Weighty Matters

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Gym Class

I’m glued to the television every night watching the Olympic Games.  I love watching the athletes give their best efforts in their events.  Whether a 15 year old gymnast or 71 year old equestrian, the have devoted their lives to these pursuits.  Whether they win is almost secondary.  They all deserve to be applauded and honored for what they’ve given to even make it to the Games.

Tonight the women’s team competition in gymnastics is on.  Watching these teens flip, hurdle, jump and spin on the various apparatus gives me stomach-clenching stress.   This is particularly so on the balance beam.  Balance beam can give me nightmares.

I hated gym class/phys ed. in school.  Oh, it was okay in elementary grades when we went out and played dodgeball or kickball on our asphalt and pebble school yard.  In high school, gym period gave me mental hives.  First there were the awful one-piece knit uniforms we had to wear, before we even got down to the floor for 45 minutes of torture activity.  Climb a rope up a wall to the ceiling?  Yeah right.  Hop up on a balance beam no more than four inches wide?  Not on my best days.   I’m sorry to play the fat card, but demanding that an overweight girl try those things did not achieve anything positive.   Far from building self-esteem, pride in learning a skill, and the reinforcement of taking on a challenging activity, making me do those things did nothing but foster high anxiety and set the stage for humiliation.

The high school gym teachers weren’t known for soft encouragement.  Yelling at students and telling someone they could do it if they weren’t so fat does not fall under the heading of positive motivation.  It’s bad enough to be called names by other kids.  From teachers or other adults it can devastate.

There were a few years here and there when I actually liked some physical activity.  When I was in Middle School, I liked softball enough to play in our summer recreational league.  My ability to hit well and my strength often made up for my lack of speed on the bases.  I had a good arm, too.  I played catcher, third base and centerfield, depending on what the team needed.  One year our team won the league championship.   For my last two years of high school, I played on the field hockey team as the goalie and on the softball team.  These were fun activities in which I enjoyed the competition, felt like I contributed to the team effort, and for once didn’t feel like a terrestrial whale who wasn’t good for anything the least bit physical.

In college, thankfully, we only had to satisfy two p.e. credits in four years.  One credit came from any elective sport.  (I turned out to be a kick ass badminton player.)  The other credit was a required course where we had to either jog around the track or swim for most of the hour.  Unfortunately, that class also included a mandatory measurement of our body fat index.  Lining up with your classmates, both male and female, so a teacher could do the measurement with some sort of caliper gizmo is not any sane person’s idea of a good time.   One of the teachers in that class was, allegedly, a retired drill sergeant.  Popular opinion was split betwen whether he’d descended from the Marquis de Sade or had secretly served with the Fuhrer.

I remember once when we all had to do a one mile jog, he pretty much inferred that all of us ladies were potential hookers because of the jewelry we wore.  As an adult, I can pretty much assess him as a msyoginistic asshole. Amazing.

Looking back on those early years, I wonder if it would have made a difference in my life if gym teachers had sat down with me to devise a doable exercise plan that didn’t involve me terrified on a balance beam or burning my hands trying to haul my oversized ass up a rope.  If the authority figures at school had talked to me instead of yelling.  I honestly don’t know.  I do, however, feel like the campaigns urging kids to get out and play for an hour a day are pretty non-threatening and they fix the message in the attitude of fun rather than drudgery and hard work.

Given my lifelong poor regard for exercise, I’m somewhat amazed that I’m embracing it more today.  I actually look forward to Zumba class and Tai Chi.  I remind myself to include activity in my weekend plans so that I’m doing something at least four days a week.   Several years ago, we had a Curves in town.  For awhile I went three times a week, really embracing the program.  I don’t want to join one of the two gyms in town, but if someone would reopen the Curves franchise, I’d sign back up in a heartbeat.

I would like to continue my momentum.  I know it takes months to truly change old habits and create new behaviors.  I can see myself pushing on with my efforts.  At the same time, I need to also take this day by day.  Today I Zumbaed.  Tomorrow when I wake up, I will commit to going to Tai Chi practice in the evening.  Everything is helping.  I can see and feel the improvement.   When I watch myself doing the Zumba routines to the up tempo music, I know that my form and steps aren’t perfect.  I don’t have them all down and there are some that I can’t yet do, but I keep moving.

The instructors have incredibly scuptled, defined bodies from teaching multiple classes a week.  Obviously, I look nothing like them. 🙂  At least not yet.  Today while keeping up with one of the faster songs, I glanced at the instructor to check my steps and had a great thought.  If I keep up this effort, a year from now I will look more like the instructors than I do myself — or least the myself that I am today who is in the early stages of physical recovery and half a year post-op.

I’m going to hold onto that thought and remember it, particularly when I hit a day when I don’t want to go exercise.  Regardless of which activity I do on any given day, I do my best to speak to myself in terms of encouragement and joy.  It’s all about acknowledging the effort and providing positive reinforcement.

I’m not a kid to be pushed around anymore.  This isn’t gym class.

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No Easy Way Out

I was browsing a weight loss surgery forum earlier this evening.  Someone who had gotten herself to the point where she was moving forward with investigating having surgery and was feeling relieved, happy and hopeful posted that when she shared her decision with family, they told her that she was taking the easy way out.  That harsh judgment crushed her and now she doesn’t know what she’s going to do.

Just because I had weight loss surgery does not mean that I think every single obese person in the world needs to do the same.  I  believe that it is a matter of personal choice.  Nobody should be pushed into it if they don’t honestly feel that it is the best option for them.  If they decide that wls is the best option, I further believe that the people in their lives should support that decision.  Hearing that someone would criticize this woman and claim that surgery is “the easy way out” makes me angry.

There is nothing easy about doing all that is required physically, mentally and financially to prepare and receive medical clearance.  There is nothing easy about going through a procedure that surgically reduces the size of your stomach — and in my case removing 70% of it.  Those that have gastric bypass also have their digestive system re-routed.

Post-surgery?  Let’s see — for me this involved a week of clear liquids followed by a month of full liquids.  Then, a week of soft/mushy foods and weeks of gradually introducing regular foods back into my food plan.  Nothing easy in that process.  Throwing up at least once a day in the early weeks, fighting indigestion, learning what my system could tolerate and what it couldn’t . . . anybody who thinks that it’s all the equivalent of a day at the beach is dead wrong.

I don’t personally know the woman who wrote the post, but I bet I know a lot about her and what her struggle with food and obesity has been like over the years.  None of us is terminally unique.  She might have tried every diet known to man — some of them multiple times — and been on a roller coaster over the years of losing and regaining, losing and regaining.  I don’t know what became her final line in the sand where she made the decision to go for surgery.  Maybe, like me, she’d reached the point of absolute desperation and was convinced that she either could never lose the weight she needed to without surgery or feared that even if she lost the weight, she’d regain it.

Whatever the case, not having surgery doesn’t mean she’s weak… but having the surgery definitely requires digging deep into yourself and tapping your inner strength and resolve.

And that’s just the beginning.  After the surgery, a lifetime of work begins.  Day by day we plan, make choices, and, hopefully, execute those choices as planned.  We completely retrain our psyches a well as our bodies.  In many cases, we need to resolve the habits of a lifetime — not just in the way that we eat, but in how we treat our bodies.  We have to embrace positive change and push ourselves, often in ways that we never before pushed.

I hope and pray tonight that the woman who posted is able to tune out the harsh and erroneous judgment of those people.  I hope she sticks to her choices and moves ahead without allowing the negative opinion of others to divert her from her chosen course of action.  I hope she realizes that it doesn’t matter what other people think or say or do.  She’s the only one who matters.  She needs to know that there is no way in hell that she’s chosen the easy way out.

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The Swimming Gizmo

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I bought this swimmy gizmo to use in my pool.  I have a small pool, just barely 14 feet in length which means that I can swim about two and a half strokes end to end.  It’s not meant for swimming laps.  It’s about four and a half feet deep, which gives me enough water to jog and do aerobics.

When I planned the pool, I kept telling the company that I wanted jets at one end that would kick up a constant current that I could swim against.  The guy told me he knew what I was talking about and, yes, my pool would have them.  Well, his understanding didn’t jibe with my expectations.  The jets at the end circulate the water when the pump is going but they don’t generate enough power for me to swim against.  I spoke to him about it a few times after the pool was first finished, but we never progressed.  I could force the issue but, instead, I found other ways to make the most out of the exercise opportunity the pool provides.

I love pulling on my suit and heading out to watercise.  Even way before weight loss surgery, I enjoyed going to aquacise classes.  Unfortunately, they aren’t offered early enough in the morning for me to go to class, shower, change and get to work on time, so putting in the pool at home was a luxury that I justified.  I have a playlist of upbeat songs on my iPod Nano.  I set it up with the outdoor speakers, set a timer on my phone and start moving.  I jog, dance, do lunges and squats and, in general, push my self to keep moving for 45 minutes or so.

The pool and my yard are private enough that I don’t worry about someone seeing me and this frees me to move and dance at will.  When I was at my heaviest and had difficulty simply walking without losing my breath, I could still work out in the pool and achieve some cardio benefit — without messing up my weak left knee.  The pool kept me from being completely sedentary.

Now that I’ve lost weight, I’d like to do more actual swimming, or at least more than three strokes end to end.  (Yes, I know that I live on a harbor with lots and lots of water.  Sadly, I won’t swim in it due to the large number of boats moored in it.  I can never be quite confident that those boats are following the proper pump out procedures, meaning that they actually have their tanks pumped out by the special boat.)  A week or so ago, I was researching equipment to increase the effectiveness of my aqua cise.  I found water dumbbells to work my arms and things to strap around my ankles for more resistance.  Then I stumbled upon a swimming gizmo.  Basically, it’s a long tether with ankle straps on each end.  In theory, you put it around a railing or fence, strap it to your nakles and swim, knowing that the tether will keep you in place.

If you’re in the mood to be kinky, the gizmo could double for water bondage.  (50 Shades of H20?)

In theory, the design is a good idea.  In execution, there are challenges.   I wrapped the tether around the bottom of the railing, strapped the ends to my ankles and swam out.  I don’t know if the angle’s off from the railing to the water’s surface, or if I’m still carrying too much weight, but I constantly felt like my chest and head wanted to sink lower than my legs.  I could not get a smooth series of strokes going no matter how I tried.   I flailed around for a few minutes and then rolled over onto my back.  That worked a little better, but it wasn’t great.

After about ten minutes, I decided to switch to the ankle “weights” and dumbbells.  I did a bunch of different maneuvers, treading water while working my core, legs and arms for almost thirty minutes.   This proved to be much more effective exercise, judging from my heart rate and the feelings in my muscles.  When my timer went off, I knew that I’d worked.

After I finished my session, I studied the tether gizmo for awhile.  I’m not sure what else I could do to make it work better.   It wasn’t very expensive, so if I don’t figure out anything it won’t be the worst thing that happens.  At least I gave it a shot.  For someone who’s spent much of her life actively avoiding exercise, trying anything new is progress.

 

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Assisting My Own Efforts

I’m still musing over developing a new system or definition of reward now that I’m not using food to reward myself.  I went to the jeweler to pick up my repaired neck chain.  While there I browsed the earrings, but no pair stood out and made me say, “Oooooh.  Pretty.  Please let me see those.”  Next to the jeweler is a florist.  Happy to say that their weekly $5 special was a pretty mixture of pale yellow Asian lilies and deep yellow roses edged in red.  I bought the bouquet and brought it home.

Still, I wasn’t satisfied.  Difficult of me, some would say.  I might agree with those some.

I did another Zumba class on Thursday and today I had Tai Chi practice.  Both of these activities involve a lot of pivots and turns.  I usually do Tai Chi in a pair of Isotoner suede-bottomed slippers and I’ve been doing Zumba in the Nike walking shoes I bought a few weeks ago.  I noticed that the traction on the Nikes does not permit me to easily swivel and pivot on the wood floor.  The Isotoners don’t give me any arch support.  I decided that I was entitled to research other options.

Loving the Internet, I came home and googled Zumba shoes.  Zumba.com has numerous shoe styles for women in cute colors.  Unfortunately, my extra-wide feet will not fit into those cute female shoes.  I looked at the men’s selection.  One pair.  In black with phosphorescent lime-lemon accents.  Lime-lemon is not in my color palette.

I looked at the soles and saw what make these styles good for Zumbaing.  Armed with the knowledge I started googling dance shoes for men, dance trainers, wide-width dance shoes, etc. etc. blah blah blah.  I found some sites that suggested certain makes and styles and then took all that knowledge with me to Zappos.  I now have two possibilities winging their way to me.  Please keep your fingers crossed that one of these pairs of shoes will fit my wide feet with their fallen arches.  If this happens, then I will consider myself duly rewarded.  For now anyway.

More importantly, I realized that in the process I’m doing something more important than rewarding milestones.  I’m outfitting myself with the tools that I need for progress every day.  I’m on a journey toward better health.  Getting better shoes for my exercise is not just a reward.   These shoes will not only improve my efforts in class, but they’ll also help me keep from hurting my joints.   Now that I’m on a roll and willingly exercising, it would totally suck to get injured.

This is one more way to assist my own efforts and optimize my success.  Other ways are for me to keep the right foods in the house, pack my lunches for work, take a cooler with appropriate snacks on road trips, etc., etc.  Writing this blog and being scrupulously honest about everything is part of it too.

When you live with an eating disorder, it’s incredibly easy to sabotage yourself.  Doesn’t take any more time than randomly grabbing a handful of off-plan food or an extra portion and shoving it into your mouth.   I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I consciously said, “I want to screw up today and here’s how I’ll do it.”  Often I’d already eaten the food before my thought process kicked in and I realized what I was doing.  At my absolutely worst times, I went through periods where I would wake up in the middle of the night and semi sleep-walk to the kitchen and eat.  I’d wake up amid wrappers and not remember getting out of bed.  Scary shit, let me tell you.  I always feared one day dying like Mama Cass Elliot, choking to death on something.

It is more difficult to stay clean and to do the work that keeps me moving forward healthily, free from compulsive eating, and staying on plan.  I refuse to be lazy about my recovery.   I had a crappy night’s sleep and was super tired when my alarm went off this morning.  I made myself get out of bed rather than opting to skip Tai Chi practice this morning.   I promised myself that sometime today I’ll try out the new gizmo I bought that’s intended to let me swim in place in my pool.  (My pool’s not big enough to do laps and the installer never quite got the concept that I wanted jets installed.)  I’m determined that when I finish this post I’m going to tackle the household chores I set for myself today and then I’m going into the pool with that gizmo.  If I choose to take a nap later, that’s okay, but I’m not giving into the comfortable, familiar tendency toward being sedentary.

For today, I’m going to look at the different ways that I’m assisting myself.  I’m going to acknowledge and celebrate these things and not take them for granted.

English clergyman/poet George Herbet said that living well is the best revenge.  I’m going to borrow that for today and change it to something more fitting and positive.  Living well is the best reward.

Reward yourselves this weekend.  However you define it, go out and live well!

***************************** Edited to Add Photos *******************************

I promised some pictures and today figured out how to work the self-timer on my camera.   I hope you know that it takes a lot for me to put up less than flattering photos of myself, but I promised.  I say they’re unflattering because I’m sort of frozen there waiting for the timer to go off.  I’m also wearing a t-shirt and the new workout shorts I bought.  My hair’s mussed, etc. etc.    Okay, here goes.

The photo of me in the light blue shirt is from June 19th, a little more than a month ago.  The other photo is from today.  The changes are subtle.  Less roll in the spare tire around my waist and a bit smaller overall in the midsection.  If I’d shown my arms in the June photo you’d see that they’re thinner now.  My face and neck are thinner.  Not bad.  Although, good Lord, I look like I’m grimacing in today’s shot.  I also look a lot taller.  I do think I’ve gotten back some of my height since my spine is less compressed, but I have to double-check.  Mostly I look taller in this photo because the camera is sitting on a window sill so it’s perspective is a little skewed.

I don’t think I’m going to do another comparison photo until I lose another 50 pounds.  I like seeing drastic differences, like this:

At or close to my highest weight.             

I used my phone to show the side detail of my new glasses.  Cute dolphins!

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Looking Back at the Lead Up to Surgery

A dear friend of mine has been investigating having weight loss surgery.  The process has been a bit of a rollercoaster in recent weeks.  She told me that she’d appreciate hearing more about how my thinking about the surgery changed and grew stronger
over the six months I waited between when I made the decision and when I actually had the procedure.  This really resonated with me and I had to give it a lot of thought before answering.
It’s kind of ironic because tonight is one of those nights when I don’t feel particularly well.  I impulsively bought a tiny frozen quiche at the food store tonight because I wanted something different other than what I’d been eating all week for dinner.  I only ate the filling mostly, giving the crust to the dogs.  However, shortly after I ate two small cookies but I ate them too quickly.  The combination of eating too fast and eating two rich things in one meal time is bothering me.  I’ll be okay in a little while, but right now I feel kind of blechy.
Which synchs well with what I want to say in answer.
Some of you who have been with me at this blog from the beginning and who might have read a post I did on Reinventing Fabulous back on March 3rd will be familiar with some of the stuff I say here, but I’ve tried to summarize, and other musings are new.
Anyway, about a year ago, I experienced a big defining moment, or maybe it was really a redefining moment.   I’d mostly given up on myself in terms of ever losing the weight.  To some extent, I’d grown resigned  to becoming increasingly disabled and dying young.  However, on a day at the sandbar when I could not physically pull myself into my boat without backing it up to much shallower water, something shifted in my soul and I knew that I wasn’t ready to give up.
That’s when I decided to have surgery.  At the time I’d never heard of the procedure known as the sleeve.  I only knew of the lap-band and the gastric bypass.  I never once considered the lap band because I know myself well enough to get that I couldn’t trust that I wouldn’t easily find ways to eat around it.  So, I was resigned that it would be the bypass, despite the misgivings I’d always had about malabsorption, etc.
Once I decided to have the surgery, it was never a question of maybe.  I believe the only thing that would have stopped me would have been if one of the test/evals came back that I couldn’t tolerate the operation and anesthesia.   It was only a matter of deciding which surgery and when.  Honestly, as soon as I heard about the vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), I was elated.  This sounded like the perfect solution for me.  The more that I heard, the more excited I became.  When I had my consult with the surgeon for the first time last September and listened to what he had to say about it, I was even more encouraged and excited.
This feeling stayed with me for the ensuing months.   I swear to God, I never once doubted the rightness of the decision.  Except for maybe a few slight twinges the night before the operation, I also never doubted that I’d survive the surgery and be fine.  Was I unrealistically confident?  Should I have been more worried?  Who’s to say?  That’s just how I was and, thankfully, my confidence was rewarded with a smooth procedure and no post-op problems.
*******Warning.  I’m about the drop the F-bomb a couple of times.**********
Now, did I have any emotional fears about what this huge, irrevocable change would mean in my life?  Oh hell yeah.   They are pretty much the same fears that sometimes beset me now.  They can all be summed up with the overriding question, “Will I fuck up again?”  Take that as the main question and then there are other, subsidiary, doubts.  What would it be like to not turn to food when I was upset/angry/sad/lonely/dissatisfied?  Could I give up the old eating habits for good?  Was I strong enough to choose happiness and health over my disease?  Was I brave enough, determined enough, sure enough to give up the food?
When I began to experience the emotional self-doubts, I had to reign in my own feelings before they ran rampant and stopped me before I began.   I could have told myself that I was afraid of having surgery or afraid of anesthesia.  I could have opted to give myself one more try at dieting away my weight.  I could have rationalized myself right out of my decision, but something in me knew that if I did any of that, I was signing my death sentence.
So, the answers to all of my doubting questions?  Well, let’s see.  Will I fuck up again?  Will I lose all of my weight and then eventually gain it all back?  Maybe, but I’m doing my damnedest not to give in to that old destructive behavior and pattern.
What is it like to not turn to food when I’m hit with emotions?  Often, it’s darned uncomfortable, but I’m developing other coping mechanisms rather than give into the addiction.  Eating over my feelings is not an effective way to process.  It never was.  The only way out is through.  Sometimes I slip, but so far I’ve been able to get my shit together and not fall into lengthy relapse.
Can I give up my old eating habits for good?  I don’t know.  I can only give them up for this meal, this snack, this day.  I have to make the choice every morning.  That’s my approach.  Clearly earlier this evening, I didn’t make the healthiest choices.  I wasn’t awful, but it would have felt better to not combine two rich foods.
The same approach applies to the remaining questions.  I cannot right now say that this success is forever.  I don’t have a crystal ball or the power to see into the future.  I can only do what I need to do right now, today, then get up and do it again tomorrow.
I don’t know if this is helpful to any of you out there who might be considering weight loss surgery, but it’s my process.  Your mileage may vary.  I particularly want to be clear that I do not judge if you or someone else starts the process and then changes her mind and decides to go some other route than surgery.  I absolutely don’t want anyone to interpret my thoughts/feelings about my choices to mean that I’m invalidating their different choices.  Someone else might experience the journey in a completely different way.  I certainly would not presume to say that my experience is the only way or the right way or any other way than the one that was right for me to follow.
Weight loss surgery is a big decision and a large, complicated undertaking.  Plus, it’s only the beginning.  The hardest work starts after the surgery.  That’s when we begin to implement the changes that we intend to embrace for the rest of our lives.  Just typing that makes it all sound overwhelming, so I go back to what I learned in OA.  One day at a time.  I only can do this one day at a time.
I’ve had six months of one day at a time and, thankfully, those days are adding up to something pretty incredible.
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Sing it With Me

A friend gave me a head of organic red kale.  I decided to make kale chips last night.  Very easy to do, surprisingly tasty, and actually good for me.  Kale is a superfood that’s big on fiber, vitamins and minerals, and powerful antioxidants.  Once you cut the curly, leafy part from the rib and cut or tear it into bite sized pieces, all you do is toss it in a little olive oil and sea salt and back it at a 275 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning the kale over half way.  Yum!

I don’t usually wax rhapsodic about veggie chips, but for some reason, the treat inspired me to write a song parody.  So, please rehearse the melody and chorus for Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and sing with me.  (I live in the Keys.  That’s close enough to being Margaritaville in this country.  Here goes:

 

Nibbling on kale chips

Won’t add to my hips

Leafy green goodness in sea salt and oil

On my porch rocker

With my two cockers

Thinking of pounds lost and feelin’ quite royal.

Weighting away again in Margaritaville

Happy that I’m losing more of my fat

I scarcely hoped that I could lose it again

Now I know that I can and that’s that!

Zumba gets crazy

Not for the lazy

Sweating profusely, the heart rate is up!

After salsa or rhumba

I’m ready to slumba

First I’ll slurp water by cup after cup!

Cause I’m . . .

Weighting away again in Margaritaville

Happy that I’m losing more of my fat

I scarcely hoped that I could lose it again

Now I know that I can and that’s that!

Eating small servings

Results, I’m deserving

If banked as dollars, I’d triple my wealth!

I’m into good protein

It’s helping me get lean

All of the progress increases my health!

Cause I’m . . .

Weighting away again in Margaritaville

Happy that I’m losing more of my fat

I scarcely hoped that I could lose it again

Now I know that I can and that’s that!

Thanks for playing.  You can thank me for the earworm later.  😉

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Reward System

I still haven’t decided what nice thing I’m going to do for myself as reward and recognition for my 100 pound/six month milestone.   I’ve been considering the matter on and off all day.  You all had some good suggestions, but some of them I already do pretty regularly.  I get a manicure every two weeks, a pedicure every month, and facials several times a year.  That’s not to say that I can’t retreat myself with more spa services and that option is definitely under consideration.

I’ve also bought fresh flowers every couple of weeks.  I love them and they make me happy.  Right now I have the last two blooms from some truly glorious stargazer lillies open in front of me, perfuming the air.

The nail treatments and facials are rewarding, but I also consider them essential treatments.  Seriously.  When you live in a hot climate and wear sandals 355 days of the year, it’s really important to keep your feet in good shape and also looking nice.  Right?  As for the facials, well, I have pretty good skin and since I’m soon going to transition from my early 50s to my upper 50s, I’d like to keep it in good condition for as long as possible.  😉

So, I’m pondering other reward options.

This is a somewhat unfamiliar experience for me because, not surprisingly, I have a long history of rewarding myself with food.   A memory flashed into my head earlier today of the last time I lost 100 pounds when I was on a medically supervised diet.  For pretty much a full year, I lived on 9 ounces of protein — mostly chicken and turkey — and a cup of salad a day.   I think I eat more spread out over a day now, even with my tiny stomach, than I did on that highly restrictive plan.  I do not know how I managed to sustain that effort for as long as I did!  Anyway, I had to go to the weight loss center three times a week for weighing and monitoring.  Today I remembered that after the successful Friday weigh-in, I would reward myself with a bagel!

On past diets, I’d pick certain success points and when I reached them, I’d celebrate by allowing myself a cheat.  They were often huge cheats — like a milkshake or an ice cream sundae.  Usually some super high calorie, super rich food.  Afterward, if I was lucky, I’d get back on the diet wagon.  Often, I’d just bomb out completely and eventually put the weight back on.  In the end what was intended to be a reward ended up leading to self-sabotage.

It’s past time to improve my mindset and find different, effective rewards.

I suppose the argument could be made that sticking to my healthy lifestyle of eating should be a reward in and of itself.  It is.  Living well is a terrific reward, and so are all of the wonderful changes I’ve experienced.  However, I don’t see anything wrong with truly celebrating a big milestone.  It’s not like I’m looking for the grand gesture every five pounds.

I don’t need to justify positively reinforcing myself.  I just want to do it in a way that doesn’t involve eating off of my plan.  Instead, I’m leaning toward a little splurge — like some new earrings perhaps.  Nothing wildly expensive, just a pair that I find pretty and will enjoy wearing.

As it happens, I need to visit my favorite local jeweler to pick up the chain they repaired for me.   Perhaps when I casually peruse their display cases, I’ll find the perfect reward.  Wish me luck!

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Six Months of Progress

Six months ago today I had weight loss surgery — my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.  I’ve lost 100 pounds and can hardly believe the vast and wonderful changes in my life.

The journey to wellness really started a year ago when I made the decision to investigate having surgery.  That led to me researching different types of procedures, then going to the free seminar at the surgeon’s office, having my first consult with the doctor and allllll the different evaluations, tests and consults.  It was quite a process before the day of the actual operation arrived.

When I talk about wonderful changes, I’m not exaggerating and these are in addition to the actual weight loss, although that alone is amazing.  100 pounds in six months.  Holy wow!  (I’m sorry.  I didn’t get a picture taken yet, but I will.  I promise to post one soon.)  There has been so much progress in other aspects of my life, too.  Let me share some comparisons.

This time last year, slow walking was a challenge that made my body ache and had me short of breath in relatively few steps.  Today I do some sort of cardio-aerobic exercise three-four days a week and also take a Tai Chi class twice a week.  I did Zumba again tonight — 60 minutes at high, calorie-burning intensity.

Walking up stairs took major effort.  I couldn’t ascend normally with one foot on one step, then the next foot on the step above that one and so on.  I had to put a foot on the step and then bring the other one up to the same step.  I also had to physically help pull myself up with a hand on the railing.  Now I pull less and boost with my legs more.  Great improvement!

I have loads more energy.  With energy and greater physical ease comes the willingness to do more things when I would previously have talked myself into being lazy.

Prior to surgery, I regularly over ate.  I could easily eat a full meal and 90 minutes later eat half a pint or more of rich ice cream.   These days I consume a few ounces of food at a time.

As far as the kinds of meals I ate, I didn’t concern myself so much with good nutrition.  Fried foods, heavy duty carbs, lots of sugar, rich foods.  Now I focus on protein first.  I think more about incorporating veggies before carbs because there isn’t much room in my stomach.  I don’t remember the last time I ate from a McDs or BK or comparable fast food place.  If I have candy or baked goods, they’re the rare treat in small portions instead of plowing through M&Ms by the handful.  I enjoy selecting, preparing and then eating quality food.

I’m down three to four sizes in my clothes, depending on the style.

Instead of bemoaning and regretting all of the things I couldn’t do because of my size, I’m building a promise list of everything I want to do.  I’ve already accomplished some of them!

I sleep better at night and am a lot less tired during the day.

A year ago, I was beaten down and almost devoid of hope.  Now I’m pumped, excited and full of anticipation for a great future.

All this and more in only six months.  I’m happy and also incredibly grateful.  Many people dream of being able to change their lives.  Many die without having the opportunity.  That’s why I’m grateful every single day that I had the chance to change — and that I took it.  I’m really looking forward to the next six months and every day after.

I know the weight loss won’t be as rapid as it has been, but it will be steady and the improvements will continue.  There’s a lot of good to look forward to down the line.

I feel like I should do something nice for myself to mark this six month surgiversary.  I’m not sure what, but I’ll think of something!

Thank you, everyone, for accompanying me on this journey.  I appreciate it!

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Cautionary Tale, Sort Of

This morning I stopped to do an errand on my way to work.  Someone working in the store who hasn’t seen me since I lost a big chunk of weight was surprised.  So surprised, in fact, that she yelled out to me from 15 feet away.  “Is that Mary Stella??  How did you do it??”

Never mind that there were half a dozen other people in the store who all immediately turned around and stared at me.   I was so shocked and embarrassed by the outburst, that I had to scramble for a coherent reply.  I wish I’d thought up something like, “Pleading the 5th on the advice of counsel” or “Sorry.  A woman’s entitled to her secrets” or the old standby “I could tell you but then I’d have to shoot you”.  Ignoring that I was suddenly the object of peoples’ attention while they tried to figure out what the hell she meant, I managed to smile and tell her we’d chat when I made it up to the counter.  I didn’t make eye contact with anyone else and, thankfully, they returned to whatever they’d been doing.

I got to the woman and imagined everyone reacting like that old “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen” ad campaign.  I didn’t whisper but used a normalish volume, smiled again and very matter of factly said, “I had weight loss surgery in January.”  This prompted her to tell me that so had she, and she’d lost a lot of weight at first, but then this happened and that happened and . . . and. . .

Her explanation didn’t really conclude but the gist was, I think, that she’d gone into apologetic/explanation mode because, well, somewhere along the journey she either stopped losing weight or she put a chunk of it back on.  I believe she tried to sort of explain it by saying that she hadn’t had the bypass, but something called the sleeve.

“Oh, that’s what I had,” I said, all chipper and happy.  Then I silently gave myself an internal head-smack.  If she’s feeling bad I certainly didn’t want to make her feel worse by shining my current success in her face.

We cruised into her actually taking care of the job I needed her to do to complete my errand.  I thanked her and went on my way with no more talk of surgeries or diets or anything.

It was such a freaking awkward encounter, but there were lessons to be learned by both of us.

1) If you haven’t seen someone in awhile and they’ve lost a lot of weight, or even if it’s someone you see all of the time, if you’re going to say anything to them, do it one-on-one and discreetly.  Do not shout it out in public in front of others.

2) No matter how embarrassing the situation, summon up a smile and ride it out.  You honestly do not have to offer any explanation to anyone else if you don’t want to.  At the very least, you can control the how and when of the telling.

3) Weight loss surgery is not a guarantee of long term success.  It is a tool.  I’ve known this all along, but today really brought it home to me.  I feel bad for the other woman, but am grateful for the reminder.

What a way to start the day!  Thankfully things improved from that point on!

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Making Ourselves Happy

I feel better today.  Thank you, friends, for your support.  I’ve never thought about exercise opening up emotions, other than releasing endorphins that are supposed to make us feel better.  That could be something to look at.

After some reflection I also think that all of the news coverage about that horrible event in Aurora, Colorado impacted my spirit.  My heart breaks for the people who are suffering either from being in that theater or because they lost someone they loved.

The bath last night helped.  Immersing myself, literally and figuratively, in something that relaxes and pleases me was a good strategy.

Today the weather is decidedly gloomy.  Gray skies with periodic rain and frequent thunder and lightning.  Blech.  I’d hoped for sunshine and a calm breeze so that I could take out the boat and then exercise in the pool.  Maybe it will clear up at some point in the day, but in the meantime, I’m making other plans.

I’m attacking another closet today and picking out clothes that I can still wear as well as those that might be worth altering to a smaller size.  The garments that don’t fit in one of those two categories will be donated or disposed of before the end of the day.  These closet purges provide tremendous positive reinforcement.   Positive reinforcement makes me smile.  After I take on the clothing/closet purge, if the weather’s still sucky I’ll pop in one of my exercise DVDs.

A couple of days ago someone asked me if I thought that optimism and pessimism are learned or if they’re part of our innate makeup.  I think it’s mostly a case of learned behavior and environment.  We absorb what we’re surrounded with as we grow up, although I’m sure it’s possible that we might have something in our genes that might influence us depending on what we’re exposed to as well.  However, I also believe that when we reach a certain level of maturity, we can influence ourselves and change how we react and how we approach life.

After answering the question, I wanted to know why she’d asked me.  “You seem to be a pretty positive person,” she responded.

I like to think that’s true.  I know I believe that the way that we choose to be — positive or negative — attracts more of the same.  I’d rather be upbeat and positive and, hopefully, create more of that energy in my life.  So today, instead of bitching and moaning about the bad weather, I’m going to do stuff that makes me happy.  Stuff that doesn’t involve overeating or eating inappropriately. Staying on my food plan makes me happy too.

Hope you all have a happy day!

************************************************** Edited to Add *******************************************************

I spent a happy couple of hours clothes purging.  I reclaimed one nice summer-weight dress that’s in such good shape I might even alter it when it gets too big.  I removed almost two dozen casual tops.  Some are in good condition so I folded them into “donation” bags.  Others are faded enough or look a little shabby as are a couple of skirts and pants so I threw them out.

When I was finished I looked at what was left and realized that I had fewer than half a dozen casual tops to wear out if I go to dinner, the movies, or something else social after work — not to mention my vacation next month.

My weight is lower than it’s been in 15 or more years.  There aren’t any additional gems hanging around in my closet waiting for me to lose enough weight to wear them again.

Yikes!  As much as I don’t want to spend a lot of money on new clothes, I really need to invest a little to get me through.

Luckily for me, one of my favorite stores is having a sale on their website.  I found four pretty new garments and three of them were 50% off!  These will tide me over.

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