Having My Life Back

I’m 1 week away from being 5 months out from surgery. I’ve seen so many changes in the last 5 months, not just from my deflating body, but also on how I view and participate in life.

Last week I went on vacation to San Francisco. I flew in a plane, in coach and I wasn’t miserable. I haven’t been on a plane since 1999 and part of that was because of my weight and another part was because of money. While in San Francisco, my mom and sister and I walked a total of 40 miles in the 5 days we were there and we also biked. I haven’t been on a bike in over a decade because I was always too heavy. I’ve been doing things that I haven’t done in a really long time because I’m no longer 400 lbs.

I’m happy and I don’t think I will ever regret having the surgery. Before the surgery I was also happy, but I had limited ability to do things I wanted to do, so I knew that there was room for me to be happier. I wouldn’t necessarily say I am happier now though. In order to have the ability to participate in life, I had to take away one of my coping mechanisms for life which was food. I can’t eat as much as I used to, so I sometimes have to be very picky about what I choose for my meals. The giant bag of chips I would have gorged myself on before surgery looks different to me now. It’s no longer my way to forget about a bad day, but instead is a food that tastes good, but will not give me the protein I need and I know I will feel gross if I eat them. I do have chips every once in a while, but it’s maybe a handful. Depriving myself of things doesn’t work for me, but I needed to recognize that a handful of chips tastes the same as a bagful. Eating more doesn’t equal greater pleasure and in fact eating more usually equals feeling guilty and remorseful.

I made the decision a couple weeks ago to sell my bigger dresses on eBay. I listed 15 of my 3x and 4x size dresses and they all sold. I ended up getting $200 for all of them. I wanted to try and have them resized, but it just seemed easier to start over with a new collection. Plus shopping for smaller clothes is kind of awesome now.

So I’m a week away from the 5 month mark and as of today I am down 168 pounds since my highest, I have 52 more pounds to go until I hit my goal weight, and I’ve lost a little over 75% of my excess weight. With the sleeve the average excess weight loss is 50-60%, so I am doing very well so far.

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Cooking Again

The last few weeks in my house we haven’t been doing a lot of cooking. Since I work later in the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I don’t get home until after dinner. This schedule has resulted in me making something quick or having leftovers from a restaurant visit the day before. This evening I made the decision to actually cook something. A few weeks ago I made sweet potato gnocchi from scratch and I ended up freezing them for future use.

My refusal to follow the fad diets that I’ve seen a lot of weight loss surgery patients do has allowed me to actually eat vegetables and fruits. I cannot go low-carb and I cannot only eat protein and no vegetables. That is not healthy and that is also not what my surgical team recommends.

Because my birthday was last week, I have allowed myself to be a little indulgent when it comes to certain things, like chocolate and sweets. This has also led me to not do as well in terms of what the scale says. When dinner time came, I knew that I needed to actually make a meal and knowing that the sweet potato gnocchi was in the freezer waiting to be used, motivated me enough to create something.

I made soup. My mom asked me what kind and I told her, “It’s messa soup because I put a whole mess of stuff I found in the kitchen,” which is true. The soup that I made actually wasn’t that bad and that’s good considering I will likely be eating it for the next few days.

If you are interested in the recipe, here it is.

1 lb hot sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery chopped
15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
48 oz of chicken broth
1 tsp of rosemary
1 tsp of thyme
2 cups of kale, chopped
2 cups of sweet potato gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage. Add the onions and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery, cook for 3-5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, broth, rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper. Cook for about another 5 minutes, add kale and gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi float to the top (or if using store bought, cook for 3 more minutes). Serve.

I’ve gotten a lot better at creating my own recipes and finding things that go well together by experimenting and I love being able to add healthy foods into meals that could otherwise not be that good for me. I was worried the gnocchi didn’t turn out, but they were pretty good considering I have never made anything like that before.

Living with a shedding Wookie

My lack of posts to this blog is appalling, I know. I am nearly 4 months out from surgery and I knew there was a strong possibility that I would lose some of my hair because of the weight loss, but I prayed it wouldn’t happen to me. Despite my hopes of keeping as much of my hair as possible, I have been losing a lot more than usual. After I shower the tub looks like a shedding Wookie had just used it. Thankfully I have been blessed with very thick hair so it isn’t very noticeable to other people, but I have noticed that my ponytails are smaller and the hair in my brushes is more than usual. I know that I will get my thick hair back someday but it won’t be for awhile. It’s not like I can do anything about it anyway since I’ve already had the surgery.

In the last month or so, my weight loss has been stalled at or around 255 pounds. I thought that the reason I was at a plateau was because my period was due to arrive and I was retaining water. When the period never showed, I didn’t know what to think. The last time I had an extended stall (around 3 weeks like this time), I started cutting my carb intake and the stall broke. Because of my skepticism over fad diets like low-carb, ketogenic, and paleo diets, I refused to jump on that bandwagon again. Last week I consumed more carbs than I normally do and had at least 3 days in a row where I consumed around 1200 calories which is about 400 more than I usually do. In a matter of 4 days I dropped 8 pounds and I am now at 242 pounds. I spoke with my therapist today (who specializes in eating disorders) and I said that clearly my body is going to do whatever the hell it wants to do and there isn’t much I can do to control it. The weight will come off even if I eat ice cream (which I am actually doing right now), the weight will come off even if I leave the bread on my sandwich, the weight will come off even if I believe it won’t. The only things that will prevent the weight from coming off is if I decide to eat more than 3 times a day and I misuse the tool that is my smaller stomach. I know there will come a point when the weight loss will slow considerably and eventually I will reach the maintenance period, but I have not gotten there yet, so the stalls are not something I should be worrying about right now.

My therapist asked me a couple of weeks ago whether I am having trouble seeing myself in the size that I am now after the considerable amount of weight I have lost. I told her that I’m more often caught off guard when I see my reflection in a window or a mirror because I forget that I am now a lot smaller. One thing I discovered since that therapy session though was how I view the numbers on the scale. I need to preface this by explaining how my brain views things. When I think of the number 250, my brain has a specific place for it on a timeline or a plane in my head. The place where 250 is located is different than where 400 is or 75. When I step on my scale and see the number 242 pop up, my brain doesn’t go to where 242 lives. My brain seems to think that in relation to bathroom scales 242 and 342 are cohabiting the same house, when in reality they aren’t even in the same city. I don’t have this problem with numbers when it isn’t involving a scale though. So in some weird way, my brain still thinks I am over 100 pounds heavier than I really am.

I am happy to report that I have reached the same clothing size as some of the clothes in my mom’s closet (she’s also lost some weight lately but not because of surgery) and for the first time in my life, I am able to share clothes with someone. I remember owning a pair of size 32 jeans (which keep in mind is not a 32 inch waist). Right now I am able to wear size 16 jeans. I haven’t worn them out in the world yet though. Just because I can put on the size 16 jeans doesn’t mean I should be wearing them out in public yet.

Hopefully I will not take as long to update my next post. Here’s a quick rundown of my progress:
Current Weight: 242 pounds
Total Loss: 158 pounds
Loss since Surgery: 55 pounds
Amount to Goal: 64 pounds
Size Pants: 18 comfortably
Shirt Size: XL, sometimes Large
Last Time I Weighed My Current Weight: 2004, Age 18

Recognizing When Something is Wrong

It has been nearly two years since I have considered myself in remission from depression. I’m still doing fairly well in terms of my mood management, but I have become hyper-aware of any changes that could cause me to have another episode.

Since having surgery, I have tried to maintain as much normality as I could, even with my life changing so drastically. There are things that I have been able to recognize as a normal change that comes with surgery, like losing interest in most foods, but also realizing that losing sleep is not normal. In the last month I have averaged 5 hours of sleep every night. Needless to say in the last month, I have been unmotivated, irritable, on edge, exhausted, and unreliable. These side effects of sleep deprivation have been affecting my job, in that I am late more often than not. I ended up having a meeting with my boss and informed her of my sleeping issues and how I had made an appointment with my doctor to see what is going on. My doctor’s appointment was on Thursday and my doctor recommended I start taking a very low dose of melatonin before bed. It has been two nights while on it and last night was the first time I slept for eight hours. The last two days I have also not been late for work and have actually arrived 15 minutes early both days.

Two days is only two days, but knowing that there is something I can do to change things, has me motivated to make sure it continues. I refuse to go back to that time where I could barely get out of bed most days and would hide from the world because the idea of leaving the house terrified me. I’m proud of myself for taking the necessary steps in fixing a problem that would have only gotten worse if I ignored it.  It’s hard to keep myself on the right path of being mentally healthy, but it’s a lot harder finding the path after straying for a long time. So while I may wander off sometimes, I can still see where I need to be and always go back.  I will do my best to not get lost again, but staying close enough to the path that I don’t miss the flashing signs warning me of danger is the only way I can keep a relapse at bay. That doesn’t mean there won’t be an unexpected pit that I may fall into, but hopefully it’s only a few feet deep and I can lift myself out again, assuming my arms are strong enough because I’ll be honest I have never been able to lift myself up without assistance from a ladder or a chair. I’ve also never done a pull up. My weak arms aside, there is always a way out and as long as I am healthy, I can prevent myself from falling.

April Update

Life has been keeping me busy, preventing me from updating this blog regularly. I had my 2 month post-op appointment a few weeks ago and my dietitian wanted me to start working toward getting back to my pre-surgery exercise plan, which was going for a walk 4 to 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. This week I went for a walk 3 times while at work and 1 time on my weekend. So my total hours of working out was a little over 3, which is pretty good.

On Monday I tried going running for the first time in over a decade. I haven’t been able to do it until now (although even now I’m still struggling) because I needed compression garments to keep body movement to a minimum and I did buy a couple of pants that have worked well. I used to run fairly regularly in high school and I’m about 50 pounds away from being the weight I was in high school, so not only am I 15 years older, I’m still 50 pounds heavier than I was the last time I ran. When I went on Monday, I was only able to run for a couple of minutes every 15 minutes or so. I would have ran more frequently than every 15 minutes, but I kept passing by people and I was embarrassed and refused to run in front of anyone.  The main reason I have been trying to run again is because when I go for walks, my heart rate doesn’t get high enough to be considered at cardio level. Since surgery my resting heart rate went from 65 beats per minute to 49 beats per minute (according to my FitBit), so while that is awesome, it is also very frustrating when it comes to exercising. There are only so many hills I can climb in a state that is known for its prairies before I have to find a new way to get my heart rate up.

When it comes to food, there hasn’t been anything that I have had to avoid because my stomach didn’t like it. I only recently started introducing beef back into my diet, but I’ve found that is the one thing that I’m having the most difficulty with. I’m able to eat it and feel mostly fine, but with beef, I feel some discomfort that I don’t have with other meats. I’ve read that beef is one of the last things to bring back into the diet because so many people have problems with it. I guess if I’m going to have some form of a complication, it’s good that it is only with a food that isn’t that great for me to eat in the first place.

I did my measurements earlier this week and I’m down another 4 inches overall and I’m also down a total of 140 pounds. I have 80 more to go to get to my ultimate goal weight, but again, as I get closer, I anticipate I will be amending that goal.

A Woman Walks into a Store

The sweet tooth I developed pre-surgery is still there, but it isn’t raging like it once was but that doesn’t mean I still don’t want sugary foods. Last night I experimented with some “healthy” baking and while I love to cook, baking isn’t really my thing. The healthy brownies I made turned out awful. I ended up dumping them in the trash. In my defense the recipe was very vague and I improvised the whole thing. One baking success that I have had is Fiber One haystacks. It is only three ingredients and it’s also technically not baking, but whatever. I use a sleeve of Fiber One cereal (8.1 oz), 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 1/4 cup of peanut butter. I melt the chocolate with the peanut butter and then mix in the Fiber one. I end up spreading the mixture out on a cookie sheet, freezing it, then breaking them up when they are solid, but you can make individual cookies just as easily.

Today I stopped at a Dollar Tree on my way home from work because I needed to pick up some wrapping paper and a gift bag for my niece’s birthday. The one thing I used to love about the Dollar Tree was the cheap candy and salty snacks. Every time I would enter that store, I’d leave with at least 3 packages of candy and 1 bag of chips or popcorn. When I stopped by today, I walked down the food aisle with the intention of picking something out, but as I passed by the sour candy and Skittles that I always wanted before, I felt no desire to put a bag in my basket. The idea of having that candy just didn’t seem worth it. There was one candy item that I was considering buying and I even said to myself, “it’s only a dollar,” but I reacted like I did pre-surgery when an unnecessary food was just out of my price range; I told myself that while I really wanted it, my desire didn’t justify the cost. For the first time, I walked out of the Dollar Tree without anything edible. I got the items I came there for and left with only the items I intended on getting (except for the potholders because my dog keeps eating the ones we have and I’m sick of using things that aren’t potholders).

It’s weird things like being able to leave a store without a treat that have shocked me the most since having surgery. A few years ago I lived to eat and I now truly feel that I now only eat to live. I don’t really find pleasure in food anymore, but when I would find pleasure in food before, there was a strong emotion I was trying to bury. I used to binge on bags of chips, eating a whole bag in one sitting and finding myself with an upset stomach and anger at my inability to stop. When I tell people I don’t find pleasure in food anymore, I’m really saying I never found pleasure in food but only used it as a poor coping method for something deeper. Not having food be the focus of my life allows me to focus on things that are important to me, like writing. For the last two weeks I have been writing every night and that isn’t something I have been able to do for several years. I’d rather have my writing than a bag of chips and that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in myself.

Plus Size Clothing

The biggest pair of pants I have ever owned was a plus size 32. I don’t remember when that was, at least 3 years ago, and the last few years I’ve fluctuated between 24, 26 and 28. Pre-surgery I went to a Goodwill and bought a couple of pairs of jeans in smaller sizes (16 and 18) and while I haven’t quite gotten to the 18, the size 24 pants that I have been wearing since before surgery have gotten too big and it’s become ridiculous to keep wearing them. Last night I stopped at Goodwill again and bought a pair of size 20 pants. I wore them to work today and they fit (for the most part). They are a little tight, but I honestly didn’t care because it meant that I wouldn’t have to hold them up every time I moved. I’ve discovered that the weight differences between plus-sizes is greater than it is with smaller pant sizes. I’ve lost over 130 pounds, but I’ve technically only gone down 5 to 6 pant sizes. If I were in the “normal” pant sizes, it would be a lot more than 6 sizes. Someone said that a 10 pound fluctuation in a plus size isn’t going to change the pant size, while the same fluctuation in a “normal” size could mean going from a size 4 to a 2.

Wearing tighter clothing has revealed that I actually have some curves and I’m not just a circle or a blob or something. Waist definition is not something I ever thought I’d see again. I’ve always had trouble with pants staying up (even when they were my size) because I never had a defined waist. I had the torso-version of cankles. I was basically a box. A rounded box.

My goal weight has always been up in the air. Would I like to be the recommended weight for my height (which is about 160)? Yes, definitely, but the reality is that I have been obese for most of my life, so 160 pounds on me would probably look sickly. I figure that once I get under 200 pounds, I will evaluate how much further I want to go. I may be fine at 199 pounds, but I also might want to go down another 20. I won’t know until I get there. In the grand scheme of things, my being considered “overweight” at 199 pounds would be a godsend considering 3 or 4 years ago I was tipping the scale at 400 pounds.

At this point in my weight loss surgery journey, I do not regret my decision to have it. I know some people have regrets, but I also have been very fortunate to not have any problems as of yet, except for some severe constipation early on. I would recommend the surgery to anyone who feels ready to have it, but there has to be a lot of psychological changes that you need to undergo before truly feeling ready and there are some things that you will never be ready for until after surgery. I believe I was as prepared as I could have been. Years of therapy with an eating disorder therapist, evaluating my goals in life, getting my depression under control, and changing my lifestyle and habits were all necessary for me to be ready. Some may not need all of that, but I highly recommend using as many resources as you possibly can before actually going through with it.

Measurements update: I took my measurements last week and since January I have lost about 25 inches.