Do the Math

My mind is on numbers this morning. Since I am a poor mathematician, this can only lead to ruin and despair, but that is what I am thinking about nonetheless. Whether calculating percentage of weight loss from my highest point (5.5%, last time I checked), how much money is in the bank account ($26, last time I checked), or how many wins the Diamondbacks are going to need to capture the West this year (I am thinking 94, the division has gotten a whole lot tougher), an endless parade of numbers, equations and statistics are marching across my brain this morning. So, since that is where we are at, let’s use it, shall we?

The first post on Misdirected took place back on July 7, 2010. (I refer to the blog as being 3 years old because there were two massive breaks in there, each lasting over a year) In that time, we have had 16,300 page views. So far, so good, right? Well, dig this number: a full 1,449 of those page views have happened within the last 31 days. Basically, since we stopped talking about games and started talking about the upcoming Gastric Sleeve surgeries. Almost 10% of our total activity, over three-ish years of posts, has taken place in the last month. I am amazed and humbled that so many people are so interested in what Lor and I are doing here to get ourselves healthy, joining us on our “weight-loss journey” as they like to call it. Thank you for your interest and your support!

Some other numbers: Yesterday Lor dragged Vixen and I up into the foothills above Albuquerque for a hike. We managed a half hour hike, covering just under 1 mile, dodging cactus and coyote poop all the way. But, it was exactly what we needed – here in the American Southwest we are surrounded by gorgeous landscape just waiting to be explored, and instead I have been daily walking the dog around the blocks of our neighborhood. Very flat, very stable, very boring. As an additional “benefit”, today I feel like I was doing a legs day at the gym yesterday – very sore every way I move my lower body. Hiking up and down elevation engages all those stabilizer muscles and unused muscle groups that the trainers at the gym love to talk about. We need to add this to our regular schedule at least once a week, at least until we can afford to get mountain bikes. Then things are really going to change!

One last number I’ve been thinking about is a weight-loss goal number. At my initial meeting with my surgeon, I was so stunned to hear that I should be under 200 pounds again after the post-surgical weight loss that I forgot to ask how far under I should expect. Are we talking 199? Or more like 180?I have every intention of beginning weight lifting again as soon as I am physically able and am very curious what kind of “build” I should expect. I mean, are we talking Dustin Pedroia from the Red Sox? Or more like Maurice Jones-Drew from the Jacksonville Jaguars/Oakland Raiders? ‘Cause enquiring minds want to know, and all that.

I had better give this subject a rest before I start counting fingers and toes and Chihuahuas. Thanks again to the readers of Misdirected – nothing has made me happier than sharing these experiences with you all.

10 and 10 and 2, In Case You Were Wondering,

– Hawkwind

Good Morning, Guinea Pig

Photo Credit: Albert Vuvu Konde via Compfight cc

One of the negatives of getting up as early as I do is the lack of distractions. Don’t get me wrong, the lack of distraction makes a perfect environment in which to concentrate on writing, but it also means that negative thoughts can get stuck in the brain, whirling around and around like a ride at the State Fair – the one that makes you throw up and leaves you with a headache for a week. And this morning’s whirling ride is this: I can’t seem to find any evidence, anywhere online, of a person who has epilepsy and a Vagus Nerve Stimulator having any kind of weight loss surgery.

Finding folks just with epilepsy who have had the surgery is tough enough. I found a very poignant forum post on an Australian message board from 2008: “Surely I can’t be the only morbidly obese person with seizures in the whole country!” Apparently he was – not a single person responded to his post. A very small number of folks report developing seizures out of the blue after having a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass, but those that chose to report back after evaluation almost always reported some kind of vitamin or mineral deficiency as being the cause of their seizures. I’ve only ever found two people who reported successful treatment of both their seizures and their obesity. I may not be the first to cross the Sahara, but there sure aren’t any paths or footprints to follow here.

When you consider that I also have a Vagus Nerve Stimulator installed in my chest (very similar to a pacemaker in size and location of placement), the Internet goes totally dark. There is just no information at all out there about the effect of WSL on someone with this device implanted. Heck, during my surgical consult I had to show my surgeon the location of the implant on my body and briefly discuss what it does – he had never heard of it. He waved off the importance of it after determining that it would not interfere with the laparoscopic incisions required for the Sleeve, but now I am beginning to wonder – are there risk factors here that no one has considered because no one in my position has ever done this before?

Ten years ago when I enquired about Weight Loss Surgery, my doctor gave me a flat “No” – it was not appropriate for someone in my condition. I have since learned that the issue there was the concern for malabsorption due to the way the Gastric Bypass operates, but still – we’ve only got a few years of reliable history on the Sleeve at this point. Who is ultimately right, my current surgeon, who says the whole thing is no big deal, or my neurologist from a decade ago who insisted that the whole procedure should never be considered by someone like me? These are some frightening points to be considering at 5 AM, spinning around on the Hurricane of Doubt.

My father has made the suggestion that I should present the whole thing to my surgeon as an opportunity for him to publish a paper in the Journal of American Medicine or some similar publication. The more I think about it, the more I think he might be right – it may be a very good idea to give my surgeon some other motivation to do some extra research for my procedure. He can be the one who boldly goes where no surgeon has gone before. All I want is to come out of this process healthier than I went into it.

Spinning Rides Make Me Dizzy,

– Hawkwind

Not Statistically Significant

Sad to think I am hitting 285 pounds on the way DOWN.

 

Despite my dislike for “pounds lost” as the only factor of interest to many people who are going through the Gastric Sleeve, weekly logging is a required part of the whole process. And there was a whole lot of interest in what my numbers were for yesterday’s weigh-in after my disaster of a week last week. But the numbers don’t lie – yesterday I was at 285 again, representing a loss of 1.6 pounds from the previous week.

The Facts Are In The Numbers

The odd thing is, I was at 285 and some change three weeks ago, too. Last week’s weigh-in (without any major dietary disasters preceding it) I had gained a pound, and was up to 286! I was very disgusted with myself and happened to mention it to my father. Wise retired biologist that he is, he told me to dismiss the week’s weight gain entirely: “Starting from over 300 pounds, son, 1 pound is about a third of a percent. It is not statistically significant.”

I knew I should’ve paid more attention in biology class back in high school.

So, another not statistically significant weight loss for this week, then. Even my total weight loss since the start of this process is just on the edge of “real”, with our diet changes having resulted in just over a 5% change in my weight since we started (285/302 = .943). Now, 17 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, admittedly – I have basically reduced the load on my body by the weight of a bowling ball or so. But my body still hurts, it is still really easy to re-injure my bad knee (they are both bad, but the one I had surgery on can go out at a moment’s notice), and I look like crap. What once was a solid mass of fat all over my body has collapsed – I no longer look like I am carrying a beach ball under my shirt, I instead look like a candle that has been put in a hot oven for a few minutes. Not pretty.

Looking On The Bright Side

It isn’t all bad, of course. On Sunday, I was able to get into (and wear comfortably) a pair of 46-inch jeans that my mother-in-law bought me years ago, my first new jeans in years, and my first time in a 46-inch waistline since 2005 or so. I can now walk a whole mile without being ready to die. I even managed to get through 50 ounces of water yesterday, which may not sound like a mighty achievement to many of you, but my fellow bariatric patients are all nodding at the significance. Drinking that much fluid while only taking single sips at a time is amazingly difficult. Try it some day, if you are curious.  We should all be drinking 64 ounces a day anyway, right?

The struggle continues. This is the final week of relative calm, then the weeks of April 3 through the 23rd are filled with surgery-related appointments, 2 – 3 a week for 3 weeks straight. We are only 6 weeks out from Lor’s final dietary consult at this point, where her surgery will be submitted to insurance, then scheduled. We do not have far to go here if we can just stay sane, keep encouraging each other, and keep moving forward. By Labor Day, this should all be over.

Well, except for the weight loss part.

Visualizing No Longer Shopping in Fatlandia,

– Hawkwind

The Slippery Slope

Several weeks ago, at the beginning of the diet-change process, a sudden craving struck our household. With elevated heart rates and embarrassed glances at each other, we headed to the local ice cream shop, and each got ourselves a sundae. After all, we rationalized, we had better do it now, right? It’s not like we could splurge after our surgeries.

But, after the forbidden ice cream treat I felt…disappointed. Empty, almost. It had not really satisfied my craving at all, and I felt no desire for more. I told Lor, “Well, I guess that does it for ice cream.” I felt not only relief, but a curious sense of pride in myself. These dietary changes must already be working if my cravings were changing, right? I departed from our mutual diet failure with a sense of progress and accomplishment.

Fast forward to last week. Lor got sick – a head cold that left her drained and listless for days. Since she is the person who is in charge of our menu planning, and she had no real interest in eating, this created some confusion in the household. Especially when she demanded her favorite comfort food for getting through a cold – Green Chile Stew. Oddly, the best Green Chile Stew in our neighborhood is available from a chicken and barbecue restaurant, so I was dispatched on a quest to gather up the magical, sinus-clearing elixir. I asked Lor if it was OK if I got a meal as well. She waved her hand in dismissal, not being interested in what I did, as long as the stew arrived quickly. On the way to the restaurant, I lectured myself on good choices, reduced carbs, and eating sensibly.

3 huge pieces of fried chicken, a side of mashed potatoes with gravy AND a side of Mac and Cheese later, I realized that maybe I wasn’t as far along with these dietary changes as I previously thought.

In retrospect, the things I did wrong are pretty easy to spot. I should have agreed on a menu for myself before I left the house (2 pieces of baked chicken, maybe, perhaps some steamed broccoli to go with it.). I should have written it down, so I had something in writing to hold myself to, since my accountability partner would be lying on the couch several miles away, trying to breathe. But, mainly what I should have done is not take her illness as license to cheat on my diet. I should have gotten just the items that she asked for and then returned home, where we have tons of intelligent food choices already in place just waiting for me to prepare and eat them. It would’ve been cheaper, too.

I come out of the experience a little embarrassed and a little wiser. A single diet failure is not the end of the world by any means. But patting myself on the back for no longer wanting ice cream was a false achievement – there is no great accomplishment in giving up something I wasn’t all that crazy about to start with, and I gave myself a false sense of security. I have now identified a true weakness (starchy carbs with rich sauces), and can start to work on making that change in my mental programming.

You don’t give a thief a job guarding your bank, you do not leave the family cat unsupervised while there is food on the kitchen counter, and you don’t send Hawkwind out to the fried chicken joint. It is not the course of wisdom.

Dreading The Weekly Weigh-In,

– Hawkwind

45 Grams to Deconstruction

One of the very first changes that was made in our household was institution of a new diet. Before either of us ever met a dietitian, we looked over the (intimidating) packets of information we were sent home with from our surgical consults, and decided there were changes we could make immediately. We amped up our fruit and vegetable intake via smoothie creation once a day, we got rid of all our sugared snacks (goodbye, Ghiradelli), and we immediately stopped drinking carbonated beverages. But things got a bit more complex after the first visit with a dietitian. We were sent home trying to: A) Increase our water intake to 64 ounces a day (but that is a WHOLE other article), and B) Reduce our three meals a day to 45 grams of Carbohydrates each.
Now, 45 grams is not much. 45 grams is equal to, say, 12 ounces of fruit juice. Or a Whole-Wheat Bagel. Or 3 whole Oreos. It was becoming clear that many favorite foods were going to be vanishing from our lives – not at the “2 weeks before surgery” point, but more like the “right now” point. We began our transition from bread, pasta, and cakes to Kale and cheese.
This is where the support of friends and family members can be HUGE. For example, in preparation for our Easter get-together this year, my Mother called me to ask what could we actually eat? This is going to be great training for our lives post-surgeries when options will be even more restricted. We decided to stick with our usual cookout menu of burgers and brats, just without the use of hamburger and hot dog buns. Add a mixed green salad, and a small amount of fresh fruit for dessert, and voila – Lor and I can participate without feeling like we are screwing up everyone else’s meal.
That type of compromise and cooperation is going to be important in the months to come, I think. Both of our families are food-centric, with family get-togethers all planned around who is going to be bringing what food item. As we begin to change our diets dramatically, it is hardly fair to expect every one else in the family to follow along – they didn’t require Gastric Sleeve surgery, after all. But this idea of component-based meals, where Lor and I are free to select items or portions that work within our diets while everyone else can eat as they choose, seems to be an excellent solution. We don’t want to lose out on the social interaction that comes along with preparing meals and sitting down with the family.
We just want to make sure that we are around for the next few decades, so we can continue to spend time with each other.
Already Plotting For Thanksgiving,
– Hawkwind
PS – Since there has been a little confusion, Misdirected is published Monday through Friday. Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for all the stuff I should’ve been doing while I was writing and reading other blogs!