Another Appointment Closer

Patient Progress: Lor managed a half mile walk last night (logged above by Map My Walk). 5 days out from surgery, mind you. She is setting the bar impossibly high for my surgical recovery, I have to tell you.

In the midst of all the commotion surrounding Lor’s surgery and recovery, it has been pretty easy to forget that I am going through this process as well. For example, last week when Lor dropped a whole 8 pounds around her surgery? Yeah, I gained 2 pounds. I am not holding it against myself – I ate more fast food last week than I had eaten in the previous 2 months or so. Hard to make good food choices when you are shuttling back and forth from a borrowed room in your parent’s house to the hospital. In defense of the hospital, they did have high-protein, low-carb items available, like omelets and salads. They even had Muscle Milk protein shakes! I should’ve just stuck with eating there.

These are the lines I am rehearsing, as today I have to go into meet my nutritionist for my final dietary meeting. After today, I will have seen her a total of 6 times – 3 visits with Lor, and now a total of 3 for me. I am not sure there is a heck of a lot left for her to say to me at this point that we haven’t covered in the previous 5 meetings in one way or another. But, it represents one of the final 2 steps before I begin my 2 weeks of liquid-only diet to prep for surgery in July, so I want to make sure I make it to the appointment, even though I do have a surgical patient recovering at home.

Luckily for me, another one of our friends has stepped up and offered to come hang out with Lor during the hours when I will be gone today. What we ever did do deserve the support we are getting from our friends and family members, I do not know. I am constantly reading horror stories about bariatric patients being forced to go this alone, due to lack of support from those closest to them. I honestly do not know how they succeed at this, and my hat is off to them.

Tomorrow is also my 46th birthday, which makes me feel a little weird. Why? Because I will weigh less tomorrow (267) than I did ten years ago on my 36th birthday (285). I am reminded of the Bowflex commercials from a few years back: “I am 44, and in better shape than I was when I was 24!” Heck, for that matter, next year at 47 I may very well be in better shape than I was at 27.

How’s that for a brain bender?

No special plans for the birthday either, despite all the emailed coupons for free pancakes, free stir-fry, free ice cream and free pizza. This year I will just stay home with my lettuce wraps and chicken salads, and try to work off the 2 pounds I earned last week. I don’t want two weeks in a row of bad dietary choices, right?

Mmmm….Lettuce,

– Hawkwind

Scary Stories

Photo Credit: Magda’s Maggots via Compfight cc

I spend a LOT of time (probably too much) hanging around on message boards and forums relating to obesity surgery. I don’t input very much – after all, I am not a “vet” yet, have not earned my surgical scars and all that. Every once in a while, I will put up a link to here on Misdirected if I feel it is especially relevant, but other than that – I lurk.

There are quite a few encouraging tales to be found out there. Formerly 600-pound men who are now avid wilderness hikers. A previously obese woman fitting into her wedding dress for the first time in 25 years. A grandmother getting into a swimsuit for the very first time in her life. The stories can be really heartwarming and encouraging to those of us just getting ready to take the plunge.

But I have recently been paying a lot more attention to those “other” stories”:

  • “I lost 100 pounds but gained it all back…”
  • “I am going through a bad time in my life and can’t stop eating…”
  • “My husband just left me and all I want to do is cry and eat…”
  • “After 5 successful years, I am regaining again and I don’t know why…”

Entry after entry of people whose surgery is not working out for them for one reason or another. Scary stuff.

I have not gone out of my way to look into relapse numbers. Normally this is the type of research I would be all over like stink on expensive cheese, but here I have held myself back. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, only that it didn’t feel right to be investigating failure before I have even started the process. I have been wanting to prepare myself for success, not for failure.

But the truth is out there: relapses happen. And it is scary to think that all this work, (and rearrangement of my innards) could go down the drain if I don’t watch my step.  So, I have been carefully reading these relapse stories and looking for common elements. I keep finding 3 common themes coming up time and again:

1. Lack of accountability. Most of the desperate pleas of those I see talking about their failures online are for someone to “straighten them out” or “tell them off.” At home, these individuals are not getting the support they need. Maybe they live alone, maybe their family is disinterested, or maybe (most frightening) their support system is working actively to sabotage them. But they need someone to call them out and tell them to get back on track.

2. Lack of exercise. This seems to be a major issue. I have yet to read anyone’s story about how they are suffering from massive regains while they are still exercising regularly. Just about all the horror stories I have read talk about how the pressures of life, or exhaustion, or just laziness have kept them off the street, away from the gym, and placed them on the couch.

3. Emotional turmoil. The big push that starts the plummet of the cliff of a major regain seems to frequently be an emotional trigger of some kind. A lost job, the death of a loved one, the breakup of a long-term relationship (sadly common for those who have gone through bariatric surgery) all seem to be things that have forced these individuals to seek comfort where they have always gotten it in the past – from food.

Lor and I are lucky. She has me to hold us accountable to our diets, and I have her to push us when it comes to exercise. As far as emotional turmoil – we have each other to rely on if something goes wrong in either of our lives. It isn’t like we’re going to get divorced again. Been there, got the T-Shirt – it didn’t fit.

For anyone else, I would encourage them to find a family member, community,  or friend to act as an accountability partner. My other advice would be to do it now – while things are still going well. Looking for help while you are desperate leads to bad, bad choices. Get someone in your corner right away, and keep them there – when the storm clouds roll in, you’ll have someone to run to before things get out of control.

This lifestyle change that we have undertaken is hard enough without handicapping ourselves by trying to go solo. Do it with a friend, find a support group, get plugged into a relationship with a trainer – anything you can do to make sure that one bad day doesn’t turn into one bad week, or one bad month, or a disastrous relapse to obesity. One thing we know about life – bad times will show up. Make sure that you have planned ahead, and have the tools you need to come out the other side with your “new self” intact.

Being Prepared Aint Just For Scouts,

– Hawkwind

The Choices of the Unwise

Yesterday I made some poor choices.

And no, not the ones you are thinking I made. I did not stop off at Ronnie McDoncald’s house then swing by the grocery store on the way home to buy a chocolate cream pie. No, instead, I sort of forgot to eat.

The evidence is right in front of me, in the MyFitnessPal app set up on my phone. (An aside – if you are trying to lose weight, embrace MyFitnessPal. Not a kickback in it for me or anything – it is just that good.) Yesterday’s breakfast is listed (Decaf, English Muffin with carefully controlled amounts of Peanut Butter and Jam, with a side of trail mix), but then, for the rest of the day…nothing.  Factor in the exercise I did last night and I netted a whopping 469 Calories for the day. Not good.

I can also guarantee that I didn’t have enough water – I remember filling my 20 oz. water bottle one time. Tack that on to my 14 ounces of decaf (I have a BIG coffee cup), and I am almost 30 ounces short of my minimum intake for the day.

Far from being a “diet victory” (Yay! Under 500 calories!), this was a loss of massive proportions. For one thing, today I feel like crap. My head is pounding, my stomach is upset, and I could not force myself out of bed this morning. Hangover, anyone? I didn’t even get to catch a buzz at the front end in order to earn the day after.

But, the real problem is that post-surgery, this kind of behavior will get me hospitalized. Both dehydration and malnutrition are major issues for those that have gone through any kind of bariatric surgery. Pulling this kind of stunt after my sleeve is installed will be every bit as bad as binge eating, and more dangerous in the short term.

So, what happened?

To be honest, I am not sure. I diligently prepped all 6 meals and snacks for Lor yesterday, so it isn’t like I was never in the kitchen. Since her liquid phase started, I have not been eating my “real food” at the same time she does, or in her presence, out of respect for her pre-surgical process. But yesterday, somehow, I just never got hungry, and never remembered to eat after I had created (blended) meals for Lor. Despite a busy day,  I had plenty of time. I just never got around to it somehow.

And getting kickstarted this morning will be even more difficult! Ever tried to eat with a hangover? If you haven’t, good for you – but the rest of you know what I am talking about. It isn’t like I can have a Bloody Mary with an egg in it. I can’t even have fruit juice. Instead, I am going to have to re-hydrate until I can eat something, then wait for my day to normalize. Joy.

The lesson we should all carry away from this? If you are dieting, especially if you are pre- or post- surgery, DON’T SKIP MEALS. It creates bad habits, and you won’t like the short-term effects either. You have been warned.

Wishing I Could Put My Head On a Shelf Until The Feeling Goes Away,

– 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