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.