Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's All Fun and Games 'til Someone Loses Their Hair...or Their Lunch.

It's been kind of a banner week in terms of milestones, accomplishments, and valuable lessons.

First, I have begun my descent!  With 58 pounds lost and 57 to go, I have officially breached the halfway point in my journey.  Woo-hoo!!!! I know the second half won't be as quick as the first half, but having been on this trip now for the better part of three months, I am confident it will be smoother - at least for awhile.  I'm not thinking about the landing yet.  I just know that having gotten more used to my new system and my changing body, I'm more prepared for the second half than I was when I first took off.  Also?  I'm just a few pounds from "One-derland."  Looks like I'll be adding a couple more charms to that bracelet soon!!

I know that this next accomplishment may seem a little silly and is perhaps not such a huge deal to most people, but a couple nights ago I was lying on the sofa on my back.  The show I was watching was over, so I sat up to grab the remote.  And just like that...I sat up.  I knew something felt different to me, but what?  And then I realized it: I'd sat up from a lying down position without using my arms, without rolling over,  without swinging my legs off the side, without rocking back and forth, without struggling like a turtle flipped on its shell.  This, my friends, is a big deal.  It means that even though I'm still carrying a great deal of excess weight in my midsection, those abdominal and lower back workouts are doing their thing and my muscles are stronger. I was so excited that I continued to sit up and lay down a few more times just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.  Hey, you's the little things.

The third milestone - if you can really call it that - is that I've reached the point in this journey where my hair is starting to fall out.  I knew this day would come, and I knew it would be sometime around the three-month mark.  But yeah, it's happening.  The drain trap in my tub is gross with hair after I shower, and big clumps of hair come out with the comb.  When I take it down out of the clip after work, I get another handful of hair.  And I've noticed many strands on my pillow in the morning as well.  I'm trying not to stress about it because (a) I know it'll grow back, (b) I have a LOT of hair, so it's not like it's all that noticeable if some of it is missing, and (c) it gives me an excuse to buy some cute new hats.

However, I do know that I can help the situation if I ramp up my protein intake and pay close attention to my nutritional choices. I learned a hard but very valuable lesson last week when I didn't do that (remember the last post about getting lazy around this time?) and after two days of forgetting to take my vitamins and making poor food choices, I hit a wall.  My body simply said, "Yeah, you know what?  Fuck you."  And I was done for.   Too many carbs, not enough protein, too few vitamins, and too much sugar.  It doesn't take a lot of excess or deficit to throw me off, I've discovered, and the repercussions are pretty swift and severe.

Between last week's crash and this week's wad of hair in my drain, I'm reminded how important it is to pay attention to my diet.  And that throwing-up business?  That's getting tiresome, too.  When I started this journey, I signed a contract to myself.  It opens with this line: "I will be hyper-aware of everything I put in my mouth and will eat mindfully and with purpose." So this coming week's goals are to honor that commitment, to work an extra protein shake into every day, to continue to stay on track with my workouts, and to remember my vitamins.

Oh, and I've got some shopping to do, too.  :-)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Some Days the Glass is Just Half Empty

As of this week - 10 weeks post-op - I am down 53.4 pounds.  At this rate, I should move into Onederland by the end of the month.  *Fingers crossed*.

However, as happy as I am to be losing weight, there is that doom and gloom side of me that can't really see it for the accomplishment others think it is.  Yes, I have come a long way.  And yes, I look better than I did two months ago.  And yes, I am proud of my progress.  But my weight has fluctuated so much over the years that I've been this weight before - many times, in fact.  So when I hear people say, "Wow, you look great!" the compliment is appreciated but I take it with a grain of salt because I just think, "I look like I did two years ago.  And a couple years before that.  And a few years prior to that.  And when I first moved back to Buffalo ten years ago I was this exact same weight. And in fact I was only about 10 pounds heavier than this while I was traipsing around India exactly a year ago."  To me, it's not that impressive.  People tell me I look "amazing," but really, I don't look that much different than I did at various points throughout history.  My hair's a little different, I might have a few more wrinkles and I've taken to wearing lipstick more than usual, but I still can't fit into those cute [insert smaller size] dresses I always thought I'd "diet into someday."  I'm still significantly overweight, as I have been for most of the last 30 years.  In the grand scheme of things, not much has changed.

My progress is met with a fair amount of trepidation in my mind because this is historically the point at which I've gotten stuck and have subsequently given up and begun gaining the weight back.  I know that's not going to happen this time, but it's a hard sell for my pessimism-prone brain.  But this is ultimately WHY I had the surgery. This time I can't just give up and start horking down whole pizzas and pints of Haagen Dazs again.  I've upped the ante this time, and I can't go back.  But I'm still, right now, in a place I've been before.  So while it feels better than it did a few months ago, it feels pretty much the same as it did a few years ago.  I feel good, yes, but I still suffer the ill effects of excess weight because, well, I'm still overweight by 60 pounds.  I'm still invisible to the opposite sex. I'm still wearing plus-sized clothing.  I still feel fat.  I'm still one of the biggest people in the room wherever I go.  I'm barely 5'5" tall and weigh 206 pounds.  That's still rather large.

About five years ago I was about this size after having lost 50-some pounds.  I was feeling good about myself, so I decided to put myself out there and joined some ridiculous dating site or another (does it matter which one?  They all suck).  I got barely any responses, and when I took a chance and wrote to someone I found interesting, he wrote back and said, "Sorry, big girls aren't my thing."  I was positively crushed.  Even though my friend who was sitting next to me when I got the message assured me that I was beautiful and shouldn't listen to tools like that guy, I broke.  I went home that night, curled up on the couch and ate a whole pizza and washed it down with a liter of Pepsi because, why not?  If I could lose 50 pounds and still be called a fat girl, still be rejected, still not be able to get a date, then what the fuck was the point, after all?  By the end of that year I'd gained half the weight back.

Even now, as I face a number of obstacles in my life, I'm  still tempted to overeat to comfort myself.  Only now I get really, really sick if I do, and I'm becoming rather weary of throwing up.  So I've been trying to find other ways to get past the hurt, anger, frustration, fatigue, and other negative emotions that I have traditionally medicated with food.  I go to the gym every few days.  That helps.  I spent all day in my garden yesterday.  That was great.  But old destructive habits die hard, and tonight when faced with a long, arduous project that I wasn't particularly into, and a sudden household to-do list that I hadn't planned on tackling for a few more days and couldn't possibly make a dent in on such short notice, my first thought was, "Fuck it.  I want to eat."  The old me would have gotten my hands on a chicken finger sub, a bag of Cheetos, a box of snack cakes, and a 2-liter Pepsi and gone to town, stuffing my feelings and responsibilities as far down as I could until I could fit no more in there, ending the night passed out in a cloud of sugar, salt, and self-loathing.

I still hate that my house is a mess, my work's not finished, I work a job that robs me of quality sleep and peace of mind so that I can continue to have health insurance, et cetera.  And I KNOW that with or without surgery, now is the point in time when I am most vulnerable to fall into my most destructive habits.  But I can't.  And I'm all twisty and conflicted now.  I'm down 53 pounds but I'm still fat.  I've had 85% of my stomach removed but my brain is still trying to convince me to do bad stuff.  I try to clean a little of my house every day in an effort to maintain the habits I started to develop while I was home for five weeks and not working.  But it's still messy and cluttered, and the rat cage is neglected because every time I want to wheel it outside and give it a righteous scrubbing, it fucking rains.  My house is never clean enough.  I never have enough money.  My goal is still so far away and I just want to cut the shit and get there already.  It's just. never. enough.

I know this is a downer post, and I'm sorry.  But I can't fart sparkly rainbows all the time, and that's just the truth.  I know my life is no more difficult than anyone else's.  There are parts of my life that really fucking rock, actually.  But right now I just feel overwhelmed and unsure of myself and in a really vulnerable place in my weight loss, and it'll be a good twenty or thirty more pounds before that starts lifting.

When I was in school, I was always stressing about this project, that deadline, this assignment, that presentation.  I'd freak out and my friends would say, "Don't worry.  You'll get it done.  You always do."  And somehow, their vote of confidence always proved correct.  I spent a lot of nights in the studio, logged a lot of hours in the library's 24-hour study quad, greeted many a sunrise while furiously tapping out a paper, mounting a print, or cutting a mat to do it, but it did - it got done. 

And so I just need to remember my three Ps - patience, persistence, and presence.   I must be present in the now, persistent in my pursuit, and patient with myself.   The house will get cleaned eventually.  The bills will get paid somehow, some day.  And the weight will come off this time.  It'll be okay.  I'll get it done.  I always do. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Turkey and Cheddar Hummus Wraps!

From time to time I will share recipes and foods that I enjoy as part of my journey.  The solid food stage, as I've indicated, has been serious trial and error and many times I just say "screw it" and grab a shake or a bar to get my nutrients in.  But of course, that gets boring.  So when I have time and energy and the inclination to make something tasty and nutritious, I go for it.

Obviously I look for things that keep and/or travel well, since it's virtually impossible to make a single serving of anything and everything needs to be divided up into small portions that will not overfill me.  I make a lot of soup, ground meat dishes, etc, and then freeze or refrigerate for subsequent meals.  But now that it's summer I am looking for more cold dishes to try - because who the hell wants to eat soup when it's 75 and sunny?  I used to eat a lot of sandwiches in the summer time because they're quick and easy.  Slap some meat and cheese and veggies between a couple slices of bread and go.  But bread, as I've mentioned previously, is not recommended because of its tendency to get stuck.  But tortillas on the other hand - those are totally okay!

So today I made turkey and cheddar hummus wraps.  I took a flour tortilla, spread red pepper hummus on it, and then layered fresh greens, a slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese, and five thin slices of lean turkey.  I rolled it all up tightly and then sliced it into four sections.  I ate one for lunch and then put the other three in a container.  They'll keep for at least a couple of days that way.  They make a great snack or quick lunch.   I'll probably have one tonight as a snack when I get home, take one to work with me tomorrow for lunch, and have the other for dinner or a snack tomorrow night.

Each portion is perfectly sleeve-sized and packs 85 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 5 carbs, and 4 grams of protein.  Granted, it's not a high-protein meal, but for a quick bite these things are super tasty and combine all four food groups.

And they're colorful, too!

Nutritious, tasty, AND pretty!

I'm going to experiment with other meats like chicken and tuna and non-meat alternatives like tofu, seitan, and quorn.  Lightlife makes some really awesome meatless cold cuts that would probably be great.  I'm also going to try using Laughing Cow spreadable cheese instead of the hummus, but I will probably stay away from dressings and sauces because they will soak through the tortilla after awhile.  The possibilities are endless, and I get to still have a "sandwich!"  Bonus: tortillas keep a LOT longer than bread does, too.  I win!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rosemary Triscuits: The Snack of Satan

Dear Rosemary Olive Oil Triscuits: You are evil.  You are so goddamned tasty, and yet I could only eat three of you before I was full and my stomach began to hurt.  Oh, but then you tempted me with your wily ways, beckoning me with your herb-flavored, woven-wheat-y, artificially-enhanced, salty, savory deliciousness and I ate a fourth...but it backfired, didn't it, because you did not get digested.  And you HURT coming up. Why did I even let you into my life?  I can't even eat enough of you to get a traceable amount of protein out of the effort.  You are useless to me.

I hate you.  Go to hell.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two-Month Stats and Photos

I don't think I've done one of these yet, have I?

As of today I am just over two months post-op, and here are my stats for anyone who is interested:

Starting weight on 3/31/13 (start of pre-op diet): 259.8
Surgery Day weight on 4/10/13: 244.2
Current weight 6/13/13: 208.4
Total weight lost: 51.4 pounds
Goal weight: 145
Pounds to goal: 63.4

I don't know how to quantify inches lost because everyone does it differently.  But I've lost over five inches from my boobs, six inches from my waist, five inches from my hips, and two inches from my legs.

I have "official" photos (taken from several angles in more form-fitting clothes) that I'll release later after I've progressed further, but here are some unofficial ones in the meantime:

April 6                      May 12                          June 13

And yes, I purposely wore that sweater in the most recent photo.  In fact, it's my favorite sweater and I think I'm going to be a little bummed when it no longer fits.  The jeans in the first picture have been retired.  I liked those, too, but I'll get over it. :-)

Monday, June 10, 2013


Today is my two-month surgiversary.  Hard to believe, but you know what they say about time flying when you're having fun.  Except I'm not really having fun.  This past week has been one challenge after another, and more than one day has ended in tears.

Trying to get all my protein in along with all my hydration is challenging.  Keeping solid food down is challenging - because I don't remember to chew it well enough, or I eat too fast, or I don't listen to my body closely enough and recognize when I'm full.  Because of the inadequate hydration and the frequent upchucking, my body is starting to do other crazy stuff that isn't exactly pleasant, like...well...sensitive readers who don't enjoy a good poop talk should close this post now, but let me tell you - I would give my right arm at this point to have a normal bowel movement.   My system seems to have been taken over by demons.  Demons playing with bowling (boweling?) balls covered in glass shards.

Constipation?  Bah.  That's an understatement.  Let's just say that after this past week, I have a whole new admiration for anyone who's ever given birth.  Draw your own conclusions there, folks, but I can't remember any time in the last 42 years when a trip to the bathroom lasted so long with such little result or ended in so much pain, so many tears, or any amount of sheer exhaustion.

A few days ago I came home from an early shift at work with a plan to spend the entire rest of the day doing stuff.  I had a list!  I had energy!  I had ambition!  I had hours and hours and hours to enjoy!  I was going to go to the gym.  I was going to work in the yard.  I was going to run errands, do chores, accomplish goals.  But I did nothing.  Not because I was lazy, not because I found something better to do.  Nope. I did nothing because I spent nearly 90 minutes on the toilet sweating, swearing, and ultimately sobbing in frustration and pain, and when it was all over (or as "over" as it was gonna get), I was exhausted and drained beyond measure.  It was all I could do to shlep my tired body on to the sofa, and once there I didn't move for the rest of the night. 

Mind you, this is AFTER I'd attempted to address the issue with various products, tricks, remedies and exercises, none of which seemed to be up for the job.

Too much information?  Sorry.  I tried to keep it as nondescript as possible, but it IS something I have to deal with, something that has sort of taken over my life at the moment.   I can't poop, and it's astonishing to me how profoundly it affects my existence.  I mean, how often do we really think about stuff like this?  Most of us just get up, do what we gotta do, and then get on with our day.  But not me.  Not right now.  Right now I am at odds with my excretory system, living in fear of my toilet, cursing the demons of anti-defecation.  I've become mildly obsessed with the possibility that I could die like Elvis, slumped over on my toilet, and that only adds to the problem.  Every time I try to go I think, "what if I die like this?" and then I start thinking of all the people who could potentially discover my lifeless body.  It's not a very comforting thought, you know.

Maybe I need this book.

I've upped my water intake as much as I can, and have even added some fiber into my diet.  But there's only so much I can put in that little thing, and fiber e-x-p-a-n-d-s, which then makes me too full, which then causes me to throw up, which then defeats the whole purpose and starts the vicious cycle again.  It's enough to make me want to rip out my hair...except I hear that'll happen on its own in a few weeks.

Of all the things I thought I'd miss, I never imagined regularity would be one of them. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy Birthday New Me!

This past Thursday was my birthday.  A couple weeks ago I started thinking about what I was going to do for it and came up empty.  I usually go out for dinner or for drinks or something, but this year I didn't feel ready to do that.  Then I saw an ad for the Gay 5K to kick off Pride Week here in Buffalo.  It just happened to be on my birthday, so I thought, "Hey! I'll do THAT!"

I am not a runner.  I never have been.  Even when I played softball, my saving grace was that I could swing a bat like nobody's business and hit balls out of the park.  If I hit the ball anywhere within the park, I rarely made it past first base on one hit.  My body just does not like to carry itself on its feet any faster than a slow jog at any given time.  That's why I got into cycling many years ago.  It was the only way I could self-propel with any reasonable speed.

I wanted to be involved with the Gay 5K, though, so I wrote to the organizers and asked if I could walk it.  I've walked other 5Ks before; when I lived in Chicago I did the Bark in the Park walk every year with my dog, and after moving to Buffalo I did the Corporate Challenge a few times.  They told me I was welcome to walk, but that I needed to be aware that the route would be open to traffic after one hour.  I was okay with this, since the route I've been walking in my neighborhood is a mile and a half and I've been able to do it in about 30 minutes.  As long as I kept up a decent pace I wouldn't have an issue.  So I signed up, and so did my friend Sally.  Sally does run and has run 5Ks in the past, but she promised she'd walk with me this time.

Thursday afternoon Sally and I headed downtown to the starting line and picked up our registration packets and race numbers.  We were really doing this!
In all my rainbow glory. And no, that's not my age.  I wish!!

When the race started, we were at the back of the line.  We thought that would be a good place to start so as not to piss off any runners who might have to maneuver around us.  What ended up happening, however, was that everyone ended up WAY ahead of us, and we were bringing up the rear.  This would not have been so bad, except there was a cop car behind us that basically ran us off the road.  The race was NOT closed to traffic for a full hour, we found out.  It was closed only as long as the cop car followed.  And since the cop didn't want to follow our slow asses, we were instructed to walk on the sidewalk.

So we walked.  And we walked.  Sally stopped a few times to take some photos along the way but I kept walking and she would eventually catch up with me each time.  I walked as swiftly as I could, not breaking my stride if I could help it.  A few times I had to stop for traffic (thanks to the now open race course) but otherwise I kept going.

I stopped briefly at the halfway point to get some water and to chat with my friend Leslie who was helping out with refreshments.  She's responsible for this picture:

Hey, look at me!  It's my birthday and I'm walking a 5K!

We were last.  We'd been since about ten minutes into the race when the people behind us dropped out of sight.  Apparently they gave up.  But I didn't.

Shortly after we left the halfway point my legs began to hurt.  I said something about this to Sally, who offered to stop if I needed to.  I said, "NO! I MUST KEEP GOING!"  I knew that if I stopped I might not start again.  I definitely slowed down a little, but then something happened.  Suddenly, through the pain in my legs, I started thinking, "I am strong.  With each step I am getting stronger.  My body is healthy.  My body is good.  Every step brings me closer to my goal."

This became sort of my mantra as I walked.  Slower still than I had walked the first half, but never stopping because "every step brings me closer to my goal." And in the last half a mile, I found strength to walk a little faster.   Of course it might have been the aroma of the burgers cooking at the post-race party that motivated me.

I didn't get my official time, because by the time Sally and I arrived at the finish line everyone was long finished and already partying.  But I still posted our tags:

Hey, someone's gotta come in last, right?

and we got our burgers:

Without the bun, of course.  And both bites were mighty delish!

and then we even got to hang out a little with Vanity Vogue!

By the end of the day I was exhausted but really, really happy.  So I was slow and I finished last, but you know what?  I FINISHED.  And that's what matters.  Nine weeks before this race I weighed 45 pounds more than I do now, and the only exercise I got was walking from the sofa to the kitchen to refill my ice cream bowl.   Every other birthday I've gorged on food and cake to celebrate staying alive for another year, which sometimes seemed a miracle.  But no more.  Bring it on, future years.  I'll be celebrating many more of you if this keeps up.  Huzzah!