Putting Things in Perspective

So by now anyone reading should know that I have some issues with willpower when it comes to food. …normally that sentence would contain at least one link to a relevant blog entry, but there were so many to reference that I just left it out. But really, if you’ve read even one of my last few entries, you should be up to speed on that aspect of my personality.

The reason why, in this particular entry, that information is pertinent, is because this summer has been…decently terrible as far as my willpower is concerned. My weight is still below 170 pounds, thankfully, but I was so close to 160 at one point. Yes, it’s only a difference of about ten pounds. But my body shows even five pounds gained or lost. The joys of my individual body type.

I hate to say this but, well…I’ve been feeling fat. I find myself back in that cycle of wanting junk foods and eating them while in some weird state of denial that surely I’ll be fine later, and then feeling like a failure and all-around horrible human being after the denial and endorphin high wear off. To say that I didn’t miss this would be putting it mildly at best.

I guess as far as my weight is concerned, I’ve been doing somewhat well thus far, all things considered. But this 160-170 pound neighborhood in which I currently find myself is becoming my new baseline, and thus, putting on even a few pounds because of poor eating habits makes me feel pretty bad about myself. I’m trying to get my eating habits back on track, but it’s not easy.

So I’ve been trying to keep in mind these photos:

Status Update #9

From Status Update #9.

The photo on the right was taken when I weighed only about two more pounds than I currently do. I know there is a remarkable difference between the photo on the left, taken before surgery, and the right hand photo. It’s an amazing record of how far I’ve really come. So as I’ve been hating myself for gaining five pounds, I’ve been trying to put things into perspective. I’m not sure it’s helping, honestly.

And I’ve been trying to keep in mind how much better I feel in the long-term when I don’t give into temptation and when my weight is around the 160 mark. That’s unfortunately pretty difficult when my brain is screaming at me for short-term gratification.

I think one thing that’s been weighing on my mind a lot lately and adding to this overall feeling of “fat” is my stomach. The loose skin is really starting to bother me, and there’s no way to do anything about it without further surgery. Which I can’t afford. …I’ve never wanted to crowdfund something in my entire life, but no way in hell is that happening.

My food and body issues have been weighing on my mind a lot lately. Enough so, in fact, that I finally looked into psychiatric help for dealing with them. But my insurance will only cover 80% of the bill after I have paid my yearly deductible (which I haven’t yet), and before that, naturally, it would be entirely out of pocket. While 80% is a nice high number, the remaining 20% is beyond my means. Not to mention the 100% I would need to pay out of pocket before my deductible was paid off.

So I’m feeling a little stuck in a couple of different ways. I hate being aware of a problem but lacking the ability to do anything to fix it.

About the only positive body-related thing I have to report today is that my hair seems to finally be making a comeback. Hair fall is a natural part of a weight loss surgery patient’s post-op life, and over the course of the last year and a half, my hair has thinned by a noticeable amount. Even the strands themselves seemed less thick than they had been prior to surgery. But I’ve noticed recently that my hair is feeling and looking thicker and fuller again. I was beginning to worry that would never happen, so it makes me very happy that that doesn’t seem to be the case.

…though that happiness is somewhat tempered by my current dismal feelings concerning the rest of my body. Before I had surgery, I typically felt that my only genuinely attractive feature was my hair. My brain seems to be trying to wriggle itself back into that old, familiar mindset. And I’m trying to prevent it from going there. We’ll see how successful I manage to be.

In the meantime, I think I could use a boost. What positive things are going on in your lives that you might be willing to share, readers?

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Eating Day-to-Day

My surgeon’s office likes to be very involved with their patients. They do a lot of great outreach things, including pre-op informational seminars and “Transformation Tuesdays”, which is a sharing of stories from their LAP-Band patients on Facebook. All of these activities are opt-in—they are, of course, very careful not to share anyone’s information without express consent. I’ve been to one seminar and I’ve sent blog posts along for Transformation Tuesdays twice. And I’ve asked what good topics to blog about might be, which is why this post was written.

When asked, the Transformation Tuesdays correspondent replied:

I think one of the biggest things that we get a lot is people think they will NEVER be able to eat again. Our goal is for people to eat a variety of items—only learning healthier options.

I was also talking to a perspective patient at the seminar I went to about post-op diets, and he expressed his concern that he would never be able to eat things like steak again. From what he said, I gathered that celebratory steaks are a family tradition for him, so it was understandably important to him that he be able to partake post-op. Steak is one of the foods they list that post-op patients might have difficulty with. Everyone’s body is different, but I thought it might be useful to examine some of my common food choices as a post-op LAP-Band patient. Note that not all of these are one hundred percent balanced, but even over a year later, I’m still working on that. I feel like I’m doing better, but it’s difficult to break the habits of a lifetime.

Breakfast
They encourage LAP-Band patients to eat a lot of protein. To that end, I typically start the day with this meal.

A breakfast idea

Mmm, pigmeats

This meal consists of one egg, scrambled, with ketchup (you’ll find ketchup to be a recurring theme); two ounces of Eckrich skinless smoked sausage; and two ounces of red seedless grapes. This is a goodly amount of food for this particular LAP-Band patient, and it’s all delicious. Together, these foods account for just over 300 calories and around 12 grams of protein.

I won’t lie, I’ve had to adjust to eating this sort of thing for breakfast. I grew up eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast every day, which, apart from not being a food that’s high in protein, also doesn’t take as much effort to prepare. I’ve begun cooking my eggs and sausage ahead of time so that it’s more difficult for me to be lazy and decide to eat something else in the mornings.

I find that the part of me that wants to just eat and eat and keep eating is actually pretty mollified by having a multitude of foods to eat at each meal. Even if I’m only having comparatively small portions, the variety helps to satiate my urge to look for more things to eat.

Lunch
Lunch is usually a bit simpler for me than breakfast. But not as far as flavor is concerned.

A lunch idea

This is what heaven would look like if it were food

This concoction is half a cup of cous cous, two more ounces of sausage (because I apparently really like that stuff), an ounce and a half of extra firm tofu, and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Tofu is a wonderful way to add low-calorie, high-protein content to any food. It’s similar enough in texture to the sausage that, when cooked together, I can’t really tell the two apart when I’m eating them. Sautéing them in the same pan causes the tofu to pick up the flavor of the sausage. It also prevents me from having to use any oil or butter to sauté the tofu; the grease from the sausage is sufficient.

Mixing a tablespoon of brown sugar into the couscous/sausage/tofu combination satisfies that savory/sweet craving very nicely. And the entire concoction is overall incredibly satisfying in a lot of ways. It accounts for 420 calories, and an unknown quantity of protein, because I failed to mark that in my notes.

Dinner
For dinner, I usually aim to have a variety of foods on my plate. This particular meal was made for my husband’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and so it contains some rare indulgences.

A dinner idea

Om nom

Hey look, steak! I haven’t had any difficulty with it post-op. The trick is to make sure you cut it into manageable bites and chew it until it’s no longer recognizable that it was ever a solid food. Sauces help, and my sauce of choice is, as you might have noticed, ketchup.

A bite of steak

This is a “manageable bite” for the size of my individual mouth

This meal is comprised of three ounces of cap top sirloin petite steak (180 calories) with the fat trimmed off, salad (which I never count because it’s salad) with half a tablespoon of low-fat ranch dressing (which is equivalent to a quarter of a serving, or 20 calories), and homemade French fries (which in this case was half a potato fried in olive oil—I’m honestly not sure of the calorie content of it, but I’m certain it’s up there).

All told, these three meals probably accounted for 1200 – 1600 calories for the day. I try to stay under 1500 calories, but birthdays are an allowable exception (within reason).

I have also successfully eaten many foods they recommend you avoid post-op. For example, my usual lunch involves a sandwich. It’s an open-faced half sandwich on toasted bread, but it is on bread. I’ve also eaten both soft and hard tacos, as well as popcorn and birthday cake. Carefully. As with all foods as a post-op LAP-Band patient, I eat slowly and chew my food thoroughly before swallowing. And if something isn’t sitting right with me that day—it might be my sandwich, or it might be my morning eggs, which are a soft food and therefore much less likely to ever cause a problem—I will stop eating it. Or I’ll slow down. Whatever my body is in the mood for at that particular point in time.

So will there be a lot of changes to your diet if you decide to have any for of bariatric surgery? Yes. But I look at it like this:

I was miserable before I had surgery because of my weight. I felt terrible both emotionally and physically. Now I actually like the way that I look, and I feel much better overall. So yes, on the one hand, I could have opted not to have surgery, and continued to enjoy afternoon-long ice cream and chocolate-covered pretzel binges. That would have made part of me happy. The sick part, quite frankly. Now that I’m post-op, I might not be able to demolish half or more of a large pizza all by myself anymore, but I like myself as a person much better. And I consider that a more than worthwhile trade.

Besides, as I’ve said, I can still enjoy those indulgent foods. I just can’t have as much of them as I used to, and frankly, should not have been eating to begin with. On the pre-op side, the potential changes are frightening. But trust me, on the post-op side, they’re worth it.

(For one thing, I’ve discovered just how much I love fruit. The amount of enjoyment I get from fresh fruit is probably illegal in some parts of the world. Holy shit is fresh fruit delicious.)

So if you’re a prospective LAP-Band patient and you’re worried about post-op changes in your diet, I hope this post has helped to illustrate what a post-op diet can actually be like. I know it can be really unnerving to go to a seminar or do research online and hear that, once you have the surgery, you won’t be able to eat this, that, or the other thing anymore. Maybe you won’t, or maybe you will. But either way, at the end of the day, isn’t your own health and comfort level more important than food? (Remember, this is coming from an admitted addict and compulsive over-eater.)

I will finish this rather length entry with this video. There’s some interesting information in here. Give it a watch, and if nothing else, at least try to be mindful. Even general mindfulness is something our culture is pretty bad at.

Status Update #12

Greetings, gentle readers! It’s been around two months since my last Status Update, and boy do I have some things to share. So settle back and prepare for lots of words coming at your face.

First off, as always, the usual progress report.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last month: 166.4 lbs
Weight today: 164.6
Total lost: 74.6

Woo! I got my 75 Pounds Lost pin today from my surgeon. By their measurements I’m still .4 pounds away from truly hitting the 75 mark, but sheesh. Close enough. Besides which, my scale told me I was 162 this morning, so I think it works either way.

75 pounds lost

*achievement unlocked*

I am, as you may surmise, rather pleased with myself and my progress. I know I’ve said in the past that my goal was to get down to 130 pounds, but honestly? I’m pretty happy in the 160 – 165 range. I feel comfortable, I feel attractive, I don’t feel inordinately fatigued upon exertion, life is good. The only thing I’m actively unhappy about these days is the loose skin around my midsection that’s giving me some tummy rolls. Sadly, those aren’t likely to go away without some surgery, and that’s not in my budget (to put it mildly). But overall I’m very happy with the results of this crazy thing I did to myself a year ago February, which is an awesome thing to be able to say.

I’m a little surprised that I’ve reached this latest milestone, though, because May was not the greatest month on record. It’s not every menses that makes me want to eat all the chocolate in the world, but last month’s did, and for up to a week on either end of my cycle to boot. Hooray ladybits?

I’ve also been experiencing some difficulty with anxiety management, which is a thing I frequently struggle with, and a very large trigger for bad eating habits. But I’ve been trying, and that really is an important thing. It’s so tempting to just give up and/or in for at least a little while, but dancing on that particular slippery slope is a Bad Idea.

So there’s one milestone! And this is my 80th post on this blog. Another milestone! The next milestone involves my wedding bands.

I took them to the jeweler today, because I have finally determined that it’s time to get them re-sized. I’m not expecting to lose much more weight, and certainly not enough from my fingers for it to make much of a difference. And dammit, I miss those rings. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been able to wear them.

But there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that my wedding band, which is a simple ring with no settings, can be re-sized very easily. The jeweler is even doing it free of charge, since we bought it from them.

But the bad news is that my engagement ring cannot be resized due to the nature of the setting and the drastic change in sizes.

My engagement ring

This is what it looks like, for those unfamiliar. And it’s garnet and black spinel, in case you’re wondering. (Can you tell I get asked that a lot?)

The ring is currently a size seven. My finger is down to a size five. So it’s likely that resizing it will cause the side stones to pop out pretty frequently.

I wasn’t surprised by this news. I was actually expecting this to happen. So while it’s unfortunate, at least I wasn’t completely blindsided by it.

The jeweler does have the capacity to do custom work, so they could completely remake the ring…but we can’t afford that. So at this point, I’m not sure what’s going to happen as far as this ring is concerned. I will at least be able to wear the super-important wedding band again, but the husband and I will have to discuss what we want to do about the engagement ring.

The last thing I wanted to add to this entry is something about which I am giddily excited. I have always loved corsets. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 2006 or 2007, I learned how to make them myself. And I don’t mean those flimsy things you can buy in the mall—I mean sturdy, steel-boned, tightlaced, real corsets that create waist reduction and wide expanses of glorious, erm, tracts of land. But I had to stop wearing them even prior to surgery because of my hernia. And then after surgery I figured that I wouldn’t be able to wear them again because, well, I have a physical object wrapped around one of my internal organs.

But I asked my surgeon about it today. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t have much experience with the combination of LAP-Bands and corsetry, but he said I could go ahead and try it. Carefully. And if it’s comfortable, then I can continue to wear corsets. Carefully. If it isn’t comfortable, well, at least I’ll have tried. I can’t tell you how much I miss them.

Obviously none of the corsets I made for myself back in the day will fit me anymore, so I’ll have to wait until my next convention before I can try one on. But that’s not going to be too long of a wait. I intend to go armed with my measurements and find a corset vendor (thank the gods for Steampunk being a Thing these days—there’s almost always at least one corset vendor at any given con with a dealer’s room) and try a corset on. And then…we’ll see. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Because if it’s comfortable to try on and hang out in for a few minutes, then I get to start making my own corsets again.

And I cannot wait to see what this new body looks like in a corset. I was frequently assured that the old one was a sight to behold, and I like this one better, so I’m excited. I’ll post an update and possibly a photo or two (if the vendor will allow) once this happens.

For now, off I disappear into the mists of the Internet again until I have something more to say. Thanks for reading!

Status Update #12

PANTS?! What is this craziness of which you speak?

Status Update #11

Holy cow, it’s April! Time flies when you’re so busy that you’re too busy to realize how busy you are. And now, some numbers!

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last month: 175.0 lbs
Weight today: 166.4
Total lost: 72.8

Today I reported bright and early for an esophagram. The last such test I underwent was conducted about two weeks after I had surgery. This was its one year post-op counterpart, and it was done for the same reason: To make sure my band is still right where it’s supposed to be. It is indeed, and my surgeon continues to be very thrilled with my weight loss progress. He told me today that I’ve lost approximately twenty percent more than the average for LAP-Band patients. I’m pretty proud of myself!

I’m still hoping I can lose a bit more. We shall see what progress I’m able to make now that it’s finally getting warm enough that I can start going for walks again. If nothing else, I would at least like to get down to 160 pounds so I can celebrate that 75 Lost mark.

In the meantime, I’m still working daily to not only carefully measure and portion my food, but to also keep constant track of how much I’m eating. It’s always tempting to be lazy about it…but I know that’s a ridiculously slippery slope. If I take even one step toward it, I’ll fall down it again. So mostly I just ignore those urges to be lazy. I don’t like where they lead.

I’ve also been working to stay between 1200 to 1500 calories a day, which is a plan my surgeon approves of. Between my vitamins and the fact that I’m eating, y’know, food and not processed garbage (I seriously lived on boxed macaroni and cheese for a couple of months just because it was so tasty), I feel like I’m in a pretty good place nutritionally speaking. Also, my hair is beginning to look like it’s trying really hard to return to its former glory, which is an incredibly good sign.

And now that I’m beyond the one-year mark with my band, it looks as though I’ll only be going in to see my surgeon once every two months instead of once a month (-ish). So I likely won’t be making another Status Update until June.

There’s not going to be a photo of me this month. You’ve sort of already seen me around this weight, anyway. Instead, here’s something I’ve been contemplating posting for a while.

I’ve mentioned before that I weight myself once a week to keep track of my progress? Here are my records of that. I have no idea if this is interesting to anyone but me, but this is what the last couple of years have looked like on my end.

Weight Notebook #1

From ye olde dayes ofe yore…

Weight Notebook #2

From a year and a half ago

Weight Notebook #3

The first sheet after surgery

Weight Notebook #4

The sheet from the crazy summer of 2013

Weight Notebook #5

The most current sheet

Status Update #10

Today is the one-year anniversary of my LAP-Band surgery. Yesterday I had my tenth post-op visit with my surgeon. As usual, I will start this entry with some numbers

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last month: 170.0
Weight today: 175.0
Total lost: 70.8 lbs

I’ve put on about ten pounds since November thanks to the holidays utterly obliterating most of the good habits I’d spent months building up. I thought I had been doing better than I evidently was. This year, I shall have to be more careful.

But even despite that, the fact that the scale at my doctor’s office read “175” gives me hope. My scale at home read that this past Saturday, on my weekly weigh-in day, and there’s always a few pounds’ discrepancy between home and the doctor’s office thanks to things like clothes and the fact that I’ve usually had at least one meal by the time I weigh in at the doctor’s. So if I was 175 pounds there yesterday, then that means that when I climb onto the scale again this Saturday, I might be headed back in the right direction. So yes, I am hopeful.

This week I have been trying to keep myself to a 1200 calorie daily diet. I have gone over by a hundred or three a couple of days, but I am doing my best to at least track everything and get it written down. That part has been pretty successful. And I’m trying not to think of going over 1200 calories a day as any kind of failure–for one, I’m just starting to rebuild my habits, and for two, one of the reasons I’ve eaten more than that is because I’m just hungry. I am legitimately wanting to eat more, because my body still wants more food, rather than my head wanting more food. I’m going to give it another week and then ask for an adjustment if I’m still having issues with hunger. (I was already planning to do this anyway, but the staff at my doctor’s office firmly encouraged this idea because it can be difficult to tell what your hunger levels are really like when you’ve failed to exercise good habits for as long as I have.)

I will tell you that in the meantime, though, I wish I’d just asked for one yesterday when I was at the bloody office. I’ve only just had breakfast, and I am still hungry. There will be many glasses of water in my future today to act as filler, methinks (and it’s not a good idea to drink lots of water, anyway).

So, one year ago today is the day my world was reset. How am I going to celebrate? I am going to celebrate by going to a fancy restaurant with my husband and a good friend of ours, and consuming a pre-portioned dessert for which I have already researched the nutritional information. If I am as good as I intend to be today, it will fit into my daily limit. And I will not have anything else at this restaurant, unless that “something else” is dinner, and is a thing that fits within my daily calorie limit. (It’s wonderful that so many restaurants have their menu’s nutritional info online these days, and that portable food scales are things that exist.) Of course the “exciting” part of this is that there are practically no items on this menu apart from desserts that are within the calorie range I’d need them to be in order to be able to eat them. But the nutritional guide I’m looking at assures me that the chef’s can accommodate me.

I could also, of course, just eat dinner at home before going out for dessert, which, given both my nutritional needs and how hungry I’m likely to be around five or six o’clock, is probably what will happen.

I should not be celebrating this milestone in this manner. But I wanted to do something with people, and since my husband would be the one footing the bill either way, I wanted him to get some enjoyment out of it, also. The fact that I am not saying to myself, “This occasion is a celebration, and so I will have however much of whatever I want” is very important. The fact that I looked up the nutritional information for my dessert, and that I’m working to budget it into my daily calorie allotment, is very important. I am working toward that whole “vigilance” thing, rather than using this as an excuse to go hog wild. …and I had sort of been beating myself up for using this as an “excuse” at all, but the more I think about it, the fact that I’m taking into account the calories and working to be aware of that and so forth is a good sign. It’s one of the habits I need to work back up.

So yes, I am celebrating my one-year bariatric surgery anniversary with a dessert. But I am doing so in a moderated fashion–and I’m sort of proud of myself for that, given how much difficulty I’ve had in the past with moderation.

There will be no picture this month, as I haven’t changed much. We’ll see what’s happened by my next appointment in April.

Status Update #9

I’d had another check-in with my surgeon, so it is once again that time. This is actually a bit late this month—sorry.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last month: 168.4 lbs
Weight today: 170.0
Total lost: 70.8

Those numbers could be better. To say that I’m disappointed in myself would be an accurate way to describe my feelings…but I do also sort of feel as though maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself. It was the holidays—but then maybe that’s just the addiction talking.

In any case, there were other things I wanted to talk about today than my most recent post-op visit. I had intended to write this post sooner, but late is indeed better than never. So, Christmas.

December what a bit of a nightmare for me. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know if it was the fact that the holidays made a convenient excuse, or the fact that seasonal candies made a convenient excuse, or if Seasonal Affective Disorder just makes me want to eat all the things, or a combination of those and other factors, but I just could not behave myself when it came to food. My weight is thankfully still right around where it was in November, which means that I at least haven’t gained anything over that. But still. I can’t help but think that if I’d have eaten less junk, I might have gotten closer to my ultimate long-term weight goal.

I was, however, successful in not stuffing myself to an uncomfortable level at Christmas dinner, which is most definitely a win. On New Year’s Eve, I had more junk than I should have, but that was, as I’ve said, just the way December went. Writing this entry has actually brought some focus to the fact that this is a whole new month, and the cycles of last month do not necessarily need to carry over. There’s something to think about.

But yes, I have been having a lot of trouble with my portion control lately. And it’s not just with the sweet stuff, either. It’s with everything. I know how to solve that problem—I need to slow down when I’m eating, and be stricter about stopping when I feel full. I just get so tired of having to maintain that diligence, that alertness, that self-awareness. And this weariness is not new. It’s part of the reason why dieting never worked for me. But I really no longer have the option of just throwing caution to the wind—I have to start being more careful, or I could hurt myself. I just feel like I’m constantly in some sort of frenzy, and so it’s difficult to pay attention. …have I mentioned lately that I don’t deal with stress well? (I am currently wending my way through multiple stressful projects and situations, so finding the brain power to focus that much energy on eating properly is very difficult for me.)

I really must look into speaking with a professional about my food problems. I am not confident that anything productive will come of it at this particular point in time—I attempted to see a therapist a couple of years ago for different issues and ended up getting a bit screwed financially because of my insurance company—but as I often say, one never knows without asking.

Also, while visiting my doctor this month, I asked about additional supplements to take for my hair. Hair loss is a common thing for LAP-Band patients, and in that respect, I am quite the norm. And that is perhaps the thing that upsets me the most about this new life. My hair is very important to me. To list all of the reasons why would take much longer than I think any of you want to read; to articulate all of the ways in which it is important to me would be impossible. So I’ve been very, very upset, actually, these last few months, because, while some of the hair has grown back, it is noticeably thinner and somehow lacking. What hair I do have seems to still be pretty healthy, but I am nevertheless very concerned that it isn’t what it was prior to surgery. So I wanted to see if my doctor could recommend some additional supplements that could be beneficial to the growth and health of my hair.

He did give me the name of a supplement to try. I have not yet bought any because I’m waiting on some blood test results. Yeah—they actually drew blood to check the levels of various things in my system, because my doctor suspects there’s something off nutritionally that is perhaps beyond the norm. I’m…not really keeping my hopes up, but I’m finding it more difficult to remain positive lately, just in general. That’s SAD for you.

Anyway, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can get this sorted out sooner rather than later. I feel like a part of myself is missing, and honestly…at times it’s enough to make me regret having had the surgery. At times.

Until I have answers, I’m just trying to keep my hair up so that it doesn’t bother me as much, and am actually considering a drastic haircut, which if you know me personally, should really tell you something.

In the meantime, this month I will leave you with not one, but two photos. The first is the original photo of myself that I posted in November of 2012. The second is this month’s progress photo, taken in a manner similar to that original photo, for the sake of comparison. No, I am not above posting pictures of myself in my underwear on the internet—as I’ve said, I’m not wearing any less fabric than I would be in certain kinds of bathing suits.

But so this is the difference a year (and bariatric surgery) can make. …putting this together was quite the experience.

Status Update #9

Because everyone wears bathing suits in Indianapolis in January. Right?