Time To Get A Move On!

Photo Credit: One Candle Photos via Compfight cc

In the midst of preparing for my exit from the all-liquid diet in a couple days, I have also noticed a curious impatience within myself – not necessarily to start eating again (though that is a major factor), but to be done.  Not to be finished with my new lifestyle and eating patterns, mind you – unless I fall off the wagon and stay there, these changes should be life-long. But to actually feel like I have accomplished something.

I know, I know – I have already dropped 60+ pounds. My clothes are falling off my body as I walk around the house. I haven’t needed my knee brace since I came home from the hospital. These are all positive and laudable things. I get that.

But, when I look in the mirror, nothing looks any different to me. When I look at Lor, I can see major positive changes to her body. (Hoo, boy, can I ever.) I look at myself in the mirror and see only that my face is showing more wrinkles and I am losing my hair. I mean, seriously  – at 240 pounds, I am still 80 pounds overweight. So, yeah. I am starting to get a little impatient.

The surgical recovery period isn’t helping my mental state any. I am still not permitted to move anything heavier than 10 pounds, and boy does it show. My arms and legs have never been flabbier. My sleep patterns are shot. (I started working on this article at 3 AM, for example.) And my blood pressure, which we had really hoped would be addressed by the surgery, has skyrocketed the last few days, and I am back on blood pressure meds. Very disappointing.

The walking is getting better, at least. Last night should’ve been our first 1-mile walk since our surgeries, but we were interrupted by rain and a power outage across the neighborhood. Even so, we managed half a mile of walking just running errands and grocery shopping, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Today we’ll get a mile. By the beginning of next week, we’ll probably be up to a mile and a half a day. (We’re adding about a tenth of a mile every day.) But even yesterday, unloading groceries from the car (one bag at a time, mind you), I could feel twinges from my incision sites. The fact that everything is not healed up yet is really frustrating to me, despite the fact that I am only 2 weeks out from surgery today.

In a way, it is reminiscent of being a child and counting down that last month until Christmas or Summer vacation – every hour that passes takes a day, every week that passes seems like a month. I am so ready to be able to eat real food, to work out, to look in the mirror and actually see someone different. Encouragement from everyone around me has been awesome – but there is still my personal sense that I am only wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. I am ready for something more tangible.

Let’s Get This Show On The Road,

– Hawkwind

A Game Of Inches

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(Warning: Young children, those easily offended, and those preferring not to engage in/read about human reproductive activity should probably just skip today’s blog. You have been warned!)

During your bariatric surgery preparations, and probably forever afterwards, you are going to be friends with the measuring tape. You will get to be astonished as you watch your hips and stomach shrink due to fat reduction, and depressed as your arms and calves do the same things due to muscle loss. It is a useful tool to keep track of unexpected muscle loss, ongoing fat burning, and (eventually) stabilization as your body gets used to your new digestive system and dietary practices.

However, I have been noticing in recent weeks that, while most of me is reducing in size, one area in particular is apparently gaining. Positive that I must just be hallucinating, I went in search of answers.

Hidden Inches

And I found some very startling ones: apparently, weight loss in males has an unusual side effect – for every 30 pounds of weight (or so) lost, the apparent size of the penis grows by about an inch. Now, I know from my limited understanding of biology that the human genitalia isn’t supposed to get larger over time – what you have is what you have. (Look up “penis enlargement” some time on Google to see how popular the subject is.) So, what gives?

It works something like this: Imagine a six-foot pole, set up as a fence post so that only 5 feet of it are exposed. If the fence isn’t maintained, dirt, leaves, and other debris gather around the base of the pole. Enough gathering of “stuff” around the base, and eventually you can only see the top 2 feet or so of the post. When your spouse gets after you enough and you get out in the back yard with your rake and your shovel, after a few hours you can see all 5 feet again.

So, the post is the male genitalia, the debris is the fatty deposits in your abdomen (due to your lack of maintenance), and the rake and shovel are your surgery and your lifestyle changes. All of a sudden, that fence post appears to be growing.

Every 30 pounds of weight loss works out to exposure of another inch of your equipment that had previously been inaccessible due to fatty deposits. As of today (I checked) I was down to 240 pounds – a total loss of 62 pounds since I started this process.

I will let you do the math.

But, the really startling thing is that I am not done losing weight yet. My target weight (according to my doctor, mind you) is 185 pounds! That is nearly twice what I have lost already. Seriously, now – a potential weight loss of 117 pounds, divided by 30 works out to 3.9 inches! Imagine the possibilities…

The REAL Benefit of Bariatric Surgery

Now, why, for heaven’s sake, is this not being marketed as one of the major benefits of weight loss surgery? It was never mentioned to me by anyone on my surgical team. I have frequently remarked on the lack of males undergoing this process – roughly 2 men to every 8 women go through with bariatric surgery. Talk up the fact that you can increase the size of your equipment as a result of this surgery and there will be lines of men out the door and around the corner waiting to sign up.

That’s just how men are. Despite what all the pundits and well-meaning sexual partners may tell you, size matters. Heck, did anyone watch the Republican debates? These were men competing to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, comparing sizes on national television. It isn’t just for locker rooms in high school.

Bariatric surgery needs to get behind this as a marketing device immediately. You know, for the health and well-being of all my fellow overweight men.

Yeah, we’ll go with that.

Patting Myself On The…Back For Having Weight-Loss Surgery,

– Hawkwind

The Return of the Five-Toed Sloth

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10 days out from surgery, and today I am a complete wreck. I am hunched over as if I were 92 years old with osteoporosis. My shoulders burn as if I threw a 100+ pitch baseball game last night. The top of my abdomen radiates pain whenever I walk or shift in my chair.

I must’ve really hit the weights yesterday, right? Started my new ultra-marathon workout a few weeks too early, tried kayaking for the first time, or something of equal exertion to have this kind of physical reaction the next day?

Yeah, actually I walked 3/4 of a mile last night.

Now, mind you, this is an improvement from the previous night, where we only covered .65 of a mile. But still, man. I can not believe that 2 months ago we were walking 2 miles every day and were discussing ways to disengage the dog from our walks so we could really start stretching things out. Even after Lor’s surgery, I was still managing 1+ mile walks with the dog every day, even during the pre-surgical “all liquids/no-calories” phase. Now after two days of walking back-to-back, I am ready to take pain meds, call the chiropractor, and sign up for reconstructive surgery. On my entire body, mind you.

We fail to understand (at least I did) just how important the “core” muscles in our midsection really are. There is a reason baseball players, marathoners, divers, etc. pay so much attention to things like pilates, yoga, and other core-strengthening exercises. Those muscles which are currently hunching me forward are the attachment points for all the other musculature in the body – the things that enable us to synergise what is happening in our lower bodies with what we are doing with our upper bodies and arms. And, now that I have 5 slowly mending holes in those core muscles, I am feeling the effects everywhere else in my physique as muscles that used to be gaining traction from elsewhere in my body are being forced to “go it alone” as it were. Isolation exercises, but not in a good way.

The speed is the really depressing part. Right before our back-to-back surgeries, we were just a few seconds off from averaging 20-minute miles. It may not sound like much to the athletes among you, but for mere mortals like me sustaining a 3 mile-per-hour pace over multiple miles is really good. Now I am back to managing only three-quarters of a mile in 22 minutes. I have a loooong way to go. Even the dog is starting to look back over her shoulder at me, wondering why I am taking so long to get anywhere.

I originally had grand visions of heading straight back into the gym in 3 weeks, right after my 1-month post-op appointment clears me for resistance exercise. Considering how my arms and shoulders feel today, from the mere effort of moving them back and forth as I walk around the neighborhood, I may have to reconsider that notion. My sagging pecs, drooping triceps and shrinking quads are making me think that I might go in to set my max reps on the first day and fail to move a single weight. After leaving the gym in shame, I will be reduced to lying on the living room floor and bench pressing handfuls of lint I find under the couch.

But, on a positive note, I have not yet given into temptation and eaten the dog. So there’s that, I suppose.

Six Days ‘Til Scrambled Eggs,

– Hawkwind

Are We There Yet?

Image courtesy of NPR.

Now that the chaos and madness of the closing have passed, and Lor and I are officially home owners, we can return to the subject that really matters to me currently: food.

Specifically, the lack of it.

I am 8 days out from my vertical sleeve procedure, and I must admit that the “no chewing” thing is really getting old. I have been fortunate enough that I have not fallen into hating protein shakes, like many other bariatric patients do, but getting 100% of my nutrition in liquid form is really starting to wear on me. You know things are bad when you are feeding the dog and are speculating about the taste and consistency of her hard dog food.

See, that’s the thing – I am not really hungry, per se. I am not craving food so much as I am craving texture. I want so badly to actually chew something, not just drink it. If I was given a handful of cucumber slices or almonds to chomp on currently I would think I had died and gone to heaven.

Following which I would probably end up in the Emergency Room of the closest hospital, of course. 8 days isn’t enough time for your internal staple line to have healed up. I am not saying there isn’t a reason for the “liquids-only” restriction. I am just saying that it is slowly driving me crazy.

I have started leaving the room whenever Lor eats her meals during the day – not because it bothers me to see her eat, but because the way I am staring intently at everything she puts in her mouth is making her uncomfortable. She is designing beautiful small meals filled with deli meats, cheeses, and fresh vegetables, and I am sitting there working on my 26th Muscle Milk shake in a row. (Believe me, I counted.) She cooked half a pound of bacon the other day and the smell filled the entire house. I almost ate a pillow to keep from crying in frustration.

But the real injustice of it all is this – Lor got to have her 2-week post-op appointment (the one where you “graduate” from shakes to soft foods) exactly 14 days after her surgery. Due to scheduling issues, mine will not be next Monday, as it should have been, but will instead be next Wednesday – 16 days after my surgery! I will be forced to spend 2 extra days sucking down protein shakes instead of moving on to semi-solid foods like scrambled eggs, refried beans, and Ricotta cheese.

The injustice of it all is unbearable.

For those of you shaking your heads at me in amusement, go eat nothing but protein shakes for 22 days in a row. Then we’ll talk.

If I See One More Sugar-Free Popsicle I May Scream,

– Hawkwind

Movin’ On Up

“When the world places a box around your life, nothing is stopping you from seeing how far out you can push those walls.”
– Tracy Schofield

You may have noticed that life never sends us stressful events in a nicely spaced stream, but instead delivers them in tightly wrapped clumps in close proximity to each other. So it should not be surprising to anyone that, exactly a week after my surgery, we are closing on the purchase of our home today.

It is not exactly a new house –  in fact, it was built in 1959.

We are not having to move into the house – we’ve been renting it for 4 years now.

It is not a big house – it is actually smaller than some apartments I have lived in, coming in at 1,100 square feet.

Nonetheless, in about 6 hours, it will be our house.  Which is yet another surprising turn of events in what has been a year full of them.

It is a problem that many people never give a moment’s thought to, but the truth is this: disabled people don’t get to buy homes. Anyone living on federal disability makes so little in a given month that no mortgage lender will touch them with a ten-foot pole. The “standard” mortgage wants your payment, taxes, and interest to total up to an amount less than or equal to 35% of your monthly income. In our case that would work out to…(pulling out calculator)…$490 a month.

Even in the current era of low interest rates, I don’t know too many people who have a house payment this low. And, of course, the lowest of interest rates are reserved for those with the best credit. And if there is one thing that the years of waiting for federal disability to come through does, it is this – it wrecks credit scores. I am 8 years out from finally being approved (after 4 years of waiting, mind you), and my credit score has still not recovered.

So, like 99% of all disabled folks in this country, I rent. (Paying 67% of my total income on rent, mind you.) The only way I could have ever expected to be a homeowner again would be to inherit a home, which is frankly too depressing to contemplate – I want my parents and my in-laws to live forever.

However, fate, consistent rent payments, and unusually generous landlords who are willing to become a lending institution has suddenly placed us in the position to purchase our own home, for the first time since 2001.

Buying a home has always been one of those “landmarks” in life – you grow up, you graduate, you get married, you buy a house. In 2004, with the arrival of my epilepsy, I was suddenly shunted all the way back down the ladder in one precarious stumble –  at 33 I was a home owner, then at 34 I was suddenly living in my parent’s home and having my diapers changed again. (Literally.) Just getting back to living outside my parent’s home with a wife who inexplicably loves me was, frankly, further than I thought I would ever get in life after I became disabled.

Yet, today, I am re-achieving another one of those “milestones”.

If you had told me in August of 2015 that today I would be a writer, down to 245 pounds, and on my way to close on a house in a few hours, I would have asked for some of whatever you were smoking.

My nerves are so shot right now, I could use some of whatever it was you were smoking.

On My Way To The Land Of Home-Ownership,

– Hawkwind