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!

Advertisements

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!!!

Where to Start: Choosing What Works For You

start-button

I’m getting asked a lot lately, “So how are you losing all of this weight?” I usually don’t initiate conversation about my weight loss, but if someone opens the door to a discussion, LOOK OUT! I’m not shy talking about all aspects of my weight loss (except for that pesky starting weight number…I’m still not ready to divulge that information yet!).

I decided it may be helpful to start a step-by-step blog series about starting on a path to health and happiness. I’m not sure how many installments there will be, but this first post focuses on figuring out what works for you.

Each person is unique, which means what works for me, may not be right for someone else. As I’ve mentioned a time or two before, I subscribe to a low-carb way of eating. I did research about what it meant to be low-carb. I realized I didn’t have to give up my coffee with cream (at first I used heavy cream, but now it’s almond milk all the way) and sugar (stevia of course!). I could continue eating bacon (c’mon…who doesn’t love a little bacon in their life?!?!), butter, and cheese. Seemed like a WOE from heaven, right???

Well, hold on now…I then had to look at what I would have to remove from my diet. Sugar…no problem there for me. I rarely was into the sugary, baked goods and candies. Wheat…this would prove to be slightly more difficult. Wheat is in EVERYTHING!!! Breads, pastas, crackers, etc. I used to eat a lot of pasta. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would be able to find several pasta substitues that I actually enjoy more than the real deal. Starchy veggies…potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, oh my! I was a french fry freak! Would I be able to break that habit??? Obviously I did, but it was really difficult the first week.

I have read a lot about how it’s so horrible to remove a food group entirely from ones diet, but I’m here to tell you that for me, it’s way more healthy. I tried Weight Watchers and counting points. I stopped after a few months. I was constantly hungry. I didn’t enjoy a lot of what I was preparing for meals, which is what this post boils down to. Figure out what you’re willing to change as far as what you eat. In order to lose the flab, the first step is figuring out a healthy WOE! Do your research before you start. It is important to prepare for changing up how you shop for groceries and cooking in the kitchen.

What Was That?!

There are some cool things that I am beginning to notice about my body as I continue to lose weight. The first thing I really noticed was a ring I wore a lot was becoming looser. Then I noticed my fingers were becoming more stick like instead of their usual plump, rubber band around the knuckles, looking selves. The knuckles are becoming the thickest part of my fingers now, which is really how most peoples’ fingers are, right?

Then I began to notice the wrist knob. I don’t know what else to call it, but it’s that bump that is on the top side of your wrist (pinky side). I used to never be able to see it…I could feel it, but not see it.

About a month ago, I took a good look at my driver’s license photo. What I saw was CRAZY!!! I mean, straight up CRAY-CRAY. I saw a woman staring back at me who didn’t have a neck and quite plump cheeks. When I look in the mirror now, I can see a distinct separation between my head and my shoulders.

Now, a few weeks ago, I really got freaked out! I was smoothing out my shirt over the sides of my stomach when my hands hit something hard, at about belly button level. I was startled. I thought, “What the hell?! What was that?!?!” I had never noticed anything hard there before so I began prodding these hard spots. They were in the same place on each side of my abdomen. There wasn’t any pain as I poked, and the hard places didn’t move as I pushed. It finally dawned on me these were my pelvic bones. I’ve had a nice ring of fat around my mid-section for so long, that I forgot they were there!

I’m excited to see what I notice next. For some these noticings may seem trivial or insignificant, but for me they have been HUGE (no pun intended!!!). It’s amazing how foreign my body was to me for so long. I avoided looking at myself…mirrors were the WORST! I avoided them. I would avert my eyes if I was standing near a mirror in which I could see my reflection. My mindset was, “If I can’t see it, then it’s not true,” which was just wishful thinking.

My eyes are open now. I have begun to really look at myself in both the literal physical sense as well as the metaphorical sense. Now that my eyes are open, I am trying to tackle the emotional stuff that really drove my unhealthy relationship with food. I posted a while back about emotional hunger and I have found that I continue to turn to food when I’m in pain or angry, but I’m much more aware of when this happens and I don’t give in to the hunger like I did in the past. I mentioned I’m seeing a therapist a couple times a week, which has helped me to “open my eyes.” This whole journey is a process and for the first time in my life, I feel like I am present in that journey. I’m the one in control and making choices that are best for me and my health…not just based on what feels best.

I Survived!!!

Today is officially 7 days post-op. The physical recovery has been pretty smooth sailing. I used crutches for about 4 1/2 days. I used pain meds for 5 days. I saw my doc 2 days after my surgery and everything looked great. I will see him again this Wednesday. Hopefully some of my stitches will be ready to be removed. They are probably the worst part of this whole thing! The site of the incision is the most painful area on my foot and, somtimes, those sutures can be pretty itchy. My podiatrist was able to successfully release the plantar fascia from my heel, remove a nerve that was pinched by the spur, and grind off the spur. There is some loss of feeling on various parts of my foot, but as long as my heel pain is completely gone after I’m 100% healed it will be worth it! The feeling should hopefully return, but it could take quite a while.

I’ve done some reflecting about my physical health as I was home all last week. I have to be honest…I was a little timid about being on crutches. I’ve used them in the past so it wasn’t that I was unsure about the mechanics of using them. I was more worried about how I would use them now in my physical condition. I was concerned about being too fat to use them. Thankfully I was able to maneuver around pretty easily. I didn’t become winded or feel overly exerted either. I didn’t experience sore arm/shoulder/pec muscles (which was probably due to the work I have put in at the gym before the surger). Granted, I didn’t have very far to go when I did need to use them, but it really got me thinking about what it would have been like to use them 90 pounds ago. It would have been similar to using them now with my two oldest nephews hanging on me! I can hardly imagine how difficult that would have been.

I have about 2 more weeks of recovery. I’m currently in a surgical shoe to protect my heel. Although I’m able to ambulate without much pain, I have to continue to be mindful about not over doing it. For now, I’m not to be standing and I need to keep walking to a minimum. I can’t wait to get back to the gym, going hiking, and being able to be active again without having to worry about how much pain I’ll be in after a couple of hours have passed from the activity.