Player 1: Continue

Yes, the title of this entry is a video game reference.  Deal with it.

This past Friday, I awoke with every intention of beginning a period of better eating habits (what most call “going on a diet”, but I’m trying to avoid that terminology because “diets” are generally temporary and gimmicky) and with the knowledge that my timing was tricky because I was headed to a science-fiction convention.  I find it difficult to eat well at such events for a number of reasons.  The big one is that I’m essentially off on holiday, even if I’m working at the con the way I was at this one, and because of that almost festival sort of atmosphere, I’d rather make indulgent food choices.

But I was gonna try, by golly.  No time like the present and all that.  Then a friend offered to buy me Penn Station not once, but twice, and screw watching my calorie intake, *givememeat*.

And y’know what? Totally worth it.  I would rather have had both of those meals than have limited myself this weekend.  And it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure or that I’ve fallen off any proverbial wagons.  I wanted spicy, warm, greasy, meaty sandwiches, and I ate them, and they were delicious.

Today, I want a spicy, warm, greasy, meaty sandwich, and today, I am not getting one.  Instead, I am eating in, where I can measure and portion my food and write down in my little notebook how many calories, how much protein, and how many carbs I’m eating.  And lunch is sloppy Joe, so it’s not like I’m forcing rice cakes and tofu seasoned only by my salty tears as I lament the lack of delicious greasemeat down my throat.

(To clarify: I love tofu, but it’s gotta be flavored with something.)

Also today, I had a doctor appointment.  As is standard, I was weighed on my way to the exam room.  My scale had me at 264.  The doctor’s scale had me at 247.  So apparently there’s something wrong with my scale.  I know it needs a new battery, so I’ll take care of that, see if any other things need changing on it, and see if that enables it to get back to weighing things accurately.

The possibility that my scale is 17 pounds off is actually not a surprise.  My boyfriend has been weighing himself on it as well, and since his weight hasn’t changed much in the past decade, he was very surprised to discover that he’d gained 17 pounds.  I feel that my doctor visit this morning has confirmed that something is wrong with the scale.

So today begins my renewed efforts to track my intake, curb my impulsive eating, and reduce the amount of junk food I ingest.  My goal is to lose ten pounds by January 1st.  Time will tell how successful I manage to be, particularly with the holidays right around the corner, but hopefully the grace I gave myself this weekend will carry over to those holiday meals if I need it to.

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Building a Bonfire

Normally I would pontificate on how long it’s been since I updated this blog, but I wrote this entry mostly for me.  I’m only posting it publicly because sometimes I need to tell other people about things in order to keep them real in my head–it’s like one of those micro-aggressions you do against an abuser (in this case, my compulsive eating habits) to keep your resistance against them active.  So the format of this entry is a bit different.

Though for reference: The last time I weighed myself, I was in the neighborhood of 270 pounds.

My why:

  • I’m frustrated by never having any energy
  • I dislike how cumbersome my body is to move around right now
  • Practically none of my clothing fits and I both miss it and can’t afford to replace it
  • I miss feeling attractive

Challenges:

  • It is very emotionally taxing for me to control what I eat. In order to do so, my life basically has to revolve around what I eat.  I need to focus on making good choices and curtailing my self-destructive impulses.  I need to be diligent about measuring, portioning, timing, and counting calories.  I expect this will take some measure of time away from each workday, and given that my focus on most days is on productivity, it can be very stressful to shift that focus to anything else–this includes things like self-care and even housework.
  • I need the people around me to be supportive of my efforts to eat better, most specifically my two boyfriends, who are the two people I see the most during each week.
  • I worry that my finances might bar me from being able to make good food choices for one of two reasons:
    1. The food that meets my dietary criteria will be too expensive; or
    2. I won’t be able to afford a variety of foods that meet my dietary criteria, and will quickly become burned out eating the same things all the time and slip back into unhealthy eating habits because unhealthier things are less expensive and therefore easier to acquire in a wider variety
  • Eating away from my residence, whether at a restaurant or at someone else’s house, will become either exceptionally tricky or outright impossible. This has a host of implications.
  • Changing things that have become staples of my diet could be tricky.
  • I’m likely to be hungry a lot when I begin to alter my eating habits, which is going to make it more difficult to stick to the new habits. Even mild physical hunger can make it difficult for me to focus, can make me feel depressed or irritable, or even make me feel queasy.
  • The ever-present sweet tooth is still there.
  • My depression and anxiety are, in general, mollified by comfort food, and as these personality disorders are ever-present factors in my life, living without my time-old form of self-comfort can be very tricky. I actually theorize that it was a significant contributor to my nervous breakdown in 2014.

Dietary criteria and goals:

  • Eat once every 3 to 4 hours
  • Eat 6 to 8 ounces of food per meal
  • Eat 15 to 20 grams of protein per meal
  • Do not eliminate carbs, but eat them sparingly
  • Fat is fine, your brain needs it to function
  • Do not drink right before, during, or right after eating—but consume at least 30 ounces of plain water per day
  • Eat between 1150 to 1300 calories a day
  • Track meal portions, calories, protein, and carbs every time I eat
  • Weigh-in only once per month, not once per week as I used to

I am still on the fence as to whether or not allowing myself one “cheat day” each week would be mentally and emotionally beneficial, or do more harm than good.  On the one hand, it would allow me to relax the mental and emotional “muscles” that I keep clenched when I expend the sort of energy required for me to engage in better eating habits.  But on the other, I fear that even one day off from those habits might make it easier for me to slip back into the bad habits.

I have a lot of complex emotional baggage when it comes to food.  Slogging through it can be downright impossible sometimes.  It’s easy to just give up control and succumb to the addition.

But I’m tired of feeling hopeless and helpless.  The inner fire that ignited after I had bariatric surgery, when I began losing weight and feeling better, might have gone out.  But my old weight loss motivations are still striking sparks inside my heart, and I think I’m beginning to once again source scraps of tinder within my will.  Even as I’m terrified that I’ll fail again, I pull from other sources within myself my general attitude of, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and find that I am meekly, cautiously willing to try again to build a bonfire.

But baby steps.  I need to remind myself that it’s ok to go slowly.  It’s ok to make mistakes.  It’s ok to not be perfect.  And that no, this will not be fun.  It’s going to suck ass.  But I’ll dangle my whys in front of my psyche like candy and see if that helps.

So, first goal: Lose 10 pounds by January 1st 2018.

Determining it’s Time for an Adjustment

Everyone’s body is different. Some people have ridiculously high metabolisms—they can eat well over the suggested 2,000 calorie daily limit and not gain an ounce. Some people do just fine with that 2,000 daily limit. With that number and a reasonable amount of physical activity, they maintain a healthy weight and/or comfortable weight for their body type and personal preferences.

Then there’s me. When I eat around 2,000 calories a day, I gain weight. My body doesn’t seem to want to lose weight until I’m eating around 1,200 calories a day. Before surgery, there was no way in hell I could have eaten that little every day. Eating disorder aside, I would have been too physically hungry to maintain those portion sizes.

In the last few months, I’ve had between 1,700 and 2,200 calories a day, on average, give or take. And now I’m back over 180 pounds. Some of my clothes are beginning to fit poorly. I’ve noticed that going up stairs and just general movement is becoming less comfortable or me, and more awkward. As my husband said the other day, I was walking in a straight line, there just happened to be a wall in the way of the route of that straight line…

So I need to begin eating smaller portion sizes in order to return to a weight that is more comfortable to me. But I know from tracking my intake that I can’t currently eat portions that small. I’m just too physically hungry for that. Which means it’s time for another adjustment.

As my surgeon says, the Band is a tool. This sort of situation is what it’s there for.

Though that being said, I was dreading when I might have to do this again. It takes about a week for me to be back to eating solid food again after every adjustment, and I get a little twitchy from the hunger in the meantime. And there’s only so much Ensure a person can drink…

I know that it will be worth it in the long run. It’s just the short-term discomfort that I’m not looking forward to.

My body seems to go in this cycle. I’ll have an adjustment and deal with the hunger while my stomach calms down. Then there will be a period during which it’s still not too sure about a lot of things and I have to be really careful. Then my stomach gets used to this idea again, and I become able to eat more than it feels like I should be able to.

I’m in that latter most phase right now. And as usually happens during this phase, I’ve put on some weight.

My next visit to my surgeon’s office is in mid-January. I’ll ask about getting an adjustment and, as always, post an update on how it goes.

On Anxiety

I think I might have mentioned a time or two that I have some anxiety issues. I’m a little hesitant to call it an actual anxiety disorder, as I’ve never been formally diagnosed with such a thing, but it’s not infrequent that my anxiety will muck up my daily life. Maybe I’ll have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Maybe I’ll be too wired to focus on only one task at a time. Or maybe I’ll be so generally anxious that I can’t focus on anything and just sit around worrying about my lack of productivity and how anxious I am.

Yes, I get anxious about how anxious I am.

…that maybe sounds like something disordered, right?

I’ve learned over the course of the last year or so that not everyone with anxiety issues is anxious in the same ways or about the same things. I think maybe I’m still working on accepting the idea that this fact doesn’t make my anxiety any less valid than someone else’s. Just because I don’t feel X about Y doesn’t mean that I’m not legitimately experiencing something that’s causing me problems.

Yes, I get anxious about whether or not my anxiety is a valid response to the world around me.

I spoke in my last entry about seeing my general doctor for a possible way to deal with this anxiety. I have an appointment scheduled for a week from today. I’ll post later about how it goes. In the meantime, I’m trying not to be too—yup, anxious—about it.

I am actually pretty concerned about the idea of mucking about with my brain chemistry with medication. But I know that if I’m prescribed anything, it’s likely to be low-dosage. And I’m willing to see if it will help me, because dear gods do I need something that will help me.

I can’t sleep very well. I haven’t been able to sleep very well for a long time now. I can’t remember the last time I was truly relaxed without a million thoughts flying around in my head. I have so much tension built up in my neck, shoulders, and back that last Thursday morning, I developed a pinched nerve in my back simply because I turned over in bed. Last night, upon going to bed, it felt as if the matching nerve on the other side was being tweaked in a similar manner, so I ended up staying up until 7 AM with my heating pad in the living room trying to keep things relaxed.

There are days that I can get up and tackle the world. Then there are days when the thought of something as simple as doing the dishes freaks me out.

Why is this relevant to a weight loss blog?

My primary means of self-comfort is food. Being so constantly anxious makes me want to eat. A lot.

I’ve been trying to focus on drinking more water over the last two days. I figure it can only help my knotted muscles to keep my body well-hydrated. But apart from that, it’s also helping with my impulsive eating in a couple of different ways. First, the fluid fills up my stomach, thereby leaving no room for any actual food. And second, imbibing said fluid through a drinking straw seems to be satisfying my oral fixation-related urges. I typically chew on my drinking straws while using them, so in this case, not only do I have an edible substance passing into my mouth, but I’m masticating something at the same time. And water isn’t typically known for having a lot of calories in it.

Often when I want to chew on something, I’ll turn to gum. But chewing gum only covers half of the equation. I get the feeling of something in my teeth, yes, but I don’t get to swallow anything. So there are times when it’s not as emotionally fulfilling as I need it to be.

This drinking straw thing is a recent epiphany. I don’t know that it will always be a thing that hits this particular odd spot, but for now, it seems to be helping, at least a bit.

So that’s the update on the game plan I mentioned in my last entry. We’ll see how next week’s appointment turns out.

Status Update #14

Today was my latest check-in with my surgeon. My state of mind is pretty much the same as it was in my last post, so we’ll just jump to the numbers.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last time: 164.6 lbs
Weight today: 172.4
Total lost: 74.6

The crappy, crappy numbers.

I’m not sure why I’ve been having so much trouble lately. I just know that the urge to give in to my cravings for my trigger foods has been too much to resist since about May or so. I’ve done better some days and weeks than others, but over all, it feels like this summer has just been one big ball of stress-induced eating. I know I have a lot going on, but it’s all good things. It strikes me as odd that I’m this stressed out by good them. But then I’ve thought for a while now that I have some sort of mild, undiagnosed anxiety disorder, so that might have something to do with it. Y’know. Just a little.

So today my surgeon and I came up with a plan. I am to see how my stress levels and therefore my eating habits are by the end of the month, and if I haven’t been able to find my way back to more positive places, I need to go talk to my general doctor about trying some sort of anxiety meds/mood stabilizers/etc. My surgeon and I will reconnect in early November and see how I’m doing either way.

Since I can’t afford to talk to a therapist, this plan actually gives me a little bit of hope. Just a tiny amount. I can’t begin to tell you how long I’ve yearned for a better way to deal with my stress levels, or how lost I’ve felt when it comes to finding it. Medication might not help, but I’m willing to try it. Thankfully, if I am prescribed something, it’s likely to be a very small dosage. So…well, we’ll see how things go, and I’ll keep you all posted.

There will be no photo with this update, as you should already have an idea of what I look like at this weight. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to post a photo of myself at a weight with a five in the middle place.

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?

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.