Weighty Matters

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I Heart Bobby Dean

I love to watch cooking and food shows.  I’ve learned a lot from them, too, like how to make an outstanding risotto from Ann Burrell or the importance of building depth of flavor in every dish.

You’d think this would be pure torture for me right now to watch dish after delicious dish being created and served when I’m still on a full liquid diet.  Instead, I’m doing research.  At some point I will again eat solid foods in drastically smaller portions.  I want to make the most of what foods I eat and find ways to maximize the flavor while cutting down on bad fats and high calories.

Right now, I have a new favorite show.  Bobby Dean’s Not My Mama’s Meals. He’s reinventing his mother Paula’s butter-laden dishs, incorporating different ingredients and cooking methods to make them healthier.   He had me at Greek Yogurt.  Right now, Greek yogurt is one of the foods I’m allowed to eat, but I don’t much like multiple spoonfuls of it plain — like chowing down on sour cream —  and I can’t yet mix in fruit.  So, I’ve experimented with stirring it into my soups to increase the protein count and the creaminess.

I got that idea from Bobby Dean.  It works great, adding texture and flavor.  I’ve been on broths, light cream soups and the like for almost three weeks.  My daily goal is to ingest 60-80 grams of protein.   Anything that adds additional flavor and protein is a keeper.

Just in the few episodes I’ve watched so far, I’ve picked up several other pointers on how to produce a variety of yummy dishes that will be healthier than the old ways I’ve cooked.

One thing that always sucked about diets was deprivation and I don’t mean in the amount of food, but in the taste.   I believe that, when you can only eat a little bit of food, what you eat better be good.  By desire and by design (my reduced capacity stomach), I will eat much less in quantity but ramp up the healthy quality.  That said,  I’m going to make sure that I enjoy every single bite.

Thanks, Bobby Dean, for showing me ways to accomplish these goals!

 

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Taking Proper Care

Contrary to what people might have believed, I’ve always been aware of my obesity.  I think some people believe that I was unaware of it or choosing to ignore it because I wasn’t devoting every waking hour to dieting.   Nothing could be further from reality.  Excess weight is carried with us all of the time — physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I have never once thought that I didn’t have to do something about it — there was never any denial — but what I knew and what I was able to accomplish were worlds apart.

After years of the diet-lose-stop dieting-gain cycle, there are times when I wanted to forget or ignore or just say, “What the hell” and eat because that cycle is exhausting.  Dieting is hard work, always thinking about what we can’t/can/should/shouldn’t eat; making sure we have the right stuff around and that we’ve planned our meals.  We lose and float on the euphoria of success.  Eventually, we stop dieting and, despite our most iron clad intentions, eventually we lapse from our healthier eating, backslide and regain the weight.  That wears on the heart, mind, and soul as much as it does on our body.

We are hyperaware and positive that our weight is the first thing everybody notices or thinks about when they see us.  Even if we don’t actually hear someone say, “She’d be such a pretty girl if she’d lose weight” or “She has such a pretty face, why doesn’t she lose weight” or even, “I can’t believe she’s going to eat that when she really should lose weight”, we assume they are thinking those very things or some close variation.

Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but one thing’s for sure.  When you’re overweight and go to the doctor, you’re going to hear about it.  Depending on the doctor, the admonishment will be delivered harshly or gently, but the message is there.  I don’t think it’s inappropriate.  Your doctor’s job is to help you maintain good health so a doctor with an overweight patient who doesn’t urge that person to lose pounds for their health is not going his or her job.  I do, however, think that some doctors need to look at how they deliver the message.

I once went to see a doctor when I had severe abdominal pain.  Even though he knew I’d been hurting for days and was feverish, before he addressed the immediate complaint and examined me, he delivered a lecture on my obesity and told me I needed to have weight loss surgery as soon as possible.  I swear at that moment I knew he was probably right, but damned if I agreed with his timing.  I’m sure I was inappropriately flippant when I said that I understood his concern but could we please concentrate on the problem at hand but, dammit, I was in freaking pain!

The next morning, that same surgeon removed my gall bladder.  I’d developed a stone the size of a Spanish olive that had lodged in the bile duct.  Pain relieved — physically at least.  The following day, he delivered another lecture about my weight and surgery before signing my release papers.  I’d inherited this doctor when my primary care physician retired but right at that moment I knew I never wanted to see him again for checkups or treatment.

Over the years, there have been many times when I ignored routine medical checkups so I could avoid potential lectures.   You can get away with this when you’re younger, but the older you get, the more you’re jeopardizing yourself.   There are chronic health conditions that go undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.  I’m sure I should have been on Metformin and high blood pressure meds for years before I actually started taking them.    I’m lucky I didn’t develop even more problems.

Shortly after the gallbladder incident, a friend told me about her primary care physician — a warm, wonderful woman.  Determined to take better care of myself, I made an appointment and have seen her regularly ever since.  She’s a terrific doctor.  She treats me like an intelligent woman and not like an idiot who’s too stupid to go on a diet.  She monitors my conditions and talks to me honestly but without accusations and encourages me gently without scolding.  When I went to her last summer and told her I accepted that I needed to have weight loss surgery and asked her to help me, she referred me to the surgeon that she’d worked with for other patients.  In short, she has helped me to take better care of myself.

That’s the key.  No matter how overweight we might be, we cannot afford to ignore our care.  I hope everyone finds a doctor like the one I see now, and not like the other guy.  No matter where we are on the scale, and what we are or aren’t doing about it, we need to address the other conditions that we might have.  After all, when we finally get our weight on track, we want to be healthy enough to enjoy our improvements.

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Weekly Weigh-In

I’m still fighting with the scale or at least fighting with my urge to weigh myself every single day.  I justify it a lot by saying that I need to see the weight loss to keep motivated.  Honestly, I could still get that motivation if I cut back.  Focusing on the numbers is not healthy for me.  Sticking with the plan, the program, and retraining myself to the new way of eating matters the most.

So, I’ve decided to report my weight loss only once a week on Fridays.  As of this morning, I’m down 40 pounds!  That’s 40 pounds in five weeks.  Remember that I was on full liquids for two weeks before my surgery on January 25th and dropped 20 pounds.  They came back in the disguise of water weight and swelling with the operation so I had to lose them again in the following week.  However, since then another 20 have come off.

I feel terrific.  Even this change makes a difference in my clothes, my mobility, and my energy.

I’m increasingly more bored with the full liquid diet but now I’m counting down one more week before I can expand to pureed foods.  One more week, one day at a time.  I can do this!  The weight loss so far will remind me that it’s all worth the effort!

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Weighing on My Mind

I don’t know about anybody else, but as an overweight woman, my excess avoirdupois is/was always on my mind.  There’s no escaping, unless you count eating yourself into a temporary food coma.  I was always conscious of the extra pounds I carried around.  Anytime I walked, and particularly if I had to go up stairs or even step up on a curb, I felt how the weight impacted my body.  Every day normal activities that most people give little to no thought to accomplishing had to be assessed before proceeding.  Could I do them?  What would it take?  What if I couldn’t?

If I rented a car, would the seat belt go around me?  Would that rented chair at the party be strong enough to hold me or would it break under the strain?  Would I get stuck in the turnstile? At a party or dinner, was there room between tables for me to navigate?

It’s hard to relax and enjoy a social gathering with so many things to consider and so many possible catastrophes weighing on the mind.

This is one of the positive results of weight loss that I’m looking forward to the most.   I can’t wait to not have to constantly measure things and situations.  Although I will always have to think about my food and what I eat and drink, I won’t have to worry about whether I’ll be able to relax at the table and enjoy the meal.

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Keeping on Track

We’ve all done it.  Started a diet with lots of energy and determination, absolutely positive that this time we’d stick with it and achieve our goal.  Bolstered by early success we soldier on until the day that something happens and our motivation shuts down.  Maybe we cheat a little here or slack off over there.  Sometimes a stressful or upsetting situation hits us and we turn to comfort food.  Whatever the case, our weight loss train derails and we can’t get back on track.

That was my history.  I could diet like a champ and lose weight — sometimes as much as 100 pounds — but then, for whatever reason, I’d stop and eventually gain back all of the weight and then some.   In more recent years I’d sustain long enough to lose 20, maybe 40 pounds, and one day — gone.  The motivation shut down like someone turned off a switch.  For the life of me, I couldn’t switch it back on.

I played that game too many times to go the same route again which also contributed to my decision to have weight loss surgery.  Today, however, I’m hit with old fears.  I’m nearing the 40 pound loss mark and I’m nervous that I’ll wake up and the switch will have hit Off again.

It’s a useless, groundless fear.  With my new sleeve and severely restricted stomach capacity, I will have to make a concentrated, deliberate effort to sabotage myself.  I’d have to replace healthy protein shakes with nonstop, calorie-laden milkshakes or something.

The switch is not going to move to the Off position and extinguish the motivation.  I’ve given myself a safeguard.  My weight will continue to go down.  I might hit a physical stall while my body adjusts, but that’s not the same as having the success going away.  I need to hold onto that reality and let go of the fear which does nothing but mess up my head.

This train’s just going to keep powering on.

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The Numbers Game

When losing weight it is so incredibly difficult to not focus on the number on the scale.  It’s like the entire measure of success is seeing that number steadily go down, down, down.  I’m obsessed with weighing myself every morning, buck naked and before breakfast.  If the number hasn’t moved sufficiently, my brain goes into wacky thinking like, “Maybe if I go to the bathroom again it will help.”

Seriously, that’s wack.

Logically I know the math behind weight loss.  A pound is equal to approximately 3500 calories.  Expend 3500 calories more than you take in and you will lose a pound.  Ingest 3500 calories more than you expend and you’ll gain.  Even if you lie on the couch immobile for days on end, your body burns calories by breathing, living and performing other bodily functions.  When you’re heavier, you burn more calories in the simplest movements.

However, the body has its own schedule and other factors figure in so even with all of the mathematical reasoning, the scale does not always move every single day.  Here’s a great case in point that should emphasize this in my head.  Prior to the surgery, I was on a full liquid diet for two weeks.  I lost 20 pounds in two weeks.  The math definitely added up.   My activity level was normal, for me, but my calorie intake had drastically dropped.  I switched to clear liquids the day before the operation.  Then I didn’t ingest anything — not even water — for 24 hours.  Once they let me have something it was only gelatin, Italian ice, and juice.  I was on IV fluids and dextrose around the clock, too.

Two days later I was released from the hospital and couldn’t wait to get on the scale at home and see how much additional weight had come off.  Imagine my shock when the scale said I’d regained those 20 pounds!  I must have shrieked because my sister-in-law, a nurse, immediately asked me what was wrong.  When I told her she wisely ordered me to back away from the scale and not get on it for a few days.  It was all water weight and swelling from the surgery, she advised, and would go away as quickly as it had come on.

It did, although not all that quickly.  It took a week but it finally went away and hasn’t been seen again since.

Focusing so much on a daily weight is not healthy for me.  It’s no more healthy than when I was overeating and avoided the scale for weeks on end so that I wouldn’t have to face that I was steadily gaining.  The key is balance.  I’m trying to wean myself away from daily weighing.  It’s like trying to cut back slowly on other addictions.  I can’t go cold turkey and reduce myself to once a week right away.  I weighed myself today and will now hold off until Thursday before weighing again and then skipping another day and not weigh myself until Saturday.  If I can maintain an “every other day” schedule for a week, I’ll put two days of not weighing in between my scale days.

I believe I can strike the right schedule to not obsess while also providing positive reinforcement for all of my efforts.  In the meantime I just need to remember the math of weight loss and know that, regardless of the number on the scale, I’m shedding pounds.

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Getting Active

I hate to exercise.  I’m not sure if it’s an activity chicken/egg issue.  Do I hate to exercise because I’m inherently lazy and embrace sedentary living which adds to my poundage, or does my excess poundage make it more difficult for me to move and that’s why I hate it?  Since one of those reasons makes me sound like a jerk, I’m going with the second.  Today I choose to believe that the more weight I lose, the easier it will be to move, and the easier it gets, the more that I’ll like it.

I enjoy the feeling I get when I’ve done any exercise, that tiredness in the muscles that tells me they were worked with good intent.  I like the feeling of accomplishment that infuses my spirit after a water aerobics session or Tai Chi class.  I’m not setting any triathalon goals, but I am cautiously optimistic that I will learn to enjoy regular physical activity.

I really do enjoy swimming and exercising in the water.  I’m thrilled that I’m getting back into Tai Chi.  I practiced this steadily 11 or so years ago for four or five years and reaped great benefits.

At this point, I’ll be happy when I can walk more than a block without my knee and lower back hurting.  Zumba looks like a hell of a lot of fun and I’d like to try it in the not too distant future.

Right now I need to set some attainable activity goals.  Somewhere I have a DVD for Walking off the Pounds.  Following along with the instructor for even 15 minutes means we achieve a mile’s worth of exercise.  I can do that in the house regardless of the weather.  Seriously, even at my laziest, I can push out 15 minutes.  So I’m going to commit to doing that every day.

I also had a terrific realization yesterday.  I’ve lost enough weight that I can finally, finally use my Wii Fit system.  I think I’ve had it for two years but when I brought it home I found out that I was too heavy to use the balance pad.  Now I can!  That’s a victory.   Before the end of the week I’m going to figure out how to hook it up and check it out.  Fitness should be fun, right?

What’s on your activity list?  Do you work out regularly . . . sometimes . . . hardly never?  What does it take to motivate you?  What works for you in terms of motivation?  Any suggestions?

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The Mind Game

I touched on “head hunger” yesterday and want to explore the mental and emotional aspects of my life and how they affect my efforts to improve physical health.   I’m very clear that weight loss surgery is only a tool to use in the overall campaign to lose weight and be more fit.  Granted, it’s a great tool.  In addition to physically restricting the amount of food I can eat at any given time, the section of my stomach that was removed included the area that secretes ghrelin, aka the hunger hormone.  I honestly have not felt much physical hunger in the last two and a half weeks.  Granted, in the beginning, the small remaining stomach pouch was swollen so I always felt full, but even since that reduced, I don’t physically feel hungry.  Mentally, I crave food, specifically anything with more substance than milk.

The post-op protocol spells out a slow transition from clear liquids to solid food.  My doctor’s protocol has me spending more time in each transition phase than other plans and I’m doing my best not to whine or quibble.  I was on clear liquids for the first 10 days post-op and then moved up to “full” liquids.  The difference meant mixing protein powder in milk instead of water, strained creamed soups instead of only clear broths, and the ability to eat sugar free pudding and plain greek yogurt.   Doesn’t that list of menu items make your taste buds want to boogie?  I’m to follow this protocol until I see the doctor again on the 24th. At that point I’ll graduate to pureed foods, then to soft foods and then, finally to solids.

People wonder how I can stand the extended liquid diet.  I just keep telling myself that I can do anything for a finite period of time.  God knows I stuck to some extreme diets in the past.  Mentally, I can be extremely tough and disciplined.

I can also go mentally out of control.  The root of my super obesity is in overeating.  For many years I did not realize that compulsive overeating and binge eating are actual disorders and not merely the behavior of a lifelong weak fatty with no will power.   Food has been my drug of choice, my coping mechanism, my way to stuff down feelings, stresses and pain so that they wouldn’t overwhelm me.   Food has also been the stick I’ve used to beat up on myself.  Coming to understand all this about food saved my sanity and may very well have saved my life.

It wasn’t until I was 34 that I actually learned these truths about myself and my relationship with food, even though I’d been overweight to some degree or another since childhood.  I honestly don’t remember a time when I was an appropriate weight.  That’s a topic for another blog.  For all of my life I was convinced that if I could just find the willpower to stick to a diet, I would succeed.  When I didn’t, I chalked it up to me failing again which further contributed to lousy self-esteem.

At 33, I hit rock bottom physically, emotionally, and professionally.   I had recently come out of a horrible work situation but was now in another one loaded with stress. My self-confidence was at an all-time low and I could barely breathe in the day from the tension and my weight.  I was binging like a mad woman.  If I’d been a coke or heroin addict, I’d have died from the overdose.  We can, however, ingest incredible amounts of food in stomachs stretched by gorging.  A possible binge could easily include an entire medium to large pizza, washed down by a two liter bottle of regular soda with a pint of ice cream or entire cake for dessert.  In the middle of the night, I’d wake up from a restless sleep and only half-consciously stumble to the kitchen and eat something.  Often I didn’t remember these food forays until I saw the open wrappers or dirty spoons.

I’d realized that I needed help from a therapist and had begun to see one a few months prior to the melt down.   Thank God for that because I don’t know what I would have done or where I would have turned for help on that fateful day.   I woke up one morning so completely wigged out that I was convinced if I left my apartment something horrible would happen.  I can still remember sitting, shaking, in a chair and picking up the phone to call my therapist.  I left a message begging her to squeeze me in.  She called me back within minutes and assured me that I’d be okay on the drive to her office.  We did a double session and, before it was over, she told me she wanted me to go to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting that night.  She shared her own story and told me she believed that the program would help me get better.

She was right.  I continued to go to program for many years.  I won’t say that I was always perfect in my abstinence from overeating, but mentally I grew to understand the nature of my relationship with food and how I used it for other than nutrition.  I also learned to stop beating myself up and to let go of shame.  Gradually, I reclaimed a healthier personality with restored self-confidence, serenity and genuine happiness.

This lasted almost 20 years but more recently I began to see myself backsliding.  Although I’d never lost all the weight I needed to, I’d kept my obesity at a manageable level.  I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but I found ways to make it work.  Age stepped in and eroded my abilities.  The weight I could manage in my 30s became more destructive in my 50s.  It increased the stress and pain in my joints which reduced my mobility.  With reduction in physical capability came the gradual eroding of my serenity and confidence and an increase in my mental pain.  I mentioned before that my range of activities began to narrow and this began to affect me emotionally.

Wow, I’ve traveled quite a way down memory lane with this post, more than originally intended, but now I realize that it’s important to remember the past so I can use it for the future.  You see, lately I’ve had some fear returned.  Several paragraphs ago, I said that the weight loss surgery and my incredibly small stomach pouch (about the size of a small banana) is simply a tool.  Granted, I won’t be able to shove an entire slice of pizza down at one time, let alone a whole pie.  However, if I fall back on food as a coping mechanism, eventually I will stretch the sleeve, stop losing weight, and regain the pounds.  It’s happened to others.

So I’m working on the mind game.  I wish there were OA meetings where I live so I could return to the rooms, but there aren’t.  I need to devise a different way to work a program.  The truth is that I know overeating is an insidious disease.  It does not solve problems, ease stress, comfort pain or do anything positive for me.

The good news is that I’m in a happy place.  I have a wonderful life in a beautiful place.  I have a phenomenal job where I am surrounded by people who are a loving, supportive family in addition to being co-workers.  I also have complete confidence in my abilities and know that I rock my job.  It’s the best of all worlds.  I do not need to medicate with food.  There are other, healthier ways to handle stress or drama when it blows in like a storm on a sunny day.

I need to be vigilant about the mind game of the eating disorder.  It is every bit as important for me to monitor as it is for me to concentrate on the grams of protein and carbs I ingest or the necessary fluids that I drink.   The hammer, saw and drill can’t build anything on their own without the skill and effort of the carpenter.   The sleeve alone can’t save my life.  Only I can — and that’s the most important goal.

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Trying not to weigh myself every day, but it’s hard to resist the scale.  Stepped on the scale this morning and I’m down 36 pounds!

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Bombardment at the Check Out Line

I went to the supermarket today with a list of the few things that I need.  Very few since I’m still on a full liquid diet.  I wanted onions to make a French onion soup.  Once the flavors have all simmered together, I’ll remove the onions and be left with a very flavorful broth.  I needed milk for my protein shakes and Crystal Light for variety since I need to drink down 64-100 ounces a day.  I mentally shored up my defenses because I knew how tempting the sights and smells of real food would be to me.  I might not have much physical hunger, but my head hunger is sometimes strong.

Wouldn’t you know that today a local Girl Scout troop had a table set up to sell cookies?  I’m very proud of myself for resisting the urge to  buy a box of Thin Mints or the peanut butter-chocolate ones.  Instead I gave them a donation and kept walking.

With so few items on my list, it didn’t take me long to shop.  On Saturdays in tourist season, the supermarkets are packed with people who rent houses or vacation condos for a week and have to stock their kitchens.  So the lines to check out were long.  While I waited, I looked around and realized how many different, often conflicting, messages and images fill the racks on either side of the shopper.  To my right — Chocolate Magazine, Food Network Magazine and Paula Dean — all displaying photographs of opulent sweet and savory dishes.  Following the magazine rack, were shelves of chocolate bars.  To my left, amid the star mags and tabloids, were magazines that touted the latest fat-burning carbs, a metabolism rev-up, and three different new diets to try.   As if to drive home the point that excess weight is a major concern, one of the rag mags focused on unflattering photos of celebrities with close-ups of cellulite dimpled thighs and less than tight abs.

It’s no new revelation that America is obsessed with food, diets, and body image.

New to me today, however, was my mindset.  Did every food item on the right look scrumptious and make me think that I’d love to try it someday?  Yes, but I didn’t want to turn my cart around right then and load up on the ingredients.  The timing isn’t right for me with the liquid diet.  I scanned the chocolate bars, but decided the temporary taste wasn’t worth veering away from the doctor’s instructions.  When I looked at the diet articles on the left, I didn’t feel the same tension that I used to experience.  I didn’t have to dwell on the guilt that I should be doing more about my weight.  I’ve already done something pretty impressive.

I guess that’s the secret to survival for me.  I shield my mind with positive messages so that the ads, articles and photographs can’t infiltrate.  Employing that strategy, I can proceed unscathed through the bombardment at the check out line.

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Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

I’ve lost 33 pounds and friends tell me they see a difference.  I stare into the mirror and don’t see a change.  Honestly, I don’t expect to see a thinner me yet.  My ingrained belief is that when you have sooo many pounds to lose, you have to lose a higher percentage in order for there to be a real noticeable change in appearance.  I feel the change as some clothes are looser and I can already walk and move easier.  That’s all good.

Appearance is such a big deal to many of us.  Body Image is a huge (pardon the pun) issue.  I have what I call “fat eyes”.  In the past when I have lost weight, often great amounts, the image of myself in my brain is always swollen from the reality.  Conversely, when I’m at my heaviest, I look worse to myself in photographs than in my mind’s eye.

In addition to my less than stellar self-perception, I automatically project the reaction of other people.  I’m positive that when I walk into a room of strangers, their first reaction is not, “What a nice person with a friendly smile”, but “Oh my God, that woman’s a walking whale.”  I know for a fact, that stems from teenage trauma when some younger people were relentlessly cruel.  A high school classmate used to yell, “Thar she blows” at me across the Quad.  You’d think that almost 40 years later, I’d have banished that memory and the resulting damage, but even now I flinch.  I believe if I had dealt and processed it properly at the time, it would not still affect me now, but I didn’t so it does.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I was thin.  I have degrees of thinner and also of fatter.  My sister-in-law showed me a picture of me from her wedding.  I was surprise at how good I looked.  I eagerly anticipate looking that good again.  I have to believe that I’ll believe it when I see it.

Since I am still medically obese, even though I’m losing weight, I’m again projecting other’s reactions.  What happens when they ask me how much weight I’ve lost and then when I tell them they realize they don’t see it?   I know I’ll watch their facial expressions to see what they think.  That’s a reflex.  I know that what I need to do is shore up my mental and emotional health so that I’m not adversely affected by a negative reaction.  Instead of crumpling inside and feeling lousy, I will remind myself that it doesn’t matter what other people see.  The only important thing is that my effort is paying off in positive results and every pound lost is great progress.  I will prevail.

Where I am today isn’t where I’ll be tomorrow or the next day, next week, next month.  Six months from now, it is entirely possible that I will have lost close to 100 pounds.  Even I, with my fat eyes, will see the difference in my body.

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