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…

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.

Is that really you in there?

I’m approaching the five month anniversary of my surgery (well, in two weeks, anyway) and to date, I’ve lost about seventy pounds.  It is really hard to grasp that – almost inconceivable to me that I have lost that much weight.

Having this surgery has been such a life changing thing for me.  Life changing in so, so many good ways.

I’m five months out and I can’t believe how much energy I have. I can’t believe how good I feel – ALL THE TIME. I call myself the Energizer Bunny… I feel like I can just keep going and going and going…. and it is awesome.

My family says I look ten years younger – I know I feel that way.

It’s funny, though, because I don’t see the physical changes. When I look at my body, I still see someone who is overweight.  Granted, I still have a long way to go to get to my goal weight, but I only see my weight loss in the bagginess of my clothes, not in my body when I look in the mirror. 

It wasn’t until last week that I realized that I don’t really look at myself in the mirror – or at least I hadn’t been really seeing myself in the mirror for a long time.

I walked by a mirror in my house and I thought “Who is THAT?” (I was home alone)

DUH. You, silly. 

I had to stop and just stare. 

THAT is ME?!?  Wow.

I’ve been in such denial (prior to the surgery) about my body that I might look in the mirror to check my outfit or hair, but I didn’t really see myself.  And now, I am having to learn to stop and really focus on looking at myself in the mirror. Really seeing who I am now – so that I can reconcile the person I am becoming with the “me” on the inside who still thinks of herself as the fat girl who was trying so hard to be invisible that she didn’t even see herself anymore.

I was lost in the fat. 

And now I’m finding myself again.

Like coming out of a cocoon.

And it’s a little uncomfortable.  It’s not a familiar feeling. And it’s like looking at a stranger in the mirror and trying to reconcile that THAT is REALLY ME.

I had no idea, before the surgery, that these would be the things that I would struggle with. 

The eating part has been easy.  The exercise not too bad. 

But I had no clue that these changes – reconciling the me inside with the me outside – would be so challenging. It’s challenging in a good way – challenging me to love myself – challenging me to allow myself to be proud of my progress – challenging me to give myself permission to really and truly become the person I want to be – and not be trapped in some role (and body) that belongs to someone I no longer want to be.

It’s a rollercoaster ride these days, but I’m loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what is over the next hill.

Starting the Process

This is installment #3 in my story. Follow the links here if you missed Part 1 and 2.

Once I realized it was time to do something, my brain really never let go of the idea of bariatric surgery. I started pestering my friends with questions, doing research online, and thinking seriously about whether or not I was really ready to do something as drastic as surgically rearranging my body to lose weight.

I spent most of the Christmas holiday thinking about it.

And I woke up one morning and decided if I didn’t at least investigate things I would always wonder “What if…” (and I absolutely hate that feeling)

So, the first week of January – as soon as the kids were back in school and life had returned to “normal,” – I was on my way. I started checking out surgeons’ websites and researching their histories and records. I made plans to attend several information sessions.

The first information session I attended was absolutely packed with people. I guess a lot of people had New Year’s resolutions and were there for the same reasons as I was.  I was shocked at the number of people who showed up. I guess a part of me thought that there weren’t that many obese people like me. (why I would think that I have no idea)

I was also very surprised to see that most people were way bigger than I was.  I had several thoughts when I realized that fact.  The first was that I felt bad for them – I knew how bad I felt physically. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be even heavier than I was – how that must feel physically and the challenges they must face on a daily basis.  My second thought was something like “Do I really need to be here?” Finally, I felt a little relief to see that I was not alone. In a perverse way, it was comforting to see so many people and know that they were all here for the same reason I was – they had had enough and were ready to make a change.

I was like an eager student, waiting for the seminar to start. I had my pen and notebook ready and had jotted down several questions that I wanted to be sure I had answers to.  There were ladies handing out information packets and I quickly devoured the contents, reading all the information related to their surgery practice and the hospital.

When the session finally started, I was disappointed to see we were going to watch a video first, not hear from a live person.  While the video was very informative and interesting, I couldn’t wait to talk to the surgeon and listen to what he had to say about the surgery options available.  This particular surgeon focused mostly on gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y) and the Lap-Band-type surgeries.  There was a third option discussed (a gastric sleeve) but they made it sound like that was for the seriously obese person. (but, seriously, if you are obese, it’s serious! no matter how big or little you are. but I digress)

Finally, the surgeon came up and started to do his thing.  The very first thing I noticed about him was that he seemed like he didn’t really want to be there.  Now, granted, it was eight at night and he’d probably worked a long day, but this was his lead-generating program. I felt like he should be thrilled to be in a room with forty-something overweight people who were most likely all desperately looking for someone to help them. 

He answered people’s questions, gave them the information they were seeking… but what I started to realize was that he really seemed to be patronizing us. Acting as if we were, I don’t know, stupid or something.  It wasn’t any particular statement – just more of an overall attitude that he had.  I know that surgeons generally think they are gods, but this was the first time I had experienced it first-hand.  How and why would anyone act that way to someone? Especially these people in this room, who obviously had self-esteem issues and were desperately looking for solutions to a life-threatening problem?

It left a bad taste in my mouth.  I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed.  There are plenty of fish in the sea and surgeons in town, and I decided I would give this one a chance, but definitely see what else was out there.

In the weeks that followed, my initial reaction was proven to be true.  This was one of those surgeon’s office who made you jump through hoops to get a surgery scheduled.  Some surgeons will make you go through all sorts of “evaluations” (psychological, nutritional, etc.) before they will even meet with you for a consult.  Some require less. 

I had already done my homework and knew what my insurance required.  Which, thankfully, wasn’t very much. Just a letter from my primary-care physician stating the medical necessity of bariatric surgery and my history of weight-related issues.

The surgeon’s office tried to tell me I needed a psychological evaluation, to meet with a nutritionist, a stress-test, and all sorts of other stuff.  They told me I had to have six months of recorded, medically supervised weight loss efforts.  That alone meant that the earliest I could hope for surgery was six months out.  They told me this was all an insurance requirement, not the doctor’s.

I was furious.  I told the surgeon’s assistant that none of this was required by my insurance – that I had already spoken to them and had received the details of what was required – and none of that was.  They stubbornly stuck to their guns and I told them I would be finding another practice to work with.

<next, Finding My Surgeon>

The Final Straw

This is installment two of my story. If you missed the first one, you can find it here .

So, I had been toying with the idea of weight-loss surgery for years… Tossing the idea around in my head and mentioning it casually to family and friends to see what they thought of the idea. 

Most of the time, I was convinced I was just going to be overweight for the rest of my life. I didn’t like the idea, but I figured that I had so much weight to lose that it was an insurmountable obstacle and I should just accept who I was and get on with things.

It wasn’t until the Fall of 2009 that I finally made the decision that it was time to do something.

My daughters had joined a Brownie/Daisy (Girl Scout) troop.  They were enjoying the activities and social events they participated in with the troop.  One of the activities that came up was a hike up the mountain we live nearby.  The girls were so excited.  It was an all-afternoon event, complete with a picnic lunch at the summit.

At first, I was excited, too.

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Then, I realized that the girls wanted their dad and me to hike with them. Then, I was mortified.

There was no way I would be able to make the 2-mile hike up the mountain with a bunch of 6-10 year old girls. I couldn’t even go for a walk in my subdivision with it’s gentle rolling hills without feeling like I was going to pass out.  How could I keep up with a bunch of girls on a 2-mile UPHILL hike?

I told myself it was my asthma (not my weight). I told the girls that with the pollen from the ragweed and goldenrod and my asthma and allergies that I couldn’t go with them.  Their daddy agreed to go so we would be sure they were safe and supervised.  The girls were disappointed, but they understood.

The Saturday came and the girls, their daddy, and another friend, headed off to the mountain.  I stayed at home.

It was the longest, most miserable Saturday I can remember.

All I could think about was that my family was off doing something fantastic, having a great time and making memories together and I was at home alone because I was too unhealthy to go with them.

Was this how it was going to be?

When the girls were little, our activities were confined to things that I could handle. Now that they were bigger, their appetites for adventure were growing. They wanted more hikes, camping, bike riding, all sorts of things I wasn’t sure I could handle.

I was pretty miserable and sad thinking this was the beginning of a time when they’d be off doing things without me rather than with me.

But, slowly, over the next few weeks, I started to think about maybe doing something drastic.  Something I had been mulling over for a long time.

Maybe bariatric surgery was the answer for me after all.

I had had two friends at work who had both undergone bariatric surgery earlier in the year.  They were both doing great and the pictures I saw of them months after surgery took my breath away.  They looked so vibrant and healthy – and skinny!

I started emailing them asking all sorts of questions. I started doing research online.

Maybe I could find a way to get healthy and slimmer.  Maybe there was hope after all.

<next, beginning the pre-surgery process>

Before the Journey Began

I’ve been thinking about bariatric surgery off and on for almost five or six years.  A friend of mine had a bypass five years (or so) ago and I was there with her as she went through the insurance approval process, all of the doctor visits, tests, evaluations and struggles with convincing her family that the surgery was the right thing for her to do.  I cheered for her in those first few months as she recuperated from the surgery. I watched her shrink and find herself in the process of shedding her excess weight.

And the entire time I wondered if maybe it was something I should be doing, too.

But I convinced myself that I was not as heavy as her and that I would never be as desperate as she was to lose weight.  I had just had my second child and I knew that I had a little weight to lose but figured with Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to help me, I’d be just fine.

Fast forward four years…

My weight has gone up and down (a little) but I have not really managed to lose the baby weight from my second pregnancy.  I look in the mirror and I see my body – round and squishy, my girls say – and I think to myself that maybe this is just how I am supposed to look.  I am a mother, after all, and there are no expectations for me to be supermodel-thin.  I focus on my children and my husband and on making a happy home for them.  I completely ignore my image in the mirror and tell myself that how I look is not really important.

And then I start to realize that I am tired.  All of the time. I’m tired and getting through the day becomes a chore. I wonder if something is wrong with me – if I am sick with some dread disease.  I blame it on my long work days and stressful commute and keep plugging along.

I try Weight Watchers (again – I think this is time number six or seven in my life).  I find I’m not really motivated by the meetings and feel like I know what I need to do but don’t really have the motivation to do it.  It feels as if it is a losing battle to fight.  At this point, I have over 100 lbs that I want to lose. How in the world would I ever accomplish that on Weight Watchers? I have seen success stories where people have done it before but I don’t think I can ever accomplish such a huge feat.

I talk with a friend and tell her I’m thinking about doing something drastic to get the weight off.  I ask her, as we carpool to work in the mornings, what she thinks about gastric bypass surgery.  She is shocked and thinks that there is no way I should do something so drastic.  I let her convince me that it’s ok to be a little overweight and that it’s part of the aging process and of motherhood.

<next, getting closer to my breaking point>

 

There are a few things I haven’t told you

I mentioned a few months ago I was having surgery – but I never shared the details of what, when, why.  That was, at first, because I was not sure I was going to share the details with many, if any, people. 

But, as time goes by, I have come to the realization that keeping it a secret doesn’t really serve any purpose and telling people doesn’t really matter.

So, here goes nothin’

Back in February, I had gastric bypass surgery.  I had come to the decision last fall that I wanted to do something to get a handle on my health and was fortunate enough to be approved for the surgery quickly and things just went from there.

I’ll post my story a little at a time over the next couple weeks – just in case you are interested. Don’t worry, there will still be scrapbooking and mommy posts – I’m not changing the focus of my blog.  I just feel like I am only being partly truthful with you guys when I post these days because there are such major changes happening right now in my life – changes in my body but also in my heart and soul.  I wanted to share the whole story with you so that I can continue to share authentically – and include the stories of the changes I’m experiencing and the new “me” I’m finding as I get healthy and fit.

So, that’s my big secret. 

I’ll tell you why I have hesitated sharing for so long –originally it was because I was embarrassed and a little ashamed.  I mean, this is something I never thought I would do… but then again, I never thought I’d get as big or as unhealthy as I did, either.  And, I admit, I struggled with feeling like I was “cheating” a little by having the surgery.

I don’t feel that way anymore. 

This is not cheating. It’s still a daily struggle.  It’s still hard to lose the weight.  It’s just a little easier now because I have another tool in my arsenal as I fight the battle against obesity and ill health.  But I still have to be diligent about every thing I put in my mouth – even more so now post-surgery, than I ever was before. 

I am learning the difference between fueling my body and feeding my body.  Two very different things.  I’m learning that it’s more important to fill my body with wholesome, whole, unprocessed foods, than it is to indulge in those treats I used to think I deserved. Now I know I deserve better.  I deserve good health, energy, happiness and a long life. 

I am rejoicing in the newfound energy I have.  I am loving the fact that at the end of the day, I am tired, but it is a good tired, the kind that comes from knowing you have earned the right to be tired.  Not the kind that comes at the beginning of the day as you rise out of the bed, sick and tired and wondering how you are going to make it through another day. 

So, I’ll probably share tidbits from time to time – letting you know about my journey.  I hope you don’t mind. You see, this blog is as much my journal as it is a place to share with you.  It helps me organize my thoughts and feelings and sort things out. Sometimes they aren’t “real” until I see them on the blog.

So, stay tuned… more of my story is to come.