Weighty Matters

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Am I So Vain?

I figure that I was never big on being vain.  Heck, even if someone told me they meant it, I wouldn’t think a song was about me.  🙂

Honestly, how could someone who remained obese most of her life be vain about appearance?  That’s my reasoning, anyway.   I don’t think in my head that I often looked in the mirror and thought that I looked good.  Pretty much, I’d internally qualify it as, “All things considered, you look good enough” or at least “You look as good as you can, considering”.

Even now when someone exclaims, “Wow, you look great!”, I mentally add “as compared to how you looked three or four months ago”.  Or I change it in my head to, “You look better!”

Better.  That I can definitely accept.

While I’ve never been vain about my appearance as a whole, there have been some aspects about which I will admit to some degree of vanity.  I love my nails to look good.  I know that I’m fortunate to have really good skin.  I never had bad acne breakouts when I was a teen.  As an adult, I successfully combat blackheads, most whiteheads, and know that my skin’s in great shape.  I also have great hair.  It’s thick, a bit coarse, and naturally wavy — although now I do keratin treatments so it’s mostly straight, but still has shine and swing to it.  I’m growing it longer these days and want to see if I can get it to the length where I can pull it back if I need to.

So, what prompted the musing over vanity today?  My hair.  People who have had weight loss surgery before me warned me that this time would come.  About three months post-surgery with the rapid weight loss, they said, be prepared to lose hair.

Oh yes, the time has come.  I noticed it last week when I washed my hair.  Multiple strands tangled in my fingers when I worked in the shampoo.  More hair scatters on my skin when I get out of the shower.  Even more strands are filling up my brushes.  Ugh.  Ugh.  Ugh.

Logically I know that I am not going to lose so much hair that I’m bald.  I’ve already been assured of that by others.  Plus, this will stop happening in just a couple of months.  I honestly have no business bitching.  God knows, people who go through chemotherapy have a much, much worse time of it when they lose alllll of their hair.  Seriously.  How vain am I to even complain a little?

Color me human.  I pull the strands from the brush, wipe up the shower and sink, sweep the bathroom floor and think, “Holy wow, I’m really losing my hair!”  In dismay, I stare at the mirror to reassure myself.  Yes, there’s still a full head of hair in my reflection.  Enough with the vanity.  Instead, I’m going to concentrate on gratitude that I have so much hair to start with that nobody but me and my hairstylist will even notice the difference.

Not let’s go on to my skin.  I am fortunate that, according to most people I know, I do not look my age.  I’m 54 and have had multiple folks tell me they thought I was in my early 40s.  I smile, thank them, and say that I could tell them it’s because I’ve led a good, clean life, but that would be a lie.  🙂

Even I can see that I have far fewer wrinkles and lines than a lot of people around my age.  I attribute this luckiness to a few things:  Genetics; not smoking; and the fact that the fat in my face plumped out the wrinkles so that not as many show.

I’ve definitely lost weight in my face and I think that includes at least one of my extra chins.   At the RT Convention, an artist told me that I have high cheekbones.  I never realized that, probably because I’ve never had a good look at the bone structure beneath the chubbiness.  To be honest, I’m starting to wonder how much the skin in my face will sag as I continue to lose more weight.

I already know that I’m going to have pounds of excess, hanging skin around the rest of my body.   I’m prepared to have surgery to remove the excess in a couple of years.  In the meantime, I’m sure I can hide most of it underneath my clothes or, if need be, inside some compression garments.  Spanx might be my new best friend.

It’s harder to hide sagging skin on my face.  So right now I’m hope that bone structure, genetics, and the fact that my skin’s retained a fair amount of resilience over the years, all combine to minimize sagging.  Please, please, please, let that be the case, at least for the next year.  I don’t mind eventually needing to nip, lift, and tuck.  I’m just vain enough to not want to look like a hag until I’m completely finished with the weight loss and can go do something about it.

Seriously, after spending so much time and effort having surgery and following a strict plan, I’d like to revel in looking better than I ever have.

Is that too much to ask?   Am I really so vain?


Goodbye, Cousin

Friends, my cousin left this life last night. Thank you all for your kind words, good thoughts, prayers and support over this last week.

If you are interested in reading more about this special woman, I’ve written more about her on my other blog. Please click here to read.



I met with the seamstress today and handed over three pairs of capri or cropped length pants and a pair of denim shorts.  Two of the pairs of pants have already been taken in once and now need a second go-round.  I’ve tried wearing them, but can only do so if I roll the waistband over a couple of times — otherwise, the legs bag and it feels like the crotch and seat hang to my knees.  Same thing with the shorts.  The seamstress and I agreed that she’d take in more than we thought we needed to because, by the time she’s done with the jobs, I’ll have lost more weight.

Wow.  This is a terrific feeling, so know that my clothes continue to get too big on me.  If these particular garments weren’t in such good shape, I wouldn’t bother, but with the alterations, they’ll look great and be able to help me stretch my wardrobe for a couple more months at least.

Her prices are reasonable enough that even doing some garments twice costs less than buying new.  If I can get through the end of June before I need to invest in more new clothes, I’ll be happy.  At that point, I’ll buy a few things to last me for as many months as I can and plan on altering them, too, down the line.

This is another new change from previous years and other experiences with seamstresses.  I remember when I was about 11 or 12 and was going to be a junior bridesmaid in the wedding of a really good friend of our family’s.  They were able to order me the dress in a size usually reserved for older girls and then do a little sewing magic to make it right for me, add a sash, etc.  A couple of years later, I needed a summery, floor length dress to be a guest for a formal wedding, but there was no way to find an age-appropriate outfit that would fit my now bigger 14 year old body and still suit the event.  So Mom found a seamstress who could remove the long skirt part from that bridesmaid’s dress and then fashion a completely different top in a complementary color.

Back when I was a teenager, there weren’t as many stores that catered to plus sized kids, although our small town actually had one — appropriately called The Chubette store.  While we could find clothes for me for school and regular stuff, those special events presented bigger challenges.  Sure, we could find my size by going to stores for adults, but the styles weren’t right for my age.  Poor Mom.  Thank God she was always willing to go to any lengths to help, or drive into Philadelphia — over an hour away — for additional options.

Is it any wonder that I never developed the shopping bug that so many women have.  Spending an afternoon shopping at a mall ranks high on my list of least-favorite activities!

I need to send a big shout-out to talented seamstresses everywhere.  Back in the 1990s, I was asked to be a bridesmaid for one of my dearest friends.  We went to a lovely bridal shop with her matron of honor and picked out a gown that each of us loved!  Bless the saleslady who took me into a dressing room to get my measurements for ordering.  She was the soul of discretion when she told me privately that the company didn’t make the dress in my size, but that their seamstress could get the pattern and custom make it.  I thanked her profusely and asked her to not tell my friend that I was going to pay to have the dress made.

The day of the wedding, my dress looked exactly like other attendant’s.   It was worth the extra expense to be able to share the day and not feel like my weight had caused a problem for my friend.

To now be going the other way is one more reason that I’m thrilled about having weight loss surgery and the steady, great results I’m seeing.  I’ve lost over 70 pounds in 13 weeks and am experiencing so many positive changes.

In the months ahead, I will eventually reach the point where I don’t need to go to plus-size specialty stores in person or online to purchase clothes.  Going into “regular” stores is going to be a whole new adventure.  I have absolutely no idea where to start and will have to learn an entirely new sizing terminology.  I’ve already gotten friends to promise that they’ll come with me because I anticipate it being a little stressful, as well as fun.  Also, very soon, I’m going to have to go somewhere and get professionally fitted for new bras.  The ones that I have now fit weird, gap and don’t look as good as they should.

I’m not complaining, really I’m not.  I’m just reporting on the situation as I’ve observed.  I’m looking forward to the first shopping adventure.  With an altered body and new way of thinking, who knows?  I might actually start to love shopping more!


Managing Feelings and Emotions

The news continues to worsen on my cousin’s condition unfortunately.  The sadness weighs heavy on my heart and spirit.

It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve managed to not overeat or eat inappropriately, despite the upset.  I know this is a very good thing, and I’m acknowledging the success.  It’s just that celebrating anything at this point is impossible, given the situation.

I’ve also experienced a good deal of clarity about everything.  I’m really aware of what I’m feeling and how it feels to be feeling these things — if that makes any sense.  I’ve also seen that I need to be super conscious of how I speak and act and how I respond to other people and situations.  I’m upset, sad, and heartsick — but even though I have a right to feel those emotions, I do not have the right to take them out on others.

I was reminded of something that happened decades ago with a guy friend who was heavily into drugs.  Normally a nice guy whether straight or stoned, he inexplicably and unjustifiably took my head off about something one night.  I don’t remember what, but I knew that I in no way deserved his reaction and I told him so.  “Give me a #&*@& break, I need a hit,” he replied, as if being strung out was a reasonable excuse.

A couple of times this week, I’ve run up against some aggravating or stressful situations.  I’m grateful that I had the clarity to feel how tense I was in those cases and that I realized that my reactions this week are definitely impacted by the underlying upset over my cousin’s accident.  Each time, I stopped myself from going with my first instinct — to snap out or snap back at the other person.  Instead, I mentally stepped back from the situation, took a deep breath to assess, and then responded more calmly than I felt inside.  In the end, it was more important to not escalate the drama than it was to be right.  This helped me prevent a negative interaction from getting even worse.

In one instance, I gave myself a mental talking to, internally saying, “Mary, just because this person is acting like a jackass doesn’t mean you have to be one too.”

By coincidence, one of my friends posted a photo of a poster on her wall this week.  It suggested that we T.H.I.N.K. before we speak, asking ourselves these things about what we’re about to say:

T – Is it True?

H – Is it Helpful?

I – Is it Inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

I found this extremely helpful this week.  I’m going to print it up to hang on my desk at work.  I think it’s a guideline that will continue to provide assistance, even when I’m not in the middle of a devastating, emotional, family crisis.


Getting Rest

I’ve always thought of myself as more of a night owl than a morning person.  I’m not even talking about my 20s and 30s when I’d go out to clubs with friends until 2, 3, 4 in the morning and then catch a few hours of sleep before getting up to go to work.  Even 15 years ago when I was in my late 30s, I’d stay up until 1 in the morning every night playing on the computer, surfing the ‘net, chatting with friends, etc.

I loved the days when I was a freelance writer and didn’t have to get up early to arrive at an office by 8:30 or 9 a.m.  I could make my own hours and sleep-in whenever I wanted.

In recent years, I’ve found that I get sleepy earlier than way back when.  Still, it’s usually between 11:30 p.m. and midnight before I shut off the light in my bedroom and fall asleep.  Every weekday, my alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m. so I can get to work before 9.  On weekends, I’m thrilled if I can sleep in — although making it until 8 a.m. constitutes “sleeping in” these days.  If I can’t sleep in, or even if I can, I love curling up on my recliner on a weekend afternoon for a short nap.

I’ve heard a lot over the last few years about the importance of getting enough sleep.  Too little sleep can affect our blood pressure, our hearts, how much weight we lose and a number of other things.  Seven or eight hours a night are the minimum recommendation.  I’ve been trying to pay attention to the guidelines.  I don’t really need to watch the 11 p.m. news, knowing I’ll catch up to anything truly important in the morning.  I can get through my evening routine more efficiently and still have time to read a bit before shutting out the light.

I honestly feel better when I hit between seven and eight hours instead of only six or six and a half.  I’m more focused at work and have more energy.  So, it’s a goal for me to sleep enough hours on more nights than less.

Then there’s nights like tonight when it’s around 9:15 and I’m ready to take the dogs out for their last potty trip, haul the recyclables to the curb, wash my face, brush my teeth and go to bed.   So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

If eight hours are great, then nine hours of sleep tonight should be terrific!


Small Bite Wonders

First off, so many thanks again to all of you for your prayers for my cousin and for your understanding and support for me.  You getting where I’m coming from and what I’m feeling really helps.  It’s tough to cope with all of this emotion without food when I’m used to overeating as a coping mechanism.  I had trouble focusing today but I’ve made it through and I’m equalling out now — all without a binge or diving into inappropriate foods in vast quantities.

Tonight I want to talk about food in a friendly way.   After all, food itself isn’t really my enemy.  The way that I used to eat the food caused the problems.  In changing my life, I also want to change my relationship with food.  I am learning that I can not only be satisfied physically and nutritionally with small portions, but I can also please the senses that so enjoy really, really good food.

A friend and I went out to lunch today.  Instead of ordering a hamburger that would have come in a big basket with a bun and fries, I opted for a cup — not a bowl — of chili.  Easy to consume beef in a tomato-y sauce with peppers and onions and a great combination of spices.  Because of the sauciness, this was physically easy to eat.  (Sometimes solid meat, even if I eat tiny bites and chew a lot wants to get stuck.)  Bonus, the layers of flavor were delicious.  I had the best of all eating worlds — easy to consume, tasty, and a small portion.   I ate what I wanted, stopped when I ate enough, and felt satisfied instead of deprived.

Over the weekend, I watched a cooking show called “Best Thing I Ever Made – Italian”.  I heart chef/restauranteur Scott Conant.  (Scarpetta Restaurants.)  On this show he talked about making Gnudi and explained that it’s like the filling of good ravioli without the pasta pocket.  I’m half-Italian, but had never heard of gnudi.  However, if a chef of Conant’s caliber describes a dish as the best Italian food he’s ever made, I’m going to pay attention.  I watched his demonstration carefully, after discounting the mushroom puree he also made.  (I don’t like mushrooms.  The gnudi themselves looked fairly easy — combining ricotta cheese, sauteed chopped spinach, egg yolks, a few tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs and flour and some seasonings.  After mixing, one forms the mixture into balls and slides them into boiling water to cook for a couple of minutes.  Then you shock them in ice water to make sure they hold together and reheat them when ready to serve.

Protein from cheese and egg, without the extra carb of pasta.  Granted, not something I would make and eat every day but certainly something that would make a tasty treat for dinner one night, served with some simple marinara sauce.

I made them tonight and, let me tell you, the results were scrumptious.  I love gnudi!  I only ate one and a half and enjoyed every creamy, delicious bite of the small portion.

Last year, I had people over for a boat parade party.  (We have a holiday boat parade in town and it sails right past my house.)  I’d seen a recipe for Mini-Buffalo Chicken meatballs.  Again, super easy to prepare with the ground chicken and buffalo hot sauce mixed together with some minced celery and a couple of other ingredients, then baked in the oven.  I think I should make those again.  They are a lower fat, yummy protein source for sure.

This is one of my goals for my new eating life — to explore small bite recipes that provide my protein with fewer carb grams and lower fat count but still have lots of flavor.

When one can only eat a little, it’s good to get the most out of ever small bite.

Anybody have any suggestions on small bite recipes that they’d like to share?  I don’t think it matters whether you’ve also had weight loss surgery, and you don’t even need to be overweight to appreciate great taste in small portions.


Prayers Please

Friends, I wish I could come up with something insightful or knowledgeable or helpful to say tonight, but I can’t.  Instead, I am asking for your help in the way of prayers, good energy, good thoughts, or whatever form this kind of assistance means for you.

One of my cousins was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident over the weekend.  She’s in a coma.  The doctors don’t have enough information yet to either give hope or dash it.  They just don’t know yet.

J is in her mid-50s, absolutely beautiful, fit, and vibrant.  She’s looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild in a few months.

There is no way that what’s happening with her doesn’t suck.

Since her sister called me with the news this afternoon, I’ve been struggling to hold it together.  Whenever I think about my cousin in a coma with her kids, my aunt, her sisters and her boyfriend suffering along with her, I have to fight to breath in and out.  My stomach aches like I’m on the tail end of a vicious virus.  I go from no interest in food to wanting to eat everything in sight, even if I throw it right back up again. . . but I can’t.  It won’t help.  It will only make things worse.

My sister-in-law knows me well.  Earlier this evening when she called to talk about J, she said to me, “Don’t go reaching for cookies.  Don’t sabotage yourself.”  I promised that I wouldn’t.  I haven’t.  I did eat a piece of chocolate that I had left over in the house, but it wasn’t a huge piece and it surely wasn’t enough to throw off my plan.  I ate a reasonable dinner on my food plan.

I thought about going to the store and picking up a pint of  ice cream but I stayed home and just had a snack of some almonds and walnuts.  It won’t help me or anyone else to fall off of the wagon and give into the old ways.

It’s a horrible situation, this accident.  The things that I’m feeling — upset, pain, worry, fear — are normal and to be expected.  I can’t afford to anesthetize myself.  If I numb those feelings, then I also numb myself to the things that I want, need to feel — hope, faith and belief in the power of prayer.

Diving headlong into a food binge will not help my cousin.  Hope, faith and prayer can.

Please share your hope, faith and prayers on her behalf.

Thank you.


Eating Like a Thin Person

For those of you who are also overweight and/or compulsive overeaters or binge eaters, have you ever looked at a more slender person’s plate of food and wondered how they aren’t starving?  How about when someone says, “This delicious chocolate is so rich, just one piece satisfies me.”

There are a lot of people who frequently say, “I couldn’t eat another bite” and actually mean it.    The eating habits of thin people were always a mystery to me.  Eating half a sandwich.  Not finishing their fries.  Putting most of their meals in “to go” boxes.  I honestly could not figure out why I always seemed to be hungrier than most of the people around me.

I still don’t have an answer on that one and remain unsure whether it was actual physical hunger or head hunger or hunger sparked by my emotions.  However, I’m sure eating now like all of those thinner people I envied over the decades.   I met friends for lunch yesterday and ordered a small salad with brisket on the side.  I ate a few small pieces of the meat and a few forkfuls of salad.  I accepted a single onion ring from a friend’s order.  That was it.  I was absolutely satisfied without going overboard.  I asked for a box so I could pack up the rest and went on enjoying the time we were spending together.

While I was away at RT, my friends/roommates and I chose to go down for breakfast one day.  One roomie offered to split an omelet with me.  (She is slender with a gorgeous figure.)  When the dish was served, I was good with a quarter of the fluffy, delicious omelet, two small forkfuls of crispy hash browns, and half a slice of toast.    In the past, I could have polished off the entire three egg sausage and cheese omelet, the whole order of hash browns and two full slices of buttered toast.  That morning, the portions I ate were all delicious and just enough.

Before I transitioned to eating solid foods again post-surgery, I was really concerned that I would feel deprived even when my stomach was full.  I wondered whether I would grow to resent my new drastically reduced-size stomach and regret taking this step and having the surgery.  I’m learning, thankfully, that I can handle it.  I can be satisfied with smaller portions.  I can sample that elegant, rich dessert and then push away the plate.  A single cookie, over a full handful, is a delectable treat that I can savor and not be pissed off that there isn’t room for more.

Sometimes when I serve myself dinner, I initially put too much on my plate or in my bowl but I pay attention to my body and stop when I’ve had enough.  There’s no desire to clean my plate, no matter how delicious the meal.

It’s been a long time coming and it took major surgery, but I’m learning.  More than learning the mechanics of eating like a thin person, I’m also learning how to like the change.



Picturing Progress

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words on yesterday’s loss of a friend.

So, I’ve been threatening promising to put up some pictures to illustrate my progress.  This is more difficult for me to do than I thought.  I’m sure it isn’t a big surprise to anyone that having my picture taken has never been one of the top ten things to do on my list.  It’s emotionally hard to face the evidence of super obesity.  No matter how someone else might comment on my outfit or my smile or whatever, I see only the humongousness of my body.  Oh the many times I’ve tried to hide in the back of group pictures or someway, anyway,  make myself less conspicuous.

Even today when I went through photographs to find one that would show you all where I was before weight loss surgery, I experienced a range of emotions — none of them great.  Embarrassment, shame, sadness, and a healthy dose of, “Oh good God”.   My heart aches for the me in the old photos, even while I cringe while looking at them.

Then I looked at the most recent ones, taken a week or so ago when I went to the RT Bookreviews Magazine Booklovers Convention.  Even though by number of pounds I’m still obese, I’m not trying to hide in any of the pictures.  I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and the improvements I’m experiencing and the happiness shows.   The joy in my heart has helped me overcome the shame of the past and post the before and after photos.

Here goes.  This first one was taken about a year ago.  If I wasn’t quite at my top weight, I was damn close to it.

At or close to my highest weight.

Now here’s a photo of me with a friend taken a week ago today.

Hanging with my good friend

Even I, with my messed up self-image, can see the difference in my weight.  When this photo was taken, I was down 65 pounds.  My body is smaller, my face is thinner.  Even my forearm and wrist are not as big as they used to be.

What you can’t see is how I feel.  In that moment, I was simply happy to be photographed with my dear friend.  I wasn’t even thinking about what I looked like.  I was just happy.  When I first saw the photo, I didn’t cringe or think any evil thoughts about myself.  I simply smiled and shared it with friends and family on my personal FB page.

I realize now that it’s good for me to take more pictures of myself as I continue on this journey.  Sure I can note my progress according to the number on my scale and how I physically feel, but really looking at my changing, improving body is (pardon the pun) ample evidence of the improvements happening with my body.  The practice engenders positive reinforcement like a big pat on the back to myself for doing everything that I need to do to get healthier.  Positive action changes everything and these are great changes.

Oh, a side note:  See the outfit I’m wearing in the before picture?  I wore that shirt today.  It’s much looser on me and doesn’t cling to fat rolls.  I recently had the pants taken in but need to revisit the seamstress and have her make them even smaller.  WOOT!

By the way, I got on the scale today and I’d lost a few more pounds.  My total now stands at 68 pounds.  I’m now at a weight lower than I can remember being in the longest time.  Seriously, I don’t remember when I last weighed this much.  Best of all, the best is still yet to come!


Finding Other Ways to Deal

We had some sad news at work today.  A man we cared about died.  Even though it was expected and we were prepared, there is no way that it doesn’t suck and make us feel sad.

Sadness is one of my trigger emotions.  Okay.  Almost any intense emotion can trigger a mental desire to eat, but sadness is a really strong one.  I know in the past that I would eat almost anything in big quantities in order to comfort or numb myself.  It’s how I very easily put back on 100 plus pounds after my Dad died.  I used food to cope with my mother’s illness and death.  Gained a great deal of weight back then, too, and then some.

So, here I am today, feeling the weight of sadness and overeating is not an option.   It’s been twice as challenging to focus on tasks, to even motivate myself to do things I should be doing.   My heart was filled with mourning and my head was filled with thoughts of food.

Despite it all, I think I’ve done okay.  I learned of the death shortly before lunch, but stuck to the plan of part of a Lean Cuisine dish.  A co-worker had baked really scrumptious looking chocolate chunk cookies.  I thought about it and decided that a single cookie was not going to derail me.  Let me tell you, I savored that treat and ate it realllly slowly.  For dinner I stuck to my small portion of a meaty tomato sauce with a couple of pieces of ziti.   I just had a Weight Watchers small ice cream bar as an evening snack.

Is this a perfect food plan?  No.  Did I overeat?  Not at all.  I guess I could have kept finding more food to stuff into my stomach and eaten it until I threw it back up.  But I didn’t.  That’s a truly important development and a significant improvement over the ways that I used to deal with my emotions.  So, I’m giving myself a check mark in the positive column for the day.

There’s a saying I learned in OA that the feelings won’t kill me but the food might.  I’m grateful that today I was able to sit with the feelings and not let them kick me into gorging on bad food choices.

That would only have made me feel worse.