Stuck in Neutral

Using SMART Goals to break mental stalls

Our unfortunate technical interruption has actually provided me with an opportunity for some introspection. My original plan was to write blog posts for the days that I was unable to access Misdirected – to get ahead, as it were.

Yeah, THAT went about as well as you are guessing.

Unable To Move Forward

I have found myself in a curious position the last couple of weeks. I have been rushing from project to project, but have been unable to make much headway in any of them. My weight loss numbers got a bit sabotaged. I have been stuck on week 4 of my C25K program for 2 weeks, unable to finish the final day. I have written fragments of several fiction and non-fiction pieces, but have been unable to actually finish any of them.

As I told Lor – I feel like I am in a car with the accelerator pressed all the way to the floor, with the transmission stuck in neutral.

Stalls Aren’t Just For Weight Loss

By now, everyone is familiar with the term “stall”. It refers to weight sticking at a certain point, no matter what a person does to try to lose it. I am discovering that stalls apparently apply to personal and emotional life as well as weight loss. Who knew?

There is simply an obstacle of some kind, preventing me from making progress in any significant area in my life. Attempting to overcome it is frustrating, exasperating, and maddening as hell. It does not appear to be a symptom of depression: I have been previously diagnosed with depression, and know what that feels like. I don’t think it is related to my seizures, or my diet, or major life changes. This is nothing more than a rock that I keep banging my head against, waiting for it to move.

The SMART Solution

So, instead of chasing my metaphorical tail, I will attempt to apply some new-found knowledge. My ACE Personal Trainer curriculum suggests that development of workout routines for clients must be based on “SMART” goals. This means that goals must be:

SMART Goals

So, instead of saying “I want to lose more weight,”, I would instead say “I want to exercise 30 minutes a day every day this week.” This goal is specific, it is measurable, it is attainable, it gives both time and results expected.

Mind you, I already exercise 30 minutes (or more) a day, but this seemed like a good example.

In my case, I will stop flitting from project to project, and instead, will make a SMART goal for the week: “I will write 30 minutes a day on Chapter 1 of ‘Learning¬†To Live In The Dark.'”

Specific? Yup, pretty specific.

Measurable? Yeah, I own several stopwatch programs.

Attainable? I could create 30 minutes a day just by not looking at Facebook and Huffington Post every day. ūüôā

Results-Focused? I tend to write about 2,000 words an hour. 30 minutes a day, therefore, would work out to about 7,000 words for Chapter 1 of my book: almost an entire chapter.

Time-Focused? Yup, I have committed to doing this for 1 week.

The Proof Will Be In The Pudding

Will I manage it? Only time will tell. But I have to admit that even having a focused goal feels better that the chaos I have been creating recently. I will let everyone know how it goes.

Anyone else out there have any great tips for pushing through these mental stalls?

Ready To Get Moving,

Jeremy

A Day In My Post-Surgery Diet

A Day In My Post-Surgery Diet, with photos and nutritional info.

On a daily basis, I answer questions about bariatric surgery. “Is it expensive?” (Yes, but insurance will usually cover it for the severely¬†obese.) “Does it hurt?” (Oh, my, yes, but the recovery period isn’t too long.) “Aren’t you hungry all the time now?” (No, actually, I am very rarely hungry, usually only after physical exercise of some kind.)

And, most frequently: “What can you eat these days?” Followed up by: “How can you live on portion sizes that small?”

The truth is, I eat pretty well nowadays. I just eat much smaller portions and quite a few times during any given day. I’ve borrowed an idea from one of my favorite blogs, The World According to Eggface, and decided to show what a dietary day looks like almost 6 months out from my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.

Breakfast:

A bariatric breakfast of egg, sausage, cheese and fresh fruit.
315 Calories, 18 grams Protein, 5 grams Carbohydrates

Wow, what an overloaded plate, right?

Actually, all our meals these days are served on salad (actually dessert plates, nice save by my editor) plates, not dinner plates. It actually makes the meals look and feel larger.

To start the day off, here we have 1 egg, 1 ounce of sausage, 1 ounce of colby-jack cheese, and 1 ounce sliced strawberries. The egg (77 calories, 6 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrates) can be boiled, scrambled or fried for the sake of variety. Fried eggs are cooked with cooking spray, not cooking oil. Breakfast meats like bacon, ham, and sausage (summer sausage pictured here, 119 calories, 5 grams of protein, 1 gram carbohydrates) are rotated pretty regularly as well. Cheese is an awesome protein source (110 Calories, 7 grams of protein, 1 gram carbs.), and makes an appearance in just about every meal we make at home. And, though it inflates our carb count, we refuse to live without fresh fruits and vegetables. (Strawberries: 9 calories, 0g Protein, 2g Carbs.) Some type of produce puts in an appearance at every meal we have at home.

Lunch:

Our homemade "P3" with deli meat, block cheese, nuts and fruit. Protein Brownie Bite for dessert.
424 calories, 21 grams protein, 24 grams carbs

Lunch happens here right after we return from the gym. It is usually the only meal where we are actually hungry, and we tend to eat slightly more to compensate.

During our pre-surgery¬†diets, we were dismayed to discover how hard it was to eat low-carb meals, Early on we discovered Oscar Meyer’s “P3” meals, which placed a meat, a cheese and some nuts in a small package. We lived on those things for months.

After surgery, we investigated and found out that we could build our own versions of the P3 at home at a comparable cost. We actually get larger portions of higher-quality deli meats and get to add produce as well. Here we have:

  • 1 ounce of deli ham (41 calories, 6g protein, 0g carbs)
  • 1 ounce of colby-jack cheese (110 calories, 7g protein, 1g carbs)
  • 1 ounce of almonds (167 calories, 6g protein, 5g carbs)
  • 5 grape tomatoes (15 calories, 0g protein, 5g carbs)
  • 1 ounce¬†of apple slices (15 calories, 0g protein, 4g carbs)
  • For dessert, one home-baked Protein Brownie Bite (76 calories, 2g protein, 9g carbs)

We do go a bit over our usual 20-grams of carbs per meal restriction here, but given that this happens immediately upon return from a couple of hours at the gym I don’t really sweat it. We have a hard ceiling of 60 grams of carbs each day to work with.

Dinner:

Chicken Salad surrounded by cheese and fresh produce.
244 calories, 20g protein, 11g carbohydrates

 

Dinner is frequently our lightest meal of the day. Lor still loves to cook, so she will prep “normal” entrees, which we will then consume over the course of the next 2 or 3 days. Pictured here is a fairly common meal:

  • 1/2 cup of chicken salad, made with shredded chicken, olive oil mayonnaise, sriracha, and diced veggies (107 calories, 13g protein, 5 grams carbs)
  • 1 ounce of cheddar cheese (114 calories, 7g protein, 0g carbs)
  • 1 ounce of cucumber slices (4 calories, 0g protein, 1g carbs)
  • 1 ounce of grapes (19 calories, 0g protein, 5g carbs)

Finally, every day we will usually also have a snack: frequently this is Greek Yogurt, a product I have really come to love over the last few months. (Dannon Oikos Salted Caramel: 120 Calories, 15g protein, 14g Carbs is a pretty typical choice.)

The Grand Total:

This represents a fairly typical dietary day in our household. Adding up the 3 meals and one snack works out to:

  • 1,103 Calories
  • 74g of Protein
  • 54g of Carbohydrates

Are all days like this? No, of course not. Just like everyone else, we slip up from time to time. But, as our nutritionist likes to tell us, the trick is to have more good days than bad days. Not to mention that hitting the gym 6 days a week provides a nice caloric safety net.

Oh, and an example of what used to be a single meal for me, just for the sake of comparison. A Quarter-Pounder value meal from McDonald’s with fries and a coke? 1,120 Calories, 29g of Protein and 146g of Carbs.

And that’s not even super-sized.

No Wonder I Was Super-Sized,

Jeremy

 

Looking back at 2016

 

313,000 words typed this year. Dang. That is quite a few. Like, if those words were put into novels, I would have written a trilogy. In one year. And I used to wonder how Robert Parker managed his output of books…

Seriously, though, 2016 was the year when I finally decided I had something important enough to talk about on a regular basis. In the past, I have written about Epilepsy – which is important to only a very small segment of the world, though I wish it was important to more people. I’ve written about gaming, which is important to me, but not necessarily¬†the majority of the planet. But, this year, I finally discovered something¬†that was important to me and a good percentage of the world: obesity, and the life-altering methods that can be required to combat it.

Despite my terrifically bad memory, I can distinctly remember stepping on my scale in February and seeing the numbers “302” appear on the readout. I felt like my heart would stop beating. I don’t know why it was that I was willing to previously put up with scale numbers like 280 or even 290. But cresting that 300-pound plateau was just too much for me. I could barely walk down the street and back (2 tenths of a mile) thanks to my blown knee. I couldn’t empty groceries out of the car without gasping for air for minutes afterward. The combination of my weight and my seizures was so overwhelming that we finally had to give up being foster parents, since it was not fair to expect my wife to be raising kids by herself as well as caring for me full-time. My life revolved¬†around my shattered dreams of being a parent and a musician, my sexless marriage, and waiting for the next batch of seizures to arrive.

And, of course, food. LOTS of that.

300 pounds is what it took to get me to accept that I had a problem that I was not going to be able to fix on my own, despite years of trying to do so. After abusing my body for 20 years I gave up my belief that it was all somehow temporary and that I could change any time I wanted to. I needed help from an outside agency – drastic, dramatic help that was going to involve radically changing my physiology, and altering my life not for a few days or weeks, but for the rest of my life. Bariatric surgery from Dr. Tyner, and the unflagging support of my loved ones, provided me with the tools I needed to finally make those difficult choices and changes.

And, so far, it is working. I can walk 5 kilometers without falling to pieces afterward. I go to the gym almost every day. I have a social life again. I have a sex life again. My increased health even seems to have had a positive effect on my seizure activity. A year ago, I was sitting around the house waiting to die. Today, I am constantly in motion, and planning for 5, 10, and even 20 years down the road. Obesity was killing me, and I have now sprung back to life.

And, in the place of being passionate about food, I have discovered new passions. I was able to get a quill and inkpot tattoo back in April to celebrate becoming a published, professional writer. I am halfway through writing my first novel. I have begun work on not one but two non-fiction books. I even went so far as to buy a house, fully expecting to be around when it is paid off in my 70s.

97 pounds lighter and 300,000 words later, I am still discovering new things I want to experience.

Thanks For Joining Me On My Journey,

– Jeremy

Wardrobe Malfunction

 

(Remote Posting Means No Pretty Pictures Today. Imagine Fluffy Kittens or something.)

It was something we were warned about, but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to. Clothing, that is. All around the bariatric community, there are tips on clothing sales, recommendations for thrift stores, even clothing exchanges – but what the heck did I care about such things? I had a closet full of t-shirts, and a drawer full of “goal” clothes that had been picked up for me by my mother-in-law at garage sales over the years. Surely, I was covered, right?

The first rumbling of potential crisis happened when we met my parents to buy Lor’s bike. My mother mentioned that my Dad hadn’t recognized me at first, which filled me with pride and accomplishment. Then I was deflated by Mom’s next comment – “And that shirt! It looks like a tent on you!”

Meant as a sincere compliment, this dismissal of my favorite t-shirt warned me that trouble was on the horizon. Lor has been telling me for weeks that my existing wardrobe is getting a little too large even for fashion-unconscious me. Later on, at home, I pulled another favorite shirt off a hanger and put it on in front of a mirror. I was startled and depressed to notice it now hit me right above the knees. I looked like I was trying to wear a miniskirt. Clearly, it was time for the wardrobe intervention that Lor had been hinting at.

An hour’s worth of trying on clothes later, I was completely disheartened. Fully half my shirts no longer fit me “well”. I could hang on to them and accept the “tent” look for now, but I was going to have to start cycling them out. I now had exactly 4 t-shirts that were sized correctly. Dress shirts and sweaters and the like? Not a single one fits me right any longer.

But the really depressing part was the drawer where I keep my jeans. I knew my beloved carpenter jeans would no longer work, because they were 48-inch waistlines. I had cleverly hidden a few 44-inch pants in the bottom of the drawers, planning against today, when I could proudly pull them out and show them to Lor, demonstrating my genius and foresight.

But not a single one of them fit, either. I had missed my window. These brand new jeans I had been waiting to wear for years would have to be worn by someone else – they literally slid right off my hips and onto the floor. I tried on every pair of pants I owned, creating a “donate” pile, and anticipating that I would replace the ones that fit into my drawer.

That drawer now stands completely empty, by the way.

Thank goodness it is summer and I can still wear shorts. We went to the local (bariatric group recommeded) thrift store and were able to find a few pairs of 40-inch waistline shorts. (Bafflingly, 40-inch pants did not fit, but shorts did.) The fact that I was now within 2 inches of my decades-long goal of a 38-inch waistline was not as nearly as exciting as it should have been – it was more than offset by the fact that I was having to go clothes shopping – and I knew that, within a few weeks, I was going to have to do it again. I was not buying these clothes, really. Just sort of renting them.

Thanks to my LootCrate subscription, I can count on one new geek-themed shirt a month, but I can only wear a shirt so many times in a month before it develops holes. The same vanity that used to force me to only wear sweats rather than buy 50-inch waistline pants is now operating in reverse – I refuse to buy sweats to wear instead of shorts or jeans. What is the point of losing weight just so I can wear nothing but track pants?

Or shirts that fit like tents for that matter?

Cursing The Day I Became Fashion-Aware,

– Hawkwind

 

 

Independence Day

Photo Credit: vpickering via Compfight cc

Happy Independence Day to all my U.S. readers!

We are today at the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The whole “anniversary” concept has me thinking this morning, about the timeline we have been experiencing as we move up to (and in Lor’s case through) bariatric surgery and the lifestyle changes that go along with it. I am left to kind of scratch my head and wonder: where are my anniversaries going to be?

Will I celebrate next February 2, the anniversary of the day where I stepped on a scale and saw 302 pounds displayed? The actual “moment of clarity” where I realized that I was no longer in control of my own weight and my own life, and needed to do something about it?

Or maybe, instead, I should note February 28 – the day of Lor’s first Bariatrics appointment. Though my own appointment with the bariatrics team at ¬†ABQ Health Partners was not to arrive until March 3rd, the day that Lor went in to meet with her surgeon and decided to move forward with surgery is the day that this process really got started – where we made the team commitment that,¬†whether or not we were both approved for surgery, we would both go through the lifestyle changes together.

Another possible “independence day” anniversary would be June 1 – the day Lor started her liquid diet phase. Her preparation for surgery had a very profound impact on my own diet and lifestyle as well. It represented, for both of us, the day our old lives ended and our new relationships with food began.

Or, I could just go with the old standard, and choose my upcoming surgery date as my “new me” anniversary date. On the 25th of July, for every year from here forward, I can look back at the hideous self-portraits I keep on my phone and be reminded of what I do not ever want to return to. 3 weeks from today (not that I am counting) I pass the Rubicon – the point past which there is no return.

So many transition points to reflect on and the year is only half over. I am also looking forward to dates like:

  • My first sub 250-pound weigh-in.
  • The first day I can fit into a 38-inch waistline.
  • The day I can bench press 145 pounds again.
  • My first Christmas with both sides of the family after our surgeries.

And so on. Man, I could be giving myself anniversary presents for all of next year.

Enjoy your holiday!

Looking Forward To Personal Fireworks,

– Hawkwind