Wednesday, October 23, 2013


About a year ago I was in a store and I saw a sweater that I fell in love with.  It was multicolored, striped, with a cowlneck.  It was soft and kind of fuzzy and just really struck my fancy and I imagined it with all different pant/skirt combinations, and just really really wanted this sweater.  Oh, and it was on sale.  Of course.  But even the biggest size was impossible.  I could barely get it over my head. I remember taking a photo of it in the dressing room and sending it to my best friend with a note about how sad I was that I couldn't have this impossibly adorable sweater because they didn't make it in morbidly obese size.  He sympathetically wrote back with a sad face.  I'm pretty sure I went home and ate a pizza and a pint of Haagen Dazs that night.  Because, well...that's what I did in situations like that.

Anyway, a couple months later I was in another location of the same store and saw the sweater again. At that point I had been assembling my appeal to the insurance company for my surgery, and I thought, "I'm buying this sweater.  I will fit into it by next winter one way or another."  Also?  It was on clearance for SEVEN DOLLARS.  So I bought it, brought it home, and put it into the "Sweaters" bin in the basement.  Last week I unearthed it, tried it on and - gloriola! - it fit.  It fit, and it was every bit as adorable as I'd imagined it to be on me.

Too bad you can't see the whole thing, but trust me - it's cute.

So I was getting dressed for work yesterday and I put on the sweater, along with my most recent favorite pair of jeans, and thought, "what shoes to wear with this?"

Now, before I go any further I have to preface this next section with this declaration: I LOVE BOOTS.  Short boots, tall boots, ankle boots, flat boots, heeled boots.  Especially heeled boots.  And heels of any kind, really.  When I was a bartender back in the day I used to work in 4-inch heels all the time with no issues.  But that was eons ago, and in the more recent past, being as heavy as I was, I had to stop wearing them because I just couldn't support 260+ pounds on heels of any height.  Even the 2-inch wedges I wore for chorus performances would kill after an hour.

But now that I'm almost 100 pounds lighter, I find myself gravitating toward heels again.  And now that it's fall, well...hello, boots!  Specifically, hello PURPLE BOOTS!

I bought these boots about 13 years ago when I lived in Berwyn, Illinois.  I remember the day I bought them at the new Shoe Carnival on 22nd Street, in the plaza with the "Car Kabob" sculpture (if you've ever seen "Wayne's World" then you know what I'm talking about).

The Famous Berwyn "Car Kabob" Sculpture.  The Shoe Carnival is in the background! I lived two blocks up from here.

They were on sale (natch) for $30, marked down from $69.99.  I had a skirt that just happened to be the same exact color, and I wore them together frequently.  I used to get tons of compliments on them (and the exact color match with the skirt), but gradually I phased them out because I got bigger, the skirt got tighter, and the heels became painful to wear.  The skirt is long gone, but I kept the boots because, well, because purple boots.  How many people do you know with PURPLE FREAKIN' BOOTS?  Right!

So yesterday as I looked in the mirror at the newest ensemble to hit my fall wardrobe and pondered the appropriate footwear, I thought, "Oooh, maybe the purple Zodiacs?"  I don't think I've worn them since I moved back to Buffalo more than ten years ago.  I pulled them out and put them on.  The zippers, due to age and dormancy, had to be coaxed a bit, but I got them on, stood up, and marveled at (a) how comfortably they fit me and (b) how well they matched the purple in the sweater.  I threw my arms up in the air at the mirror and loudly declared, "I WIN!"

Mind you, it's not just about fitting into the sweater or not dying of crushed feet on the 3-1/2" stacked heels.  This was a victory of more than just an adorable sweater and some funky boots.  No, see, because not only did I fit into these things, I walked out of the house feeling confident in them.  Purple boots aren't for everyone.  But me?  I was going to pull it off because I had resurrected not just the sweater and the boots, but the confidence to wear them.  Never mind that the sweater was a clearance rack item and the jeans were from a thrift store and the boots were purchased for 60% off 13 years ago.  Worn together I felt like a million bucks.  And that, my friends, is truly priceless.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Six Months Later: Feeling Groovy

Last Thursday (October 10th) was my 6-month surgiversary.  Six whole months have gone by since I was wheeled into that OR, and more than a year has passed since I started the whole process.  At my follow-up last week the doc told me I'm 8% ahead of the targeted loss they establish for most patients at this stage.  Cool.

I've lost 92 pounds and something like 70 inches.  I think. Actually...can anyone PLEASE explain the quantification parameters for lost inches?  Do I add up all the inches I've lost from all my body parts? Or is it an average of those numbers?  Or something else?  Whatever the case, I've lost a good third of the person I was.

I haven't posted one of these in a while; for some reason I opted not to pose for months four and five.  But here's the progression at six months for those who aren't squeamish about these things.

March 31             May 19              July 10             October 11
My arms need a LOT of work and I still have that goddamn extra chin and my wrists are still mutated from Prednisone, but it's nevertheless a VAST improvement over where I started.  And thankfully I have addressed the mess on my head in the very recent past and it no longer looks like that now.  It seems to have slowed down with the falling-out business, too, which is nice.  There's nothing pleasant about pulling clumps of hair out of your head.

Anyway.  Now that the weight loss has become apparent to many people and the comments and compliments are coming in, I find myself engaging in conversations about my decision and my journey with a lot of them.  Naturally people want to know how I have achieved the loss, and I'm just straightforward.  "I had surgery," I tell them.  I do so without a twinge of apology in my voice, without looking sheepish, without exuding any kind of shame over the statement, because, well...I'm not sorry, I'm not ashamed, and I don't care who thinks what about my decision.  I didn't make it for them.  And regrets?  I have zero.

I get a lot of questions, too.  I have had many people ask me, "How do you feel?" And my answer is that I feel great in general, but I also feel great about my decision to have VSG.  I feel like it was the best decision I've ever made for myself.  Has my life changed?  Yes.  It has.  Has the way I eat changed?  Indeed it has.  Do I have any unpleasant side effects?  Yes.  I'm not going to lie.  I lost a lot of hair.  I still throw up if I eat something that doesn't agree with me or I push the envelope and take a bite or two over my threshold.  I still have to remember to sip my drinks and not chug them.  Liquid introduced too quickly is a recipe for spew. If I skimp on my protein or vitamins, it catches up to me - and quickly.  I still have some bad days.  And I miss Pepsi.  Of all the things I had to stop consuming after this procedure, I think that's the only one that I truly miss and have actually tried to think of a work-around (they really ought to make Pepsi-flavored candy or gum or something).

But there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that I have experienced or been denied at this point that has EVER made me think for one second that I made a mistake.  My ex said something about the surgery being a bad thing because I'd have to give up bread.  I didn't have to give up bread.  I had to give up eating whole loaves of it in one sitting.  I had to give up thick slices slathered in butter and dredged in vodka sauce.  I can tolerate it in small, toasted quantities, but you know what?  I don't miss it enough to go through the hassle or the expense of buying a loaf I'm going to end up throwing most of away.  I can have crackers, I can have tortillas/wraps, and that satisfies my carb cravings.  Pasta hasn't gone over well, so I avoid it because my cross-addiction with bread was so strong I don't want pasta if I can't have a half a loaf of bread to go with it. I haven't even attempted pizza or donuts.  For a girl who used to eat an entire small pizza for dinner and follow it with three Paula's donuts for dessert, that's something.

So I can't have Pepsi, pizza, donuts, or bread.  But you know what I can have? Clothes that fit me. Pants that I can get into without a struggle.  Cute, non-queen-size tights that I don't stroke out trying to put on.  The confidence to walk through a grocery store without feeling judged.  I can walk into a clothing store and not immediately head to the Plus section.  I can shop in thrift stores and buy designer jeans for $2 because for the first time in YEARS I'm not limited to the three-foot section of picked-over plus sizes.  I went to the Goodwill last week with a Groupon voucher good for $30 worth of clothes and actually had to put some things back that I wanted.  Six months ago I never would have found $30 worth of stuff that even fit me.

I can bend over and pick things up off the floor without grabbing the wall for support or feeling like I might pass out.  I can hold yoga poses for longer than I could before.  I can lift more weight.  I can bend and stretch and twist and CROSS MY LEGS.  Oh my god, I can cross. my. legs.  I can get on the scale and not cry.  I still have 25 pounds to go to get to my goal, but at 25 pounds overweight I'm more "average" than I've been in a good long time. I can smile a little wider.  I can laugh a little louder.  All this because six months after Dr. C took 85% of my stomach out, he has helped give me my life back.  And that feels pretty damn amazing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Perils of Progress

Today I am down a total of 90 pounds.  Holy shit.  I mean, really. With another 26 pounds to my goal I'm not there yet, but the descent has begun.  And truthfully, I'm in a weird place right now.

This past weekend my friend Amy got married.  Being broke as I am and not having any disposable income to buy new clothes, I hit the thrift stores (of which there are MYRIAD in my neighborhood) to see if I couldn't find something to wear.  A wedding is always a good excuse to buy something new (or new-to-me, as it were), but I had zero luck finding anything.  I came close a few times, but nothing that really said, "you should spend ten bucks on this because you look amazing in it."

Defeated, I went home and resolved to find something in my closet and make it work.  I pulled out all my dresses and began trying them on.  First up, the dress I wore to my cousin's wedding in July.  Too big.  Next, the dress I wore to another cousin's wedding a couple years ago after I'd lost a bunch of weight.  I remember feeling ultra cute in it, but when I put it this time on it hung on me.  That went into the "no" pile, too.  Then I tried the dress I wore for my Master's graduation in May 2011.  Loose, but not too bad since it had some stretch to it, and a possibility if I dressed it up with some funky jewelry to distract from the fact that it didn't fit me quite right.  That went into the "maybe" pile.  Dress after dress was tossed onto the "no" pile until I had nothing left to try.  Then I started with the skirt and blouse possibilities.  Nothing.  The only combo I found that fit me reasonably well and looked nice looked far more appropriate for a job interview than a fun wedding in a funky urban brewery.  Sigh.

Finally I remembered the tote of spring/summer dresses I'd packed away the week before and decided to dig it up.  All of the dresses in that bin were smaller sizes (thanks to recent thrift, clearance, and clothing swap acquisitions), but I knew there was one in there that might fit me now.  I pulled it out, put it on, and luck was on my side. It fit.  It was a summer pattern, made of cotton with a peekaboo crinoline slip, but I figured if I dressed it up with a sweater and some black tights I could make it work for a fall wedding.   It worked indeed, and I got a lot of nice compliments.

Take THAT, potential fashion faux pas!

My friend Katie was at the wedding, too.  At one point during the evening we started talking about the last time we had been at a wedding together,  back in February of 2010 when our friend Nicole got married.  I had started Weight Watchers a couple weeks before that, and by the time Nicole got married I'd lost 11 pounds.  I remember feeling kind of awesome about myself, too.  I was wearing a nice dress and nice jewelry, my hair was freshly cut and colored, and I felt pretty.  

When I got home from Amy's wedding and uploaded the pictures from my camera,  I placed one of Katie and me from that night next to an old one of us from Nicole's wedding.  I was absolutely astounded at the difference:

Well at least my hair looked better then.

What's more disconcerting, I think, is that in between then and now I've lost 75, gained 65, and lost 90.  In three years.  And this is part of why I'm in a weird place.  

I'm in a weird place because every time I've lost weight I've gained it back, and I somehow always gave in to my self-destruction - and I'm still worried that could happen again even after all I've been through this time.  I'm in a weird place because I'm getting compliments all the time and I'm never quite sure how to accept them with grace (that's a whole other blog topic in and of itself) - not because they're not nice to hear, but because I feel like I don't deserve them (see first sentence about self-destruction).  I've gotten better about it, but it's still weird.  People are noticing, and it wasn't until I saw the above side-by-side comparison that I realized just HOW noticeable it really is.  I'm in a weird place because I still can't believe I don't wear plus-sized clothes anymore.  And yet...I'm still overweight by 26 pounds which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't THAT much, but it's still enough to bother me and make me feel fat most of the time.  I'm in this limbo between being "thinner than I was" and being actually thin.  I'm in a weird place because this all happened so damn fast, even though it feels like eons ago that I was waking up in that hospital bed with most of my stomach gone.  It's just weird.  I don't know if it will ever stop being weird.  

But I'm progressing, and that's all that really matters.  Right?