Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" ~K. West

Not so long ago, I would have used today’s weather as an excuse to avoid going to work out. But, exactly two months ago, Dr. Stacy Brethauer cut me open and reduced the size of my stomach by 75% so I could lose weight. If I was serious enough about weight loss to undergo surgery, certainly I could handle a little wind and snow. So, off to the Macedonia Rec Center I went. It may not seem like much to you but it was a huge victory to me.

For weeks, actually since I came home from the hospital, I have had very little energy. Dr. Brethauer kept telling me to wait, it would come. It was just a matter of time. I would come home from work exhausted and fight to stay awake to a respectable adult bedtime. I wanted to exercise but literally could not. I knew I needed to so I could build and preserve muscle and skin elasticity but there was no way to make it happen. Then, all of a sudden, ENERGY. There it was, just like my wonderful, amazing doctor said it would be. I joined the rec center located about 2 miles from my house and, this week, I started the Couch to 5K program. I don’t have any plans to run a specific 5K, I just want to run. I didn’t even know I wanted to run. I was just walking along on the treadmill, minding my business, when Kanye West came on my iPod and I just felt this urge to run. Two treadmills to the right of me was a woman running, looking ridiculous. I knew I couldn’t possibly look any more absurd than she did so I kicked the treadmill up a few notches and took off….for all of about 60 seconds. Then I thought I was going to have a heart attack so I slowed back down. A couple of days later, I put the Couch to 5K app on my iPod and bought some running shoes. So, now I run. And, I feel all cocky and full of myself every time I finish my little half hour program.

I have lost 25 pounds since surgery and the changes to my body are amazing. When I touch myself (Hey – mind out of the gutter! Not like THAT!), I feel different, for example, when I’m lathering up in the shower or putting on lotion or washing my face. I can feel BONES and MUSCLES. Pieces-parts aren’t as big as they used to be. It’s very odd. My face feels different and looks different.

Additionally, I am beginning to feel “normal” socially.  Yesterday I wore a regular XL sweatshirt. I’m not the biggest person in the room anymore, not at work, not at the gym, not most places. I don’t feel like people are looking at me/talking about me/judging me. I feel confident and happy almost all of the time. I cry a lot of happy tears and do a lot of happy dances over things like fitting into smaller clothes and watching the number on the scale go down.

You don’t have to be hundreds of pounds overweight to take advantage of this tool. I wasn’t. It is a realistic, viable option for many people who never consider it. If you would like to learn about weight loss surgery, let me know. I’d love to talk to you about it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"I have never been more normal than I am now." ~Adele

Earlier this week, I passed the 20 pound mark. Twenty pounds lost since surgery on December 19. It was a milestone that I was excited to reach. I am also wearing pants that are two sizes smaller. Fortunately, I am able to go “shopping” in my basement for smaller sized clothes right now, save for three pairs of dress pants that I purchased “gently worn” from my sweet friend Janis. After I move through one more size though, I will exhaust my basement inventory. Fortunately, the lovely Janis has also connected me to some clothing resale websites so I can sell my fat clothes and purchase smaller clothing at inexpensive prices until I reach my goal weight. Thanks Janis – you rock! Have you ever gone into your closet and tried on clothes and come out crying…happy tears? I have. I put some jeans on the other day and they were SLAMMIN’. For those of you who do not work or live with teenagers, that means they looked really good. I wore those bitches around the house all day!

Several people have been asking me to blog but it’s difficult for me to just sit down and write sometimes. The excitement leading up to the surgery and the immediacy of post-surgery is over. Now I’m just living. This is my new normal. What do people possibly want to know? So, I thought about the questions people ask me regularly…

“How do you feel?” Honestly, most of the time, I feel great. The joint pain I experienced almost constantly before surgery is nearly gone. I have had one migraine since surgery and I think it was related to coming off the morphine. I have had two “regular” headaches and I treated them with Tylenol. I can’t remember the last time I took Tylenol for a headache and it worked. I do still get very tired in the evenings and it’s hard for me to make plans to do anything after I’ve worked all day. I usually come home, put on my jammies, have dinner, then relax with a book or the computer until about 8:30. I’m in bed between 9 and 9:30 most nights. It’s a struggle to stay awake that long but I sleep really well. The doctor says this will go away in time. I really want to start working out but I just don’t have the energy yet.

“What do you eat?” My very small meals still consist mainly of protein. My nutrition goals for each day are to get 60 grams of protein, 1000 calories, and 64 ounces of water. I try to limit my carb, fat, and sugar intake as much as possible. My portion sizes are very small. I can only consume about a half cup of food at one sitting; eventually that should increase to about one cup. I have breakfast around 7am while driving to work - a protein shake (see previous blog for specifics). I usually have lunch around 11am. This is sometimes just a Greek yogurt, maybe a few slices of lunchmeat, or a half cup of chicken salad. Later in the afternoon, I will eat another small meal or snack, probably a cheese stick or some peanut butter. When I get home from work around 5, I make dinner. Some of my favorite dinner items are turkey chili, turkey bacon, and meatballs. I try to include a vegetable at dinner and I’m favoring green beans right now. In the late evening, I’ll have another small snack, sometimes a protein bar or a scrambled egg. I drink two bottles of water before lunch and two more between lunch and dinner. That’s my 64 ounces. Then I treat myself to a glass of iced tea when I get home. This is my one “cheat.” The doctors recommend no caffeine because it can dehydrate you. Since I’ve already had my 64 ounces of water for the day, I drink my one glass of iced tea and then make sure to drink two more glasses of water in the evening to make up for it. It’s a wonder I haven’t floated away yet.

“I can’t wait to see how you look.” Obviously this is not a question but a statement I get A LOT from people who haven’t seen me since before December 19. So, let me clarify…if you have known me at any time in the last 4 -5 years, you have seen me at this weight. The smallest I have been in recent history was in February, 2008 when I defended my dissertation for my Ph.D. then I started gaining weight again. Am I excited about my weight loss and the way my appearance is changing? Of course, but the change is not drastic and you will still recognize me for some time.

Don’t get it twisted… I didn’t have weight loss surgery solely to improve the way I look or to try to catch a man. Clearly, I’m writing this because I’m getting that message from people, right? So, let’s set the record straight.

I think I’m an attractive person, despite my size. I have pretty eyes, a killer smile, and kick-ass hair. Seriously, I have awesome hair and I’m a bit obsessed with it. I have had people ask to take pictures of my nose so they can share it with the plastic surgeons doing their nose jobs. I even have nice feet. I have never had a problem getting a date – not any more so than a “regular” sized person – and I do date attractive men.

There were two primary reasons I chose to have this surgery:
1.      My size was beginning to limit some of the things I enjoy doing, regular things like going for a walk or riding a bike. It sucks to go on vacation and be miserable because your feet, legs, and back hurt from walking and you can’t keep up with the person with whom you are traveling. I didn’t want to give up quality of life just so I could keep eating doughnuts.
2.      I knew that if I continued to carry the excess weight, it was just a matter of time before I began to develop health problems. Fat people like to tell ourselves, “Yeah, I’m overweight but I’m still healthy.” LIAR. You are not! What I learned while going through the surgical evaluation was that several health problems were beginning to develop but they were not yet detectable via typical tests that are run when you get your annual physical. I have gallstones but have never had a gall bladder attack. I had seriously low levels of vitamin B12 and vitamin D. I had the beginning stages of fatty liver disease. All of these things could have turned into serious health concerns at any time if I had not done something about my weight RIGHT NOW. Of course, issues involving the heart and blood pressure, breathing and sleep apnea, diabetes, and other things were also likely to develop. By having surgery and losing this weight, all of the health issues I mentioned can now be avoided.

“Do you ever regret having the surgery?” Hell no. Hear me clearly…not for one minute. I hug my surgeon every time I see him. The man is saving lives and I love him for giving me this gift.

If you want to know something specific about my new normal, just ask. If you would like to learn about weight loss surgery, let me know. I’d love to talk to you about it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Focus on the journey, not the destination." ~G. Anderson

I’ve been neglecting my blog. I’m sorry. Someone finally asked me if I wasn’t writing because something was wrong so I decided I better check in. Things are, actually, very, very good. The surgery and my recovery could not have gone better. I am just over 4 weeks out from surgery and have lost 17 pounds. The weight loss has begun to slow down and that can be frustrating at times. I have to keep reminding myself that the average loss is 10 pounds per month and I have done extremely well in the first month. I am going to have months when I lose more than 10 pounds and some when I lose less than that. I have to be okay with that. The trade-off for choosing the gastric sleeve surgery, a less invasive and complicated procedure, was slower weight loss so now I learn to live with that. I am down 17 pounds and 1 pants size which is awesome.

I am eating more normally now although I still tend to choose softer foods and my portion sizes are very small. There are things I have not yet reintroduced into my diet, like raw vegetables, most fruits, and beef (other than ground beef). A meal for me is still just protein. So, you will see me eat chicken for dinner – no vegetable, no carbs. By the time I eat the protein portion, which I MUST eat for nutrition purposes, I am full and there’s no room for anything else. This is usually about a ½ cup size portion. I usually have 4 or 5 meals a day and I drink A LOT of water. I am amazed that most of my cravings have disappeared. I used to have an insatiable sweet tooth. Now, I rarely crave anything sweet. I would also eat because I was bored. Now, I have to make myself eat to fuel my body. My entire relationship with food has changed. It’s quite liberating.

I had surgery on December 19. I missed three days of work and then school was closed for two weeks for Winter Break. I told myself that I would be ready to return when school reopened on January 7. I followed every instruction the doctors gave me so that I could do this. I ate what they told me to eat. I walked as much as they told me to walk. On January 7 at 8 am, I was in my office, at my desk, ready to work. The return went well. Fortunately my work is flexible enough that I can stop and eat when I need to. I sit at a desk most of the time so the physical demands are not that great. But, by 4:30 pm each day, I was exhausted. I went to bed very early that first week. Each day gets better and I feel almost back to my pre-surgery self.

Throughout this journey, I’ve had a lot of support. I have tried to be open about the process so that the stigma might be lifted from these types of procedures. So far, I am aware of three friends who have contacted doctors to investigate weight loss surgery for themselves. I am very proud of these individuals. They call me an “inspiration.” I don’t know about that. I tend to think of myself as a “teacher.” It’s what I do. It’s who I am to the core of my being. I bring information and I share it in a way that I hope can reach others. I am happy to discuss this possibility with anyone who is considering it. It’s not a choice for everyone but it’s a valid, viable option for many.

Friday, December 28, 2012

"Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" ~J. Gray

Throughout the time leading up to the surgery, it was intriguing to hear people’s reactions. Responses were largely positive and supportive and I am grateful for that. I’m sure there were people who had negative opinions about my decision but they chose to keep them to themselves and I am appreciative. There was, however, a trend that I found noteworthy: the difference between the reactions by gender.

Women, for the most part, were openly supportive. Whether I know them well or not, whether I count them among my close friends and family or simply keep tabs via social media, women came out and embraced me. They cheered me on Facebook. They emailed, called, texted, sent cards. They became friends with each other in an effort to support me. Their messages were public and empowering. They rallied around me in a big, estrogen-powered, sisterly love fest. When it was time for the “Last Chance to Dance” event – my last Saturday night out before the surgery – many of them came out and shook their groove thangs. We hugged, and acted silly, and took pictures, said “I love you’s”, and even cried a little.  It.was.awesome.

Men, on the other hand, were quieter in their support. Far fewer of them brought it up. My closest “brothers” stood by my side. They private messaged me. They “liked” my statuses. They said things like, “You know, I think you’re fine just the way you are.” While their support was different, it was felt just as strongly. Even they came out to Last Chance to Dance. They drank beer and took pictures and held purses. It was awesome too.

Why the difference? As women, we talk about our weight all the time. ALL.THE.TIME. We do. It’s part of our culture. So, when I invited my girls to talk about it, it was a natural thing to do. Poor men. All their lives they have been very confused about how to talk to a woman about her weight. So here I was saying, “I’m fat” and they were like, “No you’re not…wait, yes, you are…aw shit…” I’m sure there were some men (and probably some women) who were thinking, “Yeah Kristie, you do need to lose weight. It’s about time you did something about that” and just didn’t want to be that blunt. It’s okay. I can take it.

I don’t have kids but many of you do. What messages are you sending them about weight and body image? What messages are we as a society sending them? Hmmm…deep thoughts on a cold December day…

Monday, December 24, 2012

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." ~REM

And, just like that, it’s over. I was told to report to the Cleveland Clinic at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, December 19, which meant my surgery was expected to start by 1:30. My parents and my sister accompanied me. Things got delayed and my surgery didn’t start until about 3:30. I eventually made it to my room around 9:30 PM. I wasn’t bothered by any of this but I felt bad for my family members who had come to the hospital with me. It was a long, stressful day for them.

All of the rooms on the bariatric floor are private rooms so I didn’t have a roommate which was nice. I experienced the worst of the pain in the recovery room but I had a self-administered morphine pump and the nurse also gave me extra doses until the pain was under control. Otherwise, there was just a lot of soreness and discomfort. While they wanted me to get up and walk as soon as possible, it was difficult to do so due to all of the wires coming out of me. Additionally, most bariatric patients are much larger than me so my hospital gown was way too big and kept falling off, exposing bits I didn’t want exposed ;)  Nonetheless, I made my first walking trip up and down the hallway around 11 PM on the night of surgery. At this point I was not allowed to eat or drink anything, not even water or ice chips. I did have a sponge with which I could wet the inside of my mouth. I will admit to cheating and squeezing the water into my mouth and swallowing it. My throat was so dry!

I spent two nights in the hospital then was permitted to go home once the doctors felt my pain was managed, I was mobile, and I could drink enough to maintain hydration. One by one, the wires were removed and I was introduced to ice chips, water, apple and grape juice diluted with water, jello, and decaffeinated tea. I was so thirsty that I wanted to gulp everything down but I had to force myself to take small, slow sips. Just a tiny bit of anything made me feel stuffed. I drank as much as I could and made as many trips up and down the hallway to show the doctors I was ready to go home.

Finally, on Friday evening, I was discharged. Of course it was at rush hour and the roads were bad but, hey, I was on morphine, so I didn’t mind the extra-long ride home. My mom, sister, and niece, Rachel, spent the first night with me. It was uneventful.

So the surgery was over and you expect that’s the hardest part of it. Actually, it was probably the easiest part. The worst part so far has been this incredible feeling of fullness. I feel like I have eaten a seven course meal, all the time. This feeling never goes away. I have to force myself to eat, which is still just liquids, and drink, and sometimes it seems an impossible task to get in as much as I need each day. It is so uncomfortable. I would really just like to fast forward to about a month from now when I expect things to be much closer to my new normal.

The happiest part of all of this is the lives that I have touched. To date, three people I know have taken steps to investigate weight loss surgery (i.e. connected with doctors) and several others have expressed an interest in learning more about it. I am so excited for them to get healthy with me and I can’t wait to follow their stories too!