Category Archives: skinny girl

The Choices We Make

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I have a co-worker, a young millennial who has a loud vibrant personality. She is brash, unapologetic, and funny. I wouldn’t have her any other way. She recently moved offices and I miss the energy she brought to an otherwise mundane job.

Every day as she breezed out of the office, she would mockingly say over her shoulder, “Make good choices!” And we would all laugh.

Recently, I was part of a pilot group with my therapist. If I had  not written this before, I am seeing someone to help me with my binge eating. She is writing a book about how to lose weight and keep it off forever.

The group I was a part of has been reviewing her book and launching a kind of support group where we read chapters of her book and discuss the ideas in that chapter. We were her beta readers/guinea pigs. This past weekend, we all met in person to discuss what we thought of the book and make suggestions for the support system she wants to create. I am so glad to have been a part of that group.

The book is very interesting. The book is less about what we eat and more about why we eat what we eat. She really encouraged us to explore the reasons behind our eating habits.

Of course she thinks the best diet for weight loss is low carb, high protein focusing on eating fresh meats and fish, high protein vegetarian options, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Very similar to any good bariatric diet, right?

So, why can’t we stick to it? Why do we constantly sabotage our diet plans? Why do we make choices we know will not help us on our path to a healthy weight and relationship to food?

Those are the questions through both my sessions with her and the book she’s working to address.

For me, a lot of my bad choices have to do with my inability to deal with stress and toxic people. I get very stressed out when I think about the toxic people in my life, and there have been several who have entered and left my world. Some stay longer than others. It has taken me a long time to realize their behavior is about them and not me and to create a distance between me and them, even if that barrier is just a mental one.

I also suffer from a low self-image and self-confidence. Many people who know me would certainly be surprised to know this. I hide it well most of the time. It is hard for me to find good things about myself.

After I had lost about 130 pounds, a guy I am friends with complimented me on a shirt I was wearing. He said something like, “That green color looks very good on you.”

I immediately replied with how much more weight I needed to lose, my hair looked awful, pick any one of the myriad of negative thoughts inside my head.

A female friend standing nearby turned to me and said, “No! Stop, Colleen. He complimented you. Your answer is, ‘Thank you!'”

She knew what I was doing. I was not used to being complimented about my appearance. She knew this. And she put the brakes on my negative thought train. At least the verbalization of my negative thoughts.

So, I have been exploring my insecurities. My inability to deal with stress and toxic people. My negative thoughts. And why I look for solace in food.

It is hard to constantly stop myself before I make a bad food decision and analyze the why. In the past, I’ve made a decision about what I wanted to eat and then just ate it. Even if I did not eat it to excess, I still often made very bad food choices.

So, this is what I do when I want to eat the cheesy poofs or whatever food I am craving at the moment. I stop and ask myself some questions.

  • Do I need this to feel full and meet my nutritional goals? (Is this choice a need or a want?)
  • Why do I want to eat the cheesy poofs?
  • What is going on? Am I stressed out? I am feeling bad?
  • What happened today, last night, yesterday to make me feel this way?
  • Will eating this particular food help me achieve my weight loss/health goals?
  • What impact will this choice have on my calories, protein, carb intake for the day?
  • What can I eat that I like that will keep me on track?
  • What other choice can I make?

 

Sometimes I even stop and pull out my phone and enter the cheesy poofs into myfitnesspal.com just to see what that choice will do to my daily goals.

I am successful in making better choices probably 95% of the time. Do I slip? Sure. One example, I had an extra slice of toast one day. Normally, that is enough to send me into a tailspin and think the whole day is lost. But the next day, I entered everything into myfitnesspal.com, and I was only a couple of points high on my carbs. I met my protein goals and calorie goals.

So, great choice? No. Diet-killer? Not even close. I was still on track.

Another thing I do is I try not to think of my entire weight loss goal every time I eat. I do keep that goal in mind every day, yes. But for each meal or snack, I think only of that meal or snack. I might think of how it fits into my daily goals, but in the moment, I do not think too much beyond that.

I chose that approach because sometimes thinking of the entire goal is too overwhelming and seems unattainable. Today, this moment, this meal, that is a doable goal.

I get weighed every two weeks, and in that moment, I only think of my bi-monthly goals. I do sit down with the doctor afterwards and talk about long-term goals, but only a month out. Most importantly, I’m not weighing myself every day and stressing out about the numbers on the scale.

Biking and exercising also helps. I have been biking quite a bit, although the impending snow storm in our area has really put a damper on that recently. But biking takes my mind off the stress of the day, releases endorphins, and generally makes me feel better. Not to mention, it is great exercise for a weight loss plan.

The result is, of the 58 pounds of regain, I’m down 18 pounds. And my overall goal is now lower as well. So, now instead of needing to lose 94 pounds, I only need to lose 76 pounds.

So, good news all around. I am working on improving my mental health and making better choices. I’m also losing weight, exercising, and feeling better!

Will I always make good choices? No, definitely not. No one is perfect, and I know I am not. But I know that if I stay focused, I can make much better choices moving forward.

I’ll just keep my co-workers voice in my head every time I reach for those cheesy poofs reminding me to stop and “Make Good Choices!”

 

 

10 Things I love About Biking

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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, especially since I wrote the 10 Things I Hate About Biking. So here it is:

10 Things I Love About Biking:

  1. Biking is Challenging – I love a good challenge. I tend to be singular in what I challenge myself with. Mostly, the only challenge I really have is my work. Last year was particularly difficult and work took up a huge amount of my time and focus. Biking offered a counter balance to the work challenge. It was personally challenging for me to get on the bike. I forced myself push a little farther every day.
  2. Biking is Fun! – Honestly, it really is. I have said many times it was hard work, but the pay-off for that hard work is that I get to bike. I love the feel of the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. I love flying down hills, or the steady pedaling of riding on a flat trail. I feel free in a way that I do not feel walking or *gasp* running, or doing any other kind of exercise.
  3.  The “Biking Community” –  I am not sure if it is the same in every community, but in Arlington, there is a big informal, (and probably formal if I looked into it more), biking community. A lot of people bike here. There are bike trails everywhere and most of the streets are accommodating to bikers. And other bikers kind of look out for one another. This is something I was not really aware of. One day in August was particularly hot. I was thirsty and pulled off the trail for a moment to drink some water. I’m sure my face was red and I was very sweaty and panting. One girl slowly road by me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was just thirsty and she pedaled on her way. Occasionally, you get the person who is aggressively concerned with your biking. Annoyingly so, in fact. “That bike is too small for you!” One such person yelled to me as I was slowly riding up hill. “You need to raise your seat! You’ll blow out your knees!” I had to stop and walk the bike up the hill and he came over to try to show me how to raise my seat. Dude! Seriously? At that point in my biking I was just a few days out and feeling very unstable on the bike. Raising my seat was not something I was quite comfortable with yet. I waved him off and told him I was OK, and he grumbled his disapproval and walked away. Creepy. Fortunately, my experiences with other bikers has been much more pleasant.
  4. Supportive Bikers – This is probably a sub-group of the biking community, but I have really come across so many bikers who have been very supportive of my efforts. There’s the girl who offered to fix my flat tire. The guy who stopped to see if he could fix my handle bars. And bikers who just acknowledge me with a polite nod as they pass. But my favorite person, I “met” on one of my first rides. I was re-entering the Four Mile Run trail from South Glebe. There is a slight incline as you enter the trail. I was really struggling to get up the teeny hill. I wanted to push myself to the top. I was traveling at a snail’s pace. A woman rides up behind me and announces she’s passing me on my left. I was literally about to give up and get off my bike when she said as she rode by, “Keep pushing! You got this!” Her words were just the impetus I needed. Two, maybe, three pedals later, I crested the hill and yelled out, “I did it!” She raised her fist in the air in solidarity and rode off.
  5. Being Outside – I could go to gym and ride the stationary bike or join a spin class, but that really never held any appeal for me. I love being outside. The feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Amazing. Plus I get to see all the beauty around me. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I love the feeling of renewal in the spring air, the blooming of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, budding trees. And the last splash of color and cool air of autumn. And everything in between.
  6. Pushing Myself – I love pushing myself. This past year, I have ridden harder and farther than I ever thought I could. I love to see how far I can go. There have been times I have pushed too far, but I’ve always made it back home, even if I had to walk. The farthest I ever pushed myself to date is my ride from home to Chinatown in DC. It was much farther than I thought it was. Google Maps initially said it was only 6 miles from my house and would take an hour. Google lied. On the bike trail, it was probably 10 or 11 miles. And it took almost two hours. I do not regret doing this though. It was hard and a little scary, but I had a lot of fun.
  7. Riding Downhill – Need I say more? Yes, it is a little scary, but man is it ever fun! I push myself to ride a 4 miles on a slow steady incline on my regular ride. The reward is, I get to ride about 4 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home. The downhill part of the ride is what everyone who dreams of riding thinks biking is like, pedaling effortlessly down the trail and enjoying the ride. And that is what it is like sometimes. But you do not think of the long slog of pushing up hill to get there. The uphill is what makes the downhill really worth it though.
  8. It Is Hard – I like that biking is difficult. One of my favorite movie quotes is from A League of Her Own when the obnoxious Tom Hanks character says to star player who is walking away from the game, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Of course, in Northern Virginia, I think everyone does bike, but that’s not the point. The point is, that I have forced myself to do something that was difficult for me. And the rewards have been immeasurable.
  9. Being Present – There are numerous articles about the benefits of being present in your life, living in he moment, appreciating the here and now. So many of us just coast through our days. Or our schedules are so full, we are just racing to get to the end of the day so we can collapse on our beds for a few hours of respite before we begin again. I often say that when I’m at work, I feel like I’m wishing my life away 8 hours at a time. I’m never fully there. Always planning for the next thing. When I’m biking, I’m not doing that. I have to be focused and present all the time. There are so many things that can derail my ride, cars, traffic, pedestrians, obstacles on the trail errant two-year olds running in front of the bike. You have to pay attention if you want to be safe. Of course, my mind wanders and I think of other things while I’m biking. I think about writing, and all the things I have to do when I get home or get to work, but always, I’m paying attention to the trail, the bike, how I feel, am I hydrated, should I rest, how far I am from home. Biking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m not just waiting for the time to pass so I can get to the next part of my day. I am happy just to be in the moment biking and loving it.
  10. Overall Feeling of Well Being And Accomplishment – I feel better when I bike. My health is better. My breathing is better. I feel stronger and more confident because of biking. I know something about myself. I know that I can push myself physically to achieve a goal. This is something I have not always felt I could do. As someone who spent most of her adult life morbidly obese, the idea of excelling in any kind of physical activity was almost unthinkable. That is no longer the case.

What I Think About While I’m Biking (Hint: Not you!)

I have been biking quite a lot recently. I try to get out at least 3-5 times a week. I have even biked to work, although I do not do that often. I’m often hot and sweaty after I get there and the ride home, while primarily downhill, is mostly on city streets and is kind of brutal and scary.

A few months ago, a friend of mine, or maybe someone I know only slightly posted this meme oh Facebook:

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I think the person was trying to be encouraging by showing how judgy they are not by posting a meme on Facebook. I was slightly offended by it and became more so the more I thought about it. I’m not upset with the person, just the idea. The idea that there are good fat people, those who exercise or do something other people deem to be healthy. And bad fat people. To me, this is just another form of fat shaming.

The idea that my health, my appearance somehow belongs to other people is offensive to me. If I do what you think is the right thing, I’m worthy of praise, and if I do not, I deserve derision.

Now that I am biking myself, I’m here to tell you that while I’m biking, none of that matters. Here’s the secret. Fat people bike for the same reasons skinny people bike…because they love it. Yes, it is exercise and helps to build muscle mass and burn calories, but that is not my primary motivation.

So I thought I’d share some of the things I actually think about while I’m biking. (hint: those thoughts have nothing to do with you or what I think you think I look like!)

  1. Balance! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa Whoa! Don’t fall! Don’t fall!
  2. I put my feet not the pedals! Whoo hoo!
  3. OK, pedal, pedal! Don’t fall!
  4. I’m biking! I’m biking!
  5. OK get to bike trail…
  6. Big hill! It’s downhill, you can do this!
  7. Holy crap here comes a car! It’s OK! It’s OK! They’ll go around me.
  8. Whew, they went around me. Catastrophe averted.
  9. I made it to the bike trail! OMG, it’s uphill! At least it will be downhill on the way back.
  10. On the way back: How can the bike trail possibly be uphill in both directions?? Seriously? Who designed these trails?
  11. OMG, my legs.
  12. OMG, my butt hurts.
  13. OMG, I cannot breathe.
  14. Just breathe!
  15. OMG, I think a bug flew up my nose!
  16. Now my nose is itchy!
  17. Can’t take hands off handlebars to scratch nose.
  18. I have to scratch my nose.
  19. Scratches nose. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Don’t fall!
  20. Making bike trail part of the sidewalk…not a good idea!
  21. Case in point…who decided to put a lamppost in the middle of the bike trail/sidewalk? WTF? img_1858
  22. Bike around lamppost by railing and risk running into the railing and possibly tumbling down the embankment and into the creek? Or bike around lamppost street-side and risk tumbling into traffic? Nice.
  23. Preparing to bike up a short, but sharp hill. I can do this. I can do this. Uh oh, someone is coming downhill fast in my lane! He’s not looking up. Look up, look up look up! “Hey, look up! Coming towards you!”
  24. He moved, thank God.
  25. Lost momentum. Great, now I have to walk up the hill.
  26. OMG, I didn’t know I could sweat this much.
  27. Family with kids, “I’m on your left!” Please, God, don’t let the kids run out in front of me!
  28. Did the runner I just passed going downhill just pass me as we are going uphill? Holy crap, I’m slow!
  29. When does this get easier?
  30. Does it have to be so hot out?
  31. When does this hill end?
  32. Breathe! Just breathe!
  33. You can do this!
  34. Home at last!
  35. I so totally rock!

I do not think about what other people think I look like. Not at all. I think about safety and the other people I see on the trails. I do not want to put myself or anyone else at risk.

A friend of mine recently asked me that since I live in an urban area and I bike on the streets a lot if cars scare me. The answer is, they terrify me. I have a healthy fear of cars. Every time I have to cross a street or bike on the street, I’m terrified. I know most drivers are cautious and do not want to hit me, but in that moment, all I can think about is trying to avoid being hit. I yield to everyone.

But here’s another secret, I spend most of my time on my bike being terrified. Terrified I’ll fall. Terrified I’ll run into a pedestrian. Terrified of going uphill. Terrified of going down hill. Terrified of going too slow. And terrified of going too fast. Still, I get out there.

So, why do I do it? I do it because I have to. Not because I’m required to, or that the doctor told me I must. I do it because I love it. When I’m on my bike I’m not concerned about what I look like or what anyone else thinks of me. It is the only time I feel free from the judgment of other people; free to just live in the moment. I think that more than anything gets me out there on the trails as often as possible.

I see people of all sizes on the bike trails. Some a much smaller than me, some much bigger. One girl in particular stands out. I saw her this weekend and I think she was biking with her boyfriend. She looked like she was struggling. Still, she was faster than me. The two of them whizzed by me without a problem. I later caught up with them as they had stopped for water. She saw me coming and smiled. She looked just as hot and sweaty as I felt. I smiled back and gave her the biker nod – the nod many bikers have given me. A nod of recognition; of camaraderie; a welcome to the club. I hope she sticks with it and loves it as much as I do.

Biker Girl!

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So, yesterday I tried something new, something I have wanted to do for a long time. Something I used to do when I was younger.

I went biking!

OK, I didn’t go very far, but that’s OK. I have not been on a bike in over 20 years. When I was very young, a kid all the way through high school, I used to bike all of the time. It was my main source of transportation and gave me a sense of freedom.

Once I became morbidly obese weight in the high 200s to low 300s, biking was not an option for me. So to be able to get back on a bike again held a lot of meaning.

My sister moved to Texas a few weeks ago and she gave me her bike. She knew I was looking to buy one, but I did not really have a lot of time to be trolling Craigslist to find an inexpensive used bike. She was purging before the move and decided to just give me her bike.

When I first got on the bike, the tires had no air. I fit on the bike perfectly. We put it in the back of my car, and it stayed there for a few weeks until I could deal with the no air problem.

I went to a bike shop near my apartment to get air in my tires and get a couple of supplies. I wanted to get a helmet and some lights for the bike. I also wanted to get a bike rack because getting the bike in and out of the hatchback is a pain in the ass.

Immediately after getting air in the tires and getting the bike rack installed, I drove out to my brother’s house and hung out with him and my niece for a bit. Well, really him, because my niece is now 8 and friends are much more important and fun than aunties. So basically, I drive 40 minutes to get a hug and then she runs off to play.

Such is life.

Anyway, it was late by the time I got back home. I took the bike off the rack and was walking it out of the garage and up to my apartment. I stopped in the lot for a few minutes a figured I would give it a quick spin.

To my surprise, I could barely touch the ground. I immediately felt very unsteady o the bike and almost toppled over. I tried a couple of times to find my balance, but I just couldn’t.

Feeling a bit embarrassed and nervous, I took he bike up to my apartment and just stared at it a bit. I was absolutely convinced I would never be able to do this. But I really wanted to. I put the bike in front of a bookcase and practiced sitting on and putting my feet on the pedals just to get the feel. In retrospect, holding onto the bookcase was probably not the brightest idea. Had I toppled over, I risked pulling the whole thing down on top of me. Fortunately, that did not happen.

Yesterday I was determined to at least get on the bike and maybe try to do a couple of laps in the parking lot. The parking lot of my building is kind of big, so a couple of laps would be a good starter.

I was very nervous and feeling very self-conscious about what people would think because I couldn’t even find my balance. Nonetheless, I did it. At first, I tried to position myself near a pole so I could balance myself. Then I practiced just scooting along to get the bike moving. I tried a couple of times get both feet on the pedals, but could not find my balance.

After a few minutes of scooting, I just told myself to do it. I took a deep breath and just forced myself to put both feet on the pedals and push. And I was off! A little wobbly, but I did it!

I rode around the lot for about 10 minutes. I did several loops in the front of the building and around the back. When I was done, I was exhausted and a little sore, but I did it!

I took the bike back inside and figured I was done for the day. Then my friend Sush texted me and asked if I wanted to come watch the DNC with her and watch the democrats elect Hillary, the first woman to run on a major party ticket. I excitedly texted back sure! I’ll ride my bike over!

I don’t know what made me say that. Maybe it was the endorphine rush from my short ride around the lot that made me feel invincible, but a huge part of me was screaming, “WTF! Why???”

Now Sush lives about a mile down the W&OD trail from where I live, so it’s not far. That wasn’t the problem though. I live on this HUGE hill that leads down into Shirlington and then down to the bike trail. While I could ride comfortably in my parking lot, and I was pretty sure I could make the mile on the bike trail, I was very worried about going up and down that hill.

So, I walked the bike down the hill. Once in Shirlington, I started riding towards the bike trail. I stayed mostly on the sidewalk except when I had to cross the street. It was a pretty easy ride on the trail. I was slow and other bikers did pass me. Fortunately, I had spent enough time walking on the trail, that I was familiar with biking etiquette. If another biker wants to pass you, they ring a bell or say, “On your left,” and that is your queue to stick to the right so they can safely pass. And it truth, I wasn’t on the trail long enough for this to really be an issue.

I did get off the trail a little too soon and wandered around a neighborhood that was not Sush’s for about a minute, then got back on the trail to get to her actual neighborhood. Sush was so excited to see me riding a bike. She knows what an accomplishment this was for me. She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders since I started my weight loss. She knows how much I struggled before, and she is so happy to see me doing things I never would have attempted.

The ride back was a little more difficult. Coming back to my neighborhood was kind of uphill, so the ride was a little more of a struggle. And it was so hot yesterday. And when it came time to walk the bike back up to my apartment, I was thoroughly exhausted. But I did it!

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Me post bike ride.

I’m going to go for a little ride tomorrow in the other direction on the trail just to see how far I get. I don’t work until the evening, so if I start early enough, I should be OK. I’m so glad to be biking again. I think my next investment though is going to be a pair of padded biker pants.

 

Unexpected Changes – HAIR

There are many changes I experienced as a result of the surgery and weight loss. Today I am going to talk about hair. My hair has been through so much since the surgery. I was pretty vain about my hair pre-surgery. I did not win the bikini-body lottery, but I did get the beautiful mane of thick hair.

I lost a lot of hair about 4 months post-op. I was freaking out. I mean really f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g out! Losing my hair was one of my biggest concerns.

Here is my hair January 2013, 3 months post-op:

Jan 2013

Jan 2013

 

 

 

 

Here is my hair April 2013, 6 months post-op:

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And again in May-June 2013:

 

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As you can see, my hair was not so thick anymore. I did a lot to try to cover up the fact that I was losing a lot of hair, but it was still quite obvious that something was going on. I tried increasing my biotin, upping my protein intake, I even bought a whole collection of biotin shampoos.

The good news is, my hair did grow back. The crazy news is, it grew back in curly. My sister calls it Shirley Temple Curly. I fought it for a long time and straightened it every day. I have since given up and let the curls take over.

It has taken me a while to try to get a good hair routine together for the curls. I have had several hair cuts to try to find one that works for curly hair. My sister’s hairdresser did a really good job cutting my hair recently.

Here is a current picture of my hair. This is just the back. I need to get some of my front. My sister took this one last weekend after we walked all over the convention center for the National Book Festival, so I wasn’t really thinking too clearly, or I would have gotten one of the front as well.

hair

So, if you are worried about hair loss, don’t. You may lose some hair, but it will grow back. It may come back in crazy-curly. Who knows! But do not despair. I would do it all over again to lose 127 pounds!!

 

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!

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.

Talking About Food – Liquid Pizza (Writing 101 Day One Challenge)

Today is my first food post for my June blogging challenge. Not too many people understand meal planning and restrictions for bariatric patients. Today I am going to share a recipe for one of my favorite, albeit, stranger meals. I also want to talk about some of my dietary restrictions and why I chose to create this strange little meal.

For a long time after the surgery, I could not have bread at all. I do sometimes have a little, but I keep it very restricted. Bread swells in the stomach and can stretch the pouch. Also, it fills you up with starchy empty calories. My surgeon and nutritionist want me to focus on nutrient rich foods. Starchy foods, such as bread, are not nutrient rich.

One of my favorite foods is pizza. I have not been able to eat pizza since about 2002 because I developed very serious food allergies. I was very allergic to tomatoes and milk products. The combination of tomatoes and cheese sent me to the emergency room with a swollen face on more than one occasion. It seemed the wiser choice to give up pizza entirely.

After the surgery and some weight loss, my allergies abated. I decided to slowly reintroduce foods I had been allergic to. I had great success with that. My allergies did not bother me at all. I decided it was time to try pizza again. The problem was, I could not have any bread.

In the diet plan my surgeon gave me, I was allowed to have a few tablespoons of marinara sauce as a source of vegetables, especially during the pureed food phase of the diet.

During the first few months after the surgery, I decided to try to add cheese for protein, put it in a small dish and pop the whole thing into the microwave for 30 seconds. Tada- liquid pizza was invented.

Now I have taken this idea to a whole new level. I put shredded cheese into a dish and pour marinara sauce over the top. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and put in toaster oven for 20 minutes.

The dish I use is 4 inches in circumference and 1 inch deep. This holds about 1/2 cup shredded cheese 1/2 cup marinara sauce. I usually cannot finish the meal. Here is a picture:

pizza

The dish looks much bigger than it actually is. I put it on a small plate because it is so hot when it comes out of the toaster oven.

I have varied this recipe quite a bit as well. I’ve added ground turkey, vegetables, pepperoni, chopped up turkey burger, whatever I happen to have on hand.

I do sometimes have pizza now. Thin crust, always. I usually take a couple of small bites to get the full-on pizza experience. Then I just peel off the cheese and other ingredients and eat that. Mostly though, when I want pizza, I forgo the bread and just make myself a small dish of the liquid pizza. I couple that with some vegetables or a piece of fruit. Here is the full recipe.

COLLEEN’S LIQUID PIZZA (This has been added to Skinny Girl Recipes tab)

1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind will do although Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio is one of my faves (100 calories per 1/4 cup)

1/2 cup marinara sauce – I use Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce (50 calories per 1/2 cup)

1/2 teaspoon of parmesan cheese (5 calories)

Calories per meal: 255

Combine all ingredients in a small dish, bake in toaster oven for 20 minutes. Use egg turner to remove from toaster oven and place dish on small plate. Enjoy with a small piece of fruit or a vegetable.

Alternately, you can microwave this. I am trying to get away from microwaving. I have become somewhat of a purist when it comes to my food. I’m buying more organic, shopping at farmer’s markets, and buying grass-fed meat free of antibiotics and steroids when I can. But that’s just me. You don’t have to be as neurotic as I am about food.

Enjoy!

(Disclaimer: While marinara sauce is an acceptable vegetable, I do not subscribe to the notion of pizza as a vegetable. Pizza is pizza which is a meal, and not always a very healthy option, particularly when a loaf of bread is consumed in the process.)

Let The Games Begin!

My month of blogging has begun.

I had a lot of great suggestions from people on topics, so I think I will have a lot to write about. Everything from talking about the emotional journey, the physical procedure and the aftermath, and recipes.

My posts are going to be a little bit more organized. Sundays will be my week wrap-up and planning for the week ahead. Monday and Wednesday will be about food, meals, and recipes. Tuesdays I will write about the physical aspect of things, from the surgery itself to changes in my body. Thursdays will be about my emotional journey, the ups and downs, and how things have changed. Fridays will be about the different kinds of exercises I am doing. Saturdays I think I’m going to keep kind of random. I want to do book reviews and talk about health, food, and weight in general. That will also be the day I will keep open to answer questions people may have.

I am doing two other things in June apart from this daily blogging. I am participating in a wellness activity at work. I am doing the walking challenge. They gave us all free pedometers. Here is mine:

pedometer

I am also doing a postaday challenge with WordPress.  They are supposed to send us prompts to use, but I may or may not follow their prescribed format. Depends on what I feel like writing that day. I’m a rebel like that.

So, here are updates for today and what I am doing this coming week. Today I walked all over DC with my brother and his little girl. Instead of doing our usual museum circuit, we went to some monuments.

We walked to the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the WWII Memorial. My walking through DC was 5192 steps which is about 2.5 miles. I also bought the first bathing suit I have had in 14 years and went swimming for about an hour. Now I’m completely exhausted.

Ijeffersonmlk

lincoln lincoln2

 

 

I used to love swimming when I was younger, but I haven’t been swimming in more than 10 years. I am actually a very good swimmer. I feel very natural in the water and once I’m swimming, I completely forget to be worried about what I look like in a bathing suit. When I lived in Phoenix, I would swim in my cousin’s pool, or in the pool in my apartment complex, but it’s been a very long time. I’m glad to be swimming again.

I’m going to the beach the week of the 4th of July with my friends. I want to be practiced in swimming again before I get there. I probably will not do a lot of swimming in the ocean. I’ll probably mostly bounce around in the waves or do the boogie board. But still, I want to strengthen my swimming muscles and get used to wearing my bathing suit in public.

This week, I am taking a couple of vacation days. I have friends visiting from Phoenix and I am going to do some sightseeing with them. That will be a lot more walking. I am also going to change my commute a little. I normally take a bus and then the metro. Then walk 1/2 mile to the office. This week, I am going to take the bus all the way into the city and then walk 1.5 miles to the office. I am also going to continue doing my lunchtime walks. I can usually get 1.5 miles in at lunch as well. That will help me boost my pedometer steps for the work challenge.

So, to recap, this is what you can expect from my blog for June. If this format works, I may try to keep it going as long as I can.

  • Monday and Wednesday – Food & Recipes
  • Tuesday – Physical aspect of surgery, body changes, body image
  • Thursday – Emotional journey
  • Friday – Exercise
  • Saturday  – Random & Questions
  • Sunday – Weekly recap and prep for week ahead

As always, I will always answer any of your questions, even if it is a repeat of a previous blog post. Let the fun begin!

Where The Heck Have I Been?

No, I have not abandoned this blog, although it may seem that way.  I have just been super busy.  Some good things have happened recently, and I just wanted to take a moment to share.

1. Work has suddenly become much more manageable.  I have been through an extremely busy period for the last few months, but with the holidays comes the traditional slow-down.  I have also been permitted to actually hire someone, so when the busy season hits again in January, I won’t be so overwhelmed…hopefully!

2.  I took vacation Thanksgiving week.  I was also very busy that week.  I had a friend visit me, and we spent that time running around visiting family and friends.  I had a blast.  We saw some friends that I haven’t seen since the surgery and a couple of friends who I have not seen since January.

As a funny aside, my friend Marianne’s son told me he did not recognize me with my glasses.  Everyone thought that was funny.  Not that he didn’t recognize me because the last time he saw me I weighed 298 pounds…it was the glasses that threw him off.  I told him it’s because I’m secretly a super-hero and with glasses I’m like Clark Kent.  Did I say he’s 10?

3.  I finally dumped the tea party guy.  Oh I know…I said I was dumping him a month ago.  I tried to.  But we still went out a couple more times.  Then things just got weird.  Not that him being a tea partier wasn’t weird enough.

He stopped calling and said work was crazy busy.  I thought it was pretty much over.  Then the texts and phone calls started again.  “I miss you.” “I need to see you.”  So, we planned a couple more dates, all of which he cancelled, promising to reschedule “soon.”  Finally, I just sent him an email and ended it.  I told him that I want someone who is excited to see me and makes me a priority in his life and I didn’t feel I was getting that from him.

A friend of mine told me that maybe I scared him off by telling him this.  I thought that was a nutty response.  Maybe I did scare him off by telling him that, but if being honest is enough to make him run, then it’s better that he goes.  That’s not the kind of relationship I want.  I want to be able to be honest with someone, and I want them to be honest with me.  Tell me what you want.  I’ll tell you what I want.  We can build from there.  Anything short of that is a lie and won’t work.

Here’s the thing.  When I weighed 300 pounds I didn’t put up with that kind of crap.  Granted, I had fewer options, but I still did not settle for less than what I wanted just to have a guy in my life.  So, when I have more options why on earth would I start to settle for less?

I was disappointed to see it end.  We actually did have a good time when we were together.  We had a lot in common, apart from politics.  He also had the gastric by-pass surgery and had lost a lot of weight.  We had many great conversations.  But, he was never going to be anyone I would be terribly serious about.

4.  I also posted a new recipe.  This is one that I created myself.  I wanted a yummy pumpkin flavored dessert that was not too sugary.  I think I came up with a pretty good option.  Click on this picture to get to the recipe:

pmpkin2

 

 

5.  I also “finished” my children’s novel.  I say “finished” because I did get all of the major plot points down on paper, and I have written about 55K words, but it is quite a mess.  I still have a lot more writing ahead of me in the form of re-writes.  I’m not going to look at it until January, however.

That is pretty much it.  I have not lost any more weight.  I have also not gained any weight.  I am not going to weigh myself until after the holidays.  I am watching what I eat, definitely.  I still log my food on myfitnesspal.com.  I have had a few bad days, but overall, I’m sticking to the plan.  I want to get back to the gym now that things have kind of slowed down in my life.  I’m hoping that will kickstart the weight loss again.

I promise to keep up on this blog more often.  I have a lot planned for the holidays, but I will have time to get a few more posts in.  And in January, I will post my weight to let you know how I fared through the crazy holiday feasting season!