Tag Archives: bariatric surgery

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.

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Happy Surgiversary To Me!

Who can believe it has been a year since my surgery?  Not this girl!

One year ago today, I was under the knife!  Actually, at this time (10am-ish) I was already in recovery.  Wow!

This will have to be a short post, as work is already getting ahead of me, but I just had to write one today.

To date, I have lost 127 pounds.  For me to get to my ultimate goal, I need to lose 46 more.  I am very happy with where I am, and whether I reach my ultimate goal, or just get a lot closer does not really matter so much.  The important things in my life have changed.

  • My breathing has improved.
  • Food allergies are nearly nonexistent.
  • My blood pressure is normal without medication.
  • I can walk.
  • Back pain is nearly gone.
  • My overall health is greatly improved.
  • My outlook for my life as a whole is much more hopeful.
  • I do not live in fear every day that this is the day I will have a stroke or heart attack.
  • I feel like I am fully participating in my life and not just barely getting by day by day.

So, happy surgiversay to me!

mepurple

December 2011

Aug 2012

Aug 2013

 

The Challenges Of WLS – Keeping Inspired & Staying Focused Pt. 2

As promised, here is Part 2 of The Challengers of WLS – Keeping Inspired & Staying Focused.

illusion

This is the post where I discuss what helps me stay inspired  and keeps me focused on staying the course.

First, I want to say that this past year has been absolutely amazing.  The changes that have happened to my body, my health, and my life have been many.  People think losing weight through bariatric surgery is the easy way out.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and yet at the same time, it has sometimes been easy.

I have really ridden the emotional roller coaster from the moment I started this journey.  I had a lot ups and downs.  I dealt with a lot of very strong emotions before I had the surgery, and many of them were amplified after the surgery.  It was a difficult decision for me decide to have surgery.  I resisted it for many years even though friends suggested it and family begged me to consider it.  Once I made the decision to have surgery, I had no idea what I was in for.  I knew that through the surgery, I would lose a lot of weight, but I had no idea where the journey would take me, and the emotional ups and downs I would experience. This has been a hell of a journey, and although I’m not done yet, I have no regrets.

That said, how do I stay focused and keep inspired?  Here are some of the things that have inspired me over the last year. The first part of the list will be the people who have supported and inspired me over the past year.  They say when you face adversity, you really learn who your friends are, and I believe that is true.  The second part of this list will be the changes I have made and other things in my life that keeps me inspired.

  • My niece – I have to put this at the top of my list since she is, in part, the reason I wanted to take steps to drastically improve my life.  I have written in the past about how I have wanted to improve my health so that I could keep up with her and be there to watch her grow up and experience life.  That little girl has changed our entire family, not just my life.  She’s the first child that any of us had.  She is our next generation, the future of our family.  She turned this motley collection of adults into a family the day she was born.  She loves the new Auntie Colleen.  In fact, I don’t think she even remembers the old, pre-surgery Auntie Colleen. We go to museums together and hang out all of the time.  I love experiencing the world through her eyes. It’s like living life for the first time.  To think that I would miss watching her grow into a child, teenager, young woman because of my addiction to food broke my heart.
  • My sister Sandy– I have the greatest sisters.  I really do.  My sister Sandy lives about 20 miles from me.  She has been the greatest inspiration.  She changed her own life by changing the decisions that she was making.  She has her own incredible story.  But she also helped me change mine.  She confronted me about my health and my weight and begged me to do something.  Once I made the decision to have the surgery, she stood by me 100%.  She helped me with the many Dr. appointments. I stayed with her for a month after the surgery.  She bought me new clothes after I lost 100 pounds.  She writes my new weight and total weight loss on the wipe-erase board on her refrigerator.  She’s amazing.
  • My sister Jenny – Jenny is an incredible young woman.  I have seen her take terrible situations in her own life and completely turn it around.  She is another woman who has an incredible story of triumph over adversity.  But she has also been there cheering me on through mine.  When I tried out for The Biggest Loser show on TV, she drove to Richmond, VA with me and sat out all night on the sidewalk waiting for me to have an interview for the show.  She could not be here physically the way Sandy was because Jenny lives in Minnesota, but she texted me words of inspiration. We had many tearful phone calls as she talked me through some pretty difficult times.  She reads my blog all of the time, comments, sends me emails.  I know she reads my posts to her husband, (Hi Dean!!).  They are both wonderfully supportive.  She even cut, styled, and colored my hair for me for free.  I couldn’t have done all of this without her.
  • My brother & his wife – They have been so supportive of everything I have done.  While everyone else was cheering my decision to have the surgery early on, my brother was the voice of reason.  He expressed his concerns about the surgery and asked me some very difficult questions, making sure that I had truly considered all of the consequences of the surgery.  He was definitely worried.  He wanted me to improve my health, yes, but he also knew that this surgery can have complications. He was worried.  His wife was wonderful as well.  She helped me get a Baby Bullet so that I could puree my food.  She cheered me on and celebrated all of my changes with me.  And she’s always included me on every celebration with her own family.
  • My mom – My mom was so happy when I decided to have the surgery.  She was one of the people who had been asking me for years to consider wls.  She came here for my surgery and has celebrated all of my successes.  She also helps me keep things real when she thinks I might be falling off the wagon.  She knows how sick I was and does not want me to go backwards.
  • My friends – I really do have the greatest friends.  My best friend Jerry came to stay with me for a week a month after my surgery.  He helped me get my apartment set up after the surgery so that I wouldn’t have to exert too much energy to live my daily life while I healed.  He’s also been one of my biggest emotional supporters through this whole thing.  My friend Sushmita has also been a source of inspiration.  I have never met a more positive, energetic, happy person.  She inspires me.  My friends Lisa, Vicky, Jennifer, Joanna, & Lauren (hello my RHLS friends!) have also been hugely supportive; reading my blog; listening to me tell my weight loss stories; celebrating my successes; telling me how great I look, which I can never hear enough.
  • The Arlington Writer’s Group – Some of the people I mentioned above are members of the AWG, but I still have to make a special mention of this group of people.  The group has a whole has been supportive and celebrated my decision.  The day of my surgery last year, they had a writing session dedicated just to me.  They took words that described me and used them as inspirations for a writing exercise.  Then they mailed me the stories to read while I recuperated.  They have all also cheered on my successes.  Every week, they tell me how great I look; ask how much I have lost; given me exercise suggestions; the list of the support I have received from them is endless. I am so lucky to have them in my life.
  • My former & current co-workers – The day of my surgery, all of my co-workers at the time called all day to check up on me.  They came to see me while I recuperated.  They really cheered me on.  When I saw my former co-workers a few weeks ago, they all cheered on how well I have done.  My current co-workers also congratulate me on all of my success.  When I show them pictures of what I looked like before the surgery, they cannot believe it.  They all also comment on the weight I have lost since I started working there.

Those are many of the people in my life who keep me inspired focused.  Here are the other abstract things that keep me inspired and focused.

  • Pictures of myself – I can really see the difference in the before Colleen and the after Colleen.  I have never been able to see that in previous weight loss journeys.  I think that is pretty remarkable especially since the weight has come off relatively quickly. That is a huge change from my previous attempts to lose weight.
  • My breathing – I can breathe!  I have struggled with asthma since I put on so much weight.  I really had difficulty walking and moving because of that asthma.  That has mostly cleared up.  I know I still struggle a little with asthma, but it’s nothing like it was before.
  • Back pain – My back pain is nearly gone.  I could barely stand or walk because of back pain before the surgery.  Now, this does not bother me very much at all.  It’s still there a little bit, but it does not prevent me from doing what I want.
  • Walking – I can walk!  I can walk for miles and miles if I want.  Before I could barely make it a block before I had to stop and rest my back and catch my breath.  I do not have to stop for that anymore. Whenever I feel frustrated with my weight loss, I just talk a walk and revel in the fact that I can do it so effortlessly.
  • Clothes – I know this is shallow, but still, it is important.  I look good in clothes for the first time in a very long time.  I love that.
  • Cheese – I can each cheese again!  OK, I know this is a crazy thing to include, but it’s important to me.  I was allergic to milk and cheese for a very long time.  Some time shortly after the surgery, I started including milk products into my diet in an attempt to try to get some protein.  My allergies have apparently gone away for the most part.  That alone makes the changes I’ve made worth it.
  • Attention/Being Visible – OK, I admit it, I’m an attention seeker.  I have written posts in the past about the invisibility that comes along with being obese.  This is very isolating and lonely.  Now people see me.  I see men looking at me, which is  crazy to me.  Before men did not really talk to me much.  Now random men strike up a conversation with me.  One gentleman a few weeks ago talked to me in Starbucks for almost an hour continually looking for reasons to interrupt my writing and ask me questions.  Then later when he saw me in Trader Joe’s, he came running up to say, “Hey! I just saw you in Starbucks!”  And the whole online dating thing has been interesting as well.  So many of the men tell me how pretty I am.  I’ve never really had that much in the past, certainly not while I was obese.  Even if I never actually meet a man that way, but having the ones who see my picture tell me how pretty I am is a huge ego boost.
  • How incredible my life has become – I know this sounds vain, but it really has.  I am having so much fun.  My life has become so busy that I can barely keep up.  I am out all of the time.  Yesterday, I did some campaigning for the guy running for governor here in VA. Then I went to a political rally where Hillary Clinton (omfg!) was speaking. Then I went to my friend’s art gallery where I was one of the people speaking.  Every weekend is like that now. OK, maybe every weekend I don’t go see extremely famous politicos, but I am always out and about doing stuff.  I barely have time to clean my apartment and do laundry; or write in this blog.

OK this post is getting very long.  But I think you get the point.  My life has changed in incredible ways.  I have wonderful people in my life.  Nothing is better than seeing the joy in their eyes when they see how well I am doing.  I am doing incredible things with my life.  Even the simplest tasks that took so much effort before are a joy and inspiration.

I never want to be the girl who could not walk and breathe again.  I never want to look in the mirror and see the 300 pound person that I was staring back at me.   I never want to look in the eyes of the people who I love and who have supported me only to see their disappointment reflected back to me because I went backwards and gained the weight back.

I want to make the people around me happy.  I want to see my niece grow into a beautiful woman.  I want to be an inspiration for her to emulate.  I want to live each day to the fullest. I want to be open to whatever good things life has in store for me, for however much time I have left in this world.  I want to make it difficult for death to find take me from this world.  I will not go quietly from this life.  I want to spend the rest of my days raging against the dying of the light.

The fact that I see that as a possibility now, is the biggest inspiration of all.

The Challenges Of WLS – Keeping Inspired & Staying Focused Pt. 1

Someone asked me recently how I stay motivated and focused and asked that I write a post about it.  This has turned into quite a long post, so I am breaking it up into two parts.  This first part, I am going to write about some of the challenges and difficulties I have faced over the past year.

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I have to admit that staying motivated and focused is not easy, even with the surgery helping me out.  In some ways, my weight loss journey has been very easy.  Because I cannot eat a lot, thanks the gastric by-pass surgery, the pounds have come off seemingly effortlessly.  I cannot say completely effortlessly, because this whole process has had its own difficulties, but for the most part, losing the pounds, for the first time in my life, has been simple.  Granted, since March, the weight loss has slowed down to a snail’s pace, and I have to be more vigilant than ever, but it’s still coming off.

Nonetheless, I have had some real struggles that are sometimes difficult to deal with.  Some of them were kind of unexpected, some of them the surgeon’s office prepared me for.  All of them have had their toll on my progress in one way or another.

  • Dumping Syndrome – DS comes in many forms.  One of the forms I have struggled with is instant diarrhea.  I eat something my body cannot handle, and I cannot get to the bathroom quickly enough.  I have had a few really embarrassing events.  One, I was on a road trip and bought chicken wings at a gas station (I know you don’t have to tell me!) and I had to pull over a few exits later in hopes that I would make it to the bathroom in time.  I was not quite in the bathroom inside the McDonald’s when it started.  Fortunately, it wasn’t so bad that it was immediately noticeable to those around me and the bathroom was empty, thank goodness.  Took forever to clean myself up though.  And it was, of course, very humiliating.
  • Constipation – It’s not so bad anymore.  There were a few months early on where I felt that I had it 3-4 times a week, but it’s much better now. Whenever I am overly stressed, it does return.  It is very painful and can take a couple of days to clear up no matter how much medication I take.
  • Pain – The first six months after the surgery were difficult as far as pain goes.  Since then, I often have to deal with pain when I’m constipated.  Sometimes, I experience stomach pain after I eat, but not often.
  • Re-learning how to eat – I have drastically changed my diet.  High protein foods and vegetables.  Some of the changes have been very good – I can now have milk products and tomatoes.  Others have been difficult.  No junk foods, fried foods, and little to no bread.  Eating three meals a day and two – three snacks per day is new as well.  I have had to eat even when I’m not really hungry, just to stay on schedule.  With the small stomach, that is much harder than it used to be pre-surgery.
  • Discovering I still have compulsive eating issues – It is true.  I do.  I fight against them every day.  I still crave all the wrong things.  Not all of the time, mind you, but sometimes the urge to over indulge is there.  Of course, when I have over indulged, there have been consequences.  (See dumping syndrome)
  • Nausea – Yeah I get that sometimes.  It happened the other night when I was on the bus home.  I started feeling hot and sweaty and thought I was going to hurl right there on the bus.  I didn’t fortunately, but to be safe, I got off a stop early and sat at the bus station for a minute until I felt better and then I walked up the hill to my place.  I don’t know why this happens, but it does sometimes.
  • Excess skin – Yes, I have some.  I don’t like it, but it’s there.  It is unattractive and I do what I can to cover it up.  That said, however, I would rather deal with excess skin than 127 pounds of excess fat.  So, as unpleasant as it is, I’ll take it.
  • Fluctuating appetite – I don’t always feel hungry and I have sometimes had to force myself to eat or take my protein supplements (either drinking or yogurt) when I was not really hungry.  The doctor put me on a plan – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner – and they want me to follow it whether I’m hungry or not.  When I do get hungry, and I skip any part of the plan, I feel it.  In addition to tummy hunger, I feel dizzy and out of sorts.  It can really be awful.
  • Return of my appetite and feeling hungry – Yes, I can feel hunger.  Some people I know who have had the surgery have never had their hunger return.  Mine has.  It’s not the same as it was before the surgery, but it is there.  I do not feel absolutely ravenous, but I do start to feel hungry at meal times, the times I’ve trained my body to expect some nutrients.  I worry about this.  I am afraid that feeling hungry will cause me to make bad food choices, and I have a couple of times. I have paid for those choices, which helps keep me on track.  So, I have to stay ever vigilant that I make the right food choices.
  • Slow weight loss – I would say that since about March, my weight loss has slowed down to a snail’s pace compared to what it was the first 6 months post surgery.  It has been daunting to remain positive and hopeful when I’m losing 1-2 pounds every couple of weeks or even months instead of 3-5 pounds a week.  I lost 80 pounds just in the first 4 months after the surgery.  I have been tracking my weight loss on My Fitness Pal, and according to them, I have lost 67 pounds since January and 40 pounds since March.  That’s pretty good progress in anyone’s book.  So, while the weight loss has been slow, it has also been steadily moving down.  You know what they say, slow and steady wins the race!
  • Hair Loss – One of the side effects of bariatric surgery is hair loss due to lack of protein and mal-absorption of nutrients.  My hair loss started in March or April.  It freaked me out.  I immediately started increasing my protein intake, using biotin shampoo and conditioner, putting a biotin cream on my hair at night.  I increased my vitamins.  I was determined not to lose all of my hair.  I did lose a lot.  I did not develop any bald spots, thankfully, but people who know me noticed how thin my hair was getting.  It is growing back.  Every time I go to the hair dresser for a trim, they show me my “new growth” underneath all of my old hair.  So, there is some good news.  But I did fret quite a bit every time I combed my hair and pulled out handfuls of hair.
  • Dealing with people who do not understand – I don’t run into this often, but some of the people who are least understanding, are some of the people closest to me.  This has really surprised me.  I do not eat a lot with each meal or snack, but I sometimes feel that I eat constantly.  This is by design, I think, to make sure I get enough nutrients, train me to eat healthily, and to keep my blood sugar stable so that I don’t get cravings or the urge to overeat.  Some people think constantly eating small meals and snacks is a problem.  I get a lot of “Are you eating again?” like there’s something wrong with it.  I know they think they are helping because they fear that I will revert to my old patterns, but it’s very frustrating and kind of hurts my feelings.  I am trying really, really hard to change my life.  And this kind of judgmental comment makes me feel that they do not see how far I have come.  Part of me tries to understand, but part of me also wants to say, “Yes, I’m eating again.  I’m doing exactly what the doctor told me to do.  Following this plan, I have lost 127 pounds.  So, in the words of the inimitable Kathy Griffin, ‘Suck it!'”

These are the most pressing problems I think I have faced over this last year.  It can sometimes feel daunting.  Sometimes stressful.  Sometimes discouraging.  How do I stay focused and remain positive?  How do I stay inspired?

Stay tuned for part two of this post and I will tell you!

Living For Myself

illusionSometimes it is hard to tell when you are living according to your own dreams or when you’re living for your own dreams.  For years, I allowed the opinions of others to be more important than my own.  What other people thought of me was more important than what I thought of myself.  This was an enormous mistake.

Of course other people are always going to try to impose their will and expect you to live according to their expectations.  I was a shy and insecure child, who turned into an insecure teenager.  I had low self-esteem and I always looked to others to for approval.  I also had a habit of surrounding myself with people who needed to put other people down to make themselves feel more important.  So, myself esteem was really in the toilet.

Living like this almost destroyed me.  I weighed 315 pounds at my heaviest and my body was really suffering the effects of long-term morbid obesity.

Fortunately, I realized my life was going in the wrong direction.  I cut out of my life the people whose vision of who I am did not match up with who I thought I was.  I stopped associating with and seeking the approval of anyone who had to try to make me feel bad to make themselves feel superior.  I started befriending people who treated me with the respect I deserve.

In some cases, the end of a friendship was mutual.  In other cases, I was not able to cut a person out completely, either because they are married to  a friend or family member, or closely connected with one of my groups of friends.  The difference between now and before, I know who I am and how I feel about myself.  I can keep their negativity in perspective and give their opinions no consideration whatsoever.  In short, I do not listen to them or allow them to affect my own self image.  What they think of me or how they treat me says more about them than me, in my opinion.

None of this was easy.  It is never easy to end long-time friendships, or distance yourself from people you care about.  I learned that I had to care about myself more and that if they cared about me at all, they would have to learn to accept the new me on my terms.  Some of them, I’m happy to say did. Others did not.  Those friendships have either gone by the way side, or I only associate with them on special occasions.

Once I made the decision to care about my own opinion over the opinion of others, I was able to make choices that helped me improve my life.  I feel and look better than I have in years.  I am happy.  And for the most part, I feel I am making better choices.  I’m not all the way there yet.   But when I look back at where I’ve been and realize how far I’ve come, I know I can get there.

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Everybody Has One

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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!

The Walking Project

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I know I have been walking for exercise, but I have not actually fully committed to walking a certain distance every day.  Life is busy and it is easy not to make time for something like exercise.  But if I want my diet to truly be successful and be in good shape when I am done, I need to exercise more.

I downloaded an app that a friend of mine told me about.  It’s called Zero to 5K.  It’s a running app.  Let’s be clear, I have no intention of running.  I hate running, always have.  But I will use it to improve my walking and actually walk for exercise and not just take a leisurely stroll.

Today, I am going to walk for 25 minutes.  There is a 5 minute warm up, 15 minutes of walking, and a 5 minute cool down.  That’s what the app says anyway.  What it boils down to is 25 minutes of walking.  I am going to do the walking during my lunch.  I have my writer’s group tonight and will not have time for a walk after work, so lunch time is the only time during the day I can make this work today.

Once I actually have time and money at the same time, I will join a gym.  I can get a discount a Gold’s gym because my niece works there, but I am going to price around and see what kind of deal I can get.

I also need to upgrade my walking shoes.  I am thinking of purple New Balance.