Lead Me Not Into Temptation

The Gathering of Cousins. I am the one with the beard.

This weekend was a special occasion in the family: two of my cousins are hitting their 50th birthdays this year, so a party was organized to get as much of the family as possible together to celebrate. It was wonderful – family members came in from as far away as Georgia to be there, and I got to see people that I hadn’t seen in years. It was so nice to see uncles, aunts, and cousins without everyone wearing black for a change.

The problem came when it was time to eat. The aunt who organized the event was very concerned, wanting to be sure that there were items that fit into my diet. I assured her that I could eat most anything that came off of the grill. relieving her concern. No, the problem wasn’t that there was not food available for me.

The problem was that everything else looked so good.

There were huge bowls of potato salad. Tortilla chips with my mother’s family-famous salsa. A beautiful marbled birthday cake with butter cream frosting. There were 3 coolers filled with different kinds of beer!

And here I was, without Lor, who couldn’t come thanks to the effects of her pre-surgical diet. Alone and unsupervised, in a wilderness of food.

I knew I was going to fail somewhere. I am no stranger to my own nature. So, I adapted. I made sure there was always a bottle of water in my hand, so any time someone offered me a beer (which was frequently – my family has watched me in action at get-togethers for 45 years now) I could just wave my water at them to show that I was supplied. I couldn’t possibly live without some of Mom’s salsa, so when items started coming off the grill I put a healthy dose of it on my burger instead of using chips to eat it. And I did have a single serving (about 2 Tablespoons) of potato salad, which I ate as slowly as I possibly could after I had finished both a lettuce-wrapped burger and bratwurst.

 I didn’t go anywhere near the birthday cake.

All things considered, I didn’t do too badly. It worked out to only about 10 grams of Carbs (almost all from the potato salad.) This time last year it would have been a couple of fully loaded burgers, a couple of bratwursts, a pile of potato salad, and a bowl filled with chips to go with Mom’s salsa. This would have all been topped off with as big a slice of cake as I could’ve managed interspersed with half a dozen beers.

And I wonder how I got to 302 pounds?

The visits with family members were gratifying, though. Those that don’t follow Misdirected all commented on how good I looked. Several that do look in here from time to time thought I had already gone through surgery, on the basis of my appearance. I actually laughed and joked and visited, instead of hiding in a corner, hovering over a plate, hoping no one would talk to me. I even participated in family photos without trying to hide in the “back line”, behind everyone else.

Though it was nice to have everyone tell me how good I was looking, it wasn’t the 33 pounds I’ve lost so far that made the difference for me. It was knowing that I was finally making changes in my life and sticking to them. At our next family get-together, I will have been through surgery, further committing to this new lifestyle of not being shackled to obesity. I will not have regained every ounce plus some extra pounds from failing on my latest fad diet. And looking forward to success, rather than anticipating failure, is making all the difference in the world for me.

Looking Forward To The Next Family Gathering,

– Hawkwind

The Pre-Final Countdown

 

Photo Credit: ryanredward via Compfight cc

 

Procrastination is a living, breathing animal that eats your best intentions and leaves you with the remains of wasted time.

 

I had every intention of producing a blog yesterday morning. When I sat down to write it, it occurred to me that the momentous events of the day were coming up later in the morning, so surely I should just write later, right? But later came and went, and left me in such a dither of emotions that I could never actually get anything coherent down to be published. So, here we are, 24 hours late, with the news that we’ve all been waiting for.

 

The day has come, the die has been cast, etc. – I go under the knife (the scopes?) on July 25th, just a hair under 6 weeks from Lor’s surgery date. I do still have to pass muster with a psychiatrist, but that evaluation is scheduled for 2 days from now. Barring any catastrophic failures, this thing is a go.

 

I am not exactly ambivalent about the whole thing. The meeting with the nutritionist yesterday was extremely positive. I’ve lost a total of 30 pounds since we started the process in February. Lor and I are exercising every day, dietary changes have been made successfully – I’ve received a glowing report on my pre-surgical prep from the team over at ABQ Health Partners. It seems like I am prepared to succeed at this.

 

But…(there is always a but) I am still having trouble wrapping my head around where this is all going to wind up. My loved ones are cautioning me to not be overly optimistic about the final results of my surgery –  high blood pressure and sleep apnea, for example, have been a part of my family genetic makeup regardless of size or weight. Thanks to my currently over-sized body I will probably never be built like Hugh Jackman, but will instead be left with an apron of left-over skin reaching down to my knees. I mean, I am happy to accept all those results if it means I can finally walk without being in constant pain. But I was kind of hoping for more dramatic results than what I am being cautioned to expect. No one is trying to talk me down off the ledge, but I seem to be receiving plenty of warnings that the landing won’t be as comfortable as I was hoping for.

 

I am left looking in the mirror now, trying to figure out what (if anything) will be different about me when this process is all said and done. My surgeon airily informed me back in March that the surgery would “Get me down below 200 pounds”. I am 30 pounds down now, and I am just not seeing it in the mirror. Granted, I already feel better – I can walk two miles now and carry on a conversation afterwards. This from a guy who 3 months ago couldn’t carry groceries out of the car without gasping for air during the process. I guess I was just hoping for something more tangible, and I am kind of afraid that even losing over 100 pounds post-surgery is still going to leave me looking like a deflated balloon. A deflated balloon with high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and excess skin hanging off me everywhere.

 

Later today is our bi-weekly “measurement” routine. I am hoping for some positive results there, because right this second I could use a win. I am not nearly as pumped up about having a date for my surgery as I had thought I would be.

 

Curiously Ambivalent,

 

– Hawkwind

The Memorial Day Minefield

Photo Credit: smartvun19 via Compfight cc

 

Since it is the “official” kick-off for summer, we tend to spend some time with our families over Memorial Day weekend. In both of our families, get-togethers mean food – lots of carbs, lots of sugar, lots of alcohol. For Lor and I, this meant that this weekend was going to be a series of excellent chances to really screw things up. Here’s how we did.

Saturday was the combination Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/My Birthday get together at my parent’s place. Mom was out of the country on Mother’s Day, and both Father’s Day and my birthday this year will be taking place during Lor’s first week post-op. We decided to place all our early summer holidays into one giant Memorial Day basket.

Alongside the usual burgers and brats (without buns they work out perfectly for a low-carb diet), I had requested two special things – beer, and Chili Relleno Won-Tons. What the heck is that, you ask? Take a won-ton wrapper, fill it with spices, ground beef, and cheese. Add a seeded and roasted green chile to the center of the mix. Wrap and deep-fat fry. Heaven. These little bombs have been the centerpiece of the High Holy Day of my family’s religious observances (that is, the Super Bowl) for years now – my Dad usually has to make 30 – 40 of them, and we wiped them out every year. Obviously, they will be vanishing from our diet after our surgeries, so Dad made us a dozen of them. I managed to only have two and bid them a fond farewell.

We had also planned on bringing one of Lor’s homemade sheet cakes, but sanity prevailed at the last minute. We baked a dozen small cookies instead of a birthday cake. I had two and called the whole thing a win. I had been planning for this party to be my final beers ever as well, but 2 beers escaped and made their way into my fridge. Since Lor doesn’t drink beer at all, I felt I would not be sabotaging her liquid diet by having them at some point in the future. I decided to hang on to them and drink them later…maybe during the first week of Lor’s pre-surgical liquid diet. Everyone I talk to that has gone through the liquid diet phase tells me that I might need them.

Sunday was our gathering with the Lor half of the clan. Same burgers and hot dogs (just wrap ’em in lettuce and your carb levels are perfectly safe), and a metric ton of fresh fruit. Lots of forbidden foods like enchiladas and Rice Krispy treats and potato chips, but we managed to get through without injuring our diets. Well, Lor may have had a 1-inch by 1-inch Rice Krispy treat, but cut a lady some slack – she goes on a month of nothing but protein shakes starting on Wednesday.

We also got to spend LOTS of time talking about the upcoming procedures. I described the Vertical Sleeve Gastronomy so many times that I started thinking I should carry a banana around with me to demonstrate the size and shape of the remaining stomach post-surgery. We did hear quite a bit of “I could never do that!”, but we also got a few “Tell me a little more about this surgery…” conversations. I am beginning to think we should take this show on the road, trying to bring this whole “surgery to correct obesity” thing out of the shadows and into the light where it belongs. Maybe after both our surgeries – we’ll have a lot more energy then.

Nutritional visits, pre-surgical evaluations,  psychiatric appointments, and the beginning of Lor’s liquid phase are all taking place within the next 5 days. We have arrived at where the rubber meets the road!

Kinda Happy I Saved Those Last Two Beers,

– Hawkwind

A Bittersweet Birthday

Normally what is happening over on Lor’s side of the journey to bariatric surgery is closed off from public view: as I have said before, it is not my story to tell. But, this last weekend was significant enough that I have asked for, and received, Lor’s blessing to talk a little bit about what I saw over Lor’s final pre-surgery birthday.

Lor’s journey to bariatric surgery is significantly different than mine. She is active. She is proud of her looks and her shape. She is a fabulous cook, and especially enjoys baking – bread, pies, cakes, you name it, she is the one that gets the call when someone in the family needs a dessert for a special occasion. She is nowhere close to where I am on the BMI scale and would be perfectly content to stay there. So, why, then, go through the huge life changes that surgery forces a person through? Why give up freedom to choose her own path, and instead be forced into the regimented lifestyle that she will live with for the rest of her life?

One word: Diabetes. It runs rampant in her family, it has killed several of her loved ones, and despite her youth, she has been struggling with it for years. She has taken the high road and chosen a more difficult lifestyle recommended by her doctors (and her family) so that she can remain healthy and vibrant for decades to come.

She was treated to two different birthday meals over the weekend, one by my parents, and another by her best friend. From my parents, she received a life-saving gift: a new digital scale for us to use in food prep. Our old postage scale had been returning suspicious results for quite a while, and verifying weights between the two demonstrated that we had been WAY off in many of our food measurements in daily prep. (2 oz of Kale does not fill a small child’s cereal bowl, for example. It overflows the bowl and creates piles on the counter.) Lunch was filled with encouragement and speculation as to how different her next birthday would be. Though she smiled and laughed, 25+ years of experience with her showed me the tension in her shoulders and her face – her surgery does not represent freedom like mine does.

Dinner was at a local sushi house and was a whole different experience. Her best friend also suffers from pretty severe dietary restrictions, and here the conversation was able to deal with fears and doubts realistically – with a pro who has been there and done that in having to make changes to her life that were forced upon her by health issues. I am sure the bottle of sake didn’t hurt the spirit of full disclosure much. Here, too, was another comforting thing: this was not the last time Lor would ever be able to eat at this particular restaurant. Though California rolls will vanish from the future menu, many other things (sashimi, for example) will not have to. For the first time in weeks, we were not having a “food funeral” at a restaurant. The difference in atmosphere was huge: here was a place we would be returning, not another thing we were waving goodbye to.

All weekend long she was deluged with messages from friends and calls from family members, all saying the same thing: we are proud of you and we support what you are doing for yourself. And, by the way, happy birthday. It was amazing to watch. I am always proud of her, but this weekend I was really proud of the community around her – admiring, encouraging, uplifting. You have made me very proud to also be a member of the “Loralia Fan Club.”

Wishing Everyone Had Friends And Family Like Lor’s,

– Hawkwind

Not Living, Just Surviving

We’ve had quite a few conversations with friends and family members in recent days, talking about the nuts and bolts details of the upcoming surgeries. While the great majority of these conversations have been strongly supportive, a few have been…less so. One recent conversation with a family member springs to mind.

The family member in question had lots of questions about what I was going to be giving up as a bariatric surgery patient. “So, no more beer, ever?” he asked at one point.

“No,” I explained, “no carbonation at all. It makes the stomach pouch expand, and you wind up right back where you started.”

“So, like, no Cokes either?”

“No, none. I need to avoid coffee too – caffeine is a diuretic, and staying hydrated is super important after the surgery.”

“No coffee!” he exclaimed. “I need coffee in the morning to wash down my breakfast!”

“Yeah,” I explained, hanging on to my patience with both hands. “Can’t really wash things down while eating anyway. You can’t drink while you are eating at all. You need all the space in your stomach at meals for food.”

He leaned back and crossed his arms, clearly disgusted. “No beer, no coffee, can’t even drink when you want. That’s not living, That’s just surviving.”

Now, I personally have a strong opinion on survival – I think it beats the alternative. And, I understand that the relative in question isn’t suggesting I should bite the dust in the name of drinking beer. It is a question of quality of life that is being raised here, not life vs. death. And, as it happens, I have a certain amount of experience in evaluating quality of life. Over a decade of dealing with Epilepsy has had me questioning many times: Is this really worth it? And, despite all the things that Epilepsy has forced me to give up, I have always come back with the answer that life itself is worth continuing, even without the various components that I used to previously enjoy.

And, here’s the thing: Bariatric Surgery may not only extend my life, but it also has the potential to give back many of the things I have lost previously. Reduced weight could increase my activity level enough so that I could start weight lifting again. It could remove my dependence on a machine to help me breathe at night while I sleep. It could mean a reduction in my arthritis symptoms, meaning I am no longer in constant pain. Heck, it even has the potential to reduce the dosage of my anti-seizure meds – meaning that the “brain fog” I am constantly in might be lifted somewhat. Sounds an awful lot like a new lease on life, where I am currently just surviving.

Is that worth giving up Starbucks and Samuel Adams? Yeah, I think so.

Considering Switching to Bushmill’s,

– Hawkwind

PS – If you have a family member who is considering bariatric surgery, be supportive – a good support structure is a necessity to be successful.