Here, Piggie, Piggie

Photo Credit: Madr@t Flickr via Compfight cc
The conversation last night was unusual, to say the least:
“Oh my God, I ate like a pig today.”
“Me, too. I can’t believe we ate so much.”
“Man, we are going to have to do nothing but protein shakes tomorrow or something.”
“Yeah, I totally feel you. We need to keep better track.”
So, what happened to cause this conversation? What horrible dietary sins did we commit? Did we visit Coldstone Creamery? Hit the all-you-can-eat buffet at one of our local casinos? Give in to temptation and each have one of the gigantic breakfast burritos from a local vendor?
In point of fact, no. We did none of those things. Actually, we cooked three meals at home, and each (barely) topped 1,000 calories for the day. Due to the high amount of fresh vegetables we ingested we also both went a little over 60 grams of carbs for the day.
It is a brave, new world that we are living in, post-surgery.
If you had told me a year ago that eating a thousand calories would make me feel bloated, overstuffed and concerned about over-eating, I would have laughed at you. No one can live on 1,000 calories, right? That is, like, anorexia territory, isn’t it?
Yeah, apparently not. Once you’ve got somewhere between 1.5 (for bypass patients) and 4 (for sleeve patients) ounces of stomach to work with, the caloric intake suddenly becomes a LOT less important to you. Now, you are suddenly focusing on protein, protein, protein! (We did fine on our protein numbers yesterday, by the way – Lor had over 60, I topped out at 70.) Limit those carbs, raise that protein level, and the weight will just melt away!
Well, provided that you exercise every day. And take multivitamins every day. And make sure you stay hydrated, since you won’t be getting much hydration from food sources anymore. And…
The total mind shift that comes along with surgery is really unexpected. They tell you that you are going to have to think about food differently, but it doesn’t really hit you till that day after surgery when you are looking at a plate of 3 tablespoons worth of food and wondering how you are supposed to live on this. Until you keep having to smile and turn down a drink from a friendly waitress so you don’t drink while you eat. Until you start carrying a phone app to track every single morsel of everything you ingest in a day.
And, suddenly, a few months later, you are wondering how you were such a pig as to ingest 1,000 calories worth of food. 
Mind. Blown.
Still Think I Need Those Protein Shakes,
– Hawkwind

Variety: The Lack of Spice

Photo Credit: emilybostic1 Flickr via Compfight cc
(Health Update: The results are in from by visit to the audiologist. I am suffering from mild to moderate hearing loss across all bands, with the problem getting worse at the frequencies get higher. Translation: I am going deaf, but am not yet deaf enough for hearing aids. Lor will just have to speak louder.)
We made our bi-weekly visit to the grocery store yesterday, and while reviewing the receipt afterward (ouch!) a thought struck me: this looked an awful lot like the pile of groceries we bought two weeks ago.
In the name of scientific inquiry, I went through the bags as we were unloading at home. Eggs: Affirmative. Many pounds of chicken: present. Several varieties of cheese: check. 10,000 containers of greek yogurt: yup. We didn’t get any protein shakes, but only because they weren’t on sale at the grocery store we visited yesterday. Same old, same old, really.
So. this is what I am going to be eating for the rest of my life. The only variety is showing up in the various fruits and vegetables Lor is picking – usually whatever is on sale. And even then I can always count on standards like tomatoes and cucumbers.
It isn’t necessarily that this is a bad thing. But it is sort of like that day when you are sitting at your desk and realize that this job is what you’ve been doing for the last twenty years: so this is who I am. From here on out, my identity is wrapped up in tiny amounts of protein-saturated foods.
As identities go, it isn’t a bad one to have. Quite honestly, food has really been shifted to the back burner (ha!) in terms of things we spend a lot of time thinking about. Though we do still have cravings from time to time (I drooled over a pecan pie for about 5 minutes yesterday), they aren’t real cravings, if you know what I mean. My mind is craving the memory of something it used to really enjoy. My stomach could care less.
But, really, we are only a few months out from our surgeries. Getting the exact same thing every two weeks will surely lead to burning out eventually, won’t it? I think we need to put a little more thought into our weekly meal planning, and make sure that we are injecting a little variety into these trips to grocery store. Substitute low-fat beef cuts for chicken once in a while. make sure we are cycling through different kinds of nuts. We are already doing a pretty good job of trying different cheeses every time. I have no idea what in the heck we will use to substitute for low-fat yogurt, though.
Just one more demonstration of shifting food away from the center of our lives, I suppose. We can start looking for variety in other places: changing up our daily routine, trying different exercise programs, doing new and unusual things for entertainment. We have quite a few more options with our reduced sizes and increased health, right? We need to seek the spice of variety in experience, and not in things like lasagna, beer and desserts.
Now if I can just convince my brain of that.
Wondering If They Make A Pecan Pie Flavored Yogurt,
– Hawkwind

Auditory Setbacks

Hawkwind, ca. 1998, when he still had his hearing (and his hair.)
It hasn’t been the best of weeks so far, in a “health and wellness” sense.
My weight has stopped dropping (still stuck at 224), my knee has flared back up after a few weeks of glorious pain-free exercise, and, tomorrow, I get to go have my hearing checked.
Wait, what does that last one have to do with weight loss?
Nothing, really. But it is the physical symptom that is bothering me the most right now.
Decades of playing rock and roll on very small stages in front of very loud amplifiers (and drummers) have left me with not-so-great hearing. While hanging around the house, this is no big deal – I just turn up the volume or make sure I am watching Lor’s lips move while she speaks to me, and waiting for information to arrive via context.
However, out in the world, this has begun to be a problem. While out walking the dog, for example, Lor is invariably a few feet in front of me. While huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with her and Vixen, I will hear something that seems to indicate that she is speaking, but the words come through as something like the background noise at a really loud party. As I can’t see her lips, I have no idea what is being said. I tend to say “Mmm-hmm” in a positive inflection a lot. I have no idea what I am agreeing to. Could be that I agree the dog is unusually cute today, could be I just signed off on tearing out all our flooring and replacing it with marble. Who knows?
So, at my latest doctor visit, I mentioned this problem to my physician. My doctor recommended that I go so see an audiologist. My appointment is tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to the results.
The idea of wearing hearing aids is just not appealing to me, I must admit. I have loved ones who rely on them, and it certainly has improved their quality of life. But, they just seem like something for people…older than me.
You know, like slowing metabolic rates are a function of age. And advanced arthritis in the joints is a function of age. Everywhere I turn, my body is gleefully pointing out to me that I am not in my twenties anymore. Not to mention the fact that I am reaping the rewards of a lifetime of abuse that I have heaped on my body. I wish I had enjoyed my thirties more, because I am paying for them now. Sort of like student loans or high-interest credit cards – the consequences last far after the initial purchase.
And, no matter how well I finally do in weight loss, exercise and nutrition from here on out, the fact remains – I am going to keep getting older. My body will keep slowing down. I will have to work harder tomorrow to achieve the results I got yesterday. Things are just going to keep ceasing to function properly. Because no one escapes the ravages of time. 
And, soon, I may have the hearing aids to show for it.
Damn it.
Wishing I Had Played Mozart Instead Of Skynyrd,
– Hawkwind

Social Butterflies

Photo Credit: Hugo von Schreck via Compfight cc
When you are an obese person, frequently the company you like best is your own. Though advertising would have us believe that beautiful and trendy people are out partying it up, the fact remains that, when you are uncomfortable due to your size, you would just as soon stay home and eat a pizza while binge-watching “Orange Is The New Black.”
Eating the whole pizza, that is.
“Fat” is just not real conducive to social gatherings, ya know? You are sure everyone is watching (and judging) you all the time, so you sit in the corner. You sweat like crazy, thanks to a combination of your obesity and your nervousness, which you are positive makes you smell horrible. You gaze at everyone else’s figures and assume that, since they are not obese, their lives must be better than your own. So, you just stay home instead.
It has been tough breaking out of that mindset. Lor has always been more social than I am, and has been instrumental in getting me out of the house recently. A couple of weekends ago we attended a birthday party. This last weekend we had dinner with some friends that we haven’t seen in months, and also went to a weekly gathering we have been invited to for years and have just never gone to because, you know, fat.
The weird part is that I still suffer from those same social fears, just with a slightly different emphasis. I still think everyone is looking at me, but now I am convinced that they are wondering why I haven’t lost more weight. While dining in public I now worry that our friends are silently judging us for how little we are eating. I am finding other reasons to assume that people’s lives are better than my own, no longer based on weight.
Sigh. At least I am no longer sweating so much. So there is that.
Despite my battle with my private neuroses, it has been wonderful getting to hang around people I haven’t seen in years, in some cases over a decade. I find myself surrounded by people that are genuinely interested in Lor and I, wondering where we’ve  been and how we have been doing. In many cases, the weight loss and surgery don’t even come up as a topic of conversation – our friends are interested in the people we are no matter how much or how little we might weigh. That has been amazingly gratifying.
Also interesting is the number of people who have gone through, or know someone who has gone through, bariatric surgery. It is becoming less and less a taboo subject, a demonstration of failure or laziness, but is instead being viewed as a standard treatment for a real illness. This is amazing, and I hope it continues. Once obesity is no longer viewed as a simple failure of willpower, we as a country will get a whole lot healthier.
I am very grateful for the friends that have been patiently waiting for us to rejoin their lives, and I find that I have really missed social interaction more than I thought I did. Thanks to Lor, I am sure that we will be expanding our social circles even wider as time goes on. She is determined to re-enter the world that I have been hiding us from for years now.
Not that there is anything wrong with staying home and binge-watching “Sons of Anarchy” for entertainment every once in a while.
Stretching My Fragile Socialite Wings,
– Hawkwind

If Tomorrow’s Weight Loss Never Comes

(With apologies to Garth Brooks)
Along with all the other excitement of the last two weeks, I have also noticed a marked slow-down in my weight loss. Where I had been losing 3, 4, even 5 pounds a week since surgery, last week I made it to 225 pounds, and this week to 224. Somewhere in my brain, some pressure has been applied to the weight-loss brakes.
Now, stalls happen. I am not overly concerned about the fact that my weight loss has temporarily slowed down. The facts are pretty simple – If I keep eating around 800 calories a day, and my daily exercise routine burns off another 300 of them, there is just no way that my weight loss is “done”. At some point, my fat cells will be forced out of their resistance, and the weight loss will pick back up.
However, just for the sake of argument, what if I was done losing weight? What would it mean for me to begin living the rest of my life at my current weight and size?
Well, let’s see:
  • I would have to accept a 40-inch waistline. That would be a little disappointing, but not very, since my original “pie-in-the-sky” goal was actually 38 inches. Remember, I started with a 48-inch waist.
  • I would have to accept better seizure control and no longer being on blood pressure medications. Yeah, I think I could do that.
  • My exercise routine would need to work around being at 224 pounds. Now, that is a little more difficult, since every pound you lose makes exercise that much easier on the rest of your body. But, in February, I could barely manage to walk to the end of the block and back – about 2 tenths of a mile. Today, we are regularly walking 2 miles, a ten-fold increase in daily activity.
  • My CPAP would remain a constant companion at night, since I have still not overcome my obstructive sleep apnea. I do sometimes wish that I could get rid of the Darth Vader mask and hoses. But, Lor hints ominously that, if I were to start snoring again after being taken off of it, the mask would be going right back on anyway. The CPAP has meant uninterrupted sleep for both of us for several years now, and I suppose I can accept that.
  • I would have to settle for the restoration of a regular sex life again, after not having one for years. Ahem. Yes, please.
I find very little to be unhappy about at this point – even if the process were done today, I would have to call the bariatric surgery a total success. Though I still have occasional hiccups (see what I did there?), what I have gained through surgery far outweighs the loss of beer and all-you-can-eat buffets. The fact is, I have a life outside my house again, and that in and of itself is one of the most valuable gifts I have ever received.
And, the good news is, I am not done yet! Though I am still skeptical of getting all the way down to 185 (my surgical goal weight), I firmly believe that I can make it to 199: I would like my maintenance phase next year to begin at under 200 pounds. And I will do everything in my power to get there. Two days from now will be my 2-month “surgiversary”, so I should have at least 4 more months of honeymoon weight loss to go. Even at my current slower weight loss of a pound a week that would put me at 208 by January!
208 pounds. Imagine 95 pounds of total weight loss in just under a year. Who would have thought?
And Now I Have That Darn Song Stuck In My Head,
– Hawkwind