The Challenge Never Stops

If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you are already aware of the fact that I had gastric bypass surgery in 2009.  If you haven’t read that story and are curious about it, you can read it here.

So, I’m three years out now.  Most folks say that once you get to this point, you’re pretty much like every one else when it comes to eating, drinking and diet and exercise. Meaning that if you haven’t set up healthy habits in the first two years after your surgery you’ve probably just wasted a lot of time and money having the surgery because you’ve lost the leg up it gives you in terms of weight loss and getting healthy.

So, how am I doing?

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Well, pretty good, I think.  I’ll be perfectly honest here. I have slipped some bad habits back in (like sweet treats and some sugar here and there) and, because of that I’ve paid the price.  In the past year I’ve gained about ten pounds.  Enough to give me a wake-up call.  Enough to remind me that this is not what I want and not where I want to be.

Enough to scare me into realizing that this really is a never-ending challenge. That I can’t get to my goal weight and just coast from that point on.  That I have to stay vigilant and aware of every.single.bite I put in my mouth. And that I have to remain active (in spite of the heat!) and conscious of the things that trigger me to overeat and seek comfort in food.

So, I’ve given myself a little pep talk, refocused my energies and tried to restart some good habits, replacing the bad ones that have crept back into my life.

I’m back to drinking at least one protein shake a day.  I usually have this for breakfast because I found that I was eating lots of carbs for breakfast – toast, cereal, etc. and so having a protein shake helps me to eliminate that temptation and to start the day with a good boost of protein and some fruits, too.

I’ve also been trying to focus more on eating more fruits and salads and less carbohydrates in general.  I find that when I eat any carbs, I crave more. It’s like a never-satisfied beast within me. So, eliminating those as much as possible really helps me to stay in control and be less tempted to eat what can quickly become large amounts of pretzels, breads, etc.

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On the exercise front, Big Girl and I had planned to start walking for 30 minutes every morning. But that was before the Great Heat Wave hit the South.  And walking at any time of the day right now seems like a crazy idea. So, what we’ve been doing instead is swimming every day. Which has actually been really nice.  We head down every afternoon after I finish my work day and I swim for about 30 minutes or so (laps) and then just paddle around while the girls swim.  We usually spend at least an hour (sometimes two) in the pool every day and I’ve found that the exercise is helping significantly with my energy levels, sleep, and achy joints. And it is way more fun than walking in 100 degree temperatures!

I’ve remained pretty much on plan with my supplements – multivitamins, B12, D3 and calcium/iron supplements. I find that the days I forget to take these I feel like a train with no engine and so it’s just not worth getting lazy or forgetful with these. It truly is the difference, for me, between having the get-up-and-go to live life and not.  And I don’t really have the luxury of “not” so I take them. Every day.

All of this has been working well. I’ve lost about four pounds in the last two weeks.  So, I realize, yet again, that this is a never-ending challenge. I can’t get complacent or I will find myself with the pounds creeping on again.  I realize that I have to stay the course, even if some days it is not very fun to do so.  I realize I feel so much better when I do.

The good news, though, is that I CAN do this.  And I have proven to myself that I can lose weight by doing this when I do slip up and put on a few pounds.  That was actually something I was really worried about – that I would not be able to lose weight if I gained any (It used to be really, really hard for me to lose any weight) 

So, I feel much more empowered.  I am not going to freak out at a few extra pounds. I’ll just refocus, reset, and do what I know I need to so that I can get back on track.

I’ll just keep swimming – just keep swimming – just keep swimming…

I did it!

So, if you have read my blog for any amount of time, you are aware that I had gastric bypass surgery in 2010.  (you can read the whole back story here)

One of the things that led me to this dramatic change was an increasing awareness that I wasn’t able to do all the things I wanted to do – I found myself, one Saturday, all alone at home while my family went on a hike together.

A hike I wanted, desperately, to do, but knew that, at my size, I probably couldn’t do.  (or at least, if I even attempted it, I’d embarrass myself and my family with my huffing, puffing and bajillion stops I’d have to make)

It was then that I decided that things had to change.

And soon. (you can read that story here)

The last two years have been an amazing journey.  I have been through so many changes, inside and out, and I really feel like a completely different person.

I still struggle with my eating (and why I eat) and have to maintain a constant vigil on what I put in my mouth – that will never change. (and I don’t really want it to. It keeps me aware and reminds me of why I did what I did.)

However, one thing that I haven’t attempted yet was that hike.

And I did it.

On New Year’s Day.

What a fitting way to kick off a new year.

I didn’t wake up thinking “today is the day I’m going to hike that mountain.”

I hadn’t really even thought about it.

But, as life sometimes does, things just worked out to where that is what I found myself doing on Sunday afternoon.

I had mentioned to SuperMan that I wanted to go for a walk and why didn’t we take the kids hiking. He suggested the mountain we live on (or next to, depending on your geographical opinions) and I said sure.

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It wasn’t until we were walking the trail that I realized WHAT I WAS DOING.

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HEY! (I thought)

I’M WALKING THIS TRAIL!  THIS VERY SAME TRAIL I WAS SO STINKIN’ AFRAID OF TWO YEARS AGO!

OH.MY.GOSH!

And not only did I walk it… I did it pretty quickly and with only a few stops along the way to catch my breath!

I was so excited!

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I can’t begin to tell you the sense of accomplishment and “full-circled-ness” that I had as we reached the top of the mountain that afternoon. As I stood there looking out over the valley I marveled at the fact that I had actually accomplished something that had so intimidated me two years ago that I had hidden at home in shame.  I was overwhelmed and humbled at the thought of the journey I’ve been on – and reinvigorated to go the next stage of the journey and KEEP ON GOING.

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I sat there on the rocks and just marveled at myself. I had no idea, when I started this weight loss journey two years ago, if I really COULD do this. I feared I’d have the surgery and still be a fat failure. As I sat there I realized I am a stronger person that I sometimes give myself credit for. Stronger and more determined.

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It felt SO GOOD.  I am PROUD of myself. And that is a nice feeling.

I still have some weight to lose. I am still not where I want to be. I got a little sidetracked last year when I hit a size and thought “wow! THIS is cool.” and then promptly quit doing a lot of the things I was doing.

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But, I’m reinvigorated and re-motivated. I’m ready. I’m willing. and I’m most definitely able.

The mountain may not be Everest, but it seemed that way to me two years ago. It might as well have been Everest for the insurmountability it seemed to have to me.  Now, the mountain represents something entirely different to me.

It represents accomplishment. It represents do-ability. It represents a strength I didn’t know I had.  And it will remind me of the things I can do even when I think I can’t.

2012 is going to be even better.

Just wait.

You are not your past

I saw a tip on Jillian Michael’s Facebook page the other day:

The past doesn’t define you, your present does. It’s ok to create a vision of the future because it affects your behavior in the “now”. But, don’t dwell on past mistakes, learn from them and focus those lessons in the moment. That’s where change can really happen. Remember that transformation is a present activity.

It really struck me.

I thought about how many decisions I make based on my own view of myself, which is based on my past.  Who I used to be – overweight, unfit, unhealthy – is not who I want to be in the future.  Why do I do things based on that image of myself?

If I don’t want to be that girl anymore, I should be behaving as if I were the girl I want to become – not the girl I was.

Living life as if I were already, fit, healthy, happy, etc.  – whatever the characteristics are of who I want to become.

As someone once told me – “Fake it ‘till you make it.”

Why wouldn’t this apply here as well?

Why wouldn’t we behave as if we were already who we wish to be, thereby manifesting that in our lives, rather than sentencing ourselves to continue to live the patterns of our lives which we no longer desire?

Some days, I think the universe is trying to send me a message.  I’m wondering if this is the one I need to learn right now.

Especially because this FB post was followed in a couple days by this in my inbox:

It came from these wonderful ladies…

Have you read any of their stuff? If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to do so.

And then challenge yourself today –

What are you doing based on an old definition of yourself?

Is that who you want to be in the future or do you want to be somebody different?

And, if you’d like a little reminder. You can download this:

PostCards - Page 004 I’ve got mine posted on the wall above my monitor so I see it all day long.

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Jillian Michaels kicked my abs

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One of the “requirements” you are supposed to agree to when you have bariatric surgery is that you will (brace yourself) exercise after surgery.  (shocking, I know)

Before surgery, you are so anxious to get approved and have the surgery, I think you’d agree to just about anything…

“You want my first born child? Yeah. Sure. No worries. When is the surgery?”

Afterwards, in the first few weeks and months you are so excited about the changes your body is undergoing that exercising is a novelty.  Everything feels different, moves differently, exercising is kind of fun… just to see how things work again.

Then, reality sets in.

LIFE sets in.

And then you have to dig deep and find the wherewithal to keep exercising and banish the excuses that are oh-so-easy to creep into your life.

And let’s face it. Most of us who are candidates for bariatric surgery are not generally the exercising type.  If we were, we might not have been in that position to begin with, knowwhatimean?

So, as someone who has historically avoided exercise like it was plague-carrying, this has been somewhat of an adjustment for me.

Add to that the fact that it’s been cold, wet and generally nasty this winter and I will confess that I haven’t been doing much exercising. (and I’ve got good excuses for other days, too, if you want to hear them – I’m full of ‘em)

But I have decided that if I want to maintain this beautiful new body I have and maintain this vim, vigor, and vitality I have found, then I must perform some maintenance on said body.

Boo.

But a necessary reality I must face.

So, I have decided that I’m going to share this with you – for a few reasons.

  • One – it holds me accountable. I will be less likely to slack off if I have to report to you.
  • Two – it might encourage you to dig deep and find yourself a way to add more healthy movement into your own life.
  • and Finally – it should prove ample fodder for the silly side of this blog.

and, that, we know, is the most important reason of all.

Which brings us to the topic alluded to in the title of this post.

The she-devil known as Jillian Michaels.

For those of you who may not know who she is – she is the reigning Princess of Torture on the Biggest Loser TV show in the US.  She is also building a rapidly-growing empire of exercise videos and paraphernalia.

image Including this CD, which I purchased this week with the intention of giving it a whirl.

I had seen a mom doing the workout in the lobby of the dance studio the other night (while her daughter was in class in another room – and that is a story in and of itself – how brave is she to do her exercise in the lobby of the dance studio!?!)

It didn’t look too scary or intimidating and I couldn’t help but wonder if my new body could do those moves, too.

So, while I was in Target the other day, I picked it up.  The girls and I watched it first to see if we thought it would be too impossible.  They were bouncing all over the place, itching to do the exercises right along with Jillian.  I very quickly decided I needed to do it the first few times by myself so that I didn’t suffer the ultimate humiliation of crying or not being able to finish (or crying) in front of my children.

So, I got up the next day determined to give it a whirl. How bad could it be?

Let me summarize it this way. I am sure I would’ve been great entertainment if I had been doing the exercises in a room with a one-way mirror and you were on the other side watching me. I’m quite sure  you’d have laughed your abs off. 😉

I have to say, this was an awesome workout, though.  It is based on a set of rotations that are 3 minutes of cardio, 2 minutes of weights and 1 minute of ab work.  And you do that 5-minute set four times, for a total of 20 minutes.  And I don’t think you could do more than 20 minutes of this. I know I couldn’t. I barely made it through the 20!

The plan is clever, though.  She keeps you moving and just when you think you are, literally, going to die, she changes things up and you do something different. It keeps your muscles engaged, constantly, your heart rate up, and your mind whirling.

For example, I discovered today that you might actually pass out from doing jumping jacks. 

And that jumping rope doesn’t actually require a rope (who knew?)

And that there are four different forms of torture known as “crunches” (not just one – how lucky are we?)

And I learned that three pound weights weigh a heck of a lot more than three pounds after you sling them up and down about forty bajillion times while you are squatting down like you have to pee in the woods. 

Oh.my.gosh.  THAT one was painful.

As I said, I’m sure I was very entertaining.

But, you know what? I was invigorated, energized and revved up when I was done.

(I was also sweating like a pig in South Georgia in July)

And now? Several hours later?

Well, my legs are jello, my arms scream in protest when I try to write anything, and I think my abdominal muscles are not speaking to me anymore.

But you know what that means?

It worked.  And I worked.

And I love that.

So, while I will most likely cuss Jillian out yet again tomorrow (if I can get out of bed in the morning, that is) I will do it again.  And again the next day. and the next. 

If it works, I’m all for it.

I’ll keep you posted.

(unless my arms fall off during the night and run away from home – then I’ll have to dictate it to Big Girl and she can fill you in)

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go up the stairs in a sitting position because my quadriceps (thighs) are on strike for the remainder of the day.

Strawberry Cheesecake that is Good for You?

I know, sounds crazy doesn’t it?

Well, it isn’t!

As long as you’re willing to be creative with your definition of “strawberry cheesecake” that is…

I have a smoothie I make that tastes JUST LIKE a cheesecake with strawberries.

Yum.

And it’s GOOD FOR ME!

“Winning!” (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie

8-10 oz milk
1 scoop strawberry protein powder (you could use vanilla, too)
1 Tbsp Cheesecake pudding mix (I use the sugar-free variety)
1 Tbps Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup (like the coffee syrups)
1-2 packets of Splenda (or your SF sweetener of choice)
1 cup frozen strawberries

Mix in blender & enjoy!!

 

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Bring it on

One year ago today I started my new life

One year ago today I had my guts rearranged and my life rearranged at the same time.

 Surgery

I look back at that girl from a year ago and I can hardly remember her anymore.

The girl I am today is SO MUCH MORE FULL OF LIFE than before.

I feel better.

I look better (but that, believe it or not, is not as important as I thought it would be)

I am SO MUCH HAPPIER.

Now comes the challenge.

Keeping this train going.

Maintaining.

Building life-long habits.

Staying motivated.

But you know what?
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I’m ready.

Bring it on.

The new “me” can handle it.

(if you want to read my story about weight loss surgery, you can start here)

The GOOD kind of Blizzard

One of the few things that I really miss from my pre-surgery days is ice cream.  Nowadays I can’t tolerate it. I don’t know if it is the fat, or the dairy, or both, but more than a spoonful and I’m a sick puppy. It’s simply not worth it.

But I am finding some replacements that are as good, or close to as good, as the real thing.

One of those is So Delicious Dairy Free Ice Cream Sandwiches.  They’re made with soy milk so the dairy is not an issue.  And they taste really good. I like the fact that they are tiny, too. It’s just enough to satisfy my sweet craving and yet not so much that I am tempted to over eat.

image I’m having to hide them from the kids because they want to eat them – they think they’re “cute.”

I am also experimenting with my protein shakes. I’d gotten stuck in a rut drinking the same Click mocha protein shake every day and I was getting tired of it. Now that I’m “back on the wagon” after the holidays, I thought the blender needed to be dusted off.

I’ve been trying out some protein shake recipes I’ve found on the Bariatric Foodie blog (they have a ton of great recipes) but I wanted to try some that were more to my taste buds… not that I’m not game for trying a Samoa protein shake, or a Blondie protein shake, but I wanted to use what I had on hand.

Here’s what I came up with today… Even if you are not a bariatric patient, it’s still super yummy – SuperMan had half and he loved it!

Banana Pudding “Blizzard” Protein Shake

1 ripe or overripe banana
10 oz milk
1 Tbsp Sugar Free Butterscotch Instant Pudding mix
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 cup ice
8-10 vanilla wafers
1 Tbsp Sugar Free caramel syrup (Toriani or DaVinci)

Mix all ingredients in a blender.

Makes 2 servings

It’s my lunch today – and I feel like I’m having a super-special treat, when I’m really doing something good for me! 28 grams (give or take) of protein and no fat or sugar!

It’s the good kind of blizzard to have!

Surgery Day

February 25, 2010

Early morning (really early!)

Not much sleep last night – too many nerves and last minute jitters.  What if I am not doing the right thing? What if something terrible happens and I leave my kids without a mother? What if I’m one of those oddball people for whom the surgery doesn’t work? What if…. What if… What if…

I just about what-iffed myself to death last night.

But now it is here. The day I have been hoping for and wishing for. The day my life begins again. The day I get a second chance.

Our neighbor and good friend comes over to stay with the girls until time for school. SuperMan and I bundle into the car and head out to the hospital.

I’m excited.

I’m terrified.

I can’t wait for it to be over.

We arrive and they quickly whisk us back to a “holding cell” (so to speak) and instruct me to put that lovely hospital gown on and climb into bed. 

“Okay,” I think to myself, “let’s get this show on the road.”

The nurse comes back in, verifies that I am who I say I am, and offers a little something to “take the edge off.” Yeah, I’m all about that. Give me the meds, baby.

A few minutes later and I’m comfortably reclining on my hospital gurney, waiting to be taken back to surgery.  The meds may have “taken off the edge” but they have a long way to go to stop the butterflies in my stomach. I wonder if they will fly out when they cut into me?

Finally, they come to take me back to surgery. I have talked with the anesthetist and they reassure me they will give me plenty of meds to make sure I don’t get sick after surgery – anesthesia and I are most definitely not good friends – they don’t want me throwing up any more than I do.

The nurses in the surgery theater are in high spirits and cheerfully welcome me.  The anesthetist puts the mask on me and asks me to count from 10 to 1 backwards. I’m not sure I got past 8…

I wake up in Recovery with some persistent nurse patting me on the shoulder telling me it is time to wake up.  “Really?” I think. I’m not at all interested in waking. I’m sore, I’m nauseous and… urp… well, so much for not puking.

The nurse gives me something in my IV and I’m out again.  I think it was something for the nausea as I hear her later talking to the doctor on the phone telling him that she has maxed me out on Phenergan and I’m still throwing up and what would he like her to do?  The only upside to the Phenergan is that it makes me sleep, sleep, sleep.

So, I’m in recovery for a while…

Finally, they move me to a room. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. I was in and out of it – thanks to the Phenergan and the pain meds they kept giving me. I know SuperMan was there, reading and sleeping. And I remember the nurses kept waking me up and making me drink sips of water.

But it was done. I was on the way.

SuperMan brings the girls by for a visit – they are anxious to see their mommy and know that she is going to be okay.  They want to climb in the bed with me, but I am terrified of anyone touching my tender tummy, so we settle for hugs from the side of the bed.

Later that night, when the meds start to wear off enough that I can actually get my brain cells to function, this really sweet grandma-type nurse makes me get out of bed and WALK (can you believe her!?!) around the floor for a while.  I am pretty groggy but I make it a couple of laps.

I am rewarded with some Jell-O and Crystal Light.

Day 2 dawns with more Jell-O, Crystal Light and some broth.  I’m surprised at how much better I feel – especially because I’m not puking anymore. I’m a little sore, but not as bad as I expected I’d be. I manage to make several trips around the floor and watch some TV in between visits from the nurses.

My surgeon’s partner comes to visit me and tells me I did great in surgery.  He suggests releasing me and I ask if it is possible to stay one more night. I’m nervous about going home with my little monkeys and feel vulnerable to their loving attention. He agrees and I settle in for the night.

Day 3 I wake and am READY to go home. I miss my family and I’m ready to get out of the hospital and move on with the recovery.  SuperMan and the girls come to get me and we are on our way home.

It’s time to get on with the rest of my life.

next installment – Recovery

Choosing a surgeon

This is part four of my weight loss surgery story. I thought I’d continue the story for those of you who are curious about the rest of my journey leading up to the actual surgery.

If you haven’t read parts 1, 2, or 3 you can click on the links to catch up.

So, I left off with the interaction with the surgeon’s office that made my blood boil. What was I going to do? I was wondering if maybe this was a sign that I shouldn’t be pursuing the surgery at all.

Thankfully, I have some great friends who encouraged me to not give up after the first try and find another surgeon.  And, I’m lucky enough to know someone in the same city as me who had recently had surgery and loved her surgeon.

So, I quickly booked an appointment with his office.  It was like night and day. The staff was very friendly and welcoming. They didn’t make me feel like I was an idiot. They answered my questions (and then some) and gave me plenty of information to help me make decisions.

Dr. Williams was the antithesis of the other surgeon. He was soft-spoken, kind and considerate.  He asked me questions to be certain I knew what I was getting myself into but I never felt uncomfortable.  He answered my questions and told me what my next steps were – which were few because I’d done a lot of my homework with the insurance company and I was prepared with the information they needed.

Fortunately, I have an insurance plan that covers obesity-related surgeries and the requirements are tied to BMI (body/mass index) and co-morbidities.  Some insurance plans (such as mine) require a certain BMI (i.e. 40 and higher) to qualify for weight loss surgery, or a lower BMI with co-morbidities (such as diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, etc.) 

If you are considering having weight-loss surgery, you should check with your insurance company to see what their requirements are and what they cover before you spend any time (and money) seeing a surgeon. Many insurance companies require other things – such as counseling, nutritional coaching, x-number of months of physician-supervised weight loss attempts, etc. It’s good to have all the details straight from your provider before you even visit a doctor. Then, you are prepared and can tell them what you need them to do to help you achieve the goals you have.

For me, I had both a high BMI (over 40) and co-morbidities, so my qualification was very quick and painless.  The surgeon’s office handled all the paperwork and I had already gotten a letter from my primary care physician which stated his recommendation for the surgery. This was not required, but I think it helped move things along.

So, then I was prepared to wait – wait until all of the paperwork was through and I could be scheduled by the surgeon’s team.

Imagine my surprise when I received a call the weekend of Big Girl’s birthday (less than a week after my initial visit to Dr. Williams’ office)

His scheduler informed me that they had an opening the following Thursday and was I ready to get scheduled for surgery?

After picking myself up off the ground – was this really happening!?! – I asked if there was any way we could push things out at least a week so that I could make plans for my children and work obligations.  Before I hung up the phone, I had my surgery date – February 25, 2010.

Exactly two weeks away.

Well, it was now or never. The wheels were in motion and I was on my way.

Next installment – Surgery Day.

Moving in the right direction

As I sang in church this past Sunday, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy. One of those moments when you feel you are going to burst with emotion – and mine was of contentment and joy.  It didn’t really have anything to do with the church service itself, though.

You see, I remembered another Sunday morning, a year or so ago, where I was sitting in that same seat, singing probably the same song, and feeling a whole lot different. I remember feeling miserable. Physically and emotionally.  It wasn’t anything specific that was making me feel that way. It was everything and nothing all at the same time.

Everything was a chore. Everything bothered me. Everything was difficult. 

I would wake up in the morning and couldn’t wait to go back to bed at night. At least when I was sleeping I was in another world where I didn’t feel so bad and life wasn’t so difficult.

Now, granted, there was a lot going on in my life last year – a lot of challenges besides my weight and health issues.  But the weight and health issues certainly didn’t do much to help me cope with the challenges in a positive way. In fact, they probably made it worse.

It was around this time last year when I made the decision to start exploring my options for gastric bypass surgery.  I had finally reached the point where I had had enough of feeling bad and wanted to at least find out what my options were.  I wasn’t entirely sure I would do anything but I wanted to know what choices I had.

So, flash back to this Sunday. A year later.

It was just incredible to me, as I stood there singing with joy and gusto, how much things have changed in a year.

I was sad for the girl of a year ago. Sad that she was in such a bad place and so unhappy.

The girl of today is so filled with joy and life that it is hard sometimes to even remember those feelings.

People told me before my surgery that my life would change in so many ways that I couldn’t imagine. They were right.  It is hard to describe and, like being a parent for the first time, unless you’ve walked that path, I’m not sure you’ll ever really know…

But I’m so grateful to that girl of a year ago. Who had the courage to explore her options and step out and DO SOMETHING about making herself feel better. 

It’s so easy for us to get stuck in the path we’re in – to keep doing the same thing day after day, even if we know it’s not what we really want. 

It’s hard to step out of the routine and do something different.

But that is when the changes happen.

When you have the courage and the determination to want something different and do something different. That’s when the magic happens.

People ask me all the time if I’m proud of my weight loss accomplishments. Yes, I am.

But not as proud as I am of the girl who started the process.  I’m really proud of her.