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Saturday, September 15, 2012

I love my body =)

This journey is evolving into so much more. It has become less about the pounds and ounces I am dropping and more about the changes that are occurring underneath the shrinkage.
Don't get me wrong: Being lighter is amazing. Something I haven't experienced ... ever, really. I love it.
Overall, as I grow more accustomed to not using food as a shield for my emotions, I have found myself coming more in touch with my feelings. The other night, I had dinner with my friend, Sue-Ellen, and sort of spewed out how much I enjoyed her company. I told her that I love her, and I do.
I want to spend more time with my friends and my loved ones. For a long time, I have lived like a hermit. Food addiction can do that to you. Alcoholics many times like to drink alone. Drug addicts shoot up in private, hiding their secret from prying eyes. When I ate myself into oblivion, I hid too. I found excuses to stay cooped up at home ... just me and whatever I could whip up out of the cupboard.
The reason why I started this post, though, is that tonight I realized I have found a new love. Something better than fruit ... more filling than any donuts I used to eat. More satisfying than pizza ... never thought I'd say that ;-)
It's my body.
Don't misunderstand: I have not suddenly become a mirror hound, admiring myself at every turn. Truth be told, I hesitate to look in the mirror at all, unless I am putting on my makeup or taking a photo to post to Facebook (lol). I have sagging skin ... my breasts are shrinking. I have batwings on my upper arms ... my upper inner thighs look like a couple of sharpeis have decided to take naps there. The list goes on. This is not a litany of self-hate. It is the reality of what losing a fair amount of weight can do to a body.
Just because I don't spend a lot of time looking at this wondrous machine doesn't mean that I don't love it.
Nearly every movement it makes is under my control. I do my crunches at the gym and feel that core (those muscles that are still bubble-wrapped with loose skin and flab) tighten satisfyingly. I walk on the treadmill or run with the puppies, and the muscles in my legs flex smoothly. I have very little pain in my knees, for which I consider myself lucky, and am figuring out that a stronger core is helping my back to be less painful.
As I write this, it is Friday night. Earlier this evening, I walked from our home to the river where I jogged and walked the trail there. Roughly 45 minutes, burning about 300 calories. The best part?
I was so close to RUNNING that I could almost taste it. There was a joy to be found there.
The satisfying crunch of my tennis shoes on the gravel. Black Sabbath blaring "Iron Man" in my ears. I was alone but not by myself ... all around me was the beauty of nature (when you are happy and feeling good, even the dusty dredge spoils are lovely).
I will never be a model, and thankfully, I have never had such aspirations. Although I am still concentrating on weight loss, I am also hoping to build as much lean muscle as possible.
I've decided it's time to stop fighting this body structure I was born with and use it to its fullest potential instead: I have broad shoulders, narrow hips and no butt to speak of. I am destined to be small and wiry ... built more like a boy than a girl.
And love it =) ...

Friday, April 27, 2012

And now for something completely different …

Actually, this is sort of on topic and sort of not. OK .. it’s a bit of a rant.
What I’ve been thinking a lot about lately are perceptions. After a lifetime of battling a weight problem, I find it funny that I only now am noticing how people look at me at restaurants or in public. I don’t know why I am so conscious of this right now. Perhaps it’s because I’m a little more aware of myself nowadays. As things change, I find myself slightly self-conscious. My clothing doesn’t fit right. I’m always thinking about necklines and cleavage or jeans that might fall down. I’m too cheap to spend too much on clothing until I reach some significant goals.
The other day was a perfect example. Rick and I went to Subway, and I ordered a sandwich that I knew would be relatively safe: a breakfast concoction of egg whites and bacon on flatbread with lots of tomatoes and light mayonnaise. It was the April special: $5 for a footlong. I think the six-inch version was $3.75 or something like that, so I decided to order the longer sandwich and have it for not two, but FOUR meals. My stomach accepts about three inches of sandwich without too much trouble (I usually stop a bite or two from completion, just to be safe).
Anyway, after I ordered the sandwich, I noticed the man behind us in line giving me a look. It wasn’t a nice one. He glanced at me up and down, then at the bag of sandwiches in my hand and rolled his eyes a bit.
I was not surprised or hurt. Instead I was angry. Actually, I was downright pissed. First off, he didn’t know me. He didn’t know my situation. And, frankly, it didn’t matter. No one deserves that kind of look. I don’t care if you weigh 100 or 400 pounds. It is simply not proper to stand in judgment of anyone. Period.
The other day, I was thinking about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When did we stop living by that credo? As a child, my parents pounded it (not literally) into my head. Both of my parents were infinitely respectful toward others. My father, especially, knew the value of kindness. He and I had some philosophical differences that I shall not go into here (nothing that EVER changed my love and admiration for him), but one of the things I always tried to emulate was his approach to others. He was charming and honest, but didn’t take crap.
I didn’t say anything to the man in Subway. What good would it have done? There are some people who just don’t get it. But I couldn’t help but wonder how many other “fatties” he’d treated to his own special brand of condemnation?
No matter how much weight I lose, I have a feeling that my mentality will always stay the same: I will always remember where I’ve been and what it was like to grow up overweight. I will always be a fat girl, if not in body, then in mind.
I used to think that was a bad thing, but I’m not so sure. If it helps me to keep my eyes open to the struggle that all obese people face, then I’m good with it. 
I don’t ever want to be THAT person … the one to whom the Golden Rule doesn’t apply.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Out of the darkness ...

I know now more than ever that everything in life is relative.
For three weeks after my surgery, I lived in misery. Absolute, utter misery. From problems with medications I was taking to never-ending nausea and pain, it seemed like everything that could go wrong was doing just that. 
I knew that I needed to get in protein. But the protein shakes that sounded so good pre-surgery nauseated me. My tastes seemed to change minute by minute. I gagged down most food and threw a lot of it back up again.
Some things got "stuck" in my new pouch. I was able to eat canned tuna one day ... and had it get painfully caught in the narrow exit from my new stomach.
I wish I could say something positive about those days, but I find it extremely difficult to do so. As I told a friend the other day, had someone suggested that they were going to assassinate me, I would have said ... let me buy you the bullets. It was a dark, dark time.
Finally, some light shone at the end of the tunnel. A member of an online support group for weight loss surgery patients helped me realize that I might be lactose intolerant now --- something that can happen with people who undergo this type of surgery. I stopped eating dairy in any fashion ... and my stomach stopped hurting. My nausea dissipated.
Ahhhh ... it might have been raining outside, but the sun started to peek through in my soul.
At the prompting of my gym owner friend, Joan, I started taking a probiotic. The healing began and has continued.
I now have been able to go back to the gym: Something that I was simply too weak to do prior to the discoveries we made. I can actually keep food down rather than immediately throwing it up. I have energy.
And the weight loss ... it's been great. I have lost approximately a pound a day, especially now that I am not fighting my metabolism. My clothing has been getting smaller.
I even went out on a limb a couple of days ago and ordered some new shirts online. They're just T-shirts, but they are small victories. I also ordered a pair of capri pants: Three sizes smaller than what I usually wear. Prior to surgery, I wore a women's 20 petite. I ordered a pair of size 16 petites. I think I'll be able to wear them by the time they arrive and hope that they'll be too big by summer.
The fog that I was in during those three weeks has dissipated. My brain is much clearer than it's been in a long, long time. I think that might be part of the transformation as well, and I am glad for it.
So ... everything that is happening now is relative. Compared to those three weeks, life is beautiful. A gift. And every day, it gets a little better.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Losing weight a whole new way

As I write this, it has been one week since I had my gastric bypass surgery at OHSU. Pretty much, things have been a blur of not only activity, but of learning and thinking. Lots of thinking.
I haven't yet run into the buyer's remorse that is so common with people who have undergone gastric bypass. I'm a tiny bit miserable most of the time, but that is to be expected. There are still all the positives going on that this surgery brings, though. I have lost 6 pounds in a week. Were I to keep up this pace, I would reach my goal in about four months. Not gonna happen, though. There will be a plateau, and that's when the real fun begins (I'm being sarcastic).
My surgery went fantastic, the surgeon reported. I don't remember, which is a plus ;) ... the last thing I recall is falling asleep. There was a thought in my mind that I had determined to keep with me as I drifted off, and I was able to do that, so I fell asleep happy.
I remember waking up in my room. I guess it had taken a long time to get me to wake up. I was still so out of it, I could barely articulate anything. The sedation just really knocked me for a loop.
I'm not sure that I was really ready to come home the next day, physically, but I was determined to get out that hospital. The night of my surgery, I thirsted for water. It seemed like a lifetime since I'd had anything to drink. That taught me the importance of fluids. Even though I had bags of fluids being pumped into my IV, all I could think about was water.
I had hoped they would get me up and walking that night, but they didn't. I must have been too groggy. When I did get to get out of bed the next day, it was the best thing EVER. Except for the water that they gave me later.
I'll admit, I have never been more glad to be home.
Since then, life has been turned upside down. It's funny how you can know something intellectually, but not really KNOW it until you're in the midst of it. That's how this has been.
I knew eating and drinking would be difficult. It has been. Hard, actually. Sometimes, impossible. My new stomach pouch is healing, but it speaks to me loud and clear when it's full. A sensation of pressure rises in my chest,right between my breasts, when the pouch is full. And it doesn't take much to fill it. For example, a pudding  cup makes me feel like I've had Thanksgiving dinner. I like it, though. It's nice to finally feel full, after 44 years of feeding a seemingly endless pit of hunger.
I have about two more weeks of recovery before returning to work. I am looking forward to it, but it's a little scary at the same time. I've been having troubles sleeping, and I would like to find a resolution to that before I go back. We'll see what happens.
My next big goal is to get back to working out at the gym. I go to OHSU on Monday, and that's the first thing I am asking the surgeon. I am soooo ready to get back on the treadmill. I know that ab work are a no go, but I bet I could do some light weights for arms. One step at a time, I tell myself. Just the treadmill would be a huge boost. I love putting on my MP3 player and rocking out while walking. It's such wonderful "me" time.
When I think of how my life has changed, in so many ways, since I started this journey in January 2011, I am amazed. And happy. So very happy. For the first time, I feel like there's a chance I could actually be virtually free of diabetes. Healthy. Possibly even healthier than I was 20 years ago.
In the meantime, I am thankful that I have so many people who not only care about me, but who support me in this journey of a lifetime. It IS that kind of journey. And it's just beginning.
Take care .... until next time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Down to the wire

Today, it is officially 18 days until my surgery. Am I nervous? Uh ... yeah.
It seems like the last year has gone like lightning. From the moment that I determined that I was going to try and have surgery (at one time, even considering the notion of lap band surgery, which I now realize that for me would not have worked at all) to this point, things have moved quickly. Even though there has been a lot of "hurry up and wait," some of it has been of my own making.
Things only recently have begun to feel really ... real. My last visit with Dr. O'Rourke, the surgeon, sealed it for me. He wants me to lose more weight before the surgery, but has no intention of putting it off any further. So ... it's a go.
Last night, I took the one step that I had been dreading --- ordering protein products. As one of my fellow gastric-bypassers (I'm going to start calling us GB'ers) told me, the miserable part isn't the surgery so much, but the protein shakes.
I visited the website of Unjury (a very weird name ... yes), a company that produces protein items for people who have had surgery, diabetics or those who are just looking to lose weigh. I ended up ordering a container of vanilla shake mix (which somehow seems less intimidating than the chocolate or strawberry), a container of "chicken soup" and a starter pack, which has samples of the other flavors of shakes, etc.
This should seem simple, but with all I've read and heard, the notion of making this commitment was rather off-putting. Other GB'ers have said that their tastes changed after the surgery. A friend of mine who had the surgery roughly three weeks ago said that he was only able to take in small amounts of protein and fluid. A couple of sips, and it felt like he'd eaten a Thanksgiving meal. Plus, the shakes had become nearly intolerable.
The flipside is that he is dropping weight fast. Of course, on roughly 500 calories a day, a person will do that. Ideally, 1,200 is a good calorie amount for weight loss, but if you can't stuff it in, you're sort of stuck.
I still find it hard to wrap my head around this notion. Then again, I'm almost a walking stomach. Feed me, Seymour ... feed me.

When these niggling thoughts crowd into my head, I always have to stop and remind myself that this is going to be life-changing on many levels. The biggest one is my health.
A recent flareup of tendonitis proved that to me. I sat in the chair this morning at Longview Orthopedics while the talented Dr. Lauder administered a cortisone shot to my left wrist. My hand had become nearly unusable from pain, which had spread from my thumb to my shoulder. I told the doc that I was having surgery at the end of the month. I asked him if it would help the tendonitis if I lost weight.
He said that weight loss helps "nearly ever system in your body." 
I believe him. As the days wind down, I'm sure my case of nerves will get a little worse. But the upside of this experience will far outweigh the downside ... no pun intended :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fear of photos

As the calendar counts down to the surgery date (39 days as of this blog post), I decided I had better take a look at the column that will appear in The Daily News the week before my surgery. It's amazing how much my perspective has changed since I first wrote it.
The chip on my shoulder has been sloughed down by knowledge. I've talked to so many people who have either had or are having this same surgery, and I am feeling confident.
At least, at this minute I am. There are those other times when I literally shake thinking of the days that lie ahead. The changes. The fear. The pressure I will place on myself.
When those moments hit, I remember something that my mother has said often: "There but for the grace of God go I."
I have nothing of which to be afraid. This journey is a positive one. There are others of my family and friends whose journeys are taking them to places of darkness. Mine ... is all light. I am lucky. I am blessed.
 I am not afraid.
In the spirit of not afraid, I am following through on uploading those full-body photos that I talked about in my last post. My co-worker, Dawn Johnson Deal, took the photos. She did a great job. For my last photo, she told me to "pose like a model." I'm glad she did, because my first photo really shows how nervous I am ... arms tucked behind my, one hand crept into the jeans pocket. I chose to use the last one, my "glamor" shot :)
As I even think about putting these pictures on display, it feels almost surreal. I don't look at myself in photos. I don't allow parts of my body to be snapped. My stomach, my double-chin, my back. Oh boy.
My new friend, fellow gym rat and gastric bypass patient, Jennifer Christensen Zacher, gave me some advice on the subject of photos. One of her regrets, she said, is that she didn't document the changes in her body as they occurred. With her surgery, Jennifer lost a tremendous amount of weight and now looks simply amazing. She is healthy and proves it by doing Zumba at our gym, Lite Weights for Women.
I'm going to follow her advice. So, this is my first set of photos. What you are seeing here is a woman who is completely out of her comfort zone. I am exposing my tender underbelly (no pun intended), but I do not ask for sympathy or compassion.
As Popeye said, "I yam what I yam."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


First off, I am happy to report that I have a new date for my surgery: Feb. 28. I got it confirmed today with the scheduler.
The new date is exactly seven years to the day since my father died. Strange how things work out sometimes. The nice thing ... my lucky number is 7 (having been born on 7/7/67 ... what else could it be?).
As my editor here at the paper said: "Serendipity is real. Go with it!"
It gives me about a month to err on the side of caution here at work (our schedule is clear from the end of February through March).
Like everyone else who goes into this surgery, there's no clear answer as to whether the skilled hands of the surgeon can make those tiny incisions and do the job or whether it's going to take a much larger cut. The bigger the incision, the longer it takes to heal. The greater the chance of hernia and infection. Etc.
So, despite the tears I shed over my decision to put this off, I have come to terms with it and am happy with my decision.
A young woman who goes to my gym (the lovely and wonderfully inspiring Jennifer Zacher ... who I just friend-requested on Facebook, so she should be able to add her two cents into these discussions) put it into perspective for me.
Jennifer had gastric bypass a few years ago, so she knows where she's coming from. She told me that my surgery just wasn't meant to be on that day. Maybe the surgeon would have been having an off day. Or ... another reason.
I buy into the notion that everything in life falls into place when it is supposed to, so now it's time to look at the new date with anticipating eyes.
I have a goal between now and then, besides the obvious ones of control and weight loss. One of the things I told myself when starting this blog is that I want to break down some barriers for myself and hopefully for others. One of my biggest fears has always been photos taken. Specifically, photos of my body. Not naked photos or something like that ... oh, hells no! I'm talking, run-of-the-mill pictures that most people take for granted. Ones that show body areas below the neck.
Even my profile picture for this blog is strategically placed. It is designed to show my head and part of my shoulders. Ever since I was little, I've been self-conscious of my broad shoulders. I feel like a linebacker.
I've decided to fight back against my own self-esteem issues. I am going to ask a friend to take some"before" photos for me. In the spirit of (nearly) full disclosure, I plan to post them here. They might not be pretty, but I'm not going to sit around and pick them apart either. Everyone will be able see where my challenges are. My stomach is by far the worst and will undoubtedly be the one area that will take the most work. For someone who has the classic "metabolic syndrome" (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and polycystic ovarian syndrome), the stomach usually is the place where the fat gathers.
I'm excited to kick that syndrome to the curb.