Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bariatric Betty at 11 weeks post-op, blending in and standing out.

My shorts fit great when I tried them on two weeks ago, now after I wore them an hour they started falling down.  I smiled.  I grabbed my belt and put it on only to find that the holes stopped too soon.  My belt is too big.  Joy!  I grabbed an awl and made a new hole so my shorts will stay up all day, but it made me think about what this means.  Last summer, not only didn't I need a belt to keep up my size 20 pants, this belt was too short for me to even wear.  Now I needed to add a 6th hole to keep up my size 14 shorts.  Whoa. 
There's a little punch to the left of the fifth whole you can see in this picture.  Yay, #6!

It has become entertaining to look myself in the mirror as I go in to take a shower.  Because some days I notice something new.  Today I noticed some new wrinkles/ folds at my hips - wrinkles and folds mean that I've lost enough weight that there is some new extra skin.  It's not attractive, but it beats the skin being stretched taut because of more fat.  One of the biggest things that weight loss surgery patients have to accept is that barring a LOT of plastic surgery, our bodies will never look like we are "typical".  Our skin has stretched to the point that it has lost a lot of elasticity (like we're 80 or 90 years old). 

Our metabolism will never act like we're "typical" - we will always have a slower metabolism and won't be able to burn the same amount of calories that our never-obese friends will when doing normal activities.  A typical woman might maintain her weight at 1500 calories with 10,000 steps a day.  A weight loss surgery (and previously obese) woman would probably gain weight.  So we will need to eat less and exercise more to maintain, let alone lose weight. 

One of the facebook friends I have made has worked incredibly hard to lose 181 pounds, and when someone at the gym where she was taking a spin class found out, she was asked "did you to it the hard way of the easy way?"  Right.  Like there is any EASY was to lose 181 pounds. 

It made me think a lot about the weight I've lost so far.  I lost 30 pounds before surgery, the so-called "hard way" in about 120 days.  I've lost 35 in the 77 days since surgery by 1) greatly restricting my calories (usually about 700 a day) and 2) Being very active - making sure I'm walking an average of 15,000 steps a day or alternatively exercising (elliptical, swimming, etc). After the first few weeks (when I was limited to fluids and thin purees) were over, I started losing about 1-2 pounds a week.  That's about the same rate I was losing pre-op.  Pre-op I was eating about 1,500 calories a day and was less active. 

I've lost 30-35 pounds before with programs like Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem.  What's the difference?  This time I knew I needed something to lose the other 70 pounds after I took the traditional route.  I think that Weight Watchers is a fantastic program for losing some excess weight, I just don't think it usually works for most morbidly obese people who need to lose 100 pounds or more.  So this time I lost the 30 pounds, and then kicked it up several notches with surgery.  The surgery gives me a temporary "shock collar" on my stomach.  Eat the wrong stuff - feel sick.  Eat too much stuff - feel sick.  Eat too fast - feel sick.  It lets me re-train my brain.  Because my stomach can learn to like the old way of eating again - it's up to me to train my brain to not want to.

Is there anything easy about the surgery?  No.  It was painful and meant committing myself to a lifetime of changed eating and activity.  It came after months of education, psychological screening and introspection.  It meant giving up the notion that I would ever be normal.  Let's face it, as a morbidly obese person I had never lived or eaten like a normal person.  As an obese person, I had never lived or eaten as a normal person.  As an overweight person, I had never lived eaten as a normal person.  And as healthy-weight person I will not live or eat as a normal person.  I have done lots of things that "normal" people have done, but differently.  So what do I know about normal?  Not much.  So why was I so desperate to reach it?  Because I wanted to be healthy, and didn't want to be viewed through someone else's judgement of what an obese person is anymore. 

Here's the cool thing - I will never be normal, but I can fake it now.  I can wear nicer clothes from a non-plus-sized section.  I can wear makeup without sweating it off in normal activities.  I can run after my kids.  I can volunteer in their schools and work a job without collapsing from exhaustion.  I can't quite fake eating "normally" yet, but it will come.  I will learn how to eat 15-20 grams of dense lean protein (even if that means packing it in my purse) and then pushing "normal" food around my plate, even eventually taking a bite or two of select things. 

My personality has never been typical - I've always lived life with enthusiasm and passion.  Nobody has ever taken me for a demure, unopinionated gentlewoman.  Working as a monitor in the elementary schools has been eye-opening in many ways.  I see many children who stick out as "different".  I like different, different makes life interesting, and you can be proud to be different.  However, you also need to learn how to conform at times.  Sometimes you can steal the spotlight, but other times you really have to know how to blend in with the choir - because life requires it.  And now I can blend in when I want to/ need to, and be part of the supporting chorus.  To pitch in as an equally able part of a team.  So the judgement backs off a bit, and then when I want to - I can show people things I'm PROUD to be judged on. 

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