Monthly Archives: July 2013

Strange Encounters

So, I am going to take a risk and describe an odd encounter I had this weekend.

As I posted before, I went to Pittsburgh this weekend to help my mom.  I took her out for coffee Saturday night because she kept asking me if we were supposed to go out and do something else that day.  I could not remember any specific thing we had scheduled, but I took her questions as a desire to get out of the house for a bit.  We went to the evil corporate coffee bar down the street from her house, which despite its innate evilness, I really secretly like.

She ordered her cafe mocha and I had my cappuccino with a liberal serving of cinnamon sprinkled on top.  We sat there for quite a while talking about books, movies, life, etc.  when a man approached my mother, pointed to her broken arm, and asked if the other guy looked worse.  He was an attractive, middle-aged man, I’m guessing late 40s early 50s, (my mother is nearly 20 years his senior).  We all laughed and my mother implied that she pulverized “the other guy” in the mythical fight he was implying she had.

He then talked to both of us jokingly and then went off to his own corner of the coffee shop.  I continued having a nice long talk with my mom.

When we got up to leave, he came running across the store.  He told us that he is a writer and had been working on an essay.  He wanted to know if we would give him our thoughts on what he wrote.  My mom interjected, “Oh really! My daughter is a writer!” she exclaimed, pointing at me.

“Well, I’m trying to be one,”  I stated shyly, a little embarrassed that my mom overstated my writing career in an overly obvious attempt to get me a date.

We had a brief conversation about my nonexistent writing career and went over to his table to review his essay, which he insisted on reading aloud to us.  I would have preferred to read it and give him my comments, but whatever.  It was a pretty good essay and I gave him my thoughts.  Then we talked about his book.  He had a copy of a book with him which he had “compiled.”  It’s a book of inspirational quotes.  That’s not really my cup of tea, but I do know some people who like that kind of thing.

Throughout this whole encounter, I thought he was flirting with my mom.  She is a beautiful woman, but she’s 19 years older than him.  Some guys go for that, I guess, but I still found it a little strange.  My mom, on the other hand thought he was flirting quite a lot with me.  She said it was obvious he was just being nice to her hoping that if he made a good impression on the mom, that would go a long way to getting in with the daughter.

I don’t know.  I am not good at knowing when men are flirting with me, mostly because I am not used to it.  Nobody really flirted with the fat girl I used to be.  Plus, I looked horrible on Saturday.  My hair, which I had not washed that day, was pulled up in a pony-tail, and I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  I was not wearing appropriate date-finding attire.  He did give me an autographed copy of his book.  (He did not give one to my mom, a fact she has continually pointed out.)  Which makes me pretty sure he was mostly digging for a good rating on Amazon, which let’s face it, I’d do a little  bit of flirting myself if I thought someone would read my (nonexistent) book and give me 10 stars on Amazon.  A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right?

Although, he did give me his business card and asked my opinion on where I thought he could send his story to be published.  Clearly, this is a sign.  OK, maybe not.

Still, it was nice to be flirted with even if just a little bit.

Another Day Another Goal Achieved

I had a pretty busy and stressful weekend.  I ventured back to Pittsburgh to check in on mom.  Her arm is still in a cast and since she is now living alone, she needs help with pretty much everything until cast is removed and she can use her arm again.

So, I drove up there and did her laundry, cleaned her house, changed the linens, grocery shopped, etc.  I also took her out for a couple of hours both Saturday and Sunday just to get her out of the house for a while.  We had fun.

Needless to say, no exercise was accomplished either Saturday or Sunday.  A little bit of walking happened, as well as 27,000 trips up and down the stairs of her three story house while carrying loads of laundry, but no “exercise” per se.

That said, I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon this am.  I was a bit worried about what the scale would say since I had not been to the gym since Thursday.  I weighed myself when I got up this am.  I know it is less than a week since the last time I weighed myself, but I figured the doctor was going to anyway, so I might as well.

I dropped another two pounds since Wednesday.  I now weigh 178.  Yay!!

The doctor’s scale matched my scale.  When does that ever happen?  So here are the number to date:

Original Weight: 298

Today’s Weight: 178

Total Lost:  120

Pounds left to lose until goal weight of 125 reached: 53

I have to admit, I’m having crazy reactions to this news.  Part of me is like, “Woo hoo! I’ve lost 120 pounds and I only have 53 to go! Yay me!”

The other part of my crazy brain is all “Holy Crap!  WTF???  What do you mean I still have 53 pounds to go?  Will this never end?”

I know.  I said it was crazy.

I guess I’m just anxious to be done with the losing weight part of this journey.  I am happy I have lost as much as I have.  And I feel so much better.  It does sometimes feel as if I will never get there.  I will be OK, though.  I’ll just stay focused, keep track of what I’m eating, take my vitamins and protein, and keep going to the gym.  Then I can start complaining about what comes next.

Have a great Monday and enjoy this rainbow I saw on the way home yesterday.

rainbow

Redefining Pain & Other Musings on Changing Your Life

So this past week, I threw myself into the exercising ring all pistons firing.  I have gone nearly every day to the gym and exercised my heart out.  I’ve done Bodyflow, Yoga, Zumba, the stationary bike, the treadmill, and Monday I am meeting with the personal trainer to learn more about the weight machines, etc.

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And now I have a whole new understanding for the word pain.  OMG!

This is what you get from a lifetime of not taking very good care of yourself.  When you finally do start taking care of yourself and make significant changes to alter the course of your life, you experience significant pain.  The surgery was painful.  Learning to eat differently to accommodate my new stomach can be painful sometimes.  The effects of the surgery are sometimes painful (see posts on constipation and other problems I have had).  And now the exercising to get in shape is painful.

Bottom line, I think the pain is worth it to have a better life.

To be perfectly honest, I was living with tremendous pain before I had the gastric by-pass.  My back hurt pretty much all of the time whether I was standing, sitting, or walking.  I could not walk very far or very much.  I had difficulty breathing.  My feet hurt.  My legs hurt.  And I had flare ups with my different organs hurting from time to time.  I had a couple of very scary episodes with my heart, my liver, and my kidneys.

I was headed down a very scary road that did not have a good end in sight.  I was really afraid that if I did not do something to change course, that I was on a path to an early grave.  I had a choice to make; continue doing what I was doing and accept the fact that I was slowly killing myself or find a way to change course, however extreme, and try to live a better more full life.

I am not ready to give up.  Not yet.  I love to quite Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption when the main character, Andy Dufresne says to his friend Red, “It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.”

But another of my favorite quotes is from the poet Dylan Thomas:  “Do not go gentle into that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I do not plan to go gently from this life.  I made the choice to live and I will do what it takes to make sure the life I live is fulfilling, worthwhile, and as long as possible.  If it takes a bit of muscle pain and inconvenience to achieve that, so be it.  I may whine and complain about being in pain, but I recognize that I did do this to myself.  I let myself become this out of shape.  It is going to take a while to get back into shape.

Now, there are some naysayers out there who have told me that I will not stay committed to going to the gym.  They were also the same people who said I would never go through with the surgery.  And the same ones, who after I had the surgery, claimed I would never stick with the plan and I would revert to my old ways.

I don’t know what about this whole process has led people to believe I will not follow through.  Maybe they haven’t been paying attention, but I did have the surgery.  I have stayed on target.  And despite one or two minor setbacks, I have not reverted to my old ways.  Oh and hello!  I’ve lost 118 pounds, so suck it, haters!

Maybe they are jealous of all that I’ve accomplished and they feel they need to pull me down to make themselves feel better.  Maybe someone changing their life is such a foreign concept to them, they cannot get their tiny little brains around it.  Or maybe they just cannot understand that this is not about them, and pleasing them did not factor into my decision.  Who knows.

All I know is that I’m not going to let their low opinions keep me from doing what I must do.  So, bring on the pain!

Oh, Go On…

I read this article this weekend on Today’s Health called “Why Women Are Terrible At Accepting Compliments.”  It was a great article.  They also embedded a video from Comedy Central’s Amy Schumer where she pokes fun at this phenomenon.  This video is quite over the top, but I think it illustrates the ridiculousness of deflecting compliments.

A few months ago, I posted how my friends called me out when I did just that, deflected a compliment I received.  After having been morbidly obese for about a million years, (OK 25 or so, but who’s counting), I have really been struggling with the fact that I am no longer invisible.  Also, being morbidly obese means you do not like to hear about how you look.  You know you look awful and generally if someone is complimenting you appearance, you believe it is a lie.  Or you believe they are talking about how fat you are behind your back, which let’s face it, they probably are.

People are commenting on how I look to my face now pretty much all of the time these days.  And it is taking me sometime to handle hearing good comments on my appearance.  I especially have difficulty handling it when men compliment my appearance.  Gay, straight, young, old, married, single doesn’t matter.  I get flustered and I blush.

It’s easier to deflect than to simply say, “Thank you.”  Saying “thank you” means that I have to openly admit to being attractive, or at least more attractive than I was before, and that’s something I have never been comfortable with.  It appears that I am not alone:

“When someone tells me something good about myself, I always have a reason why they’re wrong,” she says. “I think we all feel ‘less than’. Less than what we should have been. Less than what we thought we were going to be. Or we listened to people who said we were less than. This is a big issue with women.”

Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., says it has to do with the mixed messages women receive about what behaviors are desirable or acceptable.

“[We’re told] love yourself, but not too much. Be confident, but practice a style of humility this culture never requires of men. Believe in yourself, but never admit it out loud, lest you make another woman who doesn’t feel good about herself feel bad,” she says. “If you’re raised to think it’s arrogant to ever say something positive about yourself, it makes it hard to accept a compliment.

I’d say there’s a lot of truth in that.  I was always told that I was fat and unattractive.  To hear that insult constantly and then to suddenly hear how good I look is frankly, difficult to believe.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it is easier to believe that bad stuff.  I don’t know why that is, but it is.

I’m getting better at it.  Having my appearance change and look better pretty much monthly helped.  My friends making me sit through compliment therapy where they complimented me and I was not allowed to say anything but “thank you” helped as well.  But learning to, if not always believe, at least embrace the good things in my life helps the most.

Now when people tell me how great I look, despite my constant blushing or my stomach my exploding into a million butterflies like teenager on her first date, I just smile and say “Thanks!”

I think if I do that enough, maybe one day I’ll actually believe it.

Far From Perfect

I made it to the gym again today.  I did 30 minutes cardio on the bike and then did an hour fifteen minutes of yoga.  The yoga class was intense.  I have to say, though, the instructor was fantastic.

The class was fairly advanced, that is to say, it was not for beginners.  I have taken yoga classes in the past as I mentioned yesterday.  I’m not unfamiliar with the different poses.  I would still qualify myself as a beginner, however.  It has been quite a while since I have really done any yoga, apart from the Bodyflow class yesterday, which I guess doesn’t really qualify as yoga exactly.

This instructor really seems to like the downward facing dog position quite a lot.  I can do it, but it is a fairly difficult position, particularly for someone who is still a bit heavy.  The fact that most of my weight is still in my stomach and upper body makes it even more difficult.

Every series of poses that she did either ended up in downward dog position or started there.  I had a really hard time with it.  The nice thing about this teacher is she kind of let us do things at our own pace.  When I found I could not do that position over and over, she said it was OK to either do the plank position or the child position instead.

This helped.  I alternated between downward dog and the child position.  She moved fast, but she let people find their own way to get from one position to the other.  Some of the students have apparently been doing this a long time and did not have the struggles I had.  Other students were far behind me.

Another student said that this teacher is great because she gives you permission to fail and find your own way through the practice.  That you don’t have to be perfect, but you just have to try.

This is good news for me because I am certainly far from perfect.  Nonetheless, I feel I had a good practice today.  I really tried to stretch and breathe through each pose or series of poses.  I am sore, but I feel good.  And the meditation at the end was wonderful.  I really like meditation.  It helps me feel centered.

I will definitely go back to this class, but I also think I’m going to start practicing the poses and breathing at home on my own.  Clearly, there are plenty of videos on Youtube to help me out.

I have my consult with the personal trainer on Thursday so that I can learn to use the weight equipment.  I know how to use some of them, but I really want to learn how to properly use them so that I can focus on strengthening and firming my body in addition to the cardio and fat burning that I’m doing on the bike.  I want to move away from the bike and onto the treadmill, but I have to admit, I’m a bit apprehensive of running.  I don’t like running at all, but I’m getting bored with the bike.  Maybe I will give it a try for 15 minutes or so tomorrow.  We shall see.

Namaste

I went back to the gym today after a two day hiatus.  Thursday, I had my second writer’s group and last night, well, let’s just say that I was lazy.

So, I got up this am and had my coffee, my breakfast, and a protein snack.  I took my vitamins and I felt prepared to work my butt off.  Or so I thought.

I wanted to do one of the exercise classes today.  I thought maybe there was a Zumba class, but there was not.  I arrived and they were in the middle of the Bodypump class.  I don’t think I’m quite ready for that one just yet only having just started back to the gym this week.  So, I decided to wait until that one was over and do the Bodyflow class.

I did 15 minutes cardio on the bike to warm myself up and get ready.  Then I made my way into the class.  Bodyflow is part yoga, part Tai Chi, and part, what the %^$* was I thinking!  Holy crap.

Now, I have taken yoga classes before.  It’s been a number of years, but I have some knowledge of the different poses.  I have never done Tai Chi though.  I didn’t think it looked hard, so I thought I could handle it.  To say this class was a lot harder than I thought it would be is an understatement.

The instructor moved quickly through the different poses and exercises.  I could barely keep up sometimes.  Plus, I’m not as balanced as I once was.  Granted, a lot more balanced than I was when I weighed 117 pounds more than I do now, but still.  The whole, downward facing dog pose combined with the whole, now bend your knees and take your right hand and reach back and grab your left foot, thing, let’s just say, didn’t happen.

Downward facing dog was hard enough.  I was actually quite pleased that I could get myself into that position.  Let’s face it, it’s not easy for a middle-aged out of shape grown woman who is still 56 pounds overweight to get into many positions.  But reach back and grab my feet?  No.  I could barely maintain my balance as it was.  I just stayed there in my pose, precariously maintaining my balance and watched the instructor.

She looked around the room, her eyes stopping on me, and I just shook my head.  Not gonna happen hon.  She smiled and continued with her crazy routine.

There was one other moment when we did some sun-warrior pose, which consisted of standing on one leg, extending the other leg behind while reaching forward with arms.  And then!  Bending forward so that our bodies were perpendicular to the leg we were standing on.  I tried this one.  Really I did.  Fortunately, I did not fall on my face, but I am clearly not ready for this pose yet. I stumbled forward a bit and turned to look at other people in the class.  There was a woman behind me standing with her hands on her hips with an absolutely incredulous look on her face.  We both just laughed and shook our heads.

It was a pretty tough class all around, but I’m glad I did it.  I now know my limits as far as my strength and coordination.  I talked to the instructor of the Bodypump class and she thinks I should give it a try despite the fact that I feel woefully less than ready.   Maybe I will.  But I think I will do the regular yoga class tomorrow.  I may wait a week before I try anything as tough as the Bodypump class.

Needless to say, the end of the class, the relaxation and meditation, was my favorite part.  After such a tough workout, I definitely needed to release that tension.

The class was tough, but I am not deterred.  I will try it again.  I will start with the regular yoga class to build up my ability to do some of those poses.  Plus I will keep the cardio workouts up.  Just because it is difficult does not mean I do not want to do it.  I am determined to get myself back into shape.  I will never be as limber as I was when I was a teenager or in my early 20s, but I really want to get into much better shape than I am right now.  I never want to go back to where I was before.

Wish me luck.

Namaste.

Everybody Has One

bypass

An opinion about your diet or weight loss that is.  I have found that people are always willing to give your their opinion about how you are losing weight, what you eat, if you’re losing weight fast enough, too fast, exercising or no, exercising too much, you should do this, you cannot do that, always do this, never do that, etc. etc. etc.

Often, that advice is contrary to what your doctor has told you told and can be wildly different from what he/she thinks you should be doing.  More often than not, the advice is kindly meant by people who care about you.  Sometimes, the advice is given by people who just like to hear themselves talk or think they know everything about dieting.  Sometimes the advice hurts your feelings or feels overly judgmental.

It can be very overwhelming.

Everybody has an opinion about dieting because, let’s face it, almost everybody diets.  Each person is different and a diet technique that works for one person may not work for the next.

I like to think that most diet advice is well meant by well meaning people.  They may not know a thing about what works for you, or what you have discussed with your doctor or personal trainer, if you have one.  But I think most of the time, people mean well.  There are people who shell out advice or judgments in a hurtful way because it makes them feel superior and therefore better about themselves, but they are not really worth giving any value to, are they?  No, I didn’t think so.

So here’s my advice for dealing with diet advice, critiques, judgments from other people.  This is pretty much for anyone who is trying to lose weight, but it’s especially helpful to any bariatric patients out there.

  • Ignore most diet advice you receive.  Some of the advice may actually be pretty good, but most of it may not really work for you.  If what you are doing works, stick with it.  If not, then it’s OK to seek outside opinions, but I would start by talking to your doctor, then maybe your dietitian and/or personal trainer to make sure you are following a safe, healthy plan.  Your best friend’s older sister’s cousin’s friend may have told you about the perfect “cleanse” where he/she lost 15 pounds in 3 days, but that plan may not really be the best solution to your problem.  In fact, just don’t do that.  Those “cleanses” are pretty crazy.
  • Always consult with your doctor/dietitian/personal trainer.   The most important part about losing weight is to do it in a healthy manner so that you never gain it back.  Doing crazy fad diets, cleanses, pills, powders, unrealistically aggressive exercise plans will all backfire in the end.  You may lose that 15 pounds in three days, but as soon as you start eating the way you were before, stop exercising, etc., you will gain all that weight back and then some.  Nobody wants that.
  • Be honest with yourself.  I cannot stress that enough.  You know when you’re following your plan and when you’re not.  If you hit a plateau and you stop losing, or god forbid, start gaining again, take a look at what you’re doing.  Honestly assess your diet plan.  Write down what you eat, drink, and how much you exercise each day.  You will get nowhere if you’re not honest with yourself about what you are doing.
  • Set achievable goals.  Setting unrealistic goals only sets you up for failure.  If you set smaller goals and you exceed them, you feel better about what you are doing and it makes weight loss and better health seem possible.  You’ll get there in the end, one small step at a time.
  • Mix it up occasionally.  Let’s face it, diet’s are boring.  And boredom is the death knell to any diet.  Feel free to try new healthy foods, new exercises to break up your routine a bit.  Doing so could be a new jump-start in the right direction for your diet.  It also keeps your plan fresh.  If you’ve been riding the exercise bike for cardio, try swimming.  If you’re eating nothing but bananas and yogurt for breakfast, try a melon salad and scrambled eggs with spinach.  If you like spicy food, add a little more flavor to your baked chicken.  Try Thai spices or Indian curry powder.  There are a lot of low fat, low calorie ways to add more flavor to your meals.  That will also help you feel more satisfied and less bored with what you’re eating.
  • Listen to your body.  You know your body better than anyone.  If you’re having problems such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach aches, sore muscles, not losing weight, getting dizzy, or feeling off balance take another look at what you’re doing.  You could be eating too much cheese, pushing yourself too far, not pushing yourself far enough, not getting enough protein, vitamins and nutrients, or enough water…any number of things.  Again, keep a journal of what you’re eating, what you’re drinking, and how much exercise you do.  If you cannot figure out what the problem is, take the list to your doctor or nutritionist and explain the problems you’re having.  They may have ideas and suggestions to help you out.
  • Don’t let the turkeys get you down.  My mom has this saying that goes something like this, “You’ll never learn to soar like an eagle as long as you’re hanging out with turkeys.”  I’m not suggesting that anyone abandon their old friends and find new ones, (although really, sometimes that’s what you need to do), but instead maybe give less credence to people who are not supporting what you’re doing.  If they are not supportive, don’t talk to them about your weight loss progress.  If they invite you over for lunch and serve fried foods or chips and pizza, maybe next time, offer to go to a movie with them instead.  If they constantly criticize your progress, or what they perceive as your lack of progress, just ignore their comments and talk about something else.  But really, if they are insulting you, what kind of a friend are they, really?  Maybe you do need to find new friends…or at least join a group of like minded people who are supporting one another through this process.  A support group, a friend to go the gym or share diet notes with.  Spend less time with people who make you feel bad about yourself.  (Oh, and don’t tell my mom I implied that she’s right.  I can’t have her knowing that.  We’ll just keep this between us, OK?)
  • Never give up.  I think this is the most important item on this list.  Losing weight, dieting, exercising, and getting healthier is a constant battle.  It’s easy to let minor set-backs get you down.  And it’s hard to stay focused and committed when you’re down.  Everyone messes up.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone gets discouraged.  You are not a unique snowflake in this arena.  If you’re feeling alone, reach out to someone else for support.  I like to think that I can do everything myself, but even I sometimes need to phone a friend.  If you give up, you will never know what you’re capable of achieving.  As the saying goes, get up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!

Have a great weekend and remember, never give up!