Tuesday, April 18, 2017

a year in the LIFE

A year. 365 days. 52 weeks. 12 months. That is the amount of time that has passed since that one day when my best decision became my new reality. As with each milestone that comes and passes, this one also feels a bit surreal - - like time went by entirely too quickly, but this just also seems like how things have always been....

 But, of course, this isn't how things have always been.... The way things had been for entirely too long went something like this: eat like crap, become less mobile, try to eat better, exercise a little bit, lose a few pounds, fall completely off the wagon, stop exercising, gain back every pound I'd lost and then some... repeat... repeat.... and so on. 

That was until one day when that girl on the left looked at her kitchen, which was about 20 feet from where she sat on the couch and seriously wondered if it was worth having to get up and go all the way out there to get something to drink. Seriously. I had to contemplate whether it was worth it to have to get up (no easy task) and walk the 20 feet to my kitchen to get a drink. Because at that time movement of any sort caused pain, or discomfort, or both. That was it. That was the final straw. I needed help. It was time to seriously consider surgery. I sent a text to my youngest sister about it before I changed my mind. 

I talked to a couple of people who had gone the surgery route, or knew someone who had. I found 2 fairly close ties that went through the same hospital and the same program. That was about the extend of my research. I did their online pre-qualification stuff. Received the packet and went to work on that - mailing it in as quickly as I could before I lost my nerve. My insurance wouldn't cover it - so I tried the appeals process, which was just a complete waste of time. I was lucky. I had the option to borrow the money. I will be paying for this hammock for the remainder of my days - - but at least now I will hopefully live enough days to get it paid off. And just like that, my first appointment were set. September 9, 2015. I met with a lovely nurse, a doctor and the nutritionist. I used valet at the hospital, because I wanted to walk as little as possible. I weighed 495 pounds. That number was humiliating. How I let myself get as far gone as I did is beyond me. Really. 

I had appointments with the physical therapy department and the psychologist. For the physical therapy appointment I had to walk down to the other end of the hospital. I literally had to sit down and take breaks. It was just too far for me to walk in one stretch. 

I had to do a sleep study, and found I had absolutely horrible sleep apnea. I met repeatedly with each department until they all finally gave me their approval to have this surgery done. I had my final appointments what ended up being about 6 weeks prior to my surgery. I finally met my surgeon - Dr. Thomas Jones. He said he's assembled the exact team he wanted to perform my surgery, and my date would be Monday, April 18th. You see - even though I was going to weight loss surgery, I was still heavier than most that have this procedure done. I was advised at an early appointment that they wanted me to lose 50-70 pounds prior to my surgery, to make it less dangerous. I also had to sign forms that said I understood that if something did go wrong during surgery, I was still too heavy for the machines that would help them figure out what was wrong - - so they'd basically just have to open me back up, and go exploring. So basically I was too fat for weight loss surgery. 

what I now lack in boob I make up for in swinging arm fat
It was right around Thanksgiving of 2015 that I met with, and started working with Scott. The 2nd best decision I've made in quite some time. I cannot express enough my gratitude to him. Sure - I would have lost weight with just the surgery....but for me the goal was to always get back to healthy. I would not be anywhere near where I am right now without him helping me get to that goal. I still have SOOOO far to go - - but I'm definitely headed in the right direction. And my FUPA isn't hanging to my knees - and I believe he is solely responsible for that. 

It's been a year. Someone sent me something soon after my surgery written by another person who had a similar surgery that basically said you forget about all the bad things associated with the surgery, because the good things are so good. I have searched for that recently - but can't seem to find it anywhere. But it's true. Those bad spots: the liquid diet, the few months after surgery where everything has to be mush, the fatigue, etc - - all of it pale so much when compared to the overwhelming positives. I have my life back. I know that sounds so cliche - but it is the truth! I was damn near immobile - and just last weekend I put on about 17 miles walking around, exploring a new city with my friends. I'm realizing how low I had allowed myself to get, and I am definitely feeling like I'm on the upswing...and it is nothing short of absolutely fantastic!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

10 Months Sure Can Fly

I feel like I blinked, and it's 10 months later. No - I haven't completely forgotten about the first few months after surgery when I was losing all patience with my diet, and this whole new life in general - - but that does seem like a distant memory at this point. It is insane to me how much my life has changed - but also how much this just seems like my normal at this point. And day to day, it is my normal - - but then I sometimes think back and realize just how far I've come.

After my personal training consult (one of the many departments you meet with prior to approval for surgery) I was told I needed to walk for 5 minutes at a time, 4 times a day. I would literally walk in circles around my apartment, and you would not believe how difficult it was to keep moving for 5 minutes! I'd have to sit down and take a breather after each round. These days I don't experience anything near that. Yes - I am still in pretty crappy shape - - lots of room for improvement there - but 5 minutes is nothing. Just one of the many things I don't even think about anymore, until all of the sudden I'll stop and think about just how immobile I was....

As with any major surgery, and subsequent life change, there are some challenges....
  • My face continues to be broken out most of the time. I guess this is normal - but I swear my skin is worse at 41 than it was when I went through puberty! I'm really trying to focus on making sure I'm getting enough water in my system, and I've started putting coconut oil on my skin a few times a week. Maybe I just hit a good stretch - but it seems to be helping!!
  • I'm still not loving drinking my protein shakes. I need to have one a day in order to get me to my protein goal, because I just can't eat enough to get there without it. I have flavored (chocolate, banana & caramel) premade shakes as well as protein powder I could mix with milk or water. They no longer make me nauseous - but I think I'm still holding a grudge from when they did right after my surgery. That, and it's the one thing I have to have per day - - so of course that annoys me.
  • Getting enough liquids proves to be a challenge for me. Because I can no longer "chug" when I drink - I can take a couple of swallows at a time, but that's it - I basically have to drink ALL DAY LONG!! (trying to drink too fast gives me a pain right under my sternum - like the water gets stuck there, trying to get through my hammock. So I have to drink more slowly than I normally did before surgery) That's when I'm not waiting my 30 minutes on either side of eating.... I get distracted - so getting enough to drink can prove to be a bit challenging. 
But all of those are admittedly minor. The list of positives is much more meaty - -
  • Things that are easier now than they were 10 months ago: EVERYTHING!!!! Walking. Getting up. Sitting down. Like I willing just moved every piece of furniture and cleaned along the edges in my apartment - vacuumed and wiped down base boards (my mom would be so proud)!! I haven't done that...ever. I fold my laundry and put it away - because I'm able to wear more than the 4 things that fit. After running errands, I put things away - they don't just lay in a heap for days until I can gradually motivate to put them away. These are little things that everyone else on the planet just does - but they are things I never really did before. I'm taking some pride in my existence again.
  • Job Confidence - I've worked 2nd shift for the last 3+ years. It worked really well for me when all I did was go to work, sit on my couch and sleep. It didn't matter if I was working on a Tuesday or a Saturday - - I wasn't going to do shit with my time anyway! But now that I want to participate in my life, it was starting to cause some fairly major scheduling issues. I applied for a job on the day shift - and will be moving as soon as my replacement is hired and trained (hopefully by the end of March). This is something I just wouldn't have done before for a variety of what are now ridiculous reason - - and I'm so excited.
  • I have muscles. It is nearly impossible to see them at this point, because they're being safely stored under a whole lot of wobbly flesh - - but they're there. I can feel them sometimes! I think I had to have a certain amount of muscle deep down before - - it takes some strength to move 500 pounds around. But now I have more - and there are brief moments where I feel like a little bit of a bad ass!
  • Dating....I'm not 100% sure this belongs in the positive column...it has been an absolute exercise in absurdity so far - but I'm counting the fact that I'm open to trying to date as a pretty significant win. I'm willing to put myself out there a bit. Although I'm still not sure I was designed for this - - I'm more than a little set in my ways, like my alone time, have zero tolerance for bullshit, etc - - we'll see how it goes. 
  • I have a couple of vacations planned. The first - my sister Wendy is taking me to Mexico (where our Aunt Rhonda & Uncle Candy are willing to let us crash at their place) for a few days in March. Here's how things have changed - - 1. I am not even completely freaking out about getting on a plane (more specifically - my ass fitting in the plane seat). I cannot remember the last time that was the case. I banned myself from flying in 2010 until I could fit - and before that every flight was an anxiety-inducing disaster. Now - I suspect I'll fit - and it's going to be fucking awesome. 2. Vacation to me no longer means drinking and eating to excess - - the thing I'm the most excited about is going to walk in the green and the sun and the warmth. (this was all before it was 60 degrees in MN in February - - but I'm still pretty damn excited). Warning - I will likely be blowing up my social media pages because 1 - this will provide some pretty epic NSV's and 2 - my sister Wendy and I attract mayhem wherever we go together - so 12 hour travel days will likely create some memories worth sharing and documenting. 
So there you have it - - my 10 month "state of the hammock"... Things continue to go so much better than I ever thought they would. And I am constantly overwhelmed, and humbled and just so incredibly grateful for the people who are just nothing but supportive. My sisters and parents have mentioned how people they know are hanging out with me through this insane experience, and will talk to them about it. It's truly amazing to me, and I continue to be blown away by all of you. Seriously - you guys help me so much. I consistently baffled by what I've done to deserve you all, and the kindness you show me day in and day out. I love you all.

Friday, January 20, 2017

9 Months Post-Op

** I'll try to do updated photos every 3 months. As with my 6 month shots, you'll see more of this bod than you likely want to - but I want to be as honest as I can about what this process is like/does to a body. You've had your warning =) **

It truly seems like so much longer than 9 months since that morning that I couldn't stop sweating, because that's how my nerves chose to manifest themselves. Since I put on that huge gown with the cool air hose hooked to it. Since the new nurse tried to get my IV started, unsuccessfully. Since I sat there in that bed on wheels waiting for them to take me off to surgery, genuinely concerned I wouldn't wake up. Since Dr. Jones and his team changed my life for the insanely better.

In the photos I post that have 3 pictures - the one on the left will be September 2015, the middle will be October 2016 and the right will be January 2017. I am wearing the same clothes to show that difference as well - and lets face it - - they're pretty damn comfy now! I didn't spend a lot of time trying to make everything fit just right - so they're not professional shots by any means - - but they should give you an idea.

I don't know that I see much of a change from the 6 month to the 9 month pictures, but the lighting makes me look like I have a bit of a tan, so I'll take it =) I'm so pasty white thanks to Minnesota winter!!

Putting these pictures together was a little bit more difficult than it has been in the past. I don't know if it's that I am feeling so much better, and able to do so much more now - - not sure what caused it - but I was just so genuinely sad for that girl on the left.

This 9 months has definitely been a time of self-actualization. Before my surgery, I never felt depressed. I didn't feel like I lacked confidence. I didn't realize how the choices I was making were based on what I perceived to be the best I could do instead of what I actually deserved. I didn't feel that unhappy. Sure - I had moments, but it wasn't all the time. Thank God for defense mechanisms!! I am just now starting to realize how much I was holding myself back because it was just easier to do that then want/wish/hope for things. And I think I'm about done with that shit. Time to start going for exactly what I want!

I think this back photo, which we forgot to take at 6 months, was the most shocking to me. I mean, holy shit! All of those rolls were eating my bra! Not to worry - my ass is still wide, and those hips aren't going anywhere - - but I'm fine with that. Look at the rest of my back!!! It's not just multiple big rolls anymore! Yes - I will likely have chronic back fat - but I don't give one shit! I have a back now! I can kind of see the line where my spine is. I guess all those damn rows and back exercises Scott has me doing are worth it...almost! =)

I seriously cannot get enough of looking at this comparison. It is just unbelievable how much a body can change in such a short period of time! This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you do weight training.

This one...hasn't really improved. These arms of mine are...saggy. There is muscle in there somewhere - -  I promise! But the loose skin/sagging is insane! My nieces were touching the saggy part and promptly informed me that it feels "like a boob!" Which is great news, as I could possibly just move this saggy crap over to my boobs (see picture below) so I might actually be able to fill out my bra again! The one positive of this comparison is that my wings (that part under my armpit, hanging over my bra) appear to have shrunk up a bit? Or maybe that's just wishful thinking?

 Speaking of boobs - - mine have officially left the building. On the left you can see the open/unoccupied area in the cup of my bra. That's a lot of unused space, because my poor scrotum boobs are basically poured loosely into the bottom half of the cup, and no longer have the "meat" to fill the whole thing. Let me say - YES. I know I need new bras - but seriously. I can fit my fist in the now open area. Maybe I'll put a play together called "bye, bye boobies"?

The only other drawbacks I'm experiencing at this point is my hair - - it is still falling out at an alarming rate. Hoping that will start to slow one of these days. And nothing really fits right. I seem to be in the middle of all of the sizes. Not really something worth complaining about - - but it is my reality.

So things are moving right along over here. A year will be here before I know it. I feel like that warrants some sort of celebration - - but just not sure what that should be? I'd be open to suggestions?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When Not Normal Becomes Normal

It seems as though my 7 and 8 month surgiversaries snuck right by me! Maybe it's because some of those milestones that seemed so big soon after surgery are seeming less and less noteworthy, and less and less important. Maybe it's because this "new" life is truly starting to feel like....life. Not new. Not old. But definitely better. Not to fret - - I will still be celebrating...it just may not always be monthly...because the day my life so drastically improved for the better is most assuredly something to be celebrated.

So as I approach my 9 month surgiversary, I've taken a little time to reflect. I interact with people who have had the surgery more recently than I have. I have a friend of mine from college who will be having her first appointment soon. When I chat or text with them, it takes me back to when I was at the stage they're at. All of the emotions you feel before your first meeting - - nerves, excitement...and also questioning if this is the right decision. Do I really need to have surgery? (the answer to that one for me was an absofuckinglutely) But you still go through all of that. Then those first few months after surgery can be so frustrating. The diet is limited. You might not be losing as fast as you wanted to, or as fast as others have - and you have a hard time not comparing your experience to theirs - - but everyone's experience is so different!

But the truth I am reminded of every time I start looking back is that this was the best decision I have made, and could have made, for myself. It's not always easy. There are definite challenges. I have to be conscious of the decisions I make regarding food all the time. I keep waiting for the honeymoon phase to end, and for it to be come increasingly difficult to make good decisions - because let's be honest - one doesn't get to almost 500 pounds if they don't have some pretty significant issues with food. But so far, so good. I still follow my rules. I don't drink within 30 minutes of eating (I set alarms, which has earned me a fair amount of mocking from my coworkers). I try to stay away from carbs for the most part, but don't beat myself up when I have them occasionally. I treat myself to the small bags of Cheetos sometimes. I don't drink carbonation, don't use a straw, don't chew gum and haven't had any alcohol in....forever. And I don't miss it - - except for diet coke, but oh well.

I've also spent some time looking to the future - which is new for me. Willing to try new things. Interested in trying new things. There are still many instances where my brain instantly reacts as BS (before surgery) Natalie would have - - instantly thinking "no" or "I can't do that"...but they're becoming less and less. I'm not nearly as content as I once was to just sit in my chair watching TV all day. I want to be out - - even though it's winter - doing things. Errands no longer terrify me. I'm no longer concerned about when I run my errands to insure I'm able to get the closest spot possible, so I don't have to walk any further than absolutely necessary. My only deterrent now is the weather (winter is not even remotely close to my favorite), but at least I can now fit into gear to allow me to combat it a bit.

Everything is easier. That is the biggest difference. EVERYTHING is easier. Getting up, sitting down, bending down, reaching up. Movement is easier. Everything doesn't constantly hurt! My left knee is still being a bit of a bitch - - but Scott has me doing some new exercises that will hopefully help. If not - off to the doctor I will go to have it looked at.

I'm trying to embrace cooking....or as I still like to refer to it: food prep. I've been scouring Pinterest. I've got some ideas sent to me by people on my page. I can't make any promises - but I'm going to try. That which does not kill you... =) It has it's benefits and challenges. One benefit is that when I do make something, I have about 342 meals because I eat such small portions. One challenge is that I have 342 portions - - so I end up eating it FOREVER! My freezer is currently fully stocked! One of my favorite meals continues to be a Greek yogurt, nuts and a string cheese. I was a little over eggs - - but that seems to be passing, gratefully. Still working on high protein, high fat, low carb. It's not as much of a challenge as I thought it would be. I allow myself pizza once every 2 weeks - - it's my gateway drug, so I'm a little more strict than usual with it.

My hair is falling out - which his proving to be the only real issue I deal with. Most people have said theirs stops around 6 months. Most people also have much less to lose than I do/did - but hopefully it's getting ready to wind down here before too long. I picked up some Biotin yesterday - so we'll see if that helps. But honestly - if that's the biggest issue I'm dealing with, I'm pretty luck.

I overextended myself a bit with work during the last month of the year, and was do damn exhausted I could barely function! I ended up skipping workouts, which made me feel guilty and stressed. It was a good reminder to me to not go back to BS Natalie - - where I didn't worry about taking care of myself, or make time to take care of myself. I need to allow myself time to take care of me. I need to make time to take care of me. I'll do better. I was back seeing Scott last week - and all though all the things kind of ached a bit, it felt so good to get back into that routine!! I have a body that will move now - - I need to keep it moving!

So basically, things are kind of kicking ass for me right now - and I'm trying to enjoy every minute of it! I hope your 2017 is off to an excellent start. I can't wait to see all of the amazing shit it will bring our way!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ode to my Trainer

One of the primary reasons I finally broke down, admitted I needed help and had this surgery was that I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be mobile. No longer living in fear of having to walk somewhere, or stand for a while. I wanted to be able to play with my nieces and nephews. Go for walks. Live a "normal" life...not the size-edited version of a life I'd been living for so long.

Part of my success, I knew, would be finding a personal trainer. I've worked with a couple of them in the past, and the truth of the matter is - I need one. I am not one to stretch out of my comfort zone. I don't try things to see if I can do them. I don't push myself.

Today Facebook let me know it was my 1-year anniversary of friendship with Scott Sutherlin.

Around Thanksgiving last year, I started working with my trainer Scott. My sister's sister-in-law went to his bootcamp classes, and she had really good things to say about him. He was right in my town, so that was convenient. At our first meeting, I just knew we'd work. He's worked with overweight people - and by overweight I mean well over 20 pounds to lose - and has not only helped them shed the weight, but keep it off. Weight-loss surgery patients were nothing new to him. He didn't see like one to take any shit, which I can appreciate. I still remember that first meeting like it was yesterday - - He made me stand during the entire thing. It was likely less than 30 minutes - but I was starting to sweat, and my knees hurt - - typical things for me.

I met with him a few times a week. It started so slowly, and so simply - which is exactly what 495# Natalie needed. He had me walk - at whatever pace I could - for 15 minutes. Small circles around the gym. I still remember how fucking hard it was to walk for 15 minutes!!! I was so grateful to be able to sit down when I finished. He worked in a bit of weight-training - - but the goal was movement. I hadn't been doing anything for so long, that that alone felt like something major.

As I dropped a few pounds prior to my pre-surgery liquid diet, we worked up to some tougher things - flipping tires, more weights - but for the most part it was walking. He'd keep me entertained with his stories while I walked in circles. The boredom he must have experienced watching me walk in circles for what ended up being close to 30 minutes - - I cannot imagine. But he did it, because at the time that is what I needed.

I was gone for about 2 months between the liquid diet (no energy at all), my surgery and recovery. When I came back we eased into it. He knew enough to start slow - see what my body was able to do, and where it's limits were. There have been a few days where I was just run down - where I hadn't eaten enough in the days before - and he knew I needed rest, and allowed me to do that. I cannot speak enough to the importance of working with someone who has the knowledge, and experience, to continually put your best-interests first.

So we got back to our 3 sessions a week. Easing in at first - I still had fairly new incisions on my stomach, and I'd still get woozy/light-headed fairly often because I wasn't eating much at the time - and was ingesting no carbs. Scott was patient, but firm. He wasn't going to let me off easy - but he also wasn't going to push me into something that would cause me harm.

I can't remember when the switch was exactly - but suddenly he knew I was ready. I was able to do more than we'd been doing. Everything was kicked up a notch. It was time to test out this new bod, and see what it could do. I had slightly move mobility than I'd had before, and he was going to use it. There are multiple times per session where doubt creeps in. He asks me to do something, and I start mentally calculating the levels to which I will fail. But you know what -- I don't fail. He hasn't asked me to do one thing that I physically can't do. Mentally - it might take me a minute to get my body to cooperate. But he keeps saying he'll never ask me to do anything I can't do - - and he's right. Hopefully one of these days I'll start to believe him right away.

no good comes from the agility ladder
And here's the truth - - I do not like our sessions. I wish I could tell you I love it, and every second of our time together is magical - but I can't. I have to keep telling myself "it's only an hour. It's only an hour. It's only an hour" my entire way to the gym. It's fucking hard. But when it's done, I feel pretty damn fantastic! I'm cranky, and I'm surly  and I'm bitchy - and yet he tolerates me. He doesn't lose his patience. He doesn't scream. He basically just tells me to STFU and do it. And then I do. And then I'm amazed by what I can do. Today he hauled out the agility ladder. My eyes immediately started to roll, and I asked him if he was aware that "agility" and my body were mutually exclusive. He was not. And he made me do it anyway. And I was awful sometimes, and sometimes I was ok. But I could do it. (I'm still somewhat in awe)

From the outside, we may appear to have the most dysfunctional relationship - he is constantly making me do things I don't want to do, and I'm forever being mean to him. But if you look closer - you see he's the best kind of friend - - he knows what I'm capable of, and continually pushes me.

I know without him, I wouldn't be where I am today. Sure - I would have lost weight...I have a hammock, after all. But I wouldn't have lost as much as I have - and my body wouldn't have transformed as much as it has, if it wasn't for Scott. I am so grateful to be able to work with him. I am so grateful he takes the time to work with me, until I'm ready to join the group classes. I am so grateful that he shows me on a daily basis that I am able to do things I'm certain I cannot. I'm grateful that he pushes me, even when I swear at him and give him one of my less-than-loving looks. I am grateful.

Happy 1 year friend-iversary Scott. I appreciate you so much, even when all I do is act the opposite. Here's to many more...you poor guy! =) You might never get rid of me....

Scott & I, post-workout in his torture chamber

Friday, November 4, 2016

Non-Scale Victories

I've been told repeatedly that it takes 21 days to establish a habit. As per usual for me, I tend to take a little longer - - like 6 months, apparently - for things to start feeling normal. It has finally gotten to the point where I feel like I have myself into a bit of a routine...for the most part, anyway. I have moments...or weeks...like this one where I just didn't feel like doing the things I normally do - but for the most part I have settled in a bit.

I'm trying to be responsible and food prep. I've resigned myself to moving more, and going to the gym when I have appointments set. I'm embracing and getting used to this new life of mine. Or at least I'm trying to. I'm going to lay some honesty on you real quick - - there are stretches of days where I swear it seems like one long list of shit I don't want to do: food prep, go to the gym, go to work, laundry, dishes, etc. Not that I'm miserable. Not that I find no joy in my life. But there are periods where there isn't really anything I'm looking forward to, and all of the things I'm marking off the list are out of obligation. That tends to be fairly short-lived...but it is the truth.

But then I hear Scott - sometimes in my head, sometimes at our sessions - reminding me to be grateful for, and appreciate the little things. Like the day I was bending over to pick up the bar and noticed the dry skin on my shins. He was kind enough to point out to me that it likely wasn't that long ago I couldn't really get a good look at my shins. Enjoy the little things.

And there have been quite a few lately - - I shared the fact that I can finally tie my shoes while standing up, instead of requiring some fairly significant calisthenics (which I just had to look up how to spell, because I was sure there was another T in there...but anyway...) while sitting on the side of my bed. I can finally use any stall in a public restroom without having to get in, straddle the toilet to get the door closed - then basically touch all the sides while I'm in there, and straddle the toilet to get the door back open. I'm not going to lie - it feels pretty damn amazing!

Yesterday, I stopped at Wal-Mart (which I usually try to avoid like the plague - but they do have plus-size long sleeved lady tees that are cheap - -and I'm all about that right now). One of the issues I have been having heading into winter is - how much do I spend on a winter coat that will (hopefully) only fit me for one year. I just honestly cannot want to spend money on clothes right now! So I walked into the clothing department, and they had winter coats for $20. TWENTY BUCKS!!! Now - as a lovely, large lady, I have not been able to just walk into Target or Wal-Mart and buy coats - - even plus-size coats - off the rack. I've had to order them, and they never fit right - so it has been a long time since I've had a winter coat that I actually wore, that actually fit. So I grabbed the largest size they had on the rack - a size 3X (22/24) and it fits!!! Like I can zip it up and everything! I'm still a big girl - but getting to be a bit more manageable! I was seriously on cloud 9 for like 2 hours!

For perspective - I started at size....a trillion? Honestly - I'm not sure. I would wear 4X maxi skirts made of jersey material with lots of give - - and I used all of it. Shirts, etc I was into 5X or 4X mens. I couldn't even get my size 32 jeans up - and I can now not really keep them up. The green and blue pants I am currently wearing are size 28 Boyfriend cut from Lane Bryant. I can actually dry them IN the dryer (no more hanging everything to dry for me) and they still have some room in them. So the fact that this 22/24 coat fits is...awesome.

But here's the big thing...I never really considered myself an unhappy person. I didn't consider myself someone who lacked self-confidence. What I have come to learn is that I am not so great at being self-aware. Or my internal gauge that advises me on how things are going is just that good at protecting me. Because what I'm experiencing now is quite different. I feel like it's easier to smile. It's easier to make eye contact. It's easier to be kind.  It's easier to try and be helpful. I'm sure there was something within me that had me keeping my guard up - - just incase that one was one of the days someone decided to give me the looks, or comments, about my size. Whatever was in charge of my self-preservation was not to be messed with! Now - this is not to say that I don't still have plenty of the sarcastic a-hole that everyone has grown to love, within me. =) But I find that I make eye contact and say hello to strangers more than I used to. I acknowledge passers-by, even on my walks where I'm sweaty and feel like I'm going to die - - I stick look them in the eye and smile. I'm pretty sure this is by far my favorite NSV (non-scale victory) to date. There is just so much to be said for feeling happy, healthy (or at least getting there), confident...comfortable...in your own skin! Am I perfect? So far from it. But I feel like I'm getting back to the out-going person I used to be before life and weight beat the hell out of me, and it feels fucking fantastic!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

6 Months Post-Op

Every month my surgiversary surprises me. Every month it simultaneously feels like there is no way it's been as long as it has been - 6 months in this case - while also feeling like it has been forever since I went under the knife.

In honor of this milestone, I thought I would show you guys what happens when you go from nearly 500 pounds to...less...rapidly. I hope you don't consider these pictures to be offensive. Part of me wanted to completely throw up taking these pictures - - I'm not big on showing off my bod, but another part of me is really proud of how hard I've worked for what is now a very lumpy, bumpy body - but a much stronger body as well. I want to thank my sister Wendy for being my photographer for the new pictures. I hope I didn't traumatize her or my niece Macy who walked in for a few of them. These aren't pretty - but they are reality.....

All of the comparisons in this post are from the same 2 dates. On the left is September 9, 2015 - the date of my first appointment with the bariatric department. On the right are pictures from October 19, 2016. My surgery date was April 18, 2016.

My hands and arms are one of the first places I noticed a change. My fingers aren't as puffy as they once were. There are days where I can actually tell there is a wrist bone in there! One thing I noticed right away about these pictures is that I still have a tan near the end of October in the current picture. Why? Because I actually spent time outside this summer. Lots of time - participating in all sorts of run things - because I could!

I have been so lucky. I have been pain-free since shortly after my surgery. I have been able to eat a wide variety of foods, and have never (knock on wood) gotten ill. My hammock is finally able to tolerate protein shakes again without making me feel nauseous, which really helps make sure I'm getting to my protein goal each day. From month 1-2 post surgery I wasn't doing very well. Physically, I was fine. Mentally, not so much. There were times where I questioned if this was the right decision for me. I was so beyond tired of being told no, and having so many limitations on me that I was ready to snap. I can honestly say I have zero reservations saying that this is by far the best decision I've ever made for myself. Everything - and I truly mean everything - is easier.

This picture is hard for me. I have been programmed to avoid the mirror for a while now. If you don't really look at yourself, you don't really have to deal with the fact that you're...huge. I guess that must have been my philosophy? My defense mechanism? Because although I knew I was big, and getting around was hard, I didn't realize just how big I was.

And now - because of my mirror avoidance - I hadn't really looked at myself. The first time I saw my legs was in the mirror in the dressing room when I was trying on jeans a few weeks ago. They are an absolute mess! They are bumpy and you can see where my inner thighs are already sagging. I'm wondering if I'll ever see my kneecaps again?

But then my sister pointed out how good all of those lumps and bumps and sagging are. They are awesome. Because even though they may not look that great now, they are so much stronger than they used to be. They're allowing me to do so much more than I used to be able to do. Those legs tried to run yesterday!! Those legs worked so hard just getting me around before - they had to haul that 500 pound body around. Those legs should be so damn tired that they refuse to do anything - but instead they allow me to do squats and stairs and hike with relative ease. These legs are fucking amazing you guys. And although my FUPA is still holding on strong, it's a hell of a lot smaller than it used to be - and it isn't getting in the way nearly as much as it used to. So I'll embrace these lumps. I'll try not to cringe when I look at bumpy skin. I'll try and show this body the love it deserves for all the hell I've put it through, and it's still giving me it's all.

Not sure what I'm looking at here???
 It's not my body's fault that I tested the elasticity of my skin to such a ridiculous point. It is not reasonable to expect my skin to snap back when I've lost over 100 pounds in 6 months.

Yes - everything looks like cottage cheese right now. Yes, I have bat wings (that's the affectionate nickname I have given to that flap hanging over my bra under my armpit). Yes - my hips and thighs are dimpled. It's what happens. It is unavoidable when you were as big as I was. Will it go away or lessen with more exercise, and more time? I don't know. I think it might lessen a bit. May tighten up a small amount. But not completely. I will have to have skin removal surgery at some point, because things in the loose skin area are only going to continue to worsen the more weight I lose. The one thing that makes that seem worth it is that maybe they can put some of that excess back into my pancake boobs. Maybe? We'll see.....

So that is where my body is at 6 months. Let's talk about the rest of me....

My brain continues to be an issue. I think that is to be expected to a certain point. You can't be as heavy as I was, with the limitations I had without there being some residual...anxiety left behind. The only place that it consistently rears it's ugly head is in the gym. I have had instances where I am supposed to be doing something (stepping up onto a bench, or trying to rest my weight on a stability ball) and I will just absolutely freeze. The internal dialogue is ridiculous!! Eventually I get my body to cooperate, and I don't die, and then the next time I do it is easier - - but I would really be fine without all the back and forth to get to that point! I'm sure Scott (my trainer) would be fine with that too.  =)

Other than the mental stuff - everything is going pretty damn great. I'm borderline obsessed with honeycrisp apples with peanut butter and key lime greek yogurt at the moment. I'm trying to enjoy every decent day we have left before dreaded winter hits. I'm really enjoying not living in fear of...so many ridiculous things. I try out most chairs with arms I run across now, and my butt tends to fit in most of them!!! There are days, and there are moments, that can be a bit of a challenge....but for the most part life is pretty damn good right now.