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Life Changes

I had dinner last night with a dear, long time friend whom I haven’t seen since June. My body’s changed a lot since then.

Over our meal, she asked me about how my life has changed because of my weight loss surgery and transformation so far. It’s one thing for me to say how much better I feel physically and emotionally. I can talk about the increased physical ease and the reduction in aches, pains, exhausting effort.

But last night, I was struck by something even deeper when talking about the amazing positive changes. I asked her to imagine what it would be like to always, almost constantly, be hyper-aware of body size. To think about having to make continual assessments about almost everything. Would a chair hold my weight? Would the car I rented have a seat belt long enough to go around me if I was wearing a coat or jacket? Could I fit in the space between two tables in a restaurant? Would I be able to keep up with my friends when we went somewhere? If I fell and hurt myself at home, could I get up? Would I fit in a chair? How long would it be before my right knee gave ou completely? What did people think when they saw me struggle to go up stairs? Think about trying to disguise the effects of simple exertion on my breathing.

Think about constantly having your brain and feelings dealing with such a barrage of questions and assessments for decades.

Then think about not experiencing any of that any more, ever again.

The reduction of stress and pressure has been enormous, like I was caught between a boulder and a granite shelf and then suddenly freed.

In addition to my body feeling better, my mind is just so much more relaxed and at ease. It’s amazing.

Over the last two years at work, I feel like I’ve stepped up my game. I was never a slacker and always was a productive, efficient, even dynamic asset. (That’s not bragging. My boss would say the same.) However, I can look back and see where I’ve grown, matured, and developed into even more of a leader. You’ve heard the expression about all ships rise with the tide? There were also other things at play, but when the opportunities to grow and develop opened up, I was better able to step up and grow with them. I don’t know if this would have happened if I’d still had all of the other horrible mind clutter getting in my way.

Stress is a killer. It creates tension, contributes to poor health, triggers adverse body chemical reactions. The reduction of all of that stressful thinking, has lightened my spirit like losing pounds has lightened my body.

Change is good. The life changes I’ve experienced and continue to see are great.

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Getting Over the Sulk

Yes, I’ve been sulking ever since last Friday’s appointment with my weight loss surgeon. I’m a grown up, even if sometimes I give into slightly less mature behavior like sulking. At least today I’m willing to own it. I’m also setting a time limit on it. A week is more than long enough. So, the sulk indulgence ends as of now.

I have no further time nor energy to give to it. I have places to go, holidays to enjoy, workouts to continue and weight to lose. Is it possible to shift one’s attitude this quickly? Yes. It’s a matter of mind over emotions. I’m not going to invalidate the way that I’ve been feeling. As far as I’m concerned, I had a right to it, but I also know when I’m on the verge of tipping over into useless, even damaging, wallowing. When I rebel by eating inappropriately, I’m hurting myself. That is unacceptable. Not only will it hurt me in my weight loss efforts and affect my body, but I’ll begin to emotionally feel lousy. So, it’s time to shake it off and move forward.

I’m really looking forward to the holiday week in which I plan to see many family members and friends. Most of the planned get-togethers will include meals. For once, I’m not looking at these events as license to eat anything, everything, and as much as I want. I’m looking forward to the social aspects and the company and to eating good tasting food in appropriate amounts and balance. Food isn’t the focus. That’s what I need to remember.

For a full week I’ll be out of my regular routine. I’m a little concerned about keeping up with my 10,000 steps a day since getting around to see everyone will involve driving a lot. However, I can and will suggest some walks and will definitely have opportunities to pop in one of my workout DVDs. I think I’ll look forward to the challenge of keeping up with exercise along with everything else. That too I can embrace and enjoy figuring out a strategy.

I’m over the sulk. There are good times with people I love in my immediate future.

I may not blog as regularly, but I promise to do so as often as I can. In the meantime, I want you all to know that I wish you all the very best this holiday season. May love, joy, and peace be yours. Thank you for being part of my blog, my journey, and my life.

Holiday Card 2013

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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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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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Making the Most of the New Sleep Pattern

Have I mentioned before that I’ve never been a morning person? I keep holding onto that thought, all evidence to the contrary. In the last year in particular, my internal clock keeps resetting its alarm and waking me up earlier. I’m not sure if waking up earlier is connected in some way to my weight loss. It could just be a result of me being in my mid-50s. The older we get, the less sleep we need.

I sleep well and am no longer concerned with the sleep hypopnea with which I was diagnosed prior to weight loss surgery. I fall asleep easily at night and, for the most part, sleep soundly unless I really have stressful things going on. The dogs usually wake me up once at some point in the night, but I fall right back to sleep. For the most part however, when I would happily sleep in on a weekend until 9:00 a.m., that hasn’t happened in a long time, unless I’ve gotten up earlier, been up a little while, and then gone back to bed. (That’s rare.) The other exception is after I’ve traveled. I tend to do well if I have a little longer lie in the following day.

For probably the last year, most mornings, I wake up before my 6:45 a.m. alarm. For a long time, I’ve really resisted this reality. To be honest, I’ve resented the early wake up. I don’t know why. Lately, I’ve begun to adopt the attitude that it is what it is. Why fight the inevitable? Most days this past week, I woke up between 5:45 and 6:15 a.m. Some of this might have been the time change, but whatever the case, there was no way I was falling back to sleep these mornings so I tried to be productive. Three days I bounced out of bed and did a program from my in-home walking DVD. This morning I said the hell with the 15-18 mph wind from the north east and went for a bike ride. Me. On the bike before 6:30 a.m. Somewhere in Heaven, my mother, who was always an early riser, is giggling. I have to say that I felt pretty damned good about getting in an eight mile ride. When I returned, I leashed up the dogs and got them out for a good walk.

I almost hate to admit it, but there’s something to be said for being a morning person. For the next few months, it gets dark pretty early, so I have less opportunity to walk or ride after work. Walking up and not squandering the time has its advantages if it helps me put in solid exercise time before I go to work.

Honestly, I don’t think this sleep pattern will change anytime soon. I might as well make the most of it.

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A “Hey Baby” Look

Friday night was the annual fundraising performance at our local community theater. I made plans to meet a friend for appetizers and a drink beforehand. I ran home from work to shower, do my hair and dress up for the evening. Dressing up is a relative phrase in the Keys. On that evening it meant a cute, casual dress, kitten heels instead of flip flops, more makeup than I usually wear, etc.

I parked the car and walked toward the restaurant. I passed by a couple of stores that were still open A couple of men stood at the curb. As I approached, one said hello and gave me a definite, “Hey, baby, how you doing?” look and said hello.

It’s been years since I got a look like that from a man, but a woman doesn’t forget. I have to tell you, it put a little extra pep in my step. I smiled, said hello back, and kept walking, pretty sure that he was checking me out even though I could no longer see him.

I don’t know if I’m ready to start following up on expressions of interest. I still have some issues about my body, particularly how it looks now with sagging skin. At the same time, I really can appreciate that I’m gaining a nice figure, with, dare I say it, sexy curves. That there are men who might, from time to time, give me that appreciative, interested look and throw out a little flirtation feels great. Booyah!

In other stuff, I haven’t quite hit 10,000 steps yet on any given day, but I know that I did the equivalent and more so yesterday. At the end of the day, my FitBit step count was at 8876 but I also did an 8 mile bike ride! Definitely a good fitness day. Today the wind is blowing more than 20 mph with gusts to 23. This pretty much kills any long bike rides. I can muscle through with winds up to 15, but it’s hard to do that for more than a couple of miles. I’m trying to compensate and took the dogs for a longer walk this morning. I have several things to do around the house today, and plan to work in some additional fitness somehow — even if it’s the two mile in-home walking DVD along with practicing Tai Chi. I’ll plan on another long walk with the dogs this evening. (They don’t do as well in the bright sunshine on their furry bodies.)

This week I really need to prep my mind to stay on track. In a fit of terminal helpfulness, I volunteered to bake six dozen cupcakes this week for a fundraising event next weekend. I honestly don’t know why I put myself in this position. Although I have baked my brownies for different things, I usually can get through that without too much damage to myself. Baking over a couple of nights is going to challenge my willpower. I’ll make sure to not do it until right after I’ve eaten dinner so that my stomach capacity is full. At least I’m not making the frosting. That would definitely trip me up. It’s much more tempting than raw cupcake batter. I won’t eat the baked cupcakes themselves since they’re intended for a specific purpose. Once more into the breach!

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Things Not to Worry About

I’m taking a trip soon. I’m looking forward to it without even a moment of internal whining about the physical discomfort and mental stress. I really like how much less stress I have in my life. Losing weight took off a load in more ways than one.

Here are just a couple of things that I don’t need to worry about any more. The next flight won’t be the one where an airline attendant tells me I need to buy a second seat. It won’t matter if, somehow, every seat belt extender on the plane is missing. I don’t need one. I won’t horrify the person in the middle seat if I squeeze into their aisle. When I pick up my rental car, I know I’ll be able to buckle the seat belt. It won’t matter if the chairs at the reception are sturdy metal, wooden fold-ups or outdoor resin plastic. They won’t break beneath my weight. I won’t see concern or barely-hidden shock on my family members’ faces. Any surprise I see will be the good kind. I haven’t seen them since a couple of months after my surgery. I’ve lost more than 110 pounds since that time.

Just those few changes make travel even more enjoyable. I can focus on the anticipated joy of seeing family and enjoying a happy occasion. Yes, I had fun even when at my heaviest, but it was always diluted to some extent by the ever present awareness of my hugeness and anticipation of difficulties to overcome.

Today, I’m grateful for undiluted happiness and releasing the worry about so many things.

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Public Eye

Early American Idol winner Ruben Studdard is a contestant on the new season of Biggest Loser. For some reason, this has me thinking of other obese celebrities I’ve been aware of in the past. Shelly Winters. Roseanne Barr. Jackie Gleason. Drew Carey. John Goodman. Oprah Winfrey. Aretha Franklin. The list really is endless.

I remember when a lot of entertainers played to their weight, or at least appeared to. They were material for countless monologues by late night talk show hosts and stand up comedians. They often made fun of themselves. As an overweight person, I never understood how they could stand it. I’d cringe inside whenever someone made a fat joke about one of them or, as often happened, to them when sharing the set or stage.

It was almost worse when one of them embarked on a successful weight loss effort. Yes, they’d get great acclaim for the pounds they’d drop. I can still remember when Oprah dropped something like 60-70 pounds on the Optifast program. She arrived on stage towing a little red wagon behind her on which they’d piled the equivalent of her weight loss in actual animal fat. I think she had on a long overcoat. With pure joy, she whipped open that coat to reveal her skinny self in a black sweater and tight jeans. What a moment!

She gained it all back and I can’t help but think that it was a more emotionally miserable time for her knowing that she was under intense public scrutiny. I hate it if I think that even one person eyes what’s on my plate and could possibly be assessing or, horrors, judging the choice. I’d want to crawl into a deep cave (with electrical power, running water, a bathroom and internet access, of course, but still a cave) and not come out into society if I was a person who lived her life as a celebrity in the public eye.

On a much, much, much smaller scale, I really craved a cookie tonight. I actually felt a little weird buying a small package and bringing it home. A friend has been staying with me for a few weeks. Living alone, nobody knows what food I buy and have in the house. Having someone around is different. It’s amazing how quickly I reverted to old thinking — the idea that if I make a food choice that’s inappropriate, I need to hide it. I was a champion sneak eater, a skill I developed when I was pretty young. I could open squeaky drawers in my family’s kitchen, open up a package of cookies and eat some without anyone hearing me in the other room. One of the things that I just realized is that I overeat more when I conceal foods. It’s like I need to eat it all and faster before someone catches me or discovers my secret.

Part of improving my relationship with food means being open and honest about it – in all respects. A big part of being successful on the journey overall has been that I’ve been as open and honest about it as I could. Hence the whole writing of this blog. In a way it’s me taking this trip in the public eye.

I just reread this post. You know, where I thought I was going with it at the beginning is not at all where I ended up. I thought I was going to muse on my empathy for overweight celebs. Yes, I have that empathy, but the writing process uncovered different stuff. The whole thing about eating more when I eat in secret is not something I’ve been in touch with, that I can recall. I’m glad that I got there tonight. It’s something I really need to think about and, more importantly, use to aid my recovery.

In the meantime, just to circle back around, I hope that Ruben succeeds on Biggest Loser. More importantly, I hope he is able to maintain his success, whether in private or in the public eye.

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Measuring Down

A friend is still staying with me for a few days. I asked her if she’d help me do my measurements tonight. I haven’t checked them since January. It’s hard to be accurate when I try to do it myself and I never seem to think of it when friends are visiting for just an evening. It’s been on my mind to do this for a few days and I finally remembered.

Wow. All I can say is wow. I wish I’d taken them a couple of weeks ago and then again tonight to see if there’s been much change since I started riding the bike, but still. The reduction of inches in every part of my body is pretty significant.

To set the scene, here are the measurements, in inches, that were taken of me by a friend in February 2012, a few weeks after my weight loss surgery:
Neck 17.5; Bicep 20; Forearm 14; Chest (Boobs) 58; Waist 57; Hips; 70; Thigh 33.5; Calf 19.

I took them a few times throughout the year, but only logged the numbers again in January 13 on my one year surgiversary. Here are those numbers, after dropping a significant amount of weight and increasing my exercise from a formerly sedentary existence:
Neck 15; Bicep 18; Forearm 10.50; Chest (Boobs) 48; Waist 49; Hips 56.50!!; Thigh 31; Calf 17.50.

Do you SEE that drop in number in my Hips?? I think when I started that measurement was so high because I had so much weight in hips, ass and, also, some lower belly had to be included or at least couldn’t be completely separated.

Now here are the numbers from tonight:
Neck 13.5; Bicep 12.75; Forearm 10; Chest (Boobs) 44; Waist 43; Hips 51.5; Thigh 25.5; Calf 14.75.

Did I say Wow earlier in the post? Because I’m now completely invested in this numbers game, I have to do the math. Here are the calculations for inches lost from February 2012 to tonight:

Neck -4; Bicep -7.25; Forearm -4; Chest (Boobs) -14 (Yet I’ve gone from wearing a D cup to a DD); Waist -14; Hips -18.5; Thigh -8; Calf -4.25.

If I add the total number of inches lost, it comes to 74. 74 inches!

This is nearly mind-boggling. Not only have I lost pounds and pounds of fat, but we know that I’m also building muscle. I know I see it in the mirror, see it in my clothes, feel the loss in the way that I move. Sometimes, however, when I’m frustrated about the other number not moving down the way that I like, it really, really helps to check these numbers. I believe I’m going to set a reminder on my phone so that I take my measurements again in another month. A month from now, my overall system could begin moving again and I’ll have dropped enough pounds to make me happy. If I haven’t, then seeing evidence of loss in my measurements will definitely keep my attitude in the right frame of mind.

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If It Doesn’t Fit

Crazy busy stuff going on again, folks. The last two nights, I’ve been exhausted when I’m finally home and able to relax. Lots of stress involved in everything. It’s amazing that I’m not flinging myself headlong into a tub of double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.

I’m happy to say that while I might think about doing that as a fake coping strategy, I’m not putting the thought into action. I call it a fake coping strategy because opening up to a binge of compulsive eating is not coping. It’s a distraction. I sometimes think of it as the principle of the counter-irritant. When I used to binge and overeat mass quantities, I’d then feel so bad about the overeating that it would distract me, temporarily at best, from whatever situation was causing me the stress and upset in the first place.

I digress. The bottom line is that I’m stressed and overwhelmed, but I’m not overeating because of it. Points for me.

Today I was at my desk at work by 7:30 a.m. We had a media shoot from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. All great stuff, but it was hot, humid and endless. I felt like a salt block when we were finished. I left work early, vegged at home for an hour and then went to Zumba. Seriously. I could have seasoned a movie theater full of popcorn with the salt on my skin from sweating. Thank goodness I sucked down water all day to remain hydrated.

Okay. Enough complaining.

My thoughts these days are very much focused on whether I need to make some changes in my activities. Not my exercise. I’m talking about the other things and organizations in which I’m involved outside of work. There are a couple of things that I don’t think are a good fit for me and vice versa. I’m paraphrasing an old defense strategy when I wonder, “If it doesn’t fit, should I quit?” If I’m not the person that’s truly what’s needed in this one circumstance, then I should step aside and let the role be filled by someone who will more effectively fit the situation. This is better for all concerned.

If I’m a square peg in this situation, then trying to shove myself into the round hole is uncomfortable and way too stressful. I get bitchy when I’m stressed and overwhelmed and that’s not effective or desirable either.

It’s going to take me a few days to reach a decision. In the meantime, I will not let the emotional turmoil kick me into a binge. The disease and the binge behavior doesn’t fit my lifestyle now either!

Wow, I just dozed off while typing the above sentence. Sorry, folks. That’s a sure sign that I need to get to bed!

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