…and Onto the Other Side

My surgery is over! There were many pre-op things done at the last minute: A quick overview of my medical history, the insertion of an IV so I didn’t dehydrate, a meeting with the anesthesiologist, and other things. Then I was led into the operating room by a nurse, settled on the table, and woke up over an hour later in the recovery room. My surgery went well, so says the surgeon. Also, I use the term “woke up” loosely. I was still pretty drowsy from the drugs. In fact I think it took me a good hour or two before I was finally able to keep my eyes open. That hour or two sucked. Balls. I was stuck in a state wherein which I was drowsy and wanted to sleep, but couldn’t because of the IV machine and these leg massager things they had on me to try and dissuade the formation of blood clots. It felt like forever. But finally, after a walk or two up and down the hallway, I became able to keep my eyes open.

The rest of the say was spent watching a random NCIS marathon (good timing or what?) and tooling around on the internet. The nurses instructed me to make sure I was walking at least once an hour—again, so as to not find myself with blood clots in my legs—and use a breathing meter thing, the name of which I don’t remember, to make sure I was taking some deep breaths to stave off pneumonia. Because apparently that’s a problem.

Oh, and by the way? The nurses at this place are some of the most caring and conscientious medical professionals I have ever met. No matter what time of day or night it was or what I asked for assistance with, they were happy to help and friendly. They really made things suck a lot less because they were incredibly awesome at their jobs. I’m so lucky to have had them taking care of me.

Husband and I came home early this AM, and I pretty much went straight to bed. I haven’t slept very well in the last forever, so this is actually kind of nice. I still don’t feel rested, naturally, but I do feel as if I’ve gotten quality sleep. I intend to go get more quality sleep as soon as Husband gets home from running an errand.

See, we tried to make sure we already had everything we might need for my return home. There were some things, though, that we didn’t realize we’d need until after the surgery was over. One thing I’m looking forward to having is a nightgown. While I do own PJs, they’re all pants (which is sort of weird if you know me) and I can’t exactly do things like bend over to pull them up after using the bathroom. It also became clear that the table on which I normally set my laptop wasn’t going to be very comfortable, so Husband bought some TV trays. They’re adjustable, even, so if I need mine up higher, that can be done.

So other bariatric surgery patients, take note. For the last day and a half, I haven’t been able to so much as lift my laptop because my carry limit is only five pounds. (Or is it ten? Either way, it makes my abdominal muscles hurt to lift very much.) This means I haven’t really been able to do very much for myself. I hope any of you reading have a friend and/or a loved one to help you out post-op, ’cause you’re gonna need ’em.

And Husband has been doing an amazing job of taking care of me. He’s made sure I had all sorts of food for my post-op diet, he helped me out a lot at the hospital yesterday, and he even opted to spend the night there with me with no prompting on my part. I’m very lucky to have him, too.

And I think that’s about it for right now. I expect I’ll be writing more in the upcoming days as I become more able to consume things that aren’t teeny tiny sips of water, but for now, I’m beat.

Thank you to everyone who was thinking of me and wishing me the best. Your love and support mean more than you know.

The Day I Ate Chicken

February 20th

By now, I should be in surgery, if not already out of it. I wanted to wait until then to post this because…well, I’m paranoid. I suppose if someone at my surgeon’s office happened, somehow, to see this before my surgery date that they wouldn’t really care, but…I’m paranoid.

I started the doctor-recommended pre-surgery diet of protein shakes on Wednesday the 13th. I lasted until Monday morning. That’s five days of eating nothing but six shakes a day that were eight ounces each, as well as water and sugar free gum when I just needed to chew on something. By Sunday night, I was to the point that thinking about breakfast the next morning was making me freak out. By Monday morning, I decided I was overreacting, and decided to suck it up and give the shakes another go.

I decided rather soon after gagging on my breakfast that no, I really couldn’t take it anymore. I just couldn’t stand the taste, the texture, or the smell of those damn things any longer. So later after I’d gotten into work, I called my doctor’s office to see if certain solid foods would be ok to eat.

The shakes, as I’ve mentioned, have several purposes. They’re supposed to help me lose weight prior to surgery. They’re supposed to deplete my glycogen stores so that my liver won’t be in the way during surgery. And they’re supposed to make recovery easier by getting me used to a liquid diet before I go under the knife. I could have held out with them longer if they just didn’t taste so goddamn revolting.

But back to calling my doctor’s office. I asked the nurse if chicken would be ok. Just plain, oven-roasted chicken with no skin, no sauces, no anything. Just. Chicken. She said they didn’t recommend it, but that it was more because it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. I think I managed to do ok with that. So I excused myself from work for twenty minutes, drove down the street, and bought one of those rotisserie-style chickens and some cheddar cheese cubes from the grocery store.

They were, at the time, doubtlessly the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

I did not return to the shakes for the entire rest of the pre-op period. Instead, I ate more chicken, I ate lunchmeat (turkey), eggs, nuts, cottage cheese, taco salad (taco meat, one serving of cheese, and lettuce), regular salad, and salmon. I watched my portions and counted calories. I logged everything in my food journal. I tried to stay away from foods high in fat, and I eschewed high-carb foods (for example, I normally have toast with my eggs…yeah, not so much). I did, however, decide on the Monday before surgery that I wanted to have one last helping of pizza, which has always been my favorite food. I paid for it the next morning.

This restricted high-protein, low-carb diet has been affording me surprising amounts of energy. I haven’t felt so energetic in a really long time, as a matter of fact. But Tuesday at work, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. This was exacerbated by the fact that the previous night’s storm kept me from sleeping well.

The way I felt that morning is, I feel, important for me to keep in mind. I knew intellectually that introducing carbs back into my diet like that would have some ramifications. I was expecting, in fact, to feel sluggish and drowsy. But it was good to actually experience it so that the first time I begin to contemplate cheating on my diet with a piece of sugary candy I can think back to Tuesday’s experience, remember that it was not enjoyable, and make my choice with that in mind. Something tells me I’ll choose to stay away from the candy. That boundless energy is pretty intoxicating.

But back to my general pre-surgery diet. It turns out that other gastric band patients have different pre-surgery diets depending on their specific circumstances and what their doctor thinks is best for them. So for whatever that might be worth–possibly very little, given that every patient’s needs are different–there is at least a precedent for this sort of pre-op diet.

You should definitely listen to your doctor when you’re doing something like this. But you should also listen to yourself and what your own needs are. In my case, I needed to eat something that didn’t make me want to vomit. Am I glad I stayed with the shakes for as long as I did? Absolutely. It got my body used to not eating as much, and to going without as many carbohydrates as it was used to. I feel better physically now because of the liquid diet. But I also feel better physically–and yes, definitely emotionally, as well–because I’m eating something that my brain identifies as “food”.

I know that if I am to succeed in reaching my weight loss goal that I will have to undermine and reverse a lot of what my emotional attachment to food has done to me over the years–psychologically speaking, I mean. But I think I learned from this experience that doing it in steps is best. And right now, a week before my surgery, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place. I have been successfully resisting some pretty strong temptations over the last few days, and I’m optimistic that I can keep doing this. It will be especially helpful that, after surgery, I’ll be able to add some carbs back into my diet again.

“Not right now but soon” is a thought that’s done much to mollify the squealing voice in my head that doesn’t understand why it can’t have what it wants.

Stepping off the Edge…

It’s quarter of five in the AM and I’m due at the Surgery Center at six. I’m nervous as hell for the actual operation…but definitely looking forward to the long-term results.

I’ve packed a bag with some essentials—blankets, PJs, my birth control, and other items—as I do believe I’ll be staying overnight at the Surgery Center. Now it’s just a matter of waiting until it’s time to leave.

And other than that…I don’t really have all that much to say. I’ve said a lot of it already.

A part of me is still questioning if I actually want to do this, given how drastic it is—so if you’re also a pre-op bariatric patient and worried that, at zero hour, you still haven’t fully made up your mind, I can tell you you’re not the only one. But I personally have more riding on this than just losing weight, as well you might, too. I’m doing this as much to protect my voice by way of fixing my hiatal hernia as anything else. That’s something I’m absolutely certain that I’m ready for.

So I’ll catch you on the flipside, then.

Time left: 1 hr 15 min

Final weight: 239.2 lbs

Laying Some New Ground Rules

Work today saw donuts and cookies up for grabs, and naturally, I didn’t get to eat any of them. (“…get to eat…” because I was cheated in some truly horribly way, you see.) But it got me thinking. This week notwithstanding, this sort of thing is not a common occurrence. I am not bombarded by well-meaning coworkers’ pastries every hour of every workday. So I’m looking into the future and trying to figure out just how restrictive I’ll be with my diet.

They say that you should eat “sparing” amounts of fats, oils, and sugars. I, of course, have had a difficult time doing that in the past. So I know that if I forbid myself to touch another cookie ever again that I may cause myself problems down the road.

My willpower is not infinite. One day, I will crack. I actually came very close today. I went and investigated the donuts with a napkin in my hand…but there were no plain glazed yeast donuts, which are my favorite, and so that was justification enough for me to walk away and not have a donut. But if there had been a glazed yeast donut…well, honestly, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter at this point, anyway.

But I digress. The point is that if I absolutely forbid myself from having The Bad Stuff that my willpower is more likely to fail and fail spectacularly. So I decided to consider rules for the future. I don’t know if this will be how I end up doing things, but I wanted to write them down/share them in the meanwhile.

  1. I may only eat junk if it is provided to me from someone else with no prompting on my part–and only if I have room in my stomach at the time. This is an uncommon enough occurrence that I think it would qualify as an “occasional indulgence”. This covers birthdays, holidays, and yes, random baked goods at the office. That last bit will hopefully ensure that I am taking time to think and listen to my body and what it wants before cramming a some food into it. This is actually very important with the band anyway, as failure to do that can lead to things like band slippage and so forth.
  2. When at work, I may only have one serving of whatever-it-is, and I may not consume that serving until all other portions are gone. This would prevent me from going and getting seconds, thirds, etc. It might take me a lot of willpower to wait that long, but I’ve noticed I’m better about that sort of thing if I can’t see whatever it is that’s tempting me. Oh, and in the case of the day of ALL THE CUPCAKES when they probably still had dozens of the damn things left at the end of the day, I would have to wait to eat mine until right before I leave for the day. Then I would be on my way out the door and have no time to think about there being other cupcakes.
  3. At family gatherings, junk may be eaten only after my meal is finished, and only if I truly have room for it. I had to think about this one. Technically food provided at a family gathering falls under the first rule—it’s food that someone else is giving me, but that I haven’t directly asked for. So clearly, I had to come up with a special rule in this case. In essence, this is what every parent tells their child (or at least what mine told us growing up): I can have dessert, but I have to finish my dinner first. The difference here is that not only do I have to finish my dinner first, but I have to have room for dessert. Somehow, I don’t really see that happening terribly often.

    Edit: I should wait at least twenty minutes after eating before deciding if I have room for dessert or not. (With thanks to Heather.)

Those of you reading, I would be interested in feedback if you have any. Obviously these rules are based entirely on subjective experiences, but I’m sure there’s at least one of you out there who can weigh in on whether or not any of this sounds loony (Older Sister, I’m looking at you).

And I may be adding other rules in the future. But these seemed like a good start.

Time until surgery: 4 days, 12 hours, 33 minutes

Thursday Thoughts

I’ve been very talkative this week, haven’t I? I guess I have a lot on my mind. Can’t imagine why…

My body type is the sort that shows when I gain or lose even as much as five pounds, and so this week I’ve been feeling pretty good about my weight when I stop to think about it. Before I started my pre-op diet, I could tell that I’d gained weight by how clunky and lumbering I felt. It didn’t surprise me when I stepped on the scale for my last dietician consultation and I’d gained almost ten pounds.

Now that I’m losing again in preparation for surgery, I feel much more comfortable. I can only imagine that I’ll feel even more comfortable the more weight I lose, and I’m excited. It’s been a very long time since I weighed less than two hundred pounds.

I suppose that was really all that I wanted to share today—that I’m excited. For as much whining as I do, I really am truly excited. That was one thing I warned my husband about, actually, and I suppose it bears repeating.

I am really looking forward to having the band (though don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous as hell). But in the short term, I want a damn cupcake. So in the short term, yes, I will whine and complain about how I can’t have a cupcake. But I really, truly do want to do this. And more, I recognize that I need to do this.

So yes. Today I am excited and happy. And I just thought I’d share.

Time until surgery: 5 days, 12 hours, 30 minutes

Struggling with Self-Comfort

This very restricted, pre-surgery diet that I’m on is, as I’ve written, really difficult. But the entries about this subject have pretty much only dealt with the physical reasons why the diet sucks. I’ve been completely ignoring the emotional and psychological side of things. I think it’s time to change that.

As I mentioned in “The Monster Inside”, food has long been a way for me to feel like I had control over at least some aspect of my life. What I didn’t mention is that food has also been one of my various self-comfort methods. That is, it’s what I use to calm myself down or make myself feel better in stressful or otherwise negative situations. When I feel anxious, sad, or worried, my first impulse is to eat. Being that I’m more high-strung than some, I often feel anxious, sad, or worried. And being that I’m not a robot, I also often feel a whole host of other emotions that trigger that “must eat now” response. This is one of the things I know I’m going to have to find a way to overcome if I want to be psychologically healthy as well as physically healthy. And during my pre-surgery diet, well…I’ve had a few instances of wanting to curl into a ball and cry. Or whimper, at the very least.

I can’t utilize any food-related methods of self-comfort right now. Well, actually, I can’t do it anymore at all if I want to successfully lose weight, but I’m trying not to focus on the permanence of the change right now lest it cause more issues. I’ll cross that bridge when I’m not highly stressed because dammit I’m constantly hungry.

But so that’s a mental adjustment I’m having to make in addition to all the physical ones. I want to resort to my usual means of self-comfort. And I can’t.

But writing about it is very cathartic. (Seriously–if you decide gastric banding/another bariatric surgery is the way to go, I highly recommend you keep a journal, private or public.) It also leads to another Important Question:

Why do I find food so emotionally comforting?

Another way I self-comfort is by snuggling things. These things are often stuffed animals or the like, and occasionally one of my cats if it vociferously demands attention. I can’t bring a cat into work, however (more’s the pity), so I think I might start bringing in something snuggly I can cuddle when I’m feeling down in the dumps. Is that an odd way to soothe emotional issues when you’re twenty-five going on twenty-six? I believe most people would find it so. But there are times when I just stop giving a damn about what other people think and…y’know, this is one of them.