Young Adults… Great Models for Moving Literature

 This is the beautiful face of my favorite young adult. She lives near me, visiting when she can. Smart, suspicious, silly, sensitive, and strong… and that’s just the S’s. Of course I love her, who wouldn’t? But I’m also, in the interest of full disclosure, her nana. My wife is her maternal grandmother.

But I’m not only impressed with who she is as a young adult, after all I’ve known the special person, “M”, since she was born, and she was a freakin’ awesome baby/toddler/big girl/pre-teen before. No, I’m also impressed by her group of friends, and so many like them around the world.

Young adults these days are rockin’. They embody many ideals, tempered with a world-weary acknowledgement of the commercialism of their learning environments. They know social media is self-serving, and have learned the hard way that many messages are commercials disguised as truth. Young adult these days, however, are savvy. They question, not just values, but power. They are demanding answers, and when those aren’t forthcoming they dive headlong into research.

World-wide, nearly instant research. The world is much smaller than it’s ever been before. With the proliferation of videos, kids are finding out that people are much more the same, than they are different.

Which is great, because the next older generation is getting that all wrong, accepting wide divides between people and being prodded into conflicts which settle nothing, but greatly stir dissatisfaction and inflame passions.

Personally – and remember you heard it here first, folks – I believe that a new ’60’s type revolution is on the brink of exploding. I think today’s young adults are watching the posturing and posing of their elders, and are about to do what another group of young adults, who have been neatly categorized and dismissively labeled as ‘hippies’, did fifty years ago.

Their music tells stories of rebels, and vigilantes. The depths of despair are appearing in their art work across genres, as are the heights offered by hope. They are demanding better educations, and holding their educators to ever rising standards. They are remembering what so many of their elders have forgotten:

Love Conquers All.

Yep, young adults these days totally rock. “M” and her friends – here’s to you! Go get ’em, kiddos.

The Moment of Truth

I’ll use this for my before picture. It was taken in early 2015, after I’d begun the journey to get to this point. An interesting thing was happening to me at the time. I’d begun to say good-bye to foods, as if I’d never see them again. I binged on pizza, chocolate, and french fries. This photo was actually taken at a local pizza parlor!

Okay – let’s get down to it: I started this journey because the last straw was heaped on the donkey’s back. Yes, I’m borderline diabetic, have high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. My health has been going downhill even though I try to stay healthy. Yes, my back, legs, and feet were no longer willingly supporting my body. I hobbled places, or worse, waddled. That happened only once, and after that I walked as slowly as it took to never again sway side to side.

But if I’m honest, there were other reasons, ones involving self-esteem and issues of embarrassment. I had an experience that showed me if I fell and couldn’t get up, my loved ones would need help to get me up. I’m tired of being squeezed from all sides when traveling on a plane, and dealing with people who fat shame with glances. My feelings get hurt when my family discusses my size/eating habits/weight in normal everyday conversation. And I avoid looking at my own reflection in a mirror, narrowing my vision to a single area that needs work, teeth, hair, and more and more recently, my neck.

I’ve managed to be a normal weight at least six times in my life. None of those experiences lasted. I blew past 100 pounds sometime during 4th grade and never saw it again. I don’t know any other way to be than overweight, or losing weight. Maintaining a normal body weight will be a whole new experience for me.

And I’m afraid of failing. Again. A failure. Again.

But then again, everything good that’s ever happened to me started with me taking a chance. I’ve managed to do some relatively extraordinary things: travel the US in an RV, write an award-winning novel, performed before large audiences AND received standing ovations. So if the woman who achieved all that decides to put her effort into creating a new food/eating reality, she’ll make it.

I’ll make it. I can do it. I’ve done hard things before and succeeded. I’ve got this. It’s extreme – but then, I can be extreme. *deep breath* I will do this!
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And I’ve still got two days more to change my mind and run back to the world of comfort I know so well if I chicken out.

Fist Pump – Throat Lump

The fist pump! Yeah! I’ve done it, did it just the other week. Will probably do it again.

 

When I started out on this journey over a year ago, I wasn’t sure it was going to end up on the surgeon’s table. I went to an info meeting, but still wasn’t convinced. This is a really big, irrevocable decision, and I had failed so many times before I no longer had faith in the weight loss process.

I have some issues with the way the bariatric surgery group I’m with handled things. I was made to jump through innumerable hoops to get here, including many medical procedures and exams. I’ve been sleep studied, x-rayed, EKGed, palpated, weighed, measured, and charted. I have listened, asked, been handed numerous handouts and a 3-ring binder to hold them all, and support grouped along. And I was forced to lose weight to continue the process. Without going into actual numbers (which are not for publication) from my first weigh-in until the pre-op two week liquid diet started, in seven months I’d lost a grand total of eight pounds. yippee 

Then I started the liquid diet and stayed on it. A few days in I got sick. Because of med changes I dealt with dizziness. But I stayed on the diet, and it’s now less than a week away from the surgery. I weighed myself on my bathroom scale, which is probably at least several pounds off of the bariatric one, and to my shock found in the first week I’d lost another nine pounds. (BTW – I only weigh once a week at most. I learned that lesson the hard way during my first twenty diets…) That’s a total of seventeen pounds, and there’s already a change in the way my clothes fit. FIST PUMP!

But there’s also this lump in my throat, a recognition of all the times in the past when I’ve successfully lost weight, and ALWAYS gained it back again. The fear is there, the ever present anxiety of failure. After all, I’ve successfully fought the battle many, many times, but never won the war of sustained weight loss.

Apparently I’ve dieted and then regained the weight so many times I’ve created a Pavlovian response in myself. Feelings of success are immediately damped by forebodings of failure. I’m my own psychological lab rat. My conditioned response is excitement tempered with sorrow. And the really bitter taste to it all is that it’s become a very familiar response. How many times have I started diets, knowing that the results of all that pain and hard work would never last?

I’m trying to let myself feel successful, recognizing and paying respect to the times I’ve failed before, but this time won’t be the same (already I hear the razzberry being given by my own psyche), because this time I’m changing the circumstances. This weight loss journey is different than any other I’ve taken. I’m changing the rules. After the hard work of losing weight has gotten me where I’m going, my stomach will have healed into a much smaller pouch, and the craving centers will have been excised. I hope that the desire for food will never again supplant my need for nourishment.

Here is my promise to my future self:  I will still enjoy food, in moderation the way it was meant to be. I will savor the flavor, and feel the heal. No longer will I waste the taste, or need the greed. I will be an informed, and intelligent consumer. And I will be healthier for it.

FIST PUMP!

When the Schmecken Beckons…

GUILTY PLEASURES     Day 8 of the liquid pre-op diet started out with thoughts of watching television cooking shows. What? Talk about putting temptation in your own way. But I enjoy watching the Christmas cooking competitions every year, and I guess I’m missing that.

And, I won’t lie, I feel a little sad as I move through the stores and see the plenty – all the deliciousness I’m turning away from this season. Gingerbread cookies stand up on the bakery shelves and shout my name, as I wander past trying not to look them in the eye. Yule Log cakes with their promises of rolled up jelly cakes beckon with their frosting covered branches. Pies of many flavors try to toss themselves, like fattening frisbees, into my artfully dodging cart. Eggnog cartons line up like soldiers in the dairy aisle, saluting my resolute determination not to blow my chances for surgery a week from today. Although weight gain (or lack of loss) might be the least of my worries now.

I’m still dizzy. This is day five of being dizzy and I’ve been in contact with both the bariatric center and my primary care physician about possible reasons. I stopped in at our local fire station for a blood pressure check yesterday, and my numbers were 140 over 114. Not good. My blood pressure meds have been changed a couple of times lately, and clearly the new combination wasn’t making it. So I contacted my primary care physician, who added another med to the mix. Last night I wasn’t dizzy at all, and I was so hopeful. But today I’m once again swaying on my feet. I will have my blood pressure checked on Friday morning, and hopefully by then all this dizziness will be over once and for all. The irony is, of course, that after I’ve lost some weight, my blood pressure should regain normal levels without medication.

I’m still ignoring the big question – and I am stating it in words here because I want to commit myself to asking it. Am I doing this surgery primarily for my health, or primarily to finally achieve the life-long goal of a slender (i.e. beautiful) body?

Time is getting short – and I need to make absolutely sure that I really want this irreversible change to my body, and all that entails. Thanks for keeping me company as I try to figure it all out, watching snippets of baking competitions and weaving through the shopping with my pre-op blinders on. There is, after all, next year. And hopefully by that time I’ll have learned how to handle my new body and new appetite. By then the Gingerbread Man will be my friend once more, although I’ll probably never enjoy his company as much as I have in years past.

Oh well, there’s always Pumpkin Spice Greek yogurt…

VERTIGO-GO

http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Sick-Day-off-from-School-Without-Going-to-the-DoctorSo I’m cruising along on day 3, feeling hungry, but eating what I need to when I need to. I even had some delicious homemade soup to look forward to for dinner. Squash, carrot, and celery soup, pureed into a warm, pumpkiny color. I enjoyed it thoroughly, so grateful to not have to resort to cream of anything…

Unfortunately I got sick about ten minutes after eating. I mean SICK. I was dizzy, nauseated, belching, and began throwing up. This is no small thing for a person with a Nissan fundiplication. Throwing up is not nearly as easy when you have one, but I managed. Six, eight, fourteen times during the following evening and morning. Then I stopped throwing up, but even the thought of water would make me nauseated again.

I crawled into bed and stayed there for 27 hours. If I stayed down, I wasn’t as dizzy, which meant I wasn’t as nauseated. Every time I belched I’d slow my breathing until it stopped. I existed, floating on a miasma of quashed misery, knowing the moment I sat up I was going to feel horrible once more.

Of course I wondered if this had anything to do with:

  1. the soup
  2. the diet
  3. the flu that has been going around town 

The soup had all fresh ingredients and was prepared by someone who knows how to make great soups. So I ruled food-poisoning out.

The diet, while monotonous and unsatisfying, didn’t seem bad enough to make me that sick. I grudgingly put it aside, even as I realized that I didn’t want anything to do with a protein shake at that moment, but might have accepted a piece of dried toast. I did not indulge in the toast, but neither would I drink the shake.

So I was left with the idea that it is a flu bug – one that will hopefully disappear on its own by the end of the weekend. However, I wanted medical corroboration and advice. So I phoned the Bariatric surgery center of the hospital.

At 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday only weeks before Christmas.

Not too surprisingly, they were closed. A robo-voice advised me to hang up and dial 911 if it was a real medical emergency, but they also offered a number for ‘urgent’ situations. I called it.

The secretary asked about my situation, I described it. She went looking for a nurse and apparently found one who felt no need to speak to me directly. She wanted to know if I’d phoned my primary care doctor. I said no, and she suggested I do so. It was now 4:45 and the sun had set.

My doctor’s office  was closed, but they had a triage nurse on staff who agreed to phone the doctor on call, who just happened to be my primary care physician. By 6 o’clock I’d been advised that as long as I was able to keep water down I should probably stay home, otherwise I should report to an ER to avoid dehydration. By 9 o’clock I’d gotten 12 oz. of water down, and while still dizzy and lying down, I felt some better. I sat up from 10 to midnight… a victory!

Here it is, day five. I lost a day and a half, more or less, to whatever that was. I obviously feel better because even thinking about this post made me dizzy just hours ago. But I’m still not 100%, so I’m eating a yogurt, drinking 8oz. of water, and going back to bed.

No one takes photos of themselves when they feel this sick… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

In Vain, or Insane?

So the best part of day 2 on a liquid diet is that day 1 is over.

Although I grazed through the day with

  • 7 8oz cups of water
  • 3 protein drinks, 
  • 2 cups of cream of broccoli soup (eww!), 
  • 1/2 cup of Malt-o-Meal (yeah, they still make it and it still tastes the same…), 
  • one 4oz container of applesauce (no sugar added), 
  • one 4oz container of non-fat pudding, 
  • and one truly bitter container of yogurt, 

somehow I was hungry pretty much every minute of the day.

Okay, in the interest of total disclosure, there were about 10-15 minutes following the protein shakes where I wasn’t actively hungry, but it roared back within the hour.

However, I’m one day closer to my goal, and THAT is pretty cool.

So day 2 started off with me wondering if I should take some photos of myself at the beginning of the journey. After I stopped quivering, I tried once more to talk myself into it. Same visceral reaction.

I learned a long time ago that you can’t be in the photos if you’re the one taking the picture. So I became the family photographer. There are still enough photos of me to make sure I get my face on at least 10 out of 12 months of the Christmas calendar (Mixbook.com), but I make sure they’re head shots. I shudder whenever someone takes a photo of my whole body, and usually crop it out of the photo as soon as possible.

I also avoid seeing my whole reflection in mirrors, focusing on whatever body part I’m dealing with (usually face, teeth, hair…). When I’m walking by large store windows I focus on the models within, rather than my image reflected from the glass. I never try new clothes on in dressing rooms before buying – I just return them after I’ve tried them on at home. In that way I have happily maintained my own ignorance of the true size of my body.

Except that’s not true. When asked to estimate my own weight I’m usually within 10 pounds, startling the hell out of health professionals who uniformly believe overweight people have no true understanding of their situation. Although I routinely refused to be weighed when being seen by doctors (that public humiliation thing I covered yesterday), I have lived with this body my whole life and am aware of what wearing various sizes mean in terms of total weight.

In other words, I know how big I am but avoid like the plague seeing the proof of the pudding, as it were, with my own two eyes. Kind of the way I want the world to deal with me too. You can know I’m a plump (fat), middle-aged (old), charmer (woman), just don’t see me that way. I’d rather you ‘saw’ me as my young, beautiful, healthy self in my eighteen year old body.

Of course, doesn’t everybody?

I don’t know if I’m going to talk myself into a ‘before’ photo or not. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Vanity, or Sanity?

QUESTIONING BARIATRIC SURGERY
 
I used to walk into my doctor’s office with my hand raised defensively. “Let’s just start with the assumption that I need to lose weight, and move on from there.” She would laugh, and we’d begin discussing my reason for being there.

I have long held the opinion that doctor offices psychologically attack patients to ensure a greater adherence to medical advice. They do it by stopping in the hallway, invariably full of foot traffic, to weigh and measure you on a full-sized scale. Textbook perfect Public Humiliation 101.

I’ve never known what it’s like to maintain a healthy weight. It’s been a continuing issue for freakin’ forever. Diets and exercise programs have been intermittent interruptions throughout my life. Sometimes they are a resounding backdrop to other memories, like when I sucked in my tummy so hard my diaper fell off.

My self-esteem took the expected plummet, relieved only during the most successful stages of dieting episodes. I’ve never received so many compliments and/or so much praise as I have when I’ve lost weight. So many, in fact, it made me resentful.

Why didn’t I get compliments like that for other achievements? I have been a storyteller for decades, performing before groups large and small, done community theater, been an award winning teacher, written an award winning novel, and yet the only time my friends and family seem proud of me was when I was thinner. Which never lasted long. (By the way, I know this is only my perception and that my friends, and some of my family, are very proud of me and my accomplishments. But knowing, and feeling, can be two vastly different experiences.)

Sometime in the second or third month following a successful weight loss diet an overwhelming craving would crash over me. If you’ve never felt it you won’t understand this, but it is an absolute imperative that you eat. Your mind focuses on food, and only food. You find yourself wandering in and out of the kitchen, grabbing a taste of this, or a handful of that. You hate yourself for losing control, and yet the body grabs you by the throat and screams in your face, “No more starving!” Then it gets your belly to emphasize the point with a lot of uncomfortable roiling and loud rumbling.

I’ve yo-yo’d up and down so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve been a size 11 and I’ve been a size 26. One time I bought a size 32, but I think that was sheer frustration that I couldn’t find anything to make me look attractive and bought something three sizes too big in a flood of self-loathing. I’ve done Weight Watchers (twice), the egg and grapefruit diet, Phen-phen, low-carb, 7-day diet, oatmeal and apples diet, etc., etc., etc. I counted points, collected cards, and plotted food charts.

Any diet will work, as long as you stick to it fiercely. In my experience that means a combination of severe self-loathing, determination, and acceptance of pain. It takes a lot of hurting to make you turn away from food while you’re still hungry. To refuse yourself a feeling of satiation involves embracing discomfort, and to continue that unpleasant feeling for days, weeks, and months requires (from me, at least) a hatred for my fat self. It’s not enough to want to be thin – I have to hate to be fat.

I beat myself up (dieted) regularly for the first thirty years of my life, and over the following twenty-eight still do so, but with longer and longer intervals between. The last two diets I started with reluctance,  knowing I would succeed, be happy with myself for a few months at least, and then begin the inevitable regaining of the weight and accompanying self-loathing. I did, two for two.

I’ve lost all faith in low calorie, nonfat, low self-esteem diets. How many times do I have to repeat the cycle before I admit it doesn’t work? Apparently, this many times.

I am scheduled for a Roux en-y operation on December 15th. It’s taken me over a year to get to this place, but I’ve finally arrived at the starting gate. Today I have begun the two week liquid diet required before surgery. I’m already hungry, but hopeful that at the end of this journey I’ll be able to lose – and keep off – the baggage I’ve been lugging around my entire life. I’m ready to cut away more than half my stomach to control my eating.

People say to me, “As long as it’s for the right reasons…” meaning it should be a health only decision. Mine is, and isn’t, but more about that later. Being me I need to chronicle this journey. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck.