Getting My Brain Caught Up With the Program 

I obviously have a problem. Let’s be honest…I have several! Haha! But in all seriousness, I have an eating disorder. I ignored this fact forever. I didn’t admit this even a year ago when I started my weight loss surgery journey. 

I first brought this fact to awareness about a month and a half ago. It came over me with such force I was compelled to do something about it immediately. I contacted an eating disorders clinic based out of Pittsburgh. It was clear I met criteria to continue on with their admissions process. Unfortunately they are not covered by my insurance so I did a web search for therapists in Greensburg who specialize in this area. 

The universe was definitely helping me and a name popped up on my browser. I emailed her on a Sunday, she replied on Monday and I was scheduled for an intake for that same Wednesday. And so it began.

“L” knows what’s she’s doing. My first session she told me she was going to “CBT you to death!” Bring it on I said. And she is bringing it! For anyone unfamiliar with CBT…it’s a mental health modality that stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Basically changing your thoughts will change your behavior. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy. 


I decided to embark on this because of fear. I don’t trust myself (I’m working on that daily) to be successful. Let me rephrase that…I don’t trust myself to stay successful years down the road. I’m afraid I’m going to lose all of this weight, but then I’ll regain it all back…like I have always done in the past. 

Geneen Roth’s book, “Breaking Free From Emotional Eating” was my first bit of homework. I highly recommend anyone with emotional eating issues give this book a read. Many examples and thoughts in the book I identified with…which further confirmed the fact I have an issue. 

The exercises in the book are difficult concepts for me. The main train of thought is that I can eat anything. It’s ok to eat what I want…wait! Say what?!?! No way! That hasn’t worked out too well for me in the past. The hard part of this concept is to listen to my body and acknowledge the physical and emotional responses that come up in relation to everything! Yeah, I didn’t do that!

In the three visits I’ve had with “L,” I can say there are small shifts in the areas I discussed above. I’m excited about this and am encouraged daily that I can trust myself!

Protein Shakes…My Lifeline!

Protein. Protein, protein, protein. It’s my mantra every day. It’s what I focus on constantly. Since I had 80% of my stomach removed, the amount of food I can actually eat has greatly diminished. Since I have such a limited capacity for food, I have to make sure I eat the most important nutrients first. 

Protein is THE MOST IMPORTANT nutrient and it has been pounded into my brain…”protein first!” I need to get between 70-100 grams of protein everyday. It’s a struggle sometimes due to all of the “rules” I have to follow (I’ll get into those in another post) when it comes to mealtime. 

Protein powders and shakes help me out with my protein intake. I look for a shake that has at least 20 grams of protein in a serving, no more than 115 calories in a powder, low carb (5 or less usually), and no added sugar. Here are a few of my favorites!

Bariatric Eating Inspire Cafe Bella

Love this stuff because it not only is a delicious, no protein aftertaste, vanilla cinnamon cappuccino flavor but also packs in 350mg of calcium. This brand overall has amazing and fun flavors at 20 grams a serving. A little expensive, but very high quality. My pantry is stocked with several flavors. I always mix with unsweetened vanilla almond milk. 

IsoLicious Cereal Flavored Powder

Perhaps this brand can be considered a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ve tried 2 of the 3 flavors…cinnamon cereal and fruity cereal. They taste like the milk that is leftover in the bowl when you’ve eaten up that Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Fruity Pebbles! This come in at 25 grams of protein per serving. It’s on the sweet side so I always add a couple of ounces of water to the 8 ounces of almond milk to balance out the sweetness. I find deals on this product on various websites. 

Premier Protein Ready to Drink Shake

Sometimes I just want a ready to drink shake and Premier Protein is my go to at 30 grams of protein. Sam’s Club has a 12 pack and I love the chocolate. I also like the caramel flavor but it’s pretty sweet and I’ve been taking a break from it. 

Quest Protein Powders 

I just started using this brand this week. I only have the Vanilla Milkshake flavor and use it to make hot chai tea lattes that packs 22 grams of protein. Trust me, they’re delicious! I’m looking forward to trying a couple other flavors like salted caramel and cookies and cream. 

Trimino Protein Infused Water

I just received this product yesterday and have not tried it yet. Reviews say it is like the Bai water product, but better! It comes in 4 flavors: peach, mixed berry, strawberry lemonade, and coconut pineapple. Only 7 grams of protein so this is not considered a meal replacement. I plan to use when I’m just below my protein goal and will help with my water intake. 

There are so many products on the market today and can be difficult to navigate through what is a good, healthy choice, and what’s not so great. It takes a while to learn what to look for, but it’s possible!

Why Did I Do That?!

So why did I go ahead and have 80% of my stomach removed? There have been a handful of days I’ve asked myself this question. (Overall I’ve been blessed with no complications or issues, but there’s been a day or two that have just sucked and I experienced a tad bit of buyer’s remorse. These were definitely in the early days and weeks right after my surgery.)

Fear: One day in late 2015, I couldn’t ignore the fact of how unhealthy I was. I knew I was dancing with the devil and I was afraid my luck would run out. During the phone call with my mom in which I told her about my decision to pursue weight loss surgery, her first question was if I had developed diabetes. Thankfully I hadn’t, but it was only a matter of time I did along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, etc. 

Unhappiness: I was sad and depressed. I was not disillusioned that the surgery would fix by brain, but I can’t deny the fact that I needed to do something different to change my mood. Even now, while I have much more confidence in myself, I know I need to continue to work at changing how I think. To help me do this I have started seeing a therapist specializing in eating disorders. My first session was just this past Wednesday. I plan to see her until I feel confident my brain has changed as much as my body has!

Past attempts to lose weight: In my adult life, I have lost and gained 75-100 pounds at least three times. That’s a lot of weight! I always gained more than I had lost which some research suggests this is more unhealthy than just being fat without the weight fluctuation. I wanted a tool to help me regulate what I can eat. I’m also aware of the fact that there are many cases where people gain their weight back after surgery, but there are far more success stories who have kept it off. 

Relationship with food: I needed to change my relationship with food. Whether I was on a diet or not, my life has been consumed by food. I thought about it all day, everyday. I still do, but it’s so different now. I don’t find comfort in food anymore. Most of the time I really don’t even enjoy food. It’s still uncomfortable to eat. Some days it downright hurts to eat…or drink. 

I am learning so much about me along this journey. I wish I did this sooner…that’s a sentiment most WLS patients say though! There is much left to do!

So I Had Weight Loss Surgery…

Well folks, I’m back. And things have changed a lot since my last blog post almost 4 years ago.

During my absence, I fell off the low carb bandwagon hard. I gained every single pound back and then some. I ballooned, became extremely depressed and hid from the world. I hit rock bottom. 

I went to my primary care doctor in December 2015 and had a breakdown. We made a health plan to hopefully help me lose a little of my excess weight and I was to come back in a month. In that month I actually gained weight. My primary doc is amazing and gently brooched the topic of weight loss surgery. 

What?! How did I fail so miserably that I needed to resort to taking “the easy way out?!” Boy how wrong this way of thinking was, but I’ll share more about that in another post. THIS IS ANYTHING BUT THE EASY WAY OUT!!!

It didn’t take me long after my intense research into weight loss surgery to decide I didn’t want to reroute my intestines. I chose to have the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy in which 80% of my stomach has been removed. 

I went through about 5 months of preparation which included an initial consult with my surgeon (Dr. Z…he’s pretty awesome), lab work, 6 dietician visits, a psychological evaluation, barium swallow test and endoscopy. During this time I also studied, learned about the changes I would experience and complications that could come up. I joined the bariatric center’s once-a-month support group too. 

On August 30, 2016 I had my surgery. My parents were with me (thank goodness!!! Even as an adult I just want my parents with me for some things!). Everything went smoothly! I stayed overnight one night and then the real journey began. 

I’m ecstatic with my progress so far. As of this morning I’ve lost 181 pounds. I’m hoping to lose at least 62 more. I’m relearning how to eat, what to eat, and even when to eat. I’m happier and excited about life again. I have more energy now than I think I had in high school!!! In future posts I plan to share more about this whole process. 

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, etc. I’ve been blessed to have supportive family and friends who have been with me since the beginning of this journey. I was never hiding this decision, but I definitely was not making it very public either. It’s time to put it out there because it’s a part of me…and I’m so proud of me!!!

Ginger Garlic Chinese Chicken

Bok Choy 5.7.13

Those of you who are with me on the low carb train know how difficult finding something acceptable to eat at Chinese restaurants. I’ve pretty much avoided going out for Chinese for the last year. There is usually some type of breading or coating on the proteins in the dishes and the sauces are full of sugars and/or corn starch. This was a difficult change for me…I loved spring rolls, crab rangoon, and the spicy/saucy goodness of most American Chinese foods!

So I got to work concocting a recipe that I could make in the comfort of my own kitchen. I came up with Ginger Garlic Chinese Chicken!!! It’s a nice blend of Asian spices and garlic-y goodness with a healthy portion of veggies.

Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts
1-2 T coconut oil
1 head of bok choy chopped into uniform pieces
1 bunch of asparagus (approximately 1 lb.) chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
8 oz pre-sliced, pre-washed, ready to use white mushrooms
1/4 C soy sauce
2 t minced garlic
1 t Asian five spice seasoning
1 t ground ginger (I used the dried spice, but fresh is acceptable)
1/2 T dried basil
1 t red pepper flakes
artificial sweetener (this is subject to taste and I use liquid, which doesn’t add to the carb counts below)
xanthan gum (I used approximately 1 t…maybe 2)

Cut chicken into bite-size cubes. Sauté chicken in coconut oil until just cooked through. I added a splash of soy sauce and garlic during the cooking process. Remove from pan (either large cooking pot or wok). Add veggies, soy sauce, garlic, five spice seasoning, and ginger. When the vegetables are cooked through (with still some bite to them…we don’t want mushy veggies people!), finish the dish by adding the chicken back into the mix and add the basil, sweetener, and xanthan gum. You will find the sauce will thicken in about 2 minutes after adding the xanthan gum.

I get approximately 4-6 servings per batch.

Nutritional Information for entire entree:
calories: 1395      fat: 65 g     protein: 165 g     carbohydrates: 51 g     fiber: 21 g
net carbs: 30 g

The Dreaded Airplane

Airplane 4.13.13

I recently reserved my flight to go back home for a family reunion in July. I am absolutely ecstatic to spend some good, quality time with the fam…especially with the arrival of my newest nephew coming in June! However, I am having flashbacks to one of the last times I flew on an airplane.

It was such a horrible and embarrassing experience. As I sat in the terminal waiting to hear the announcement that it was time to board my flight, an airline employee tapped me on my shoulder and asked to see me at the counter. When I got to the desk, the woman informed me that I needed to buy a second ticket. Due to my size, I was being asked to purchase a second seat “…for the comfort and safety of yourself and other passengers.” I was assured that since the flight wasn’t full, I would be able to receive a full refund…if I filed the necessary paperwork.

Como say WHAAAAAAAAAAT?!?! I was too embarrassed to say anything than ok and handed the lady my credit card. I was given a second ticket that had “RESERVED” printed in big, bold, black letters. I was told to sit it on the seat next to me so no one would sit next to me.

When it came time to board, I was given “special boarding privileges” and was one of the first people to enter the cabin. I sat next to the window and placed my “RESERVED” ticket on the seat next to me. As the plane filled, more and more passengers who were traveling together looked to sit in my row, but quickly moved on when they saw my “special” ticket. I was so ashamed and set my gaze out the window. I avoided eye contact with passengers and crew.

When I got home and reflected on my experiences I became angry. I thought, “How dare they do that to me?!” Then I started say the most horrible things to myself…calling me names and telling myself really hurtful things. Even though this was such a traumatic experience, it still wasn’t enough to make me want to change. Instead, things got worse. It was like I wanted to “show” them…you think I’m too fat to fly??? Well, just wait! I’ll show you what fat really is!

No, I didn’t really say or think that explicitly, but I remember feeling that way. Needless to say, I have some reservations about flying this summer because I realized after getting my confirmation that this flight is with the same airline. Thankfully I’m quite a bit lighter than when this event happened, but it will definitely be a test!

I don’t want to give fear power over my choices anymore. I will continue to move forward.

Where to Start: Prepping the Kitchen

start-button

So the kitchen is going to be your new best friend when you go all in on whatever WOE you choose. I don’t know about you, but before I went low-carb, I spent a lot of time eating in my car. Fast food drive-thrus were my best friends. Greasy wrappers littered my car’s floors and my refrigerator was almost empty…except for last night’s take home containers.

Preparation is key when starting out. One of the main things I did was cleared all of the junk out of my kitchen. Anything with wheat and sugar was placed in a bag. I gave these evil foods to a few friends for their enjoyment. Pasta, bread, fruit (at first), chips, juices, potatoes, chips, popcorn (oh, my salty favorite!!!)…EVERYTHING that was not on the acceptable food list was OUT!

I have so many websites with GREAT recipes that are low-carb and easy to make. I really try to think of what I want to make for the next week or so before I go shopping. At first I kept my menu fairly simple consisting of chicken, salad, and veggies. As I learned what I liked and disliked, I was able to expand my recipe repertoire.

Then I went shopping. I wrote a few posts ago what I keep in my pantry and fridge. You can read it here. I shop mostly on the outer aisles in the grocery store…produce, meats, and dairy. With the exception of the frozen department, there’s really not much I need from the inner aisles. I always make sure I have easy and quick snacks for on the go.

Again, I have to reiterate the importance of ENJOYING what you eat. If you hate the food, this is not going to work. I encourage people to try some new things every once in a while. Pallets really change after removing processed, sugary, carby foods. Get a little adventurous and try a new veggie or recipe every now and then. That’s how I fell in love with my cauliflower pizza (read about it here)!