Category Archives: weight loss

Bariatric Surgery 2.5

80 Pounds
Amazing! I’m still startled by the change.

I know! Can you believe it? It’s over three years since I started the journey and two and a half since I underwent bariatric surgery. Following a full year of preparation and education, my excellent surgeon performed two procedures, undoing a Nissen fundoplication before the Roux-en-Y. The entire surgery took the better part of four hours.

I was an excellent patient and the weight dropped off as I recovered from the surgery and adjusted to a new lifestyle. At first it was just a matter of coping with the side-effects of a zero carb/high protein diet (dizziness, oh my goodness). Then the longing for solid foods became so overwhelming I resorted to blenderizing ground beef and refried beans, ugly as sin and twice as satisfying. I remember the celebration when I could finally eat a full cup of food per meal! I still eat on salad plates and use smaller utensils to remind me of portions and chewing… chewing… such a blessing.

At my lowest weight, taken one year post-op, I’d lost eighty pounds. Since then I’ve regained 7 stubborn pounds, but I can live with them. So I lost a lot and regained a little.

footdrop
Genta Sebastian visiting the island of Terceira 2017

I also gained a lot of insight into what weight means for an older woman and have lost some respect for our society, all of which will be the subject of several blog posts over the summer.

What have I learned? A lot more than I thought possible. Have I changed? Not as much as I expected. Join me as I try to express the thoughts that have gathered since I started this life-changing journey.

Isn’t that the way for authors? It’s not real until I put it down in words.  So watch for the first of a series I’m calling:

12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

 

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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.”

 

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…


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…

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.