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.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bariatric Betty CANCELS Click-a-thon!!!

Hello sweet readers!

I recently found out that it is forbidden by Google and Adsense to ask readers to click on ads, or use them for fundraising, etc.  So please only click on ads that you want to see information about, keep your normal browsing behavior, etc.  As for my plans, I will continue privately donating to causes without mentioning them on this blog so as not to cause any problems.  My apologies for any confusion! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bariatric Betty asks a favor...

The other night I heard from one of my dearest friends, and godmother to my oldest son.  Tomorrow she is having a hysterectomy to rid herself of endometrial/ uterine cancer.  She has a great attitude, is physically and emotional a very strong person and has a great support network.  She knows that chances are good that this surgery might be the only treatment that she needs.  And she spent probably half of the conversation telling me what an inspiration reading my progress on this blog has been for her. 

Seriously - she's preparing herself, her husband, and kids for her major surgery to treat cancer, and she wants to make sure that I understand how much my being open about my sharing this journey has meant to her.  That's the type of person she is - always trying to be there for others.

She's asking for nothing.  She's got a sister who is both a doctor and a cancer survivor as her wingman and advocate.  She's found a great oncologist.  She has both health insurance and a family who loves her desperately. 

So I know that she has friends and family saying prayers for her, and would think this was unnecessary, but I'm going to ask all of you.  If you pray - please pray for my friend Janet and her family tonight and tomorrow.  Even if you don't, please keep her in you thoughts.

Now, I know some of you might have friends or family members who are facing their own challenges right now - and some are probably not half as lucky as my friend Janet to have the support network she has right now.  Some of you may need some prayers yourselves. 

So I'm asking a part two to this favor - if you know someone who needs good thoughts, prayers, or anything like that - leave a comment on this blog or on the post in the facebook group where you saw this link today.  Leave a name, or the challenge, or anything thing you feel comfortable sharing.  And let us all support each other and our loved ones.  Let's share our strength.