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.

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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.

Skewed Thoughts

One thing that I anticipated would be an issue after having surgery was how I would view food. Before surgery I would go into restaurants and worry that I wouldn’t have enough food to satisfy me. I still have these thoughts even though I know the average plate of food at a restaurant can easily be 4 meals for me. Thankfully I know while eating that I will never be able to finish the whole plate in one sitting and I don’t allow myself to over do it. The idea of pushing myself too far and vomiting in a restaurant is a good deterrent. I’m one of the lucky surgery patients who has never thrown up because of overeating. Given that the small complication I had during surgery (my stomach was cut in the wrong place) would have gotten worse if I vomited, I am very grateful for many reasons to never vomited post-surgery. I hope that continues, but I assumed it was expected when it doesn’t have to be. There have been times I have pushed the limit and felt horrible afterwards (once I thought I was having a heart attack), but I am better able to recognize the little stomach cues that tell me to stop soon.

My preparation for surgery started years before I actually had the surgery. I’ve been seeing my therapist (who specializes in eating disorders) for nearly 3 years. I’m one of the more educated weight loss surgery patients because of what I have learned from the eating disorder clinic my therapist works at and also the years I spent considering surgery. Do I wish I had the surgery earlier? Not really. I’m better informed, my depression has been in remission for 2 years now and I know what I need to do to keep it that way. I used to believe that I was depressed because I was obese, but I know now that I can be happy as obese. Even though I was happy while I was obese, it doesn’t mean I want to be obese. I know there are people who are proud of being overweight/obese and that’s great for them, but the goals I have for my life don’t work well as an obese person.  I have a unique perspective in that I have experienced morbid obesity and I will soon be experiencing a more normal weight. It’s similar to my experiences with depression. I have been through hell with depression. I am able to empathize with people who are going through what I did. I know how hard it is to get out of bed most days with depression. Since getting better I openly speak out about my depression and that is what I intend to do with weight issues. I speak out for the people who aren’t comfortable doing it themselves. If they never feel ready, that’s fine, because I will still do my damnedest to spread awareness.

Today I met with my surgical dietitian and CNP and mentioned how, as expected, my new life is a bunch of adjustments. I think I’ve had an easier time than most people, but it has still been difficult. Going from eating giant plates of food to half a cup of food each meal was hard. Accepting that I wasn’t going to be part of the “Clean Plate Club” at every meal was harder than I thought because of my aversion to waste anything, even if it is two or three bites of food. The first day I had an egg, I wasn’t able to eat a teaspoon of it and I felt horrible for putting it in the sink. I’ve gotten better about portioning meals smaller and using the freezer for when I make batches of food (like the mini egg muffins). It’s adjustments like those that I never considered before surgery, but as in life, you can’t plan everything.

At today’s appointments my blood pressure was normal (I’m no longer on blood pressure meds) and my total weight loss is at 130 pounds, about 25 pounds since surgery.

Product Discovery

After this week’s therapy appointment, I decided to make a stop at Aldi to pick up a few things. I had some recipe ideas that I wanted to make, including makeshift personal pizzas (which is 2 or more meals for me now). I came across packages of flatbread that I thought would make a really good crust for my pizzas.  The product is called Fit & Active: Multi-Grain Flatbread with Flax. That night I decided to make a flatbread pizza with the usual sauce and cheese and for toppings I chose pepperoni and spinach. Probably an odd combination, but I wanted some form of vegetable included and that’s what was handy. I baked the pizza at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes but it probably could have been in there less time. I was quite shocked that I actually really like the flatbread. When I had pizza before, the crust was never something I enjoyed, but I found this flatbread to be pleasing. I might try making chips with them too because I am a chip and dip fiend.

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Go-To Recipes (Week 5)

At Week 5 I am just beginning to introduce solid foods. There have been a few recipes that have helped me get through the transition and also give me a lot of protein at each meal. Because I am almost always running late, one meal that has been a Godsend for me is mini-egg muffins.  I typically make a batch of 48 mini-muffins and keep them in the freezer. I try different combinations with each batch, but the basic starter of each muffin batch is this:

  • 10 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of milk (I use skim)
  • 2 tsp of salt (although I like salt, so I usually add a little more)

Some combinations I have enjoyed are bacon, cheese and spinach, feta and tomato, feta and red pepper, cheese and bacon, and cheese and pepperoni.

Spray each muffin tin with a bit of cooking spray for easier removal and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. The first time I made these, I was shocked at how buttery they tasted despite never adding any butter.

As I’ve said, I freeze mine and then just take 2 or 3 out when I’m running late, pop them in the microwave for about 30 seconds and eat them on the go. Depending upon what I add to each egg muffin, I can get between 3 and 6 grams of protein in each one.

Week 5 Updates

Yesterday I was officially 5 weeks out from surgery. I began eating soft foods a couple of weeks ago and solid foods last weekend. In the last week, I have been told contradictory information from my doctors, therapist and dietary team and from people who have had the surgery. My eating guidelines from my team have been 1/4 cup of protein and 1/4 cup of vegetables or fruits. I usually have more protein than fruits and veggies, but I’ve been pretty good on sticking with that plan. People who have had the surgery claim I am doing everything wrong by including fruits and veggies and not watching my carb intake.

I was on weight loss stall for 3 weeks that finally broke on Sunday. When you have the surgery and end up staying the same weight for a long period of time, you question everything that you are doing. I must be failing if I’m not losing weight. I’m going to stay at this weight forever because I didn’t utilize my new tool properly. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, try not to doubt yourself. Keep doing what you have been doing, even if people who claim they are more knowledgeable because they’ve had the surgery tell you to do something different. I’m sure carb counting works for some people, but with my history of obsessive behavior and an eating disorder, it is not in my best interest to worry about that. I will lose the weight by doing what I am supposed to: eating protein, then fruits or veggies. The days I did limit my carb intake I honestly felt pretty horrible. I was weak. Every time I stood up, I got light headed. With my job in a library that requires I monitor a large machine, that would not end well if I ended up passing out.

As of today, I am down 20 pounds since surgery and my total weight loss is 125 pounds.

Welcome!

As I sit on my couch sipping an 8 oz protein drink, that will take at least an hour to consume, I struggle with how I can best use this website to spread knowledge and awareness about weight loss surgery. The world is bombarded with ‘quick and easy’ weight loss tips and constant reminders that we should all be thinner. For a lot of people, that worry of being too heavy is unnecessary, but there are many people who have good reason to be concerned.

The only time I was of normal weight was before age six. I wasn’t necessarily overweight in first grade, but I was bigger. I was tall (and still am) and looked older than everyone despite usually being one of the younger kids in class. As I got older my weight gradually grew farther from the expected growth standard for my age and concern for my health was brought up frequently.

When I graduated high school my weight was around 220 pounds. For being 5’10”, I was really only about 50 pounds overweight. I attended college three hours from home and relied upon the buffet-style campus dining service everyday. The “Freshman 15” became the “Freshman 80” and by the time I had finally decided to drop out of college three years later I weighed 330 pounds.

A few years after leaving college, I decided to try again at a college nearby. Around that same time, I started to seriously consider weight loss surgery. I knew a few people who had had it done and were successful and I wanted to be like them. I equated thinness to happiness. I strongly believed that if I could just lose my excess weight I wouldn’t be depressed anymore and I could actually start my life.

Attending an information session was my first foray into my weight loss surgery education. I left the session certain that I was going to have the LAP Band done. I set up the appropriate appointments to start my journey and saw nutritionists, surgeons, and nurses all specializing in bariatrics. My insurance didn’t cover a lot of the appointments, but I was determined to have the surgery despite working at a job that barely paid minimum wage. For months I went to appointment believing that I was getting closer to a surgery date. A nutritionist finally told me after multiple visits that I was not meeting the goals we had set and that I would not be approved until I followed through. I was disheartened and convinced that this person did not know me enough to know that I would be successful. I just needed to lose the weight and I would be happy.

It took another month for me to realize that financially I could not keep going. In a matter of five months I had amassed at least $3,000 in hospital bills, which was a quarter of my yearly income. I was convinced I would be obese for the rest of my life and I would never be happy because no one would let me have the surgery.

In 2015, around three years after my initial attempt at weight loss surgery, my life started lining up in just the right way that I was on the path toward ridding myself of depression. By August of that year my life felt completely different. I had newfound confidence and motivation to get my life started despite being obese. Happiness was never guaranteed by losing weight, even though I believed for years that that was the reason I was so miserable.

A year into my remission from depression I started to reconsider weight loss surgery. I was working full-time at a job that I loved (and still do) and I finally graduated from college six months before. I changed my daily habits and started walking for exercise regularly. My eating patterns became less frenzied and more planned and intentional. By January 2017, my nutritionist declared me ready for surgery.

By the time I had my surgery (vertical sleeve gastrectomy) on February 20, 2017, I had managed to shed 110 pounds which was half of the weight I wanted to lose. My weight loss surgery journey is not close to being done, but I’ve gotten so far already that it doesn’t seem impossible anymore.

I hope that reading about my experiences as I go through this process will help others make the decision whether weight loss surgery is a good fit for them. It isn’t for everyone and sometimes, like me, a person isn’t as ready as they think. It took me years to be completely ready, but it was well worth the wait.