Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Six Weeks

I'm six weeks out from Surgery Day.  43 days, of which ten of those will be liquid-dieting to shrink my liver.  At least two of those days will also be spent fasting in preparation for blood work (I have some non-VSG-related tests coming up next week because my gynecologist is all "it's probably just perimenopause but let's rule out endometrial blah blah blah" about my recently-wonky cycle).  This means I have a grand total of 31 days in which to drink gallons of Pepsi and good beer, put Zip's on speed-dial, and make an excuse to pass Paula's and/or Famous (two amazing REAL, from-scratch, independent donut shops) on a daily basis.  Twice. In each direction. 

Except I can't really do that.

Instead, I have 31 days in which to make some actual, real change in my habits.  I need to get on that gym thing (though I still haven't found one that offers everything I need and isn't prohibitively expensive on my already threadbare budget), and I need to start implementing better habits.

I suppose I should also start experimenting with Jello flavors.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

So How Did it Get to This Point?

This is kind of a painful post to write, but part of this journey is being completely honest with myself and my feelings.  In doing so, I have to explore the uncomfortable truths and somehow work through the discomfort while looking forward to being free of the chains that have kept me here for so long.

My weight problems started when I was quite young.  I was a normal sized kid - a little tall for my age, but not at all overweight. When I was 10 years old, my father told me I was putting on weight, and that I should do something about it because "fat people aren't allowed in [his] house."  He then told me he'd throw me out on the street if I got fat.  He told my mother to put me on a diet.

So I suppose at the basic level, this is where the problem started.

I was ten years old and had gained a few pounds.  But see, that's kind of what kids do, right?  They grow.  And when you're ten you grow a lot, and it's awkward.  Your body starts doing weird shit and you tower over all your classmates, your feet are pushing out of your Buster Browns, and you're already super self-conscious around the smaller, prettier girls.  And then your parents come in and make a HUGE deal out of the fact that they have to buy your pants a size bigger all of a sudden and tell you that you HAVE to wear undershirts no matter what, because they "hold you in."  So, you know, maybe I was putting on fat weight.  Or maybe I was just approaching puberty and my developing pre-teen body was just doing its thing.  But rather than encourage healthier habits, and allowed to process what was happening to me, I was force-fed salads and fruit, and browbeaten into believing there was something wrong with me. My mother would point at fat people on the street and say, "Look, Deedee.  There's your incentive.  You don't want to end up like that!"

In the meantime, my mother, who weighed less than 100 pounds my entire childhood except when she was pregnant (and even then only got up to 110 or so each time), subsisted on Hostess cakes, peanut butter and margarine sandwiches on white bread (it's a Canadian thing - they eat strange shit), and three bites of whatever she'd made us for dinner.  I rarely saw a vegetable pass her lips unless it was drowning in cheese sauce or butter, and she didn't exercise.  Well, there was a brief period in the early '80s when she went to this place called Sophisticated Lady and did Jane Fonda Jazzercise-type stuff, but that was it. I'm pretty sure the only reason she went there was because she'd entered her mid-30s and her metabolism was slowing down, and my asshole father had probably made some wise-ass nasty comment about her barely-existent spare tire.  He really, really, REALLY hated fat people.  And this, in tandem with my weight struggle, would taint our relationship until it ended in merciful estrangement years later.

I wish I could say I'm making this stuff up.  I wish I could say I'm just exercising my flair for the dramatic.  But sadly, I'm not. When I launched my appeal to the insurance company for my surgery, I included an 8-page photo timeline that spanned thirty years of weight fluctuations.  To call me a yo-yo dieter is an understatement.  I'm like the Shinji Saito of dieters.  I've made that shit go up, down, sideways, around my neck, above my head, through my knees, and around the room.  Someday if I can decide just how to go about it, I'll post the whole thing here.  But just trust me on this for now - the variances are grotesque.  And looking at this, you'd have to be a robot to not wonder what the fuck was going on there.  No normal person has 50-100 pound weight fluctuations in such short amounts of time.  Over and over again.  Do they?

To tell the whole story in more detail would take way longer than I have time or energy for right now, but I do know one thing: I'm finished with feeling this way.  A lot of what's going to have to happen here will involve forgiving myself for the past, letting go of negative feelings that I've hoarded for so long, and believing that I'm worth the effort.  I deserve that much.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The ''Easy Way Out"

I told a coworker yesterday about my surgery, and she said, "what's that?"  I explained the procedure to her, and she said, "Why are you going to get that?  Oh, you want the easy way out?"

I know that's not the last time I'm going to hear that exact phrase, and I should steel myself from future utterances, but it kind of ground my gears.  It's the same as people who I reference in my earlier post, who think I'm just giving up on my willpower and taking this road to avoid doing any real work on myself.

Bull. Shit.

I think what people don't realize is that once I get this surgery, I don't just wake up and magically watch the pounds disappear while I go about my life as it was. I have signed on for a life of portion control, ingredient/nutrient awareness, and regular exercise.  I still have to be ├╝ber aware of what's going into my body, still have to ensure I'm getting adequate nutrition, and have to eat specific amounts of certain nutrients to ensure optimal health through all of this.  When you're on Weight Watchers, you can say, "Ah, the hell with it - I'll eat the cake and make up for the points tomorrow," or use your "flex points" or whatever it is they're doing in the current incarnation of the program.  I won't have that luxury.  If I eat the cake I'll throw the fuck up.  That's probably the simplest thing about this.

None of this is easy - or simple.  It's complicated and it's filled with hassle, and there's real potential to prevent loss or even gain the weight back if this surgery is not accompanied by healthy habits and total awareness.

To get to the point I am now, I had to endure THIRTY YEARS of up-down-up-down extreme weight fluctuations of MASSIVE amounts.  Given the choice, and knowing what I know now, I would have taken the real easy way out and not gained the weight back the first time I lost it back in 1983.  But it's too late for that, and after going up 40, down 30, up 60, down 70, up 90, down 60, up 80, down 40, and so on, on a regular basis, the only "easy" thing about this surgery is knowing those days are behind me. 

I'm not taking the easy way out.  I'm taking the only way out now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'll Have an Order of the Reckless Abandon with a Side of Sensible, Please

The other day my friend said to me, "Man, if I were you, I'd be stuffing my face with everything I could possibly stuff it with right now."

Part of me feels like doing that, but part of me knows I should really be moving toward healthier habits.  I was doing okay for a while when I was participating in the mind-body workshop and had to keep a food diary, but after that ended (and the holidays rolled around) I fell off the wagon and started not paying such close attention to my diet.  The vegetables I had bought to make juice with started to rot in the fridge while I stopped for a slice of pizza or went on another assignment that involved food (I work part time as an independent service evaluator and frequently pick up restaurant assignments that provide reimbursement for the meal).

I do have an occasion in the works wherein I plan to get a number of my friends together for a "last supper" sort of deal at my favorite wing dive.  However, I've made it clear to those who'll listen that it's not about eating until I explode, but rather just a chance for me to indulge one last time in a pile of chicken wings (which I will eventually be able to enjoy again) and Pepsi (which, as I've mentioned, will be banished from my life completely). 

If you know anything about the Gemini mindset, you'll  understand when I say Twin A says, "find that gym and start your workout routine right away!  Eat a salad!  Juice some carrots!"  Twin B, on the other hand, says, "Better eat that pizza and suck down that Pepsi while you still can, sister! Stop at Paula's on your way home for a frosted angel creme while you're at it!"

So now that I'm less than two months away from Sleeve Day, I need to listen more to Twin A and tell Twin B to shut the hell up.  Or at least simmer down a bit, because old habits die hard and I need to develop new, healthier ones before I hit that table.  I know that surgery is not the magic wand and that I need to follow a healthy diet and a regular exercise regimen in order to achieve optimal results - the Internet is full of plenty of non-success stories from people who have neglected to do such - but I guess I'm just dragging my feet.

Yesterday as I left work I realized I hadn't eaten all day.  Bad, bad, bad, bad.  That's a terrible habit that I've developed over the years, of not eating all day and then stuffing my face so full at dinner I pass out afterward.  It's a great way to fuck up your metabolism, in case you're looking for a way to do that. So I was starving, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, and I actually craved something green.  After thinking about it and driving around in circles for a half hour or so, I decided to go to a place near my office that has a great salad bar AND pizza.  On a buffet.  Yikes.  Now, buffets + hungry me = certain disaster, but I actually managed to not go completely bananas.  I started with a gigantic salad, which made the subsequent trips to the buffet yield much less than they normally might have.  I had a little bit of everything, but I didn't heap my plate with loads of crap.  One slice of pizza.  A half-spoonful of pasta.  Four french fries.  One chicken finger.  A small (yes, really) slice of pie. It was still bad-for-me food, but because I'd filled up on salad first I wasn't tempted to go hog-wild and travel back and forth with enough food to feed an entire third-world village.  AND I'd gotten more than a couple servings of veggies in the process.  So it was kind of a win.  Right?  I get points for awareness, in my book.

To others this might seem like simple common sense, but to me it's not always the way it goes.  Remember, I'm a compulsive overeater, and dropping me into a buffet is like dropping an alcoholic into an Irish bar on St. Patrick's Day.  This time, though, I was full, but not to the point of extreme discomfort.  My belt stayed buckled exactly where it had been all day, and when I came home I managed to stay upright for the rest of the evening - and well into it, at that.  And all it really took was a big old salad to start. 

To a normal person this might seem like a no-brainer, but to me?  It's a small victory on the path to the larger event. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

This Week's Project: Gym Shopping

Within a one and a half mile radius of my house there are - count 'em - NINE workout facilities.  Everything from bare-bones gyms to serious iron-pumping sweaty weight rooms filled with guys whose necks are bigger than my thigh, from elaborate fitness centers to women's only clubs and the Y.  There is certainly no shortage of choices here.  In fact I have, at various points in my life, belonged to two of these places.

This week I am starting the process of gym shopping.  Regular workouts need to be a part of not just my post-op life, but also a part of my pre-op life so that I can (a) get into a habit and some type of routine, (b) amp up my metabolism to make the post-op loss more effective, and (c) ward off at least some of the potential extra skin issues.  I know I'm going to have issues with certain areas based on the fact that I've always had problems with them.  My stomach, for example, has been stretched to its limit and will never snap back.  My face will likely fall, too.  I suppose I should start a "plastic surgery fund" for that.  Vain?  Perhaps.  But they're real issues to me, and I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Anyway.  This week's project is shopping for a gym.  If anyone in Buffalo is reading this and either has a recommendation or a membership that allows you to bring a guest, please be in touch.  I'm also interested in personal training, though not at all financially sound enough to actually afford it.  Synergy Bariatrics has an on-site fitness facility to which I will have access after my surgery for a few months, and I plan on taking advantage of that.  But they're 10 miles away, and it's silly to drive 10 miles when I can walk a few blocks.

I'm officially less than two months away from my surgery date now.   I know this time is going to fly, so I need to get on the stick and start making all this other stuff happen!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Hairy Situation

I've been feeling really "blah" the last few days and haven't bothered to update.  We had a snowstorm two days ago (residual "Nemo" effects but nothing near what New England saw) and it threw a wrench into my mood.  The rear tires on my car are bald, which makes driving in the snow that much more treacherous, so I just didn't go anywhere.  I holed up in the house and slept most of the day and night.  Yesterday I made it out for a rehearsal in the morning and then came home and slept the rest of the day.  I can't decide if it's situational or S.A.D. or hormonal or what, but it sucks.  It's like I have anvils on my feet and a Buick on my head. 

Today, though, I picked myself up and dusted myself off a bit and forced myself to get out.  The sun was shining, which made going out a little more bearable.  Among other things, I got a fresh cut and color, and I feel a lot better now.  My hair, which had been feeling tired and tangly and dull, is now cut in sassy layers and is as bright and shiny as a newly minted penny.  The same color as one, too.  I love getting my hair done because not only does it give me a lift, but it also gives me time to hang out with the friend who does it.  It's always a good time.

I'm told by others who have had this surgery that I can expect my hair to fall out some in the few months afterward.  I'm more worried about this than I probably should be, but my hair is one of the few things about myself that I actually like.  I can find fault with just about everything on my body, but my hair - when it looks good - is a source of pride and vanity.  It's long, thick, and pretty.  It's naturally wavy but looks even better when it's straightened.  It's naturally an understated auburn color, but I dye it various shades of red depending on my mood and the season.  Because it's so thick I don't think it's going to be that awful when it thins a little, and from what I've told it grows back pretty quickly. It's a sacrifice I suppose I have to be willing to make, and all things considered it's not that big a deal.  And maybe after I'm a normal weight, I won't care so much about my stupid hair anymore anyway.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More Projections: Flying Solo

My decision to have weight loss surgery is not unique by any means.  It's not even uncommon at this point.  But there is something that seems to set me apart from most of my WLS brethren, and that is that I am doing this all by myself.  I have no spouse, no partner, no significant other to hold my hand through all of this.

Sure, yes, I have friends.  A healthy number of them, in fact. And I have family.  And several individuals have offered their services as support team members at various points.  But a partner, I think, is something different.  It's someone who's there day and night, even when they're not.  It's a ready-made ride to the hospital, a guaranteed familiar face to wake up to, an administrator of steady support, and a reliable spooner of jello.  I don't have a lot of experience with actual serious relationships, so I guess I imagine it as having someone who will just be there for me.  It's having someone around all the time, who won't just come in for a couple hours and leave, or stay one night or two and then go back to their own life.  It's someone to help with the day-to-day stuff around the house so that I don't have to worry about it.  It's having to not think about who to ask for help, having to not try and coordinate people, having to not worry about creating impositions on a whole bunch of other people with my needs.  A partner, by virtue of the very position, is the default for all of that.  And not having one sort of makes me feel like I've got to work that much harder to get through all of this shit.  

Let me make it perfectly clear that I'm NOT knocking the support I do have.  I am grateful for those who have pledged their support, and I know I'll be checked in on frequently. But I do sometimes wonder how I'm ultimately going to do this all by myself.   I know I can do it, and it's not like I'm afraid.  But I know it's probably a hell of a lot easier when there's someone else there to feed the cats and clean the litter boxes, and who doesn't care if you want to spend the entire recovery period hanging out in a Mr. Rogers t-shirt and a tattered pair of granny briefs.  

I got a bunch of information in the mail yesterday outlining a number of things I still need to do between now and surgery day.  One of the things I have to do is attend a 2-hour class at the end of March for information regarding the special pre-op diet and post-op nutrition and exercise guidelines.  They "strongly recommend" that you come accompanied by the person who will be responsible for your care during recovery.  At this stage in the game I've managed to coordinate a (very early morning) surgery day ride to the hospital from my aunt, and my sister is planning to be around at some point.  Someone is bringing me home. But who's actually "responsible" for my aftercare?   Who's going to get the pleasure of watching me retch?  Who's going to help me to the bathroom when I'm too zonked on Lortabs to stand up?  Most importantly, who's going to wake me up to remind me to eat my jello every two hours?

Looks like I'll be showing up to that class with me, myself, and I.

I've never been one to need someone to take care of me.  I might not always take the best care of myself, and I frequently fall behind on a lot of things that are easier to deal with when one has a partner - things like housework and the electric bill and cooking actual food - but I have spent most of my adult life as a single unit, and have lived more than 16 of the last 20 years by myself.  It's kind of the only way I know how to be.  I've always been fiercely independent, always marched to the beat of my own drum, and have for most of my life been a fair bit quirky about - and protective of - my privacy.  In fact the last time I did try to live with someone it was a disaster because I couldn't deal with someone encroaching on the space that had been exclusively mine for so many years.

So like I am prone to doing, I'm projecting more than anything else here.  I'll probably welcome the solitude.  I'll probably want to be left alone.  I'll probably sleep most of the time anyway.  And if I pee myself because I can't get up, or if I don't wake up in time to eat my jello...oh well.  I'll get the hang of it eventually.  I always do.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Projections from the Elephant in the Room

I can't help but project on what my life is going to be like after this is done.  I mean, after the loss begins to take effect.  I want to write this stuff down now so that when I'm writhing in pain, clutching my nauseous stomach and forcing myself to eat yet another spoonful of jello every third hour, I can look back and say, "oh yeah - that's why I did this."

People ask me if I think I'm going to miss "real" food.  Well, the thing is I will be able to eat "real" food eventually - just not gobs and gobs of it like I can now.  I'm going to miss my beloved Pepsi, I know that.  I'll miss my slices of pizza from Zip's.  I'll miss ice cream.  I'll miss Paula's donuts.  But really?  I shouldn't be eating that shit in the first place.  This is why I'm fat, for Christ's sake.  Even when I eat it in moderate amounts, it's nothing I need to be putting in my body in any amount.

You know what I won't miss, though?  I won't miss the asthma, the wheezing, the joint pain, the edema, the headaches, the fatigue, the insomnia, the depression.  I won't miss having to compromise and improvise my style because I can't find what I want to wear in my size.  I won't miss the frustration of getting dressed every morning, of not being able to find anything that fits or looks decent.  I won't miss having to put my pants on from the side (if you can even picture such a thing) because I can't bend over far enough to put them on the proper way.   I won't miss getting out of breath just putting a fucking pair of socks on, and I won't miss the world war I launch every time I try to wear a goddamn pair of tights.  

Most of all, I won't miss being the elephant in the room.  I'm not going to miss the shame of being the largest person just about everywhere I go, and especially the self-consciousness of being the largest person in my family.  It's not like I'm one fat member of a family.  I am THE ONLY fat person in a family of otherwise normal-weight people.  And every family dinner, every holiday, every party, every funeral breakfast...every time I ask someone to pass the butter, the bread, the potatoes, help myself to a second helping of one thing or another, I'm casting myself into a self-illuminated spotlight - and whether or not my family is thinking what I'm thinking, I still feel self-conscious.  My first instinct is to say something self-deprecating along the lines of, "Big Fatty love her some buttah," or something equally awkward, because in my mind I feel like drawing attention to it somehow masks my self-consciousness and embarrassment.  No one ever says anything about it to my face (except my mother and my sister, who have on occasion expressed concern for my health in the past, and my 5-year-old niece who was only being an observant child), but it's hard not to believe I'm not regarded as the "fat" relative before all else.  

I'm not going to miss any of that.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Yesterday I found myself in the dentist's chair having an emergency root canal after weeks of constant toothache had escalated into 12 hours of searing, intense, throbbing pain that wouldn't let me sleep.  I was lucky that my dentist has Saturday hours every other week, and I just happened to hit him on the right one.

When I got home all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and sleep.  I couldn't even think about eating.  I did manage to get two sips of hot chocolate before passing out from my pain meds.  This morning I scrambled a couple of eggs, and then my aunt brought me jello.  I feel nauseous, but I don't know if it's from the pain meds or from not eating, but if what I'm told is correct, I should get used to nausea and jello, because I'm in for a few weeks of it pretty soon.   As long as it isn't accompanied by tooth pain, I'll be all right.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Vive le Resistance

It occurred to me yesterday that despite my enormous team of cheerleaders, weight loss surgery still carries as much of a stigma as being overweight does.  So...I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.  All I know is that I have been fighting the good fight for 30 years, and I'm not going to let anyone tell me they know better than me what I have to do.  This is my body.  My doctors all agree with my decision, and I have a wonderful eating behavior counselor to help me process all the changes I need to make.  My surgeon's office has a renowned aftercare program, complete with an on-site fitness facility and nutritional therapy.  For good measure, I'm going back to my old therapist, too, so that I have another source of support as I sort all of this out.  There are as many psychological and emotional implications in this process as there are physical changes, if not more.

I can't expect everyone to share my excitement in this journey.   It's a disappointing realization that although I have immense support behind me from people who love me, there will be those who disagree with my decision or are convinced that all I really need to do is show a little more willpower.  It was my poor lifestyle choices, after all, that led to my condition.  Why can't I just work a little harder at eating better and making healthier choices?  Do I really need to mess with my innards?

Well, yeah.  I kinda do.  Like I said a few posts back, this is what it's come to.  I'm not the first person to turn down this road when all else has failed.  Nevertheless, there are people who will never understand why I made the decision to do this.  As heartbreaking as it is to be misunderstood, I have to remain positive for ME.

I'm excited.  I'm excited about the changes that are about to happen.  I'm excited about finally gaining a level of control that I'd not had before.  I'm excited about being healthier.  I'm excited about maybe finally being able to wear cute boots around my calves in the future.  I'm excited about breathing better, about sleeping better, about getting back to my yoga practice that I shelved last year after I fractured my foot and then got too fat to go back to after the cast came off.  I'm excited about a lot of things.

I'm also nervous.  My excitement perhaps masks that, and maybe it's too far away for me to let my nerves get the best of me yet, but believe me - my excitement over this surgery is not the same excitement I feel when I'm, say, about to travel overseas on a month-long adventure, or the excitement I feel when I'm falling in love with someone.  It's a different kind of excitement, and there is a level of nervousness in that mix.  It's not really fear.  I'm not afraid of what's to come.  I'm actually a pretty fearless person most of the time.  But I am nervous.

Those who do not agree with my decision are free to feel as they do, and there's little I'll be able to do to convince them otherwise.   But this is not their journey, it is mine, and I'm taking it with a busload of supporters.  I can't concern myself with the stragglers, no matter how much it might bother me.