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.