You’ll See.

Like so many other things – parenting, for instance – weight loss surgery is one of those situations where people tell you, “You’ll see,” in an ominous, knowing tone. 

“I would NEVER let my kid throw a fit like that in the store!  MY children will behave when we go out.”
Yeah, well, you’ll see…”

“There’s no way my kid would say that to me!  No way!”
That’s what I thought, too.  You’ll see…”

“Seriously, I’m supposed to chew this bite of chicken, like, 25 times?  That’s just gross!”
Well, yeah, it’s a lot, but you need to.  You’ll see…”

“You don’t miss coffee?  Oh, I would DIE if I had to stop drinking coffee!”
No, I don’t miss it that much.  It’s different now.  You’ll see…”

And indeed, I did.  I found out that eating (I’m still on soft solids, progressing prudently) is different from what I remember.  Eating or drinking too quickly, or failing to chew adequately, has its consequences – and they’re immediate.  One – you’ll wonder how that quick drink of water solidified into a chunk with sharp edges as it fights its way down your esophagus.  Ow!  Two – being full used to feel like, ‘yeah, I’m full, but I can eat those last couple bites of lasagna — bring on the cheesecake!’   Now, when I am getting full, my tummy feels like it’s already stuffed up to here (points at Adam’s apple), and I’m swallowing like mad to keep it from rising further.  Full means ‘up to my neck.’  And there isn’t any more room.

I’ve found that the best remedy for that full feeling is to sit back and give that little tummy some room; usually, the discomfort is gone after about 15 minutes.  Other sensations I’m becoming familiar with?  Hiccups.  Bloating.  Burps.  Seriously.  Unwelcome and uncomfortable.  I realize this is due to my body adjusting to the foods I eat, the air I swallow as I eat, and the medications I take, which now include a fiber supplement.  I hope that these things settle down as time goes on.  (Nobody told me that I’d be able to compete with my sons in a belching contest.  At this point, I might even win!)

I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a lot of painful leg cramping lately, more than usual, so I’m probably low on potassium.  Didn’t expect that.  Time for a banana.  Which reminds me — nobody told me I’d have monster breath, either.  I can’t chew gum (I bite my cheek every time), so I have to keep some mints handy so I don’t scare people away.  (If I’ve scared you, I apologize.)

Crushing my pills and taking them with water is still working out pretty well, except for my @#$&*^$#@ vitamins.  Mr. Stuck reminded me that if I don’t take my supplements, my hair will fall out.  He’s right, of course, and I rather like my hair, so I once again tried to figure out a good way to take these powder-filled capsules.  (The Omeprazole caps are filled with granules, which present their own challenges, but I digress.) 

The first (and last) time I tried, I opened the capsules, poured the powder into a 1-oz medicine cup and added water, much like I do for the rest of my meds.  Big mistake.  The powder and water repelled each other, in some sort of strange electrostatic dance, and the powder would not mix.  Instead, it adhered to the sides of the little plastic cup, and floated mockingly on the surface of the water.  When I swished it, it stuck to the cup.  When I stirred it, it stuck to my finger.  When I tried to drink it, it stuck to my tongue and the inside of my mouth.  I don’t know how much water I had to drink to wash it down, but it was a lot, and it turned into chunks with sharp edges as it went. 

Mr. Stuck’s next idea was to put the powder into my daily protein shake.  Sounded like a plan, so today I gave it a whirl.  Um, no.  Again, the powder sticks stubbornly to the side of the Blender Bottle ® and no amount of monkey gyrations will shake it down (yeah, I tried).  So now I’m drinking a chunky, funky-flavored protein shake (oh, yum) with bits of dry, bitter powder suspended in it.   What do these people expect me to do?  I guess I need to try the powder in a spoon of applesauce or something, even though I don’t want to.  Sure looking forward to the 3-month mark, where I can finally swallow my pills whole again.

My tastes are changing, too.  I drink cocoa or tea as much or more than coffee now; when I do have a cup of coffee, I rarely finish more than half.  Even the 12-oz mocha I ordered this weekend sat untouched after I drank less than a quarter of it.  The broccoli-cheese soup that Mr. Stuck thoughtfully bought for me was horrid when I tried it.  The clam chowder I had for lunch last Friday must have been too rich for my baby tummy, because I had to throw most of it away.  I suppose some of it will come back as time goes on, but for now, things taste different.

Since surgery, I’m down over 20 lbs.  It’s coming off fast.  I’m sure it will slow down now that I am actually eating food I can chew.  It’s easy to lose weight on a liquid or almost-liquid diet.  I’m glad to be eating food again, even though I’m not quite to the raw vegetables stage, which will be the final part of the post-surgical diet.  I am sooo ready to eat food that doesn’t have to be soft, pureed, or pre-chewed.  I am ready for some stir-fry chicken and veggies, or a fresh, crisp salad, or even an apple.  It can be tough to get through these first few weeks of restricted eating, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You’ll see.

 

 

photo credit striatic

Happy New Year!

Happy Blog birthday to me (tomorrow) — I’ve managed to stick with this a year now.  But that’s not what this post is for. It’s to thank you, my readers and commenters, for making it a great first year for my blog, and to wish you all a wonderful 2014.

I have high hopes for the new year; with our health improvements, the Mister and I should be feeling great and full of energy, ready to tackle anything.  I am feeling very positive about myself and my circle of family and friends.  I am ready to return to work refreshed and recharged after my three weeks at home.

Resolutions?  Nah.  My psychotherapist friend Bobbi just wrote an excellent post for PsychCentral in which she discussed how resolutions set you up to fail: Break Your Resolutions: Bounce Back – Develop Your Resiliency.  I agree wholeheartedly with her idea to ‘break things down to make them simpler.’  I love how she lays it out; it makes sense.  Set yourself up for success, not failure!

That is how I intend to approach my 2014.  No great, sweeping announcements.  Just a private pledge to do better.  I intend to write here more often.  I intend to get moving more by using the stairs and parking farther away.  I intend to clean out the clutter in my house and in my head, and focus on what is important to me.

And I intend to celebrate my 50th birthday with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude.

I’m glad to be where I am.  I am thankful for the life I am given, the health that is being restored to me (yay for my earglasses!), and the opportunity to make a difference – somehow, somewhere.  I am grateful to have a good job, a family who loves me no matter what, and a place to come home to every day.  I’m thankful for the support and encouragement I receive on a daily basis, from each one of you who reads my blog, to my friends, old and new, to my terrific family.

Life is good.  Remember that.  Ring in the new year however you choose, but please don’t take the chance of drinking and driving or riding with someone who does.  Life is precious!

Let the celebrations begin!!  Happy 2014!!!

Becky

 

photo credits: tacit requiem (joanneQEscober) and JD Hancock

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

I Quit!

Eight years ago today, I smoked my last cigarette before heading to my appointment with a hypnotherapist.

It was time.

When I’d called to make the appointment, she assessed my readiness to quit smoking with a few questions and then agreed to schedule me for two sessions. Hypnosis can’t make you do something you don’t want to do; your outcome depends heavily on your mind set.  I had an unopened pack of Marlboro Lights in my purse, just in case. I didn’t know what to expect.

Marie was a very nice lady with a calm demeanor; as an introduction, she detailed her background as a registered nurse and the path she took to become a hypnotherapist. We had a nice chat, and she explained that while we spoke, she’d be taking notes to use during my session. She asked me why I wanted to quit, what my expectations were, and what I thought the greatest benefit of quitting would be. I told her that my impetus for quitting was my children – I didn’t want them to grow up seeing me smoke and thinking it was a normal thing to do. Most importantly, I wanted to be healthy for them, to be there as they grew up.

She asked if I had any special requests, and I did: the previous times I had tried to quit, I had found that the smell of cigarette smoke made me want to light one up, myself. I asked her if she could make it so that I could tolerate the smoke without craving the cigarette, as I had friends and neighbors who smoked. She cautioned that it might be a difficult task to pull off, but she would try.

I lay back in the recliner and closed my eyes, focusing on her voice. Soon the outside noises faded away and I felt at peace. Contrary to popular belief, I was not asleep; I was completely awake, yet completely relaxed. Her words were soothing and pleasant; I remember that more than what she actually said that day. I do remember, though, that she asked me to visualize myself a year from that day, both as a smoker and also as a non-smoker, and to describe how I felt in each incarnation. She had my ‘future self’ talk to my ‘present self’ to encourage me to choose well.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was alert, sitting up, and feeling refreshed. She asked me how I felt, and I realized that I felt terrific! She asked if I had any idea how long I’d been there with her, and I said, “I don’t know – an hour?” I was shocked to find out I had been there close to three hours!

Wow.

I asked if we were all done, and she said we were. I reached into my purse to get my checkbook and found an unopened pack of Marlboro Light cigarettes. I was sincerely puzzled – What are these doing here? I don’t smoke! It was as if someone had flipped a switch – I was a non-smoker now. I asked if she’d throw them away for me, and she laughed and said, ‘sure.’

I drove home, still feeling great. When I got there, my neighbor, who had been watching my kids, motioned for me to join her out on the porch for a cigarette so she could tell me how the boys had behaved while I was away. I said, ‘I’ll join you, but not to smoke.’  I sat across from her at a table on the porch, but the cigarette smoke didn’t bother me one bit.  I couldn’t believe it. Success!

The boys asked me where I had been; I reminded them that I had been at an appointment so I could quit smoking. Number One Son asked, ‘Did you quit?’  I said, ‘Yes.’  He burst into grateful tears and hugged me tight.  Number Young Son told everyone he saw that his mom had quit smoking, from the bus driver to the lady at the grocery store.  When I found a partially-opened pack of cigarettes in the house, I offered to let the boys throw them away for me. They happily obliged, destroying the pack and everything in it. They hated cigarettes and were glad to see them gone.

It has been eight whole years since that day.  I have never had a craving, and I have never cheated. It was painless, and my kids have told me they no longer remember when I smoked. I did go back for my follow up appointment, but it was only to reaffirm that I was a non-smoker now. For a while, I kept track of the money I was saving by not buying cigarettes, and it was amazing to see how much money I had literally burned in my years of smoking. When I quit, cigarettes cost about $5.00 to $5.50 per pack, and I smoked about one and a half packs a day. It sure adds up.

Quitting smoking is the best thing I have ever done for myself and my family. My clothes, hair, car, and breath no longer smell like cigarettes; I no longer rush out of a movie or restaurant to huddle in the corner and smoke; I no longer panic when I’m down to the last couple of cigarettes in the pack and scrounge for change to buy more; or worse, pick through my cigarette butts for something I could smoke. I don’t worry about crushed packs, broken cigarettes, or no-smoking signs. I don’t wake up with a hacking cough every morning, and I don’t get every cold that goes around anymore.  I don’t miss holding someone else up because I had to ‘finish my smoke.’

I don’t like to preach; I never liked being preached at.  Yes, I would love for all of my smoking friends and family members to quit, but they, like me, must do it for themselves.

All I can do is support them when they decide to take that step.

 

 

photo credit justj0000lie