It’s All In Your Head.

Time for a bit of an update.  Two and a half months since surgery, and I’m doing pretty well.  Still working out the details, like chewing more thoroughly and slowing down my meals.  I’m still doing my 15 minutes of stretching exercises at work each morning, with few exceptions (we’ve been doing it in an area undergoing renovation, and now the carpet, cubicles and cabinets are in and we’re losing our spot).  I feel better, I look better, and I move better.  Baby steps, but I’m committed.

Went to my friend’s birthday party this weekend and enjoyed mingling with the family; this is a great, big, loving clan, and being in their midst reminds me of home; I feel like burrowing in that familial warmth.  Big families are awesome; when the house is full, every nook and cranny has a smile and a hug.  I miss my family like that.

Chatted with my friend Amy, who has been very successful in losing weight with a diet routine and exercise.  She looks great, and she’s rightfully proud of her success in maintaining that loss over several months.  We talked about the mental aspect of making changes and making them last.  I was glad to hear that she related strongly to a couple of my more recent posts regarding my transition from obesity to health.  The things she mentioned caused me some reflection.

Self sabotage – I am guilty, guilty, guilty.  I am trying to change my mindset that says if I fall off the wagon, I’m a loser who failed again and I should just give it up.  Do you tell yourself the same things?  As a battle-scarred veteran of too many diets for too many years, do you find yourself falling into a preordained pattern?  You find a new diet or program because your friend is doing it or your sister is doing it or a celebrity is doing it, or maybe you saw it on Pinterest or Facebook.  You buy the book, watch the video, go to the website and read the testimonials.  You get all excited and shop for what you need, tossing out the half-eaten Cheese Nips and leftover pizza from the fridge.

You do pretty well for awhile, high on enthusiasm, but then the old habits and thought patterns come creeping back.  You find yourself thinking all day about what you want to eat that night.  You are distracted by cravings for food you know you should not eat, and when you give in, too easily, you immediately shame yourself:

Stupid.  Lazy.  Fat.  Disgusting.  Hopeless.  Loser.  Failure.  Quitter.

You tell yourself to give up.  It’s just like all the other times.  It’s no use.  It’s too hard.  You always do this.  Why even bother?  You will always be fat and dumpy.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why let one misstep end the journey?  I have had to learn how to forgive myself for these small mistakes and keep going.  Do you remember the old Family Circus comics?  The ones where one of the kids will take a meandering path from point A to point B?  I love that cartoon.

That is a good visual of how my brain works and how I do things, but it is especially relevant to my progress on a diet.  Sometimes sideways is my only progress, and sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back.  But it’s important not to stop.  Don’t give up.

More things I’ve learned:

  • It’s okay to leave food on your plate.  I am no longer a member of the Clean Plate Club.  (my family had a song that went with it — not sure if other folks did, too. ;-))
  • It’s okay to not take that food home from the restaurant, especially if you’re not going to eat it or give it to your dog.  Why waste the room in the fridge to throw it away in a week and a half?
  • If I say I shouldn’t eat something, I should actually NOT eat it, instead of just saying it as I put it in my mouth.
  • It’s okay to remove the strings from the celery, because it makes it easier to eat.
  • It’s okay to not drink coffee anymore, even if it is kinda weird for me.
  • It’s okay to be picky!!  (I have never been picky, but I am learning how to be.)
  • Mr. Stuck and I should always share our entree, not order separately.  That is a waste of money and food.  Duh.
  • It’s okay to eat the protein first; in fact, it’s a good idea.  I load my salad up with chicken or tuna or ham and add cottage cheese; I use much less lettuce and much less dressing, but I still add broccoli, cukes, and tomatoes.  I’m even trying things like garbanzo beans.  Yum!
  • I’m still working on cooking small amounts, but I can always share extra portions with my neighbors.  Recently made a huge pot of Tuscan potato/sausage/kale soup, and gave most of it away.  It was a win-win: I satisfied my craving, and none went to waste!
  • I can allow myself treats, because if I deny myself, I want it more.  We all know that reverse psychology ploy.  I can allow myself a bite of something and then I don’t have to binge on it in secret or in the car on the way home.
  • Habits can be insidious — they can be so deeply subconscious that you don’t realize what you’re doing until you’ve done it.  I got myself so hooked on McDonald’s sweet tea (cut with unsweetened) in the summertime that it was automatic for me to stop there on my way home. And sometimes, it was too easy to order a cheeseburger or chicken sandwich to go with it, especially if I thought I was hungry.
    After I started my nutritionist appointments, I stopped doing that.  But I noticed that when I’d hit that leg of the highway, I would be thinking about the tea and the cheeseburger.  I’d find my brain negotiating with itself on whether I should stop or continue past.  I have to deliberately focus on something else, to redirect my thoughts into something productive.  I would feel victorious if I didn’t stop.
  • It’s okay to go up a little or stay the same on the scale once in awhile.  We’ll have those days.  Maybe stop weighing yourself so much and look at how you feel and how your clothing fits.  Use a different gauge for your success.  The term Non-Scale Victory (NSV) is meant for just that.  Getting to where my wedding set fit my finger again was an NSV.  Fitting into the jeans I was sure I wouldn’t — that’s also an NSV.
  • It’s okay to struggle.  I’m human, and so are you.  We make mistakes, we screw up, we give up, and we sabotage ourselves.  We have to really work at staying the course, but that’s okay.  It’s okay to stumble, but make sure you get back up.

I haven’t smiled this much in a long time.  So many people have taken the time to tell me how happy they are for me and Mr. Stuck, how much better we look and must feel, and how we are radiant these days.  Who wouldn’t smile upon hearing that?  I am so grateful for the love and support that is coming in from all of my family and friends.  It means so much and encourages me to stay strong.

Thank you.

image credit lovelornpoets, Bil Keane

 

My Rant for Friday.

So far, the worst things about this surgery have been the two-week pre-surgical diet of two meal-replacement protein shakes and a light meal per day and the prohibition of NSAIDs one week before.

Let me just say, the protein shakes aren’t bad.  In fact, the chocolate flavor (which I bought) is very similar to the sugar-free chocolate Jello pudding we used to eat when we were on the Atkins diet.  Unfortunately, the texture of the shake is quite like the pudding, too.  It’s thick and very filling, which makes it tough to drink.  It’s rather like trying to ‘drink’ a Frosty from Wendy’s.  You kind of inhale with your head back and the bottle tilted to your open mouth; the stuff rolls in there and you gulp it down.  No ladylike sipping here.  But that’s not the problem.

The problem is, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and these shakes are very sweet.  I’m having ‘chocolate pudding’ twice a day, every day, for two weeks.  Granted, I could have tried a different flavor — vanilla —  but I suspect it would have been the same, or maybe worse, sweetness-wise.  Ugh.  I’ll be ready to go back to real food after surgery, even if it’s pureed.  I just need more of a flavor variety and less sweet stuff.  Tomato soup, here I come!

The other problem, which is more distressing to me, is not being able to take my arthritis medication because it’s an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug) like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ll be able to go back on it after surgery, which would be awful.  While my prescription arthritis medication doesn’t take away all the pain, it does make a significant dent in it, which Tylenol does not.  Tylenol is great for headaches, but does not touch my joint pain.  My other alternative is Oxycodone, which I have been taking in order to sleep comfortably.  It does help.

Other than that, I’m feeling good and am mentally ready for this.  There’s a little stress in reaching the goal I’ve been working toward for so long, and a little stress from it being Christmas time, but I’m holding up well.  I have a great support system.

 

photo credit Derrick Coetzee

Adjustments.

I used to say that I intended to go out of this life with the same stuff God gave me coming in: I still had tonsils, appendix, gall bladder, adenoids and reproductive organs.  Well, I still have all of those, but I exchanged my hips a few years back for a new, aftermarket set made of gleaming titanium.  So I guess I can’t say that anymore.  And in another week, I’ll give away something else: most of my stomach.

Next week, I’ll undergo the procedure known as a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG), or ‘sleeve,’ in which a large portion of my stomach will be laparoscopically removed.

Image: Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy
http://www.virginiamason.org/SleeveGastrectomy

The decision was a long time in coming.  Despite a lifetime of being overweight and dieting, I had never considered surgery as a way to lose weight before a few years ago.  At that time, I had only considered restrictive gastric banding.  More recently, several friends and family members underwent bariatric surgery, and as I saw their results and spoke with them more, I began thinking it might be my best hope to return to a healthy weight.  Mr. Stuck had already been working toward his own surgery and healthy weight goal, so I had the added benefit of involvement with his process, too.

I did my ‘due diligence’ and read up on the types of surgeries available; who would benefit from what type; what co-morbidities would likely improve after surgery; risks and benefits; and long-term results.  I joined an online chat group to read real stories and questions.  I spoke with my doctor, who was enthusiastically supportive.  And so I made the decision to work my way through the prerequisites for surgery.

To have this surgery, I have had a psychological examination, sleep study, blood work, EKG, barium swallow, and 6 months of dietary oversight by a nutritionist (in which I lost 30 lbs).  I found out that I am an otherwise healthy obese person who has sleep apnea, but I don’t have elevated blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.  Contrary to popular belief, I am psychologically normal (who knew?).  I have a hiatal hernia, which means my stomach bulges up through my diaphragm, but I’ve never had more than mild symptoms from it.  Right now I am in the pre-surgery diet phase of two protein shakes and one light meal per day.  The day before the procedure will be full liquids.

Although I am healthy now, there are no guarantees I will remain so, especially given a familial history of cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure; and really, obesity increases my risk of everything.  I need to lose the weight to decrease that risk.  But I also hope that losing the amount of weight that I need to will also improve my health by improving my quality of life issues like arthritis, sleep problems, and general aches and pains.

There will be a lot of adjustments to make following the surgery, but I am committed.  Where I used to think that surgery was the ‘easy way out’ for weight loss as opposed to the blood, sweat and tears of dieting, exercise and discipline, I now know that it’s not ‘either-or.’  I will have the surgery and I will also diet, exercise, and discipline myself to change my relationship with food.  But I will have the tool of surgery to help me.

You could say that life is basically a series of adjustments, from the womb to the outside world; from a child to an adult; and from a single person to a couple or family, perhaps.  Some adjustments are easy, some are voluntary, and some are life-changing.  This one is has a little of all of that, and more.  I will be adjusting from obesity to health.

I don’t intend to bore you all with “I lost 3 more lbs!” posts.  I will write about it, yes, but maybe just to tell you about my flying-squirrel arm flaps or my hair falling out.  I may crow a bit when I’ve reached a milestone, and I may whine when I mourn for the Bubba Burgers of my past (I confess, I am addicted to cheeseburgers), but I won’t subject you to much of it, I promise.  And I won’t use the terms ‘fat shaming’ or ‘body shaming’ because I detest them.  But I will share with you some of the lessons I’m learning on my way to a healthy life.

I will never be thin, but I do hope to cross my legs again someday.
And sit on the floor and get back up again.
And sit comfortably on a plane.
And wear Spandex to Walmart.

juuust kidding.

 

 

 photo credit thenext28days and MotiveWeight