I just wanted to check in and say hello. Hello : )
Well, it's been seven months since my March 24 surgery and I can't believe the changes. I am definitely one of the success stories of this surgery, (R&Y Lap Incisions w/Dr. Carson Liu, Century City Hospital), and like a lot of people who say this, I would do it again in a heartbeat, and that's not to ignore the people who've had a hard time of it, (my heart goes out to you), but I knew this going in, that there was a chance that things could go wrong for me, but the statistics seemed to be on slim, heh, side of this happening, and I chose to take the risk.
I started out at 325 (I thought it was 323 but my OBGYN had me at 325 so I get to add those extra two pounds, hee hee), and today I weigh 208. When I first got on the scale it said 207.8 and I wanted to be able to add another pound to my total here, which is 117, but I always weigh myself two or three times to be certain. My scale is digital and super accurate but it likes to move around a bit and when it does I'll take the weight that comes up twice, rather than the best of the three, which is of course what I'd like to do. Yes, I know, I'm getting a little scale obsessed, but it's just one more thing to toss on the pile of psychological issues I have to deal with as I continue this strange, complicated, exciting, and challenging journey towards a healthier me.
I've been through the hair loss, hoping it wouldn't happen to me, but of course it did. I'm not bald at all, it isn't like going through chemotherapy, but it is thinned out and it's shocking when every time you wash your hair, brush it, or comb out the knots, you pull out a couple of handfuls of hair. You've probably already discussed this here but I thought I'd just toss in my two cents about what products have been working for me. I've been taking a pill called, oh shoot, now I've forgotten, (I have ADD so this happens a lot, sorry), Nioxin is the name of the company that makes the pill and who also make the hair strengthening products that I use as well. If you want to know just drop a line to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, the pill has whatever the ingredient is that my surgeon's patients have been swearing by as well as a few other things. My aunt who is, let's just say older, has been using it for her thinning hair and she swears by it. For shampoo and mousse/gel I switch between Kerastase Resistance, (the green product line, which is unbelievably expensive, ridiculously so, but I think it's the best thing out there and I'm willing to give up some things in order to have it), Nioxin and Phyto products.
I've spent so many years growing my hair out thinking that one day, when I lose the weight, I'll have long glam hair to go with my thinner body, and now that I'm getting the slimmer body I don't want to lose the hair. Anyway it isn't as scary as I thought it would be, apparently you lose your hair for a few months, it thins out and then it starts coming back in again. I'm sure you all know that it's protein related and as a vegetarian it's tough to get adequate protein.
Speaking of protein I've gone back to having protein shakes for breakfast. I had stopped taking them, as my nutritionist had told me to, but when my weight loss plateaued for more than a month a friend suggested adding them back in to increase my protein so I did. I told myself that I'd just have my usual breakfast and the shakes as well so I wouldn't feel deprived or like I was taking a step backwards towards the days when liquids were all I could tolerate and this helped. Then the weight started pouring off again and after a few days I found that I didn't really want the veggie strips and the corn muffin that I had been allowing myself. I also had a hard time getting oatmeal down for a while but now I'm able to enjoy a few bites. I put rice milk on it and that gives it the sweetness I crave. Hmm, maybe I could add raisins as well.
My protein shakes are basically a powdered soy protein, soy milk, frozen pieces of peach, strawberry and sometimes blueberries and/or bananas, with a splash of apple juice for sweetness and I love them. I've also found a little fast food, protein-bar-like snack that I like. They're called Power Bar Energy Bites and I get them at 7-11. They're definitely carby but they have some protein and they do the trick when I'm hungry and am stuck in the car or am out and can't get a meal.
I'll eat about four or five of them and it will tide me over until I can get something healthier to eat. I have to be careful because if I eat the whole bag it's 210 calories and it'd be easy to eat three of these bags in a day so I have to limit myself. Sometimes I'll have three or four of these little protein bites after a meal and that'll do it for me in terms of desert. Other times I'll have a few pieces of an orange. I haven't been able to tolerate fruit, like say a peach or a handful of cherries, and don't really know why. I can eat them frozen and mixed with soy milk in my shakes but so far it hasn't been too easy to eat whole fresh fruit.
I'm sure you've read that Taco Bell cooks their beans with water instead of lard so if I'm out and in a rush I can always grab a Taco Bell Mexican Pizza and leave off the meat and eat about half of that, but I know that when I do this, I'm giving up the weight I might have lost for that day. It's always a trade off between feeling deprived, mentally, not physically, but knowing that I'm taking good care of myself and staying on track, or including that little extra something that makes me feel more normal and like I used to, but that will affect my weight loss.
Sugar-wise I've discovered that if it's under fourteen grams I'm usually okay with it, but even then things with too much sugar just don't feel right with me and can cause dumping, or if not that, a sick feeling that I don't want to experience, so in this way the surgery works for me the way Antabuse might work for an alcoholic and pretty much keeps me away from it. I will occasionally test my limits and try a bite or more of something I used to eat a lot of, just to see if I can get away with it and invariably can't. On Halloween with bags and bags full of candy everywhere I allowed myself to have one Reeses Peanut Butter cup, something that was never even a favorite to begin with, and was able to eat it very slowly and didn't want more than about half of it, enough to help me feel less deprived. It was enough to allow me to feel less like a food party outsider and I could tell that it was too sweet and zingy chemically and that I didn't need to have any more which is a good feeling, being able to listen to my body, having it tell me when to stop.
Last night I went with my boyfriend Scott to the movies in Century City and we split a grilled cheese sandwich. It had a small amount of jack cheese, tomatoes, onions and basil pesto on white bread. They kind of press the sandwich between two grills without using any kind of butter or oil. I didn't like it, and even though I only ate a few bites of my half and chewed them slowly it still made me feel kind of dumpy so I know it was the white bread. It was so little to eat that I just didn't feel like I'd had dinner so after the movie we were wandering around the food court looking for something and I realized that I didn't really want to eat anything, but ice cream sounded good so I allowed myself to have some. I picked the smallest cup they had and only allowed her to put one slim half scoop in it. I ate it slowly and didn't get sick, but it didn't feel too terrific or healthful, so I decided that it wasn't something I wanted to do too often. I also remembered what Carnie Wilson wrote about in one of her two books, I read both and don't remember which, that when she went on her surgeon's annual cruise to Mexico that she saw a lot of patients who were walking around the boat eating ice cream and that these were the same people who were complaining about having gained some of their weight back. She said that she didn't want to be one of them, and neither do I. I just need to test the waters every once in a while to see if I can.
I've never liked stringent rules when it comes to food, that's why the whole Overeaters Anonymous HOW program, the no sugar no white flower one day at a time, (yeah right), thing, never worked for me. I'm too much of a rebel. Maybe that's my whole problem -- that and my PCOS, (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which I know causes massive carb craving. But no one knows what comes first, the overeating and the weight gain, and then the PCOS, or if it's the other way around.
I know I am a sugar, white flour, carb addict and should probably cut it all out of my diet completely, but I've limited it so much already, that I can't imagine limiting it any further, and I think I'm doing all right for now. As long as I trick myself into thinking that I can eat anything I want if I'm willing to pay the price, if I allow myself to occasionally have that one bite of something I thought I would never ever eat again, then I'm okay. I do worry that this may prove to be my downfall, and the thing that causes WLS patients to gain some of their weight back, something I obviously don't want to happen, especially since I have another fifty pounds to go before I will reach my own goal weight. I've already reached my surgical center's goal weight for me, which was 225, a number I was never okay with.
I have to constantly remind myself to drink water, sometimes I forget to stay on task with this and when I get constipated it will invariably be because I haven't been getting enough water or exercise. When I increase the water intake, get out there walking, and add a bit of fiber everything becomes more regular again. I take Colace which is an ahem, stool softener, sorry hope I didn't just make anyone cringe there, I'm just trying to be completely honest and thorough in order to be helpful. I also add Benefiber to my protein shakes, I forgot to mention that above, and I like to eat Nature's Valley Honey Oat Granola Bars.
I've mentioned my being a hard headed rebel, but sometimes I really have to get walloped over the head before I'll learn my lessons, which is too bad, but it's the way I work. I know that we are not supposed to drink with our meals, that it fills us up, causes dumping, and flushes the food out of our stomachs too quickly, which causes us to be hungry sooner, I know all of this and still I do it, a little bit. I'm better now though, since I've had to test this out for myself many, many times. I'll still keep a super icy cold drink on hand when I'm eating, again so I won't have to feel so deprived and different from everyone else, but either I won't drink it at all, or I'll just allow myself a few sips, otherwise, I'll get sick. I've also learned that straws don't work for me, they cause me to swallow air, but again, the rebel in me keeps thinking she can get around this by sipping through the straw then when the liquid hits my mouth, I breathe out before I swallow. It doesn't really work so I pretty much avoid them. I don't go anywhere near gum.
I know this is long and I've been going on here, but I want to give you guys a complete update and I think it's helpful for the newer folks. My skin is definitely hanging and sagging and I'm certain that there is really no way around having to have plastic surgery. I find I am actually looking forward to it and having to wait another year before I can do this seems impossibly hard to do, but of course I'll wait.
My boobs are like pancakes, my stomach is doubled over, loose and wrinkled in the middle. I can actually fold it together and make it look like a butt which makes people laugh and takes some of the seriousness out of all of this. My thighs, oh man my thighs, are wrinkled and baggy and I seriously understand why they describe the surgery as being like pulling up socks. I want to grab my skin and just pull it up like thigh highs. My vagina is even saggy if you can imagine that, but maybe you'd rather not. My underarms, under the upper arms, are swinging wildly, something I've watched everyone my age have to contend with while I blithely escaped the ravages of underarm swing time. I'm not as bothered by this as I was, having had enough thin friends flap their arm battyness at me. My butt has a wrinkle where it never had one before, and there's a kind of crease under my eyebrow that makes a shadow I keep thinking is an accidental smudge of my eye shadow and that I keep trying to smudge away. Then joy of joys, while editing Halloween photos of myself to send to a new friend who made my dread falls that I wore in my hair, I was forced to look at how my eyes wrinkle up when I smile. It was so shocking I had to get a mirror and smile to check. Yep, there they were, wrinkles I'd never had before. All of this is incredibly upsetting and disconcerting, honestly, and maybe I was lucky that being fat plumped me out and hid my age, but I'd rather be wrinkled droopy and alive than continue on the way I was. I'm still sad about this though. So much change to have to adapt to and face.
I've been told that all of this will kind of even out eventually, that with time and exercise some of the droop will go away and other parts of my body will kind of fill in and shift around. I want to tell you though that even though things are sagging I would rather look at this thinner saggier version of me in the full length mirror than the smoother much bigger version of me any day.
I am worried about having to face the age that I have been able to avoid by being fat and plumped out, the whole, "your face or your ass" Catherine Deneuve thing, but again, I would do all of this over in a heart beat, every second of this experience, while challenging, is better than the alternative, which was to keep on going, trying every diet out there and failing, losing only to gain it all back and more, being someone who people were unjustly cruel or just plain unkind to, being overlooked, ignored and excluded, and heading towards an earlier death or a life of being locked away in my bedroom with food and television as my only comforts, while ironically they were the very things that were stealing my health and my life from me. I can still eat and lay around in front of the television if I want, but now it's a choice instead of my only exhausted option.
People keep asking me the same questions, "How do you feel? Do you feel much better? Do you have a lot more energy?" And the truth is that yes, I feel better in a lot of ways and no I don't have a lot more energy, I'm tired and feel weary, but I know that in time the energy will come. Right now a lot of my energy is being used up by my body, and getting enough vitamins and nutrients is a struggle. I can run up and down my stairs if I really want to, when before I had to hang on to the railings and take them one at a time.
Another weirdly disconcerting thing that I thought would be exciting, and was something I had actually been looking forward to, is how often people who I haven't seen in a while will do a double take or not recognize me at all. I like it and I don't like it. It's a very strange feeling being the same person inside but getting such different treatment from the world around me. It makes me angry and more than a little sad for my old self and for all of the large people out there who are still being discriminated against.
I noticed last night when I was at Bloomingdales getting on the escalator, that people smile at me now more than they used to, that they acknowledge me, and I hadn't even noticed that they weren't doing this before. I'm also getting more attention from men and not being used to it, I find it scary and threatening.
I'd read that big people, fat people, zaftig people, whatever you want to call us, are often ignored, that people avert their gaze, the way they do when they see someone who is impaired in some way, but I hadn't really noticed that it had been happening to me, and now I realize that despite my friendly winning personality that I had probably been using to compensate for this, that I had indeed been suffering the same treatment, I just didn't know any different because I've been like this for so long.
Buying clothes has been a challenge, not only because I've transferred some of my addictive fill me up behavior to shopping and as a result am poorer than I've been in a while, but also because I don't understand what size I am. I've been such a large size for so many years that my hands just kind of automatically reach for my old sizes and it takes my going to the dressing room and realizing that I'm about four sizes smaller for me to remember to go back out there and get the smaller size. When a salesperson will hand me a smaller size I'll automatically think there's no way that this size will fit and when it does it surprises me. Again this feels good and bad and I think it's just a matter of getting used to it. I feel lost a lot, confused about where I've gone, where the old me is, and who this new me is, and as soon as I accept that I've become a certain size, I'm no longer that size.
I'm looking forward to wearing clothes in the regular departments, been looking forward to this for years and years, but at the same time it scares me because I'm so used to the limited choices and the familiar boring things in the stores I've been shopping in for so long. Last night I bought a pair of dark brown corduroy trousers and a black pull over and I liked the way I looked so much but I felt like someone else, someone wearing a mask and a costume.
I'm also having trouble with desire. While I can do more sexually because my body is thinner and healthier, I'm still really tired and worn out. I'm hoping that it's just something hormonal, that what everyone is telling me is true, that it will take a year before you get back to feeling like yourself again and to just hang in there and stop analyzing and questioning everything, to just make the most of this window of weight loss opportunity.
So, that's pretty much it, the state of things as they are. I am so grateful for this surgery, for my surgeon, for my life and that I've made it through this. I'm excited about the weight loss and it continues to blow me away that the scale keeps moving downwards. I can't wait to break the 200 LB barrier but most of the time I think it won't happen. I need to commit to an exercise program and better eating. I need to find a good therapist and I have to find some serenity and space in my life where I can just be alone to deal with all of this. There is always so much coming at me all the time and I need the room to heal.
Big loving and super supportive hugs for each of your own personal weight loss journeys,
PS: Here's a really terrific transcript from Spotlight Health of Carnie and a few other WLS patients talking about how they're feeling one year after their surgeries.