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 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 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), 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 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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

5-month Surgiversary

I swear I just wrote my 4 month update - but according to the calendar today is, in fact, the 5 month anniversary of my surgiversary if you will.

Thing are still going surprisingly well. Shockingly well most of the time. I am pretty much able to eat anything at this point - just much smaller quantities, which is to be expected. I haven't really had anything on bread or a bun yet - just because I only have so much space in my hammock. Yesterday I was drooling looking at people eating a sandwich. Nothing fancy - just a regular sandwich....I think it looked so good just because that isn't something realistic for me to have right now. I'd get 3 bites in and be stuffed! Maybe one day I'll make myself one...or the desire will pass as most of my cravings do these days.

I feel like I've finally gotten some energy back, which is awesome. For a while there I felt like I couldn't really do much in the gym. I'd be pooped after 2 short sets of exercises. While I still get a little woozy now and then - I do typically feel like I have more energy. I still hit days here and there where I don't - like when I don't get enough to eat for a day or 2 beforehand. Those are rough to recover from. But I'm trying to live and learn, and do better the next time. Skipping a meal isn't really an option when you're already taking in so little.

My only real problem at this point continues to be my brain. It is amazing to me how frequently I have to have internal battles with myself. And most of the time, they aren't even food-related, which has been a shocker to me. It's about physical things.

Every day before I meet with Scott I have to gear myself up. I have my brain wanting to make up excuses not to go. I have my brain telling me how hard it's going to be, and that I can't do it. My usual internal argument to this is: it's only an will be over in an hour.... When I get there, and he tells me the things I'll be doing that day I have to literally tell myself to "Shut the fuck up and try it" rather than immediately bitching about it/telling him I can't do it. (there are tshirts in the works for this) It really becomes exhausting at times! Because the truth is - I can do it. Maybe not well. It certainly isn't perfect. But I can do it. The last couple of weeks I've really focused on just showing up - shutting the fuck up and trying it - and I'm not going to lie to you....this now 335 pound body can do way more shit than I thought it could! Seriously. It amazes me every day. I'm still horribly out of shape. I get winded, and so sweaty, and sometimes woozy....but I'm doing it! I'm doing all of these things I couldn't have even considered doing 5 months ago. And even though I am proud of myself when it's over, and amazed by what this still really overweight body can do, I can't get my damn brain to shut up!!!!

So I deal with this negative Natalie brain, which is understandable to a point - - I mean, I put my emotional/mental well-being through he ringer as well being as heavy as I was. And was so heavy, and damn near immobile, for so long that my brain is having a hard time adjusting. Just now I had to correct my last sentence - it said I "have been so heavy"...I switched it up to "was so heavy". Baby steps. So I'll continue to tell it to shut the fuck up when needed, and I'll just keep trying to show it that we can do a lot more things now than we used to. It no longer has to live in fear...or at least not nearly as much fear...because we're kicking more ass every day.

I thought back to my liquid diet I was on pre-op vs. now. I was sooooo miserable during those 3 weeks of liquids. I was scared and hungry and questioning if this was going to be a complete disaster...and even with the stuff I mentioned about I can say without fail this is the best decision I have ever made. I'm getting my life back, and this life is pretty damn good. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Looking at having Weight Loss Surgery?

I've been in contact with a few people in various pre-surgery stages, who have had a few questions for me. Although some of them may have been answered in previous posts - I felt like I should dedicate one post to things I think helped pre-surgery, things I wish I would have known, things that worked for me. Hopefully it will help at least a few people heading into one of the biggest days of their life....

**Disclaimer** I'm learning that all programs are different. Please listen to your doctors, nurses, nutritionists, psychologists and surgeons. This is just my take on my experiences, and should not replace the words of medical professionals. =)


For those of you that have started, you are likely feeling like the whole process is a bit daunting. So may appointments, approvals, etc just to get to the actual surgery! I know I just got burned out on the whole thing, thought I had approvals I didn't have and thought I was further along than I was. Ask the questions. Have I been cleared for surgery by this department? I thought I had been by 2 departments, when I wasn't - and it just caused more delays. 

Exercise. I am certain the fact that I pushed through the enormous amount of pain and discomfort to exercise prior to my surgery played a huge role in how well my recovery went. Having done some abdominal work...having gotten my body used to walking...just making myself move - - I'm am confident it helped me after my surgery. 

Going on a bon voyage tour with all of your favorite foods. Even though I was told by my nutritionist that I would be able to basically eat everything post-surgery (eventually), my brain felt like I needed to eat all of my favorites. Repeatedly. I can vouch for the fact that you will be able to eat your favorites after surgery. It may take a bit for your new baby tummy to toughen up a bit - but you will be able to have your favorites...just less of them, and in moderation. I haven't run into anything that's "off limits" except my beloved Diet Coke. Damn you carbonation!

When you are heading into surgery, and still weigh well-over 400 pounds, you have to sign extra forms. Forms that detail the issues that might come up post surgery: leaks, blood clots, etc. The issue is, that if you are over 400#, the machines/scanners that they would normally use to detect said issues won't work for you, because you're too heavy.  If you're like me - this is when the nightmare scenarios will start taking over your mind. When you will start to believe that there is a pretty good chance you're just not going to wake up after the surgery because you're too damn fat to have weight loss surgery. But you will wake up. You will be fine. They just have to cover their asses, while helping you to shrink yours.

your life during the liquid diet
Liquid Diet. Now this is where I see the biggest discrepancy amongst the different programs. For me, and my program, I could only have liquids, jello and sugar-free popsicles. Some can have a no-carb meal once a day. But that is not how it worked for me. The minimum number of days to be on liquids with my program was 10. I had to be on liquids for 21 days. THREE WEEKS, people. Because I was so heavy they wanted me to drop as much weight as possible to get me into a safer weight range prior to surgery. There is just no way to sugar coat this for you....the liquid diet is absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done. I was miserable the entire time. I was hungry, the entire time. I'd be at work and people would make food....I swear...someone was going to get hurt. The issue is that you still have a human sized stomach, but aren't getting anywhere near enough to put in it. The reason I was having surgery is because I love food - - and you have to go cold turkey! It's just awful. We can really only be grateful that I survived, and so did everyone else. =) 

The night before / Day of surgery

sticky towelettes & directions
The night before my surgery I was advised to take a 1 hour shower. Seriously. 1 hour. I couldn't have stood for an hour at that point of my life if I needed to, so I soaked in a bath for 30 minutes, and rinsed for 15. I was given these big towelettes of antibacterial solution to use in a very specific order after the shower. They said it would dry, but it never really does. You'll be sticky. It's gross. And then in the AM, you cannot shower again. I got to do a PTA (pussy, tits and ass - - thank you Grandma Betty) wipe down before heading to the hospital. You will feel kind of icky.

 Then you get to try to sleep. I wish you well, on that. I was like a kid before Christmas. Probably got about 2 hours of sleep due to the aforementioned nightmare scenarios running through my head.

There were to be no liquids after midnight. Gratefully, I was to check in pretty early in the AM, so I didn't have to sit around thinking about all the things I couldn't eat and drink. But as soon as you get put into your pre-op room, they'll ask you to pee in a cup. Good luck with that, as we weren't able to drink for hours... 

You get weighed, blood drawn, temp taken, etc. Strip and get into your surgery gown. If you're anything like me, your anxiety manifests itself in the form of perspiration. Lots and lots of perspiration. But luckily my hospital had these really sexy gowns that hooked up to a hose and they could pump cool air into it. Never been more grateful for anything in my life. Then your family, or friends, or whoever you want can come in to visit...trying to keep you calm and sane prior to them wheeling you off. The nurse will get you hooked up to your IV - make sure that's comfortable - it will be in for like 2 days. 

They'll wheel you off into the surgery room - or at least I think it was the surgery room - I was only conscious for about 2 minutes. They had me transfer to the table. Strapped my arms down. Put the compression things on my legs (that tighten & loosen to keep the blood moving and avoid clots during, and after surgery). They'll warn you they'll put you under, and then you're into sleepy time. 

the look of nausea
When I woke up after my surgery I was in a room with tons of other people. The nurse started talking to me right away. My first thought: "YES!!!! I WOKE UP!!!". My 2nd thought: "holy shit! what's sitting on my chest!?!?!". By far the worst part of the next few days was the gas pain. They pump you full of air during the surgery - but sadly haven't figured out a way to suck it back out. You have to wait for it to "pass"...and mine was in no hurry to do so. Eventually they wheel you to your actual room. Through what feels like the whole hospital. On elevators, in hallways, with complete strangers. The good part is you're so drugged up you don't even care that you're likely drooling, and possibly snoring for part of it - - but this move made me so nauseous. I never actually got sick, but it had to have been close. The nurses take off your surgery gown, and basically just cover your cloth gown. Another perk - they do have larger beds for their larger patients - so I didn't feel like I was spilling out of the thing! And then you sleep on and off. They start the pain meds - take them. Trust me. And start the anti-gas meds as soon as they offer. 

A few hours after getting back into your room they want you up, out of bed. I had to move to the chair next to my bed. I was sure my legs would give out, but they didn't. I had to sit there and attempt to drink water. They gave me 2 cups like the size that come with Nyquil. I had to try to drink one in 30 minutes. After that test, they want you to go for a short walk. This is when they cover your shoulders with a robe (because you have the IV in one hand, so can't use the sleeve) and hope like hell it doesn't fall off so you moon everyone. 

The first night for me sucked. The gas pain was pretty bad. My CPAP machine kept making my oxygen reader I was wearing on my finger go off. It was anti-restful. The next day I was feeling a little better - - but then I slept the entire day. People came to visit, but I barely remember, and didn't really participate at all. When I did wake up, I'd take a short stroll. They also put this thing in your toilet to catch your urine. I think they track it in some way - but that was kind of gross/annoying. 

 The first week

The 2nd morning I was free. My sister drove me home. I barely remember it. I was on Oxy for the pain - and I was out of it to say the least. I do not understand how people take that every day. Be prepared for more nausea on the way home. Once you get there, you will likely sleep on and off for the next few days. I was lucky enough to get a recliner that had been my uncle Dan's. I slept in that for over a week, probably closer to 2. My incisions were too tender to try and lay down, and I was nervous I'd never be able to get back up if I were to lay down. Mobility was much less of an issue than I thought it would be. I had serious concerns that I wouldn't even be able to wipe myself - which ended up not being a problem. I kept a pillow over my stomach most of the time - especially when standing up. Something about the pressure helps your incisions not scream at you. I did a few short walks a day. I filled a gallon freezer bag with water to make a big ice pack. I used that on my stomach after the walks to keep swelling down. 

Be prepared - - you will have to give yourself (or talk someone else into) giving you shots in your stomach for a week. I guess that helps with blood clots too. I got pretty good at it by the end of the week - but I gave myself a number of huge bruises. I was off all of my anti-nausea and pain meds within 2 days of being home. I finally took my first poop on day 4 or 5. And seriously - the first time I farted I was ready to throw a party! It is no time to worry about being lady-like! It is necessary to feel better. Embrace it. And ladies - - be prepared for your cycle to be insane. I had my period for 2 weeks straight after surgery. Then mine went back to normal. Some others weren't so lucky. Just one more thing to be aware of. 

Toward the end of the first week I noticed that water was starting to taste like metal. I also had a metal taste in my mouth that I just couldn't get rid of!! I was brushing my teeth like 10 times a day trying to get rid of it! It took about 3 weeks for me to find out that that is normal. It's Ketosis, I believe. Something that happens when you're dropping weight really quickly. I was told lemons & limes in your water would help. Nothing really seemed to help, so everything had to be flavored for me. I still drink watered down Powerade Zero. 

I was warned I might have an aversion to sweets after surgery, and boy did I. I couldn't choke down a protein shake without feeling nauseous for 3 hours. I tried to power through - but finally had to go to my nurse for some advise. I stopped the protein shakes, and started drinking Fairlife milk. I HATE milk, but it was a must according to my program. I'd drink 7oz of white w/ 3oz of chocolate. It did the trick. I didn't feel like I was going to vomit most of the day. The moral of this story is - if something isn't working for you, call your nurse right away! Don't make yourself miserable. 

And then....

My program moved...sloooooooowwwwwwllllllly to say the least. I finally got to have watered down yogurt or tomato soup after that first week. Everything the consistency of apple sauce. After 2 weeks of that nonsense, I could move onto pureed foods. I took a hardboiled egg with some mayo, mustard, and a little milk and threw it in a food processor. That first bite may have been the greatest thing I've ever eaten! I lived on those eggs and refried beans with hotsauce for the week. Then finally, the next week, I got to have berries. Still a really limited list of things - but at least a couple things that required chewing. So it took me a month to get to the point that I had to chew. It took me another 2 months to get to the point that I could actually have something that made a sound. It was right around the 2 month mark post-op that I seriously almost lost my mind. I was so tired of the limited diet. I was so tired of being told "no". I was so tired of the extremely long list of things I still couldn't have. I just wanted a raw vegetable, damn it!! 

It was toward the end of the pre-op liquid diet, and the first couple of months of my limited post-op diet that I realized just how comforted I was by food. How the act of eating soothed me. It helped me understand why I would have larger than needed (by needed I mean I would have been content with less food - wouldn't have gotten to the point of stuffed, but definitely wouldn't have felt hungry) meals. It was like my security blanket. Anything that was going wrong...or right... could be made better by food. The act of eating was therapeutic for me. Now that I'm 4+ months out, those feelings are much less frequent...but it was really rough there for a while. 
But hang in there. One day they'll tell you to go for it, but be smart. And even though you can have anything you want, you won't even need it. Just being able to have it is such a huge step! And your body will tell you when to slow down... your mouth will start to water if you go too fast, or try to eat too much. And that reminds me - don't eat, and then lay down! I made that mistake just one time. Not sure on the cause, but it took me about 5 minutes of deep breathing and lots of swallowing to make the "holy shit, I'm going to puke!" feeling pass. 

I've been very lucky. I see, and communicate, with a few people who have gotten sick a number of times when trying to eat or drink. I, knock on wood, haven't. Other than the protein shakes right after surgery, I haven't had any issues. I urge you to touch base with your nurse if you're having consistent issues. 

I will say - I have followed the rules. I've eaten what I was supposed to, when I was supposed to. I was advised not to drink for a year (concerns about addiction transference, I believe) and I haven't. Maybe that is what has made my recovery fairly easy? Or maybe it is just luck. 

Exercise: I would do my walks after my surgery. I started to work weight-training in after about 6 weeks. I was somewhat concerned my abdominals might rebel, but I haven't had any issues. I also work with a trainer who knows what he's doing, and helps start me off slow, and build up. 

I just have one more thing I want to touch on. This is really none of my business what you choose to do - but I'm going to throw my 2 cents out there anyway. Regarding the Scale - - I weigh myself once a week. That is it. I feel like most of us are so damn excited by those numbers going down that we want to check in on it frequently. I feel like that's just setting yourself up for a letdown. Our bodies inexplicably fluctuate. Trying to make sense of what you did, or didn't do, on a daily basis to see the number you're seeing is just a recipe for disaster. Please - don't put that extra pressure on yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy your non-scale victories as much, if not more, than your scale victories. At the end of the day I think we all did this to feel better, to be healthier, to be able to do more. Yes - a lower number is awesome, but if you're feeling good who gives a shit what the scale says?

Good luck to you. I hope your surgery goes well, and your recoveries are a breeze. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions. I'm more than willing to share anything I have that might help. Good health to you all!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Body Awareness

One of the things that allowed me to keep functioning...well, somewhat functioning, before I had my surgery was the fact that I never really realized how big I was. Yes - if I was aware of potential issues with going to unfamiliar places - - seating, walking, standing, etc. Yes - I would immediately become aware during those instances where the general public thought it their place to comment on my size. But day-to-day, task-to-task, it wasn't a consideration. I knew I was overweight. I knew my physical capabilities were limited. But that just became so commonplace that I didn't even really give it a second thought most of the time.

Now that I've dropped 155 pounds, it is strange to me how much more aware I am of my body. Things it can do. Things it still can't do (my knees - the left specifically - are still being a pain in the ass) How running errands is no longer something I need to fear. My whole body doesn't ache for the day (especially my knees & hips) because I went to Target for 20 minutes. I don't get as many looks as I used to - - possibly because any amount of movement doesn't cause me to be dripping sweat like it used to, or possibly because - dare I say - I might be slowly coming out of the "shockingly huge" body size? This is not to say that I am small by any means - - but maybe... just maybe... my size isn't quite as noteworthy as it once was? I have noticed that at work, if I need to walk over to someone's desk to ask them about a call I'm on, I don't have to sit for 15 to get back on the call because I'm so winded from walking 20 feet. I don't have to search for the closest parking spot, because any extra walking is taxing.

As much as I'm paying more attention to my physical presence - I'm also still completely oblivious to changes is so many other ways. Just last night were a few reminders - - I still brace myself when stepping off a curb. I used to almost have to turn sideways to step down off the curb because my knees couldn't support me walking/stepping down like 99.9% of the population would. I still look at a flight of stairs with dread - but I wasn't even winded when I got to the top of it. We walked up this inclined ramp to get into the grandstand, and I felt that old familiar panic before we started up it. But I can do it now. Yes - I was sweaty after walking up the ramp, through the enclosed building, down 2 flights of stairs and then up a flight - but not dripping sweat - just kind of sweaty. I wasn't out of breath. I didn't need to take a break. I can do it now. But my brain hasn't quite absorbed the fact that I can do it. It still doubts me. I guess I'll just have to keep pushing it until that pesky fat brain decides to get with the program.

waiting for Alabama w/ the fam, and greatest photo bomber
My ass, on the other hand, is still an issue. Seating, is still an issue. But I'm trying to fight my tendency to act like a complete bitch when my size-anxiety/uncomfortable feelings come up. We went to the Alabama concert at in the Grandstand at the MN State Fair last night. Last year I was too huge/immobile to go join my fam - so I was pretty damn excited to go this year. We took the bus, walked around a bit, and then headed to our seats. The "floor" seats in the grandstand are basically folding chairs hooked together. 30 of them in a line, with no space between then. Now - although my rear end has gotten a bit smaller - it has not gotten small enough to fit on a folding chair without spilling over. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into - but that didnt' stop the old feelings of panic. But my family was awesome. My mom took the end seat of our group, so I could smash in between my sisters with tiny butts. About 5 minutes after sitting down I could feel the anxiety leaving because I was so happy to be there with them - and I could tell they were pretty happy I was there too. My brain will continue to be a tricky bitch, but I just need to keep trying things. No longer letting the fear determine my activities.

The good news is, with the volume of squats Scott seems to think I need to be doing these days, my ass will be shrinking in no time!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Carbs: The Scariest Food Group

This will likely come as no shock to anyone who has had WLS (weight loss surgery), but for the rest of you I'll let you in on a secret - - carbs are not our friend. Or at least over-doing it on carbs is frowned upon for those of us living with a hammock. And I'm not talking about natural carbs, like fruit. I'm talking about the delicious, life-giving carbs...pasta, bread, rice, etc. I've had a number of friends do low carb diets over the years - Atkins, South Beach, etc. I have always said I'd rather do a all-carb diet than try to live like that. On more than one occasion I've said I don't want to live in a world without carbs.

That being said - I am now able to have carbs. I was advised to keep under control, but they were no longer "forbidden" as they had been for the first 3 months after surgery. Here is another point where "fat brain" rears it's ugly head - because let's be pre-surgery body was built on carbs. Many, many, many carbs. So much bread. SOOOOOO much bread. Preferably with butter, garlic and cheese on it. Or with a ridiculously topped burger between it. Pasta? Love. Rice? Give it to me. Although it offered next to no nutritional value, bread was life for me.

So permission to enter back into that world gave me pause. My nurse told me "you'll never be able to eat bread like you used to" (bless you, hammock) which was somewhat comforting - but I also know I can allow myself to work around my current limitations if I want to. Yes - I can only eat so much at a time...but I could still allow myself to eat frequently. That is one of the things my friend M, who had this surgery a few years ago said...he's sometimes finds he's eating when he's "not full" rather than when he's hungry.

I've avoided carbs for the most part, because I don't trust myself. It seems easier to just stay away, than find out the hard way that their siren call is more than I can resist. It's really starting to annoy me though. I need to get carbs coursing through my veins to be able to have the energy to do the things I want to do. So I'm trying to gear myself up to work a some into my diet here and there - sweet potatoes, a bit of rice, a tortilla here and there. But I will likely never again buy a loaf of bread. My nurse told me she can't keep nuts in her house - she doesn't trust herself. For me, it's bread. I was wondering if anyone sells bread by the slice? Something to ask Panera the next time I'm in the neighborhood.....

I have told you all of this, to finally get to my point. I was meeting my fellow VSG/WLS friend M for dinner. I told him to choose the place based on any cravings he might be having. What does he pick? Pasta. The same place we went for his "last meal" before he started his liquid diet before his surgery. The second I read the text I was filled with panic. SHIT!!!! Pasta. And this place also serves this really delicious, warm, salty/peppery bread w/ seasoned olive oil before the meal. SHIT. SHIT. SHIT!!!!!! I tried to calm myself by reminding myself of what my nurse had said - - 80/20. Eat on plan 80% of the time. Allow yourself to live a little 20% of the time. I could do this....

Left = before, Right = after
I looked at the menu in advance. I picked out 2 dishes that seemed like they'd be ok - both had chicken. I abstained when the initially brought the bread to the table. I didn't want to hog hammock space, and was slightly concerned I wouldn't stop if I started. I ordered the special - cheese tortellini with spinach and red pepper with chicken. When it arrived I tried to make sure to get a bunch of the chicken down. I enjoyed the cheese in the tortellini because....cheese! It was delicious. I ate slowly so I'd be sure to recognize when I was full. I stopped well before the miserable stage. I even had the salt/pepper top of one of the pieces of bread when I was done. And I had a ton of leftovers.

Now this is a double-edged sword. I love that I can get 2-3 meals out of a standard meal in a restaurant. But I realized I have typically picked things that are still within my plan - so having the leftovers isn't an issue. Like the night we went for pizza - I sent the rest home with my sister, because I would have eaten pizza for ever meal until it was gone - and that is no bueno. But this time I now have 2 more servings of pasta at my house. (I didn't take home any bread) It will test my will, but I am actually feeling very confident that I'll be fine. I'll split them up so I'm not having pasta every day. I'll be more diligent about my other meals to make sure I'm keeping them a little more lean than I normally pay attention to. This was a huge hurdle for me, and I'm feeling confident that I can be responsible...even with the temptation of the dreaded carbs.

Do you have anything that you just can't allow yourself to keep in your house because you just don't trust yourself?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

4 months, 2 days

It is unbelieveable to me that it's already been 4 months since my surgery. Time has flown by. There are the occasional hiccups - but I am definitely grateful the vast majority of the days that I decided to finally go for it. Since my surgery I've lost 80 pounds. It's absolute madness that I've lost 150 pounds through this process....and that I still have so many to go!!!

About 2 months ago, my youngest sister Mackenzie (see also: my activity coach) said I should do the 5K walk at the "Rock the Pavement" even on August 20th (this morning). I thought that seemed like a reasonable timeframe to work up to walking 3 miles, so I recruited my kind friend Stephanie to walk with me. And a deadline was established. What better way to celebrate my 4-month surgiversary? 

In those 2 months we did a few walks that were about 3 miles - so although I move at the pace of a tortoise, I knew I could cover that distance. I was feeling pretty good about things - and then this week hit. I had my most exhausting work rotation, oversleeping and missing a walk, one day where I was not feeling well at all, a day in the 90 degree heat at the fair and a day of laziness to conserve energy. 

What I have learned is that apparently having a bit of an off week leading up to something with actual parameters/expectations will allow 495-pound Natalie brain to come in and completely fuck everything up. Now let me say that I fully understand there should have been no reason for panic or anxiety about this morning - - I have covered this distance in the not so distant past. I suspected our Uber would be able to drop us off near the starting line. But that mattered very little to my crazed brain......

I couldn't sleep last night. It was like I was somehow transported back to the days prior to losing some weight - prior to this surgery - where every event, especially those to a somewhat unfamiliar area, were cause for a total freak out. I was trying to figure out how the driver could get us as close to the starting line as possible (we were able to pull into a lot right near the action). I was losing it over the fact that I may have to walk a little over 3 miles to get to, and back from, the actual race/walk path - and I'd only ever really walked those 3 miles! Everything that was added on was pushing further and further from my tested distance! (insert extreme eye roll here) The only legitimate concern I had was the standing. I still hate standing...or rather, my knees still hate standing. But even that was going to be within reason. But try telling that to my whirlwind brain when I'm trying to sleep.

So we got there - and it immediately started to rain. I guess my constant requests to "please don't be too humid" were heard - - but overcorrected. It rained the entire time. we were drenched. My white tshirt was maybe not my best decision, but at least the logo was covering my boobs. Due to the crap weather, there wasn't the anticipated turn-out. We started our walk a little early - figuring if we were going to get rained on, we might as well be moving. I am still slow-as-shit, but we finished. I was grateful for both of my activity coaches today. I am also grateful that is over with.

Other than that, the last month has been somewhat uneventful. Just trying to eat mostly protein and some fats - - working in a carb here and there. So happy to have had pizza a couple of weeks ago - it is still my fave, so I'll have to watch that one. I have had a few protein shakes, and they don't seem to make me nauseous anymore, which is a total win. I recognize I'm in the honeymoon phase - and am happy to still be here. I have days every now and then where I just want to stuff things I don't need into my face (cheese curds, chips & salsa, french fries) but I think that's normal. So far these wants have been short-lived, which is awesome. I still miss diet coke everyday, but alas it is not to be. 

I'm trying to move my ass more - - I genuinely enjoy my walks (typically right around a mile & a half) so those no longer feel like absolute torture. I am slowly but surely seeing improvements. I still have shit for energy, which is somewhat frustrating - but will hopefully improve now that I can actually drink more of my protein - hopefully allowing some space for some well-placed carbs.

Most of the time, life is pretty damn swell. I'm trying to roll with it - not put too much pressure on myself, but also now allow myself to slip back into old/lazy habits. My body is changing - able to do more than I would have thought it would at this point. Now if I can just figure out how to shutdown my crazed brain when it rears it's ugly head, I'll really be getting somewhere..... 

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's the Little Things

So much has changed for me since April 18th. Not only did I lose a sizable portion of my stomach, and my gall bladder (which I am SO THANKFUL they ripped out while they were in there rooting around!! There are so many weight-loss surgery patients that have to go back and have a 2nd surgery to remove it. More pain, more recovery. Yuck) but the removal of those two things marked the start of something that has been pretty damn fantastic so far - - a willingness to participate.

Most of the changes I've seen in myself over the last 3-1/2ish months are likely what you'd expect. I can do more, because I weigh less. My clothes are a little looser. My joints don't scream at me quite as much as they used to. My grocery bill has gone down because I eat baby amounts thanks to my hammock. But what I have been the most surprised about are the little things.

The little things are not anything a person who hasn't been severely overweight would likely even think about. Like getting my laundry out of the washing machine - - I can actually bend over, and get the stuff off the bottom/stuck to the sides so much easier than I used to be able to. Running errands - - I used to dread them. My knees would ache so much by the time I was done. I'd be dripping in sweat. I would strategize about exactly where everything was I needed, and how to get to them with fewest amount of steps - - Now I'm all over the damn store finding all sorts of crap I don't need. Things as common as washing and putting on lotion. I won't elaborate - - but let's just say it's easier. I can sort of bend at my waist a bit now - I can actually reach my feet to tie my shoes without the ridiculous amount of effort that used to require. I now appreciate being able to go for a short stroll to stretch out my legs, instead of trying to figure out everything I could possibly ever need in one trip so I wouldn't have to get back up for a while. I no longer worry about how far I'm going to have to walk if I go somewhere - - I still don't want to have to stand once I get there - - but the walking part is no problem. Getting into, and out of, my car. My FUPA no longer rests on my steering wheel, so I don't feel like I'm ripping it off my body every time I try to get out of my car. Basically - everything is just getting a little bit easier...and that is a really welcome feeling.

Team Unicorn
 I'm still trying to figure out how to work carbs back into my life - - just to help with my energy level. Day-to-day, I'm great. But when I have my workouts with Scott, or my longer walks, or even golfing (with a cart - but still kind of a lot of moving around) I just get wiped by the end of it!

Saturday I golfed 18 holes (best ball tournament - I could never play 18 with my own shots - - I'd still be out there!) with Team Unicorn at the OGBB Fundraiser. It was awesome. So entertaining, got to see a bunch of my friends, and I didn't feel like I was going to completely drop by the time it was over. I'm seeing improvements in my stamina, and that is just awesome. The whole point of me having this surgery was to be more active - - and I'm getting there....slowly, but surely. I'm looking forward to the point where I can do a few more intense things within a couple of days of each other, and not have my legs feel like they're filled with lead. That's the current dream, people!

Rosemount Irish 10U A - State Champs, 3rd at Nationals
I spent Sunday watching some amazing young ladies rebound from their toughest loss to date, and play 5 straight games coming back through the losers bracket. I was even there to watch them beat a team that had bested them at all of their previous meetings this season. I am so grateful to these kiddos, and their parents. Their season was just getting started soon after my surgery, and they gave me something really awesome to focus on, other than myself (and my occasional annoyance with this process). They gave me a reason to get out of the house. I made it to as many games as I could, and watched them improve so much. They put up with my incessant cheering (which likely sounds like yelling) and pacing and excitement. I can't imagine being a parent! I was just the aunt, and I felt so invested! They were my first "Aha moment" after surgery - because I realized I never would have been at their games if I hadn't had this surgery. I would have missed all of these fantastic accomplishments by my niece. And they helped me see a glimmer of that competitive person I used to be. I had lost that a long time ago...likely buried under about 138 pounds of dormancy. Being a really small part of their amazing season was a gift, and I am genuinely sad to see it end.

My nieces and nephew were one of the major reasons I decided to do it. My nephew Grady continues to be my biggest cheerleader - I got told "Natalie! You look better!!" when I saw him last Thursday. I think that counts as a pretty nice compliment from a 5 year old? I want to be an active member of their lives. I want to enjoy spending time with them that doesn't necessarily involve the couch. I don't want to miss a single one of the amazing things they're going to do, because they're awesome and I absolutely love and adore them. I can't wait to see what the future holds for them!

 There are so many things that have changed in such a short time...and so many things that are going to change for me in the months to come.... I just hope they're all as awesome as what I've experienced so far, because live is pretty damn good right now...and only getting better.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Three Months

Today marks my 3-month surgiversary. One one hand that seems absolutely insane - how has it already been 3 months...but on the other hand, it feels like it has been forever!!! I have worked through so many different phases and emotions - - I am grateful to be at this point where things are starting to feel a little more "normal".

I feel very lucky. Things are going so much better than I thought they would - and so much better than they have gone for other people. I follow a lot of weight-loss surgery folks on Instagram, and have exchanged messages with some, who are having - and have had - a much harder time than I am. I have experienced so little pain and discomfort. I haven't had an issue yet with vomiting up what I've just eaten. With the exception of the protein shakes right after surgery, I've had no issues. Granted - I'm still drinking more FairLife milk than I want to - - but at least I'm no longer nauseous.

Emotionally I had a really hard time right before I hit the 2 month mark. With the 21 days of liquids prior to surgery, and the extremely limited diet for 2 months after, I was about to lose my mind. I needed to have some flexibility. You keep telling me no, no, no - and I'm going to flip out. At my 2 month appointment I was given the green light to have anything except carbs (yes - I could have fruit - but no bread, pasta, etc). That was like a switch for me. I could eat vegetables. I could have peanut butter. I could eat nuts. I was giddy.

I had my 3-month appointment last week. I can now eat everything. I've added a little bit of high-protein granola to my greek yogurt - but otherwise I'm still pretty much eating what I was before. It's working!! And having the option to eat other things seems to have been enough (at least for the time being) to keep my mind at ease. Now I'm sure there will come a day when I am willing to cut someone for a slice of bread - but for now, I can honestly say I don't miss it. But I do miss pizza. I will have it one of these days - but that too doesn't seem to be such a hot issue for me right now.

I'm trying to be more active - which is still hard. I'm still horribly out of shape. I move at a snail's pace. But I'm trying. I've walked 3 miles on 2 different occasions in the last couple of weeks. I wouldn't have attempted to walk .3 miles a year ago - hell, a month ago! I'm out enjoying this beautiful Minnesota summer instead of watching it through my window, and that's pretty damn awesome.

The only existing issue for me at this point is the schedule - - I can't drink 30 minutes before I eat, or after I eat. That is really hard sometimes - especially when you're with a group of people. I inevitably time it wrong, and end up eating by myself after everyone else is done. And work is such a zoo that it's tough to stick to my schedule on days I am there. But this is minor - and something that will improve as I'm able to eat more, and drink less (hoping the milk intake goes down drastically soon).

I've definitely hit the grateful stage. I no longer question if this was the right thing for me to do. (the first few weeks when I was nauseous all the time, I was seriously thinking I'd made a horrible mistake). I've already been able to do so much more than I was before - part of that is because I'm now willing to try, part of it is that my body actually allows me to do so much more now. I am becoming an active participant in my own life again, and it's pretty fucking awesome.

I am surrounded by the most fantastic people. My family. My friends. Strangers who have messaged me, or talked to someone I know and let them know they're rooting for me. People who have offered me their old clothes, or sent me a fitness tracker to try out. Seriously - how many people are ensconced by this type of positivity?!?! I swear I'm the luckiest girl. I don't understand what I've done to deserve you - but I am so thankful every day.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Feeling Almost Human Again

It's no secret to most that I've been having a rough time lately. The rules, restrictions, schedules...all of it...were breaking me down. So when my friend Mark, who had the same surgery I did about 2 years before me, asked if I was free for dinner I decided it was time. It was time to take my hammock out for it's first visit to a restaurant.

My first feeling was total excitement. I haven't been out to eat in 3 months. Everything has been shakes, and milk, and things I could make on my own here at home. It felt like such a huge thing to just be able to go out and get something to eat! That lasted for about a minute - - and then the dread kicked in. What if the food doesn't agree with me? What if I get sick in the restaurant? What if I eat to fast/don't chew enough/blah, blah, blah??

So I did what I could - I picked a restaurant that had an item made of things on my current "approved foods" list. I'd leave off the things I wasn't supposed to have yet. I knew if I went to Las Tortillas here in Rosemount, I'd likely be OK with the Chile Rellano, modified a bit. It normally comes with rice on the side, but there would be none of that for me. It's basically a pepper w/ shredded chicken, cheese and an amazing sauce of some sort. It also comes with black beans on the side. PROTEIN!!! It does come with a light batter on it - but figured I'd ask them to leave that off too. 

No chips, removed batter and still 2 meals left over!
When I arrived there were already chips and salsa on the table. My human stomach would have put down a couple of baskets without even batting an eye. I knew before I went that I was going to try and avoid them all together. With such limited space in my hammock, I didn't want to hog any up with chips - it honestly just didn't seem worth it. Now I've had really good plans before, and have failed miserably. Tonight I was honestly shocked at the fact that avoiding the chips took no effort at all! I wasn't even interested, which is great since they are most definitely not on my approved food list.

I ordered my main course without the rice, and asked them to leave off the batter. They do make them in advance, so the batter can't be removed. No biggie - I just took it off when my plate arrived. I ate pepper, chicken, cheese and black beans until I was content. Didn't over-do it, so I wasn't miserable. I waited 30 minutes after eating before I had anything to drink (the LONGEST 30 minutes ever). I followed my food list. I was more than satisfied with the amount I ate. Everything went great! Panic was for nothing! And I have leftovers!!

The best part - - I felt normal again. Yes, I made good decisions while I was there - which is pretty great for me - and I got to enjoy some delicious food - - but I got to go do something I had taken for granted not that long ago. And I needed to take a break - even if it was a small/modified break - from the non-stop rules/regulations/schedule of my hammock. My emotional state needed this the most, and I'm so happy to have my virgin restaurant run out of the way!

Now I go see my dietician tomorrow - and I think I get to add peanut butter and tomatoes to my diet. Things are really on the upswing around here!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016


The last week and a half has been tough on me. Not physically - but mentally. It seems like it's just one thing after another - - testing me. Fortunately, I have fear and my hammock (my new sleeve/tiny tummy) to help keep me in check - but I'm hopeful that things will ease up soon.

It started last week - - I spent the bulk of Monday just being pissed off. I wanted a diet coke and pizza. Whether it's that I really wanted a diet coke and pizza - or whether the fact that I have way more things on the "you can't" list than the "you can" has caught up to me. When you are told you can't have something, what is the first thing you want? Now imagine that your favorite thing is on the can't list - and it's been on that list for about 3 months, with at least another month before you can consider having it. For me, that's pizza.

It's not that I'm unwilling to make changes - I am very willing to make improvements to my diet. I've known going into this I would be eating a very low carb, high protein/high fat diet for the remainder of my days. I was also told that I likely won't need to completely edit things out of my life - at least for the most part. I will be able to have Mexican food and pizza - 2 of my faves. I likely won't be able to have another diet coke - and I'm OK with that most of the time. But what I didn't realize was that I'd be on an extremely restricted diet for so long. I figured my hammock would need time to heal - I just didn't realize it would need SO LONG to heal. And the 21 days of liquid diet before the surgery is making this whole phase just seem insanely long. I haven't had a carb (with the exception of the small amount of fruit I eat, and the milk I am forced to drink - gag) in....months. It's all got my mental/emotional state in knots.

And that screwed up mindset is what I took into what I anticipated to be one of the hardest stretches of my year - Kath Family Fun Weekend. A 23 year tradition with my dad's side of the family that has every delicious snack/food our family makes, and plenty of booze. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew I'd have to separate myself at times. The truth is - most of it would likely not agree with my hammock anyway. But that doesn't keep it from looking and smelling delicious. It's also no fun to have to repeatedly separate yourself. By next year - I'll be fine. I can eat the meals - grilled chicken, pulled pork, tacos, etc. But not this year. So I packed up my own cooler of food, plenty of Powerade and don't forget my milk - and tried to get my mind right.

Right of the gates I had my first test - smelling fried chicken sandwiches in the car as we left town. I'm not going to lie - they smelled delicious - but I was fine. My hammock doesn't react to hunger/smells/etc the same way a regular stomach does. It is one major gift, that is for sure. Once we got to the resort I stocked my crap in the fridge and went on with our day. My schedule was way off - so I was going to have my final serving of milk right before bed. Because I am me, and life needs to be one gigantic test right now, I discovered at about midnight that our refrigerator wasn't working. All the stuff I brought with me had been sitting just above room temp all day. Gross. The next morning I pitched it all and did a little grocery shopping.

I was surprised by how easy it was to ignore the food. Well - ignore might be a little strong...but it was much less temptation that I had anticipated. The thing that made me drool the most? The fresh veggie tray. This may shock people - but I love veggies - especially if someone else gets them prepped for me! I can only have steamed to death veggies (ewww) right now. I cannot wait until the day I'm free to have fresh peppers and broccoli and cauliflower! And tomatoes! OK - enough. But you get the idea. And taco night was rough - because as you know, I love Mexican food. And the booze was a non-factor. I hadn't been drinking much leading up to surgery anyway - so I was fine with my watered down Powerade and Spark drinks.

It was impossible at times to stay on a schedule - I spent one entire afternoon at the pool - soaking up the sun, watching the mayhem and talking shit with my family. I didn't want to have to leave to go drink my milk and make my own food. It just reinforced how much I cannot wait to get to the "real life" portion of this whole process. I guess I should probably stop referring to it as a's my life. And I'm getting really tired of all the damn restrictions.

So I did what I could. I removed myself when needed. I didn't have so much as a Cheeto or chip. I avoided the homemade bread - not even a bite. No cheesy potatoes. Nothing. I at my food I made, on my approved list. The only exception was one meal of a small amount of ham salad and egg salad - both of which are made of things I can have. Otherwise I didn't touch a thing. I was pretty proud of myself. And I did have one non-scale victory - - I slept in a twin size bed - and I fit, sort of. Well - I fit a hell of a lot better than I would have 6 months ago!

Then I got home and stepped on the scale. I weighed the exact same as I had the week before. Exactly. Not even down a tenth of a pound. I couldn't believe it. I just stood and stared at it for a second. How in the fuck is that even possible!?!?! I did everything I was supposed to. I didn't even touch the other food and then lick my finger. How in the hell did I not lose any weight!?!???!!!??!?!?! Then the mind games kicked into overdrive - well, I guess I could have had some damn cheetoes after all. What difference would it have made if I would have made a meal out of cheesy potatoes. I could have used that platter of nachos as a pillow - I wasn't going to lose any damn weight anyway!!

That went on for about 10 minutes. Then I started getting the replies to my slightly insane update on my page. Thank you to all of you that were just nothing but supportive and reassuring and awesome. I know you were right. The fact that I stuck to my plan was huge. I have to take the victories where I can get them. Fuck the scale this week, as my friend said in her super-supportive text. Seriously - you guys are just amazing. I am so grateful for you.

So I'm back. I'm making a batch of chili for when I return to work tomorrow. I've got "soft foods" approved meals all set for the next few days. And I didn't go off plan - even during my tantrum, I didn't stray. For this girl, that is such a massive victory!

Next Tuesday I meet with my dietician for my 2-month follow-up. I'll still be on soft foods for another month, but I think I increase the amounts and I GET TO ADD PEANUT BUTTER!!! Woo-hoo!!! Just one more month until I meet with my nurse who told me "we'll meet at your 3-month mark and work on transitioning you into real life". I am trying to focus on that day....when I can be a little more human than I am right now.

Until then - let's hope I don't have to break the scale in half next week. Let's hope the tides are turning, so I don't feel like each day is a test my emotional state forgot to study for. Let's hope......

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


People have been asking about what my goal weight is...what weight do I want to get to now that I've had this surgery to assist me in getting there. The truth is - I have no idea what a realistic expectation for me is. I've been so insanely over a healthy weight for so long, I have no idea what weight is going to work for me long-term. I can assure you it isn't the 130-144 pounds for a medium framed 5'6" female. I think I passed that weight in about 5th grade. It's a tough thing for me to wrap my head around.

Summer 1990 - approx 225#
At this point I'm hoping for 225-250. Now most of you are probably thinking why would I aim to still likely be classified as "obese". But the truth for me is that I weighed well above that when I graduated from high school. I'm thinking 225 was likely what I weighed in about 10th grade. I found this picture yesterday when I was looking for something else - and figured this might be me at about that weight. This is the summer before my sophomore year, after I'd had surgery on my left knee (it's still swollen). I'm guessing I was around 225 pounds in this picture - granted about 15 pounds of that was likely my bangs! (good grief - what was I thinking with that hairdo??) and another pound for shoulder pads - but you get the idea. I figure at that weight I should have no issue fitting into chairs, stadium seats or an airplane seat. That will also be light enough for me to skydive!! At that weight and size I should have absolutely no issue living the kickass life I want to. I'd be able to decide what I legitimately want to do, and do it - without being concerned about the walk, standing, or fitting into whatever seats are available. I'd be back in charge of my life...with slightly less bangs.

That being said - I have no idea if that is a realistic goal or not - but I know I'm willing to work my ass off to get to it. I'll make it realistic.

As far as where I am now - - things are going really well. I have a slightly less gross taste in my mouth. I've heard that will go away as the weight loss slows a bit - and apparently that is what I am to expect in month 2. I am consuming FairLife milk to get myself to, and beyond, my protein goal. I'm getting to eat actual food - a very curtailed list, but real food none-the-less. I'm starting to take my vitamins again, so hopefully my energy level will improve. I'm feeling great. I'm feeling like much more of a joiner than I had before. I'm not staying at home rather than going to do things because I may have to walk from the far side of the parking lot. I'm willing to participate, which is a huge step for me!

I've been using MyFitnessPal to track my food, to make sure I'm hitting my 65grams of protein each day. I'm not able to actually complete out my days however, because it keeps giving me errors that I'm not eating nearly enough to survive. I don't know how to tell the ap that I have a baby stomach now? I saw someone who has had this surgery post on Instagram that our stomachs are the size of an egg. Not sure I believe they are quite that small - I will definitely have to ask about that - but if that's true it's insane! Would definitely explain why when I tried to eat 2 hardboiled pickled eggs (made for me by my dad because I requested them) I thought I was going to die! Way too much food for me at this time. I've also learned that I cannot eat and then lay down. I was certain I was going to vomit last week. After 5 minutes of non-stop swallowing and deep breaths I finally started feeling OK again. Lots of learning last week on my first few days of "soft foods".

I'm going to keep plugging along with my tiny portions. I'm going to try and start adding in more movement. This phase of this process is baby steps. My lack of patience is really getting a workout! =) But I'm hanging in there. The number of times per week that I question this decision is decreasing all the time....

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Seven Weeks of Liquids

Sunday will mark 7 straight weeks of basically only liquids. This week I was finally able to incorporate some additional flavors by pureeing up an egg with some mayo, mustard and salt & pepper or having refried beans with a ton of Frank's hot sauce. It was wonderful, but still had to be the consistency of applesauce. I'm really looking forward to Monday when I move onto soft foods. Although my diet will still be very limited, I can actually chew! You don't realize how much you miss it until you go this long without it!!

Things continue to go really well for me - - at least for the most part. My incisions are mostly all healed up and cause me no issue at this point. Physically I'm getting around better than I have for a long while - helped along by the fact that I finally hit a pretty major milestone for me on weigh in Wednesday when I finally dropped down under 400. My knees are becoming more and more happy by the day. Physically I'm feeling great. I just have a couple of issues that have continued to bother me. The first is this gross/metallic/disgusting taste I have in my mouth constantly. It doesn't matter how many times I brush my teeth - I can't get rid of it. I may have finally gotten to the bottom of it - - more to follow on that in the info below about my talk with the nurse.

The second is the liquid protein I need to drink. I am not a milk drinker. I hate milk. I tolerated it during the 3 week liquid diet portion leading up to surgery. It was a lot easier to mask it when I had regular taste buds, and a regular stomach. I mixed chocolate things with it, and it was OK. I was warned by the nurses and my dietician prior to surgery that my tastes would change after surgery. They warned me that sugar would likely be an issue. This may have been the biggest understatement they uttered. My little baby sleeve cannot tolerate anything sweet - at all!! Actually, that's not completely true. I've had some zero calorie beverages - Powerade and LifeWater that don't bother me much at all. But all protein options I've tried - my regular chocolate protein powder, the couple of Cellucor options (Peanutbutter, Cinnamon and Red Velvet), my Premier Protein shakes - - all bother me. I've tried watering them down with skim milk, unsweetened almond milk and even using only water - it does no good. I feel nauseous the whole time I drink them, and usually about a half hour or more after. I'm miserable. I dread drinking them, and basically just pissed that I have to.

So I called my nurse yesterday. I had to get the low down on the rules for the next phase of my eating - soft foods anyway - so it was perfect timing. It sounds like she and I might be really similar. She's now 5 years post-op, and has many of the same issues. Does not tolerate sweet well at all, and hates milk. She asked me to try FairLife. She said it's lactose free, so won't upset my stomach like regular milk will, and it doesn't cause her to gag like many other options (I was getting to that point, too). I tried it yesterday. I don't love it. It still tastes kind of "milky" to me - which is the issue. I'm going to see if I can find something - possibly just mixing in a little bit of their chocolate milk (which I loved prior to surgery) and see if maybe that can work - just to give it some flavor? I'll keep you posted on that. Wish me luck.

If there is a positive to this situation, it's that staying away from sweets appears to have just gotten a whole lot easier - - I don't enjoy feeling like crap, and am unlikely to put myself in that position again. And eventually I should be able to get the majority of my protein from actual food - - but that's a couple of months down the road. For right now, I have to consume such small portions while I heal, that I need to get protein through liquid in order to maintain muscle. There just doesn't appear to be much for other options right now. 

We also talked about whether I can have sugar-free gum or mints. I told her the breath thing is becoming a major issue. I feel like I have a film on the inside of my mouth at all times. It's pretty gross. She said that is completely normal (would have been nice to know) because I'm in something called "ketosis". There's a whole lot of medical blah, blah, blah online about this - but basically she said it's basically the term for losing weight so fast - and the "acetone breath" is a side effect. Excellent. She said this is also causing water to taste like metal. Good grief! I had just changed my Brita filter that morning because the water tasted like crap. Even bottled water tasted disgusting. I guess this can be removed by adding lemon & lime - or even oranges - to my water. Good to know. Would have been good to know even earlier. I guess that's why so many weight-loss patients I follow on Instagram always have lemons and limes in their water? Duh! So I am now armed with lemons and limes and ready to get my water intake back up!

I was also going over the approved food list with her for this next month - yes, MONTH - of soft foods. It went a little something like this:
Q: Can I have _________ (baked chicken breasts, string cheese, pickles, etc)
A: No - I doubt you'll be able to tolerate that very well at this time
Bummer! But there are still some bright spots to this new eating phase. I get to have the following - which I love: cottage cheese, berries, melon, baby bells (cheese!), taco meat and even chili. I'm looking forward to getting in some additional flavors and mixing things up a bit more. My dad also made me pickled eggs - and I can't wait to bust into those babies!

The only other weird thing is that I feel like I have a super-human ability to smell. Seriously - everything stinks! Maybe it is just me and my damn breath? But I swear if anyone has even looked at garlic or an onion, and I can smell it. The hallways at my apartment building are a minefield! Hopefully that will lighten up with time as well. 

I have my one month follow-ups Friday the 20th with the dietician and the nurse. Hopefully I'll be able to get a more solid plan for dealing with the couple of kinks that are causing me issues, and also get cleared to start working out again. Fingers crossed the soft food phase gives me enough energy to do that too!