Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bariatric Betty's strengths and weaknesses

I have signed up for my second 5k, The Color Run on April 27th in Akron, OH.  It looks like a LOT of fun!  You can watch a video about it here:  Basically you run a 5k wearing a white shirt while people throw packets of non-toxic pigment on you.  What I've learned about jogging/ running is that I don't find it fun.  I feel better after I exercise daily, and I am glad I can do it quicker than the same amount of exercise I would do walking.  But do I look forward to jogging?  No.  However, I DID enjoy running a 5k race!

So now I'm looking for fun runs - I'm not trying to win a medal, I want the social aspect.  A bunch of people jogging/ running while wearing costumes, or running to raise money for a good cause, or in the case of The Color Run, running while being silly and finishing looking like one of Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers.  This way I look at jogging as preparing for my next fun race, and I can work on improving my time from a race one year to the same race the next year.

I have also signed up for a mini-triathalon in the beginning of April.  It's being held at our rec center, and they have it down to a science.  You are assigned a wave time, and start out sharing a lane with one other person.  At your start time you swim as far as you can in 15 minutes while they count your laps.  Then you go to the spinning bikes where they track how far you bike in 20 minutes with an odometer on the bike.  Then you go to the indoor track where they track how far you run/ walk in 20 minutes.  That's it!  Well, that makes it sound easy - and I would find doing each of those components easy on any given day - however, doing all three in a row will be challenging, I'm sure!  Not to mention the decrease in my padding around the spin seat-area will likely lead me to stand for most of the ride.  I'm looking forward to it, and will be sure to let you know how it goes - with pics, of course.

One thing about walking and jogging being my primary cardio exercises is that my legs are very strong and in great shape.  However, my upper body has not kept up.  Just yesterday I was bringing in groceries and was reminded yet again that my arms aren't as strong a they used to be.  When I reach up to close my trunk while holding several plastic bags of groceries in each hand, my wrists and arms tremble.  Am I experiencing upper body weakness?  No.  But they aren't as strong as they used to be, partially because they aren't helping me support my extra +100 weight anymore and I haven't been giving them the attention that my legs have been getting. 

So yesterday before work I went to the Rec and did some assisted chin-ups, dips, captain's chair crunches, and torso twists against resistance.  Gotta love the machines that let you counter balance some of your body weight for chin-ups and dips.  I was only supporting about 45 pounds, and it was hard.  I plan on doing it 2-3 times a week and look forward to being able to do more weight and reps.

I went to my monthly support group last night.  I love my support group!  They are such a blessing;  these women are truly fabulous.  As one of the other members said "All of you are beautiful, and you have a 'glow' around you".  We have pre-ops, recent post-ops, people a year out, all the way to people 11 years out.  Good ideas, answers to questions, and tough love when needed.  The support of my family means so much to me - and unfortunately, not all WLS patients have that.  But the support of people who have traveled my road, who understand the challenges, temptations and inner demons I wrestle with - nothing can replace that.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bariatric Betty's 1st surgiversary! Pics, measurements, and excitement

Yesterday I celebrated my first surgiversary - and it was AWESOME!  My day started off with my husband, 12 year-old and 9 year-old having me sit on a bizarre contraption.  My husband had balanced a pillow on top of a folded folding chair, on top of an upholstered storage unit.  Then he took the chair legs, one son took the chair back, and the other one grabbed the chair side behind me and they lifted me up!  I felt like there should be trumpets playing - or maybe Hava Nagila ;)!

I don't have a picture of that - everybody in the house with opposing thumbs was involved and I didn't know to get my camera set up with a timer!  I did try to take a picture of me "planking" sideways while they held me up later (I was trying to copy something I'd seen someone else do) and could have gotten us on America's Funniest Home Videos if we had been taping...  Also, word of advice to WLS patients who might think that sounds good - loose skin hanging sideways in a picture is NOT your friend.  So... this is a picture of two of them presenting me with roses later on :)
My family has been such a support to me during my journey, and I have great confidence they will continue to be.  Here's a picture of me one year ago:
 My family stood by me then, and they stand by me now.  They understand I can't let my social interactions revolve around food.  And when we do eat out together, they try to find places I'm comfortable to eat.  All day I kept thinking about "a year ago I was in pre-op right now, a year ago I was coming out of surgery, a year ago I was talking my first walk..."  It was very emotional. 

Here's another thing that was emotional for me to do.  Make a new composite.  This is 3 months pre-op, 1 month post op, 4 months post-op, 6 months post-op, 1 year post-op.

Now for some hard figures to spell it out.  My highest weight was 243.3 pounds.  On my surgiversary I was 143 even, just over 100 pounds lost.  In the picture on the left, my weight was 237.  Here is a comparison of measurements from 3 months pre-op to today:
                     November 2011                2/16/2013           Inches lost
Waist            45.3 inches                      33 inches               12.3
Hips            46.5 inches                      34.5 inches               12
Chest band         41.3 inches                   33.3 inches             8  
Thigh            24 inches                     18.8 inches                 5.2
Bicep              16 inches                      11 inches                  5

Total inches lost 43.5!  I didn't measure my neck, but I can guess I lost at least 6 inches there as well.  Insane. 

Volunteering at a school event that required standing for an hour used to leave me sweating like a pig.  Now I run 5ks. 

I used to be diabetic, taking oral meds and insulin injections 4 times a day.  My diabetes was reversed the day of surgery, and now my only concern is my Reactive Hypoglycemia, which I can avoid. 

I am still being treated for depression, but my meds have been cut in half.

I now have enough energy to work outside the home, at my son's elementary school. 

I no longer need to take naps to make it through the day (although occasionally I will take one for fun)!

My biggest change is one my husband helped me realize at about 4 months post-op.  He came down one morning, looked at me and got very concerned.  "Are you OK?  Is something wrong?"  "No, why?" I replied.  "You're not smiling.  You ALWAYS smile now.  I haven't seen you not smiling since your surgery!"  It's true, I'm a much happier person now.  I still get upset occasionally, the kids can still get on my nerves, and I can still have grumpy days, but for the most part I'm very happy.  I feel like I've got everything I have ever really wanted.  Loving friends and family, a safe home, being appreciated at work, and being healthy. 

This is GREAT, but now comes the hard part.  My sense of hunger is coming back.  My pouch can hold more than it used to.  There won't be much more changes in my measurements.  My weight is stable +/- 2 pounds daily.  I am going to keep trying to get my body fat percentage down a bit, but as it will be replaced by muscle, it won't show up on the scale.  The compliments will decrease as more and more people get used to seeing me, or never knew the bigger me.  I have to keep working the program, eating according to the rules, exercising the same - or I will regain.  My calorie consumption will need to stay about 1200 calories a day at my current activity level.  I dump, so I will not be able to indulge in carbs without getting sick - and that's a good thing. 

I will eat to live, not live to eat.  I will find ways to treat myself that don't have anything to do with food - like yesterday.  I was properly fitted for new bras by a pro named Nancy at Nordstrom's.  My 4 new bras cost over $300, but I'm going to be wearing the heck out of them so I know I'll get at least 100 wears out of each, and they do EVERYTHING I needed them to do, plus - they're PRETTY.  People who have never been obese might not know but it is very hard to find a really supportive and comfortable bra size 44DD/EE.  Forget about it being attractive.   It was hard to swallow that bill yesterday, but it was harder to swallow the similarly ones for bras that looked awful. 

My next treat will be getting my rings re-sized.  I have been winding medical tape around them to keep them from falling off.  It will take a while to save up for it, because I'm going to incorporate some stones from other rings (my 10th anniversary and my late mother-in-law's ring) as well. 

It comes down to making the right choices every day.  Most days I do really well, but some days I don't.  I recently read Al Roker's "Never Goin' Back" and feel the same way.  This will never be "over", but I will never go "back" either.  It is worth everything to be here for my family longer, and be able to enjoy life more.  I give thanks to my family, friends, surgeon, and God for this second chance at life.  Forward!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bariatric Betty says "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful"

People treat me differently now that I'm not obese.  It was something I had heard from post-ops before surgery and prepared myself for.  The overwhelming majority of that change is positive.  It mostly makes me happy, but there is a downside.  It makes it very clear how much nicer some people are to "typical" weight people and how much many ignore or are even rude to overweight and obese people. 

Maybe it's because they identify more with a typical weight person?  Birds of a feather flock together?  But weight isn't someone's identity.  Yet studies how that people, even highly educated people, identify overweight people as lazy, undisciplined, and sloppy. 

Complete strangers are now much more likely to hold a door open for me.  More strangers start conversations with me, or tell me to go ahead of them in line.  The number of smiles I get from strangers has increased - and I've always been one to smile at strangers, so that hasn't been the source of the change.  I think it's just now that more of them are looking at me long enough to see that I'm smiling, so they smile back.  In general, it makes the world feel like a happier, friendlier place. 

Peers I see invite me to join them more often - I'm not talking about friends.  I'm talking about co-workers and people I know from my kid's schools.  I don't usually take them up on the offers, because it usually involves lunch out or drinks or something else that would be difficult/ impossible for me post-op.  But it's really nice to be asked.

Friends have also changed - although much less.  These were people who knew and loved me at my heaviest.  They accepted me as is then, and they accept me now - just with more compliments!  I can't tell you what it's like after most of a lifetime of being unhappy with how I looked to get compliments telling me I look "cute", "tiny", "healthy", or shockingly "hot!". 

There is a small minority, however, where the change is not positive.  I had been warned about this by WLS veterans.  They said that sometimes if you have a gang of girls, and you suddenly change your appearance by dropping a lot of weight, your social "position" in the group can become unstable.  Instead of being the supportive fat friend, or the funny fat friend, or the fat friend that makes the pretty girls look better in comparison, they don't know how to "classify" you in the hierarchy.  They might even feel challenged for what they see as their role as the "pretty" one. 

I didn't expect to face that - partly because I don't hang out with gangs of girls.  I tend to see my friends one at a time.  I was never one to go out to a bar with in a group.  Frankly, I wasn't one to go out to a bar!  Funny thing was, I was part of a gang of girls, I just hadn't realized it.  The neighborhood bus stop moms.

I live in a great neighborhood.  The day I moved in two different neighbors came over with brownies and cookies.  Another sent her girls over to show my boys around the neighborhood.  My next door neighbor came over and introduced herself and offered her help.  After the quiet community with a lot of retirees I used to live in, it was a little startling. 

Next week, 2/16/2013 is my first "surgiversary".  I can't wait to celebrate!  I told my husband to hold off on any flowers or anything for Valentine's Day, I would rather celebrate on the 16th (and it will be cheaper - bonus!).  I have my 1 year post-op next Wednesday with my surgeon and I'm really looking forward to it.