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Squashing Hope and Pride

If you don’t want to read a rant, you might want to move off to another blog.

I joined a Facebook group of people who are also following the Always Hungry? plan.  Today someone posted about a recent visit to her doctor.  She’s worked hard to follow the plan and has lost 11 pounds.  Emotionally, she was feeling good and strong about sticking to the plan and seeing weight loss.  She had to go to her doctor about a knee problem.  While he praised her for the weight loss, before the end of the appointment he also said that she might have to consider weight loss surgery to stop the progression of her body breaking down.

You could read in her post how his words deflated her spirit.  When I read it, all I could think was, “Damn him. There were other ways that he could have handled this situation.”  He could have encouraged her to keep on going with her weight loss efforts and pointed out that every pound lost reduces the stress and pressure on joints.  Nope.  Instead of positively reinforcing her efforts and building her up for continued success, he tore her down.  In his mind he was probably doing due diligence, just being honest and fulfilling his responsibility to his patient.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t realize the negative, hurtful, upsetting message he delivered.

I also don’t know if he gets that telling someone they may need to have weight loss surgery isn’t necessarily an effective message that will achieve the desired results.  Based on my own experience, I emphatically do not believe that anyone should have such a drastic, life-altering surgery unless it is 100% their choice to do so.  This is all my own opinion, of course, but I’m putting it out there.  If they are not completely committed to researching all options, to delving deep into their own heads and hearts, to redefining their relationship with food and eating and change their behaviors, it is the wrong choice.  They may enjoy success at the outset, but ultimately, there is too high a chance that they will ultimately fail.

I had a similar experience to this other woman.  In 2007, I had a significant gall bladder issue, namely a gall stone the size of a large olive was stuck in a duct.  I was in the last week of managing three weeks of filming for a tv series.  All around me, co-workers were suffering stomach virus symptoms and I was positive that’s what I was fighting off.  The symptoms of stomach upset, would come and go in waves.  Finally, when the shoot was over, I conceded that I should get to the doctor.  Maybe I needed a pill or something, right?  The night before my appointment, I was in constant discomfort, felt like if I could only start throwing up I’d be better.  I also felt like I was running a fever.

By the time I got to the doctor, I was absolutely miserable.  I stretched out on his exam table, hurting.  Even before he listened to my symptoms and did an exam he said, “I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that you need to have weight loss surgery.”

I was shocked.  Not that he thought this because, well, he was a surgeon with a morbidly obese patient in front of him, but because, hello!, that patient was lying on his table in pain.  Bad timing.  Because I was in pain I couldn’t even come up with a great answer.  I sort of mumbled, “I know, I know, but could we focus on the problem I’m here for right now?”

It only took him about :30 seconds to diagnose the problem and schedule me for a couple of tests the next morning to confirm his diagnosis.  By the middle of the next day I’d already had my gall bladder removed, come out of the anesthesia, and was in a room for the night.  I was discharged the next day but not before hearing again about my urgent need for weight loss surgery.   I never went back to that doctor again.

Here’s the thing, right or wrong, I wasn’t ready.  I wasn’t in denial.  I knew, pretty much every single moment of every waking day, that I was super obese, but I also knew in my heart that I was not in the state of mind, state of emotions to commit to all of the changes that weight loss surgery would mean.

I struggled for the next four years.  I resisted.  I gave up on myself.  I went up and down emotionally and in my spirit.  When I had that defining, line in the sand moment and the big realization that I did not want to give up on myself, that I didn’t want to be dead or disabled by the time I was 60, I was ready to make the choice.  Because I was ready to make the choice, I was ready to commit 100%.

You know the success I’ve had and the struggle. Overall, I am more successful than not.  Just because I’m not yet all the way where I want to be does not invalidate my progress and the level of success I’ve achieved and, more importantly, maintained.

I wish the woman’s doctor was more aware of his words and their effect.  I wish he’d handled the situation differently.  I hope with all my heart that the woman is able to take support from the me and the other posters who commented back to her and not get so depressed and discouraged that she stops trying.  I also hope that she doesn’t allow herself to be pressured into a surgery that she isn’t ready for.  If she comes to the decision on her own, that will be a big difference.

As long as I’m ranting, I’ll share something else that happened this week on that same group.  It’s a very active group so I can’t possibly go back and find my exact post, but I had shared how good I felt not experiencing cravings and that I was really enjoying freedom from compulsive eating behavior.  The doctor who devised the plan and wrote the book left a comment on my post.  The gist of it, or at least the gist that I read and reacted to, was that people buy into the idea that there is a psychological reason for overeating when it’s really just necessary to eat the right combination of good foods.

I read that and it felt like he was invalidating eating disorders; like he was saying it’s all in my head.   I respectfully disagreed in my response and explained that I’ve lived with this for decades and recovery is not just about eating the right combo of foods.  I’m not denying that following this plan has improved my physical satiety and that helps to reduce physical cravings, but the compulsive behavior is more than hunger or cravings.  Heck, I don’t even need to be hungry, in fact, I could be stuffed to the gills, and still reach for food compulsively if I have something else going on and brewing inside my head and/or emotions.

Right now, the food plan that I am following is an extremely useful and effective tool.  If the percentages of fat, protein and carbs work to reduce the physical cravings, great.  That can go right along with the surgically altered stomach forcing me to cut down on  portions.  If I’m in a bad place and binge eating, there is only so much room in my stomach to overeat before it will hurt and come up again.  Stomach… food plan… both tools.

I honestly don’t think that the doctor intended to invalidate my experience as someone with an eating disorder.  He responded back to me and another poster who also disagreed with him in the comments.  His followup comment clarified his position a little more clearly and I felt better afterwards.  I don’t really need him to validate my experience; I’m just touchy when I perceive that someone thinks that food disorders aren’t every bit as much of a real disease as any other addictive disorder.

Okay, my rants are over for the day.  Thanks for sticking with me.

 

 

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Good Nutrition is Confusing

I’m still doing a good job staying on track.  I lost a few pounds, which provides good positive reinforcement.  I’m sticking to my work out/exercise commitment.  My brain is operating rationally which is always a plus with my eating disorder and food issues.    I continue to reach out for support, which just overall helps the effort.

All of this has been particularly helpful while coping with Pyxi’s illness. That I’m able to be stressed and upset but still effectively manage her health care and treatment and NOT over eat or go off my plan is somewhat of a miracle.

Quick Pyxi update:  We’ve seen some improvement.  The anti-nausea medication really helped.  She’s kept down all of her food since having the shot on Tuesday.  Therefore, she’s also getting the anti-acid pills and the ammonia-binder.  In general, I think these all help her feel better so her demeanor is brighter and more engaged with a litle more energy.  The other vet that did acupuncture showed me some points that I can rub on her paws to further help keep nausea down and I do a little energy work on her kidney area.  Plus, we started Pyxi on some Chinese herbs for overall kidney support.  Paws crossed that my girl continues on an upward trend.

Okay, back to the post.  In keeping with my determination to live a healthy lifestyle and do whatever I can to support myself, I went to a presentation at the local hospital today, lead by their dietitian.  (The hospital where I had my weight loss surgery and all of the associated support teams are more than two hours away from where I live.)

The presentation was excellent.  As much as I’ve educated myself about food, eating, calories, weight loss, nutrition, etc., there are, apparently huge gaps in my knowledge.

Good nutrition can be confusing.  I think it can be even more so when one is a bariatric surgery veteran.  I’ve been targeting 1200 calories a day, high protein/low carb.  I obsess over whether that’s too many or too few calories.   I rarely allow myself to eat bread, potatoes, rice or pasta.  I occasionally add some homemade whole rolled oat/low fat/low sugar granola on my 0% fat yogurt.  I worry about whether I’m eating too much fruit.

I think now that maybe I eat nuts and seeds too often as snacks.

Arggghhh.

In the presentation, the dietitian talked about the food plate.  Remember the old food pyramid and then the food steps – both of which were to illustrate what we should eat in each food group?  The food plate is the newest (circa 2010) version.  The young woman, who was very knowledgeable and interesting, also did a chart showing how much of each food group should be included each day depending on the total calorie goal – 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000, 2400.

Note – there was no column for 1200 calories.

The next thing I noticed was when she said that the accepted dietary guidelines suggest no fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrates a day.  The food plate shows a whole section for grains.  5 ounces of grains in a 1600 calorie per day plan.  Yes, grains — like bread, pasta, and rice — i.e., the stuff that my surgeon considered worse than poison.  You know that worry about eating too much fruit?  According to her, even if I only bumped up to 1400 calories a day, I could still have 1.5 cups of fruit a day.

Her guidelines showed 4 ounces of meat (poultry, fish, beef, lamb, pork) and beans per day.  That seemed drastically low to me with my high protein mindset.  She also listed two cups of milk/dairy.  So, I went online to look up number of protein grams in 4 ounces of chicken and two cups of dairy plus a quarter cup of chickpeas (that could go toward veggies).  I saw that it would come in at about 57 grams of protein.  So, is that high enough?  If it is, then I need to add more dairy to my daily meal plan.

Don’t get me started right now on balancing out my fats.  Oh, except that with all the talk about coconut oil being so much better for us, I was surprised to find out that it’s considered a saturated fat.  However, the dietitian is doing more research on that because she’s heard that the way that it’s processed may affect its designation.

I really need to put a halt to my confusion and get more facts about what is right for me.  To some extent, I feel like I’m shooting in the dark while wearing a blindfold.  I sort of know a lot but not enough to know if I’m really doing what’s best for me.  I spoke with the dietitian for a few minutes after the presentation.  While she has not worked with a lot of bariatric surgery patients, she has worked with some and she has access to solid information.  I’m going to schedule a one-on-one consultation with her.

Knowledge is power and I am determined to keep powering through with my weight loss and healthy living.

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Sourcing Support

I’m pretty sure that back in the early days of this blog and the beginning of my post-weight loss surgery journey I talked about things I did before the surgery.  Among them was discovering a website community called ObesityHelp.com.  I found the site soon after I decided to seriously consider having surgery, which would have been roughly six months before the actual operation.

The site was an unbelievable resource for me.  It is filled with forums where people of all backgrounds, challenges, journeys and so on share their stories.  There are forums for folks who are having or who have had weight loss surgery – broken out even by the type of surgery.  When I started my research, I’d never heard of the type of surgery I eventually had – a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG).  Once I found out about VSG, I then started looking deeper into that procedure.  I think that’s what led me to ObesityHelp.com.

Oh, thank goodness!  For months, this was a place where I could read about other people and their journeys.  I could ask questions and benefit from the experience of others.  It was amazing.  The people were enthusiastic, generous with their stories, oh so encouraging.  I went there every night and, if I got scared or anxious or confused, I’d even pop on during the day.  Since I live in a place where in-person support groups are not available, online became a lifeline.

When good friends approached me and said they were considering weight loss surgery, I recommended that they also check out the website in addition to the other research they were doing.  I still do.

So, I don’t remember when or why I stopped frequenting the website and participating in the forums.

Yesterday was a particularly bad food day for me.  There is no rhyme nor reason for it, other than my eating disorder taking over my actions.  Even as I snacked and ate crap that wasn’t on my food plan I felt mad, sad, discouraged and depressed about it.  The emotions then fueled me eating more.  But a big bold mark in the Suckitude column.

I don’t know why I thought to do it, but at some point I walked over to the computer and logged in to ObesityHelp.com.  I cruised the forums and posted a note about what I’ve been experiencing and how I’m not sure what at this stage of the game I should be following as a food plan, how many calories, what ratio of protein to carbs, etc.  I asked for suggestions.

Today I went back on and there were several replies, all with good suggestions and, as important, encouraging words.  I visited more forums on the site and found someone who asked if anyone else post-wls still deals with binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating.  So, here was another place to touch base, to share, and to read the sharing of others.  Then I found a group for people fighting back from regaining some of their weight.

All of this information.  All of this support.  It’s still all right there, where it was before.  My needs have changed and the site is still a wonderful resource. Even the strongest, most knowledgeable of us can benefit from the knowledge and experience of others.

I’m feeling very grateful right now that I went back to the site.   I plan to keep going back.  I was feeling pretty isolated and alone in my struggle.  I don’t feel so alone anymore.

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Thinking Back

One of our fellow blog readers is having weight loss surgery tomorrow.  She posted about it in comments here on my Things I Can Do Better post a few posts back, so I’m not speaking out of turn or blowing her anonymity.  ForestJane, I wish I’d gotten your email address!  If you happen to read this tonight before your surgery, please know that I’m thinking of you and sending you giant-sized good vibes and positive energy.  Please, when you can, check in and let us know that all went well, okay?

Three years ago at this time, I was a little shy of four weeks pre-surgery.  I had two weeks to go before starting the two week, full liquid diet before the surgery.  Many, in fact I think most, bariatric surgeons require this regimen of their patients.  Going full liquid helps to shrink the size of our livers which are somewhat inflated by our lousy eating habits.  If I understood it correctly, a smaller liver is easier to maneuver out of the way when the doctor’s in there working on reducing the size of the stomach.

Starting that regimen is a big step.  For me it was a strong show of my commitment to move forward and it also signaled my unofficial countdown to the day that would ultimately change not only my stomach, but also my life forever.  Those two weeks were interesting, scary, exhilarating, and challenging all at the same time.  Scary because I was so afraid that I’d screw up, let my eating disorder get the best of me, and go binge on chocolate cupcakes or something else, thus f*&%ing up my master plan.  Exhilarating because as each day passed with my successful adherence to the guidelines, weight dropped off.  I think I lost nearly 20 pounds in two weeks which made me feel great.  I was on my way!  Challenging because, hey, when you usually eat whatever, whenever, and how much, suddenly restricting to protein shakes and cream soups isn’t easy.  I have to admit that the fear was a great gut check.  I so badly wanted to do the surgery that if I even thought for a milisecond about sneaking a teeny piece of  chocolate, the fear said, “No!  You’ll ruin everything!!!”

Interesting were the reactions that I received from a couple of friends and co-workers.   From the time that I’d begun to share my decision to have wls with them, they were supportive.  Team Mary all of the way, they declared, and they helped me accommodate everything it took with all of the required tests, examinations, follow up doctor appointments and other practical matters.  They willingly talked to me about the journey whenever and however I needed.

What I didn’t know was that some of them were stifling fear for me.  Although they very much wanted me to lose weight and get healthy, they were also frightened that I would not survive the surgery.

I have to say that, although I know that every surgery carries risk, it never once occurred to me while I planned this that I could die on the operating table or die from complications after.  I should say it never once occurred to me until the day that I happily proclaimed to a co-worker that I’d already lost 15 pounds on the liquids and she reacted by crying and asking me why I couldn’t just continue to do this until I lost all of the weight.   She was so afraid for me, she exclaimed.

The intensity of her fear stunned me in that instant.  I had no idea.  If memory serves, I sat their slack-jawed for a moment and then answered her with the truth from my heart.  “If I could lose the weight I need to lose without having the surgery, I would have done it before now,” I answered.  “I’ve tried and always failed.  This is my last chance.”

Flash forward, of course, to the happy ending.  I survived the surgery and ever since.  When I came back to work I found out in a roundabout way that the fear expressed to me that day had been shared and discussed by others.  I have to say they did a great job of concealing it from me.  I’m glad because it only would have resulted in me feeling really horrible that I was the source of such anxiety.

Thinking back to where I was three years ago right now, I’m so happy that I focused on my hope and determination and did not let fear – my own or others’ – rule the day.

Today, as a reminder to myself, to Jane, to all of you who are going after what you need and want, and to all of you who might need a little boost in that direction, I’d like to share a little inspirational photo and message:

Sky limit

(Photo borrowed from Dolphin Research Center’s Facebook page.  Click here to check it out.

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Home From the Holidays

I arrived back home in the Florida Keys about an hour ago at 8 p.m. after a full day of travel from Pennsylvania which was prefaced by a crappy night’s sleep.  Although that trip was smooth with no delays, I am exhausted.  For the life of me, I do not know how I handled traveling when I was 386 pounds.  The sheer effort of slogging between parking garages, terminals and concourses is enough to make anyone want to collapse for a nap on their luggage or, better yet, crib a ride on one of those rented luggage carts.

Complaining aside, I loved spending time with my family and friends.  I always try to drive around and see as many people as possible, yet even with my best effort and planning, I never managed to see everyone.

My weird ailment on Friday eased up on Saturday in that I no longer needed to throw up every few hours.  I continue to have some lingering discomfort in other, shall we say “tuneful”, ways but I’m sure that too will pass.  (Hah, what a horrible, unintended pun. *snicker*)  I don’t have much appetite, which is not a bad thing as, prior to my illness, I was eating too much of too many things that I don’t normally consume — or at least don’t normally consume in meals so close together.  This eating pattern very likely contributed to the gastric issues.

This leads me to looking ahead.  As you all know, because I keep talking about it, I’m recommitting to my recovery plan.  For the longest time, I’ve been thinking about this in terms of finally, finally, finally, losing the remaining pounds that I want to shed.  The third year anniversary of my weight loss surgery is approaching.  While I cannot lose the weight by that date, I truly am determined.

However, in recent days, my approach to achieving the ultimate goal has shifted.  That is because the ultimate goal itself has changed.  I owe it all to Anne Lamott.  If you have not seen this post, about what she refers to as the Anti-Diet, I urge you to read it.  It provided an “aha” moment, the likes of which I have not experienced in quite some time.  If you aren’t on Facebook, don’t worry.  She must have her profile set to public.  You can read it without signing in to FB.

So many things she says in her post hugged my heart.  This anti-diet idea is about treating ourselves with love, gentle acceptance, more love, and self-care. It’s about doing for ourselves what we would do for others; preparing and serving ourselves food in meals that we would offer an honored, loved guest.  It’s also about not letting our clothes and how we fit in them define our self-esteem.

If you were coming to my house for dinner, I would not feed you unhealthy crap.  I would take the time to select fine quality, fresh ingredients and cook you a delicious, balanced, nutritious meal that you would, hopefully, love.

Sitting across from you at the table, I would eat the same tasty, healthy meal, savoring each bite instead of mindlessly shoveling it into my mouth.

Food is not love.  Eating nutritious, balanced meals in a healthy manner is, however, a way to practice good self-care, to treat myself with love, respect, honor and kindness.   By keeping this in mind with my food choices, I will support my recovery in a number of ways.  With the commitment to my physical exercise for health and good eating, I know that, ultimately, weight will come off.  However, the bar for health will be in the way that I treat myself, not the numbers on the scale or the way my clothes fit.

Before I left the mainland on the drive home this afternoon, I stopped at a well-known produce stand.  I bought fresh fruits and veggies that delighted me with their quality and bright colors.  Kale, romaine, green beans, spaghetti squash, pineapple, Florida strawberries and a mamey sapote.  In deference to my slightly shaky system, I augmented this freshness with some soups from the supermarket.  The intention is to eat lighter than usual over the next several days to see how my body reacts.

Most of all, now that I’m once more home from the holidays, I’m going to commit to not dieting, but to nourishing myself – body, heart and soul.

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About Compulsion

com·pul·sion
kəmˈpəlSHən/
noun
 1.
  1. the action or state of forcing or being forced to do something; constraint.
    “the payment was made under compulsion
    synonyms: obligation, constraint, coercion, duress, pressure, intimidation

    “he is under no compulsion to go”
  2. 2.
    an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.
    “he felt a compulsion to babble on about what had happened”
    synonyms: urge, impulse, need, desire, drive; More

     

    Since I deal (or not sometimes) with compulsive eating behavior as part of my binge-eating disorder, I thought it might be a good topic to discuss.  I know how the behavior manifests, but figured it would be good to see how compulsion is actually defined and then assess how it resonates to me.

    So, definition number one doesn’t match.  Nobody forces me to overeat, eat when I’m not hungry, eat and keep eating, etc.

    Definition number two?  Yes, that’s the one. If there’s a way to highlight words in WordPress, I can’t figure it out, but if I could, I owuld highlight “irresistible” and “against one’s conscious wishes”.  Yes, I really do feel sometimes as if the urge to eat is irresistible, even unstoppable, and it occurs regardless of my conscious desire to stay on my plan.

    Compulsion is a horrible feeling.  Imagine if you couldn’t control your hand and had to watch while it picked up a kitchen knife and stabbed you in your own thigh.  Yes, that’s a really dramatic image, but it serves a point.  When compulsion overcomes my conscious wish and give in to the irresistible urge to eat, I hurt myself — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

    I wish the weight loss surgery had also removed the compulsion, but it didn’t, so I still struggle with it every day.  However, the surgery set me on the road to a good long period of recovery and weight loss.  I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been, so while I have my off periods, I believe in myself.  I’m definitely not going to gain back my weight.  Ultimately, I have come to believe that with the help of a Higher Power, a program, and all of the tools at ready, I am stronger than the compulsion.

    One of the big tools is to set myself up for success instead of creating situations where failure is more likely.  For example, being in the vicinity of bags of candy for Halloween — that’s a big time, doomed-to-fail scenario.  I am absolutely capable of compulsively eating piece, after piece, after mini-piece of candy until I’m sick to my stomach.  Setting myself up for success means not buying the bags and having them in the house.

    You see, once I start, it honestly does feel sometimes like I can’t stop myself.   The time to bring all of the weapons forward to beat back the compulsion is before I take the first piece.  The call to action needs to happen while I still have conscious thought — and when I’m still conscious and aware that the compulsion is bubbling up.

    I’d like to substitute healthier, more positive behaviors for the destructive compulsive ones.  That’s been an ongoing effort.  Exercising consistently.  Practicing good, positive thinking.  Reshaping those old truths.  Exploring the flavors of healthy food and experimenting with new-to-me foods and cooking techniques.  These are all positives.  They take practice.  Continual practice.

    Also on the positive side is recognizing that I have an addictive personality.  If it wasn’t food that became my drug of choice, I know I’d be addicted to drugs or alcohol.  There was a time when I was hooked on cigarettes and also a regular pot smoker.  In the early 80s when I lost more than 100 pounds on an extremely restrictive, medically supervised, diet, I did not yet know that I had an eating disorder, so I wasn’t in any kind of treatment to help me understand and deal with the other aspects of the disorder.  I was only eating nine ounces of protein a day and I wasn’t drinking alcohol when I went out to the clubs three or four nights a week with my friends.  So, I still needed something to make up for the lack of food as a coping mechanism.   I started getting high almost every night.

    Although I spent a lot of years partying in rock clubs with my friends, I didn’t drink to drunkenness every  night and I wasn’t much for drinking at night when I was at home.  I think observing and dealing with my mother’s alcoholism probably contributed to me not making that my addiction.

    I gave up pot a long time ago and have no desire to pick it up again, even on rare, recreational occasions.  I was never into coke or other illegal drugs.  I also tend to avoid prescription pain killers unless absolutely necessary — as in the pain level I’m feeling is at least an 8 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being unimaginable pain.  Even after surgery when I was recovering at home, I only took a couple of doses of the pain medicine the doctor prescribed.  Today the orthopedic doctor offered to write me a scrip for a stronger medication than over-the-counter pain relievers.  I politely declined.  I’d rather not have it in the house and run the risk of swapping one addiction or compulsion for another.

    Compulsion is ugly, challenging, frustrating and, sometimes, disheartening.  When all is said and done, however,  I refuse to be its victim.  I’m going to borrow from one of my favorite television shows, Scandal, and imagine myself as a gladiator.  I may not win every battle, but I do not run from the war.

     

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Recovery’s Three Legged Stool

In the OA rooms, we talked about recovery being like a three legged stool.  You need to work on all three legs in order to be in balance – physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual.

When I first got that I had an eating disorder, a compulsive overeating disease, the positive effect on me emotionally was remarkable.  It really helped me clean up my head and my heart.  In ensuing years, even when I fell off of the wagon, I had a much clearer understanding of myself, my relationship with food, the role food and overeating played in my life, their effect on me, etc.  I am convinced that without this understanding, I would not be successfully maintaining my post-bariatric surgery weight loss.

In the early days, however, the ultimate focus was physical recovery.  Losing weight and restoring/regaining physical health were the goals.  Even with the better concept of disease behavior, I yo-yo’d with my weight until I finally committed to weight loss surgery.  If you’ve been with this blog from the beginning, or at least for a while, you know that I’ve lost a lot of weight and that I have worked on a lot of my issues, using this blog to help me process my thoughts and feelings.

Yet, for almost a year, I’ve been more stalled on my weight loss.  I’ve pretty much maintained the level that I reached, but digging in and sustaining the rest of the effort to get to my goal weight has been a constant, annoying, upsetting and frustrating struggle.  I gear up, employ a new strategy, go gung-ho for a while and then get stuck again.   Hence the annoyance and frustration.

A few days ago, I blogged about the constant food chatter that goes on in my head.  My dear, wonderful, long time friend read it and sent me a long email describing her struggle with the same thing.  This friend has also spent a great deal of time in OA.  She’s also had weight loss surgery and lost a phenomenal amount of weight.  She gets the disease thing.

You know that old proverb that when the student is ready, the teacher appears?  In her email, she openly talked about the fact that the food thoughts, the endless chatter and mental struggle ARE the disease to her.  She shared that she needs to remember the powerlessness and the need for the spiritual connection to recovery.

I’ve been re-reading and studying her email for the last couple of days, absorbing the words into my heart.   I see where I’ve been very intellectual about my approaches to food and recovery.  I know how much emphasis I’ve placed on the physical recovery.  I think those two legs of the stool needed my attention and they’re holding strong.  It’s that third leg — the spiritual one — that’s wobbling.  It needs my focus.

The first step of OA is admitting that I am powerless over food and that my life is unmanageable.  My life might not seem to be unmanageable, but right now, when it comes to how much food obsession is controlling my thinking, trust me, it needs to be managed better.  Until I remember step one and the powerlessness, I can’t embrace that a Higher Power can help me.  However,  once I do those two steps, I can make the decision to turn this over to the HP and accept the spiritual aspects of recovery.

It’s not religion, but I do need the spiritual connection with whatever represents a higher power to me.

What really connected for me today is that the physical recovery is not enough for me.  Sure, I could go on for the rest of my life, be happy because I’ve lost so much weight and am maintaining.  I could be satisfied with my greatly improved physical fitness.

But I’m not.  It isn’t enough.  I have more work to do.  I am not enjoying the serenity of full recovery because of the mind chatter, the food obsession, the constant battle to stay on track and not give into the disease of  compulsive eating.  I want that serenity, that recovery, too.   So, while I continue to maintain the physical exercise, et al, I need to reconnect to my spirit and emotional recovery.  That’s my focus now.

Thank you, my dear friend, for sharing your story and struggle and bringing me the reminders that I needed to have, when I most needed them.

In other news, today I walked another 5K – this time for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in town.  I didn’t shoot for a particular time goal.  This was about being with friends and folks I know throughout our community, having fun, and raising both money and awareness.  I raised more than $700, dyed and bedazzled a bra for the day, and had a great time walking.  I never would have done this even before weight loss surgery and am glad that I could today.

Here’s the bra.  After I dyed it, I hand sequinned/beaded the “ribbons” onto the cups.  A little uneven, but as I said to friends, so are my boobs at my age.thebra

 

 

Here’s me this morning.  The idea is to wear the decorated bra on the outside of one’s clothes.  (By the way, I’m not feeling myself up in this picture.  I was trying to show off my pink fingernails at the same time.)

We saw quite a variety of great creations!  It was really terrific to see a great turnout of people from the community, walking alongside the Overseas Highway in a spirited wave of pink!

Me in Bra

 

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Incredibly Unflattering Progress Photos

Changing the time when I workout from early morning to after work proved to be a good thing today. For one, I was happy to have an extra half an hour of sleep and still got in a 15 minute walk with Nat and Pyxi. I also got together with the three other co-workers that also practice Tai Chi. We did a set at work at lunchtime.

When I got home from work, I put on my workout clothes and started the DVD with today’s routine which concentrated on the upper body. When I finished, I put together a healthy and tasty meal, using those colored containers for my portions. (Spaghetti squash with crushed fire roasted tomatoes and skim-milk ricotta cheese. Delish!) After taking the dogs out for an evening walk, I settled into the recliner with a cup of hot tea and relaxed. As I hoped, I’ve had no desire to compulsively eat. I know my mindset has something to do with it, but that was greatly assisted by the fact that I’d spent 30 minutes sweating and exerting myself. When one has just done numerous circle crunches and then some crossing twisty crunches, one does not want to pig out and eliminate the benefits gained.

That move wasn’t actually called crossing twisty crunch, but I can’t remember what they were called. They involved lying on my back crunching so that my left elbow went toward my right leg, right elbow to left leg. You get the picture. I will admit that I couldn’t do the full version with required keeping one leg straight in the air with the other out in front, elevated a few inches off of the ground. Still, I worked those abs by trying to make my elbow meet my bent and lifted knee.

Feeling like I accomplished good things for myself while also feeling strong and committed, I decided to go ahead and take some “before” pictures, as urged by the program creator. I’ve taken “before” pictures before, but never while wearing only my workout bra and shorts, leaving upper arms and midriff exposed. Shooting them at arm’s length with my iPhone didn’t help. Warning. These are spectacularly unflattering photographs. I caution you that once viewed, some things cannot be unseen.

Remember — you were warned!

Is it my imagination or is there the beginnings of some ab delineation beneath the remaining  flab?

Is it my imagination or is there the beginnings of some ab delineation beneath the remaining flab?

So why, I hear you ask, would I publicly post ick photos of myself? I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m comfortable sharing all of this stuff — good and bad — with you. It’s part of my process and my recovery.

When I look at the pictures, I realize they aren’t quite as horrible as I make them out to be. Yep, I’m showing some flab, some stretch marks, some baggy upper arms, but so what? Overall, my body shows a heck of a lot of improvement since this photo:

Me at pretty  much my heaviest weight.

Me at pretty much my heaviest weight.

That photo was taken about nine months before my weight loss surgery when I weighed about 386 pounds.

All things considered and compared, I’ll look with pride and happiness at the pictures I took today – including the flaws — and celebrate what I’ve accomplished.

A few weeks from now, I’ll shoot another set of pictures and we can assess my progress together.

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Messed Up Mindset

For some reason, this blog is not fully cooperating with me. I’ve been unable to do posts or comments. Hopefully I have it straightened out.

In a comment to my “Funk” post from earlier in the week, Pink Pelican shared her experience which is similar to what I’m going through right now. Pink, thank you. Far from discouraging me, it gives me hope and validates what I’ve been thinking. I need to focus on my head, on my messed-up mindset right now.

To recap, what’s happened is that my stalled physical weight loss progress is drastically effecting my emotions and my mental process about my journey. This is a dangerous state for me. I’m an emotional eater. I have an eating disorder. When my emotions and head go off track, my compulsive eating behavior likely follows.

Right now, even though I am 180ish pounds lighter than I was a few years ago and living a life where I eat healthier foods and am physically active, I’ve lost the positive energy that I rode for so long on this amazing, joyful journey. I’m mired in the diseased mindset. I am nearly as down on myself about my body and lack of progress, the self-sabotage and everything else as I was when I was in the worst state of my eating disorder disease at 386 pounds. This is a dangerous, defeating, unhealthy place to be. I need to stop before I eat myself back into obesity.

Usually, I plan on how I’m going to control my eating. Oddly enough, that’s often easier than fixing the mindset. However, it’s the head that needs my focus right now. This doesn’t mean I’m flagrantly going out and eating whatever I want. Instead, it’s a call to myself for greater balance. In OA, we called recovery a three legged stool — physical, mental and emotional. If too much emphasis is put on one leg to the detriment of others, the seat isn’t balanced. It will tip and drop my ass on the ground.

The first two years of my post-surgery journey were alll physical progress. The speed of weight loss, the physical improvements in my overall body as well as my fitness level produced an incredible joy and euphoria. I worked on issues about my eating disorder here on the blog and have made a lot of progress in the area of understanding why and how I’ve used food as a drug and crutch in the past. That’s all good and I can build on it.

However, there are still aspects to the disease thinking that I haven’t resolved and now my stool is badly tilted. What’s coming up for me the most right now is the old B.I.N.G.E. thinking of Believing I’m Not Good Enough. More to the point, it’s believing that the amazing progress and revolutionary recovery I’ve already achieved isn’t good enough. I still in my heart of hearts find myself lacking. I get down on myself and concentrate too much on how far I still have to go.

No, I’m not satisfied. I don’t want to stop losing weight. However, somehow I also have to be okay with myself wherever I am in my progress. If I never did lose another pound, I would still be incredibly more healthy than I’ve ever been.

So, how do I accomplish this? I’m starting with cancelling stinking thinking. When I get down on myself for no progress or for messing up or even for eating a frigging half slice of bread, I need to be aware of the thought and then banish it or counteract it. It is unacceptable for me to be so self-critical and not accept myself.

At the same time, I need to get back to recognizing and appreciating all of the good that I have done and continue to do for myself. It isn’t enough for me to just go out and ride my bike six miles. I need to celebrate that activity in the moment and really make it rich. I will acknowledge and take joy in all that I am now able to do. Whether it’s riding the bike, walking with greater ease and less pain, the balance, strength and flexibility of Tai Chi, or the easy glide of snorkeling I will take note, immerse in the experience and feel the joy.

Negativity out – joy in. Easy formula. It’s almost like happiness is another muscle. I need to work on my reps and build the strength of my own heart and head to engender the recovery.

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Why Did I Bother?

I’ve been struggling over something and wanted to get it more square in my head before I blogged about it. Problem is that I’m still not sure I’m square with it but it’s been several days since I posted. So, I decided to plunge in and write about it and see if that helped me even it out.

While I was away, someone I have a “conference aquaintanceship” with chatted with me about my weight loss. I’ve seen her once before since I had the weight loss surgery and the change in my body size is pretty dramatic. She was amazed and largely complimentary. Like many people, she wanted to talk more about my process and journey. I don’t mind. Often, if someone isn’t asking for their own benefit or need, they talk to me for information because someone they care about is obese and is either contemplating surgery or they wish the person would think about it. For the record, I never tell anybody they should have surgery. It is totally not for me to suggest to anyone that they should undergo a life-altering, potentially dangerous, operation. I can only express what has worked for me and how I feel about it.

Anyway, this acquaintance and I chatted for a bit and it was fine — up until the point where she realized that it’s been more than two years since my surgery and I’m not yet at goal weight. The woman asked, “If it’s taking you this long to lose the weight, why did you bother having surgery? Why didn’t you just do it on your own?”

She sounded a little scornful and disappointed, like the time duration had burst a bubble or destroyed an expectation she’d fostered.

I immediately experienced a range of reactions. I felt criticized for not losing all of my weight faster. I was shocked at what I thought was insensitivity on her part. Then there was a healthy dose of my asking myself, “What the f**k does she know about it?”

At the same time that I was trying to process my reactions, I also wanted to formulate a decent response that didn’t include obscenities and an abrupt departure. My fall-back position is to not reveal when someone’s words hurt or upset me. It’s a natural, animal reaction. Don’t show injury, illness or weakness. If you do, predators will kill and eat you. I didn’t particular feel the urge to educate her either. Normally, I’ll give as much time and talk as needed if someone has an honest desire or need. That I just wanted to vacate this conversation told me that what she’d said had pushed a button inside and I wasn’t prepared to deal.

I mustered up a smile and said, “If I could have lost all of this weight without surgery, I would have done it decades ago.” Then I excused myself and left.

I just had my breakthrough on why this has bothered me so much for so long. Her comments, although I don’t believe she meant them in a hurtful, malicious way, triggered my disease, believing-I’m-not-good-enough (B.I.N.G.E.) reaction. In that instant, I felt like I’ve somehow failed because I’m still not at goal weight. Even while I type this, I know that it’s screwy and untrue. I have not failed. This is a lifelong journey, not something with a finite beginning, middle and end. I’m still walking the walk, one step at a time. I’ve been on this road for more than two years. I’ve never before sustained an effort this long.

For the record, what I said to the woman is also the absolute truth. If I could have lost so much weight and kept it off without surgery, I would have done so. Years and years ago with every diet, I wished that I would get to goal weight and keep it off. I was never successful for longer than a year. Why did I bother having weight loss surgery? That’s why. I couldn’t do it on my own but I’m doing it now.

That’s victory, not failure.

Ok. I feel better now.

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