Weighty Matters

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Losing a Person

I’ve had an exhausting two days.  I’m enrolled in a special leadership program that has monthly sessions/activities until April.  Yesterday and today made up the first session.  I learned a lot, met terrific people — my classmates for the next several months — and participated fully in all of the discussions and activities.  We had a blast today.  After a full morning with an expert speaker who talked about negotiating, relationships, leadership styles, etc. and had us doing really interesting activities, we took off for lunch as a group.  After that, we were split into groups of four or six and sent off in electric cars around Key West on a fun and funny scavenger hunt that mixed finding clues from existing points of interest and provided challenges where we needed to stage entertaining photos and quickly email them from our phones.

After two jam-packed days I’m definitely wiped.  I can only imagine that I’d be flat out miserable and would not have enjoyed the weekend nearly as much if I’d never lost weight and started getting fit.  I’m ready to go soak in the tub, read for a little while and go to sleep early.  That said, there are a few other things I learned over the weekend that I wanted to share.

One of the important self-care techniques I’ve learned since my surgery is that I cannot leave my food and nutrition up to chance or up to anyone else’s timing.  Although our meals were included, I still made sure to bring snacks that I could eat if we had too much time between our planned meals.  Thank goodness I did so.  These got me through in good shape.  I have also learned that it’s okay for me to mix up what I eat when.  I didn’t know ahead of time that we had refrigerators in our rooms, so I didn’t bring protein shakes.   Today included a full breakfast buffet so I was able to get eggs for protein to start off my day.  The lunch items offered were grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.  I asked for my hamburger without a roll, had about two tablespoons of potato salad and was quite happy.  I grabbed a bottle of water for the scavenger hunt  Later on, we all joined up at a local bar/restaurant.  Instead of having an alcoholic drink, I asked for a virgin daquiri as a fruity treat.

When I finally got home around 6:30, I wasn’t in the mood for an actual meal.   Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood for much at all.  I had half of a leftover lamb chop in the fridge.  Just that with a half a glass of milk satisfied me for dinner.  See?  Just because it was “dinner time” didn’t mean that I had to come up with a traditional meal.

Last night there was a small reception for us with alumni of other classes.  They offered a few hot hors d’oeuvres. I took a couple of small chicken tender pieces and realizes that I was satisfied.  Almost everyone else was breaking into groups to go out to dinner.  At 8 p.m. I was tired and brain fried.  I opted to go up to my room, change into shorts, t-shirt, and walking shoes and go to the exercise room instead.  I am ridiculously proud of myself for doing 45 minutes on the treadmill!  I pushed myself at a good pace for most of it, too.   This is a good leap for me to prefer to choose an exercise option over eating more and socializing.   I needed a workout of some sort, since I hadn’t done anything aerobic since Tuesday’s Zumba class.  I’m tapped out for tonight, but tomorrow will either be a good day for a bridge walk or I’ll do water aerbics in the pool.

I’ve mentioned to a few people who’ve asked that I’ve lost around 120 pounds.  Some of these people are on the more petite side.  I literally have lost the equivalent of some of my friends and acquaintances.  Even though I’ve logically known this in some part of my brain, it really is mind-blowing.  I feel like I need to apologize to my entire poor body for forcing it to carry around an extra person for so long.

I’m sorry body, with all your individual organs, muscles, bones, tendons, joints, etc.  Thank you for not breaking down completely.  I promise to not abuse you like that ever again.  From here on out I will always treat you with greater care and do whatever is necessary to strengthen you.  We’re in this together, body.  I’m on your side!

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Post 200

Such a witty title.  Not.  🙂

When I first decided to blog about my post-weight loss surgery journey, I honestly didn’t know how long it would last.  I didn’t set myself up with particular expectations.  I only knew that I thought it would help me to write about my process with the various successes and stumbles.  We learn in OA that rigorous honesty is a crucial element of long term recovery.  I committed to myself and, by extension, all of you who come here and read the blog, that I would be rigorously honest about my experiences.

I don’t know if I consciously considered going so deeply into the reality of my eating dysfunction, my lifelong struggle with weight and the obesity with which I’ve lived for most of my life.  We’ve talked about things here that I never anticipated.  I’m sure there were times when someone reading covered his/her eyes and screamed, “TMI! TMI!”  I’ve discovered that delving into the past helped a great deal with the present and set me up for a healthier future.

Exploring my issues through writing this blog is good therapy.  All of you are a great support group.  I hope we continue to learn and get whatever we need from looking at these things together.

I had my weight loss surgery almost nine months ago.   I’ve lost around 120 pounds.  (Among the things I’ve learned is to back off from weighing myself every day.)  I’m more fit and in better shape than I’ve been in decades.  I feel great physically and emotionally.

I still have a lonnnggg way to go, but I have great progress on which to build.  That’s my lesson, my takeaway for today.  Before deciding to have weight loss surgery, I was mired in despair.  I didn’t think I would ever lose weight.  I was resigned to the reality that my obesity and the co-morbidities would shorten my life.  I’d lost all but the tiniest scrap of hope.  I’m eternally grateful that the scrap remained and that by using it as tinder, I was able to kindle a little fire and that was enough to make me try again — but this time try something more drastic.

I no longer worry that I won’t/can’t lose the weight that I need to.  It’s not a question of if, but a matter of when.  It’s happening for me one day at a time.   From a starting point of despair, I now have a rocketing hope.  I look forward to every day and have great plans for the future.

To celebrate my 55th birthday, which happens in early January, and the first anniversary of my surgery, I’m going to Hawaii.  The February cruise is booked and I am over-the-moon excited.  Hawaii is on my Promise List.  There are a few other things on my list that I might also check off while I’m in the islands.  I wouldn’t be planning these things if I was still 386 pounds.  Now, I can look forward with glee.  The best is yet to be.

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Your Body, Your Health

This is not a post about the many ways that being super obese impacts your health today and puts you at risk throughout the rest of your life.

Instead, I want to talk about how being super obese often leads ot us upping the odds against our well-being by not engaging in preventive care and regular, important tests and check-ups. I get it. It’s embarrassing, often humiliating, to go to the doctor. You know that the doctor is going to tell you, often with great force, that you have to lose weight.

Many primary care physicians aren’t outfitted with some of the basic equipment that’s needed for treating larger patients. I once went to a doctor whose scale didn’t have the capacity to weigh me. They didn’t have a blood pressure cuff that would go all around my upper arm. Forget about the robe/smock things that left about a foot wide gap when I tried to close them.

The list goes on but nothing is a good enough reason to not make regular appointments to have your health checked. In fact, when you’re overweight it is desperately important that you get examined. There is a greater chance that you have medical conditions that have to be known and treated. It’s bad enough that I was so overweight, but I really played Russian Roulette by not going for basic wellness exams and letting my high blood pressure and Type II diabetes go unmedicated for several years.

Ladies, let’s talk gynocological exams. Is it fun for any woman to get on the table, put her feet in the stirrups and open up for an exam and a pap smear? Hell no. That’s not going to be more enjoyable with weight loss, I know, but these are not things to ignore. If you’re really heavy your doctor should schedule you for an internal ultrasound too because she/he most likely cannot conduct a proper, thorough ovarian exam. Face the music and just do it. Swallow the embarrassment and shame. Give yourself some tough love, suck it up and go.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This morning’s paper has lots of pink ads in it. As soon as my doctor gets back from her own medical leave next month I have my annual appointment. One of the things she’ll do is write my mammogram prescription. This might be the first time in my life that I will be completely confident that the test and films are accurate. It might also be the first time that the test itself doesn’t hurt like a mofo. Boob placement and squishing for a mammo are not high on the list of “Can’t Wait!” things for any woman. The procedure is even worse for those of us with gigantic breasts. I always felt bad for the technician as she struggled to place my breasts right on the machine for a good, clear picture. I know that she knew that the amount of pressure the machine applied hurt me and I did my best not to suck in air, moan, or otherwise show my discomfort. It wasn’t her fault and I knew it was necessary or the radiologist would have no hope of spotting cancer in my breasts.

I’m really looking forward to my annual mammogram being a refreshingly different experience this year.

I’ll be 55 on my birthday in January. A few years ago, because I’m perimenopausal, my doctor wanted me to have a bone mineral density test. I couldn’t. No place within 120 miles of where I live had equipment with a table that could hold my weight. I carried the sick shame of that for days until I locked it in a closed compartment of my brain and refused to think about it any more. I can go for one now. That will be another huge NSV.

I don’t mean to lecture myself or anybody else here. Honestly, I want to encourage any of you who might be avoiding going to the doctor because of your weight. Please, please, take heart, shore yourself up and go. Do not further jeopardize your future. Take care of yourself as best you can. If you need cheerleaders, tell us here in comments and we’ll shake pom poms, kick up our feet and support you all of the way.

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A Friend’s Turn

A friend of mine is scheduled for weight loss surgery on Wednesday.  I’m not going to out her by name.  If she chooses to share, that’s up to her.  However, I will ask everyone to please keep some good thoughts and positive energy for her on Wednesday.

I just want to say to her and to any of you who might be thinking about or planning to have surgery, that you have guts.  This decision, and following through with it, takes heart, courage, and determination.   Remember everything you’ve done to get to this threshold.  Hold onto the thought that you have already taken great strides to improving your life and health.  This is the next big step.

Knowing she’ll have surgery in less than two days really takes me back to January.  It was less than a week before my surgery.  I’d been on the full liquids diet for a week and a half and pounds were sliding off.   I shared my progress with a woman I’m close to, one who’d been supportive since the day I shared that I was working toward having surgery.  All of a sudden she asked me why I had to proceed with the operation if I was doing so well.  Why couldn’t I just keep going?  She was afraid for me, she said, and I could see the tears she tried to blink back.

That moment was so tough for both of us.  She was torn between being supportive in the way that I needed and being honest as someone who cares about me a great deal.   I was torn because I knew that I could not give her the answer she wanted.  I could only speak the truth. My truth.  That I had no confidence that I could ever continue with a  diet on my own to lose all of the weight that I needed to and I absolutely did not believe that I could keep whatever weight I lost from coming back on again.  Been there, done that, a dozen times.

I realize now that, at no time in my journey, did I ask anyone else if they thought I should have surgery.  In fact, I didn’t share with anyone until I’d already made the decision.   Before I had the one-on-one consultation with the surgeon, I didn’t want people to know I was thinking about this.

This wasn’t like me.  Most of the time I ask my family and my closest friends for input and value their thoughts.  Not doing so on this major change didn’t mean that I valued them less.  It meant that I understood that this was something so life changing that only I could make it for myself.  I needed to do it on my own and not come to the decision influenced by other peoples’ opinions.

That was an important lesson.  The only one who can make this decision for you is you.  When it’s done, you can accept support and help from others as you proceed with the journey, but ultimately, you’re responsible for each step.  You’re the one who will get you where you’re going.  It’s your body.  Your need.  Your health.  Your journey.

Know what you want.  Don’t do it because someone else thinks that you should.  Do it because it’s what you think you need to do and even then only because you are 100% committed to all that this decision entails before, during and after.

When it’s your turn, you can go into surgery completely confident that you’re doing the right thing for you.   No regrets.

It’s your time to take care of yourself.  It’s your turn.

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The Brain Buzz of Food Choices

I was really struck with the comment that Mary left in the previous post.  It included an excerpt from the Weight Watchers CEO about a study researchers did about the number of food choices we make each day.  According to the study, each of us makes more than 200 food choices a day.  More than 200 — holy wow!

That’s so many more than deciding what we want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Is it any wonder that so many people are obese?  If food is on our minds so much, it’s that much easier to succumb to the siren call.  I know there are millions of people for whom this is not an issue.  God love ’em, I wish I was one.  I also know that not everyone who has pounds to lose carries the diagnosis of compulsive overeater or some other food-related disorder.  I wish I was one of them, too.

If wishes were luxury cars, I’d have a Mercedes convertible.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about food choices all day long, philosophically and literally.  There’s something about a Sunday morning that makes me want to eat a different breakfast than I usually do the rest of the week.  In the old pre-wls days, I could fix a large, unhealthy breakfast.  Homebaked scones with a rasher of crisp, thick, bacon.  Blueberry pancakes with a rasher of crisp, thick, bacon.   Ooey, gooey cinnamon buns with a rasher of . . . yes, you get the picture.  Crisp, thick, bacon goes with everything.  It’s also delicious all on its on.

Most mornings these days, I make a protein shake.  It’s a good way to start the day with 28 grams of protein.  I’m satisfied until my mid-morning snack.  On Sundays, I just feel like something different, but I don’t want to go overboard.  I actually can eat like a “normal” person with a single whole grain waffle or one small pancake and a little dribble of syrup plus some berries on the side.   I’ve gone out to eat with friends and been very happy with a single scrambled egg, two pieces of crisp bacon (Come on, you knew that was coming!), and the inside of half a piece of toast.

This morning, I chose a low fat pineapple bran muffin with some peanut butter on the side.   Looking back, I realize that this simple meal involved a half dozen food choices.  1) Do not run out to the store and buy bacon.  2) Eat a muffin.  3) Add some peanut butter.  4) Do not also butter the muffin.  5) Do not gobble down the muffin and peanut butter.  6) Do not take and eat a second muffin.

Throughout the morning I racked up several other choices, mostly to not snack indiscriminantly or grab something else to eat based on compulsion instead of hunger.  That’s a big challenge.  We compulsive overeaters are capable of eating just because we’re in the presence of food.  It doesn’t matter if it’s time for us to eat, if our bodies need fueling.  We don’t even have to mentally crave the food at that moment.  The mere fact that the food exists and we are in its proximity is enough.  I can’t possibly think back to earlier today and tally up the number of times I thought of eating something else but didn’t.  Seriously.  It’s like guys thinking about sex every 10 seconds.    I have many short conversations.  Well, conversations gives them too much credit.  It’s more like rapid fire exchanges.  “Food?”  “No.  Move on.”

I ate breakfast later than usual and then lingered over the newspaper with a mug of hot tea.  I then got on the phone with a good friend for about an hour and a half.  By then, I’d gone past the snack time and was close to lunch, so I ate a little more of an egg salad I mixed up yesterday.  I rejected the three or four ideas I had to supplement that choice and applied myself to schoolwork and another project.

Occupying the mind in other ways is a proven tool to distract myself from thoughts of food.  If I don’t think about it, then possibilities and opportunities to choose to eat do not present themselves.

Around 4 o’clock I finished work and was, legimitately hungry for a snack.  I opted for a healthy yogurt and juice drink and began to plan dinner.  This required my weekly weekend supermarket visit.  I went with a list.  Shopping with a list and sticking to it is a good way armor myself against random, unplanned choices.  I’m very pleased that I can walk past the bakery department these days and not spontaneously grab something on my way to produce.

I needed lunch meat of some sort.  The doctor’s office actually suggests this as easy, small protein.  Not only is it easy to pack a slice or two for lunch, but it helps to have it in the fridge in case I either get home late or have something to do in the evening that makes it difficult for me to cook a meal.  Ready access to protein is important to success.  Today, yummy sliced roast beef won out over hard salami.  (Look, another food choice!)

In the produce section, beautiful artichokes called to me.  Low in fat, calories and carbs, they provide good fiber, folic acid, and a bunch of other stuff that’s good for our bodies.  I usually stuff mine with garlic powder, some grated parm and bread crumbs and then cook them in the pressure cooker.   I figured as long as I didn’t overdo the bread crumbs and pour melted butter over them, having one at dinner this week would be a nice treat.  Good food choice!

I won’t bore you with a list of every choice I made during the shopping trip but here are a few highlights:  Bypassed the chocolate in the candy aisle; picked skim milk over 1%; picked part-skim ricotta cheese over whole milk; did not sample the kettle cooked potato chips;  put back the tomato bisque soup with over 1000 grams of sodium back (Does that count as two choices — first picking it up and then changing my mind?) and picked up the Campbell’s “Natural” soups with less than half that much sodium and a lot fewer calories; did not give into the last ditch urge for the Dove chocolate bar in the checkout line.

Sometimes I wish it could be more like when I decided to quit smoking.  Then it was smoke or don’t smoke.  Nice and clear cut.    Unfortunately, I can’t boil this down to eat or don’t eat when I absolutely need to consume something several times a day in order to survive.  There are so many extra factors of what to eat, what not to eat; when is it time or not; is the desire fueled by hunger or compulsion?

Honestly, all of this thinking about choices — and then rejecting the bad ones — is exhausting.  I can only do it one choice at a time.

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This is post #197.  I can hardly believe it!    As we near post 200, are there any topics, questions or considerations you’d like me to write about sometime?   Many of you have been here with me for months, so I thought it would be nice to ask. 🙂

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Sugar and Spice – Everything Not Nice

The organization I work for planned a bridge cleanup and solicited the local supermarket for a donation of baked goods.  All we really wanted were some hot dog and hamburger rolls and cookies for dessert.  The supermarket was overly generous in their response.  Yesterday I walked into the kitchen of our office building and was immediately overwhelmed by the scents of sugar and cinnamon.

The room looked like someone had knocked over a bakery truck and hauled all the loot to us.  Boxes of doughnuts sprinkled with sugar or iced with sprinkles.  A dozen four packs of muffins.  Half a dozen loaves of Cuban bread.  Packages of mini-scones.  Bags of bagels.  There wasn’t an inch of available counter space and additional booty was packed in bags resting on the floor.

Temptation to the infinite power permeated the atmosphere, luring me to the dark side.  This on the week when I have been working so hard to stick to full liquids and mushies and getting myself more solidly on track.  I was doing great, too.

I wish I could say that I stood my ground, strong against the gravitational pull of carbs and calories.   I wish I’d fled the kitchen,  clutching my protein drink like a lifeline.  Unfortunately, it’s like my common sense and desire to stay on the wagon got obliterated by the sight and smell of all the junk.  Sad to say, I succumbed to a scone.

Not a full-sized one.  It was a mini-blueberry, but that doesn’t matter.  The point is that I ate it even while my brain was saying, “Don’t do it.”  The bitch of it all is that it wasn’t even that tasty.

I’m annoyed at my own lack of fortitude and the fact that I caved to an inferior product.  Honestly, I don’t even think I’m upset about the fact that *gasp* I ate carbs!  The occasional carb is not going to wreck the overall effort.  It’s the behavior, the action of giving in to the compulsion to eat just because I was surrounded by the stuff.

This is why I keep the food addict’s equivalent of a dry house.  I don’t pretend right now that I can keep these things in my own home.  If they are here, there’s too much likelihood that they will be consumed.  I have reached the recovery point where I won’t, under 99% of the circumstances, leave the house to hunt down this kind of snack.  (The 1% exception was that cupcake urge around the hurricane weekend.)  That’s progress.   Knowing my own limits and boundaries is also a sign of progress and improvement.  The occasional cookie or light snack when out for a meal?  Those I can handle.  Walking away from the equivalent of a bakery storefront in my own office building?  Not so much.

The good news is that I didn’t stuff my face with muffin after doughnut after cookie.  After the lapse, I got back on track.  It doesn’t feel like eating the scone triggered a binge-worthy craving for moremoremore carbs.   Hopefully I didn’t impede the rest of the progress that I made this week and all will be well with the numbers on the scale.  I took the pooches for a bridge walk last night.  I’m waiting for it to cool a little more tonight and then we’re going for another walk.  Tomorrow is my Saturday Zumba class.

After you tumble from the wagon, it’s important to climb back up as soon as possible.

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My New Hero

By now I’m sure that most of you have heard the story about the LaCrosse, WI television news anchor who responded on air to an email she received from a viewer who took her to task for her weight.  He scolded her for being obese and setting a poor example.  If you haven’t seen it, click here to go to her news station’s website.

Before I continue, I will add the disclaimer that, obviously, this is a touchy subject for me and I’m sure that I’m not objective.  That said, my first reaction when I saw the news story this morning was, “You GO, Jennifer Livingston!”

I so admire her for the grace, composure and eloquence she demonstrated in her editorial response to the critical email.  I can only imagine how much it hurt to read his words.  Even if she thought, “What a judgmental a-hole”, I’m sure she felt the negative comments as if they were physical blows.

On air, she acknowledged her weight and made no excuses. It wasn’t until I saw an interview with her and her husband that I learned she has a thyroid problem that makes it difficult for her to shed the extra pounds. She also regularly works out and is fit enough so that she runs in 5K races and triathlons!

How dare that man assume that obesity is her choice  and then castigate her for being a poor example for young people because she’s overweight.  You want to talk poor examples, mister?  What about the fact that, without knowing anything about this woman other than the physical shape you saw on your television screen, you decided that she’s lacking in character, good judgment and the will to lose weight.

I’ve never met Ms. Livingston, but when I listened to her editorial, I was so proud of her for her response.  She acknowledged that she’s obese.  However, she clearly and rightly stood up for herself and took a stand against people being needlessly cruel and critical toward each other.  By standing up for herself with dignity and forthrightness, she demonstrated that she is a terrific role model.  Her character is not defined by the number on her scale.

I was bullied a lot for my weight when I was younger.  There was one fellow student when I was in high school who would bellow, “Thar she blows” whenever he saw me, even if it was across the campus quad.  Was this kid a bona fide jerk?  Hell yeah.  Did knowing that reduce the pain and humiliation I felt every time.  Hell no.

You want to make a case about what lessons and examples we present to young people?  Let’s start with demonstrating that it is not okay to bully someone else for any reason.  Don’t pick on them for their weight — whether they’re heavy or skinny.   Let’s banish terms like “Four-eyes” or “metal-mouth” and not tease other kids because they wear glasses or braces.  Teach people of all ages that it’s not acceptable to mock or persecute someone who’s gay.  How about instead of reinforcing negative opinions we show kids that they aren’t making themselves seem better by tearing down someone else because they think they’re less.  Let’s foster kindness and acceptance in each other and how to support the people around us.

October is National Anti-Bullying Month.  Today, Ms. Livingston stood up to a bully.  She and her husband are teaching their young daughters how to deal and stand up for themselves.  Those girls are fortunate.  When it comes to mothers, they have one hell of a great role model.

 

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Sometimes It Is Just a Bad Mood

Weight loss surgery will forever alter the physical capacity of your stomach.  Follow the doctor’s instructions and a food plan and you will lose weight.  Lots of it.  Quickly.  Losing weight makes you feel better.  It improves your ability to move which can lead to you wanting to exercise more which eventually makes you fitter.  All of positive changes in your life can do tremendous, positive things for your overall mood, attitude and outlook on life.

All of these wonderful things, however, do not guarantee that you will be cheerful and happy every single day of the rest of your life.

I’m having one of those non-cheerful, non-happy days.  There is no discernible, identifiable reason.  I’m just cranky and out of sorts today.

In the past, I would have used the negative emotions as a reason to eat lots of sweets or big quantities of any food.  This would have provided a temporary food boosted euphoria, followed by an emotional crash where I would beat up on myself for bingeing.

Today I managed to stick to my food plan with the addition of a few small handfuls of peanuts.  No, they weren’t liquid or mushy, but not the worst thing in the world for me.  I feel good about the food plan part of my day.

But I’m still cranky.  The fact that I’m not in a great mood is making me even more annoyed.   Here’s the lesson, as far as I can tell.  Sometimes you don’t have to excavate beneath the emotion, digging for a reason.  Sometimes a bad mood is just a bad mood.

Everybody has them from time to time — even those who don’t have addictions or disorders or whatever.

I don’t have a plan of action for the rest of the night.  That’s okay.  I’m just going to ride it out.  This too shall pass.  I’m sure I’ll be back on the sunny side of myself tomorrow.

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One bright spot.  The shoes I ordered arrived today.  They fit and even look reasonably pretty.  So, yay for that!

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