf's backpack last night (taping it closed to make sure it didn't fall out on the trip - so cute!), and I've been handing out packages of Christmas cookies to teachers and coworkers. I pray that the holidays find all of you with your loved ones, safe and healthy, warm and thankful for your own blessings.  Heaven knows I'm thankful for mine, most of which are in the picture below.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bariatric Betty's 5K with pics

Yesterday was the big day; 6 months after beginning Couch to 5k I ran my first race!  It was a lot of fun, and I was thrilled to have my 12 y.o. son jog it with me (for the first half anyway, then I left him in the dust because he hadn't trained as much and needed to slow down).  The Jingle Bell Run is for the Arthritis Foundation - an organization I loved supporting because my dear husband has had rheumatoid arthritis since he was 12.  Here's a pic of all of us before the race.

I had a great NSV (non-scale victory) before the race even started - I traded in my pre-ordered Adult Large race shirt for an Adult Medium!  Woo-hoo!

The atmosphere was wonderful - people were decked out in all kinds of holiday gear - I gave in and bought a Santa Hat that said "Jingle Bell Run".  Everybody was given jingle bells to tie through their shoelaces along with their tracker chip, so there was a constant faint bell ringing the entire run.  There was a singing group doing Christmas carols and other upbeat holiday tunes.  Lots of families jogged or walked as a team, and I saw dozens of parents who ran or walked with strollers.  Here's a pic of us at the very start of the race.

The course was a bit of a surprise - from the map we had been given at registration I guessed we would have one hill about halfway through the race, and it would be uphill on the first half, downhill on the way back.  Nope. There were four hills (two repeated ones) on the course and that meant that we had to finish on an incline.  One of my friends ended up running as well, and she told me later "Boy, this was NOT a good race for your first - those hills were killer!"

 I'm happy to say for me it was more a psychological challenge than a physical one.  All my training was definitely more than enough to prepare me for this race - even with the hills.  Who would have guessed???  I jogged the whole thing, running 3.1 miles in just under 36 minutes.  Afterwords I felt really proud and happy, but my body was like "So, that was pretty normal..." How wonderfully unexpected.

This is me crossing the finish line...

I was inspired by many people in the race - there was a whole team of people from the University Hospitals Medical Center running in honor of an 8 y.o. girl named Taylor with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There were people like the mom behind me in the picture above who ran up and down those hills pushing a double stroller!  There was a wonderful 76 year old woman named Jean that I chatted with on the second half.  She runs races every weekend, so she's well known by most of the regulars.  She talked about how she had ANOTHER race today, and I couldn't have been more surpised. "You run two races in one weekend???" "Oh, just when they're small ones like this..."  LOL!  It's good to see things from a different perspective.  She said that so many young people are all impressed when they hear her age.  I told her that they should be impressed with her running all of these races even BEFORE they hear her age and she laughed.  She said she's glad to be able to run when so many people her age can't even walk much, but also confessed she enjoys seeing youngster speed up when they realize she just passed them.  ;) 

My son crossed the finish line just a few minutes after me and I told him I was so proud of him for hanging in there and finishing!  He was exhausted, but said "Mom, we have to start training on HILLS" so I guess he might be willing to do this again.

Doing it again... yeah, probably.  I didn't hurt afterwards (or this morning) so I think I might start looking for maybe a race every month or so.  It's way more fun than just jogging with my dog :)  But I'm not feeling driven to start training for a half marathon or anything.

There was another woman I met that left me with mixed feelings.  She was a friend-of-a-friend and when my friend introduced her she said "She's lost 100 pounds, you know!"  I laughed and clapped for her and then said "Me, too!"(well, rounding up)  We chatted for a little while and I found out that unlike me she didn't have bariatric surgery.  I was very impressed - to be able to lose that much without having the help of a pouch as a tool... that's rare!  She said two years ago she started walking two 5ks every weekend.  Then she started jogging them.  Then she started running half-marthons, and now does marathons as well.  Whoa.  Cool!  Then she explained that she is just working on keeping the weight off, so she has added Zumba a couple of times a week and recently personal training.  OK, so she is running at least two 5k races (if not a marathon) in addition to daily training runs, taking 2-3 Zumba Classes, and having a personal training session every week JUST TO MAINTAIN HER WEIGHT.  Uhhhhh. Great?  For her, it's great.  This is a really good demonstration of what happens to the metabolism of a formerly morbidly obese person.  To lose this much weight, our bodies and metabolisms change a LOT.  In her case, presumming she eats healthy foods in reasonable portion sizes, it means she has to become a fitness machine.  I am all for being active and staying active, but I would never want to dedicate every weekend of my life to running races.  They're fun, but I want to have time with my family doing other things.  I can commit to spending 30 - 60 minutes a day doing cardio for the rest of my life and having a severally restricted diet/ calorie intake.  For her, that wasn't a good choice.  Either way, there is no easy way. 

So I'm looking into doing the "Color Run" sometime this spring, and keeping my eyes open for other fun opportunities.  I heard that Coco Key (a water park in Sandusky, OH)  has a Santa Run that I can imagine the family enjoying this time next year.  Today I'll just be walking my dog a couple of miles and celebrating my father's 70th birthday and other every-day miracles.  Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bariatric Betty's inspirations

Inspiration comes from many directions. I was thinking yesterday about a woman who inspired me when I was in college.  Her name was Deirdre Taylor, and she was a wonderfully fun, enthusiastic, and beautiful obese woman.  She traveled as a Chapter Consultant for my sorority - Phi Mu.  Phi Mu was founded in Georgia, and we were used to women coming to visit and work with us in Ohio having southern accents, charisma, and being perfect size 2s.  Deirdre shattered that last stereotype for me and many others. 

I was overweight (although probably not obese) at that point, and felt welcomed in my sorority.  Unlike the generalizations that sororities are intolerant of differences, there was never any pressure to look a certain way, or lose weight, and my sisters were always there with a compliment when I looked extra nice.  Even so, I was surprised when Deirdre showed up my Junior year to work with us on leadership, risk management, and other training.  Our national officers had picked her to represent our sorority nationally; to be the face of Phi Mu to thousands of women she would meet over her year term.  As I got to know Deirdre it made perfect sense.  Her intelligence, poise and beauty were evident to everyone who met her, and her weight was merely one part of her. 

As I talked more and more with her, I became very interested in her position.  Working with collegiate women and helping them have positive, supportive, and successful experiences in college.  Improving study habits and GPAs, raising money for Children's Miracle Network, presenting themselves well for recruitment (and future interviews), and enjoying the friendship and bonds of their sisters.  I was inspired to apply to be a Chapter Consultant myself, and was selected to travel around the country for Phi Mu for the year after I graduated.  That experience ended up being one of the formative experiences of my life.  I learned I could arrive in any city, set up a temporary home and within hours be ready to meet with college administrators, lead workshops, and help women who were struggling with various situations.  My confidence went through the roof!  It led to my next position - being a Clinical Trial coordinator for a Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. 

I was applying at The Ohio State University Medical Center for numerous positions - with my chemistry degree and enjoying the medical field, the location being hours away from my family, yet I had friends nearby... it was a good fit.  When I heard about the position I was asked "Do you think you could feel comfortable talking to older and elderly gentlemen about their prostates, urinary and sexual functioning?"  I didn't even miss a beat - "Sure!  I can talk about anything."  I had a two day window to learn everything I could about prostate cancer and make a presentation to the doctor who was the lead investigator.  Nailed it.  This was the beginning of my career ( until I became a full-time mom).  It was also where I met my husband. 

All of this because I saw a woman do something I had previously assumed wasn't appropriate for me.  She was a great example of how to not limit myself and my opportunities based on how I looked.  That carries on even now that I'm no longer obese.  Just last night I was jogging in preparation for my first 5k this weekend, and was joined on the track by 5 lovely middle-school/ high school girls.  Seriously, am I the only one who thinks 14 year olds look at least 18 these days???  When I jog, I try not to feel self concious about my appearance, but I am aware that there is a lot of jiggling and wiggling going on.  So last night as I jogged next to these young women I thought about Deirdre and about how these women probably didn't expect to find a middle-aged mom with more sagging and flapping parts than most joggers have jogging along with them.  And I thought "I'm proud to be here, jiggles and all.  I didn't even start to perspire until I was finishing my third mile.  And these girls can hope that they can jog a 5k when they're an "old mom" like me!" Then when I finished my workout I ended up talking to two older sisters who were trying the track for the first time and were interested in bariatric surgery.  It was a good night.

Today my hips and knees are a little sore, but I've got plenty of time to recover before the race Saturday.  Today my major accomplishment was throwing out the extra frosting after decorating the gingerbread for our tree instead of being tempted to eat it.  One day at a time...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bariatric Betty - broken records

The last week has been a good one.  Thanksgiving went according to plan - I kept things simple and relaxed at our house and everyone had a good time.  We even got some good family pictures!  I really enjoy having my picture taken now, which still strikes me as funny after years of dreading it.  We got to see a lot of family, including one Aunt who is considering weight loss surgery.

My uncle asked me if I would feel comfortable talking about my experience with her.  LOL. Yeah, we don't talk much anymore, so he didn't know the answer to that question.  My main concern was if he or family members were pressuring her to consider surgery since mine has gone so well.  I am HAPPY to talk about my surgery with anyone, and encourage people who are interested, but so many people don't realize that the surgery doesn't solve the problem.  They think "If my loved one just does this, then in a year she'll have lost all this weight and we can go on with our lives with her healthy."  If only it was that easy.

First, you have to understand why you're obese to begin with.  Why do you eat what you eat?  Are you a volume over-eater? Are you a sweets junkie?  Are you a sugared soda or coffee addict?  Are you a carbaholic?  Do you drink alcohol often?  Are you an emotional eater?  When you've been on diets do you "cheat" often?  How active are you, and how active are you willing to be?  Are you trying to hide under your layers of fat - trying to make yourself disappear?  Are you trying to push people away with your size?  These issues have to be identified and addressed before surgery- yes, you can change how much and what you're going to eat, but if the reasons you got this way don't change then any loss will be temporary. 

Then there are the risks of the surgery.  People die.  Other people have serious complications.  Some of us have none (like me) but you can't expect that outcome.  Does your insurance even cover weight loss surgery?  If it does, can you afford your portion of the cost?  Are you prepared to be on a pre-approval medically supervised diet for 3, 6, or even 9 months before you even find out if your insurance will approve your surgery?  Do you have medical records documenting your obesity for several years?  Do you log/ journal your food - every bite?  These are things you will have to do.  There will be ongoing costs after surgery - you will be on supplements for the rest of your life - over the counter supplements that will not be covered by insurance.  Then there are the extra labs and doctor's visit you will need to pay for as well (again, for the rest of your life).

Are you ready for the scrutiny that accompanies the knowledge that you are a WLS patient?  The feeling that people are watching what you're eating (either out of curiosity or concern) all the time.  Sometimes they watch with judgement.  Are you prepared for "bad pouch days" when food gets stuck in the new stomach's stoma and makes you sick?  Can you give up drinking while eating (and for an hour afterword) for the rest of your life?  Can you limit yourself to eaing mostly protein for the rest of your life?  No, you will never eat like "normal" people do.  Yes, sometimes you will be able to fake it, but you will spend a large chunk of time figuring out how you will satisfy your nutritional needs and restrictions every day FOREVER.  Going out to eat requires pre-planning/ homework.  It won't feel fun and like a treat.  Going on vacation bring s similar planning and stress.  Eating at a friend's house can be uncomfortable because of your situation - imagine being allergic to gluten and dairy.  That's an example of how some people have to change their diet post-op - some can't handle wheat products at all but those who can eat it can't have much, and some become lactose intolerant.  There will be no more alcohol.  Your doctor may give you permission to drink a small glass of wine or beer after a year post-op, but most will say "No."  We are at high risk for alcohol related problems because of how our modified bodies metabolize the alcohol.

Family support can mean everything in the chances for your success.  If your spouse is supportive and encouraging it can go a long way.  But does your spouse have a history of sabotaging previous efforts to get healthy?  Encouraging you to cheat "just one little bite" or insisting on having snacks around for him or her that are too tempting for you?  Your new lifestyle will change your family's lifestyle as well, and while it will likely make them healthier they won't always like it.  Many people with rocky relationships see those relationships deteriorate after surgery.   The non WLS patient partner can feel jealous of the attention you get (especially from the opposite sex) and the time you are spending focusing on yourself that you used to spend on them.  If you have problems in your relationship your weight loss will not fix them.  I'm a firm believer that all WLS patients should seek counseling before surgery.  Sometimes couples therapy is also helpful. 

Are you prepared for the ongoing struggle both mentally and physically that will not go away?  This surgery fixes your stomach to a small size, but it does not fix your brain.  90% of our struggle is in our brain.  Sometimes I feel like a broken record talking about it, but it's true.  

Having gatric bypass surgery is one of the best things in my life, but it is not to be done lightly. 

Speaking of broken records, I had a couple this week.  I reached a new "low" on the scale, which is always fun.  My weight is fluctuating up and down +/- 2 pounds these days, but I'm losing about 1 pound a month on average.  My other broken record was a jog I did. 3.3 miles!!!  It felt great, especially because it was on new fallen snow and I felt like celebrating that I didn't fall once!  The adreneline from the fear of falling probably hyped my endorphins up a bit.  My 5k is in 8 days, and I can't wait.  I hope my 12 year old can keep up with me :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bariatric Betty gets psyched out

The mind is a very powerful weapon, no doubt about it.  This last week was a good reminder of that.

First, I had a moment of clarity on Tuesday.  I went to step on the scale like I usually do most days, and had to turn it right side up first. The kids and dog had flipped it over the night before.  I waited a minute for it to recalibrate and then stepped on.  142.3 pounds!  Whoa.  That meant I had lost over 100 pounds from my highest!  I lost over 100 pounds!  Whoa.  I really didn't expect that.  Especially since I was 146 yesterday... wait.  I was 146 yesterday.  OK, occasionally I have a couple pounds of water weight that come off/ go on in 24 hours, but 4 pounds difference???  I stepped of and let it recalibrate again.  147.2.  Huh.  Recalibrate again.  147.2.  Darn.  So apparently it didn't recalibrate after I turned it over the first time and that was a big ol' "Psych!" from the universe.  But you know what, it wasn't that bad.  I've been telling myself that losing a solid hundred would be cool, but that I'm very happy with my 97 pound lost, and if I lose more it's bonus.  The great thing was, I proved to myself that I'm not selling myself a lie.  I felt proud before I stepped on the scale that morning, and I felt proud after I found out the first reading was wrong.  Slight less excited about blogging this week - that was going to be a fun post title - but I wasn't upset.  Yay!  My head is still screwed on right. 

Wednesday I ran 3.1 miles in the afternoon to continue to prepare for the 5k Jingle Bell Run I will be running December 9th in Cleveland.  I'm so excited about running my first 5k, and feel good that actually jogging the whole thing is something I can handle (barring the unforseen, that is).  I'm jogging at least 3 miles twice a week now, and shorter distances a couple other time a week.  So far my hip/ bursitis isn't bad.

Thursday was a rough day.  My job as a monitor at the elementary school has changed a bit.  I work with an autistic kindergartener one-on-one for the first half now, and then the third grade classes for the second half.  I miss working with the whole group of kindergartners and first graders, but I do enjoy helping my charge.   Most times.  Not Thursday.  Thursday was a full blown tantrum-all-day kind of day.  I really feel for him.  He's very bright - a kindergartner who can read at what I would say is a 1-2 grade level. But he just started speaking a year ago and his articulation/ intelligibilty is pretty poor.  That makes things very frustrating because many times people can't understand him and that can lead to tantrums.  Add to that his sensory integration issues - getting over stimulated by noise, light, textures... the poor guy has a lot to deal with.  His mind is constantly getting in the way of him learning and enjoying his peers.  That doesn't excuse tantrums, but helps me let go of my frustration in dealing with them.  It's my job to help him handle situations so that 1) he can avoid getting so frustrated that he loses control and 2) help him learn how to take control of himself and cope with challenges.  By the end of my time with him I helped him write an apology note to the people he upset throwing things around, and he apologized to me as well.

Thursday night I was working on frosting my famous candy cane cookies.  I started baking them earlier this week and haven't struggled with sneaking cookie dough or anything.  But that night was a different situation.  You see, the candy cane cookies get dipped in a peppermint glaze and then sprinkled with red sugar stripes.  The problem is that when you dip 100 cookies, you get glaze on your fingers over and over again.  And a couple of times I licked my fingers.  And then a couple more.  I finally stopped myself and stopped glazing for the night.  I didn't eat enough to make me dump, but I craved that sugar!  Not good. 

First victory - I stopped glazing when I realized what I was doing.  Second victory - I logged the glaze on my food diary.  For those of you who started reading recently, I had a horrible moment of self-realization back in my pre-op days when I found myself lying on the food diary.  To myself.  Who was the ONLY ONE who would be reading my food log.  Seriously, how warped is that?  I didn't want to say I ate a cookie, so I had recorded 1 apple, 1 biscuit/ roll, and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Lying to myself was a real low.  I had already turned in my food log for approval for surgery, and there was nobody to impress...  It was a real eye-opener of how warped my mind could be.  But not this time.  I logged it! 

Final victory - I told my husband about my poor choice and the next day I finished glazing the cookies without making the same mistakes.  I invited my kids and then my husband to come in the kitchen with me while I did it so I knew I had accountability other than myself.  I needed to talk to my husband anyway - and he was worried about my slipping up the night before and wanting to be supportive, so it worked out well for both of us. 

I'm not perfect - and never will be, but I will continue to succeed because I HAVE TO.  This is a committment I have made to myself and my family.  I will remain healthy.  My kids and husband are willing to live with less (or no) cookies if neccesary, and I am thankful for their support. 

Our mind can be our best defense and our worst enemy.  And for those friends who read this blog and have not had weight loss surgery, that is why those of us who are surgically altered tend to get militant about how we're eating and our routines - because we know that we have tendencies to get out of control, and we've already risked our life to get healthy.  That little bit of sugar made me crave sugar for the next 4 days.  So I won't be sending care packages of cookies to my out of town friends this year because I'm not making as much as I used to.  But I know you love me anyway :) 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bariatric Betty recieves a random act of kindness

This morning my son and I went to Subway before school.  He has a field trip and they needed a lunch that was disposable (no lunch box), plus he loves their Veggie Patty subs so for special I agreed to pick one up for him.  The election results were being discussed on the radio station playing in the store, and as I checked out the cashier leaned over and gestured to me.  I thought maybe she was going to say something about the election outcome, but instead she said "You look really good!  Really.  Whatever you're doing, you just keep on doing it!"  Wow.  I can't even tell you how much that lifted me up.  First, I only go to Subway about 1-2 times a month, so I only vaguely recognized her and was surprised she recognized me as having changed at all.  Second, I  was bundled up in a winter coat and knit hat, without makeup, and wouldn't have said I felt particularly attractive.  I was so surprised that all I could say was "Thank you, you're so nice". 

How amazing that a stranger can have such a big impact on us.  Obviously, as a WLS patient she happened to say something that touched my heart.  But it made me think of the random acts of kindness and secret santas that you hear about during the holidays.  People paying for the person behind them in the drive through.  Helping pay off layaways for strangers.  In my case, just a kind word that made my heart feel like it swelled and almost made me cry.  It reminded me that not only must we guard against bullying, hate, and destructive thoughts/ people, we must look for opportunities to help others.  With kind words, kind thoughts, kind actions. 

We can reach out to other WLS patients with encouragement.  We can thank people who serve us in their jobs.  This morning I stopped at Walmart and mentioned I had forgotten something when I was line and the cashier started to call somebody to go get it for me.  Wow.  I told her not to do it, that I didn't need to be at work for a little while, I didn't want to hold up the line and I knew that they had plenty of other things to do, I could get it and check out again.  She was surprised, and thanked me saying that it wasn't often that they heard from people that they work hard.  I made sure to tell her supervisor how nice she was.  Maybe she will feel a little lifted herself today. 

We can give thanks for our blessings and remember how lucky we are.  Regardless of your feelings about the election, we can be thankful that in our country we have the right to choose our leaders.  As I look at my pile of dirty laundry I can be thankful that unlike the people in New Jersey, we have all the warm clothes we need - not to mention safe and dry homes.  We can make donations to the Red Cross.  As our children begin fantasizing about Christmas and Hanukkah gifts, we can help them learn about giving to others.  Picking out presents for children in need.  Donating our outgrown (or out-shrunk in my case) coats and mittens.  Organizing or participating in a food drive. 

The days are getting colder and wetter - especially as Sandy came through Ohio.  After almost a week of solid rain we had just a few breaks that even included glimpses of blue sky in between the dark clouds.  This has been rough on my training routine, as I regularly get a lot of cardio walking and jogging with my dog.  There's only so much I can get him to do in the rain, however, and jogging in my rain boots isn't practical.  So my steps-per-day has taken a hit, both from my workouts and from the fact that the rain has meant indoor recess for my job at the school.  Sometimes I get to do Wii Just Dance with them, but other times, it's walking around a classroom and encouraging them as they color or play board games.  A couple of times I've done a workout on my elliptical, and I'm still going to the rec center a couple times a week to jog or swim.  As the weather gets worse, I'll need to do that more.  I bought some Under Armor Cold Gear pants to jog in.  After the complement I received today, I felt like running an extra mile today!

However, I decided to carpe diem and signed up for a 5k!  This might sound counter-intuitive as the length of time I'm running has decreased both because of bursitis in my hip and weather, but I need the challenge.  I've always thrived on challenges - to do better than I've done before, to prove someone wrong who underestimated me, to accomplish something new...  So when Living Social had a deal for a discounted registration for the Jingle Bell Run in Cleveland I decided to jump on it.  After all, as another jogger told me - just because you sign up for a 5k doesn't mean you can't walk part of it if you want to!   I would love to jog the whole thing, but will play it by ear & hip.  It's a run to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation and I'm running it in honor of my husband.  He has struggled with rheumatoid arthritis since he was a child, at times being unable to walk or use his hands.  He is also a source of inspiration to me.  There are the times when I cheered him on in triathalons and the times when he can't sleep because of pain but still gets up in the morning to go to work or play with our kids.  He is my biggest supporter, and I wish that he could have a surgery and get a chance at a pain free life, but arthritis doesn't work like that.  So I'm running both for myself and for him - and he'll be running with me in spirit. 

Halloween wasn't a big source of temptation for me right now, I'm not craving candy and am still scared of dumping but I have some things I do to improve my chances of making healthy choices.  My strategies include 1) out of site/ out of mind - store the halloween candy in a cabinet I don't go into 2) mostly buy things I don't enjoy - this is easier for me because I'm allergic to chocolate and 3) get it out of the house ASAP.  My kids know that they have to choose their favorites after trick-or-treating and then they each get a sandwich baggie to fill with their choices.  The rest usually goes to work with my hubby, but this year the middle school is having a candy drive for our armed forces overseas, so I think we'll send it there. 

I've started my holiday baking, and am enjoying it a lot.  Right now I'm making poticia, a Slovenian nut roll that takes a lot of time to make.  I've had no temptations to eat it, so that's good.  As soon as I finish cooling and wrapping it, it goes right into the downstairs freezer.  After I finish that I'll start on the cookies.  My family has had a long history with cookies - we even decorate our Christmas tree with them!  My parents always hosted a New Year's Eve cookie party for my friends as I was growing up.  That way they knew we were safe and off the roads, our friends enjoyed coming and eating cookies all night, and our fun was all g-rated.  We do the same for our kids.  Cookie baking has the potential to be more tempting - I used to love snacking on cookie dough, a definite no-no.  If I find myself picking at the dough or tasting the frosting, I will stop baking.  We'll just have to find a new tradition.  It's not worth making myself sick with dumping or backsliding into old habits.  So in a way, this is another challenge that I'm signing up for - continuing to prove to myself that I am a person who will enjoy the creativity and fun of baking without eating it.  I've done it before - I was pre-op dieting last year during my baking season, so this year I just have even more reason to stay on the program. 

At my last support group meeting we had a great idea I thought I would pass on to my readers.  Next month we're going to have a swap, where we each bring in things we don't use that others might be able to enjoy.  For me that will include some packets of protein powder that I never enjoyed and didn't need post-op, some Hazelnut Torani, and some Lactaid tablets.  That way some other vets and pre-ops can benefit from some of my "misses" and maybe some of theirs will be a "hit" with me.  I plan on giving someone $60 of PHP protein powder that I didn't use :)  Pass it on - or pay it forward.

If someone does you a kindness or you get a chance to do one for someone else, post it on Facebook.   You could say "I saw someone ...."  instead of saying you did it yourself so nobody thinks you're blowing your own horn.   Let's start that holiday goodwill early, and try to inspire others to do the same. 


Monday, October 22, 2012

Bariatric Betty - Swimsuit Edition, 9 mo. post-op

OK, I'm feeling brave.  Still scared, but I figure if I can't share these pics here, where can I show them???

In January, after I had lost 25 pounds pre-op, my family went on a vacation to Kalahari Resort (a wonderful indoor waterpark).  I was wearing size 18/20 swimsuits then, and on our second day I asked my family to take some "before" pictures of me.  They weren't pretty.  I didn't expect they would be, but I wanted to document how I looked before surgery, and the swimsuit shots sure did that.  I didn't know if I would ever show these pictures to anyone, but figured if I did, it would be when I was at goal, and accompanied by new pictures of me in a smaller swimsuit. 

Fast forward 10 months.  I'm 9 months post-op and at my goal give or take a few pounds.  Finding swimsuits has gotten harder as I have lost weight, because my lower torso has lost weight and sizes quicker than my upper torso.  I have been wearing tankinis with different sized tops and bottoms to make sure that the bottoms wouldn't fall off and the tops would cover the girls.  Still, as my sizes have continued to change, I have had to go through several different suits to keep keep it that way.  After my most recent swim resulted in the girls starting to float up out of the top while I finished laps, I decided I had to do something drastic. 

I looked online for an athletic-cut suit that would provide decent support, would be a one piece, and would have a high enough neck that my chest would stay contained and compressed into place.  Given it being a one piece, the size would be tricky - my top is currently a 14/16 and my bottom is an 8.  I decided to forgo the skirt.  I have sagging extra skin on my thighs and below my rear, but that is what it is.  I wanted this swimsuit to swim laps with - not lounging by the pool.  When summer comes, I'll get a sarong or something. 

I found a swimsuit on by Aquasphere that seemed to fit the bill.  Higher neck, clip around the back like a bra, chlorine resistant... I was just worried about the fit.  After looking at the size chart several times I decided to try a size 10.  Any bigger and the leg holes would show way more than leg, any smaller and I knew the girls wouldn't fit.  Thank goodness they are a lot more compressable now!  It came in today and worked surprisingly well.  ***Unsolicited recommendation for other WLS women out there - the cut on this suit covers a lot of excess skin that other swimsuits don't. 

I showed it to my husband and kids and they all gave it the thumbs up.  My husband pointed out that the kids could now really see the extra skin on my legs and stuff, but that "Mommy's not embarassed about that, and that's cool."  I reinforced it saying "Yeah, it's kind of like having a scar after being shot - you're grateful to have survived and don't mind people noticing because it's a reminder that you survived.  All my fat got too small for my skin."  The kids kind of nodded and said "Yeah, it's nice." with prompting.  I started thinking maybe it was time to take the "after" pics but wasn't sure.   My husband thought I should just wear it around the house for the rest of the evening!  Hah!  I decided to go change.

I was on my way upstairs when someone rang the doorbell and without thinking I opened the door.  That poor election volunteer!  I'm sure she didn't expect to have a middle-aged woman wearing a swimsuit open up the door on an October evening in Ohio.  Oh, well.  I apologized and answered her questions.  When I closed the door I thought - well, if I can have a conversation with a total stranger in this swimsuit, I guess I'm as ready as I'm going to be.  So here we are; front and side views of before and after surgery.


I've lost over 70 pounds since the first picture was taken (I don't have a full length picture of myself in a swimsuit at my heaviest - but I think I'm grateful for that).  I've lost over 10 inches around my waist, 10 inches around my chest, even 5 inches from my thighs, 3 inches off my biceps and one cup size.  Whew.  Thanks for sharing this journey with me.  It's not over by any means - I will be working to continue to maintain my weight loss and improve my health (mental and physical) for the rest of my life.  And I'm so grateful to have this blog and my supportive readers.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bariatric Betty's a shadow of her former self - PICS!

I'm blown away.  After seeing some pictures people had taken of them "wearing" a pair of pants they used to fit in pre-surgery by fitting both legs into 1 leg of the pants, I decided to try it.  So yesterday I dug through my old clothes and couldn't find any of my old size 20 pants - I donated a lot of clothes right after surgery.  But, I did find a pair of size 18 jeans and tried it.  It worked!  The funniest thing was that they were tightest around my calves and ankles, the THIGHS fit in easily.  So when I went to visit my father-in-law with my boys I had a documenting session.  This is the picture my son Justin took of me!

Seriously?  Holey cow. 

So, the second part of my documenting was the body tracing.  Flashback: the weekend before my surgery, my younger son Ian and I were talking and I realized that even though I thought I had explained the surgery really well to him, he thought I would be coming home from the hospital skinny, or at least signifigantly smaller!  So, in an effort to explain the reality, I laid down on a piece of posterboard and had him trace my torso.  Then I filled in some of the internal organs involved in red (a little hard for you to see on the pink posterboard, but it worked for him and that's who I made it for).  Then I used a blue marker to show where the cuts would be made on my skin, and what the surgeon would do on the inside.  Then I explained that when I got home, the outline of my body would still be the same, that is would take months of my new eating and exercise for it to get smaller.   I ended up cutting it out yesterday and laid it against a blue background.

About 5 months post-op I was curious to see how my "new" body would compare to the old one, so I laid down on the pink posterboard again and had my son trace me again.  That's the smaller outline you can see inside.  I was surprised (and pleased) to see that it had changed that much at that point.  Then I decided that when I had reached my equivalent of "goal weight" (my doctor never set a number, but I had suggested being in the 150s and he thought that was great) I would do it again.  That evolved into thinking that I would have my son trace me again on a different piece of posterboard and cut it out so I could lay it over the old me. 

Now I'm in the 140s (never really thought that could happen 8 months ago) and my guess is this is pretty close to my final weight.  I'm down to 28.3 % body fat I would like to see that go down a little (healthy is considered 25), but I think that will be more turning fat into muscle, so the scale won't change that much.  95 pounds down from my initial weight.  So, time for the tracing! 

OK, I have to say that my son's tracing must have angled in under my muffin top, my chest, and the rest of me, and apparently when I lay down my bat wings go underneath the rest of my arm.  I considered having him retrace me and tell him to try to make sure the chalk went straight down - there were a couple spots that his tracing seemed to have two different tracks (I cut on the larger one).  But then I decided no - he had done all the other tracings of me without directions like that - he might have been angling those as well.  So you can see from my picture at the top that my arms are not stick-like - so take this as more as a perspective, not reality - but WOW!

So after I spent a while wrapping my head around THIS I realized something else.  I lost 30 pounds BEFORE the pink one was made.  My pink self could have been BIGGER.

This shows me as literally a shadow of my former self.  But I don't see myself as a shadow.  I see myself as distilled, or concentrated.  The essence of me, with the excess and unneccesary boiled away by walking, jogging, swimming.  I am distilled.  I am high proof. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bariatric Betty laughs and victories (scale and non-scale)

OK, for everyone who needs a laugh... My "shrinkles" (wrinkles of excess skin) continue to be amusing.  Most recently I found out that when you have goosebumps on top of shrinkles, it can look really bizarre.  Note to the non-WLS patient readers - we get cold, a lot.  Imagine that you had lived most of your life wearing multiple wool sweaters in all weather, and then suddenly they were taken off.  Our thermostat is out of whack, so we tend to get cold easily (and stay cold a long time) just like the elderly.  Anyway, catching site of myself naked while chilled led me to an instant one-phrase description: Pink Seersucker!  That's what my skin looked like.  I was amused enough to consider taking a picture - but not crazy enough to do it.  Pseudonym or not, I don't want naked pictures online!  So after googling pink seersucker online, here's my best representation of what "shrinkled" goose-bumped skin looks like:

The only thing I would add is that the goosebumps appear about 4 times larger than they do on normal skin - I think mostly because the skin is so loose.  It looked a cross between goosebumps and hives!  

During my stall, I've kept looking for NSV's.  The most recent one was I went through the last of the clothes that I purchased 6 months ago (at 5 weeks post-op) at our school district's sale (Budget Bin).  On the last day of the sale, you can purchase a bag for $5, and then fill it with anything!  I chose to buy a lot of clothes that way, since I was still a size 16 in pants, and 2x/1x in tops.   Everything was just on faith that I might fit into them someday.  I got a lot of pants, because I had already discovered during the first 5 weeks of shrinking that while you can wear too-big shirts forever, too-big pants will FALL DOWN.  Of course, it is flattering and emotionally strengthening to wear correct sizes, but during the rapid weight loss phase, you simply can't affort to keep buying new clothes.  So, I got a lot of 14s and 12s, some 10s, and 1 pair of size 8 and one pair of size 6 pants.  I really never expected to go below a size 10.  When I was starving myself to be skinny in high school I wore a size 10 at 112 pounds.  Since I know that wasn't a healthy weight, I knew I would never be that small again, but then there is vanity sizing. 

A size 10 now isn't a size 10 from 25 years ago.  Talking with some neighborhood moms has reinforced my estimation that you can weigh 30-40 pounds more (plus have given birth to children - that means wider hip bones, people) and still fit in the "same size" you used to.   So when I got down to a size 10 I was surprised and pleased, but I knew that it's also a lie they sell us.  Then a little while ago I blogged that I bought some size 8 jeans.  They actually fit.  That was unexpected for me -although not for my mentor Jojo, who has been telling me I would fit in a size 8 or smaller since I was pre-op.  She's smirking right now and thinking "I TOLD you so!".  I had only gotten the size 8 and 6 pairs of pants because they were "free" since I had extra room in my bag, and from upscale shops.  So here's the NSV - the other morning I was getting ready for work and realized the the jeans I was putting on were stained, and everything else that fit was in the laundry already.  I dug through my drawers and found the Size 6 Ann Taylor khakis and thought "Why not try them?" and they FIT.  Well, they fit around my waist and hips - they weren't petite so I had to wear boots with heels so I didn't trip (note to self- never again wear heels to work, walking constantly for 2 1/2 hours in heels is PAINFUL).  Now for the reality check - I also just tried on a 10 petite pair of jeans that I found in the same drawer which I had missed before and other than being highly unflattering - they were snug around my waist.  But still - I'll take the NSV - I fit into a size 6 pant!

The stall has broken!  My second longer stall (about 4 weeks) and the scale started moving again.  This wasn't as hard for me as you might think.  I'm very happy with my success so far, and when the first big stall happened and I started to wonder if I was at the end of my weight loss - and then I came to the conclusion that if it was, I was OK with that.  No longer diabetic, no longer morbidly obese or even obese, able to jog and keep up with my kids... if I was "stuck" there for the rest of my life, how bad would that be?  Totally worth changing my life for.  Four pounds and a month later and I stalled again.  Again, I didn't feel the panic and frustration I felt before surgery during stalls.  Keep working the program, just be happy for where I am... and apparently I'm not done yet!

As of this morning I am under 150 pounds for the first time since college.  This was the most remote possibility I considered in weight loss when I talked about goals with my surgeon.  Despite what BMI charts would lead me to believe, I don't believe I can be a healthy weight below 135.  Being top-heavy with a large chest and broad shoulders, not to mention my excess skin, the range of 113 - 141 for "normal" for average people people my height doesn't translate well.  So I had talked about wanting to get down into the 160's, that I would be thrilled to be in the 150's and I guess the lightest I could imagine being happy and healthy at was the 140's.  And now I'm there.  Whoa. 

So I'm not even 8 months out and I've lost about 95 pounds.  I don't think I need to lose any more (although my vanity would like to be able to say "I lost 100 pounds!").  I would like to exchange some more fat for muscle (around my abdomen, where I have always carried the most fat) - but wouldn't everyone?  We don't get to choose where our fat comes off.  My non-existant rear-end has thinned out further, and my legs which always were one of my best features have enough excess skin hanging on them that when I lift my leg up while laying down, it looks like one of those drippy-candles my mom used to have in old wine bottles.

You know, with the excess wax pooling around in layers at the bottom!  It's weird.  I have the bat wings under my arms, too.  All of this I consider battle scars and a strange source of pride - although I have taken effort to learn how to display the best part of my evolving body.  I will wear sleeveless shirts and dresses, but will keep my arms down and in close to my body most of the time - especially if there are pictures.  I'm most comfortable wearing a swimsuit with a skirt to hid the excess skin folds around my rear.  My chest is actually decreasing in size (YAY!!!) - although with the amount of skin I have it still fills a "D" cup easily.  If I ever have plastic surgery it will be a long-dreamed-of breast reduction - although I now wonder if the excess skin was removed how much additional reducing would be needed.  This is a bonus - even at that too-skinny stage in high school I was a 32DD.  I don't know why my body has decided to let go of some of the volume there now, but I'm not complaining!  So much has changed about my life; my body and health, getting a job, and how I can participate in more things with my friends and family.  But inside I'm still the same person, I just enjoy my life a lot more.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lost and found, Bariatric Betty embraces hard stuff

The fitbit is lost, long live the fitbit!  Yes, I lost my second fitbit, and have been trying to manually calculate my steps and calories burned all week - boy did it have me spoiled!  My clip/holder had broken the week before and I had contacted the customer service for a free replacement.  For that week I was clipping the fitbit directly on to my belt loops, bra straps, etc.  And on that last fateful day - I jogged with my dog after clipping it on, and came home to find it gone.  I traveled my path again twice, trying to find it to no avail.  Fitbit had already given me a replacement once for free - it wasn't reasonable to expect them to do it again.  And then a ray of light - they have a new (cheaper!) fitbit - the Fitbit Zip.  It does everything but counting flights of stairs and sleep monitoring.  That's not bad - I don't even use the sleep monitoring function.  And instead of $99 it's only $59.  OK!

So I sent an email to customer support reporting the loss of my fitbit, and on the next business day... it happened.  "We would be happy to send you a complementary replacement..."  No way.   OK, I will once again rave: Fitbit - BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER.  So here is my unsolicited ad - in addition to the newer cheaper Zip, the Fitbit One (which should be out for the holidays) will have all the initial capabilities as the Fitbit Ultra - but it and the Zip will be able to interact wirelessly with Apple devices and soon select Android devices.  No more base with a cord.  Woo-hoo!  I'm just getting a replacement Ultra, but for those of you who might be considering a splurge (or who want to whisper a wish to Santa) - this will be even more amazing.   Here's a link

OK, so my scale is hovering around the same number it has been on for the past 4 weeks; we are in a stall, Houston, we are in a stall.  But, I'm not worried.  I have continued to lower my Body Fat Percentage a little at a time, so I know I'm replacing fat with muscle.   I also got my test results back from my primary care physician and they were ALL NORMAL.  All my supplements are doing their jobs, no deficiancies, no diabetes, nothing wrong :) 

I'm enjoying my job, I really get a lot out of being an elementary school monitor.  Other than basically functioning as a lifeguard/ babysitter in the lunchroom and playground, I get a chance to impact the lives some of the kids.  The kid who are bored and need a challenge - have you tried running around the track - see how fast you can get around it!  Wow - you went around the whole monkey bars by yourself look how strong you have gotten by trying every day!  Watching the girl who just lost a parent find solace in helping a special needs student.  The student that told me his "heart hurt" and the resulting conversation that ended up with a referral to child protection services.  The daily boo-boos that give me a chance to talk about how amazing and strong the human body is, that it's already working on healing itself while we walk to get a band-aid.  Explaining to the children who are sad or mad that their friend doesn't want to be their friend anymore that even friends can have disagreements - that real friends will forgive each other and play together another day.  Talking about being fair and sportsmanlike, about including others, and watching the kids grow.  It's very rewarding.  In another life I think I would love to be a guidance counselor - but in this one I appreciate the chance to help when I can and refer them to someone better qualified when it's beyond my level.  One of my NSV's (non-scale victories) this week was that I was able to run around the playground track with my 1st graders when they asked me to join them - without breaking a sweat.

Dealing with stress seems to be going better - in addition to talking with my husband, I'm choosing to walk or jog more than any other coping mechanism.  Of course, last night I had a mega-wave of PMS hormones triggering some huge irritability.  It was late, and since I was finding myself getting ticked about things that I could see weren't worth getting upset about, I elected to send myself to bed early.  I just announced that I was worn out, and asked my hubby to take over - which he graciously did.  This morning I explained why, and he actually thanked me! 

Earlier this week I realized I was starting to eat progressively more of the delicious caramel calcium chew supplements than I needed every day.  Not good.  After chatting with a reader who was asking MY advice about staying away from temptation I recognized it for what it was - an addictive behavior.  Enjoying something, turning to craving something, turning to increased consumption/ usage... That might sound extreme labeling to those of you who haven't been morbidly obese, but most of us recognize that are our overeating could be classified as addiction.  So, I threw the caramel supplements out.  Bought boring tablets.  Did I overreact?  Not in this case - I know because 1) late that day I thought about pulling them out of the trash (they were in a sealed bag) and 2) because I craved those caramel supplements for the next three days.  Were they going to make me fat again?  No.  They might have led to kidney stones because of the large doses of calcium - that wouldn't be good.  But it's more the fact that I recognize that I can't allow myself to have something that I'm going to "crave" because it grows out of control too easily with me.  Will I ever let myself have treats again?  Yes, but definitely not in my first year, and then it will be a small amount, rare, and not keeping it in my house.   Eating too much of anything is unhealthy.  Even calcium.

Yes, my head is a constant work-in-progress.  But I didn't get morbidly obese because of stellar mental health, and I am definitely earning my improved health.  By making good choices over and over again, I look forward to it not being so difficult some day.  It's not difficult every day now, and I am so grateful I have my pouch to help me! 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Bariatric Betty Breaks down a bit, plus a new pic

I saw my primary care physician for the first time since surgery this week.  She was thrilled with my success and there were a lot of fun "Oh my goodness, I almost don't recognize you!" compliments.  She asked a lot of questions and was thrilled with my exercise routine.  She also seemed surprisingly knowledgeable about blood tests that need to be watched.  But, there were some not fun things as well. 

If you remember my birthday post, I talked about how my birthday was wonderful with the exception of some poison ivy on my face and neck.  I ended up getting both an injection of steroids and later being put on an oral dose pack as well.  About halfway through the itchy mess of that, I noticed a sore itchiness around my waist on my right side.  At first I assumed that I had spread the poison ivy there in my sleep.  Later as it spread around my back, I began to think it might be something different.  It felt uncomfortable for fabric to touch it, and it wasn't as itchy as the poison ivy.  I rubbed some topical cortizone cream on it a couple of times a day.  I started wondering if I was experiencing the skin infections/ rashes that some WLS patients get under the folds of their skin.  My rash seemed to be on top and under the flap of skin, but I thought I would get my primary care physician's opinion.  I haven't thought I would want plastic surgery unless there was a medical necessity.  On the other hand, if my skin was going to itch and sting like this off and on for the rest of my life - that might push me towards it, and I better start getting it documented.

So as I described it, she said she would take a look - we were doing my annual exam, so she was going to be looking at everything anyway.  It only took her a couple seconds of looking for her to inform me that it was not poison ivy.  It was shingles!  In a lucky coincidence, I erupted into shingles while I was being treated for poison ivy, so all the steroids I was taking for the later helped the shingles not be so horrible.    What a strange silver lining!

Next she felt my hips - I had told her about sleeping on my stomach with a pillow under my abdomen to alleviate discomfort from my hip bones on my skin.  She felt them and said "Oh my, you are bony there!"  Bony?  Never in my life would I ever dream I would be called bony ANYWHERE.  But one thing you learn about major weight loss is that you don't lose it evenly, and certainly not in any order of preference of location.  Then she felt my left hip where I have been feeling some pain especially when I'm walking/ jogging and announced that I have some bursitis.  She would have prescribed anti-inflammatories, but knew I can't take them as a WLS patient.  She said if the tylenol stops working, she can prescribe injections of anti-inflammatories, which I can take. They also suggest you stop the repetitive motion that is aggravating the bursa and causing it to be inflamed.  Yeah.  Well, I can't stop walking, and I don't want to stop jogging.  For now the tylenol works fine.  But there might come a time when I will need to change my exercise routine because of it.  Isn't bursitis like an old-person-thing?  I guess it goes with my old-person-loose-skin now.

Last borders on TMI, but she also found that the unusual pressure I have been feeling at times is due to a rectocele.  A rectocele is kind of a hernia of the colon.  In my case it isn't causing actually pain, and returns to it's proper position when there's no straining involved.  She said that there's no risk to my health involved right now but that if the pain or retraction changes we'll have to look into surgery.  Apparently obesity is a big risk factor in rectoceles.  I suspect I might have had it for a while but didn't notice it until my diet changed into 90% protein and therefore made me more prone to constipation.  So I will continue to work on packing fiber in. 

Two weeks into my new workout program results... my dog and I can both now jog North/South Roundhead circle. That means that except for a 5 minute warm up walk and 5 minute cool down walk, we are now jogging his entire walk! Boy, that was quicker that I imagined it would be. There are several advantages to this. First and foremost, I get his walk done in 25 minutes instead of 45. Extra time is a serious advantage. Second, it kicks up my exercise a notch, increasing the intensity and calories burned. I'm still not loving jogging itself, but I'm enjoying the benefits.

I'm doing the alternating walking/ jogging with my son three evenings a week, so on those days I'm just walking Perseus in the morning. Then I'm walking during my monitor shift. Last Thursday I got over 20,000 steps in a day according to my Fitbit! Even cooler, I found out that since I got it on Mother's Day I have walked over 1,000,000 steps. One million.  How wild is that???

Then there is the mental part of my work-in-progress life.  Last weekend I had a scary reminder of how easy it is to get off track.  We were holding a sleepover and I went to go make the traditional post-no-sleep-over breakfast of pancakes.  Out of Heart Healthy Bisquick.  So I got out my cookbook and made some batter from scratch, but it didn't look or cook right.  I tasted it, and realized I had forgotten to put in the melted butter.  Remixed it and tasted it again -ahhh, much better.  I made the pancakes but found myself wiping off the batter drippings with my finger (and then licking the finger).  Yum.  Uh oh.  I love to bake, and have been very good since surgery not to eat anything I bake (which has been pretty easy).  However, for some reason I have always liked the unbaked stuff (cookie dough, batter, etc.) as much or more.  Here I let down my guard and find myself slipping into old habits.  No no no no!  It's a reminder that I need to be vigilant.  I probably tasted less than a tablespoon of batter, so I didn't dump.  I did, however, crave carbs more than usual for the next couple of days.  This weekend we had another sleepover, another pancake breakfast, and I was careful not to let one drop of batter reach my lips. 

I also caught myself chain eating salted cashews when they are left out on the table.  Cashews aren't a bad snack if I haven't gotten all my protein in - but when you find yourself taking three or four nuts every time you pass the table you aren't eating to live.  You're grazing.  Away go the cashews.  Out of site, out of mind.

All of this leads up to my losing it over some innocent choices my husband made for my son and officially inducts me into the food-nazi society, I guess.  After a tough football game that my son played in a soaking rain, my family split up for the trip home.  My husband got my football-player son a bottle of "Gatorade: Recovery".  And a bottle of regular gatorade.  I found out about the first on the phone and was like "Why??? It's only 10am?  He had 20grams of protein at breakfast, he doesn't need the 16 grams of protein now when he's going to come home and eat lunch (and more protein) in one hour!  And it has a lot of sugar, too.  He doesn't need that.  He's going to get high blood sugar and then crash as the insulin kicks in and feel horrible."  The when they got home I saw a second bottle of regular gatorade being consumed on top of the first one and just took it from him and threw it out.  "Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently said that NO STUDENT ATHLETES WILL BENEFIT FROM SPORTS DRINKS?  That basically it's like giving them sugar water or pop.  The only gatorade they should get is the low cal one, and even then it's unnecessary.  Water is best.  If they want to drink one of these for treat - like instead of an Icee, that's OK, but this is not helping him!"  Add in that they stopped at GameStop on the way home so he could blow his allowance when his brother also wanted to go there, and I was beyond irritable. 

It didn't help that I was tired, having to get up at 6am on Saturday to get him to the pre-game warm-up and meeting.  Or that I hadn't gotten my usual morning walk/ jog in with the resulting endorphins.  But I think mostly it was feeling overwhelmed.  Pushing myself to keep up with my exercise, work, finding out about the shingles/ bursitis/ rectocele, and the normal daily struggling with the kids about homework/ cleaning up/ etc.  I just lost it.  My poor husband. 

So the last couple weeks have been a little shaky, but I'm leaving them behind and climbing back out of that place.  I went to a baby shower yesterday at a beautiful restaurant and drank water through the whole thing.  I really enjoyed seeing a lot of extended family, and really liked most of the compliments I got as well.  The only exception being the one surprised "You look really pretty!" that was then amended to "Oh, not that you weren't pretty before."  Yeah, it's OK, I understand.  And the spirit it was intended in was nice, and they're right I do look a lot better.  I did have to spend about 15 minutes explaining why Visalus would NOT be a good choice post bariatric surgery.  Does anyone else feel like that's a pyramid scheme?  Oi vey.  Anyway, it was fun for the most part, and I brought the take-home goodies back for my boys.  Here's a picture.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bariatric Betty starts the school year with pics and a plan

First I want to brag - I jogged 30 minutes straight on Monday, hitting the final goal of Couch to 5k.  I would love to show you a picture of me "crossing the line" but my camera's battery died right before my son tried to take the pic.  Here's a (blurry) but triumphant pic taken with my phone a few minutes later:

My sons haven't gotten up to jogging that long yet.  My older son has started football, so for now he's off the program as he is getting PLENTY of exercise.  My younger son was really struggling to get past the 3 minute mark before he started wheezing.  At first his pediatrician and I thought it was exercise induced asthma and he tried an inhaler for a couple weeks.  It seemed to make a small difference at first, but then there was an incident in which my older son provoked my younger son and the wheezing started up at only 1 1/2 minutes into a jog.  Hmmm.  After seeing the doc again and him having us induce the wheezing by jogging around his office, his opinion (and mine) is that this is anxiety related, not asthma.  Anxiety runs in the family (as does depression) and he has long had fears that have impacted his functioning to some degree (not wanting to be alone in a room, not wanting to go up or downstairs by himself, fear of loud noises, etc). 

The pediatrician came up with a great plan to keep Ian exercising but reduce the anxiety and make this a positive experience for him.  Ian will only run for 30 seconds at a time, and then walk for 2 minutes, alternating back and forth for 30 minutes 3 times a week.  Then the next week, we shorten the 2 minutes to 1 minute 45 seconds, but keep the running at just 30 seconds each time.  He'll jog more times, increasing his aerobic activity while making it seem like he's not jogging any longer.  We'll keep subtracting 15 seconds away from the walking time and monitor how it goes.  We've done it 4 times now and Ian is responding really well. The first time he couldn't believe how easy it was, and said "This is FUN!" - yes!!!  Here's the boys celebrating my 30 minute jog with me.

Unfortunately, once we left the 2 minute walk zone (the approximate time it takes me to lap him jogging while he's walking) it meant that our workouts aren't very compatible, so I'm doing extra workouts with him and changing up my routine.

School started this week, and with it my return to working as a lunch/ recess monitor.  I love this job for two reasons: I get paid (a little) to walk around for 2 1/2 hours and I get to interact with kids (including my 3rd grader) and know what's really going on at the school.   I'm getting in 5000 - 7000 steps a day during those 2 1/2 hours.  I'm also trying to break my dog into Pooch to 5k so that I can jog with him in the morning. 

Couch to 5k would have me do 30 minute jogs 3 times a week for another week before I would be considered complete.  Between my son, my dog, and my work this is what I'm doing:  1 30 minute jog on the weekend.  Daily 40 minute walk/ jog alternating 90 second jog and 3 minute walk with my dog.  Monday through Friday 2 1/2 hours walking at work.  And 3 times a week, 30 minute walk/ jog alternating with my son.  This doesn't prepare me to jog a 5 k, but it's definitely a LOT of exercise and works with my family.

I had a lot of fun going back to school on the first day for another reason - the compliments!  I had lots of people telling me how wonderful I looked, which was fun.  I have been very open about the surgery, so everyone already knows about it and the only questions I've gotten coming back to the school now are "How much have you lost now?" and "Are you trying to lose anymore?".  I happily responded to the first by saying "90 pounds!" and to the second by saying "I'm not really worrying about trying to drop any more weight, but change more fat into muscle." 

My plan is to eventually get to something like this: jog 1-2 miles a day with my dog, walk 2 1/2 hours a day Monday through Friday, walk/ jog 30 minutes three times a week with my son, and weight/ strength training 2-3 times a week.  That might be a little ambitious, but it's my current plan.

I've been adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet when I have room.  The other night I had 1/2 serving of steamed broccoli and 1/4 of a baked potato after my protein!  Woo-hoo - living the high life!  I'm still getting in 75 - 80 grams of protein a day, so there's not much room for much other stuff, but it does make getting fruits and veggies feel like a treat. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

6 mo. post-op and Bariatric Betty's Birthday (+ pics)

Today is both my 6 month post-op appointment, and my 42nd birthday.  This is what I looked like at my birthday with my family at First Watch last year:

I had just started looking into bariatric surgery, was looking forward to my first information session and already knew that if I did it, this might be the very last birthday cake of my life.  Being diabetic at the time, I couldn't have much, but I did enjoy that carrot cake.   I was 243 pounds.

This year I celebrated my birthday with my family at an Indian's Game at Progressive Field this weekend.  My mom (the person laughing hysterically in the picture below) brought her "birthday hat" which I consented to wear for the picture.  That's my brother who was kind enough to acknowledge he was related to both of us.

When I was getting ready for the game I realized that I didn't have an Indian's shirt in my size any more.  I asked my son if I could try on one of his, a men's Medium, and it fit! Last year I would have worn a men's XL or XXL.   I had a lot of NSVs that day.  My favorite was realizing that when all the kids and I went to go to the batting cages, we could climb over empty seats and (wait for it) climb BETWEEN the bars of a railing instead of making people in the row stand up for us to get out.  I stood there looking at those bars for about 10 seconds before I suggested it.  I kept thinking "OK, those bars are about 16 inches apart.  You know you should be able to get through there now." before I really believed I could do it - and then I proved myself right! 

This morning as people wished me a happy 42nd birthday I realized that I am healthier, in better shape, and happier than I was at 22.  How wild is that?!?

Today at my 6 month post-op appointment I found out I have lost 67% of my excess weight - 60 pounds since surgery for a grand total of 89!  At 5'2" and 154 pounds the doctor was very impressed.  I told him that while I would be fine staying this weight, I'm going to keep working the program and just see where my body ends up.  My ego would like to lose 11 more pounds at least so that I could say "I lost 100 pounds!".  My brain has decided that my body fat measurement is a better indicator of success for me at this point than the scale.  My goal is to hit 25% body fat or less.  I'm at 30% right now, and weight loss has definitely slowed down.  I only lost 17 pounds over this past 3 months, but I also lost over 5% in body fat.   I'm hoping I can get the next 5% off by my surgiversary.  I also signed up to be an "angel" to new bariatric patients - being willing to talk with them over the phone about my experience, and visit them in the hospital.

I jogged 28 minutes today, even though I considered taking the day off from training with the combination of appointments and my birthday - but then I realized that keeping my momentum going meant more to me than sitting at home relaxing.  I hummed the olympic theme again to myself on my final lap, and my boys told me "Good Job, Mom!".  As a birthday favor, they didn't complain about training today ;) 

I made a new composite picture - unfortunately when my computer's hard drive died a couple months ago I lost my "doorway" preop picture (you can see it to the left of this post on the previous composite), but I found one from last Christmas that shows most of me.  This is my PreOp/ 1 month post/ 4 month post/ 6 month post-op composite picture. 

I couldn't have gotten this far without the support of my husband Albert, my family, my friends, my mentor JoJo, and my online and in-person support groups.  Thank you so much for helping me re-start my life.  I'm not done, and I'm sure I will have challenges and bumps in the road, but I can't believe how far I've come already.  In my wildest dreams I didn't imagine that this much would have changed in 6 months. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bariatric Betty feels shame and pride

I'm coming up on my 6 month post-op visit in a couple days, but first I had my 9 year old son's annual check-up.  That was difficult.

My son has been struggling with his weight pretty much his whole life.  He is in the 99% for height for his age as well.  When he was 2 years old he had an incredible weight gain of 10 pounds in something like 3 months, and we requested a consult with a nutritionist after lab work ruled out thyroid problems and diabetes.  We kept a food log for a month and other than cutting out one serving of OJ a day (he used to have 2 because he didn't drink milk, so we got calcium added OJ), the nutritionist said we were doing a great job.  She wished that most of the kids she saw ate as healthy as him.

For the last 5 years we cut out juice altogether (unless it's a "treat" - like instead a bag of chips or dessert if we're eating out).  We've also paid close attention to serving sizes, making protein the priority, and helping him figure out if he is really hungry or just bored.

We've worked hard to keep him active; in addition to loving to ride his bike, play in the pool and on playgrounds, he's done over 4 years of karate and played community soccer for the last 3 years.  This summer we added baseball and the couch-2-5k training.  Last year his pediatrician said this was very important - that he's always going to be a big kid, but that we want to slow his weight gain as he grows and help him have a healthier lifestyle.  Our previous pediatrician (before me moved) had said the same thing, and had said that she would expect an average weight gain of 10 pounds or less a year for a kid like him.  I thought we did really well (especially since my surgery), and suspected he had gained less than 5 pounds in the past year.

First, the good news.  He only gained 4 pounds, so I was right about that.  But, I was wrong about how much he had grown.  I was just SURE he was 5 feet now, but it turns out that he's still under at 4 ft. 10 inches.  He only grew 1 3/4 inches this past year.  That's not a problem, because he's still the tallest kid in his grade!  What was a problem was that I was using the wrong number at home when I was calculating his BMI.  My using his incorrect height of 5 feet meant that he was overweight and had a decreasing BMI.  The correct height means that his BMI is 30.1, and he is officially obese. 

That crushed me.  My son is following in my footsteps in the last way I would want him to - to obesity.  After experiencing the joy of watching my own BMI drop from (morbidly obese) 43 to it's current (overweight) 27.8, seeing that he is just over the border into "obese" just about broke my heart.  I try to teach my kids so many good things, but he learned the lesson of overeating from me. 

His BMI is decreasing.  After I got home I realized I didn't know what his BMI was at his annual physical last year, so I calculated it.  31.2!  So in one year he has gone down 1.1 in BMI - a definite improvement.  And he's now on the border of obesity, instead of sitting solidly inside the category.  He's stretching out, can wear the same size as last year, and is definitely more active.  But that didn't stop that crushing feeling of shame; knowing I failed him by being the unhealthy role model I was for most of the first 9 years of his life. 

I am proud of the changes that I've made, and the ones I've helped my family make in the last 6 months.  I feed them healthier food, and we are all more active.  I know that he is absorbing the hard work he sees me doing, and listens to me talking about how much better I feel.  I feel that I have stopped the trend of increasing BMI and started to reverse it in him.  I knew he was overweight, and I had been trying to help him keep on the right path before I knew he was obese.  He didn't become obese at this visit, he became obese over a year ago, I just didn't know it.  Knowledge is power.  I didn't know how much I was hurting my body until I was diagnosed as a diabetic.  I didn't know I could live the rest of my life on a modified diet until I had to with diabetes, and the success I had in lowering my blood sugar gave me the confidence that I can change my life with the weight loss surgery and my new lifestyle.  I knew that even following the diabetic plan my life would be shorter and have a lower quality of life, and that meant the risks and sacrifices involved with weight loss surgery and living post-bariatric bypass were more than worth it. 

So now I will try to let go of the shame, and focus on the pride I have in the changes I have made in the last 6 months.  And the knowledge that he is almost NOT obese will be a great motivator to keep us all running, to keep me on my plan and be a good role model for him.  Because these are the lessons I want him to learn from me - that if you work hard, you can make good things happen.  You can be healthy, and find out that you're able to do things you've never done before.  The unimaginable becomes possible.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bariatric Betty's body and mind - new pics

I'm coming up on my 6 month post-op point and so much has changed.  Many things, but not everything.

I am no longer diabetic!!!  That will always deserve first billing and multiple exclamation points.  I know that not everybody who has WLS has their diabetes go into remission, and that it can return, but so far I am among the lucky ones and hope to stay that way.  I was just talking to my 9 year old about it yesterday.  That I can assume I will live to see my kids grow up and maybe see grandkids or even great-grandkids some day is something I could not presume before. 

My body continues to morph into a previously unknown thing.  I wrote months ago about the bizarre feeling of realizing that my hips were holding up my pants (instead of my belly).  The first step in that particular revelation was understanding that those two bumps on my front that were feeling pressure from jeans, were in fact, bones.  Bones that I had never before noticed, but had always been there.  These bones weren't visible, but were noticeable for the first time because of the decrease in the fat pad that laid over them.

Recently I have experienced the surfacing of other underlying structures - bones, tendons, etc.  These are not always fun - they are sometimes startling.  I am reminded of an article I read several years ago where a formerly obese woman suddenly notice the prominence of her shoulder blades and thought she might be deformed. 

Lying on my side, the excess skin and fat redistributing down with gravity leaves my hip and pelvis remarkably exposed.  I find myself squeezing them, poking them, and outlining them as I get to know this new "normal" for me.  A few times I have asked my husband to feel them as well, and let me feel his bones to compare and reassure myself that these are indeed, normal.  You mean average people feel these things every time they lay down?  Weird. 

The Anterior Superior Iliac Spine.  Yeah, I looked it up.  Those bumps that help hold my pants up are now painful at times.  Not when active, nothing like arthritis.  They hurt when I lay down on my stomach - my preferred sleeping position.  I think it is more accurate to say that my skin hurts. Having less padding between the bones and skin has apparently made me very sensitive to the pressure.  I frequently find myself putting a pillow under my pelvis (in addition to the thick mattress pad we also have) to give a little extra cushioning. 

I also have lower back pain - a common complaint in WLS patients.  Our center of gravity has changed, and our core muscles are having trouble adjusting to the redistribution.  In my case, my large chest has always caused some back pain, and now that weight is leaving other parts of my body much more than my chest, that increased ratio has resulted in increased pain.  Just leaning forward when brushing my teeth can be fine 20 times, but the 21st and I look like the stereotypical old man, hunched over with a hand on their back.  Most frequently the pain comes when I'm getting up from a lying down position.

I enjoy seeing muscle definition in my legs and shoulders.  I think seeing definition in my clavicles and shoulder blades is attractive!  I never carried much of my weight in my legs, but the jogging has reshaped them anyway.  Feeling the steely tendons around my knees is fun.  Which brings me to a LACK of pain in my knees.  Many morbidly obese people have significant orthopedic issues, hip pain and knee pain being very common.  I was lucky not to have those.  However, I have always had "bad" knees, and even when just "overweight" would have problems where my knees occasionally "popped" out of alignment when I was running or climbing.  That would result in my being on crutches for a week or two at a time.  It didn't happen when I was a morbidly obese adult because I wasn't doing high impact exercise. 

When I started Couch-to-5k training I was very nervous about how my knees would react.  I found that if I opened up my stride and ran it hurt my knees almost immediately, but if I ran short strides low to the ground I stayed pain free.  Having my muscles and tendons tighter than they've probably ever been has given me more support, and I haven't had one incidence of "popping".  Yesterday I actually jogged 25 minutes and felt fine (although really tired) when I was done.  This is a picture of me from last Friday when I finished my first 22 minute jog.

A little hot, a little sweaty, tired and thirsty - but happy.  I can't say I ENJOY jogging, but I find it very rewarding when I'm done.  In two weeks I should be jogging 30 minutes at a time - that is supposed to be the equivalent of a 5k!  When I have completed that challenge, my goal is to 1) choose a 5k to actually run in and 2) Start training my dog in the Pooch-to-5k so that we can change our morning walk to a morning jog.  Next goal - Tackle the Tower  - a stair climbing challenge to climb the Terminal Tower in Cleveland. 

However, parts of my mind remain stubbornly unchanged.  I find myself choosing sedentary things - being online (like now), watching TV, reading - more often than active ones.  I can and do join my kids when they go swimming, play ball, etc for a while, but then often grab a book while they continue to play.  My fitbit calls me active, burning lots of calories and getting over 10,000 steps a day, but I have long periods between active times when I sit - and I don't have a desk job.  I hope those periods start to decrease.  I know once the school year starts I will be standing and walking 2 1/2 more hours a day M-F again.  The head-work continues to be the hardest part of this journey.

Looking forward to my 6 month post-op checkup on my 42nd birthday next week.  I'll be sure to post again then.