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Too Fat to Fail – A Man’s Effort to Fund Weight Loss Surgery

This morning’s Miami Herald has an article about a Key West man named Chad Newman who has launched a fundraising effort to help him afford bariatric surgery and save his life. He weighs 420 pounds. Unfortunately, like I learned a few years ago, not all health insurance plans cover weight loss surgery. Mine didn’t, but I was fortunate in that I had other means to cover the costs. Click here to read the Herald article.

I’ve never met Chad in person, but we’ve worked together via email on some video projects when the Keys News Bureau pushed out stories from where I work at Dolphin Research Center. I read this morning’s article and was inspired and touched. It sounds trite, but as you all know from reading this blog, I can really relate to a number of his experiences, issues and struggles with food and weight loss. I sent him an email and wanted to share his story here as a way of support.

Yes, I also donated. Here’s my momentary soapbox moment. I know it’s personal but I believe that weight loss surgery should be covered by all insurance plans. Even if it’s only covered in part, there should be some coverage. In the long run, this surgery saves lives AND saves money. I think it’s discriminatory that insurance companies don’t include it in their plans. Period. End of rant.

I’m going to follow Chad’s journey at his website and blog: Too Fat to Fail. I want to see him raise the money, have the surgery, and succeed. I know he can do it and will be cheering him on as he progresses on his journey.

Keep some good thoughts for him, please. Positive energy can only help! Thanks.

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Food Isn’t the Problem

I have a cold. I felt like crap all day, bad enough to stay home from work. I stayed home from work but didn’t refrain from working. Considering the sneezing, stuffy head, fuzzy brain and general tiredness, I was actually very productive and got a lot done. I was not, however, physically active. For the first time in months I have gone two days without reaching my minimum commitment of 10,000 steps. I feel sluggish. Even though I have more than enough reason to have not fulfilled my physical fitness goals the last two days, mentally I’m struggling with it. I’m sure that I’ll improve as soon as I get back on the step count, but it does me good to share this stuff. Thanks for listening.

While I was working from home today I had on the television. I sort of half listened during the Dr. Oz show, but in that hour I heard something that struck home. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but it was excellent timing for me to hear it again today. The doctors were talking about the growing number of heroin addicts and the different prescription drugs that are hydrocodone related in different strengths, the addiction problems, etc. One doctor said that in the lives of addicts, the drugs are not the problem. The drugs are the solution. What a strong, important point. From my perspective, food and my way of previous diseased eating are not the problems. They are what I used to cope or bury the real issues. They’re the ways that I tried to solve my issues.

Sometimes it’s difficult to separate out these things. Even though a drug addict might know that he/she turned to drugs for an emotional reason doesn’t mean their bodies don’t physically become hooked. Same thing with me. I can get hooked on the behavior of stuffing my feelings with food or bingeing on certain foods because of their carb, fat or sugar content. So, I can’t ignore that, while food isn’t the root problem, it became a secondary problem at some point. So, until I “got clean”, I couldn’t clear my head and emotions enough to work on the motivating issues.

Some might think that getting clean is the hard part, but the real work begins after. That’s why it was so important for me to understand that the vertical sleeve gastrectomy — the bariatric surgery — would only be a tool to help me control my overeating behavior, which I’d not been able to sustain control over in the past for any significant amount of time. The hardest work is picking through the emotional and psychological issues that make me run to food. All of the time I need to remember that I cannot rely on food to be anything more than food. It needs to not be a problem or a solution.

The work is hard, but it’s important. It’s also possible as long as I keep at it.

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Pre-Stressing the Scale

This Friday is my next appointment with my surgeon. I almost called this blog post Day of Reckoning, then I thought it should be Getting Called on the Carpet. Both of those seemed negative. I don’t know why I get stressed over these appointments. Scratch that, yes I do. In my twisted lil psyche, regardless of the fact that I’m a grown woman of 56, I sometimes feel like I did when I was a little kid and had to speak to an authority figure. I also have a long, long, long history of doctors’ appointments when getting on the scale to get weighed was anything but a joyful experience.

Most of the time they were more like harbingers of shame. Get on the scale; get scolded for my weight. Get told to lose weight. Get scolded some more. It just sucked. The only times I didn’t suffer heavy duty stress and emotional trauma prior to a doctor’s appointment and weight check were those when I was in the middle of a semi-successful weight loss. Then I could celebrate how well I was doing, until such time as I was no longer doing well.

For the year, year and a half after my bariatric surgery, I loved going each month, then every three months, to the surgeon’s for my check up. Who wouldn’t when weight melted off of me like ice cream off a cone on a hot summer day? When my rate slowed to more like one, one and a half pounds a week, it didn’t matter how much I told you that this was to be expected, I still felt like I was wrong. The old shame began to well up again. That’s how locked in my emotional well-being can be to my scale successes.

Last December’s appointment was the worst of this whole journey because I’d lost the least amount of weight in the three month period and I reacted poorly to the doctor’s suggestion that I cut my calorie intake by 25%.

I’m concerned about my emotions this week as I countdown to the check in on Friday. I’ve been doing really well. My head and emotions are in a great place without lots of conflicts or issues about my food plan. I’ve lost weight and stepped up my exercise. I’m in a good place, damn it, and yet I feel myself beginning to fret about what I’ll weigh when I step on my doctor’s scale on Friday afternoon.

Tonight, I’m so glad that I was inspired to write about this topic. Facing the issue, and my unreasonable fears, will help me stay strong and on track. The last thing I want to do is go into a tail spin and start eating over the scale stress. This is not the time to attempt to use carbohydrates to smother the stress. That would jeopardize the good progress I’ve made. I need to stick to the food and fitness plan, taking each day as it comes, one day at a time. As long as I don’t go off the rails, I will feel emotionally and mentally strong and in recovery which will bolster the physical effort.

I’m psyching myself up for another good week. Each morning when I wake up and then throughout my days, I will choose serenity over stress. When I walk into the doctor’s office on Friday it will be with a light step and a happy smile. The number on the scale is not the only indication of how well I’m doing, how far I’ve come, and how committed I am to continuing with my progress and my recovery.

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Feeling Financially Grateful

I’m watched the Chopped – Tournament of Stars tonight. Singer Carnie Wilson was one of the episode’s contestants. She’s part of the trio Wilson Phillips, although in recent years, I’ve seen her more frequently on a variety of celebrity reality shows. She’s also pretty famous for having gastric bypass surgery several years ago. (According to her tonight, 14 years ago.)

I remember a few years ago, she’d gained all of the weight back that she’d previously lost with the wls and went back for another procedure. She had a lap band added to help her lose weight again. I remember at the time thinking that must have been a horrible experience for her — to have fought so hard to lose weight, had success, and then backslid to the point where she needed another procedure.

That is something that I never, ever want to experience. However, she’s a really good example for the rest of us. It can and does happen. We are really never free of the food issues and if, for whatever reason, we no longer manage to stay in recovery, we can gain it all back. I’m glad that she’s still in the fight and hasn’t given up on herself.

The stars on this Chopped tournament are all playing for charities they’ve chosen. When asked Carnie said that she’s playing for the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, an organization that raises money to fund grants for people who need bariatric operations but they either don’t have insurance, or their insurance won’t cover the procedure and they don’t have enough money to self-pay. www.wlsfa.org

*Dragging out my soap box, stepping up* I know that I have a personal viewpoint in this debate, but I firmly and unequivocally believe that every health insurance plan should offer coverage for bariatric surgery. I believe the operation saves lives and, ultimately, saves money for those same insurance companies because it leads to healthier lifestyles in the patients. *Stepping off of the soap box*

I have a decent health insurance plan, but mine didn’t cover the weight loss surgery. When I found that out, I was both bummed and disappointed. Then, the reality of my particular circumstance took over and I was overwhelming grateful. I had enough money in investments that I could pay for the operation out of pocket. The hospital also had a self-pay plan that was less expensive.

Thankfully, all of the tests and evaluations that are required prior to the surgery were typical of diagnostics that a doctor would order to determine conditions in an obese patient. I blew through my high deductible pretty quickly and every other procedure was then fully covered by my insurance.

For me, finances did not enter into the decision as to whether I could move forward with the operation that would finally help me successfully battle my super obesity. That is not the case for everyone. I personally know someone who thinks about having the surgery but he doesn’t have the right insurance plan or the savings. Just yesterday, someone else I know came up to me and asked if she could talk to me about my surgery. She recently went to an orientation/workshop to find out more. Her insurance plan will cover bariatric procedures if she qualifies under certain conditions such as her BMI or the presence of a co-morbidity for more than two years. She wants the surgery and is crossing her fingers that she’ll qualify.

Looking back, I am even more grateful today than I was at the outset of the journey when I first began investigating the procedure. I cannot imagine if my greatest chance for recovery, for regaining my health, for saving my life wasn’t possible because I didn’t have the money.

After the show tonight ended, I went online to look at this Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America. They’re a 501 (C)(3) charitable organization so my donation was tax deductible. They seem to be legitimate and have awarded several grants to people for the bariatric surgery itself and some for the reconstructive surgery afterward. Carnie Wilson is now one of their ambassadors. They’re having a fund raising event in Florida in April, but unfortunately I have another commitment that weekend or I would go to check them out in person.

The WLSFA does not seem to be a giant organization but appear to be growing up from grassroots. I’m grateful that they exist so that others who need help can get it.

**** Edited to Add ****
When I woke up this morning, I’d received an email from one of the WLSFA founders, Antonia, to thank me for my donation. She also wanted to make me aware of the Tampa event in case I could attend. Nice gestures on both counts! We chatted a little via email and she clarified something that I did not have right, based on my research. Antonia told me that Carnie Wilson did not gain back all of the weight that she lost after her first wls and that she has maintained a 100 pound weight loss for 14 years — even after two kids. Good for her!

Antonia also told me more about her organization. They are indeed grass roots and have funded 11 surgeries so far with two more scheduled to be funded in April. She then said that they are 100% volunteer driven with no paid staff. I work for a nonprofit organization and serve on the Board of Directors of two others. Accomplishing all they’ve done on a totally volunteer basis is impressive indeed. Thanks for the additional info, Antonia!

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Why Slow Is Great

I’m back from my fun-filled road trip. It was a long day, with the long drive and all, but fun too. I’m tired but I just had this great realization. I’m afraid that I’ll lose it out of my brain if I wait to write this post tomorrow.

I posed my sea lion picture so some family and friends could see it. A cousin that lives across the country sent me this wonderful email of congratulations and love and also some of the things he realizes. He talked about being inspired to witness my “slow and steady commitment in a world where immediacy is pitched, pawned and prevalent”.

I’ve read his email a few times and just now, when finally having a chance to respond, I had a big “aha” moment. I need to stop whining and bitching complaining about how long it’s taking me to lose these remaining 30-40 pounds.

These months have been incredibly important, I would even call them vital, to my overall recovery. They are giving me the time I need to really learn how to consistently live a life in recovery from my eating disorder. Because I continue with this effort day after day; because my journey hits speed bumps sometimes; I am fully integrating the techniques, the mindset, the tools that I need in order to sustain the weight loss and overall healthy lifestyle.

What if I’d lost all 200 plus pounds non-stop without ever hitting a slow down? I don’t know if I would have developed the new habit of consistently exercising. The commitment to creating a physically fit body might not have grown. It could have been one of those temporary efforts like I’ve made so many times in the past. Instead it feels real. It feels part of me.

Same thing with gradually learning to make healthier food choices — not just in the small stomach restriction of quantity and volume, but the slow experimentation with different foods, with different ways of cooking, with embracing healthy meals.

Tonight’s realization is so amazingly healthy for me. I love it. For the first time, I am free of resenting the plateau and the slow weight loss. Each day is a day of progress. Each day makes me stronger. I am so grateful!

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Life Reboot

A brilliant friend of mine did a continuing ed course for us at work yesterday. In it she told the story of what she does if something about her computer doesn’t work. Whether it’s a software, hardware, internet connection problem or whatever, the first thing she does is reboot her system. Have you tried that? It’s amazing how often it works.

That happens with my smart phone, too. Things slow down, response crawls. An app stalls. I turn off the phone completely for a minute, turn it back on and the problem frequently resolves.

So, the thought of rebooting has been on my mind.

Also on my mind was a dream I experienced last night. Someone I know in town with whom I’ve previously had a conversation about weight loss surgery appeared in my dream as a contestant on the Biggest Loser. I ran into him at a local restaurant with two of the trainers from the show and he told them about my surgery and progress. They invited me to sit down and we chatted some more. They asked me if I could give one piece of advice for anybody losing weight, what would it be. In my dream I said, “Whether someone takes off the weight after bariatric surgery or through the extreme workouts and eating restrictions on your show, everybody has to understand that this isn’t a “sometime thing” and problem solved. Long term success requires a complete life reboot.”

See how everything tied together in my brain?

I know I’ve talked about this before but it’s coming up for me again and it feels like I have a slightly different perspective. This usually means that it requires me to focus on it and reinforce it in my brain. I have said all along that the weight loss surgery is only a tool and the rest of the work is what really matters. Today after both the course and the dream, I need to revise or refine that idea. Actually, now that I’m pondering this in the writing process, I have something to own.

The weight loss surgery is a tool and it is not the reason for my success thus far. I’m the reason for my success. The diminished stomach capacity has provided incredible help by providing physical control that I was never able to adhere to before. I could always eat and eat and eat until the vertical sleeve gastrectomy changed all that. However, I’m the one who decided to have the surgery. I’m the one that makes the good choices about food. I’m the one who has committed to exercise and physical fitness. I’m the one who hit Alt + Ctl + Del on my old ways.

As egotistical as that makes me sound, I think it’s important for me to claim it. Own it and celebrate it, too. One day at a time, often one meal at a time, I have taken back my life from the eating disorder and all of my messed up ways of using massive amounts of food. Sometimes it’s good to step back from the one day at a time lessons in the 12 Step programs and gaze at the big picture. The global perspective then helps me put the individual choices into action.

In my dream I talked about success not being about the single meal or the day’s workout. It calls for us to reshape our lives and changing our entire lifestyle. This journey is not an accelerated, high intensity boot camp. It truly is a life reboot.

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It Isn’t a Diet. It’s My Life.

Yesterdays comments by Skye and June resonate a lot with me. Skye talks about needing to change her thinking. I know changing the way I think about myself, about my body, about my choices and, most of all, about my physical activity, has really made a difference. Unfortunately, I’m also well aware that I am not guaranteed that these changes are forever.

I could change back. The disease is that insidious. A little laziness for a couple of days and some, “I’ll make it up tomorrow” thinking could start my slide down the slippery slope of not keeping up with my fitness routines.

I absolutely already know that I’ve given myself permission to eat off of my plan too frequently lately. It’s okay once in awhile but the danger lies in grouping those once-in-awhiles so closely together that they are no longer “in a while” but every day. Like Skye, I need to again change my thinking. In this case I need to change my thinking back to where I was right after the surgery.

June, I hear you on the boredom and the just being tired of thinking about it all of the time. Oh sweet goodness do I know how that feels. Sometimes I am sick to death of thinking about calories and carbs, what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat of what I should eat. Ayyyyieeeeee! Honestly, I don’t know how to keep it fresh and interesting. I wish I could say that there’s a magic technique but if there is, I haven’t learned it yet.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter how bored, fed up, tired or frustrated I am with the program. Regardless of the feelings, I just need to stay with the program anyway. I need to fight my own thinking when my thought patterns tell me I’m doing fine but my progress doesn’t reflect that in reality.

I watched a little more about the Super Dieters and read some other articles and commentary. The real thing that I not only need to mouth but need to grasp and hold on to — tightly with both hands — is that this isn’t really a program. What I’m doing isn’t a diet. It’s my new lifestyle. It’s my life.

It’s my life. Embracing this in my heart, mind, and body, is the key to continuing in a life of recovery versus a life of diseased eating. Understanding and living like this is my life equals acceptance.

Acceptance is always the answer. It’s right there in the Serenity Prayer — grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I can’t change the fact that I have an eating disorder. The disease is chronic. Given the opportunity, it will always mess me up. When I make bad choices with food, I’m living in disease. I can, however, manifest the courage to change what I can. Just because I have the disease doesn’t mean that I can’t be stronger than it and continue to make the good choices.

I need to accept that I’m not going to reach goal weight and be done. The clock doesn’t run out. A buzzer doesn’t sound. Nobody declares game over. Goal weight is not the end of the journey. It’s the next important, big time milestone. Goal weight means that I then transition from the “losing” part of the journey to the “maintenance” phase. That phase is forever. Just like right now, losing weight is my life. Later on, maintaining my healthy weight and physical fitness regime will be my life.

So, these are good things for me to work on: Changing my thinking again and accepting that this is life. As I typed that, I had a flash of inspiration with a shift. When I start being ever loving tired of this routine and start complaining about this being my life, I need to affectionately give myself a mental head slap and say, “Hey. This is your life! This wonderful, more physically fit, able to move, able to breathe existence with all of the happiness and joy is your life!! Celebrate. You are one, lucky woman!”

You know what. I really am one lucky woman. I’m going to celebrate that with some exercise because I can! Today was supposed to be a weight training day. Instead, when I woke up I opted for the cardio walk DVD and told myself that I would do the weight training this evening. Then I got home, saw that I was over 10,000 steps already and sort of got more involved in chatting on the phone with various people and doing other things. Not doing my strength training is a poor choice. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have physically been able to do this routine, simple as it might be. I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to stay on track because, hey, this is my life!

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Portion Out-of-Control

Recently, I stayed overnight at a nice hotel and the stay included a voucher for breakfast. When I went in, the hostess informed me that they weren’t doing the buffet that day but I could order anything from the menu except steak and eggs. No worries. For me, steak is lunch or dinner anyway.

I looked at the menu. Three egg omelet? Not unless I’m sharing with someone else. I wanted an egg, maybe a couple of sausage links and some fruit. To order that a la carte totaled more than three bucks more than if I ordered the two egg plate. Yes, I know I was there on a voucher but I figured that if I ordered sausage links and fruit a la carte, due to the price I could expect more than I could eat, right?

The “complete” meal offered two eggs, bacon or sausage, and then a choice of either breakfast potato or cut fruit and toast. I asked for scrambled eggs, sausage, and the cut fruit/toast option. Here’s what was served to me:

breakfast

Just look at that pile of food! So much for the either/or, and the smaller portions, they served me everything and then some.

If those equated two scrambled eggs, the chickens must have laid ostrich-sized varieties. I think the potato portion easily equaled an entire spud. There were four sausage links, a sizeable bowl of fruit and two slices of toast. I could only surmise that if the restaurant feels this was a one-person portion size, they must be accustomed to feeding pro football players.

I picked at what I wanted, skipping the potatoes entirely. When I was done, I’d still eaten less than half of the eggs, a single sausage link, less than a slice of toast and a couple of cubes of fruit. This caused concern in the hostess and waitress. “Is everything okay with your meal, ma’am,” each of them asked, separately of one another. I assured them that it was but just that there had been a lot of food.

Sort of got the feeling that not too many guests thought they were served too much. Make that pro football players, super heavyweight weight lifters and, perhaps, Sumo wrestlers. The waitress came over a second time, and actually said, “But you ate nothing!” Honestly, friends, the amount of food that remained on my plate would have easily satisfied a full grown man. A really hungry, full grown man.

I’m a little horrified that before my bariatric surgery I might have chowed down, plowed through, and eaten almost everything, regardless of the gargantuan amounts.

It was just more evidence that the eating habits in this country are out of control, including our “normal” portion sizes. If we grow up thinking that this much food is okay, not to mention necessary, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing an increase of obesity in all ages of our population, including kids. Clearly for most of my life my eyes were always bigger than my stomach and I forced my stomach to keep up. Now that I’ve had the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, my stomach’s in charge and leading the way to retraining my eyes. For example, the other night when my friend and I had dinner, instead of going out to a restaurant, we went to Whole Foods and selected what we wanted from their hot food and salad bars. Instead of loading up my containers, I took a slice of turkey, a dab of mashed sweet potatoes, and a half spoonful of the shredded Brussels sprouts. I had all that I needed nutritionally and stayed well within my food plan guidelines.

I controlled my portions instead of letting them get out-of-control.

Yesterday, a friend and I went to a lovely tea house for a traditional “tea” meal. I have to say that this was a superior treat since both of us love drinking tea and also love the whole ceremony of a high tea. This place also had the perfect approach, probably without realizing it, for someone like me who has a surgically altered stomach. It was a multiple course meal, beginning with a plate of tea sandwiches, followed by a scone. A plate of dessert bites came next and the final item was either a sorbet or a gelato. They also had about 100 different teas from which to choose and I had my own pot of a lovely blend.

No lie, that was still a lot of food, but here was the beauty of it. Every individual item was a very small bite. I got to taste everything that I liked without overeating. Perfect! I also handed off things I know I don’t like — such as the cucumber sandwich, stuffed mushroom, and apricot tart — to my friend. All of the tea that I drank also filled my stomach, so I thankfully couldn’t finish the dessert plate. No worries. Whatever we didn’t want to eat then, the waitress offered to box up for us to take home. This meant that late last night, I had a small cookie and a tiny lemon bar as a treat.

The tea house itself was beautiful and decorated for the holidays, including this cool upside down tree.

upsidedowntree

I wish more and more places would offer “small bite”, or even tapas sections on their menus. If I ever had a restaurant, that’s what I would do. I bet it would be popular with not only the weight loss surgery crowd but also with other people striving to practice better portion control.

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The Disease Never Goes Away

I had a bad disease day. Lots of compulsive eating, despite the fact that I’d psyched myself up to have a really great day. It’s not good to blame anything for going off of the rails, but I may as well as share about how a good start in the morning suddenly turned sucky.

I got up early — around 6 a.m. and decided to take advantage of the early start by doing a quick segment of my in-home walking DVD. I did the 15 minute one mile walk, which energized me. By doing so, I figured out that my Fitbit doesn’t log every single step. I think you have to have full forward motion. I don’t believe it caught the kicks. However, that doesn’t matter so much. The point was to exercise.

Okay, so I exercised, showered, got dressed, fed the dogs, and got out the ingredients for a pumpkin smoothie. I put all of the ingredients in the blender, hit the button and — Holy crapola! — ice came flying out the top, the machine made a horrible noise and then it stopped working.

Blenders don’t behave well when you leave the spoon in the container. Dopey move! I salvaged the mixture and poured it into my glass for sipping. I’d left a grill pan soaking overnight in the sink by accident, so I wanted to clean it up. All was fine until I put the pan up to drain and knocked a glass vase into the sink where it promptly shattered. I felt a piece of glass fly into my eye and froze in place, telling myself, “Don’t blink! Don’t blink! Don’t blink!”

I couldn’t feel anything touching my eyeball but I didn’t want to take any chances. Still forcing myself to keep my lid open, I ran to my bathroom, very carefully removed my contact lens, grabbed the eye wash and rinsed out the eye. I think that the piece of glass must have bounced from my eye as soon as it hit, because nothing came out when I rinsed. I gingerly felt around and was mighty darned relieved to realize that everything was okay.

For some reason, this all just through me off. I returned to the kitchen, drank my smoothie, managed to fix the blender, and then took the dogs for a walk. Although relieved, I was still tense and this stayed with me.

Honestly, writing this recap, it feels a lot like I’m whining. Sorry.

Anyway, I was doing okay at work food wise through the morning. I walked past a huge bowl of leftover Halloween candy and told myself “No”. I savored tea, drank water and even made it through my yogurt for lunch. Then someone brought out a plate of homemade truffles. That quickly, the compulsive eating disease stampeded right over my good intentions and determination. I had to have one, and then another.

This not only didn’t satisfy the chocolate craving, but it kicked up an overall desire to eat and continue eating. Unfortunately, someone had already put out a platter of veggie lasagna. Seriously, when I’m in disease-eating mode, the only safe place for me is a locked room without any food within reach. I am so incredibly resentful and pissed off right now. I. Hate. Being. A. Compulsive. Eater.

Saying that is akin to a child crying. Hating the disease doesn’t change one damned thing. I need to suck it up and move on, rebuilding my determination to be abstinent for the rest of tonight and start fresh again tomorrow. I get it.

So I really want other compulsive eaters, or others who are contemplating weight loss surgery, to remember this. Having bariatric surgery does not cure you of an eating disorder. It’s really important to realize that there comes a time when even small, inappropriate bites can throw you off track. The disease never goes away. Each of us still needs to deal with the compulsion every day.

I can’t reshape today. I can only do better tomorrow. That’s the plan.

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Lapping the Couch

That post name reads funny, doesn’t it? I don’t mean I’m sitting here licking my sofa. The name was inspired by a captioned photo I saw on a friend’s Facebook page today. The picture was of an obese man jogging. Even in a still image, you could tell he was sort of shuffling along. The caption read: It doesn’t matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping the person on the couch.

I think that’s a wonderful reminder for anybody who is out of shape and overweight but who wants to change. If you’re like I was before surgery, when walking more than a few blocks made me gasp, longer walks made me hurt, and I had to use the stair railing to help myself get up steps, it can be incredibly daunting to take even the first small steps toward exercise.

After my surgery, I didn’t have much energy. Because of the operation, I tired easily. However, the medical staff told me to get up and walk every day. Actually, I was up and walking with company down the hall of the hospital a couple of hours after I was in the room from recovery. That must have been quite the sight as I wheeled my IV pole along with me. At least it was a bariatric specialty floor so the hospital gown really did go all around my body to keep me from flashing anyone. Maybe I didn’t walk far the first couple of trips that day, but I walked. Each time, I walked a little further.

Same thing when I got home. Although I rested and recuperated a lot, I made sure to also walk a couple of times a day, each time going a little further.

As my body recovered and the weight dropped off, my strength, endurance and overall ability increased. You know the rest. Now I can do long bike rides or walks, an hour of Zumba, Tai Chi and pretty much anything else I want to try. It happens — but it all starts with the first few steps.

It doesn’t matter how fast you move as long as you move. Every step and moment of motion is an improvement over the minutes that we spend flopped in our chairs or on our couches. I find this enormously encouraging and motivating.

Sometimes the mental blocks are as hard, or harder, to overcome than the physical challenge. Every once in a while, my lazy brain wants to kick in again and give me reasons why I don’t have to exercise, why it would be too difficult or even why it’s okay to skip it. This morning, for example, the wind was blowing pretty hard. I knew that no matter what direction I went, at some point I’d have to pedal against a 15-20 mph wind. I could have stayed home but I’d committed to getting in a longer ride today. I decided to suck it up and go.

I rode east, into the wind when starting out, thinking it was better to do the harder part when my legs were their freshest. The first two miles were difficult, but I pumped along and got to the beach road where I turned south. That was an easier direction for the next two miles and a very pretty path with glimpses of sparkling water and a lovely sunshine but cooler temperatures. I reached the beach, stopped for a good guzzle of water, and then turned around. Whew boy, did the challenge ever begin as I headed right into the northeast wind!

Usually, I ride on the toughest gear, figuring that gives my legs the best workout. I have to admit that with the wind in my face, I needed to turn down a couple of notches so that I could maintain a decent pace. As I pumped and pedaled, wheeling along the beach rode, I realized that I was smiling. Sure, I’m never going to reach the speeds of the Tour de France, but it doesn’t matter. At least I’m pedaling on a regular basis.

The first weekend that I got the bike, I ran into some long distance bikers on my way home from my first ride. We chatted for a few minutes and I shared that I was only just starting out riding a bike after many years and I hoped it would aid me in my overall weight loss efforts.

The man told me that if I kept at it, I would succeed. He also said that the speed didn’t matter as much as the duration of my rides. After seeing the picture online today, I’m taking what he said to heart. Regardless of how fast, or how slow, I go, I’m still accomplishing more than I would by doing nothing.

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