18 Months and Counting (A Post-Surgery Progress Report)

A Post-Surgical Progress Report

They say that time flies ever more quickly the older that you get. Even knowing this, I was still startled to look at my calendar and discover that this week will be the 18-month anniversary of my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is tough to believe that I am already a year and a half out from that amazing life-changing decision.

The changes are still overwhelming: everything from my waistline to my plate size has shrunk. Meanwhile, my stamina, physical activity, and interest in life all have grown by leaps and bounds. I hear on a weekly basis how I am “not the same person” that I was two years ago, and I can only nod in agreement. The version of me that sat around the house exclusively eating and gaming is no longer a part of my life.

The Tech Support Trap

Now, I (still) spend quite a bit of time online, mainly following up on interactions with those who are either considering or struggling with bariatric surgery. And I am noticing a trend towards “horror stories” – people reporting all the terrible things that happened to them as a result of bariatric surgery.

Let me say upfront: bariatric surgery is a scary thing. Things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. It is not a shortcut to weight loss by any means. It is a last-ditch, dramatic solution to chronic obesity.

But, it also must be said: it also is not automatically a disaster waiting to happen. As someone who used to work in tech support, I can tell you this: the vast majority of people posting on forums and in chat rooms are those that something went wrong for. When things work, we rarely feel a need to draw attention to them.

So, allow me to shed a little light on what happens when bariatric surgery goes right.

Shiny, Happy Patient

My personal experience with surgery was almost unblemished. (Other than that unfortunate incident of trying to eat sourdough immediately post-surgery.) I obeyed my nutritional guidelines, paid attention to my surgical team, and embraced my new pre-and post-surgical diet. After all, I figured, I was getting ready to have 3/4 of a major organ lopped off…no point in going forward with that if I wasn’t willing to make all the attendant changes that went along with it, right?

And it worked! Waiting in the pre-surgical area, my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, did not recognize me thanks to the weight loss I had already experienced thanks to the pre-surgical diet. (I had already dropped from 302 pounds to 248 pounds pre-surgery.) The weight loss after the surgery was consistent, and I actually beat my personal goal of weighing less than 200 pounds. By August of 2017, I had lost all the way to 175 pounds: nearly 130 pounds of weight loss.

Not only did I lose weight, but there were other, less visible results. I was able to head back to the gym. We began hiking at least once a week, sometimes more. We walked/ran in the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo” 5K in May of 2017 – an actual “bucket list” item of mine for decades.

For every negative associated with the surgery (loose skin, yuck!), there has been at least one positive (a 34-inch waistline, like I had in my 20s!) And there have been several positives with no negative whatsoever: for example,  I can now hike 8 miles. And not collapse for days afterward.  This from a guy who, only 2 years ago, could barely walk the dog four-tenths of a mile.

Tough to see the downside to that.

Regular Maintenance Pays Off

So, coming up on two years out, this is where the shine is supposed to start coming off. Many patients complain about creeping weight gain returning at this point in their bariatric journey.

So, just to be sure, I checked this morning: I am currently at 176.3 pounds.

Let me run that by you again: for 6 months now, I have been within a pound or so of 175 pounds. Once a week, every week.

My secret?

Regular maintenance.

You see, this is also the point where many bariatric patients start investigating “When can I…?” As in, “When can I start drinking soft drinks again?” Or “When can I start eating Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies again?” Or, worse yet, “When can I stop working out all the time?”

See, that is the problem with bariatric surgery. Many folks don’t realize that there is no traditional recovery period from bariatric surgery. All the surgery does is “reset” your weight and metabolism so that you can NOW develop the habits you never did before.

If you are wondering about when you can start embracing negative habits again, the correct answer is: you can’t.

Not if you want to maintain your health and your weight loss, anyway.

I know people who have regained about half of the weight they lost after surgery. Because of this, many claim that surgery was a wasted effort for them.

Now, anything that allows you to lose half of your excess weight can’t be a bad thing, in my book. If you lost 100 pounds then regained 50, you’re still 50 pounds healthier by my calculations.

But I personally would rather maintain the lifestyle I learned pre- and post- surgery, and not have to deal with buyer’s remorse.

As the kids on the Internet like to say: Your Mileage May Vary.

A (Small) Example

Yesterday we got together with Lor’s family for a dinner and birthday party for my niece. As we all gathered at the dining room table, I had a chance to reflect on what our lifestyle changes meant.

For dinner, Lor and I spilt a 6-ounce steak. I also added an ounce or so of shredded beef, and 6 or 7 mushroom slices. Since I was feeling saucy, I even added a tablespoon of mashed potatoes in lieu of fresh corn on the cob.

My nephew, seated next to me, took one look at my plate, and asked: “Uncle, how can you live on that?”

I looked past him to the family portrait on my Mother-In-Law’s wall. Taken last Christmas, it featured Lor’s entire half of the family. Standing front and center in the group, I stood. Smiling.

The same person who, until 2 years ago, made every effort to avoid being photographed for any reason whatsoever.

How can I live on it? A heck of a lot better than I used to live on obesity and shame.

Bariatric surgery: it isn’t for everyone, but it sure as heck has done the job for me.

Though I Do Still Miss Girl Scout Cookies,

  • Jeremy

I Am Officially Certifiable

Ace Personal Trainer Certificate

The rain was drizzling down not unlike Boston or Seattle when we pulled in the driveway last night. We had spent 12 of the last 36 hours in the car and were worn down to nearly nothing. I shuffled over to the front door, unlocked it, then listlessly flopped open the mailbox, only to discover a certificate sized-envelope from ACE Fitness.

I then spent the next ten minutes running around the house in glee, shouting “It’s here! It’s here!”, much to the consternation of the puppies and the exhausted amusement of Lor. Funny, that.

Recognition In An Envelope

I eventually calmed down enough to open the envelope, and was able to spend a few moments basking in the glow of my achievement. There, in my hands, suitable for framing, was my ACE Fitness Personal Trainer Certificate.

You might find my enthusiasm a little odd. I’ve just finished getting my first book published. I’ve spent the last 14 months losing nearly half my body weight. Why all the excitement about a professional certification?

Mainly because I wasn’t sure I could manage to earn the certification.

My novel is very exciting. Losing 130+ pounds has been life-changing. But the certification…it involved using my brain. Extensively. Including parts that don’t work so well anymore – mainly my memory. I can barely remember my own name half the time. And I was supposed to learn enough to get through a 150 question exam? On subjects that I knew almost nothing about?

Remember, I am the guy that flunked out of Biology twice in High School.

So, yeah. This is a really, really big deal for me.

Base Camp Achieved

Let’s take a look back in the rear-view mirror, shall we?

In September of 2015, I was morbidly obese. I weighed almost 300 pounds, and the majority of life was barred from me.


In September of last year, I was 2 months out from bariatric surgery. I was down to 224 pounds and was beginning to think that I had achieved my weight loss goals.

And as of last night, I am professionally certified to assist others with their own fitness journeys. How about that?

If the “weight-loss” journey is like climbing a mountain, I can safely say I’ve reached a major base camp before tackling the higher parts of the ascent.

I needed a publisher to get my novel written. I needed an awesome medical team to get me started losing weight. But I had to take that ACE Fitness exam all by myself. With a broken brain, no less.

This achievement was personal.

The Climb Goes Ever Upwards

So, I am a certified professional. Now I am going to start taking on clients and building a practice, right?

Well, no. Not exactly.

I began my CPT training largely due to Misdirected. I kept fielding questions. About diet. Or about exercise. Maybe pertaining to obesity and surgery and genetics and fat-shaming.

And I did my best to answer these questions, I really did. But, anytime someone would ask me what my qualifications were, I would have to say something like “Well, I used to weigh a lot more…”

I realized that I was going to have to expand my scope of knowledge, and in an organized way. Certified education seemed to make the most sense. Since I am mainly dealing with questions about day-to-day life, becoming a personal trainer just made the most sense.

When creating content for Misdirected, I now have the backing of an international organization with 65,000+ healthcare professionals to draw on. I can look through my manuals, check online training, or chat with fellow trainers. I feel much more secure now, creating content from the perspective of a trained professional.

Also, this isn’t the end of my education. My intention all along has been to specialize in working with obese patients, especially those who are looking into or who have just gone through bariatric surgery. There is additional training available for me to broaden my knowledge in those fields. And I will be pursuing it, as time goes by.

A Laser-Like Focus

Also, now that I’ve split my fiction news off to a whole new website at the Ash Falls Gazette, Misdirected can get back to what it does best. We will return to exclusively focusing on weight loss, exercise, diet, and the occasional “this is my life” post. Many of you have requested that change, and here it is.

I am very excited to have made it this far with all of you! I look forward to our continued growth as a weight-loss and lifestyle change resource for you.

We’ll see you here next week. To stay plugged in throughout the week, remember to follow us on Twitter @tjschofield or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tjeremyschofield.

Keep Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other,

Jeremy C. Schofield

ACE Certified Professional Trainer



Regain. It is a word that strikes terror into the hearts of bariatric patients. An admission that things have not gone as planned, regain means that the changes after surgery have gone off the rails. Regain feels like a failure, and it carries the bitter taste of defeat.

Oh, How Dramatic

All this introduction to explain what flashed through my mind yesterday morning, when I stepped on my scale for my weekly weigh-in, and saw the numbers “179.4” flash up at me. Alarmed, I stepped off the scale. I moved the scale, made sure it was level. Gingerly, I tried again. “179.6.” Yikes! Maybe I wasn’t stepping on the scale exactly in the center. I tried a third time, carefully placing my feet this time. “179.3.”

Thank goodness I wasn’t using the logging feature built into the scale. It would have thought I had weighed in for 3 separate weeks in less than 60 seconds.

Then again…there was a reason I wasn’t using the logging feature, wasn’t there? All week long I had been feeling the malaise. I knew I didn’t feel right. All my shiny new clothes were just a bit too snug.  My suspicion was that I was moving backwards, and now here was proof, glaring at me from the bathroom floor.

Drama. I am making a mountain out of a molehill here, right? Compared to my all-time low a few weeks back of 174 pounds, 179 isn’t that bad, is it?

Yes…and no. The problem is that last week I was at 177, a gain of two pounds from the previous weigh-in. That number I wrote off as statistical variance – you can gain and lose a couple pounds over the course of a day easily. (And this is why it is important to do weekly weigh-ins at the same time every day. Preferably immediately after you wake up.)

But two weeks in a row, both edging upward by a couple pounds? This isn’t statistical variance. This, my friends, is the beginning of a trend.

The Cold Equations

By now, we all know the numbers, right? It all comes back to Resting Metabolic Rate, the number of calories your body burns while sitting around doing not much of anything. If you ingest less than the amount your body needs, you lose weight. If you take in more than your body needs, it gleefully stores the excess as fat.

Diet and exercise, then, are two sides of a balancing act: the weight loss teeter-totter if you will. We eat all day, every day, to provide our bodies with enough energy to keep the vital organs working, to stay upright and moving. But any extra whatsoever will be taken by our treacherous metabolism and stored as fat.

So, we try to go to the gym, to walk, to keep moving somehow to place our bodies into a caloric deficit so that more of that stubborn fat will come off. The body eventually gives up and adjusts, raising the metabolic rate to reflect all this activity.

But, what happens when you slack off at the gym for a couple of weeks because your schedule goes crazy? Without changing your diet to reflect the drop in physical activity?

One-seventy-nine. That’s what happens.

The Non-Alarmist Solution

I freely admit I am being paranoid about this. But I’ve worked pretty darn hard to get here. I’ve had 80% of one of my major organs lopped off, for goodness sake. From walking to running to jumping to lifting heavy objects and putting them down, I have pushed pretty darn hard to get from 302 to 174.

I am not interested in moving backwards.

Now, the last two weeks have been insane, I grant you. My PT certification exam. The publication of my first book. The weekend-long science fiction conference I just attended. I skipped maybe half my gym days. I took some shortcuts in my diet, especially during the Con.

So, now, I get to repair the damage.

This is the point where many of us panic. We freak out over our regain and hit the Big Red Button of diet and exercise changes. We switch to an all protein shake diet. Maybe we try a juice cleanse. We commit to stupid amounts of work at the gym, hoping to undo weeks or months worth of neglect in a few days.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. In my case the numbers here are pretty small: I’ve gained about 2.5 pounds a week for two weeks in a row. Happily, I can work on safely losing that amount every week. I can repair the damage in two weeks or so.

Not in a day via a marathon session at the gym. Not in a week by a juice fast. But by taking a safe, methodical approach.

I already know how to exercise every day – I just haven’t done it for two weeks or so. I already know the secret to a healthy diet: buy non-processed foods at a grocery store and prepare them at home. For the next two weeks, if it doesn’t come out of my fridge or my pantry, I don’t eat it. As simple as that.

Resuming The Journey

Success tends to be followed by a downturn of some kind. This is because success requires effort, and effort is tiring. There is nothing wrong with the fact that I have “rested” for a couple of weeks after one of the most stressful periods of my life.

However, I am reminded of a man I know who went through bariatric surgery, trained for a year or so, then ran his first marathon. Six months after the marathon he had regained 30 pounds.

Why? Simple. He took some time off after the marathon (which was fine) and then never started running again (which was NOT fine.)

All backsliding starts with a single step backwards.

Bad habits and lifestyle choices are always waiting for us, at every turn. This is just as true for those who have never had bariatric surgery as for those who have. What you choose to do every morning will determine your success for the weeks and months to come.

And I have another conference coming in only 3 weeks. I’ve got only that long to get my head back in the game. I need to re-develop my discipline, and make sure that the next time I am away from my normal routine for several days that I find ways to incorporate healthy choices.

After all, I don’t want to come back in a month and write an article titled “One-Eighty-Nine.”

I Shudder At The Thought,


The (Empty) Bucket List

The Empty Bucket List

My bucket list has a hole in it.

It must be leaking, because everything that was previously in it has dribbled out somewhere.

Let me explain…

Way Back In The Day

So, ever since I was a youngster, I had a plan. There were certain things I wanted to accomplish. My goals were set as early as Junior High. I was going to do some things with my life, and no one was going to get in my way. At some point, I was going to sing the national anthem at a public event. I was going to release an album. Heck, I was even going to collect songwriting royalties. As life went on, I managed to do all of the above.

And, as life went on, I managed to do all of the above.

(I even still have the royalties checks around here somewhere. One for $.06, another for $.03. Hey, a check is a check, right?)

Then, with the downturn in my health in 2004, my goals took on a more morbid tone. Kinda like “Oh, if I had only…” My goals somehow morphed into a “bucket list” – things I wanted to do before I died.

You have to understand, I had health care professionals left and right telling me that I could keel over at any second.  I was universally informed that I would not live to see 50. Between my weight, my high blood pressure, and my uncontrolled seizures, I was a rolling train wreck, just waiting to go off the tracks.  So, I did what any person in my position would do.

I started negotiating.

Suddenly, all of my “goals” were various incarnations of getting healthier.

The “Passive Self-Improvement” List

If I could only get a handle on my health, I figured, then I might actually have a shot at living long enough to do something else interesting.

Like: If I could just lose some weight, I would go back to the gym. (As it was I kept injuring myself every time I tried.)

In exchange for dropping my blood pressure, I would run a 5K.

I would buy a pair of button-fly 501s if I could ever return to a 38-inch waistline.

Heck, I would even finish my novel if I had enough time between seizures to complete a sentence or two.

Then came the twin surgical interventions of my VNS implant and bariatric surgery. Suddenly, the only thing left on my “bucket list” is to live to ’til I am 50.

I am not sure that even qualifies it as a bucket list anymore.

Into The Great Wide Open

So, not a bad problem to have, right?

I show every sign of getting past the half-century mark now. So, ummm…now what?

I am tentatively exploring the idea of planning. You know, having some concept of the next years of my life. Beyond “I would like to only go to the emergency room three times this year.”

So, what do normal people plan for?

Heck if I know. I haven’t been a normal person for quite a while.

But, in the meantime, I’ve got this big, empty bucket with nothing left inside it. Plenty of short-term goals, mind you. But nothing that us writers would call an “over-arching narrative.”

Peering into the future, I literally have no idea what I want to be when I turn 50 in 3 years.

I never thought the problem would come up, see?

I Don’t Want To Grow Up, I’m a Toys-R-Us Kid,




The 1-Year Follow-up

The 1-Year Follow Up - The results of Bariatric Surgery

You may wonder where I’ve been the last couple days. I spent Monday meeting with my surgeon, finishing up the VNS procedure, and got cleared to start using both arms again. This seems like it would have been the perfect opportunity to publish my next Misdirected post, right?

But I had something else big coming down the road, so decided to wait for the update.

Because yesterday was my 1-year appointment with the folks at DaVita Bariatrics. One year ago yesterday I went under the knife and changed my life forever.

So, how did I do?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

So, let’s review. On July 25, 2016, I weighed 248 pounds. (Down from my all-time high of 302 pounds in February of 2016.) My blood pressure was 145/102. My resting pulse rate was 86. I was on a cocktail of 5 different medications. I slept with a C-PAP every night.

Yesterday I weighed in at 177 pounds. (Up 3 pounds from my previous low of 174.) My blood pressure came in at 118/70. My resting heart rate was 60 beats per minute. I am down to 2 medications (both anti-seizure meds) and stopped using the C-PAP months ago.

Other significant numbers?

In 2016 I had a 50-inch waistline. Today I am at 35 inches and still shrinking.

Last year I could barely manage walking half a mile. Today I can walk at least eight, or run two. (Though still can’t run a full 5K, darn it.)

Last year my BMI topped out at 47.3 (also known as “morbidly obese.”) As of yesterday, I was at 27.7. (“Overweight”, according to the BMI chart.) Given that I would have to get all the way down to 159 pounds to be considered normal by BMI, I think I am just going to settle for “overweight”, thank you very much.

Now, Gimme The Bad News

All of this has had a downside, of course.

As of yesterday, I was diagnosed with both anemia and a B12 deficiency. Neither is as dangerous as the health issues accompanying obesity, but both are going to have to be dealt with nonetheless. Both are potential side effects of the massive dietary changes that go along with bariatric surgery.

I keep shrinking. This may sound like it should be on the “good” side of the equation, but it is a real downer to keep having to buy clothes at thrift stores. Also, I am already down to Men’s Small in shirts. Where the heck do I go from here? Do I start shopping in the kids’ section?

Speaking of my body, I am still dealing with my new covering of loose skin with the texture and consistency of Play-Doh. It is a constant hassle to deal with and has even resulted in me having unexpected surgery for early VNS replacement.  Surgery to have the excess skin removed may or may not be an option. For one thing, it has to be deemed “medically necessary.” For another, I am getting a little tired of surgery at this point.

I am actually more of a slave to my stomach now than I was when I was obese. I have to eat constantly – every 3 hours or so. And everything still needs to be measured, and weighed, and parcelled out. Eating is no longer easy.

And man, do I miss beer.

The Final Verdict

So, considering everything, would I still have the surgery?

Absolutely. I wish I had done it years earlier.

While jogging(!) yesterday, Lor and I were discussing the concept of being in better shape now at 40-ish than at 20-something. In my case, I have never been athletic. I am, quite frankly, in the best physical condition I have ever been in, period. I don’t say “best shape” because, you know, parts of me aren’t great to look at. Aesthetics aside, though, this is certainly the healthiest I have been since developing Epilepsy. By a significant margin.

Bariatric surgery still isn’t a magic pill. It doesn’t change everything for you without effort.

But it certainly gave me the freedom to make (and sustain) changes.

If you are suffering from obesity, and nothing you have tried has worked, consider talking to your loved ones and your doctor about bariatric surgery. It is far from easy. But, in my case, it has allowed me to actually go experience life, rather than sitting on the couch and watching it go by.

And if I can do it, so can you.

Looking Forward To Next Year’s Appointment,