Skinny Girl Update – Vacation Post!

Ok, so the “writing every day for a month” project kind of fell flat. I may try to do that again as I have lots to say. Just wanted to post a quick update, though.

So, what have I been doing? Mostly, working. I did go on vacation last week. I took a quick trip to Pittsburgh to see my mom. My baby sis came to town as well. Last week was the one year anniversary of my step-dad’s death. I wanted to be there with my mom to support her. And it was great to see my sister as well. She lives in Minnesota. She and her husband are moving out west to California in the fall, so it might be a while before I see her again. I WILL be going to to visit her and all that sunshine once she moves and gets settled. Get the guest room ready sis!

Also, because I am on the planning committee for my high school reunion, I had to meet with the other committee members to discuss the reunion, tour the restaurant where we are having the reunion, and then we had a quick high school get-together at a different restaurant where we met for drinks. It was funny meeting up with everyone again. Some people have changed a lot, others not so much. Thank goodness we had old yearbooks on hand for reference! Tons of fun, but very busy.

I then went to Rehoboth beach in Delaware to visit with my college friends. OMG, it was so much fun! I bought a bathing suit a few weeks ago and I have been swimming. This is the first bathing suit I have owned in about 15 years. Granted, I don’t think I looked good in a bathing suit, but honestly, I did not care. My biggest concerns were not drowning in the ocean and not getting horribly sunburned. Other than that, I did not give one rat’s butt what I looked like. I had fun.

I have to say, my friends totally rock. We had a blast at the beach. Two of my college friends have kids. There were three children at the beach. For some reason, these kids totally love me. Could be I bribe them with ice cream and let them commandeer my electronics for the week, but the jury is still out on that.

rehoboth

My friend Marianne and her hubby have a son. We’ll call him T. He’s the one who, when I bought a Smart Car, called it a clown car. The conversation went something like this:

Mommy: (Pointing at picture I uploaded to Facebook) “Look at Colleen’s new car, T!”

T: “Colleen bought a clown car? hahahahaha!”

Colleen: “Your son is a little Smartie-Pants!”

Liz & Steve have two little girls we’ll call E & S.

When I arrived at Rehoboth at 1am on Monday after a 7+ hour drive from Pittsburgh, T & E were still up. They cheered my arrival loudly. Everyone in Rehoboth knew when my little Smartie pulled into the driveway. I came into the house to them screaming “MISS COL-LEEN! MISS COL-LEEN!” at the top of their lungs. Apparently, they asked when I was arriving every hour on the hour, which explains the flurry of email and text messages I received during the drive. (No I did not read or text while driving. When I stopped for gas or coffee, I checked my messages and replied.)

rehoboth1

They collapsed in hysterical laughter when I unpacked my car. I brought everything. Extra towels, beach blankets, clothes, food, my personal laptop, my work laptop, all kinds of stuff. My mom even donated a bag of towels to the beach effort. They could not believe I fit all of that in my car. On my third trip into the house, Liz was singing circus music and T was saying, “Your car really IS a clown car!”

Of course, I told him I was a master at Tetris, which his ten-year old mind did not understand at all.

rehoboth2

Going to the beach and into the ocean was interesting. I hadn’t been in years. I was a little hesitant about going into the water. One, it was so cold. I hate being in cold water. It took me two tries to get in far enough to jump the waves with the kids. Their chorus of “MISS COL-LEEN!” As I slowly made my way into the water, helped.

I was out there for quite a while with the kids and various other adults. Then it happened. I got swept back towards the shallows by a big wave. The boogie board didn’t help. The wave knocked me on my butt pretty hard and I couldn’t get up.

It was like a scene from a sit-com or something. “I’m OK.” I announced as I tried to stand up. Then the boogie board was pulled back out and dragged me back down as another wave crashed in knocking me over again as the boogie board slammed back into my head. The cycle then repeated itself:

“I’m OK!” Crash! Thunk! “I’m OK!” Crash! Thunk! “I’m OK!” Crash! Thunk!

Finally, I just sat down holding onto the boogie board and let the waves wash over me. The kids were cracking up. It was pretty hilarious. I let go of the boogie board and one of the kids grabbed it. My friend Marianne, who is over 6 feet tall, came over and helped me stand up.

Other than that, the week was great. Lots and lots of walking. I tried to get in about 4 miles a day. I’m pretty sure I succeeded. Lots of shopping. Lots of beach-time. Lots of good food and fun with my friends. Many trips to the ice cream stands with the kids. Then fireworks on the beach.

fireworksonthebeach

sunsetonthebeach

Now I’m back to work and back to real life. Not nearly has fun, but necessary if I’m going to fund another trip to the beach!

Lazy Sunday

IMG_0055I guess it’s not really all that lazy. I was up early this am. I met a friend for coffee and then I went to this new organic market and bought some fruits and vegetables.

My sister has been having me try these new protein shakes made with vegetables, nuts, and fruits. They are really good. So I bought the ingredients to make some myself. I also bought the ingredients to make protein ice cream. I also made blueberry and chocolate protein ice cream this morning already. They are in the freezer now. I plan on sharing the recipes this week.

I need to get my swimming and walking in today and do some housework in prep for the work week. I have a full week this week. No more vacation until July when I go to the beach.

So, last week, I did a lot of walking because my friends were in town visiting. My challenge this week will be to keep the walking and exercise going on my own. I have some plans for that and I will write more about that later this week. I also plan to finish reading Salt Sugar, Fat this week so that I can write-up a review of my thoughts.

So, to recap what you can expect this week, new high protein recipes, my new exercise plans, and a possible book review. Are you excited? I know I am!

It’s supposed to storm after 4pm today, so if I get my outside exercise done before then, I can stay in and watch tv the rest of the day guilt-free. Wish me luck!

Loss For Words

I’m not often at a loss for words, but today, I cannot think of anything to write. I was hoping to have finished reading Salt, Sugar, & Fat by Michael Moss so that I could write a review, but I haven’t yet, sadly.

I had an extraordinarily busy week with my friends in town, walking challenge, and running around DC. Today I was just so tired. I did get up and go see The Fault in Our Stars, movie based on a book of the same name by John Green. I totally loved it, but it did leave me feeling a bit melancholy.

I went to see the movie with my sister and then we had dinner. We went to her neighborhood chinese restaurant. She’s friends with the one girl who works there. It is a family owned place and she’s part of the family.

She hasn’t seen me for a while. She saw me shortly after the surgery when I went there with my sister to pick up her dinner. Tonight when we walked in, she was completely floored when she saw me. She recognized me sort of. At first she thought maybe I was our other sister. But as I started talking, she knew who I was. I loved her reaction. She came over and gave me a hug and told me how great I looked. “You are so skinny!” was all she kept saying. I am not quite skinny, but it was nice to hear. I can never  hear that enough.

Today wasn’t really so much of a downer day. I know I sound a bit on the down side. I’m just exhausted and I don’t really have much to write about. I did enjoy that today was kind of relaxing. I enjoyed hanging out with my sister. We laughed and had a good time. I’m spending tonight in watching TV and relaxing. I have not done that in a long time. I’m actually looking forward to it.

Exercise – Walking Challenge

I have to admit, I’m not much of an exercise buff. I do walk and sometimes I go to the gym. That said, I have joined the walking challenge at my office. I think the goal is 10,000 steps a day, 70,000 steps a week. Whoever does the most steps at the end of the month wins a $50 gift card. They gave us free pedometers which basically fell apart after two days. I have been using a free app on my iPhone.

I have been doing really well, too. Right now, I’m in second place. I’m not sure I will be able to catch up with the person in first place. She’s just too far ahead. They also let us calculate other forms of exercise. She does a lot of biking and plays baseball.

I have been swimming. My apartment complex has a pool. I try to get an hour of swimming in every couple of days. I would do it every day, but some days I just do not get home in time. Pool closes at 8pm and sometimes it’s just to chilly in the evenings to swim.

To date, I have a total of 72,052 steps and my daily average is over 12,000. Here are some things I do to increase my daily steps.

  • Take bus all the way into DC and forgo the Metro. Walk from where bus drops me off on 23rd Street NW and Constitution Ave to my office. This adds a little more than 1/2 a mile each way to my daily walk to/from the office. That’s an additional 2473 steps per day.
  • Expand my  lunchtime walk. It is currently now 1.7 miles. I bumped it up to a solid 2+ miles.
  • Add swimming as an exercise: moderate swimming is 174 steps per minute. 30 minutes of swimming is 5220 steps.
  • This week, I walked all over DC with my friends. I’m going to have to get more creative next week to keep that level of activity going.
  • Add an additional walk after I get home from work and have dinner.

Most of these are small additions just to bump up my current level of walking activity.

The swimming is a pretty big step for me. This requires putting on a bathing suit in public, something that I have not done in more than 10 years. Once I’m in the water and swimming, I do not even think about what I look like. I can only think about breathing and finishing my lap. I take it slowly. I do one lap and stop for about 15 seconds. Then do another lap. I keep thinking, “after this lap, I’ll stop.” Then I finish the lap and feel OK and think, “OK, one more lap.” I try to do this for 1/2 hour at least. I try to vary my laps between the breast stroke and the backstroke. The backstroke is easier for me. But in either case, I’m not thinking about how I look in a bathing suit, I’m just concentrating on swimming.

I am going to wait a couple of weeks of this increased level of activity to weigh myself. I am hoping that the increased exercise will help the scale to start moving down again. We shall see!

Breaking The Rules – Emotional Highs

Today’s post is a little bit late. Sorry about that.

I know I have a set program that I am supposed to follow, per my own rules, but I want to talk about what I have been doing the past couple of days, so am breaking them. Sort of. Let me explain.

In 2000, I moved to Phoenix. This was probably one of the biggest mistakes in my life. Phoenix was not kind to me. I was sick almost the entire time I was there. I gained over 100 pounds. It was way too hot for me. And it just was not right for me.

There are only two things that keep me from thinking it was absolutely the worst thing that ever happened to me. One, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am not the rugged outdoorsy type. I learned that I do not like excessive heat. And I learned that I really am an east-coast city girl.

The second thing, that happened was I met my friend Cherilyn. I met her about a month after I moved there. I was working at  call center with American Express, and I was seated next to her.

We hit it off immediately. We talked nonstop. We would talk from the minute that we arrived at work until we left. We often hung out after work as well. We became very good friends. She is one of the reason I feel my move to Phoenix wasn’t a complete and utter disaster.

I have missed her a lot over these last ten  years. I have a lot of great friends here in DC, but Cherilyn is a good friend too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have all of our good friends in one place?

I think I have linked a picture of me from her wedding previously, but I will link it here again.

545830_4059131766980_465522067_n

Obviously, she’s the bride. (And this one’s for you, baby sis), I’m the one on the left in pink.

That’s how Cherilyn knew me. That’s what I looked like for most of my stay in Phoenix. That’s what I looked like when I left Phoenix in 2004. And that’s what I looked like when I went back for a visit in 2007.

Now, she has been following my progress with the surgery and weight loss. She reads this blog sometimes. And she follows my updates on Facebook.  But still, I don’t think she was taken aback by what I look like now.

This is us outside the White House with her kids. She’s the one on the left in black and white next to her son. And I’m on the right with the obnoxious pink shorts. The hamlette next to me is her little girl. Her son is so cute. They took a tour of the Capitol and I met up with them after. I asked him how the tour was, he shrugged and said. “OK, but we haven’t seen the White House.” So, we had to do that first.10403230_10152875391775299_2429342450171835273_n

Cherilyn and I have lived full and complete lives in our separate respective cities. She obviously got married. She has two children.  I’ve had surgery. I lost weight. I am trying to be a writer. I blog. We are very different in many ways. Still, when we met up again, it was just like we had never parted ways.

She was so excited to see how much weight I have lost. She was even more excited that I was able to walk all over the city with them. And walk all over the city we did. Miles and miles. We walked to the White House, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Wall. Then we walked to the Foggy Bottom (near GWU) area for dinner. We walked so much, we wore the kids out. The kids and her hubby, couldn’t get out of bed yesterday. I have to admit, I did a little happy dance at the thought that I wore out kids.

While they were sleeping, Cherilyn wanted to see the Jefferson Memorial, so I took her on my Blossom Walk. Then we walked back over to the Smithsonian Metro station to meet her family and took them to the American History Museum. Her little girl wanted to see the ruby-red slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. (They are in trouble with this one, let me tell you!) I made her see the original American Flag first. Then the shoes. Then Miss Piggy.

Then we had an impromptu visit to the Urgent Care. Her son’s eye started hurting and got a little red and puffy. She wanted to make sure he didn’t have pink-eye, especially since were getting on a plane today. We had thought to do paddle boats in the Tidal Basin or to do a Moonlight Bus Tour. We no longer  had time to do either. So, I suggested we just take the Metro out to Rosslyn and walk over to the Iwo Jima Memorial. That was one of two things left on Cherilyn’s “must do” list. Once we were in Virginia, Cherilyn suggested we go to my apartment.

We took the Metro then a bus to my neighborhood. We went to dinner at Busboys & Poets down the street. When we left the restaurant, it was pouring down rain and none of us had an  umbrella. We were SOAKED by the time we got to my apartment. We walked into the building looking like a pack of drowned rats and the guy at the front desk just cracked up. We cracked up. “I think it might rain,” I said to him and pushed the button for the elevator and we all just laughed even harder. I don’t think I have laughed that hard in a long time.

Obviously, I gave them towels and wrapped the kids up in thick plushy robes once we got inside. And I made sure they were good and dry before I sent them back out into the rain for the metro ride back to DC.  Because I rock like that. If I didn’t have a Smart Car, I would have driven them back to the hotel. I guess I still could have, I just would have had to do it one at a time.

OK, all of that to get to my point. The last few days I have been riding an emotional high. Having one of my dear friends be so obviously happy for my weight loss. The surprised gasps and hugs telling how good I look. How happy she was that I could walk all over town and they couldn’t keep up with me. Nothing feels better than having the people you care about sincerely tell you how wonderful you’re doing and how happy they are for you.

It is hard as time goes on and I get less and less of that. The people who see me every day are used to seeing me the way I am and don’t sing my praises every time they see me. I hit a prolonged plateau and haven’t lost anything for a long time.  I have to depend on myself to feel good with what I have done. It is nice that my friends celebrate my success. They should not be required to celebrate every day or every time they see me, however much I may want them to.

It has been a struggle for me during this prolonged plateau to remain positive. Still, I have to find a way to stay focused and positive on my own. This visit from Cherilyn was awesome. I enjoyed spending time with my friend and showing her everything I love about living in DC. I also enjoyed her telling me how great I look and how nice it is that I am so much healthier than I was before. It’s been a nice reminder of how far I have come. But now that she’s gone back home, I have to be my own cheerleader.

That’s not always as easy as it sounds. I know that I write some pretty positive posts on this site, but sometimes it is very difficult not to be very hard on myself. I am hoping that with the walking challenge going on at work, that will kickstart me into really increasing my activity level and start the weight loss again. We shall see.

If you want to follow my progress in the walking challenge, check my daily updates on my Skinnygirl Facebook Page.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

I am a huge vegetable fan. Two of my favorites are kale and spinach. I have a great kale and spinach recipe that I want to share since today is Wednesday, and therefore food day

Now I’m horrible at measuring things. I’m one of those awful cooks who just throws things together until they “look right”. It’s hard for me to write down a recipe accurately. This is not one of those recipes that require precision, thankfully.

I hope you enjoy it!

Spinach & Kale

1 bag raw spinach

1 bag raw kale

1/2 red bell pepper

2 cloves garlic

sesame oil

wok

red pepper flakes

parmesan cheese

salt & pepper

Wash and dry spinach and kale. Cut red bell pepper into strips. Heat wok with sesame oil. Saute garlic, kale, spinach, and bell pepper together until soft. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. You can add a splash of soy sauce at this point too. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

It’s simple and fast. I often eat it with a little bit of grilled chicken.

Sorry if this post seems rushed today. I have friends visiting DC and I have been dragging them all over the city. Or they have been dragging me. Anyway, for today, we are going to the top of the Washington Monument and hitting a couple of museums. Since I do the museum circuit regularly with my brother, I know just where take the kids. My friend’s little girl is very interested in seeing Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers and Kermit the Frog. She seemed somewhat wary of the bug suggestion, but the thought of seeing the Hope Diamond was exciting.

I’ll post an update on Thursday.

A Room With A View: What Gastric By-Pass Surgery I Really Like

Today’s Writing 101 Assignment is called “A Room With A View” and they are asking us to look ahead and talk about a place we’d like to go. I am going to turn the assignment on its ear a bit and talk about where I have been.

One of my Facebook followers asked me to talk about what the surgery is really like because not everyone has such positive results. She is absolutely correct. So I am going to talk about my experience the first day or so after the surgery.

A day and a half after my surgery, I blogged a bit about what it had been like. Re-reading that post, I realize that I did not give many details or really describe how I felt physically, so I will talk about that some here.

The doctor said the surgery went well. He did notice that my liver was very large and covered in fat. He took a sample so that they could have it analyzed to make sure that it is OK. Bottom line, my liver is not that bad off. Mostly just covered in fat, which is getting better.

I awoke on the table, which they told me would happen. They woke me up to remove the tubes from my lungs. I had been intubated for the surgery. I remember them  yelling at me to breathe and I remember having the sensation for a long time afterwards that I could not breathe. I also had what I thought was horrible chest pains. I told them I was having chest pains. I was afraid I was having a heart attack. The nurse asked me where the pains were, and I apparently pointed to directly to my incision. The pain was unbelievable.

I was clearly briefed on all of this before hand. They also told me that I would not remember waking up. They were wrong. I remember and it was horrible.

I do not remember being in recovery. I do remember finally being wheeled to my room. The room was incredibly hot. When I weighed 300 pounds, I was much more sensitive to temperature than I am now. I could not stand being hot. So, being wheeled into an overly hot room, did not go over well. It took the hospital an hour to get someone in to change the temperature and bring me a fan. Finally, my sister, who works at one of their other hospitals, flashed her badge and raised a stink. I five minutes, the problem was solved. Apart from that minor hiccup, the hospital, the staff, etc, were fantastic. I have no complaints.

I was in a lot of pain. A lot. Of. Pain. Anybody who tells you that the surgery is the easy way out, is clearly an idiot. I challenge them to allow me to cut a 7 inch incision into their stomach to slice and rearrange their innards and see how they feel. It was just awful. All I could do was lay in bed, moan, and sleep. When the nurses told me I had to get up, use the bathroom, and take a walk, I seriously thought they were nuts.

The good news is, I did have a pain machine. I did not use it at first, mostly because the other drugs they had me on kept the worst of the pain away. Also, I thought that I had to be careful about using it. I didn’t want to take too much. The head bariatric nurse came in and told me to go ahead and use it as I needed it because they wanted me to not allow the pain to keep me from getting up and walking. And they wanted me to do a lot of walking.

So, I did use it. And I walked. The pain meds were kind of nice, I have to admit. I regretted leaving the hospital and leaving the serious meds behind because once I got home, that’s when the real misery began.

The pain meds made me sick the first day I was home. I almost ended up back in the hospital. I almost vomited. That would have been really bad as I could have done a lot of damage to the incision and staples. My sister called the surgeon at 3am my first night at home. He had prescribed some stomach medication, but they were huge capsules. I couldn’t take them. Finally, he told me to empty the capsules and dissolve them in water. I felt much better afterwards and the emergency was averted.

Life was very hard for about two weeks. I couldn’t stand on my own. I couldn’t lie flat. I slept in a large overstuffed chair in my sister’s house. And I had a hard time keeping on the food/water schedule.

That said, I did get out and do what the doctor wanted me to do. I walked. At first, I only walked to the corner and back to the house. My brother would pick me up from my sister’s and take me to Target or the library. Target was good because I could use a cart to steady myself. My sister even created a route through the living room and dining room for me so that I could walk around when I was home alone while they were at work.

Learning to eat again was painful. I was eating pureed food for six weeks. In some ways, it wasn’t so bad. In others it was So disgusting. I got really tired of hummus and now I cannot even stand it. Sometimes I can eat it, but often, I cannot even look at it. Not every meal sat well with me. My brother-in-law made grilled chicken for me and then put it in the food processor. It was awful.  I took one bite and while the chicken taste was OK, the texture almost made me hurl. Nonetheless, I couldn’t not eat it because he really went to a lot of effort to make sure that I had appropriate food that I could eat. So I ate as much as I could.

Also, I could eat something one maybe two times, then the sight of it made me sick. That did not bode well for the big pot of pureed lentils they made me. I love lentils. I eat them all of the time now, but just after the surgery, a few servings made me not want to even look at them.

I also had a lot of constipation in those early days. The worst part was, I was not allowed to push to help expel. Pushing could have strained or potentially ruptured my incision and internal staple line.

I was home after a month at my sister’s place. I was able to take care of myself. I went back to work six weeks after the surgery. I worked from home at the time, so I was able to return and not worry about the impact traveling to/from work would have on my health. I had the surgery on October 24, 2012 and by New Year’s I was slowly starting to introduce solid foods.

The first few months after the surgery was very difficult. The rapid weight loss made it a little easier to bear. I was slowly able to walk with ease and breathe. That alone made it worth it. Sitting where I am now, 127 pounds less. Able to walk anywhere I want, able to exercise, eating a little more, and feeling healthy, to me it was all worth it.

That said, the surgery does have the potential for some very serious problems. I encourage anyone considering the surgery to research and arm yourself with the knowledge of what the potential complications could be. Do what you can to make yourself as healthy as possible before the surgery. It will help a lot to prevent some of the complications.

The surgery is not for everyone. It is a huge life change. There are foods that I may never be able to eat again. I will always have to take vitamins and protein supplements. And I will always have to be prepared for adverse reactions to the food I eat. I also do not know what sort of health issues I may face in the future.

That said, to me the surgery was worth it. I was facing some seriously scary health problems as a result of my morbid obesity. The potential health problems that could result from the surgery were no more serious than the health problems I faced every day.

Looking back, the pain and difficulty during the surgery, the months of prep, doctor’s appointments, medical procedures, tests, and personal sacrifices that I made to have this surgery were worth it. I learned a lot about myself, the food I eat and why I overeat. The surgery has been a great tool to help teach me control.

I think that’s the most important thing for anyone considering the surgery to understand. The surgery is a tool. It’s not a miracle cure. You will not be all better. It will not solve your psychological problems. And it’s a temporary fix for your bad behavior.  You will be able to eat more eventually. You can go back to eating high caloric food, fattening food. The surgery only temporarily helps you control what you eat. The behavior modification has to come from  you.

I have reached a point where I can eat more and eat different kinds of foods. The surgery taught me control. The doctor and nutritionist taught me healthy eating. They prescribed exercise. They gave me all the tools I need to successfully lose weight and live a healthier, fuller life.

Now it’s up to me.