Category Archives: #dieting

Oh, to Hell with it.

80 PoundsI’m sorry. I know I promised 12 reasons why I should have gotten bariatric surgery sooner rather than later, but I lost interest in the project half-way through. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again later.

But today I wrote a piece of my mind to a young woman considering bariatric surgery and I’d like to share that with you. Kind of sums the whole thing up. She asked if I (as she does) ever felt, by getting bariatric surgery, I took the lazy way out, cheating as it were. Here’s my answer:

Oh hell, yeah. And I come with decades of baggage. I was 58 when I had my Roux-en-y and I felt like such a lazy loser. But look at what I’d done before resorting to my last option:

 
1. Yo-yo dieted for literally five decades. My earliest memory is of my diaper falling off while my parents taught me to suck in my toddler-tummy. I lost and gained the same twenty pounds at least a hundred times over the years and you know what that taught my body? That starvation is periodic and to be expected, so stock up on those extra calories and store them in fat cells.
 
2. I would go through periods of terrible self-loathing. I needed to so that I’d deny myself the substances my body demanded to maintain itself. Dieting hurts (I’m sure you know this) and to make myself succeed I’d have to call myself horrible names, expect failure to force success, and other unutterable abuses I’d NEVER take from someone else.
 
3. Taught myself that I was only worthwhile when small, i.e. thin. Crapola to that. I was worthwhile every minute of my life and spent way too much time in trying to satisfy my own (and society’s, so-called friends, co-workers, and stranger’s) idealized images. So what if I took up more space than others? I was worth it.
 
4. Spent too much time in my head, hating others, hating the times we live in, hating anyone who judged me as wanting, hating, hating, hating.
 
So, young woman, you’re not alone. Yes, I felt I was cheating, but you know what? I didn’t. I chose a medical procedure that has been working for me for the last two and a half years instead of expecting something that failed me (dieting) to suddenly work when it never had before.
 
Do what you need to do to be the best YOU you can be. If that’s surgery (as it was for me) then embrace it, learn everything you need to do to be successful, and work it just as hard as any diet you’ve ever been on. It’s not easy choosing to amputate a part of your body and have your pipelines rewired, trust me.
 
You ain’t lazy, girlfriend, and you sure aren’t cheating. Trust me, it’s a challenge every day not to lapse back into bad habits. But if you’ve ever lost 20 pounds or more, you’ve got this.

By the way – if you’ve been following my blog via the http://www.gentasebastian-author.com link (since the creepy weight-loss schleps stole the first one), it has expired. I’m now http://www.GentaSebastian.Net
You might want to update your links, or chance losing contact with me forever…(oh, the horror!)

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12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER – part II

belly-2473_1920Welcome back to my four-part series about what I’ve learned over the last two and a half years following bariatric surgery. Following my Roux-en-Y, I reminded myself to pay attention to my body, my emotions, and my experiences. The first three reasons why I believe now I would have been better off getting the surgery in my youth are in part one. Here are reasons 7-9.

9.   LESS MEDICATION

Growing old ain’t for sissies and the health issues that accompany morbid obesity begin to take their toll earlier rather than later. There is damage to my joints and spine that directly correlates to carrying around eighty extra pounds for decades. I’ve been plagued with plantar fasciitis, early-onset arthritis, and bad knees that only got worse. The damage to my body led to more and stronger medication over the years.

I hoped to get rid of many of them by having the surgery, but only 70% can significantly reduce their medication and it seems I’m in the unlucky 30%. I do sleep without the c-pap machine strapped to my face now, though, so yippee for that.

8.    SIMPLE EVERYDAY TASKS ARE EASIER

Not to be indelicate, but just using the restroom is far easier, especially public ones with tiny stalls. I don’t have to scoot in sideways and worry about what germs might linger on walls various parts of me used to touch. I don’t have to wait for the handicapped stall and then suffer the judgmental glances of skinnier women I usher past me to the smaller ones.

And in the shower, I can easily wash parts of me that formerly took acrobatic acts of skill to reach. My daily shower time is half what it used to be, as is my water bill. Although I’m drinking about five times as much water as before the surgery, so maybe it isn’t, after all.

I go down to the basement and up to the attic twice as often as I used to and don’t worry about trying to carry as much as I can manage in one trip because I’m not afraid to go up or down for a second load.

I can stand in the kitchen to prepare the family dinner without having to take a break and sit down to rest my back. No one, least of all me, thought I’d be cooking so much post-surgery. My family more or less expected I’d leave the cooking to them, but I still watch the Food Network and the Chew (bye bye, sob sob) and have as much interest in the process as ever. I may eat way smaller portions, but my family are thrilled that I still cook their favorite recipes.

And much to my wife’s chagrin, I can shop as long as anyone these days. And with more selection in clothes and shoes, I’m much more eager to do so.

7.    PEOPLE ARE NICER

Yes, I know I mentioned this before, but now I’m talking about friends, specifically straight friends. Sure, they were kind to me before and they still are, but their ways of being kind have changed. They respect me more now that I’ve achieved this significant weight loss and have kept it off for so long. They now turn to me for dieting advice and commiseration instead of offering it.

Straight women seem to feel camaraderie over the struggle and occasionally envy my success. I believe this is because almost every woman struggles, at one time or another, to lose weight in our overly judgmental America. Even after menopause, we are urged to be physically attractive as potential sexual partners for men (misogynistic claptrap – a topic for another day) and are judged by a strict scale of youthfulness and societal norms of beauty.

If there’s been a few months between visits, my straight girlfriends almost always mention it and ask if I’m still losing or exclaim over how much I’ve lost. At first, I was surprised by this but then I realized that, having been obese for the better part of sixty years, they’ve identified me so completely with being large that my new appearance surprises them every time they see me.  Oddly enough, my LGBT+ friends adapted to my new look much faster and no longer comment on it, probably because I’m not identified as strictly by appearance/gender norms.

To some of my older friends, I will always be ‘tagged’ in their brains as ‘the fat lesbian’ no matter how much they may like me. They’ve been conditioned to identify ‘otherness’ and both criteria fit when they met me.

Because I’ve slipped the American societal noose of fatness, I’ve done what very few others achieve, and their minds rebel at having to shift labels. That’s okay with me. Call me this, call me that, but don’t…

…call me late for supper.

Catch you next week for the third part of my four-part series. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think of my musings.

2017 Terceira

12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

  2017 Terceira.jpg

Tomorrow marks two and a half years since my Roux-en-Y. I’ve learned a few things about myself and our society. This is the first of a four-part series explaining why, for me, it would have made sense to get bariatric surgery forty years ago.

Before anyone goes off on me – I am NOT saying everyone who is overweight should lose it. That is a medical decision which only you can make, I hope with the advice of a wise physician (or four). Many very healthy people carry extra weight around and I’m pleased as punch for them that they’re not suffering as I did.

I’d tried various diets since childhood and can proudly say that I am an EXPERT dieter. I’ve lost anywhere from twenty to eighty pounds utilizing fad diets, food supplements, and rigorous exercise programs. Unfortunately for me, diets worked only until I’d lost the weight. Then, once I started receiving approval and congratulations for having accomplished such a challenging task, I’d relax my strict (self-hatred driven) dieting behavior. Gradually, I’d relapse into my old eating habits regaining everything I lost and adding more (my body’s way of protecting me from these periodic episodes of starvation). Over the years and in total, I estimate I’ve lost close to five hundred pounds and gained closer to six hundred, a very bad habit that’s placed a lot of stress on my body. Bariatric surgery is the only way I’ve ever lost this much weight and kept it off this long. There’s no guarantees I’ll stay this weight forever, but 2.5 years is two years longer than any weight loss prior.

Please do not interpret my experiences as medical advice. If you are overweight and are unhappy about it, please talk to a doctor about all your options before making life changing decisions. These are merely my own experiences. Yours will be completely different.

So, here we go:

12. PEOPLE ARE NICER

I’m talking about strangers, here. While I weighed in the mid-two-hundreds (from my early twenties to late fifties), I understood that people were nicer to slender women, but I had no idea how much nicer they were. If I’d known people who’ve never met me before and will never see me again, could be so considerate, polite, and charming I’d have considered this procedure forty years ago.

Seriously, my life might have been SO MUCH more pleasant. Instead, I got judgmental glances, called rude terms, asked if I were pregnant, turned down for jobs, and given unwanted and unnecessary advice. It got so bad that when I’d see a new doctor for the first time I’d start the initial visit by saying, “I know I’m morbidly obese, but that’s not why I’m here…” and still I’d be told that if I’d just lose weight I wouldn’t have any health issues.

Um, seriously? C’mon, skinny people get high blood pressure, slender folks can suffer gout and sleep apnea, and lithe human beings still live with chronic depression. I bet their new doctor’s first words aren’t, “Lose weight, it all stems from there.” And doctors weren’t the only ones doling out advice. Complete strangers felt justified recommending diets, exercise workout routines, weight-loss programs, all without once being asked.

Every time someone was rude, or unkind, or judgmentally preachy, I spent time stewing over the situation and wondering if I really deserved that kind of attention. Without spending so many hours miserably contemplating my imagined failures, I could have gotten much more done AND been more in the mood to do so.

Of course, I also could have gotten therapy to help me deal with my low self-esteem issues, as well. But instead, I dieted, lost weight, received approval, regained all the lost weight and more, and repeated the process for decades.

11. HAIR LOSS

Bariatric surgery deeply affects the entire body, and when it’s accompanied by either gallbladder removal or as in my case, undoing a Nissan fundoplication, it really throws the body for a loop. Think about it, part of your stomach is being amputated and your digestive/evacuation system is being re-routed. That’s a lot of cutting and stitching, and it takes time for your body to heal and get used to utilizing energy in new ways.

Your hair falls out. The body is marshalling its resources and your hair is not ranked as a high priority compared to surviving and adjusting to a very serious surgery. By waiting until I neared sixty to have the bariatric surgery, I put it off until my hair already began thinning. I did take biotin for six weeks before and am still taking it years after the surgery, but my hair will never be the same again. The thick, luxurious locks of my youth would have suffered a bit but rallied sooner and more fully if I’d had the Roux-en-Y in my twenties.

10. IT’S EASIER TO CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE

Okay, I’ll admit it. Getting older means becoming set in your ways and bariatric surgery demands change. You’ve got to adjust to much smaller and smarter portion sizes and food choices. You’ve got to make food a lower priority and learn a healthier way of living and breathing as much as eating and exercising. I listen to my body in ways I never have before and try to react in time to save myself from disaster.

Stomachs, for better or worse, are flexible. They grow larger if stretched and shrink if starved. Bariatric patients who are not careful, or have difficulties following surgery, or who just plain regret the permanent change they’ve made, can re-stretch that malleable organ right back to a large enough size to put back on all the weight and more. It’s easier than you think to regain all the pounds you lost, unless you CHANGE the way you live.

I’m fighting forty-five years of self-abuse and unlearning a half-century of bad and deeply ingrained habits. It would have been far easier to switch to better ways before I fell prey to so many unhealthy habits.

So, now you know the first three reasons why I believe bariatric surgery in my twenties would have been a good idea. My reasons may not be valid for everyone else, but after living post-op for two and a half years, I know they are for me.

Check back  soon, as I’ll be posting reasons 9-6 sometime in the next week.

 

 

 

How I Lost Eighty Pounds in One Year

b2bd2-fatsilhouetteI went from 237 lbs The Deed is Done, Dithering Done Withto 157 lbs 

from Dec. 15, 2015, to Dec. 15, 2016

Two-hundred-thirty-seven pounds is the highest weight on record for me, and that was taken a long time ago.  I’ve been heavier, I’m sure of it and I’ve been lighter, sometimes significantly so, but since I refused to be weighed at ninety-nine percent of my doctor appointments, there’s no record of it except the occasional photograph.

Struggling with my weight is a life-long endeavor. At eighteen months I got my first lesson in holding my stomach in; my diaper fell off. I’ve tried so many diets I can’t even remember them all. I’ve joined gyms, walked enough miles to fill a Fitbit, resized portions, tried hypnosis, therapy, and popped a zillion diet pills/cookies/candies and even expanding packets of some substance that was supposed to fill my stomach and then pass harmless through me. Since I never saw anything pass through me, I can only assume they were absorbed directly (ugg) or are still in there somewhere (oh yuck!).

I’ve lost weight, successfully I might add, many times in my lifetime, losing almost this much weight before, and lesser amounts as well.  All told, I’m sure I’ve gained and lost at least five hundred pounds over my lifetime. The yo-yo phenomenon was so cruelly automatic that I’ve completely lost faith in dieting as a permanent solution to obesity.

So, how did I finally do it? Well, if you’re hoping for an easy miracle, get ready to be disappointed.

I had bariatric surgery, a Roux en Y, to be exact.

Bariatric surgery reduces your stomach size and bypasses some of your intestines. This limits the amount you can eat at any one time and guarantees a really nasty sensation when you ingest too much sugar at once.

But perhaps more importantly, the medical group I went through insisted on thorough testing and comprehensive education about not only the procedure itself but also the other physical, psychological, and emotional changes that would take place as my body rapidly shed pounds. It took from October of 2014 until December 2015 while I was probed, tested, analyzed, educated, and had proved my deep conviction with four weeks of a liquid only diet to be approved for the final step, the operation itself.

I was in the operating room for over four hours while they undid my Nissan (a procedure that helped manage my GERD) and then performed the Roux en Y. Thank God I’d already had my gallbladder removed, or that would have taken yet another few hours.

I spent the next month on liquids only, then graduated to three months of blenderized-to-applesauce-consistency solids. I slowly reintroduced vegetables (so well cooked they were limply translucent) and ultra-lean meat back into my diet. Peanut butter became my best friend and the only taste of sweetness (outside of diet applesauce) in my world. I survived a Christmas feast while still on a liquid diet, a candy-less Valentine’s to avoid the dreaded ‘dumping’ syndrome, a quarter cup of Easter dinner, Fourth of July cookouts that consisted of one hotdog, various birthdays with a forkful of cake, and a child-sized plate at Thanksgiving. Twice I left the country, only to severely limit my tastes of foreign cuisine.

The fat melted away so rapidly I missed the chance to wear clothing long hanging in my closet in case I ever fit into them again. Before I knew it, nothing I owned fit me.

My entire life changed. I feel healthier now than I ever have in my life. I learned things about myself and our society I never knew, discovered for myself the differences between the way large and smaller people are treated, and experienced emotions that surprised me. I also suffered a sense of depression and disappointment directly at odds with my success.

But this post has gone on long enough. I’ll share more about my journey another time. For now, let me just say this:

I lost more than weight and gained more than self-esteem.

Check back soon for more about my journey from being morbidly obese to hearing the magic words from my doctor, “You’re no longer overweight.”

 

Domain Domination

70576238You know that moment? The one when you realize you should have gotten a bill, but haven’t seen it? That happened to me two months back when I forgot to check an old email account and didn’t find the reminder to renew my old domain name: gentasebastian{dot}com until one (1) day after the renewal period ended. When I contacted the registration people, they said it would cost over a hundred dollars to get it back, or I could wait until July 27th and re-register it.

Well, I waited. Who else would want a website with my distinctive name, anyway? Over a hundred dollars doesn’t come easy these days, and it didn’t seem like a problem. I spent the time moving from Blogger to WordPress and updating the blog. When the day finally arrived, I tried registering it, but was told it was ‘taken’. That’s the same message I’d gotten the other three times I’d tried during the waiting period, so I figured I was early. I tried later that day, and again the next.

Finally, I typed in the URL and found a weight-loss scam has bought my name! I’m guessing they thought I had a large following because of an anomaly of visitors when I blogged about my bariatric weight loss.

Well, it’s infuriating. Not only did I have to register the less direct gentasebastian-author.com, I have to chase down all the links I’ve scattered across the netosphere and change them. AND I need to apologize to YOU who try to get to my site to learn about my books and instead find yourself being sold a suspect weight loss program. I DO NOT ENDORSE THEIR PRODUCT, and I am most sincerely sorry if you’ve been subjected to it, quite literally, in my name.

But…isn’t the new place sparkly? I hope you enjoy looking around, and welcome back to the same old website, albeit with a brand new domain name.

 

 

Bariatric Surgery Success!

Today it will have been exactly four months since my Roux en Y or gastric bypass surgery. Next week will make it a year since I started this amazing journey.

I’ve lost fifty-two pounds. My blood pressure is lower, my arthritis less painful, and my triglycerides are behaving themselves. I no longer use the C-PAP machine, or take medicine for gout. I haven’t had a bout of Plantar’s fasciitis or bone bruises for months.

Has it been easy? Hell, no. I spent a month (2 weeks before and 2 weeks after surgery) on a completely liquid diet. When you look forward to some sugar-free applesauce so you’ll at least have something to kinda chew, that’s hard. And, of course, my surgery was scheduled for mid-December, completely eclipsing the usual Christmas celebrations. And as much as I wanted the surgery, I hated how it tied my family and friends up in knots, making them tip-toe around me, not eating things they wanted, afraid to tempt me to do something to spoil my plans. As often as I reminded them that I’d CHOSEN to do this, and they should eat normally, they saw the liquids and mushed up food and felt bad for me. I kept telling them that next year I’d be eating with them, just much smaller portions and they should enjoy themselves.

Their support meant so much to me, however. They watched me go to endless doctors appointments and be tested for everything under the sun from breast cancer, to sleep apnea, to a colonoscopy. I was examined inside and out. I still laugh about how shocked I was when a doctor first lifted the folded over part of my belly to examine the skin underneath. It felt like such an invasion of privacy… LOL Little did I know what was in store.

I went through a plethora of emotions and was surprised by their vehemence. Hope warred with despair, anger fought with appreciation, and through it all, I held the deep conviction that I would fail yet again. My wife was terrified of the actual surgery but repeated several times that she supported whatever decision I made. She survived the four-hour wait during the surgery, and hers was the first face I saw when I woke.

I’ve handled the healing phase well. The wounds are all scarred and have lost their purplish hue. Although I’ve had to deal with excessive gas (and the resultant hours of walking) when experimenting with raw vegetables, I’ve managed to escape – knock on wood – the ‘dumping’ I’d been warned about. I needed to travel only a few short weeks following the surgery, but even that went well. The flight crew weren’t happy about my rising and walking the length of the plane every half-hour, but they preferred that to blood clots.

Because I was so busy for the first month and a half, it came as an almost sudden surprise when my entire wardrobe stopped fitting me. I sorted out those I could still get away with, and bagged up the rest. When it came to donating them to charity, though, I just couldn’t do it. Part of me still expects to gain back the weight, just like I have after every single diet in my life. They’re upstairs in the attic, but I may put them out for a spring yardsale… maybe.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’m still learning. I’ve also learned an awful lot about other people and the way they treat people based on stereotypes. But more about that, next time…


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.