Sunday, December 15, 2013

Naked girls, Head Hunger, and Ups and Downs

I haven't written for a while - I've felt like I've been treading water a lot since graduation.  Not specifically with my weight loss, just juggling a lot of family things.  Anyway, the news blackout ends today thanks to my 10 year old son!

My son has apraxia (a motor planning disorder) and aphasia (a language disorder that makes it hard to find/ understand common words sometimes).  I mention this because when he wants to discuss something, it's often something that he's been thinking about for a while and trying to figure out how to say it.  As a result, he comes up with some thoughts you wouldn't expect to hear from a 10 year old, and today was one of those days. 

I was driving him to a birthday party and Miley Cyrus was singing "Wrecking Ball" on the radio.  For those of you lucky enough not to know this, Miley is a 21 year old former Disney star who is desperately trying to shake the Disney-good-girl image and swung naked on a wrecking ball for video for this song.  So, out of nowhere, my son starts this conversation.

Him: "Mom, you know, I think Miley is pushing it too far."
Me: *Chuckle* "Yeah, I think you're right."
Him: "I mean, she's just pushing it to far.  I have a hypothesis. You know, boys like to see naked girls."
Me: "Okay"
Him: "But I think, really, that truly boys want to see girls not."
Me: "Oh, you mean not naked?  That they would like to see them with clothes on."
Him: "Yeah.  That's better.  It's kind of like with you, Mom.  Your brain tells you that you want to eat some frosting.  But you really don't because you know it will make you feel bad.  And it's kind of like that for boys."

Yup, my 10 year old just summed up Head Hunger and hypothesized that it's the same as boys thinking they want to see naked girls.

Oh, and he explained that they were talking about hypotheses at school, but that he had already learned it from watching The Big Bang Theory.  That's my boy.

So what's been going on otherwise.  Well, one thing that hasn't been going on is my jogging.  I'm still getting in 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day, but I haven't jogged more than a couple minutes in a few months.  I haven't signed up for any 5ks for about 6 months.  So is it being lazy?  Yes, that's part of it.  I haven't been motivated to pick up the pace much. 

I do have a couple valid excuses that make it easier to justify walking.  One is our new rescue dog who is 5 pounds and part Chihuahua.  He just can't run fast/ far.  It took a while to build up his endurance to even being able to walk over a mile.  Now that it's freezing out, he also can't be outside for long.

Sharing some personal health and potential TMI (feel free to skip to the next paragraph) - another is my rectocele problem.  Apparently I'm now experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, which means that things aren't suspended in my pelvis the way they used to be.  Sometimes that causes pressure that is a little uncomfortable, and is continuing to cause some difficulties in voiding bowel movements.  In addition to that, it causes occasional incontinence, which is often brought on by bouncing (like jogging).  Now there is a way around this - I can do my best to void ahead of time and not drink a lot before jogging, and wear a pad or something to catch leakage... I've talked to my doctor and she says she's ready to refer me to a surgeon anytime, but that it won't cause any harm for me to wait as long as none of my internal parts start permanently protruding externally, and it's not causing me actual pain.  Neither of those things are happening.  I know I will have to have the surgery at some point, but I'm just not looking forward to it, so I'm postponing it for now.

So what affect is this decrease in activity intensity having?  My weight remains stable, but I have lost some muscle tone.  That means I must have also gained a couple pounds of fat in exchange, but I'm not bothered by it.  I'm wearing the same sizes, and I use my weight stability as a measure.  I've been baking like a fiend for the holidays, and for 99% of the time I have done remarkably well in not tasting the things I bake.  I have more temptations with everyday things in the house, but tend to see any change in my daily weigh-in as a reminder to "Eat Clean, D**n It!".  I have decreased my daily intake to match my lower calorie burning.  Seems to be working, but if I started to see creep on the scale, it would definitely be a motivator.  Maybe I will start swimming laps again... no bouncing there!

I have been feeling an overwhelming sense  of gratitude most days - gratitude that I'm healthy, that I have the energy my family needs from me, that my family is safe and happy and whole.  As we come into the holidays I'm reminded of people who don't have these things.  The anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting is another reminder.  I decided to do the 26 Acts of Kindness again this year, inspired by the Sandy Hook families.  I'm getting the whole family involved, having them help think of things we can do other than waiting for opportunities to present themselves.  I don't just want to buy something or donate money, I want to do things that make somebody's life a little easier or bring them a smile.  I also think it helps keep us focused on others during this season of rampant consumerism.  Don't think I'm preaching or trying to be an inspiration, I've got a closet full of Santa's surprises that I'll be paying the bill for this month.  I'm just trying to balance that out a little :)

I hope all of you will find smiles of your own, and hopefully getting to spend some quality time with the ones you love this month.  I hope you all had a Happy Hanukkah, have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Graduation Pics, inspirations, rants, & warnings


Last Friday I graduated from the St. Vincent Sisters of Charity Bariatric Center.  It is a ceremony they hold once a year (although they skipped last year) for people who have reached their goal and are more than a year post-op.  It was a great excuse to get dressed up and have a night out with my husband - and it was AMAZING to be with all of these other successful people who have so much in common with me.  Walking across the stage, with my before/ after pictures and successes being shown on power point, my hand being shook and handed a rose and certificate.  It was a wonderful recognition from people who help the obese become healthy, and from my fellow patients.  Speaking of fellow graduates...

The 62 of us who graduated lost over 7,200 pounds combined, which equals over 25,000,000 (yup, that's MILLION) calories burnt and not consumed.

22 of us used to be diabetic, and only 4 still are.

We used to take a combined 374 pills daily.  We now take 170.

One woman at my table has lost 240 pounds in the past 16 months!  Holey cow.  She was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and has just finished radiation after her radical hysterectomy.  She is very hopeful that the chemo will put her into remission, and shared that the oncologists said they wouldn't have been as hopeful if she hadn't lost the weight - because she wouldn't have been able to tolerate the treatments.  I know that the surgery has extended my life and quality of life by getting rid of my diabetes and other risk factors.  But in her case, literally months after her loss, she found that she could get lifesaving treatment that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. 

Seeing my Personal Care Coordinator, Diane Harris, was wonderful as always.  My surgeon has left the practice, and I have struggled with whether to follow him.  Seeing Diane reminded me that she and the other support staff are a large part of the team effort that have helped me this far, and I will likely stay at St. Vincent.  Here's me hugging her to death!
My husband was there to support me, as he has been through the whole thing.  We even got a chance to dance a bit.  One of the physician assistant's stiletto heels took the skin off one of my toes, but I didn't let it stop me from enjoying the evening.  Here's me and my rock.
and for a reality check, here's me with my family before surgery, 103 pounds heavier
So, parts of the graduation were frustrating and puzzling for me.  First - it was a dinner.  A dinner, for bariatric patients who try to avoid food-based social gatherings.  Well, at least the food would be bariatric friendly, right?  Sort of.  The first things we were served were typical catering fare - a salad and a bread basket (although the bread was flat and crisp bread, which some bariatric patients can eat a little of - not many, but some).  Salad tends to be tricky for WLS patients - lettuce is notorious for getting caught in our stomas, because it's difficult to chew it into small enough pieces.  We also are told rule #1 is Always eat your protein first - so being given bread and vegetables before our entrée was against THE RULES.  OK, well, there were probably another 75 people there who weren't patients, so they could enjoy it.  Would it have killed them to put some cheese on the salad, though? The entrees were were either salmon with squash or for vegetarians like us (many WLS become vegetarian post-op because meat and fish prove too hard to digest) we had a portabello mushroom with melted cheese, roasted tomato, and beans.  That was pretty yummy, although it was still lower in protein than I would normally eat for a meal. 
I made it through the dinner without anything getting stuck, which is always an anxious concern of mine.  Although, being in a room of fellow patients, I knew if it happened nobody would look at me funny if I had to make a hasty exit to the restroom.  Then they came around with coffee and tea - another no-no for WLS patients, we can't drink with our food, or for an hour after we eat.  But, again, there were non-WLS people there, and they haven't trained themselves to not drink, so that was understandable. Here's the thing though - I saw several patients at my table drinking tea and coffee!  What?  You're here for following the rules and being successful so you break the rules???   But then they brought out dessert!  Dessert.  Really?  And not some bariatric friendly ricotta-stuffed strawberries - oh, no.  Cheesecake.  OK, that was just cruel.  In a funny twist, they place one in front of me, but not my husband.  The ovarian cancer survivor and I both gave him our pieces, and frankly I avoided looking to see if any of the other patients were indulging.  I didn't want it to seem like I was going to judge others for their decision, so I just talked to my hubby while he enjoyed it and ignored the rest.  The fact is we are all tempted to take a taste of something now and then - even if we might dump.  I try to be strong not only because of dumping, but because if I have some grain or sugar I'm likely to crave it for days.  Honestly, it would have bothered me less to see WLS patients tasting the cheesecake than drinking after eating - that washes the whole meal out of our pouches and then it isn't digested well and makes us hungry again. Still can't believe some of them did that.
We danced, talked, had our pictures taken and waited for the raffle drawing of an Ipad Mini and Fitbit Flex (ooooh, I wanted the flex!).  What a night!
I also got great news earlier that day.  My mammogram came back clear.  I had gotten scanned two weeks prior and been told to expect a call - between my breasts having changed so drastically since my only other scan (8 years ago) and the fact that the new digital scans pick up things that weren't visible on the old films...  I've been spending the last two weeks worrying.  I was greatly reassured by other WLS patients that they often get calls to come back because of the way their breast tissue has atrophied looks strange on the scans, which helped keep me from panicking.  Part of the reason it took so long was because my previous films were taken out of town.  At least now they will have them locally for the future.  WLS people - be prepared for mammogram scares!  That was something I never read about in all of my pre-op prep. 
RANT WARNING..... (this is nothing new info wise, just me venting)
I am still working hard to make good food choices, and staying active.  Maintaining my weight loss is VERY important to me.  I continue to dislike eating out/ away from home, and have started to get more push-back from my mom on that.  When I told her I was surprised the graduation was a dinner she said "Well, maybe it will help you get over eating out..."  Uh, right.  Part of the reason I don't like to eat out is that eating out vegetarian can be a little bit of a challenge, but eating out bariatric-friendly vegetarian can be VERY HARD.  And even when appropriate food is available, the way it is prepared greatly varies how it will be tolerated.  Even in the best of circumstances, there are times when eating (even at home, my regular diet) results in severe GI distress.  My mom, who originally said that she wouldn't mind if we wanted to stop having traditional Thanksgiving meals together and just get together afterwards, now lays guilt trips on me for not eating at her place.  Sigh.  No Mom, it's not that I don't want to be with you.  It's that I would rather eat at home.  I don't go eat at my friend's homes either.  And the rare times I eat out - it's usually with you.  When I'm at home I have the most control not only over the food, but the fact that I can run to my OWN bathroom if I need to, and lay down on my OWN bed if my stomach hurts later.  This doesn't happen very often anymore, but about once a week I have at least some indigestion.  That's often enough.  It happened Saturday night even though I ate at home, and I had to miss 1/3 of a play while I was in the bathroom.  It's worth it everyday when I am healthy and happy, but eating is NOT a fun social activity for me any more, it is a deliberate, planned, and strategized necessity.  No, I don't mind you eating in front of me.  What I mind is you continuing to invited me to eat out/ over at your place and then not understanding when I decline and say we will meet you after the meal. 

Did I mention I get frustrated?  :)  This journey has been and continues to be a rewarding challenge, some days it's easier to focus on the rewards, so days it's hard to see past the challenges. Seeing all my fellow WLS patients and their successes was very inspiring and made me think about how far I've come.  It's not easy, but it's worth it.  I have a free album credit on Snapfish - I think I'm going to use it to make an album of my journey from pre-surgery to graduation!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Surprises! On the scale, with labs, and an unbelievable itch!

The last week has been full of surprises.  Some were good, others not so much.  Last Wednesday I went for my annual physical, where they also draw my labs for the bariatric center.  For my non-WLS friends, because we no long absorb vitamins and minerals well (in addition to taking supplements) we have to have our blood checked for Iron, Folate, Calcium, Vitamin D, Thiamine, Copper, Zinc, and B-12 as well as getting a complete blood count, lipid panel, thyroid panel, and blood glucose level.  They drew 6 tubes of blood, went over my list of the labs I needed, and wondered why they hadn't seen me on a billboard advertising for my bariatric surgeon.  Awwww!  Some compliments never get old. 

The next day I got a call apologizing, but telling me they needed to take more blood.  They hadn't frozen some of the tubes immediately that should have been frozen, so they needed more blood.  Sigh.  OK, no problem, it is a complicated lab order.  The next morning my kids and I went in (we had the day off school for Yom Kippur - Happy New Year everyone who celebrates it) and they drew 6 more. 

Today, 6 days later, I got a call from them again.  Apparently, when the lab courier came to pick up the labs, he put ALL of my tubes in his freezer (not just the frozen ones).  So, they were all frozen when they got to the lab, and they weren't able to run the tests on the ones that weren't supposed to be frozen.  They apologized, and suggested that they send me a script to get them drawn and go directly to the labs to have them drawn to prevent another courier problem.  They don't know if the ones that were supposed to be frozen were run.  Sigh deja vu!  They will send the script to me, and we will try again.  I was actually hoping my results might be in the mail today.  Guess NOT.

On a positive note, I hit another all time low on the scale on Monday, and it blew me away.  139.8!  Under 140?!?  Incredible.  Unbelievable.  Whoa.  OK, so it's now back to 141, but I broke a barrier that I NEVER IN MY WILDEST DREAMS thought was possible.  My initial goal was to get to 160.  Then I hit the 150s and was really happy.  Then I broke into the 140s and I was over-the-moon dream-come-true happy.  I don't imagine I will be going down much further, I seemed to be very steady around 141 - 143 for the last 8 or 9 months - but then I've hit new lows several times in the last month or so.  I'm back at work, so I'm getting more steps in each day - that is helping for sure.  Who knows?  I'm just happy I'm not gaining anything back. 

Here's the bad surprise with returning to work.  I've got a rash.  A really itchy not-fun rash.  For non-WLS friends, we have a lot of extra skin after we lose 100+ pounds.  Some people have so much skin that it causes skin infections, and can interfere with walking, voiding, and sexual functioning.  Imagine a flap of skin that hangs down like an apron from your waist getting in the way of things and trapping bacteria and other fun things between it and the skin that is underneath it.  Yuck.  Having lost 103 pounds, I didn't seem to be having any problems with the excess skin (other than it making some muffin top and other flaps that my son thinks are funny to play with).  I didn't expect to have problems, mostly that happens with people who lose a lot more than I have.  Many WLS people get the extra skin removed ( it's called a panniculectomy, which is about 1/2 of what most people would call a "tummy tuck").  Between the risks, the cost, and the recovery I always said I wouldn't be getting one unless there was a real medical necessity.  Then I went back to work at my lowest ever weight (in 90 degree weather, walking around constantly)...  Hello, itch.  I've got a rash/ skin infection underneath the flap of excess skin hanging from my waist.  I'm treating it with the same anti-fungal medicine that you use for athlete's foot or yeast infections.  It helps with the itching a bit, but it hasn't gone away.  If it's still here much longer, I'll have to see my primary care doctor for something stronger.  And, that will start a trail of documentation.  If I have recurrent infections, my insurance may decide to cover a panniculectomy for me.  I don't want one.  The risk of major surgery, the 6 weeks of restricted activity in recovery, and the 20% of the cost I would still have to pay are three good reasons not to get it which wipe out the positive of being rid of the flaps.  However, if this rash is something I have to deal with on an ongoing basis, I will consider it.  Go away, itch!

Back to the positive!  I got to go visit some old friends briefly over the weekend, many of whom hadn't seen me for over a year (some not since before surgery).  It was really fun getting to have quick visits with them, and I would be lying if I didn't admit that I really enjoyed seeing their reactions to seeing me in my new healthy body.  Bonus.  I am so blessed to have such great family and friends, my home, my job and my health.

Today, 9/11, I'm counting my blessings.  Thank you for all those blessings, and may the hungry, homeless, out of work, and victims of violence find such blessings in the next year.  May I make the right choices to stay healthy, and be able to support others who need help.  May I learn from my mistakes and help my children avoid them.  May I find patience on the hard days, and give of myself on the good ones.  Thank you first responders, for risking your lives to save so many of ours.  Thank you to the members of the armed forces who serve their country - may you receive the support you deserve from us and our country.  Thank you to the teachers who are shaping our tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Truths! Birthdays, Graduation, and pics

I'm really trying to stay honest, and embrace the truth even when it hurts.  Here's my latest confession - I love butter/ margarine.  This is embarrassing - but I've loved it since I was a child.  My mom tells about me climbing out of my highchair and onto the thanksgiving table to sit down and chew on a stick of butter at my grandmother's while everybody was in the kitchen when I was 15 months old.  I used to stick my finger into the tub of margarine and scoop out a little once in a while as a kid.  As I grew up I grew out of it - or should I say changed things I liked to eat that weren't good for me. 

Since my surgery, really in the last couple months, I have rediscovered my taste for margarine.  That sounds gross doesn't it?  I think part of it is craving fat - which even with a tablespoon or two of margarine a day my consumption stays low (yes, I have been logging it).  That melt-in-your mouth feeling is part of it.  There lies a truth - if it melts in your mouth, it's liquid calories - a BIG NO-NO and major rule breaking.  So, just like I had to make a big change when I realized I was starting to compulsively eat popcorn, I'm going to have to make a big change here.  No more buying tubs of margarine.  I will buy sticks of butter, which I have no craving for, whatsoever.  Logical?  Of course not - it's a crazy psych thing.  Oh the webs our tricky brains weave.  I can use sticks of butter for everything cooking-wise that I use tubs for, and not be tempted.  Yesterday I threw out the tub that was in my fridge.  Wonder what the next thing is my brain will try to tempt me with...

On to a more positive truth - I got my new driver's license!  The truth part is that I actually put my REAL weight on the license for the first time in my life.  Not even my lowest weight, but the pound higher that I was on the day I renewed it.  I thought I needed to renew it by my birthday but it turns out I didn't have to renew it until next year.  Yeah, it was written right on the license, I know... But I decided to renew it early because I don't look like my license anymore.  And I'm 50 pounds lighter than the LIE I had on my old license.  But I took pictures of my old and new license (with all the potential identity theft info blocked out) for memories sake (and this blog). 

OK, so that's my old license.  I listed my weight at 190, which was 53 less than I weighed at my highest.  When the picture was taken I might have been 235.  I remember being relatively happy with the picture, because it only showed two chins.  I spent a lot of time on my hair and makeup that day, too. 

... and here's my new one!  I LOVE looking at those two pictures next to each other.  An added bonus is that people will actually believe it's my I.D. when I am asked to show it :) 

I still think that they should just have a digital scale built into the floor at the license bureau.  That way when you step up for your turn it would automatically weigh you and the they wouldn't have to ask your weight.  It's embarrassing for the average person to say their weight out loud to someone, and mortifying for the obese.  Plus, it's not like most people tell the truth!  Heaven forbid something had happened to me two years ago and they found my body.  I can see them saying "Oh, this probably isn't her, she's much heavier than the person we're looking for..." 

My birthday is in two days, and my mom offered to come spend the morning with me for a "girl's day" - something we used to do when I was little, and have tried to make time for occasionally now that I'm a grownup.  I asked my boys (10 and 13) for the birthday present of them watching themselves (without killing and bugging each other) for a few hours for my birthday present.  My mom is going to come and go on a nice long walk with me and my dogs.  Then she's going to come with me to a jewelry store.  All of my rings are WAY to big.  I'm guessing I'm wearing a 6 1/2 now - my old rings are 8 1/2.  I don't feel the need to spend the money to resize everything, but I've been wrapping medical tape around my wedding band and engagement ring for over a year now and want to get that done!  I'm thinking about instead of having several rings resized I would look at combining stones into a new setting.  I have no idea how much that will be, but want to explore options and get a sense of how much money I will have to save up.  Then we might go to a bookstore and browse...aaaah, the luxury of doing that without having the kids interrupt me twenty times.

I got an email this morning inviting me to my Center for Bariatric Surgery graduation!  In our program, if you have met your goal and kept it off for over a year, you are invited to that year's graduation party.  It's a formal event at a really nice hotel, and will be happening in October.  The only sad thing is that my surgeon has left the practice.  So I'm sad that when I walk across the stage with a slide show of my before and after pcitures I won't get to shake Dr. Ben-Meir's hand.  :( But, I'm really excited to be in the graduating class of 2013.  I need to start looking for an AWESOME dress.  Oh, and saving up for it, too. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New swimsuit Pic, and could Bariatric Betty be losing more??? Obsessing about weight.

I may be losing more weight, at 17 months post-op.  It is boggling my mind.  For the last 8 months my weight has been stable for the most part.  I went well past my goal and hit a one day low of 140.6 (my goal was to be in the 150s, and dream weight was to be in the 140s).  My weight then seemed to stabilize at 142 and except for my flirtation with some compulsive popcorn consumption adding 5 pounds temporarily, it has stayed there.  A couple days after I stopped eating popcorn and I was already back down to 145.  Another month later and I was down to 143.  Last month I was back to 142 and happy, lesson learned.

I usually weigh myself daily knowing that fluctuations happen, and not taking the number to seriously.  I can be up to 144 pounds depending on how much salt and carbs I have had in the past day, as well as where I am in my cycle.  One of the funniest things I have found is that the day before my cycle, I actually drop 1 to 2 pounds for a period of a day or two.  And all these years I thought I gained weight when I was PMS-ing!  So last week I had already had my PMS drop and seen 141 pounds.  Then my cycle started and I was back to 142.  A couple days later, and I was 140.6 - Hey, long time no see!  Weird, this would not be when I would expect to see my all-time low again.  Imagine my surprise on Friday when I weighed myself and saw 140.4!

OK, I know this is silly, it's 0.2 pounds lower than my previous low.  And the numbers shouldn't have such a big impact on me.  There is a lot of fluctuation and I wouldn't be mad for going up 0.2 pounds, so why did it cause this illogical feeling of glee that I had a new low??? 

I weighed myself several times and got the same reading.  Then I checked my body composition meter, and it has stayed stable.  I haven't been running much with the heat, more walking and swimming, so I thought maybe I had lost muscle.  But if my body fat percentage is about the same, then if I lost muscle I also lost some fat.  Hmmmm. 

Then I thought about the last couple months.  Other than cutting out the popcorn I have decreased my intake a little because of the decrease in running/ burning calories.  Maybe my body isn't at it's new set-point?  Maybe there is room for some more loss?  I don't know.  My doctors say I'm at a healthy weight, I feel healthy and happy.  I don't need to lose any more weight.  On the other hand, I am at the top of the healthy range, so it wouldn't hurt me if I lost a bit more. 

Meanwhile, my new bathing suit came I from Lands End.  I tried ordering tankini seperates to help with the fact that my lower half is a very different size that my upper half.  The lower half is a high-waisted control top skirt, so it smooths out some of the folds and flaps nicely.  If you are self conscious about your middle, I highly recommend it.  The top is their D-cup underwire, which actually contains the girls, saggy and prone to floating as they are.  Again, recommended by me for endowed post-ops.  Here's the pic.

In comparison, here is a picture of me pre-op in a bathing suit (25 pounds already lost) and then about 9 months post op, already pretty close to my goal (but maybe not final) weight. 

Now it's a couple of days later and I'm hovering around 140.6 - 141.0.  So, what does this all mean?  It means that maybe I shouldn't just worry about not gaining.  It means that maybe I will lose more, and I should be open to that.  Either way, I'm going to keep working my program, following the rules.  1) No drinking with meals or for one hour after.  2) Eat protein first, trying to get in 20 grams at each meal.  3) No liquid calories (alcohol, milk, ice cream, soup, etc.) and 4) Eat meals within 20 minutes, no grazing and only eat until I'm full. 

Where am I headed?  Forward, never back.  I have bad days, I give in to old habits occasionally.  I am not perfect and never will be.  I commit to staying healthy, to making the best choices I can.  It requires a lot of time and energy to keep my new lifestyle, but it is worth it.  To all my friends and family who support me and my unusual needs - I thank you.  I couldn't do this without you.  To all the WLS friends out there who read my blog, we're in this together.  You inspire me. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bariatric Betty's Summertime, and the living is sometimes too easy

Ahhhh, summer.  I'm off work (since I work at an elementary school), and my boys are home.  No homework or tests to deal with - just daily reading to keep them from regressing over the summer.  Only thing is, they think that I should be providing FUN!!!! all day every day.  Um, no, that's what summer CAMP is for, which both of you declined to attend repeatedly.  So now you have be bored at home with me! 

My day starts making breakfast for everyone, unless it's one of the days my 12 year old has gotten up early and hungry and has made his own.  I don't eat for about an hour after I wake up so I have time to drink my first 24 ounces of liquid for the day.  I see my husband off to work with the lunch I've packed and eat my breakfast.  Then the kids and I go over the plans for the day.  That starts out with a reminder that they each need to read 1/2 hour.  The complaints start then, and sometimes last for hours. I walk/ jog the dog, do a load of dishes and remind my 12 year old he needs to run a load of laundry.  I get in my second 24 ounces before lunch, and another 24 before dinner.  We usually go somewhere in the afternoon, and eat early.  Since the boys are both playing baseball this summer, we often have 3-4 hours of overlapping baseball games in the evening.  My sweet husband eats a dinner I bring at the community park where the games are being played at least once a week because the games start before he can even get home from work.  Sometimes the games go until after 10pm!

I spend at least a chunk of time every couple days cooking large amounts of my staple foods so that they are ready for daily consumption.  I scramble 6 days of egg beaters at a time - that doesn't take that long.  When I sauté my 5-6 days of onions and julienned zucchini (think non-noodle spaghetti) it takes a bit longer.  When I make up a pot of my lentils with carmelized onions it's over an hour, but that will last me for a couple of weeks.  I am also cooking for a family of friends once a week who have a mom recovering from a serious illness.  It's been fun finding things that are vegetarian that her family enjoys - my family has had such a predictable diet for years that it's taken me out of my comfort zone a bit - but it has also increased the quality of meals my own family is getting.  Eggplant parmesean has entered our regular rotation, as has fried tofu.  The other night I made fried rice with broccoli, pea pods, carrots, peas, water chestnuts, asparagus, and eggs that was a hit.  It's weird that I can't enjoy most of these things myself - they don't have enough protein or sit well in my pouch (with the exception of un-fried tofu) but it does feel good to see everybody eating well.

I do try to plan at least one fun thing a day for the kids, whether it's going to our local rec center/ pool, going to a movie, going to the local waterpark where we have season passes, etc.  We won't do anything like that until they have done their reading, however, and on some days that means it's afternoon before we get to go.  Like today.  It was 2pm before my 10 year old finally finished his reading.  He spent all morning complaining about how he didn't want to read, and he wanted to go do SOMETHING.  No matter how many times I explained "You do your reading, and I will take you somewhere, you get to decide how soon that happens..." the whining WOULDN'T stop.  Augh.  I took my dog for a longer walk just for the peace and quiet. 

Speaking of walking the dog, that's my only predictable exercise right now.  I miss my job!  It's nice to be able to have other options during the middle of the day during break, but I miss working with the kids, talking with other grownups, and most of all the 5000 steps I would walk while I was working. 

Thank goodness for my fitbit pedometer.  If I didn't wear it every day then my exercise would be pitiful right now.  It's a great motivator - because I HATE not hitting at least 10,000 steps a day.  During the school year I average about 15,000.  But now I average around 11,000.  I actually have to work for those, too.  When we go to the park I walk circles around the playground.  When my kids have a baseball game I pace back and forth for the second half of the game.  When we're camping out at the rec for a long time, I walk a couple miles on the track. 

I don't enjoy running in real heat, so I'm not jogging much right now.  I have decreased my food intake a bit to take into account that I'm not burning as many calories right now, and that seems to be working well because I'm staying at goal.  The daily struggles with making good food choices is harder some days than others - although I haven't had a crazy obsession (like the pie crust) for a while, thank goodness.  I usually stay away from white carbs because I find they trigger cravings for me and I don't need the extra stress. 

My house continues to be a disaster zone, but most days I feel like I am getting the level of cleanliness incrementally better.  My focus has been on getting the boys to help clean up their own messes (definitely works in progress) and keeping counter-tops and kitchen/ dining room tables at least partially clear.  At the moment my 12 year old has his basketball shoes on top of my papers on the kitchen table, and my 10 year old feels that since he has set up his lego building area on half of the dining room table for the last 6 months, I am being unreasonable to think that should change.  Baby steps.  This last week I tackled the outside mess - pulling up 7 bags of thistle and other assorted weeds that had started looking like trees. 

Speaking of trees, the other night a severe thunderstorm took down half of a 30 foot tree in our front yard.  Besides being stunned, everybody is fine.  Mostly I am overwhelmed with gratitude that the tree didn't fall on the house and that we weren't home when it happened - because my car is usually parked right where it fell.  It didn't even knock over our basketball hoop!  It was definitely one of those moments that I felt someone was watching over us. 

I am so grateful for the every-day blessings my family enjoys.  Our health and our home top amongst them.  But it's up to us to maintain both of those things if we want to keep them as blessings.  My sons arguing for more snacks and less work can be tiring, but I try to remind myself that I am teaching them life lessons - and that if I want them to value those things as highly as I do, they need to see our commitment to them every day.  It's easier to think of it that way when the whining isn't happening.  There will definitely be times when the overwhelming thought in my head is "Do it because I SAID SO!" although I try to be calmer in explain the importance of the issue at hand.  And there are times that I tell them "You've worn me down.  I am taking a break.  Be nice to each other and work on xyz while I go lay down for a bit/ take a walk/ run to the store."  It's lovely that they are old enough that I can do that now. 

I remain incredibly thankful for not only the support of my family on this journey, but my local support group.  The other night we had a meeting, and as I was walking out the door to attend we discovered that while my 10 year old had been "bored" he had used scissors to scratch and poke on our black leather couch.  Augh!  I went on to the meeting and vented, and we all agreed that the "old" us would have then eaten a large amount of junk food to handle the frustration.  Now my son is responsible for cleaning off said couch and his own favorite chair every night to help him learn to respect our things more.  His response "For how long?"  Our answer "Until we decide to ADD more chores.  This will be your responsibility, period." 

I am also thankful for all of the health professionals that have helped me get to where I am, and where our family is going.  I found out a couple of weeks ago that my surgeon and his team are leaving St. Vincent and it really feels like a loss.  I will have to work with new people for my follow-up.  But, they gave me my pouch/ tool and a good foundation to work with.  I will miss you Drs. Ben-Meir and Salomone!  I am also so glad we found a great family psychologist to work through issues with our sons, and have found a wonderful rheumatologist for my husband.  Never underestimate what have access to good healthcare can mean for your family.  I wish everyone had it this good!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bariatric Betty tackles Self Hate and Sabotage

Last Friday I stopped at our local Sears/ Lands End store to try on some tops.  I'm still building up my wardrobe at my goal size - my clothes from last summer are two sizes too big.  I have become a big fan of getting clothes second hand, but also hit the sales racks at places like Talbot's Outlet, Lands End, and of course Target and other places as well when I need something. 

I picked up several Medium Petite (still boggles my mind) tops and went to the dressing room.  Walking in there was a woman trying on a winter jacket (Lands End has GREAT deals on winter clothing right now) and I commented "Cute jacket!".  She replied "Not on a fat woman like me, maybe on somebody like you."  My heart fell.  I hate to hear people being cruel and calling people names, but one of the worst is when they are hateful towards themselves.  I couldn't just let it pass.  Here's a chunk of the conversation that followed:

"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself"
"No, it's true!"
"You know, a year ago I had bariatric surgery to lose over a hundred pounds, and I know it's really hard to lose weight.  Beating yourself up isn't going to make it easier."
(pause) "Wow, you lost 100 pounds!  You look great.  You would never know."
"Yeah, I feel great, too.  But for decades I tried Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and all sorts of diets.  When you find something that works for you, you will lose weight.  For me it took surgery to get it all off - otherwise I just kept losing the same 30 pounds.  Until then, you should give yourself credit for doing the best you can."
"I guess.  It all came on after I had my kids - I was never heavy before then...."

I felt so bad - here she was berating herself to a stranger in a public changing room.  I said a supportive comment and ended up hearing her whole weight loss history.  Of course, I shared mine first (heaven knows I like to share happy stuff with everyone) - but can you imagine how much she needed to talk to someone sympathetic that she was willing to talk about something that made her ashamed and mad with a total stranger?  She was perfectly willing to say mean things to herself, and I'm sure has heard cruel comments from others.  The sense that fat people deserve to be made fun of or be the targets of snide comments - or the even more twisted thought process that targeting them might make them more likely to lose weight and be healthy - it's RIDICULOUS.

Here's a link to an interview on the Today Show that showed up yesterday after I started writing this blog.   It talks about how women hurt their self-esteem and that of others by participating in negative self-talk or negative comparisons to others.  What many may think is trying to help support a friend unhappy with their body, i.e. "Oh, no - my hips are SO much bigger than yours!" is not helping.  It is leading into an almost competitive cycle of trying to make others feel better at your own expense - where the original unhappy person then feels the need to point out that her "flaws" are even BIGGER.  So instead, talk positive.  About yourselves, about others.  When your friend says "My muffin top is turning into a whole CAKE top!", say "I think you look beautiful" - not "my muffin top just filed for it's own zip code".  When you are frustrated that your own physical fitness goals aren't showing up the way you would like,  i.e. "Why can I now see some ribs outlined but still have a jelly belly???" think "I have worked hard, I feel better, and I look better.  I can't control where my body decides to lose fat, but I can make the most of the parts I'm proud of."

Now, fast forward to yesterday, when I tried on a new pair of shorts with an older shirt.  I didn't think they necessarily worked together, so I asked my husband.  He agreed.  I tried a different shirt, and he tried to explain that my top is so curvy, but the bottom half is so straight, and the original combo just seemed to over-exaggerate it.  He was right, I have a large chest and then very little hips or butt.  So I needed an outfit that created a little more balance.  I had unrolled the legs on the short to about a 10" inseam, but originally they were rolled to about a 7" inseam.  I rolled them back up and with the new shirt felt better.  Still, I looked in the mirror several times yesterday morning, and ended up asking my 12 year old son what he thought.  Warning Sign Alert - if you have to ask your 12 year old son for fashion advice, it's a sign you are feeling a little insecure!  The following is a recap:

"Justin, does this outfit look OK?"
"Ummm, that depends... where are you going to wear it?"
(internal alarm, uh-oh, what the heck?  Maybe my tucked-in shirt is showing my extra-skin flaps too much???) "To work"
"Oh, then it's fine."
(???) "OK, just wondering , where WOULDN'T it be a OK to wear it?"
"Ummm, to drop me off with my friends"
"OK, I promise I won't be upset, but I want to know what makes you uncomfortable about your friends seeing me like this." (Oh boy, I hope this doesn't hurt too much)
"Well, Mom, could you wear jeans or something?  I'm not used to seeing your knees, it just seems weird..."

LOL.  Yes, my son wasn't embarrassed by my flaps of skin, or my large chest - he felt that my shorts falling just above my kneecaps was embarrassing!  Watch out - I'm a hootchie mama!  Looking back, I shouldn't be surprised, he told me that if any of his friends wear shorts that don't come below their knees some of the guys at school call them "bootie shorts".  It gets even more funny when you know that I wear skirts above my knee (about the same length as the shorts yesterday), but that doesn't bother him.  But shorts that showed the ENTIRE KNEECAP???? Gasp.

We can be our own worst enemy.  Don't give in to the negative trash talk in your own head.  It makes it easier to do it again, and easier to believe that others are thinking/ saying even worse. 

Speaking of our own worst enemy - I caught myself before I sabotaged myself yesterday.  Yay for the catch, boo for the constant vigilance required.  I have been making meals for a friend once a week - she's been very ill for several months, and a couple of us bring meals a couple times a week to take some of the pressure off the family.  This week I offered to bring "Breakfast for Dinner" - French toast casserole, quiche, and a carrot/ yogurt/ craisin salad.  They have a severe peanut allergy in the family, so it's important to read and re-read the labels.  I started being concerned about the quiche crust.  In the past, I have found it a little tricky to find ready-made pie crusts that don't have lard.  And now I would have to find one without any peanut oil/ exposure to nuts in the factory.   Hmmm.  I started thinking about making my own crust.  OK, that's simple.  Then I remembered how much I like to nibble on pie crust dough.  Yeah, I know, weird.  I don't know why it tastes good to me, but it does.  And then I found myself thinking about nibbling on pie crust dough probably 50 times over 24 hours.  Not exaggerating.  And about how I should probably make a little extra to make sure I had enough dough - but knowing it was really so I could eat some but still have enough.  Yikes.  So I started thinking about going back to finding a pre-made crust.  But they usually come in two packs.  I would have a whole extra pie crust.  Extra pie crust, mmmmmm.  Seriously?  Then here comes my AHA moment.  Wait, I can use that whole extra pie crust to make another quiche for another meal for them.  So I can't break off a piece and eat it, because I will need it for the next week!  Restraint engaged - logic wins!  It was that hard.  You never know where your brain will take you on these weird cravings/ food addiction trips.  Every day is a journey, where we have to make the choices that will keep us healthy.  Some days are easy down-hill paths, other days we have to climb the mountain in the way. 

On a positive note - I saw a wonderful friend this weekend who hadn't seen me for over a year.  She has seen my pics on facebook, and knew all about the surgery, but it was still a shock for her.  I loved getting to visit with her and her family, and of course the complements felt wonderful.  Mostly though, I loved seeing our kids together.  Except for maybe when two of our sons demonstrated their "feedbag method" of eating a bag of popcorn.  Gross. 

Getting ready for summer break to start next week - and it turns out I registered for another 5k I forgot about.  Now I have to figure out if I can do it with the kid's baseball schedules.... 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Honeymoon's Over - Bariatric Betty's Uphill Climb

How many of you have heard someone actually call getting weight loss surgery "the easy way out"?  WLS patients wince every time we hear it, and many of us will actually address the ignorant person who says it.  Chris Christie just "came out" about having lap band surgery 2 months ago, and I can't blame him for keeping it quiet so long.  The judgment that so many people make about someone having weight loss surgery can be vicious.  And that's on top of the judgment people have already made about those of us who are morbidly obese.

In an interview Christ Christie gave with Brian Williams, he recounts his conversation with his doctor when he asked if he should really get the surgery.  He said his doctor said "If you came into my office with cancer and I knew that there was a 40 minute surgery that would give you a 90% chance of a cure, should you get it?"  Here's the thing - the surgery IS simple for most of us. 

The surgery itself (without complications) can have you in and out of the hospital in a couple of days, put Type 2 Diabetes into remission immediately, and start a rapid weight loss that can lead to a healthy weight and lifestyle.  But, what the typical person doesn't understand is that the real work starts before surgery, and continues for the rest of our lives. 

One of the WLS patients on a Facebook support group was preparing for her surgery with a multiple week liquid diet that the surgeon prescribed.  Weight loss just before surgery will shrink a fatty liver and reduce risks of complications.  A week before surgery she had a small bowl of oatmeal, just wanting something "solid" one more time before surgery and the post-op weeks of liquids and then pureed diet restrictions.  Worried that this might put her in danger during surgery, her husband put a call into the surgeon.  The surgeon cancelled the surgery - NOT because of the oatmeal causing any risks - it wouldn't.  Because the woman feeling such a strong need to eat something she had been told she couldn't have (even though it was a healthy food) indicated that she might not be ready for the lifetime commitment to dietary restrictions that a successful WLS patient must have.  She has to meet with a social worker now, and who knows how long her surgery will delayed until she is really mentally ready.

What happens if we don't make those right choices after surgery?  The obvious result - that we won't lose the weight we need to lose, or will quickly gain it back.  Yes, people go through the surgery and then sabotage themselves soon after - whether pureeing the unhealthy food they crave so they can eat it again (cheeseburgers, french fries, etc) or by consuming liquid calories - a big NO in the rules for post-ops.  Eating ice cream, drinking milkshakes, drinking alcohol - they are all forbidden (although some doctors will say you can have a small amount of alcohol occasionally after 1 year post-op). 

What are other outcomes of bad post-op choices?  If your Type 2 diabetes went into remission and you go off plan and gain the weight back, it will come back WITH AN ATTITUDE.  There is a high risk of alcohol abuse/ alcoholism, even if the patient was never a drinker before.  A patient who had RNY bypass will now absorb more of the alcohol quicker than a typical person.  They will get a bigger buzz/ drunker and it will happen more quickly with less alcohol.  Given that many of us were "using" food in an addictive manner, it isn't hard to imagine that we would look to fill that need in other ways.  Increases in alcohol use, drug abuse, compulsive gambling and other addictive behaviors have all been seen in post-ops.  Big hard rule - whatever your problems were before surgery, they will still be here after surgery.  So you have to work on the underlying issues every day, and continue to face up to them.

My honeymoon period (usually seen as the first 12-15 months post-op when you aren't hungry) is over.  I get hungry now.  I also still get "head hunger" - where I crave something but my body doesn't need the nutrition -  that never went away, I just became better at identifying it.  I have found myself eating things for the wrong reasons before and caught myself before it showed up on the scale.  My caramel calcium chews - that I started eating twice as much of as I should - a nice way to get kidney stones!  Threw them out after a week.  The cashews I had gotten to eat as a protein packed snack occasionally - but found myself snacking on multiple times a day (at 200 calories a pop!).  Got them out of the house and kept them out for over 2 months until I was sure I could see them and not be tempted.  The glaze on the peppermint candy cane cookies that I licked off my fingers and then started scooping off the drip tray - I confessed to my husband that I had a real weakness there and he said that the next time I want to make them for the holidays, he and the kids will do the glazing for me. 

This last one snuck up on me.  I was eating homemade popcorn in the evening once in a while if I was hungry, making a big bowl for the family and having a serving size myself.  Then my serving size grew.  Then I was making it every night.  I still didn't realize I was in trouble until I saw the scale change.  I gained 3 pounds.  From popcorn.  Do you realize how much (unbuttered) popcorn I must have been eating?  OK, that's not the only reason I gained weight - I had been doing more walking than jogging.  While I am still very active (12,000 - 14,000 average steps a day) I went from jogging 3-4 times a week to jogging 3 times a month.  Add to that the salt I put on the popcorn, and Voila!  3 more pounds. 

Don't get me wrong, it isn't unreasonable to expect a little regain.  18 - 24 months out the average patient gains 5 - 10% of their weight back, mostly because their stomach has expanded enough that they can eat more/ get hungry again.  Some people never have any regain - and I really want to be one of them.  I told my husband I needed to "go off" popcorn for the forseeable future and from then on whenever my son requests it he says "Mommy's not going to make it, you can make a small amount just for yourself and throw out whatever you don't eat".  Awesome hubby, isn't he?  Sure enough, just 3 days after no popcorn, and my weight was already back down 2 pounds just getting the excess salt out of my system.  I also started jogging twice a week again.

The scary thing is how I didn't realize my new night-time snack was a problem until it showed up on the scale.  First of all - I shouldn't need a snack every night!  First thing I should do if I think I'm hungry is drink, because I'm probably just thirsty.   And if I am hungry, most of the time it should be satisfied by protein.  And I had gotten lazy with my exercise.  I feel embarrassed to have fallen off the wagon - lured back into an addictive eating pattern (eating more, more often).  It will take conscious choices and deliberate actions for me to stay healthy.  I must stay more active than the average person, and I can't think I can snack like an average person.  "Within moderation" is a loaded phrase and WAY too subjective for me.  In the case of popcorn, I've decided it means 2 cups of popcorn once every 3-4 weeks, max.  It means get out of the freakin' house in the evening, when I start to have the head hunger, so I am distracted from it.  Luckily, I've got my kids baseball and soccer practices and games to help with that! 

Finally, to end on a good note - I had a BLAST doing the Akron Color Vibe Run 2013.  I ran 5k in 30 minutes flat - my new best time.  That might have been because it was cross-country - up slopes, down slopes, across the gravel, sliding on the wet grass, splashing through the puddles.  There was NO BOREDOM there, on the contrary - I was terrified I was going to fall and take some layers of skin off, so that adrenaline probably helped my time.  Also, four times along the run we were liberally doused with colored cornstarch, which made it really fun.  Here are some pics (the tutu is a common accessory in these races)

If you want to try a fun 5k, I highly suggest Color Vibe and The Color Run!  Lots of fun for the whole family - one of my sons ran it with me, and the other is seen above tossing a lot of magenta cornstarch!

So, to sum up my original thought, getting weight loss surgery may be simple for most of us, but being a WLS patient for life is not.  Running a 5k feels simple now - it's a short amount of time, and a reasonable amount of effort for that time and you're done.  Making the right choices all day every day, pushing yourself to stay active, reminding yourself to stay away from your triggers and deal with your issues instead of eating to deaden them - that's the hard part.  It's part of the reason I eat the same things almost every day - it removes the temptation.  It's like an alcoholic realizing that it might never be a good idea to eat in a bar if there is another option.  Unlike the alcoholic, we can't just stop eating.  We have to choose to eat healthy things that won't trigger overeating, which can rule out a lot of things for each of us.  We have to choose the proteins that will fill us and meet our new body's needs.  We have to avoid the carbs that are likely to make us ill/ get dumping syndrome.  And we need to take our supplements regularly to make up for the vitamins and minerals we can't get absorbed through our food.  And when we do that, we are healthy.  That's how I plan to stay. 


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bariatric Betty's races vs. the Boston Marathon


Well, everything I wanted to write about pales in comparison to Boston.  I was going to write about ending up winning my age group in the triathlon because I was the ONLY woman in my age group.  To remind us all to try, because you are a winner just for trying - sometimes literally.  I was going to write about feeling proud doing a 5k Sunday where I shaved 3 minutes off my first 5k time, and loving that some of my WLS support group came and did the fun walk, too.  Enough about that.

Instead I would like to talk about inspiration.  Goodness.  Humanity.  Faith.

..."So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear, or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think "the good outnumber you, and we always will." - Patton Oswalt

I had no idea who Patton Oswalt was before yesterday, but right now his thinking about this is right up there to me with Fred Roger's quote:

 "When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

In every horrible accident, or natural disaster, or act of terrorism you can look and see the good.  The people who run to help, who give of what they have to help others.  Who risk their lives.  Who make sacrifices, small and large.  These acts of bravery and humanity inspire me and others.  I love hearing about them and would like to use my blog today to talk about some of the ones I have heard about since the explosions in Boston. 

First - I have heard numerous complements of the first responders: the police, paramedics, and fire fighters. Numerous witnesses have said how quickly and smoothly they seemed to respond.  The policies, drills, and procedures that they and area hospitals have prepared for seem to have paid off. Bravo, and thank you to all first responders.  We are so thankful for your selflessness.

Second - All of the everyday people who ran to help others.  Carlos Arredondo, the father of a fallen soldier who was there to pass out flags ended up pinching an artery of a victim closed while she was evacuated.  The husband who ran into a clothing store and helped make tourniquets for two victims, only one of whom was his wife.  And yet another named "Matt" who did the same for a 17 year old girl.  Another person only known as "Sgt. Tyler" helped move and calm down another victim, showing her his own shrapnel scars to reassure her she could heal.  The little girl who decorated bags that her mom filled with food and toiletries with hopeful messages of love to hand out to people in need.  All the other un-named heroes who picked up and carried the wounded. The restaurant owners who opened their doors, grill, and refrigerators to the runners - not to mention making chargers and phones available so that they could contact their loved ones.  The neighbors along the route who took in runners and people from out of town, providing dry/ warm clothes and other necessities.  The runner and his wife, who upon seeing another racer sobbing on the ground in relief after locating her loved one by phone, asked "Did you finish?" and when she shook her head no, gave her his medal and said "You're a finisher to me".  The runners who continued running to get to the hospital and donate blood.  The Yankee fans who sang for Boston during the game last night. 

We are waiting to hear who is a suspect.  Are they American?  Why did they do this, what could their justification possibly be?  Did they act alone, or was this an attack planned by an organized group?

These are of course, important questions.  But where he or they come from is not as important as knowing that there are far more good people on earth, ready to help a stranger in need, than there are people who want to harm a stranger for whatever demented reason they can imagine. 

Three people have died, and that is a great tragedy.  So is the car bomb in Iraq yesterday that led to five people dying.  What is the difference?  Here in the United States we like to assume that we are safe from random acts of violence.  We have learned the phrase "see something - say something", so we assume that bombs will not explode next to us.  If we have drills, caring staff, and locked doors at our children's schools, we assume that school violence won't happen there.  The reality is that our society can never be 100% safe, no matter how many laws or how many guns there are.  And the bombs in Boston (like the murders in Newtown) shatter the illusion of safety, and require us to face that fact. Something that people in Iraq, Libya, Israel, and countless other countries around the world accepted long ago.  Does that make our tragedy in Boston worse than one in Iraq?  No, but it explains why one dominates our consciousness.

When tragedy occurs, I cling to two things.  One is a concept my husband taught me from computer/ IT security.  No system is impermeable, unhackable, or safe for all eternity.  As soon as you might declare something safe, it issues a challenge to anyone who wants to prove you wrong.  However, you can put up enough protection to block random pings, frustrate amateur hackers by making them jump through hoops and run into dead ends, and alert you to real threats - and that's probably the best thing.  The same thing applies to safety in the real world. 

The other is my faith.  My faith in humanity and kindness.  That people are naturally caring, helpful and responsible.  That for every evil committed there are hundreds if not thousands of kindnesses.  My faith in God means that I accept that I can't understand a reason why a sweet eight year old boy died along with two other innocent women in Boston; to me it doesn't mean that God wanted them to die.  It means that humans are intelligent (and sometimes crazy) beings with free will, which can include the will to commit murder.  But my faith in a higher power leads me to believe that something good will come out of this tragedy, which I may never personally know.  Maybe someone who did survive that horror will contribute to discovering the cure for cancer, or someone who watched the coverage will be inspired and find a way to restart the middle east peace process, or maybe someone will remember Martin Richard when they're driving and keep a close eye out for the kid who darts into the street so they can stop in time.  To me the goodness of humanity and God work together, helping us become better.  Not always good enough, but better.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bariatric Betty's Try-it-athlon

My 1st Triathlon "ink"

Wow.  Triathlons are EXHAUSTING.  I know, big shock, right?  I went into this with my eyes open, and with some helpful advice from my husband (a former triathlete).  Paraphrasing here: "Be prepared that when you go from the swimming to the biking you legs feel awful, because your arms have been getting most of the blood flow.  Then when you go from the bike to the run it's even worse, because your legs feel all floppy."  OK, so why did you enjoy doing triathlons again?  No seriously, I was lucky to have his advice, because otherwise I could imagine I might have thought I was having serious neurological issues.  This was a mini-triathlon - I ended up swimming about 1/2 mile in the 15 minute swim, rode 7.75 miles in the 20 minute bike, and ran 2 miles in the 20 minute run.  The run I'm very proud of, because I usually jog an 11 minute mile, so I was really pushing myself to run that fast after the bike and swim!  Even more tiring at times, however, was the mental exercise. 

Backing up - I have not done a lot of athletic competitions in my life, mostly because I've never been very good at them.  Since I had bariatric surgery this has changed - I have a lot more confidence to compete and enjoy it, even if I'm not going to win.  As an overweight child I was on a swimming team, a diving team, and a community league soccer team (no tournaments or chances for ribbons/ medals trophies).  The swim team practice was fun for a while, until we start having our meets.  I loved swimming and getting faster/ better. 

Then came our first big meet.  I was a good distance swimmer, but not particularly fast.  Definitely not one of the superstars of our team.  Still, I hoped to place third or second at some meets that year, and maybe the next year I would be even faster.  I really enjoyed swimming with my friends, and I loved the fact that we got to eat candy Ring Pops in between our races to keep our energy up.  I was supposed to compete in freestyle (the 400 I think) and breaststroke (probably the 200).  I might have been in some team medly races as well, doing free, breast, or backstroke.  The one thing I couldn't master for the life of me was the butterfly.  I understood the principal, but couldn't get the timing/ coordination down. 

So, the meet is about to start and my coach pulls me over.  He wants me to swim the 100 butterfly.  "But Coach, I can't swim butterfly."  "Yes," explained the coach "but one of our guys who was going to swim this race isn't here, and I don't want to leave an empty lane.  And I don't want to tire out my best swimmers by adding another race to their meet."  In other words, because he didn't want to have an empty lane, he was perfectly happy to put me in a race I couldn't even do and not mind tiring me out before the races I had a slim chance of placing in.  Yeah, that worked out well.  I felt humiliated as I fumbled through two lengths of quasi-butterfly, finishing far after everyone else.  And then I was exhausted and came in last for my original races (granted, that might have happened regardless).  Needless to say, swim team was no longer fun.  I had learned how much value the coach placed on me (a negligible place holder) and found going to meets embarrassing and humiliating. 

Fast forward to yesterday when I was swimming in the triathlon.  My first thought as I was starting was actually for the woman sharing the lane with me - she had mentioned she "wasn't much of a swimmer" before we started and seeing her start I realized she was not being falsely modest.  I was worried about her making it through the swim, but luckily we were in a shallow enough lane that she could stand up at any point and be ok.  All of the sudden, I realize that I'm in my first swimming race since that swim team year.  Whoa.  My life is totally different now.  I'm a grown woman, healthy weight, and strong.  Nobody is making me do anything.  I realize I don't have to be competing against anyone in the pool with me - I can compete with myself, trying to do the best I can, which might just be finishing the race.  Then, I realize that I actually am swimming faster than at least a couple of people in the race.  My lane partner, for one.  She has stopped several times and stood up to catch her breath.  And a guy a couple people over.  Huh.  Still, I keep swimming and just try to focus on myself.  My breathing, my stroke, hit the flip turn, glide and kick, my breathing...etc.  And after a minute or two everything settles down.  I'm just swimming laps, like I always do.  And 15 minutes isn't a long swim for me.  I realize that if I take it easy (I don't want to push to hard at swimming since I have two other events to come) I will finish the swim and feel good, this doesn't have to feel stressful.  And suddenly, it's not. 

I finished the swim feeling good.  Got changed quickly and went into the gym where the spinning bikes had been preset to our personalized settings.  Everything felt good.  I haven't been biking or spinning in the last year or so, so this was going to be my weakest event.  Again, I didn't want to wear myself out before the run, so I wasn't going to push myself too hard.  Great news - they had music (140 bpm, good for spinning) and I just got into it.  I was singing along a little, definitely keeping loose while I was riding.  My legs didn't feel bad, so my husband's warning seemed to have been for naught.  I was able to drink 24 ounces while I was biking, so hydration wasn't a problem. You know how I've got no padding left around my tailbone?  Well, that's true for everywhere a spinning bike seat hits, too. ;)  Of course, even when I was morbidly obese those things were still uncomfortable!   Anyway, I held my speed at around 105 rpm, and felt great.  Just started to break a sweat at the end of the 20 minutes.  Then they blew the whistle and I hopped off the bike, looking forward to the run and being able to push myself more.  I took one step, and....

Ohhhhhh boy!  Have you ever been on a boat for hours or days and then stepped on to dry land, only to feel like you're off balance/ the land is moving?  That's the best way I can explain trying to walk after the bike.  My legs felt rubbery, and my hips were all kinds-of-whacked-out.  I only had 5 minutes to get up to the track and I knew I NEEDED to stretch out.

Climbing the stairs to the track, I felt my hamstrings tighten up to the point it hurt.  Yup, gonna be doing stretches until it starts, just hope it loosens up... and it did.  I won't say stretching felt good, it hurt, but I was able to run without pain when the whistle blew.  Now my family started cheering me on - that felt fantastic!  "Go, Mom!"  "You're doing great, honey!" "We're so proud of you!".   My assigned lap-counter even started cheering me on; "You've got this, Becky!".  It's the last event, I don't have to hold anything in reserve, so while I paced myself for the first 18 minutes, for the last 2 minutes I ran as fast as I could.  When the whistle blew I had gone a half of a lap further than I had imagined I could in that amount of time!  Yay, me :) 

It took a minute to catch my breath, and I was sweating!  It's been a while since jogging two miles made me sweat (barring beastly hot weather).  I ate a bite of a banana to make sure I had a little carb boost until lunch time, went home, showered, made lunch and the rested.  My whole body was exhausted for the rest of the day.  My body was still a little sore Monday, but not bad.  I can't wait to find out my overall score/ placement.  Next year, I want to beat it!

This weekend I'm doing the Cleveland Clinic Healthy Solon 5k.  A bunch of the members of my local support group are going to do the 1 mile walk.  I'm so excited that so many of us will be there.  We've even got someone coming in from one of my facebook WLS groups that I've never met in person before.  Eileen, can't wait to meet you!  Pictures to follow (like you didn't guess that, right?)!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bariatric Betty's belts, boop oop a doops, and pics from Spring Break

I have returned from an epic Spring Break with my family in Orlando.  We had a wonderful time with less than wonderful weather, and of course - took TONS of pictures.  :)

The first one to show you was on the plane.  I was fortunate that even with a BMI of 43 (morbidly obese) I never had to ask for a seat belt extender on an airplane.  I did, however, probably spill over on to my seatmates, and always needed to use the arm rests.  This was the first time I have flown since surgery and when I sat down I was ASTOUNDED at the room I had in my economy seat.  I expected it to feel less cramped, I didn't imagine it would feel this different.  Being able to put the tray table all the way down without it pressing against my chest, belly, or legs!  When morbidly obese I would have to cross my ankles to keep my legs from spreading out into my seat mate's personal space, and I would wedge my arms against my body to make sure my torso didn't do the same.  Now my only issue is sitting down (with pressure on my tailbone) for the duration of the flight.  I rolled up my coat into a horseshoe shape to sit on, but still had to get up and shift my body several times during the flight from tailbone pain.  So minor an inconvenience!   I tried to think of how to show you how bizarre it felt in a picture and decided on showing you all of the EXCESS belt I didn't need after I fastened the seat belt across my hips....

It's almost as long as my whole arm!

Our first full day was supposed to have scattered thunderstorms and a threat of severe weather, so we chose to go to Universal Islands of Adventure instead of Sea World which had less places to stay dry.  The first couple hours were OK.  We waited in line for 90 minutes to go on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter's "Forbidden Journey" - if you have a family that adores Harry Potter, it's a blast.  Mine think it is OK, but aren't crazy about it, so 90 minutes was a bit much for them.  During your wait you get warned multiple times not to go on the ride if you have a bad back, are pregnant, get motions sickness, etc.  Umm - that motion sickness part?  They mean it.  I do get motion sick, but I figured I HAD to try it.  I mean, it was HARRY POTTER.  And maybe my motion sickness wasn't as bad as it used to be... maybe my surgery might have had a bonus effect..  NOT.  At the end of the ride my kids were scared from the dragon who breathed "hot steam" (water vapor) on them and I had a mouth full of spit and was holding back gagging until I got to the trash can.  Well, I really enjoyed walking through the castle in line, at least! 

During our stroll though Comic Cartoon world, I happened to see Betty Boop, and HAD to get my picture with her.  I always felt that at my lowest weight (starving myself in high school) I was proportioned like her cartoon - freakishly large in the chest and tiny everywhere else.  The funny thing is, now that I'm at a healthy weight, I don't feel like that at all.  And except for the wig, she looked normal, too.  Of course, that is partly because she was a cast member playing a part - not a drawn comic strip - but still I couldn't help thinking 1) "Hey, look at both of us looking kinda normal" and 2) "Is my rack bigger than Betty Boop's?"  OK, the second one wasn't fair - they couldn't put an over-endowed cast member into that tiny outfit at a family park... but it WAS funny.

We actually enjoyed the tame family-oriented rollercoaster "Flight of the Hippogriff" and that was the last ride we went on.  Rain started coming down while we were walking, and while we were debating whether to head back to the hotel or just duck under an overhang to wait it out.  Then the storm started in earnest, with 80 mph winds, thunder and lightening on top of us, and a tornado warning!  We spent the next 1 1/2 hours huddled on the floor of the Dr. Seuss gift shop trying to distract our kids. 

Meet my Thing 1 and Thing 2. 
I guess severe weather is good for forcing your family to participate in photo ops!

Back to the hotel we went, and collapsed for the rest of the day.  The next day - and for the rest of the trip - we enjoyed Sea World.  The shows, the underwater viewing areas where you could watch the animals play, the Turtle Trek 360 where you could meet a bunch of rescued animals like Belle - the sea turtle with only half of a shell after a boat hit her and paralyzed her lower half, and the Happy Harbor (aka Captain Kid's World if you're old like me).  It was WONDERFUL.

We still didn't see everything - and we spent 3 1/2 days there!  My now-10 year old son's favorite part was definitely feeding sting rays fish and shrimp.  He spent a good chunk of his birthday money on trays of ray food, and loved how they would come over and "hug" on his arm without even taking the food sometimes.  My favorite part?  OK, get your tissues ready...

When I was 6 or 7 there was a Sea World in the Cleveland area.  My family would go at least once a year, and I loved it.  My favorite part was the Pearl Divers - cute college age girls who would dress up in "traditional pearl diver costumes" and "dive" down in a tank where cultured oysters waited for them.  You could purchase the oyster of your choice and they would open it right there to show you your pearl (which of course, they would be happy to mount on the jewelry of your choice - also available for purchase).  At that age, my dream was to grow up and be a Sea World pearl diver!  How cool were they?!?  I told my boys the story on our first day there and took them to see the pearl divers.  They thought it was cool and encouraged me to buy an oyster.  "Nah.  It's too much money, and then it costs money to get the jewelry, and I would probably want two to get earrings, so that's more money..."  On our third day there, we told the boys that we wanted to treat each of them to a souvenir.  They were responsible for our meal and souvenir budget, and hadn't spent a dime unnecessarily yet (they got to keep the surplus at the end of the trip).  So we told them "We would like to get you each a little something to remember from Sea World, not from the budget - a snow globe, t-shirt, stuffed animal, etc."  They got excited, and then my 12 year old son said "Mom, could we get an oyster with a pearl?"  "Ummm, yeah.  If you want to have a pearl, OK."  I didn't know why they would want a pearl, but whatever floated their boats... "So, Mom, could we each get an oyster with a pearl, and then give you the pearls and then you could get them put into earrings for you?" 

Wow.  Yeah, my boys did that for me.  They used their "free" gift to get me the most amazing/ valuable earrings I will ever own.  I bawled when they said that, bawled when they gave me the pearls, bawled when I put the earrings on... get the picture?  One of the pearls was white, and the other black, so I have a set of earrings that are different colors, which looks very cool.  Here's a close up showing one...

Eating on vacation worked out pretty well.  The Embassy Suites we stayed at had a made-to-order breakfast for free every morning, so I started every day with an egg white omelet.  The rest of my meals consisted of Quest bars, Veggie Burgers (without the bun) that were available at Universal and Sea World, and eating the cheese/ sauce toppings off of pizza.  I actually didn't have a single pouch problem with my food - no throwing up or food getting stuck.  My only problem happened when I drank some crystal light too fast in a taxi.  I got a surface tension bubble in my stoma - the liquid couldn't drain, which caused some pain for a couple minutes.  But, as soon as I could get out of the cab and walked around, the bubbles popped (I belched about 10 times) and I felt all better.  I was a pound lighter than the day we left when I got back.  It probably helped that we were walking all day at the parks!

Some blog-specific news!  I got my first check from AdSense when we got back, and am donating $50 (1/2 of the total) to Caring Bridge - a wonderful organization that has helped several of my friends who have fought cancer and other serious illnesses (all survivors, too!).  Thank you to everyone who has clicked on my AdSense links.

Next up - my first mini-triathalon is this weekend.  Sunday morning at our Community Rec Center, I will join others in a reverse triathalon.  Instead of seeing how fast I can complete a course, they track how far you swim, bike and run/ walk in 15, 20 and 20 minutes.  The people who go the farthest win.  It should be really fun - and exhausting.  I haven't been training for it, so I imagine that whatever my total is this year I can plan on beating it next year :)  I'll make sure to have my hubby take pics to share on the next blog.  Happy Spring to everyone!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bariatric Betty's Batwings and Blessings

A reality of bariatric weight loss (or any huge weight loss) is loose skin.  Our bodies and skin have had to stretch to accommodate too much excess body mass, and the skin can simply not snap back.  It is beyond stretch marks.  It is flaps of skin that must be managed.  For appearances, we learn to stand certain ways (for example, arms are usually down, or at least close to our sides), some enjoy body shapers like Spanx to compress the excess skin around our abdomen, and some have to deal with skin infections that we become prone to with the folded skin.  Think about the care that owners of Sharpei dogs have to put into cleaning the folds of skin on their dogs.  Now imagine that the dogs wear clothing over their folded skin, which traps the dead skin cells, sweat, and bacteria in the folds.  I have been very lucky to have only minor problems with my "skrinkles" as we call them.  No infections.  But still, it has a psychological effect on me.  Every morning I see my flaps around my arms, abdomen, butt, and legs.  Most of the time I find it amusing.  Sometimes I find it awesome -"Wow - that all used to be filled with fat!".  Sometimes I am surprised - "Huh, there's a new fold there!".  Yes, muscle-building and weight training helps give the rest of my body a better shape, but to fill up all the excess skin I have now, I would need to bulk up like a world champion weight lifter/ Popeye. 

I took some pictures of my bicep to give an example.  This is what my arms look like when I'm wearing a bathing suit and my arms are down.

Pretty normal, right?  And this is what my bicep looks like when I hold it out...
I lost about 6 inches around my bicep.  So, I now have 6 extra inches of skin hanging down.  Well, I guess it's three inches folded.  I have the same kind of flaps around my waist that give me a totally different version of a "muffin top".  And then there are the folds under my non-existent butt.  It's so flat it's practically concave now, but has these lovely little folds right under where your underwear stops.  Hee-hee, under where your underwear...  Anyway - those actually give me the most trouble.  They are the smallest flaps of skin I have, but they rub against each other the most when I'm sitting down, squatting, etc - and I get patches of dry skin/ eczema there now.  Oh, and you won't be seeing pictures of any of those flaps ;)
I also have trouble sitting down on soft chairs or bucket seats, because the padding that I used to have on my behind is pretty much gone.  My tailbone is now very prominent, and gets very sore.  In a soft seat it is pressed on immediately - I literally can't stand driving in my car for over a 1/2 hour now.  On a hard chair that is flat, I can lean forward a bit and keep the pressure off.  I ended up buying a firm chair pad with a space cut out for your coccyx/ tailbone that I used sitting at our table now, and for longer car rides.  Mostly, I try to think of it as a blessing, because it makes me not want to sit around on my A** that much, so I stay more active!
Speaking of blessings, I am happy to say that I have now signed up for a mini-triathalon and 2 5ks in April!  The mini-tri is at our local rec center on April 7th.  Instead of seeing how fast you can run/ bike/ or swim, they time you and you see how FAR you can go in the set time.  15 minutes for the swim, 20 for the bike (on spinning bikes) and 20 for the run/ jog.  It's all indoors, which is a good thing for Cleveland in the spring.  The two 5ks are the 14th and the 27th.  The first is the Cleveland Clinic Health and Wellness Run/Walk here in Solon.  The second is The Color Run in Akron.  I can't believe how my life has changed since bariatric surgery.  I didn't used to be able to run or jog at all, and now I realize I can handle racing two weekends in a row. 
I haven't been jogging as much due mostly to bad weather.  A couple of days I have taken advantage of dry ice-free sidewalks and jogged 2 miles, and found that I don't even break a sweat!  Weird, but cool.  We have an excellent rec center with an indoor track that I can jog at, but recently I've been making other choices.  I started doing some upper body weight training, but mostly when I'm there with my kids, I have had to start staying with them in the gym.  My 12 year old pictures himself as a b-baller who can play with the high school boys, and tries to.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.  There have been a couple incidents of bullying, so now when my boys want to play basketball at the rec we sit there and watch like a hawk.  There was one older kid who threatened to whip my son with his jump rope when his basketball rolled over and interrupted his rope skipping.  And there was the high school student who threw the ball into my sons head three times in a couple minutes.  The rest of the time it's great, and we're there just in case we see something out of line and then we can let the rec admin know.  Playing street rules (instead of rec league rules) with people 4-6 years older than you means you WILL be knocked down.  He doesn't quite get that yet, so we're working encouraging him to play with kids his own age. 
Luckily, I'm still getting plenty of steps in with walking daily (my job helps with that), and my weight is stable, shifting +/- 2 pounds.  Looking forward to Spring Break, and our first trips to Universal Studios and Sea World!