Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bariatric Betty Faces the Inevitable

So I knew this time would come - the Stall.  When anyone loses weight, they go through periods of time when they don't see much progress.  The first couple weeks/ months are usually full of rewards like watching the numbers on the scale go down steadily, fitting into new sizes of clothes.  It's great!  But at some point your body say "Hold on, let me adjust." and your numbers stop going down. 

In the past, this was very hard for me.  I would be following the plan, eating healthy, working out, and want to see results.  One way to get out of a stall is to eat less, another is to workout more.  When I was a teenager I did both those things repeatedly until I wasn't eating for days and started passing out.  Not good.

In my adult life I have understood that stalls happen, and yes - you can shake up your exercise routine and sometimes it will start the losing again.  But once you're on a healthy low calorie diet, eating less will not help weight loss, it will start a process where you body will go into starvation mode and hold onto weight in an effort to "save" you.  And if you increase your exercise, you have to be prepared to keep the same level of exercise.  So when I was on weight watchers and started biking 5-6 miles a day it helped me earn points and lose more weight - but when I couldn't bike that much any more I gained it back - because my body adjusted to mega exercise and when I went down to just being active the weight stopped coming off, and eventually started to come back on.

Imagine swearing off your favorite foods, working out over an hour a day, eating less and feeling hungry most of time, and then the weight stopped coming off and you were STILL OBESE.  Still not fitting into regular sizes and still getting the looks and comments from rude people who thought you were lazy and lacked self control, and still having major health issues.  After months of dieting - 6 months, 9 months, a year.  Still being obese.  After a while, you start thinking "Why am I doing this if I'm still going to be obese???"

So here is the change - I have hit a stall, and been warned it can last weeks to months, but this time, I am already NOT OBESE.  I am already NOT DIABETIC.   I already have a lot more energy and abilities - thanks to the surgery I was able to change enough things before this stall to be prepared to stick it out.  I already know it's worth it, even if I don't lose another pound.  But I do want to lose more!

I also prepared for this in another way - I have been measuring my body to see the changes in inches as well as pounds, and monitoring my body fat percentage.  I have not lost weight and my body measurements haven't changed for almost two weeks, but my body fat percentage has gone down 1.2%!  That means that I lost over 2 pounds of fat and gained that much muscle.  So I am making progress, this isn't a stopping point, it just means my progress isn't as easily measured or observed.

I am also continuing to up my physical fitness with the couch25k program.  Yesterday we started Week 3, where we doubled the longest time we had jogged so far.  I have to say, I really like this program and would encourage other non-runners to try it.  You can find it at   I keep waiting to get to a point where I say "Oh my gosh, this is too much!" but it really keeps you progressing at a good pace.  Was I tired after the longer runs?  Yes.  Was I happy to see the time was up and slow down to a walk - you bet.  But I'm not scared of doing it again tomorrow.  My boys are continuing to do really well on it, too.  My older son finally got sweaty yesterday at week 3 - yay, we caught up with his physical fitness level!  My younger son handled the bump up yesterday incredibly well.  He doesn't want to talk about how well he's doing while we're doing it, but at the end he says "it wasn't that bad".  For him and running - that's high praise. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bariatric Betty's best NSV yet!

The week before my gastric bypass surgery, I found out something amusing.  Despite my best efforts to explain the operation and how I would be living/ eating afterwords, my 8 year old thought I would be coming home from the hospital skinny!  In an effort to demonstrate exactly what would be happening (and NOT happening) in the hospital, I lay down on a piece of posterboard and had him trace the outline of my torso in black marker.  Then I drew in my organs in red, showing how things looked on the inside right then.  Then using a blue marker, I drew in what the surgeon would be doing on the inside, and where my surgical scars would be.  After all that was done and I explained the entire poster, I said "See where you traced my body?  That will be just the same when I get home from the hospital.  The only thing that will change on the outside before I get home are the scars/ bandages where they made these incisions."  He was dissapointed and said "I thought you would be smaller because you lost weight."  I explained I WOULD be smaller, but not for months, and that maybe we could trace me again in 6 months and a year and see how I looked then. 

So.... On Friday I was 4 months post-op and my older son just happened to come upon the posterboard while we were cleaning.  So I thought "Why not?" and asked my younger son to trace me again.  I was hopeful it would show a difference, but tried to prepare myself that it might not be much of a difference.  I have always carried my weight in my torso/ abdomen, and tend to be as wide when seen from the side as when seen from the front. 

As I lay down again, I tried to help him center me in the initial outline.  "Can you see the line you drew before on this side?  Can you see it on this side?  How about my arms, should I move them up or down?"  He traced me, and for the most part I was lined up pretty well.  This is the result.

OK, so the new outline is drawn with a skinnier black marker and it's a little harder to see.  But, just look inside the bolder (older) outline and you can see the changes.  I was really surprised to how much my waist had come in.  It was great to see the difference in my arms as well, and that you could see a difference in my neck was almost shocking!  So now I have a new plan.

I had originally thought I would re-trace over the original one at 6 months and a year post-op.  Now I'm going to trace on new and different colored posterboards at 6 months and a year post-op and cut them out.  Then I'll lay the 1 year post-op on top of the 6 months on top of the pre-op and I should have a nice visual reminder of what I've accomplished.  Becoming a shadow of my former self.  Not normal, but extraordinary!  I think I might have it framed. 

If any of my readers are pre-op, I suggest you try this yourself.  While looking at the pre-op outline isn't fun at that moment, this let me see my changes in a way that felt very different from looking at before/ after pictures (although I recommend those as well).  Got to go, it's time to walk the dog and then on to Couch-2-5k training!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bariatric Betty has new pictures!

OK, this is a composite I made of pictures from me pre-op (20 pounds lost), 1 month post-op (total of 40 pounds lost), and 4 months post-op (total of 77 pounds lost).

Per my 11 year old son, looking over my shoulder "You look better!"  Thanks, honey. 

We started week 2 of Couch to 5K training today and it kicked things up a notch.  I was definitely sweating more than I was on the last two workouts.  We just increased the length of time we jog/ walk by 30 seconds each - but when you were only jogging 60 seconds at a time and that changes to 90 seconds, you notice! 

One of the surprise benefits of training with my boys is that we are getting positive feedback from community members observing us at the Rec Center.  Twice now people have asked if I'm their coach to which I've replied "I'm Coach Mom".  Then they've gone on to talk about how cool it is to see a family doing something like this together, how healthy it is, etc.  That's fun to hear, but it's even better for my sons to hear.  My younger son is the more reluctant participant of our group, but even he is finding it fun at times - he starts doing funny little sideways steps while jogging to make us laugh, or seeing how fast he can make his finger bounce against the railing while we're jogging (by applying just enough pressure he can make it vibrate/ skip so fast that it looks superhuman-fast).  Not to mention singing along to "We are the Champions" by Queen as we finished our last reps today. 

Since they pushed through the new level so well today I took them out to one of their favorite places - it has go karts, bumper cars, bumper boats, inflatables, and more.  They had a blast (and I got to take a break and read a little) so it was a win-win for everybody.  This is a picture from the first day we started training.  I look forward to comparing that to a picture of us when we finish our first 5K!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bariatric Betty Apologizes and has big news!

First, as all of my readers have no doubt noticed, I have monetized my blog with AdSense.  This is an experiment that may not continue.  I was very upset to see ads for some oral substance that is being advertised as a substitute for gastric bypass on my page.  I have gone into my ad settings to block pharmaceuticals/ medicine ads (as well as some other objectionable things) and hope that I can get it blocked on my page.  I do not want my blog to serve to advertise any FDA approved medicines, let alone NON-FDA approved ones.  Meanwhile, if you see something objectionable popping up on my blog's ads, please let me know so I can continue to tweak the controls.  I was hoping for ads for things like workout equipment, clothing, etc.  I apologize for this sorting-things-out period.  If it proves too difficult to restrict the types of ads on here, I will drop the AdSense stuff altogether.

Now, on to other news.  DRUM ROLL PLEASE......

Bariatric Betty is no longer obese!  I have hit a new goal; having a BMI below 30 - and now fall into the "overweight" category instead of "obese" (or previously "morbidly obese").  I have lost 77 pounds total (47 since surgery) and I am hoping to lose another 20 - 30 pounds.  Right now I have lost what my surgeon determined to be 52% of my excess body weight since the day of surgery.  I will NOT be going down to 123 pounds (ideal weight based on those same calculations) - neither my surgeon or I think that would be reasonable to aim for.  My goal is to get to between 140 - 150 pounds and stay there.  That will put me into a BMI between 25 and 26, which is still officially overweight.  Given the muscle gain I anticipate, my extra skin, and my build, I think that is actually a healthy weight and is one that my doctors think would be great as well. 

This brings up another tool I have started to use.  A body fat loss monitor.  As I become more muscular I wanted to have additional things (other than a scale) to give me empirical measurements to measure my progress.  I have been using a tape measure to track changes in my size, but wanted something else.  So I got a monitor that had good reviews and have begun measuring myself.  Right now I am on the "normal setting" instead of "athlete" (although that will be changing) and my body fat percentage is 36.2%.  For my age and sex they suggest normal is 24-33.9.  So my next goal will be to reduce my body fat percentage to 33.9 or less!

One of the ways I am working to achieve this is by starting Couch to 5K training (see  ).  I was very nervous about this - never having been able to run before.  I have bad knees that have "popped out" several times in my teens resulting in knee braces and long periods on crutches.  However, my leg muscles are super strong after all the walking I've been doing, so when I heard about other non-runner WLS patients trying this program I thought I would give it a shot.  My job as a monitor at my son's elementary school was great exercise, adding 5000 steps a day to my totals on average.  Now I am unemployed over the summer and needed to find a replacement for all that 2 hours of walking M-F.  Also, I wanted my kids to be more active and thought "How cool would it be to be able to jog a 5K race as a family?"  So last Friday my boys and I started the 3 times a week training.  So far it has consisted of 5 minutes of brisk walking followed by alternating 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for the next 20 minutes.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not hard for me.  I don't even start to sweat for the first 10 minutes of jog/ walk alternating.  Of course, I'm not jogging FAST - that hurts my knees.  My jog is probably about 4 mph (hmmm, I should check that on a treadmill) with my feet staying close to the ground to minimize impact. 

The first day was difficult emotionally because my 9 year old son was throwing a tantrum almost the entire time.  He doesn't enjoy most changes to his routine.  Add hot weather and flying bugs buzzing around his head (a major fear of his) and he was in tears for about half the training, but he also found out that I meant business - we ARE going to do this.  A little carrot-and-stick later, yesterday we did the 2nd training day (inside on a track at our rec center - a/c and no bugs!) and he came through like a champ.  My 11 year old son is totally on board and enjoying himself.  The program is 9 weeks long (although it will take us 10 weeks because of a upcoming vacation to Colonial Williamsburg) and then we should be able to jog a 5K!  I'm aiming for a Komen Race for the Cure in September in Cleveland, but might do something else if I can find one sooner. 

We've also been going to the pool and local waterpark a lot.  That brought up a need - a swimsuit that fit!  I tried ordering a size 16 petite that I hoped would work, but my bottom half is so much smaller that the suit was flopping around and providing WAY to much of a view of my nether-regions.  I ended up spending over an hour trying on various Land's End tankini combinations and found that my correct size was an 18 top with a size 10 bottom.  Yeah, it's kind of obnoxious.  I know most women are not perfectly proportional, but for the guys out there, imagine if one of your legs was only 1/2 - 2/3 the size of the other and then trying to find jeans that fit.  This was something I didn't deal with as much when I was larger - my waist was much bigger and I looked more proportional (although obese and unhealthy).  But this is how I was created, so as long as I don't get plastic surgery I have left the land of one piece swimsuits for good.  :( 

This is a good time to remind myself that losing weight doesn't bring the body you want - it brings the body you have been given.  It's up to you to make peace with that body and accept it.  I will embrace any body that allows me to live longer and be healthy & active with my family. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bariatric Betty gets Vanity Sized

Before I had surgery, my mentor JoJo said "Oh, you're going to be just tiny!" and bet me I would be wearing size 10s or less.  I told her that was not possible.  I've only worn size 10 jeans once, and that was during my high school flirt with aneroxia.  I had started out dieting somewhat sensibly but as I hit plateau and after plateau I ate less, exercised more, and ended up skipping meals for days at a time.  When I got to the point that I was getting dizzy and starting to pass out when I stood up something clicked (Thank God) and I started eating normal meals again.   Then of course, I started eating more than normal size meals and became overweight and then obese again.

I have no intention of going down to that weight again (according to bmi charts I was at about 20), so I thought "Heavens, no!   There is no way I will wear size 10 jeans again." even though JoJo reminded me that today's size 10s aren't the same as yesterday's size 10s.  Then yesterday I went jean shopping after finding out that my size 12 jeans were getting loose.  I ended up buying a pair of 10 petite jeans at Talbot's Outlet. 

What the heck?!?  OK people, I got quite the buzz off of that, I'm not going to lie.  However, my BMI is 30.4 today, I weigh 58 pounds more on the same height I had back then, not to mention I've had kids, so my hips bones aren't even the same configuration any more.   For those of you not used to the BMI numbers - I'm still officially OBESE (for about 6 more pounds) and I'm wearing size 10 jeans. 

Lies.   Lies lies lies lies lies.  Lies we tell ourselves; "just a couple bites of that won't hurt my diet", lies we are told; "school lunch 'tossed salad' = 1/4 cup of shredded iceberg lettuce", lies the fashion industry tells us; "you are a size 10!"  Lets get real, people!  None of this is helping - it's part of the reason that we are becoming an increasingly obese society.  

Because a middle aged woman can gain over 50 pounds of excess weight and find herself buying the same "size" clothes she used to buy.   Why do we even bother with ladies sizes?  Because we don't want to got by waist and chest measurements like men?  I remember reading multiple times that Marilyn Monroes was a size 12.  Right, I believe that, but to say that implies that she would wear a size 12 today.  Uh uh.  The last time I was my current weight I was getting married (15 years ago).  Now the pounds have moved around somewhat, but I think I was a size 14 in my jeans.  So in 15 years the sizes have moved that much:  14 then = 10 now.  Go back to high school and that's 23 years.  I'm guessing that the 16 year old me wore a today's 4 or 6.

The wedding dress industry may be a little more honest in the measurement department.  15 years ago I was told to order a size 20 wedding dress.  Ouch.  I had heard that "wedding dresses run small" and the size 20 was the right size for my chest, but it's still not fun to hear.  They took in the waist and took up the hem, and it looked great.  I expect that now a days current brides get a much larger shock than I did.  I was watching "Say Yes to the Dress" the other day and a bridesmaid ordered a size 6 dress instead of the 12 that was suggested because she was so upset that they would suggest that she wore a size 12!  I can understand that feeling, but believe me, even after dieting she POURED herself into that dress. 

New York City just made the headlines because they might be banning serving drinks in glasses larger than 16 ounces.  Why?  Because sugary beverages are a leading contributor to our expanding waistlines, and we should be aware of how much we are taking in.  That 44 ounce Coke at the movie theater has over 500 calories - which is 1/3 of the total calories an average woman should be consuming for the day.  (I won't even TALK about the popcorn. Mmmmm popcorn.....)  So get a refill of your 12 or 16 ounces, but know that you're asking for more than 1 serving - make a conscious choice.  I know some people will be yelling "Nannystate" at NYC, but really - if we didn't need reminders, we wouldn't be doubling our obesity rates, would we?

I want to give a shout out to the recent series of anti-smoking ads that have been played on television.  The ones with real past smokers talking about caring for their stoma, or amputated limbs, or living after a heart attack.  They have apparently resulted in a real increase in smoking cessation program inquiries.  Maybe there should be a series of obesity related ones like that.  Reality checks.  Maybe they could feature WLS patients...