Weighty Matters

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Temporary “Screw It” Day

I want to thank you all again for your thoughtful suggestions, comments and support. I value the input you provided and have a plan.

Have to admit that the emotional impact of the doctor’s appointment and “cut more calories” suggestion stayed with me. Okay, it’s still with me today. Yesterday, I decided to give myself permission to say, “Screw it” to my food plan. No, not long term. I do not want to give up my healthier lifestyle. I just needed a day to not worry about eating any carbohydrates, enjoying a glass of wine, or eating a freaking cookie.

Last night was the holiday boat parade in my city. This sails right past my home and I usually have friends over. This year, I invited some close friends for dinner. I’ve said before that I still enjoy cooking and no cooking makes me happier than Italian. The smell of a good tomato sauce simmering on the stove delights my senses and makes my mouth water. I love mixing up a batch of meatballs to go with the sauce. Knowing that the friends coming over particularly like my Italian meals simply made me smile as I chopped, sautéed, seasoned, tasted and put everything together. The end result — a big bowl of meatballs, sausage and penne in sauce with crusty Italian bread and salad on the side. For dessert a plate of cookies and biscotti.

I’m sure between the preparation and the actual meal, I ate more than I would normally. I didn’t gorge on pasta but had some penne and some bread and a couple of cookies. All told, I ate less than half what my friends consumed. Strike me down, diet gods, I also had two small glasses of red wine.

We ate on my porch in the glow of my twinkling holiday lights. My friends savored the food I’d cooked. I experienced the time-honored joy of feeding people I care about. One couple’s three year old son entertained us with his energy and adorable “Wows!” whenever another brightly lit boat passed. It was a beautiful, fun, relaxing evening and I enjoyed every minute of it. Of course I made a huge amount of food so I packed up two generous “to go” containers and sent most of the leftovers home with my guests. I kept some meatballs and a little bit of penne for myself. Today I don’t even care so much about the pasta but I’ll enjoy the meat and sauce. I can always run up to Publix and get a spaghetti squash as a substitute.

With all of the cooking yesterday, I didn’t get in my full 10,000 steps. This morning I woke up to a beautiful day and immediately went out for an hour-plus bike ride, followed by a 15 minute dog walk. By the end of the day I’m sure I’ll exceed 10,000 steps. I will not overindulge in a pity party but will keep myself in good check with my eating.

I’m not going to cut my calories to 600 per day. There is not part of me that thinks doing so is a healthy choice. We’re heading into the holidays. I will be out of my normal routine for several days. While I would love to lose more weight during the rest of the month, I’m setting very simple goals: Maintain my current weight and keep exercising. When all is said and done, I’m going to be fine. No, I’m going to be better than fine.

Whether it takes me six months, nine months, or all of 2014, I am going to reach my goal weight at some point in 2014. On that I would never say screw it. I am absolutely committed to this goal and I will make it.

The best overall entry, it copied the leg lamp from a popular holiday movie.

The best overall entry, it copied the leg lamp from a popular holiday movie.

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Emotional and Physical Revolt

I had my every-three-months follow up appointment with my weight loss surgeon. This is the worst period of weight loss I’ve experienced since my surgery almost two years ago. I had ups and downs and the last couple of weeks were better, beginning with the post-Thanksgiving detox. However, overall, the total number of pounds was somewhere between few and pitiful.

Frankly, I’m puzzled. I believe that I’m doing good with my food plan. For sure I’ve stepped up my exercise. Simple math of calories in and calories burned should have added up to more significant weight loss, but my body apparently didn’t get that memo.

I went down the list of info with my doctor, explaining what I eat each day and how much physical activity I do. I don’t know what I was expecting in terms of advice, but I know I wasn’t anticipating that his suggestion would be that I cut out more calories. Seriously? I eat between 800 and 1000 calories a day and between my regular basal metabolism rate I burn more than 2000 calories daily. Honestly, I cannot fathom how in hell I’m going to eat less, take in fewer calories. The doctor acknowledged that I’m taking in quality with high protein and low carb. However, he feels that perhaps my body’s metabolism is lower/slower than normal. He went into a lengthier explanation about how cells of the body, etc. but I had a little trouble following the explanation and difficulty focusing on what he said. I do know that in his mind, reducing volume — cutting by a quarter in his words — is the strategy I should try.

Friends, color me shocked and shade that with some accents of dismayed and confused. Emotionally, I’m in full revolt tonight. I’m pissed off, even though I’m not sure at what or at who my anger is directed. It’s unfair of me, I guess, to be ticked off at my surgeon. I guess I wanted some magic solution that would wipe out the slow progress and put me back on the path of rapid loss. It isn’t his fault that I had unrealistic expectations. He told me what he medically believes. It just didn’t jive with what I wanted to hear.

Pointless as this is, I think I’m angry at my body, my stubborn, holding-onto-fat, cells and my underperforming, uncooperative metabolism. I resisted whining in the doctor’s office but, believe me, I’m whining to myself here at home and mentally stamping my feet in tantrum mode. I don’t want my metabolism to be slow. I want it to rev up and melt the freaking remaining pounds off of me asap.

I can’t let this derail me. I have to reconnect with my own focus and remember the promise to “go to any lengths to get it”. If that means cutting back on the already small portions I eat and compensating with even more water if I’m still hungry, then that’s what I’ll do. Or at least I’ll try my very best to do so and remember to have convenient small snacks available if all of the exercise triggers the need to eat. All that I can do is my best effort and hope that it’s enough to keep me going. I hold onto the thought that even though I didn’t lose the amount of pounds I hoped, at least I lost and didn’t gain. I know I’ve reduced my body size and my percentage of body fat. I am still moving in the right direction, even if I’m moving slowly.

To share a quick funny, in our appointment the doctor cautioned me about the approaching holidays. “It will be tough, he reminded me. “Lots of food around all of the time.”

“Dr., food is all around me all of the time every day,” I replied. “It has to be my choice to not eat it.”

On a brighter note, I ran into Kohl’s while I was “off the rock”. I needed new black pants that go all of the way to the tops of my feet versus stopping at capri or cropped pant length. Before I could get to the Women’s Department with its more familiar clothing sizes, geared toward heavier women, I had to walk right by the Misses Department. I get really confused about all of the different departments in a particular store, but I decided to brave the Misses section and see if I could figure it out. Yes, I know, it sounds on the surface like I’m pitiful. Imagine a grown woman of almost 56 getting confused and intimidated by store clothing departments. Still, if you don’t know and have never shopped them, you really need time or help to navigate and find the clothing you want.

The good news is that I went into the Misses section and found the Simply Vera Wang line. “Oh what the hell,” I thought. I grabbed a gray sweater that I thought was pretty and went to a dressing room to try it on. I’m at a weird place with clothing sizes. In some I’m still an XL, as opposed to a 1X, 2X, 3X or 4X. In other styles or cuts, I’m a L with tops. I can wear a 16 W pant, but still need a straight 18. Anyway, I found a couple cute sweaters from Vera Wang in XL. They look terrific with the new pants I purchased. I’m almost as pleased about my navigation of the store as I am about the clothes themselves. It’s a great advancement for me to take this on, silly as that sounds. I’m so glad I was successful.

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Was Weight Loss Surgery Really Necessary?

A little less than two weeks before I had my surgery, I was already doing the “full liquids” part of the preparation. Pounds were melting off. A good friend who was going through a very stressful time experienced a lot of anxiety over me having the bariatric surgery. When I shared that I was doing great with the full liquids diet, she asked me why I couldn’t just keep doing that and lose all of my weight instead of having a risky operation.

Speaking from the heart, I explained that I knew I would never sustain the weight loss effort long enough, or I would have done so before then. I also shared that I feared losing a lot of weight and then gaining it back yet again.

Next month I’ll hit my two year “surgiversary”. I probably won’t yet be at goal weight. Someone asked me today if I was sorry that I’d had the operation when it was still taking me so long to lose all of the weight that I wanted. There was nothing malicious about the question. I believe they were just honestly curious. I guess somewhere in their brain was the idea that I could have been able to lose it anyway so the surgery might not have been necessary.

I don’t agree. I still believe, just as strongly as I did two weeks before my vertical sleeve gastrectomy, that I would never have lost 175 or so pounds without the surgery. Was the surgery the magical cure-all? Of course not! Have I still had to work hard on every level to be successful to this point for so many months? Absolutely.

Was the surgery necessary? Was it worth it? Hell to the yeah! I can’t affirm it strongly enough. Surgically reducing my stomach capacity proved to be the tool, the key, the foundation on which everything else stands. To some great extent, it’s the security net when I teeter and fall off of the tightrope. It keeps me from completely hitting the ground and going splat. Because it limits how much I can physically eat, it’s an effective means for stopping a food relapse and prevents binging.

The physical control, or speed with which it helps me regain control when I periodically veer off course, has kept me in recovery and on a losing path for far longer than I have experienced at any other time. The longer time period has given me the opportunity to slowly and effectively make other lifestyle changes. The improved fitness and healthier food choices have developed over the months. I think this process means that the changes are better integrated and more sustainable. I don’t feel like the devotion to exercise is a flash in the pan. It takes time to grow new habits and that’s what I’m doing.

Maybe having bariatric surgery started out as my last ditch effort; the desperate attempt to save my life and improve its quality. Last ditch or not, it was absolutely necessary. I view its effects as the best way that I could open up my spirit for long term lifestyle changes. Simply put, it set me up for success and I’ve taken it from there.

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To Assess and not Obsess

It’s difficult to not obsess about my weight in terms of the actual number on the scale. Sometimes I think I should simply stop weighing myself, or at least stop weighing myself so often. Other times, I’m in such fear that I’ll grow lax and gain weight that I feel I have to be vigilant and keep a steady check on myself.

Simple truth. As far as I’ve come and as solidly as I’ve worked on the emotional and mental aspects of my disordered eating along with the physical, I still do not trust myself to not eventually screw this up. I prefer to think of this realization as crystal clear self-awareness rather than painful self-flagellation.

My scale number obsession is worse this week because I have an appointment my surgeon on Friday. I had that good weight loss when I did the post-Thanksgiving detox but then I stalled again. So, the total number of pounds lost since I last saw him four months ago is nowhere near where I wanted/hoped. I’m really trying to put the obsession aside and assess my progress in a healthy, rational way. It is what it is.

It is what it is, and I shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that all that it is happens to be pretty damned awesome. In doing the new exercise program that I bought, I’m actually delighted that I can lie on the floor and do abdominal curls/crunches. I can lift my butt and hips off of the floor in a bridge and hold them up there. I can walk for extended periods of time and distance or ride my bike for close to 20 miles. (I can probably pedal even further but I haven’t tried yet.) I’m in smaller size clothes than I’ve worn since probably high school.

I make far healthier food choices, eating more fruit and vegetables than candy, cake, cookies, deep fried foods or fast foods. My attitude is positive and I’ve developed an honest pleasure and enthusiasm about being physically active and fit.

To let a number on the scale cloud all of the good would be a mistake and a real injustice to myself. I need to cultivate the positive assessment. Right now, I feel like the mental fatigue of staying on the reduction part of the program is a bigger threat than anything else. I need to remember that the food program is only one aspect of the entire effort. There’s so much more to it; so much more to me.

I’ll get where I need to go, even if it’s one slow pound at a time.

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On Self Esteem

This weekend Dear Abby has a terrific letter from a teacher who wrote about the importance of bolstering self-esteem in kids. She said that she identifies kids in her class who suffer from low self-esteem and makes it a goal to find ways to show and tell them that they are worthy. In her letter she talked to parents about finding ways to encourage their children, help them to feel good about themselves and so on.

I suffered from lousy self-esteem for so many years, and it all began long before I ever realized that was the problem. I don’t know why it started and, honestly, I don’t know how resolved the issues. I suspect that the answer in both cases lies with family. I think there are also elements of self-actualization, or lack thereof, mixed in as well.

When I was younger, I measured myself in comparison to others and always felt that I came up far short. I would never be as great, accomplished and revered as my father. I wasn’t as smart or as good a student as my brother. I wouldn’t be as universally loved or loving as my mother. I created these opinions and they were my “truths”. Once established in my psyche, it didn’t matter that Mom, Dad and J didn’t set out to make me feel these things. This was my story and I stuck with it and every experience reinforced the negative feelings. The feelings fed my eating disorder, the eating disorder packed on pounds and reinforced the feelings. Damned vicious cycle.

I also counted on my father to be my safety net as well as my yardstick. When I graduated college and got a job that I not only liked but was good at, my confidence grew, but I still viewed my achievements through the Dad filter. This was not a period of great self-actualization by any means.

Small wonder that when Dad died, somewhat unexpectedly, my confidence fell apart. In addition to tremendous grief, I was completely stressed out and had an incredibly difficult time dealing with it. I hadn’t build enough foundation within to support myself in this difficult times. It was awful. This kicked off an almost ten year period of really crappy, stressful times with successes, failures, situations that were emotionally damaging and devastating to my self-esteem.

Eventually I got into therapy and then OA. Even if I didn’t achieve long-term weight loss, the work began to knit up the shredded self-esteem, shore up the crumbled confidence and allowed me to build a better foundation for the future. I think in this period began the greater awareness of my own abilities, talents and strength. The self-actualization. I became my own measuring stick instead of relying on myself.

I brought a stronger, more confident and balanced person to my relationships with my family and friends — including the two youngest bundles of awesome — my nephews. I felt closer to my brother and sister-in-law. Mom and I had always been close, but there was a different maturity to our mother-daughter bond. I no longer felt second best to the people I loved. I was secure with the people that mattered most. It was great enough to feel that from my adult family members. Added to it was the fact that A and J thought Aunt Mary was the coolest. Yes, that was an incredible self-esteem bolster.

When Mom was diagnosed with cancer, then suffered strokes and the seizure problems, I became her primary caregiver. It was hard mentally, emotionally, and physically. Caring for her, working with my brother and sister-in-law and Mom’s doctors to determine best treatment plans and everything when she couldn’t do it on her own, doing what she needed — My friends, I know that nothing I had ever done before, nor would again, would be that important. Ultimately, we could not save her life, but there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that we could have done better than we did.

As devastated as I was when Mom died, and as long as I mourned her after (still miss her today), I didn’t fall apart like I did when Dad died. Sure I was older and more mature, but even more, was the self-actualization, the confidence, the improved self-esteem. These carried me through. The experience also set me up for the transition to what has been the last, great 12 years of my life. In my job today, I have the most responsibility on the largest scale that I ever did and am part of a mission far greater than I had ever before experienced. I am more confident in my ability to do this job today and with whatever challenges might crop up in the future.

I could not have done this job 20 or 25 years ago. Today I have no doubts. The confidence, the self-esteem are real. When I think of this in terms of my weight and obesity issues, I have to wonder. Maybe it really did take me getting to my strongest place emotionally with solid self-esteem before I could succeed with the weight loss surgery. I don’t know. I’m only glad that I’m in that place today.

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The Perils of Getting Too Tired

In her comment on yesterday’s post, Skye cautioned me that getting too tired can lead to eating more food because we think we need more energy.

Tru dat.

I did not adhere to my food plan today and ate too many carbs. I’m going to point my attention, if not point the finger of blame, at being physically and mentally tired. It is more difficult for me to stay mentally strong and vigilant on my food plan when I’m stressed and exhausted, and far easier to give into the impulse of grabbing the food that’s readily available, as it was today.

Gotta say, I’m kind of annoyed with myself for falling into the old pattern. It’s not like there wasn’t fruit and low fat yogurt right there on the same table with the scones and bagels. I could have made a better, healthier, on-my-food-plan choice.

So, I’m kind of annoyed but have decided not to beat up on myself about it. I’m human. It was one day. I get another chance to choose recovery and stay in a good place with food tomorrow. I was on the road today by 6:15 a.m. When I got home at 5:30 tonight, the first thing that I did was take the dogs for a walk. Then I ate yogurt for dinner. After cuddling with the pups for a little bit, I hit play on the workout DVD and did the 30 minute cardio routine. Then I relaxed some more.

It’s important on all days to set myself up for success. Maybe it’s even more important to do so after I’ve had a not great day. I want to be more rested tomorrow so I’m about to relax in a hot tub and then go to bed. Tomorrow is Saturday which means that I do not have to set my alarm to wake up early enough to do the 30 minute weight training routine before I go to Tai Chi class. I can do it later in the day.

Tomorrow I wake up and choose recovery. Tomorrow I stick to the food plan again.

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Burning the Candle

Quick post from the phone tonight, my friends. I’ve been going non-stop this week. In addition to being plenty busy at work, there were several other responsibilities requiring my time and energy.

When you burn the candle at both ends for too long, the candle isn’t the only thing that burns out. I’m exhausted tonight and have an extra early start tomorrow.

For the sake of my brain cells and body, I’m unplugging and shutting down early to go to bed.

Will be back soon. Big hugs to all.

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One by One and a New Workout

I needed to visit the supermarket after work for canned dog food and dog treats. I walked out with canned dog food, dog treats, toilet paper, coconut water, fresh pineapple, yogurt, baby carrots, kale-carrot-spinach chips and a pack of chocolate M&Ms.

Yes, I was having a huge chocolate craving. It didn’t register until I got home that I bought the double serving “Sharing” pack of the M&Ms. Right. Like sharing a pack of M&Ms has ever been a serious possibility. This purchase was a clear example of craving and compulsion trumping common sense and recovery.

I came home and took out the pups for a mile plus walk. I then heated up some of my home made kale-quinoa-chorizo soup for dinner. The whole time I pondered how I was going to handle the M&Ms. I knew from MyFitnessPal that I was well under my daily calorie intake, even without factoring in the amount of calories I’d already burned today with my early morning bike ride, two dog walks and other activity. So, having a reasonable portion of M&Ms was not going to throw off my program.

Two servings? Not a good idea. Since I’d already accepted that I was going to eat some of the candies, I needed to figure out how to be smart about it and not eat the entire bag. This is not a challenge for most people but it really was something that required strategy on my part for portion control. I opened up my cabinet and took out one of my small ramekins. I then carefully measured out a serving of M&Ms. I took them over to my chair and proceeded to eat them one by one and, on some, half of one by half of one. I’ve never eaten M&Ms so mindfully. Previously one by one meant a handful at a time, not a single candy. I did it and was completely satisfied. I also twisted the bag shut and stuffed the remaining portion in my fridge. As I write this, three and a half hours have passed and I have not returned to the refrigerator to retrieve the second portion, nor will I tonight. For a compulsive eater, believe it or not, this is a victory. I prevailed.

Late last week, while browsing Amazon, I ran across a new workout production by Leslie Sansone. I’ve spoken of her Walk Away the Pounds Express in-home walking DVDs before. It sounds so simple, but whether one, two, three, or four or more miles, the combination of simple steps and brisk pace really does provide a calorie burning workout. When it’s too windy to ride the bike in the morning, the DVDs let me get in some early exercise.

This new DVD is called Walk it Off in 30 Days. I admit, the name caught my attention and as I read on, I decided I needed to check this out. That it was less than 10 bucks with free shipping sealed the deal. The program alternates two 30 minute programs. Three days a week, you do half an hour of power fitness walking. The other three days, you do a firming session of strength training using dumbbells.

I did the firming session tonight and was very happy to realize just how much my body has improved in the last year. I could keep up with the exercises and did better with things like abdominal curls than I expected. My right knee hampers me a little with lunges, but not at all with squats, so that’s good. I feel like I still got a workout in the 30 minutes. This makes me very happy. I’ve felt the need to add some sort of strength training to my fitness efforts but, honestly, I hate the idea of joining a gym. This program will fill the need for a while. Right now I’m only using three-pound dumbbells because that’s what I have in the house. I’m sure that as I continue to do this program, I’ll be able to step up to at least five pounds and continue to challenge myself.

One of the appeals of these programs to me is the 30 minute duration. Whether I do it in the morning or sometime in the evening, I can always find 30 minutes in a day! I’m even going to take the DVD with me on my holiday vacation so that I can keep up with the plan.

So, that’s how my day was today. Active, balanced, energized. What are all of you doing?

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The Why of Motivation

After my morning bike ride (17 miles – a personal best. Booyah! I was shooting for 20 but, frankly, I needed to pee. There’s always next weekend.) I sat out on the porch in the gorgeous weather with a cup of tea and read the Sunday paper. (Bonus, two manatees swam by while I was sitting there.) Parade had an interview with Pastor Rick Warren who spearheaded a weight loss and fitness effort in his congregation using something he created in consultation with experts (Dr. Oz) and called the Daniel Plan. (He’s written a book about it but I don’t actually know the deets.) The article was interesting and the story of the congregation supporting each other is inspiring. Something Warren said in the interview really struck me. I’m paraphrasing, but basically he said that why we want something is the key to how long we sustain the effort.

I often wonder why I’m sustaining a successful effort now, longer than I ever had, when I ultimately failed numerous times before in my life. Oh sure, I often achieved significant weight loss but never got all the way to goal weight and never kept it off.

Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the horse. I haven’t actually reached goal weight and once I do, only time will tell if I maintain the loss. However, I feel more confident than I ever have in my life that I will succeed in both of these goals. In the meantime, I can look at where I am today — one year and ten months after weight loss surgery with a weight loss of 175 pounds. I have never lost this much or sustained an effort this long before. Why is this time different? What was the “Why” of my motivation?

I go back to the lightning bolt “aha” moment I had in the summer of 2011. For months I’d told myself that I was resigned to being super obese for the rest of my life, regardless of how short a period of time that “rest” turned out to be. Then in that big moment of clarity, I said to myself, “I do not want to be disabled by the time I’m 60.” My goal was to lose weight, and use weight loss surgery to help me achieve it. The “why”, the motivation was to enable myself, to become healthy, and to live a better life as long as possible.

What made this different than all of the times before? Well, that depends on which time before. I think when I was a kid my motivation was so others would stop picking on me, so boys would like me. I’m sure that even when I was older my prime motivation remained to make myself more attractive.

As an adult between, say 30 to 40, I’d talk about wanting to get to a healthy weight. Why wasn’t that enough? Looking back and pondering this from my current perspective, I believe that at that time, I wasn’t yet experiencing the true negative impact on my health. I knew I was risking high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attack, clogged arteries, stroke, early death. However, I wasn’t yet on medication for any of these things. I hadn’t experienced the health scares. I also was still mobile. The horrible, eventual future as still sort of abstract.

Flash forward to 2011. I was so overweight that I was hampered by it in countless ways. I was on medication for high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I couldn’t walk without breathing hard and needed to help pull myself up stairs, gasping. My knee could have given out on me at any time. Nothing abstract about it. When I couldn’t haul myself up the ladder of my boat, it all came together that my eventual future had arrived.

So the goal of losing weight gained a more powerful, concrete motivation — so that I would not be disabled, but enabled, so that I would be fit and healthy with a chance at a good, longer life. That’s the “why” in my motivation and the reason that I have sustained the effort this long and am heading full sail into the future until I reach my goal and beyond. The goal will change once I get to whatever number/size my doctor and I eventually agree on. Once I achieve my “goal weight”, my goal will be to make the choices that maintain the weight loss and fitness levels. The motivation will remain the same that has served me so well thus far — to live my best, most enabled life.

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