Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Commentary Four Years Out

I know a bunch of you haven't known me long enough to know this, but I haven't always been this weight. Occasionally I jump on the blog and give an update as to how my weight loss process is going since realistically, we've all got a morbid sense of curiousity about these sorts of things, don't we?

"Did she keep it ALL off?" "Is she a failure? We'd better go check. Let's take our magnifying glasses to search for signs that she fell on her face."

 So to catch everyone up, four years ago today, I had Roux-En-Y gastric bypass surgery in 2013 and added that to a total lifestyle and movement overhaul. In my first year, I blew away the clinic's goals and my own. I lost what in retrospect was too much weight, and we equalized it some leading up to my three-year update. 

So what do I have to say about my fourth year?
Well, lots, and nothing all at the same time.

You see, 'maintenance' is both the most exciting and most boring thing in the weight loss journey.

In the honeymoon period of weight loss, we can distract ourselves with the scale, and all the awesome non-scale victories. It can be so very motivating. Enough to temporarily override the desire to cope with difficult emotions with food.

Challenge is though, that the hard stuff keeps happening. Paired with the honeymoon ending, that's some rough road ahead.  Real life has a way of continuing to happen on us, doesn't it? Sometimes our stress is caused by other people's choices and the best we can do is choose to try to manage our part as well as we can. When we are overcoming the impulse to stress eat, that's gonna affect our weight loss journey.
There are quite a few hard things I've been through this past year, but they include people whose stories I can't tell, so we will move on to the things I can talk about.

This year has been particularly interesting for me. We've had a goal of maintaining of all of the tools I had to use before:

CALORIES: Still trying to keep in the 1500 calories per day range. 
PROTEIN: My aim is 80-100g protein per day which helps balance my energy levels and curb cravings. There is much more room in the stomach than there was, so this is really pivotal.
FLUIDS: Over 16 cups of fluid per day.
FITBIT-: Yes I'm still wearing that thing, and I get moving. I chose to upgrade to an Alta, and I've been pleased with it. I need to work more on my steps. 
TRACKING: when I don't I am much more prone to do whatever feels good. So yes, at least intermittent tracking is going to be a life-long tool for me. My current goal is to track three times per week.
MENTAL WORK: Balance is really important. It's really easy to go back to the mental gymnastics and diet mentality.
SUPPORT: I have "been there, done that" kind of people who can speak sense to this situation and encourage me. I am ever so grateful for these people. 

But I've had to add more tools.

My year included some new medical diagnoses. I'd like to preface this next section by saying that none of the following is caused by gastric bypass. If you are currently considering Roux-En-Y as one of your tools, this is not something you need to be afraid of.

This year I was diagnosed with Sjogren's and severe osteoarthritis in my back. That, to be added to the veritable smorgasbord of hypothyroidism, Raynaud's and chronic migraine that we already knew about. I'm not throwing a pity party, please hear me, I bring it up to bring light to the fact that maintenance is going to include some really hard to manage things. Things that are going to complicate things more than for the average person.
Fortunately, my medical team is happy to help me try to manage things with nutrition and vitamins; medication when needed.

So I've had to work to find out what kinds of things make my body angrier, and try to do less of that, and find the things that make my body happy and do more of that. Simple math right? I can "Math". Well, maybe I can "Science" better than I can "Math" because there is still a lot of experimenting going on.

But I digress.... I was talking about tools. My medical team and medication, and new strategies for health, for pain and stress management, have become part of my toolbox.

In fact, the weight loss has most definitely improved my situation. And that, my friends, was exactly the point of it in the first place. That and to be more present with my kids. I'm so glad my endocrinologist spoke up and was straight with me about this being necessary to take my life back when I wavered.

Is stress eating still a thing for me? In short, yes. Add to that, I'm smack in the middle of the 'bariatric brat' stage, and my "I don't want to" about good habits sometimes yells like a two-year-old whose sandwich has been cut the wrong way.

Here's the thing. Weight loss surgery isn't a panacea. It's just a tool. So those sorts of things are not going to magically disappear. And it takes a lot of effort to keep working all the tools day to day, under pressure. Has there been regain? Absolutely.  Am I still fighting? You betcha.



 Now there are going to be people out there who like to be critical and focus on that 'look what's been regained' part of this. I'd encourage a more positive, hopeful view.

So here is my regain list.


I've regained:
My Fight- There was a time when I just plain wanted to give up because the goals were too big, too hard, too beyond me. Now I know that just plain isn't true. I'll eat elephants one bite at a time if I have to, but I will do it. Some goals are just going to take more time.

My Perspective- It doesn't matter what the number on the scale says particularly for me now. My most important measurements are now not scale related.

My Confidence in my 'Gut'- There were some situations that I've been through where my gut made one call and others around me were telling me "It isn't so". Circumstances this year have come about in such a way that confirmed my gut in more than one area. I won't second guess my gut again. On the surface, it sounds unrelated to weight loss, but this one, for me, was pivotal in the personal growth journey.


My Willingness to Face My Fears- I repeatedly continue to share my story despite the fact that sharing the hard parts puts me open to criticism. That's not easy. But I've decided to "do it afraid" anyway, in the hope that it helps even one person rethink giving up on their efforts.

Weight? Yes there is that too.
 I have maintained a loss of more than 100 pounds.

If you want to talks specifics, at my highest I was 307.
I went too low and dropped to 157 at one point.
Last year I was 178.
After an incredibly hard winter where I've had to manage some very difficult things, I had reached 207, but have turned it around and have lost 5 pounds of that regain so far.
I will choose to work for loss in five-pound increments, assessing how I feel as I go, and I am pleased to say I am back in spitting distance of Onederland again.  I think I'll go for that next.

So while I don't quite have this maintenance thing all figured out yet, I'm working hard. I could honestly relate to Edison who said: "I have not failed, I have simply found 10,000 ways that do not work." I was thinking about that and then something rang like a little bell in my head. Something I'd heard before. What was it?

Oh yes, that's it!


Ironically, that number where I'm sitting RIGHT NOW is in the statistical window that the Bariatric Center of Excellence's clinic set for me in the first place. So they still consider this a success on a purely numbers basis. Who am I to argue with that?

I'm dreadfully curious to see what the next year brings, aren't you?


For your amusement, my "before" picture with a picture of me teaching 
Science-related classes in our local Homeschool Co-op. See? I can "Science".

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Two and Three Year Update On Weight Loss via Gastric Bypass


I had Gastric Bypass Surgery, in conjunction with a total lifestyle and movement overhaul a little over three years ago now. I hit and exceeded clinic goals and my own. Makes for good reading, right? What's that? You're noticing that there's no 'Two Year Update' on the blog? Well, that's true.

I didn't do a two-year update and here's why: in having hit maintenance, I did as so many do and I floundered a little. Didn't know what to do with not having a 'goal' anymore. The day to day goal that it was suggested I take on wasn't meaningful enough to keep me motivated.  Moving into the weight maintenance part of this is HARD.
Don't get me wrong, I set myself to other goals, and succeeded little by little at those too. They were measurable, attainable. Things were moving on that front.
But this was a year where my use of the tool was put to the test: winter, vitamin deficiencies, three deaths in the extended family, medical and interpersonal challenges, kids and their eccentricities, and just plain old life rolled into one. It was a serious opportunity to fall back on my old habits of eating for stress relief and comfort. For a while,I bought into the lie that if you stumble, you're failing.

I won't lie, it was tough. Because I really like Peanut M&Ms, and cheesecake.
 But I want to keep what I have more than I want to go back to where I was. It became pretty clear I'd have to fight for it like anyone else that loses weight and wants to keep it off. You see my dear, as I've always said, weight loss surgery isn't a panacea. It's just a tool. And it takes a lot of effort to keep working all the tools day to day, under pressure. It made me a discouraged body, especially since it fell in that period of time where people stop giving such lovely feedback on the work you're putting in.

So what was a girl to do?
Well, I needed to invest myself back in the process. To make sure that I continued to give back to the people coming after me in this process, so I didn't forget where I came from. I needed to keep plugged in with the people who'd cheered with and for me during the pre-op and weight loss phase. They would now be the ones with whom I'd fight in the trenches for my maintenance.
When a fellow group member suggested we start a maintenance support group satellite and asked me to help admin, I hopped on board, both for motivation and accountability.

I ran a back to basics informational series, facilitated discussion topics for them and would you know? I was very much not alone. Turned out, we were all suffering in silence, until someone spoke up. And when one spoke, then others found the courage to speak as well.
The courage to talk about the hard things like 'not keeping off 100% of the weight'.
To discover how it's 'normal' to experience 'bounce back' to a degree after massive weight loss.
To give voice to the unspeakable fear that we'd gain it all back.
To realize there are actually two challenges to manage about regain: recognizing regular bounce back, and then allowing that to be worsened by black and white thinking that says "I gained some back, it's all coming back.  I can't do this."
To manage the reality that surgery doesn't solve all the problems.
To use the support we provide each other to formulate a game plan that would make it possible for that not to happen. 









To give a little context, I think it's important that you have a recap. In 2013, I started at an all time high of 307 pounds. On my surgery date, I was 286, after two weeks of medical fasting. And I worked it that first year. Wasn't sure where I'd end up because well, frankly I always wondered in the back of my mind if this would fail too. Mini goal by mini goal I inched my way down, surpassing the clinic's goal and then the one I'd set for myself. So much so that at my first-year appointment I was 162 pounds and clinic told me to stop losing weight.


But I was ever so close to 150 total lost. Silly me, I have a thing for round numbers. So I pushed it a little further and by my birthday that year, I registered 157, a grand total of 150 pounds lost. Where I stayed for all of a week. It wasn't maintainable, and I was physically miserable. But hey, most people were cheering me on, so it wasn't a problem, right?

By two years I'd had the 'bounce back' occur. Mentally, it's hard to gain weight after you've worked so hard to lose it. I was so concerned about negative comments. People can be cruel. Especially when you use a tool that carries some stigma, and they wouldn't mind seeing you fail. I was so concerned about criticism that I didn't even want to do a blog update. No celebratory pics to showcase how much of my loss I'd maintained. Nothing inspirational to see here. Move along folks.

But, get this... I was a little bewildered when the clinic wasn't at all worried about me at the two-year appointment. No negative comments at all. They considered me to be doing well, and perhaps that should have been a clue. But I didn't really register that at all.What I did do though is decide to continue the  mental work this past year to make maintenance a reality.

  It has paid off, but when it came time to have to get on the scale for the medical records again this year I wasn't less pre-occupied. It's kind of surprising how after all this time, the scale can still take up a lot of mental space. I suppose I can be like a dog with a bone that way.

Do you know? I attended my three-year appointment recently, and I had conflicting feelings because my weight had been bouncing around recently, and I had a pleasant surprise. My two-year and my three-year numbers were only three pounds apart. At the two-year mark 175, and at the three year 178. Maintaining within an acceptable range .

Remember, they only had documented the first year at 162, They never saw me drop as low as I did. In their perspective, I am well within the expected range of bounceback and I am now maintaining well. When I asked the dietician about it all he shared with me a point of interest: It is completely normal to gain 1-2 pounds from aging alone with no other changes. With all the other things I've got going on right now, I'd say that's kind of exceptional.

In retrospect, I should have stopped losing weight at 170. I was 170 when I got married in 2000, and I've put six term babies through my body since then. But none of that occurred to me at the time, when things got hard. I had the projected acceptable 'bounce back', but because nobody was talking about it, I thought I was starting to fail. Having to add different foods back into my diet in order to avoid the dizziness turned out to be a mental trip too, and trying to adapt to 'normal' life not so very easy either.
To be frank, it's a little like living in the twilight zone. Like 'normal' people, but not at all, because I constantly have to think about how what I put in my mouth will affect me.  I don't tolerate 'lots of sugar' so well. Also, the line has moved as to how much I can take in before dumping sets in, but there is still a strong punishment for poor food decisions.

So my adjusted weight range is 170-180- this keeps me from dizzy spells and I move well and feel generally well. Could I lose ten more pounds and be at the bottom of that range? Yes. But what woman my age doesn't want to lose ten pounds? Oooops my 'normal' is showing. Normal, what is that anyway? It's a dryer setting!

So what does all of this mean? If I were to choose the middle of my acceptable range as my 'goal weight' and compare it against how much weight I've lost, my weight today, I have lost 98% of my excess weight. Shut the front door! I guess that's not too shabby after all.

On a bloodwork level, last year my vitamin D was low and that seemed to have righted itself with appropriate supplementation in my vitamin regime. Iron is the going concern now, and we're investigating a little further because the numbers came out a little wonky.

What tools am I using to maintain?

CALORIES: Still trying to keep in the 1500 calories per day range
PROTEIN: 80-100g protein per day.
FLUIDS: Over 16 cups of fluid per day.
FITBIT-: Yes I'm still wearing that thing, and I get moving. I use it to justify my lack of gym time. If I can hit 10,000 steps I don't care about the gym. I've got a whole bunch of coloured bands for it. It's kind of funny actually, matches the warbrobe. Probably looking to grade to an Alta eventually.
TRACKING: when I don't I am much more prone to do whatever feels good. So yes, at least intermittent tracking is going to be a life long tool for me.
MENTAL WORK: Balance is really important. It's really easy to go back to the mental gymnastics and diet mentality.
SUPPORT: I have "been there, done that" kind of people who can speak sense to this situation and encourage me.


I talked before in other posts about needing to reset my defaults. I really don't eat well naturally. I have to maintain the habit.  So what is the best plan? The plan I'll use for life. If it's not maintainable, I'll stop doing it and I'll gain weight. Period.
So, ironically, I'm working every tool that even the people who don't choose Gastric Bypass have to work in order to succeed. Could I have done it without including this tool? Internist said nope. Not medically likely. So I work all the tools together. Shoots that whole 'easy way out' argument out of the water, doesn't it?

There are lots of things gastric bypass won't fix.  Having had gastric bypass complicates treatment of some of the things I have going on medically also. Fortunately, I've got a good medical team that is willing to work with  me on treating as many things with nutrition and vitamins as possible. That's really invaluable.

So  I've been all over the map on this journey.
 It begs the question: What does success look like? Well, I think that will vary depending on whatever life throws me at the time. But I will sum up the current view of success with a set of pictures.

I had someone once suggest  to me that perhaps I don't want to post my pictures (as frequently as they do) because I've gained back so much that I'm ashamed. Yes, it was a low blow, and hardly supportive. They were several steps behind me in the process and hadn't quite hit the maintenance stage and all that it brings with it yet, to be fair. That honeymoon period is a pretty big sweet spot and can make a person think 'regain can't happen to me'.

Well, I figure that posting infrequently to make more of an impact is the better way to go.

I'd like to address the above thought, so I chose to wear clothing I was wearing at my one year mark for my three-year photo updates. I still own both the pink cardigan and wear it occasionally, but my kid wanted to wear blue for the family photos and Mark and I had to wear blue to accommodate. So the black cardigan you get. I figure that being able to wear this at three years out served as commentary enough.














Monday, November 30, 2015

Things we never saw ourselves saying before kids!

It's no secret that we have some shenaniganizers in our crew.
It has had me saying some things I never anticipated saying:





THINGS WE NEVER SAW OURSELVES SAYING BEFORE KIDS!

High Five for NOT peeing in your underwear!


Please put your dress back down. Yes, your underwear are very exciting. no, not everyone wants to see them.



Well, honey, I'm not sure if there are toilets in Heaven.


Scissors are not for cutting toe nails.


No. My half knitted scarf does *not* look more beautiful off the needles. But thank you for showing it to me that way.



No, I don't think we will get a 'peed' snowflake to top our Christmas tree.


I'm not sure that the kitty really liked her bath, honey.



Yes, I am aware that hygiene is important, but my toothbrush is for me, not for the cat. 




So what did you never anticipate having to say BEFORE KIDS?











Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Help! I've fallen and I can't get up! (A commentary on falling 'off the wagon')

I wrote this as a response to a post in my weight loss support group, but I'm CERTAIN that more than one person needs this today. So edited for your reading pleasure:

You've fallen off the wagon and you're panicking. You think you've gained weight. You think all is lost.You're wondering where you go from here. You ask "What do I do now?!"

 So here's what you're gonna do.

First, take a deep breath. This is not an emergency.
I know it feels like it, but it's not. In the context of things, you've been here before and you can get out of it again. Your tool is still intact. It still works. Remember gastric bypass was never a cure-all. It's just one of many tools you work. So pick up your tool and work it.

Second, remember that it's not 'all or nothing'. You have the ability to decide that you are not left behind, and that you're not running from something (being fat, fear of regain etc) but running TO something (health, mobility, the feeling of comfort in your clothes.)
Make all your choices through that lens

Third, get rid of the junk food. The temptation is too large. Remove it from the house while you choose to get back to basics.

Fourth, get back to basics. Review week six of the surgery manual; if you lost yours, get another one.  The diet for life is your friend.
Track your food, there is just something about having to write it down that makes you think twice about eating the junk. Don't forget to measure. Portion sizes get big fast when we 'eyeball' it. Seriously.
For those of you reading this post that haven't had gastric bypass, this part won't make much sense to you, but suffice it to say there is a specific diet we adopt for long term health. The main theme of this thought is to get 'back to basics', and eat a diet appropriate to your situation.

Fifth get moving. Physical activity will help give you some exercise high and burn some calories. Both good toward your goal.

Sixth, revisit where you've come from. If you took 'Before' shots and measurements, and you are not as high as you were at your highest, this is the time to take them out...... forget what happened in the middle of your journey. You are likely still ahead of where you were.

If you are not, all is not lost. Not even a little bit. Repeat steps one through five until you get back to seeing results. In the meantime, make sure to work your support systems to their fullest. If that includes psych for depression parts of the journey, don't feel one iota of guilt. Just make the call and get an appointment. No shame. Make sure to get all the help you need to get healthy.

You've got this.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

All the reason in the world to pay full attention



The Negotiator is convinced we need a cat. It's not really likely to happen, but we did end up with a gerbil farm, all because of a field trip to price pet supplies, as an extension of math class, so I guess nothing's impossible.

This morning she was asking for a pen and a paper.

When I asked what she'd like to use it for, she replied "So that I can make a list of all the things we're going to need to get a cat."

"Fair enough." (I've learned to just roll with these things now. Just because we end up with a list of things a cat needs, doesn't mean we'll need a cat right?!)

Since I was currently in the middle of taking care of another task, she started making her list aurally.

"A bed, a litter box, cat food, water, a urinal...."

"A Urinal?!!!"

"No mom. A YARN BALL"!

Serves me for being distracted!

What wonderful things have you misheard your children say lately?


POST SCRIPT: We now have TWO CATS, and a crazy cat lady in the works... and she's making lists about dogs now...












Friday, April 24, 2015

Head Games, and Goals, and Regain! Oh My!




When I left my all time high of 307 pounds, I had lots of thought around 'goal'.
What was that going to look like?
Would I stop at 230? (The weight I couldn't ever pass through)
200? (Clinic's forecasted thoughts on the matter)
170? (My wedding weight, that I never thought in a million years, would happen?)
160? (My want list number?)
157? (To make it an even 150 lost)
Oh the head games.
I *did* make it to 157- for all of a week. I earned my bragging rights, but my butt hurt to sit, and I looked 'too thin'. I thought so, others seemed to, also. It was affecting quality of life to have gone this low.
I called 'goal' at a range of 155-165, to keep me from losing my mind with all of the trying to decide what goal looked like.
But you know where I've actually levelled out for the time being? (at 22 months)
170.
You know. My 'impossible' number.
It seems (for the moment) where my body is happiest, without removing the excess skin.
It would seem that my 'unreasonable' number wasn't so unreasonable after all.
It's not a 'normal BMI'.
It's not everyone else's view of perfection.
I could decide to be discouraged about regain.
Or I could decide it's maintainable with the current laundry list of health issues I'm facing. That I am maintaining a loss of more than 135 pounds, and there is nothing unimpressive about that.
Inadvertently, I built regain into my goal, and balanced out. No guilt required.
Now, to behave myself and stay here.
Just thought I'd share that for anyone struggling with the concepts of goals and regain.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One More Hilarious Reason I'm glad I Homeschool




It was a comedy of errors really.

Not sure I'd have even noticed if I hadn't followed up with the swimming desk.

I wanted to verify whether my kids had passed their most recent level of swimming and collect their badges.

The record holder scanned the list with me...

Story Teller... check
Mountain Goat..... check
Negotiator..... check
Artist.... check
Planner.... check

Wait. What's this?
Artist has no show listed beside his name.
Artist, but none of his other siblings.

That's strange. What do you suppose we've been doing with Artist, while his siblings attend swimming lessons? Duct taping him to the bumper of the van in the parking lot? No swimming lessons for you, Artist.

I was directed to ask the supervisor about it. I'm glad she found it strange also, since she has taught my son previously, recognizes that I bring ALL of my kids to class, and yet, there is a paperwork discrepancy.

I chuckle and tell her I suspect it is simply an admin error.
She decided to ask Artist's teacher about it, since she might be able to explain why he had also been missing the report card.

This is the funniest part.

Supervisor: So do you have "The Artist" in your class today?
Teacher: No, He's not here.
Supervisor: (Pointing at Artist) What about that child? What is his name?
Teacher: Oh, that's Tony. (Tony is not my son's name)
Supervisor: I see. How often does Artist attend class?
Teacher: He's been a no show for quite a while.

There is further discussion about the Artist's true identity.
Ah, the light bulb begins to go on....

Turns out Artist shows up for class, his participation has been credited to 'Tony the No Show' and Tony was issued his report card. Shockingly, Tony failed to show up to collect it.
<chuckle>

Later I told the Artist what had happened, telling him that his name was actually Tony.
He was initially unimpressed, but then decided to make the best of it.
He's still in a superhero phase.

He's decided "Tony" is his secret identity.
He also passed.

He's also convinced that all he has to do is stop showing up for class in order to get a report card and pass his class.

Reason 3,261 that I'm glad I homeschool: It's a lot harder to lose track of who your students are.