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Drum Roll Please…

Today is a momentous day.  I had my gastric by-pass surgery October 24, 2012.  Today I am 4 days short of the six month mark,  Today I surpassed a major milestone.

Today, I weigh 197.  I have lost 101 pounds in six months.

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I can hardly believe it.  I am overjoyed that I have passed this milestone, but I have to admit I have been struggling recently.  Not really with the weight loss.  I have been losing weight pretty steadily.

I have been feeling this restlessness and a growing emptiness inside me.  I’m not sure what it is, exactly.  I think part of it may be loneliness.  I have lived nearly all of my adult life alone and on my own.  I have watched all of my friends and family around me build lives, get married, have children while I have stagnated.

But I do not think what I am feeling is just loneliness.  I have been really struggling over the past few weeks to define it.  I have had many semi-sleepless night going through my emotions and everything I have been through.  I think part of my introspection is a result of this blog.  I also think part of it has to do with several of the personal essays I have written recently.  I have spent much of the last year really delving into my life.  I have examined many reasons why my life has turned out the way it has.

Ultimately though, I think this restlessness and emptiness are necessary.  I have this growing, overwhelming desire to fill my life, that emptiness with something substantial, but what that is I really do not know.  I’m not sure that I can really narrow down that desire to just one thing.  It feels more like I want to fill it by experiencing everything.

I think the emptiness was always there.  I just buried with food, video games, anger, and depression instead of dealing with the problems in my life.  I let that behavior go on for far too long.

This surgery, this weight loss has given me the opportunity to change all of this.  The question is, what do I do now?

What Is Gastric By-Pass Surgery Exactly?

So, I have had some questions lately from friends.  Some people have asked me to describe what is involved in a gastric by-pass surgery.  Not what I have to do to get ready, but what the doctor actually does to your insides that helps you eat less and thus lose weight.  I have also had people who are considering different procedures and ask my opinion, because you know, I’m an expert, right?

OK, you can stop laughing now.

But seriously, unless you are researching gastric by-pass surgeries because you want to have one, you may not be aware of what actually happens when the doctor performs the surgery.  I know I was not aware.  And if you are considering the surgery, the best thing to do is to reach out to people who have had one of the procedures and ask questions.  Each procedure is different and each person reacts differently to the results after the surgery.  Oh and yes, there are several different types of gastric surgeries one can consider.

I want to spend some time today discussing some of the different surgeries and the doctor does.  I will also include some YouTube videos and other links that will describe the surgeries better than I can.  This post might be kind of long.

What is Gastric By-Pass Surgery?

Gastric By-pass surgery is when a surgeon somehow creates a much smaller stomach and re-routes your digestive track to that smaller stomach.  This will help an obese overeater eat less and help them lose weight.  There are several ways to achieve this smaller stomach.

The surgery can either be an open surgery or a laparoscopic surgery.   An open surgery is exactly what it sounds like.  This is a traditional surgery where the doctor makes a long incision to operate.  A laparoscopic surgery is when a series of small incisions are made and tiny surgical tools are used to perform the surgery.

The different types of Bariatric surgeries are the Roux-en Y gastric by-pass, the lapband, the gastric sleeve, the lapband and gastric sleeve combo, and the duodenal switch.  The Mayo Clinic has an excellent site with pictures and vivid descriptions of each of these surgeries, but I will give a brief description here.

Roux-en Y Gastric By-Pass

This is the surgery where a small pouch is made and the rest of the stomach is cut off and then the intestines are rerouted to the small pouch.  An alternate version of this is to staple the larger stomach off from the pouch.  This is the surgery that I had.

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This YouTube video further describes the procedure if you’re interested.  It is not graphic and does not show a live surgery, but uses pictures to show what he doctor does.  I could not watch videos of live surgeries.   Too gross for me.

The Lapband

The lapband is when a small band is used to create the small pouch instead of stapling.  Sometimes the larger part of the stomach is reduced to create a gastric sleeve.  There are a couple of different bands.  One is a metal band that stays in your stomach.  The other is an adjustable band that occasionally needs to be filled back up with fluid to keep it firmly tight around the pouch.

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Gastric Sleeve

A gastric sleeve is when part of the stomach is removed to create a smaller narrow sleeve type stomach.  This can be done on its own or in combination with the lapband.

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Duodenal Switch

This is the most drastic surgery.  Usually, the stomach is left in tact or this procedure can be done in combination with gastric sleeve and the digestive tract is rerouted to by-pass most of the intestines.  This is very drastic.

I am not very good at describing this surgery, so I am going to refer you to the YouTube video and the link I provided above.  This was not a surgery that I wanted to have.  Too drastic for me.

These are the primary procedures.  Each surgeon has their own speciality.  You will need to work with your surgeon to decide which procedure is best for you.

Advice

As far as my advice, I am happy to listen to anyone who wants to ask questions.  I will happily answer them.  If you have decided you definitely want one of these procedures, great.  I have all kinds of advice and ideas.

If you are on the fence, my advice is to think about this some more.  Go back to the drawing board.  Talk to your doctor.  Join a gym, try a new diet plan.  Buddy-up with a friend.  Seek counseling.  Join a support group.  Try to lose weight the traditional way through diet and exercise.  Do not rush into a procedure because you feel helpless.

If after you feel you have tried everything and you feel surgery is your best option, go for it.  Just remember, the surgery is a tool, not necessarily the answer.  You will still have all of the problems you had before the surgery.  The desire to eat or overeat is still there.  Any depression or self-doubt persists.  Laziness is still a problem.  So, unless you are willing make those changes as well, the surgery will just be one more, albeit very expensive and drastic, short-term fix.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets.  I learned a lot about myself and my health, both physically and mentally, through this process.  I am glad I did it.  I could not, however, have done this before I was ready.

Approaching Three Months

I can hardly believe that it has been nearly three months since my gastric by-pass surgery.  To date, I have lost 69 pounds.  One pound away from 70.

I am amazed by how much weight I’ve lost.  I feel a little like I’m moving backwards in time as I am able to fit back into clothes that I have not worn in years.  It is kind of strange.

I am slowly working my way up to about 1200-1400 calories per day.  I am supposed to be in that range at about the six month mark.  Right now, I am up to around 900 calories per day.  I have a calorie tracker.  I put in all of the food I eat including my protein shakes.   I noticed this week I have been a little bit hungrier than normal…well normal being redefined in recent months as not really hungry at all.  That is probably why I’m up to 900 calories per day.  I thought that by increasing my caloric intake from 400-600 calories per day over the first few weeks to 600-800 after that and now to 900 would have slowed down my weight-loss, but that has not happened.  I am still steadily losing weight.  I am still taking in well under the normal, healthy intake of calories, which is around 1200-1400 per day.  Not to mention that 1200-1400 calories per day is waaaay less than what I was eating before the surgery.

The calorie counter that I have on my iphone tells me that for healthy weight-loss that I should be taking in over 1700 calories per day.  Yeah right.  There’s no way I could eat that right now.  I may never be able to eat that many calories in one day again.  Of course, the calorie counter has no idea I had gastric by-pass surgery.  I am just using it to keep track of what I am eating and to count the calories that I am taking in.

I have moved onto the re-introduction of solid foods phase of my diet. Hoo-freaking-ray!  The pureed food phase was really horrible. The soft food phase much better, but still not quite fine eating.  Real food.  I am excited.

I still have some restrictions.  No read meat, starchy foods, or fruits with a skin for three more months.  I can have fruits with a skin, I just have to peel them first.  It’s the skin I cannot have.

I am not a big red meat eater, so I am not too stressed out about not having beef.  I can manage just fine with turkey burgers or turkey meatballs, etc.  But the starches…omg.  I have been craving bread and potatoes for the past couple of weeks.  Well, bread, potatoes, and pizza.

I love pizza.  I could probably eat it for every meal. Not the healthiest diet I know, but I could…thus the reason I had to have gastric by-pass surgery.  It doesn’t help that I haven’t been able to eat pizza for years.  In fact, that has probably made it worse.  Combined with the no bread for six months surgery I just had, I’m totally fixated.

I have dreams that when I am finally able to eat bread products that I will be able to reintroduce pizza into my diet.  I doubt that I will be able to, but still, I dream about it.  I would be fine with vegetables on it.  A thin crust, obviously.  Just one slice, I promise!

A good friend of mine teases me because I’ve apparently taken to talking about pizza quite a bit.  Every time we are together, in fact.  We laugh about it a lot.

Now that I am onto the solid food phase, I have been experimenting a little bit.  I’ve eaten at a few restaurants too.  I went to a mediterranean restaurant.  I had half a lamb burger and asparagus spears instead of fries.  The burger was a bit heavy and I had some constipation afterwards.  I may hold off on lamb for a few more months.  A little too rich, I think.  I went to a mexican restaurant and had chicken with a tomatillo sauce, refried beans, and steamed vegetables.  Clearly, I took most of it home, but I didn’t suffer any ill effects.  I’ve also tried chinese food, kung pao chicken, no peanuts, Szechuan green beans, no rice.  I did OK with that.  I’m still only eating a very, very small portion, but it’s nice to have somewhat normal food again.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful President’s Day weekend.  I might try to go hit some sales to see if I can get a new shelf.  I was also thinking of making my way to downtown DC on the Mall for the Inauguration on Monday, but it depends on the weather.  It’s supposed to be 39 degrees and I’m not sure if I can handle that.  It also depends on what time I drag my lazy butt out of bed.  The swearing-in begins at 11:30am, but one must arrive there several hours in advance.  It’s not supposed to be as crowded as 4 years ago, but I still think it would be cool to go.  We shall see.

Living in the DC area is kind of cool when you can go to events like this.

Happy President’s Day!

 

Scan

 

 

A New Milestone

So, since the surgery, I have been wearing the same clothes I was wearing before the surgery.  Before the surgery, I mostly wore a size 28/30, depending on the style.

Well, today I am wearing a size 26 blouse that I have not been able to wear for quite a while.  I also tried on a couple of size 24 blouses I have hanging in my closet.  I was able to button all of them.  I tried them on before the surgery, and I could not.  A couple were still quite snug once buttoned, but more than one fit me pretty well after being buttoned.  I’m not sure that I am ready to wear them just yet.

When I tried the blouses on, I was not wearing the binder that I still have to wear.  I have been wearing a support garment since the surgery.  The binder is a bit bulky and I still need a little extra room under my clothing for now.  Once I get the clearance from the surgeon to stop wearing the binder, I will probably still wear something under my clothing for support.  I have a pair of Spanx, and I will probably buy a couple more.  The support is actually kind of helpful as my muscles continue to heal.  I’ve noticed that if I take the binder off for a couple of hours, my muscles in my abdomen and back start to hurt.

It was nice to try on the size 24 blouses and button them.  I know that before surgery, I could not even do that much.  I know that probably in the next few weeks, I will be wearing them.  I’m not ready get rid of my size 28-30 clothing yet, especially while I’m wearing the support garment.  I still feel that I can wear them comfortably without feeling as if they are ridiculously too big for me yet.  Once I move from the binding garment to Spanx or some other kind of support garment, I probably will be ready to toss that clothing.

On another note, I did go to the surgeon’s office this week.  I met with the nurse about my progress so far.  I told her all of my ups and downs with the diet, drinking fluids, taking vitamins, etc.  She is so wonderful.  She had the surgery herself 17 years ago, so she really knows first hand some of the things I’m going through.

She was happy to hear I had a menstrual cycle.  She did tell me they may become more frequent now that I am losing weight.  She’s told me this before, so I was not surprised.  I told her about some constipation I’ve been having.  She is convinced that I am not getting enough fluids.  I think she is probably right.  So, I’ve spent the past two days just drinking water like crazy.  The other day I was up until almost 1:00am to make sure I met the daily water requirements.  I have to say, it has really helped.  I will spare you all the details, but I am feeling much better.

Overall, the nurse felt that I am right on track.  I’ve lost 40 pounds.  I look much better.  I feel much better.  I’m walking a lot.  I can walk much, much farther than I have been able to in the past couple of years.  My back feels better.  My breathing has improved.  So many good things.  She really commented on how I looked.  She said that my face has really opened up.

Well, I guess now is a good time to post a current picture of me.  Just as a reminder, this is what I looked like before the surgery.  This is a picture of me and my baby sister at her wedding.

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Here is me today:

 

Photo on 2012-12-01 at 12.21

 

I just took this on my laptop, so this is as recent as we can get.  My hair is still a little wet, and obviously I need a haircut.  Not to mention, I’d like to get my hair colored again.  The grey is getting crazy.

What do you think?  Do you see any difference?

 

 

 

A New Low

So, I weighed myself today and I hit a new milestone.  I’m down 40 pounds.  I was a little bit pleasantly surprised.  It has been more than a week since I lost anything and it seems as if my weightloss has slowed down.

I think some of the slow down is natural.  I also think some of it had to do with the return of my period.  So, now that I have completed my cycle, I decided to see if there was any difference today, and there was.  Today, I weighed in at 258 pounds.

Tomorrow I go to the doctor and will get an official doctor’s office weigh-in so, I would say that this number is tentative until I am weighed on the doctor’s scale.

I’ll take it anyway, though!  🙂

To Youtube or Not

So, I started a new Youtube channel and made one video.  I have not uploaded it yet.  I’m not sure I want to do videos.  Part of my fear is that I will have to do videos all of the time.  I’m also not sure I want to see myself in videos all of the time.  Yet another part of me wonders what will happen to writing blog entries.  Will I become too dependent on videos and stop writing?

I enjoy these blog posts.  I think writing posts is fun.  I don’t know.  I’m on the fence.  What do you guys think?   Do you want to see me add videos as part of this blog?

My New World and How My View of Food is Changing

So…it is really weird to not really be hungry.  In fact, most of the time I do not even feel like eating or drinking my protein shakes.  I have to try to keep myself on a schedule.  Occasionally, I feel a little bit hungry, but only sometimes.  What I’m not experiencing, is the overwhelming desire to eat or even binge.

I also have not really had any cravings.  I can remember only one time since the surgery where I had a craving for something.  My sister and her family made cheeseburgers for dinner one night.  I do not know why, but the smell was so mouth-watering.  I have not really craved food for over a week.  I have been concentrating on healing, getting well, dealing with pain, walking, taking vitamins, drinking enough water, and eating the right foods at the right time.  I have not really had time to really experience a craving.

When they made those burgers and walked into the room with them on their plates, internally I was like, “OMG GIVE ME A CHEESEBURGER! NOW!!”  I was a little afraid that if I hadn’t still been struggling to stand up because of pain, I might have dashed across the room and tore through all their cheeseburgers a la Cookie Monster, “Nom! Nom! Nom! Nom! Nom!”

What I said was, “Gee, those burgers smell good,” while I sat there staring at their plates, mouth-watering, silently cursing them for eating those yummy, yummy burgers in front of me.

The feeling passed quickly and I did not eat a burger, thankfully.  I would have gotten really sick if I had.  Plus, I probably only would have been able to eat one or two bites.  Since then, I have not really craved any particular food at all.

I have to say, as a food lover, it is the strangest feeling.  I have written many times about how much I like delicious food.  I know I still do, but I have noticed that my idea of delicious is changing a little bit.  Let me explain.

SWEETS

I noticed in the hospital that I could not really stand anything that is sweet.  That still holds.  I struggle every day with these darn protein shakes because of the sweet taste.  The smell, the taste, they make me nauseous and even cause me to sometimes experience dumping.

One day, I ran out of regular soy milk and used the vanilla soy milk.  Big mistake.  The vanilla soy milk has a small amount of sugar in it and is sweet.  I drank the protein shake.  Within minutes, I was sick to my stomach, hot, dizzy, and I generally felt awful.  I was sure that I was going to vomit.  I went into my room, turned the fan on, and started removing some clothes.  I laid down on the bed for a while and then made several trips to the bathroom.  This feeling lasted about a half an hour or so.

This reaction is called dumping.  Basically, you overload your system with too much of something that it can no longer process efficiently and you get sick.  I never want to experience that again.

MEAT/PROTEIN

I am not really loving pureed meat.  Pureed chicken is OK, but I cannot abide the thought of whipped fish or beef.  So, I either get all of my food protein from chicken, or I drink more protein shakes.  I’m hating protein shakes, so I have definitely been researching alternatives.

I am currently trying to get most of my protein from vegetables, specifically legumes.  I have been eating lentils, black beans, baked beans, refried beans, pinto beans, and humus.  This has been working very well for me because I can add an additional boost of protein by adding daiya cheese.

My other source of protein is eggs.  I can have one egg, with a little bit of daiya cheese.  I scramble it, keeping it soft and moist.  I then eat it with apple sauce and sometimes one saltine cracker.

Now, I do love chicken, beans, lentils, humus just as much as ever, so that has not changed.  I guess once I move out of the pureed phase and onto soft foods, if I can stomach fish or beef.

MEALS

My meals right now are a half a cup of food.  That is four tablespoons per meal.  Two tablespoons must be protein, the remaining two are fruits and/or vegetables.  In between each meal, I have to drink a protein shake and take vitamins.  I also have to make sure that I eat slowly and take at least 30 minutes to eat.  Do you know how hard it is to make 4 tablespoons of food last 30 minutes?  It is hard.

Here is a picture of what a four tablespoon pureed meal looks like:

That is two tablespoons of beans with cheese, one tablespoon humus, one tablespoon butternut squash.

Here is a current picture of me at 281.  Go back to this post and see if you can notice any difference between the pictures of me before surgery and this one.  I know it has only been 12 days since my surgery, but I think it shows in my face that I have lost weight.

I may have lost more weight since, but I do not know.  I have to go and get a new scale.  My sister’s scale is screwy.  I weighed 298 just days before my surgery.  Three days after my surgery, my sister’s scale said I weighed 310.  The day before I went to the doctor to get weighed, the scale said I weighed 294.  The doctor’s scale said 281.  Today her scale says 280.  So, do I subtract 12 or 14 pounds from that and believe that I lost that much since Friday?  I guess it is possible, but I don’t think so.  I’ll hold off on updating my weight until I get a more accurate scale.