Mind to Mouth Resuscitation

Someone was posting today about the attitude towards weight loss surgery and how much they hate the Rachel Ray talk show because she’s promoting people who lost hundreds of pounds WITHOUT SURGERY.

Well good for them. I tried and tried and tried but could never stick with it long enough to make it work for me. Having the surgery is my safety net. But it’s only one of the things I did and in the long run, not even the most important.

The most important was finding a weight loss therapist and working on the problems that got me to Super Morbidly Obese in the first place.

Then joining Weight Watchers and learning to track and stick to a plan and having that weekly accountability and support. Plus – I learned a lot about losing weight and what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m still doing all that stuff and I know if I wasn’t, I would be gaining again. (Because when I’m not doing all that stuff, I AM gaining!)

Working with a nutritionist, learning to plan menus, shop, prepare and eat healthy has been a core part of the process. So many people really and truly don’t know how to eat or what to eat to be healthy. I have to pack as much nutrition as I can into a small amount of food – about a cup a meal. So I eat lean protein, vegetables, high fiber grains, fruit, nuts and lean dairy. Plus I MUST have my daily vitamins because my body no longer absorbs enough food from the food I eat. And don’t forget about drinking water – I can get dehydrated and end up in the hospital if I don’t sip, sip, sip all day long. I like the fact that the surgery made it difficult and painful to eat too much sugar or too much fat or too much ANYTHING. I needed that while my head was getting straight. As you all know, there are days, even after three years, that I STILL need it.

What has really changed my body and helped to change my mental attitude is finding a gym (or two) and a personal trainer (or three) and learning to push my limits on exercise. Trying new things every month so that it doesn’t get boring and I always have something I can do to exercise that sounds good to me. Today the treadmill sounds good – tomorrow will be kickboxing again. This weekend, hiking or biking. Later this month, skiing and snowboarding. This summer, I’m going to try wake boarding, water skiing and surfing and get my scuba certification.  And did I mention I was an iron girl triathlete? Okay, maybe a few hundred times…

I think that only time and OUR success will determine the attitude of the public to surgery. If 50% or more of the people who have the surgery stop doing the right thing, they will gain their weight back and the attitude that it is a cop-out/easy way out will continue. But if more people lose the weight in a smart way – changing our lifestyles, exercising, working on the mental health issues that GOT us to MO or SMO, then we can change those attitudes over time.

I never forget that I did this to save my life.  It made me think about other life saving techniques that were originally scoffed at and I found this:

“Whether you were ‘dead’ or not depends largely on what medical technology is lying to hand. The longer you are in cardiac arrest (heart not beating) or respiratory arrest (not breathing) the harder it is to revive you, but you’re not dead until the doctors decide nothing else can be done. However, it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when both of the symptoms above indicated the cessation of life. In fact, when early reports of successful mouth-to-mouth were presented to the Royal Society, their prickly response was: “Life ends when breathing ceases.” You were either dead or you weren’t. ”

I was super morbidly obese, but I wasn’t dead yet and this is my own version of mouth to mouth. I call it MIND to MOUTH.

Oh – and I have to stand up for weight watchers – like anything else, it only works if you follow the plan and don’t get off the plan. They have recently changed their points system so that it is a lot more balanced and you can do WLS-style eating with more protein and stick to your points and LOSE or maintain as is my goal. It teaches balance, accountability, journaling and encourages exercise. I did it for two years before surgery and though I only lost 40 pounds in that 2 years, I did learn how to be aware of what I was eating and I consider my WW leader and group a key part of my success.

The 2010 Countdown – 5 days to go

Time keeps on turning, turning – into the future! It’s the last week of the year and time for a little retrospective.

I’ve been on this journey towards health since January 2007.  That’s four years.  And no, I didn’t lose much weight that year and I didn’t keep ANY of it off, but I did get started. I just wasn’t consistent, which was always my problem. I think the best thing I did that year was join Weight Watchers. Even when I wasn’t making progress, I was paying attention EVERY WEEK. Something I had never done before.

2008 was better, still not a lot of pounds lost, but so many habits changed and my mind-set was getting to be where it needed to be. I KNEW I needed to eat better and exercise more and live life to the fullest – all at the same time and consistently! What a concept, huh? Still, up and down – losing the same 20 pounds over and over for most of the year. Still, I went into a funk in October and lost all the ground I’d gained in the battle.

2009 was still off occasionally, but became all about forgiveness and course correction. For a change, I was more on path than off and for the first time in my life, I ended the year weighing less than at the start of the year. Then I had my big fall in July of that year. After that, it felt as if I had my feet firmly set on the path and I was committed to doing WHATEVER it took to get healthy again – modified eating style, exercise as much and as often as I could, weight loss counseling, support groups, surgery and still keeping up with the weekly support from my weight watcher’s group.

2010 has been so  amazing for me – it is the first year of my life that I was on track for an ENTIRE YEAR. The first year in a long time that I didn’t have any health issues – no surgeries, no hospitalizations, no medications. And for the second year in a row, I ended the year weighing less than I started the year. Although 2010 started with me still over 200, I made it into the Century Club in February when I lost my first 100 pounds. And I will never forget how it felt to enter sweet, sweet Onderland in March when the scale dipped below 200 pounds for the first time since college – rolling the clock back almost 25 years. I loved that I did all those boot camps and a triathlon and a 5k – learned to scuba, belly dance, rock climb and so much more. Learning to use my body and build strength and endurance and energy.

This year, once again, I went into a funk in October, but instead of abandoning everything, I decided that I’d be gentle with myself and just shoot for MAINTAINING. That seems to have worked. I’m indulging myself a bit more on some days, but back to basics on most days. No super-duper exercise routines, but lots of steady, brisk walking. And I haven’t gained any weight. I know I’m flabbier, and I have to kick it in gear to recover from that, but I know I can do it.

It’s a nice feeling to look ahead to 2011 and think, now if I can only get back to strength training and lose that last 25 pounds. Compared to the overwhelming effort of getting started and trying to lose 150 pounds, that doesn’t sound so bad, but I’m still going to break it up into small goals. First goal: to get back to doing strength training with my daily cardio and to lose 5% of my current weight – about 9 pounds. That also puts me under my endocrinologist’s goal weight and makes me a lifetime Weight Watcher’s member, which are pretty special goals. Second goal: do the half marathon and lose another 5% – about 8 pounds.  And when I get those done, then the final 5% goal – about 6 pounds and hey – maybe a 10k!  Why not?

For the first time in my life, I’m not figuring out how fast I can get to those goals. I’m not setting a goal of doing it in one month or 8 weeks – though, who am I kidding? I love schedules! Instead I’m setting a goal of doing it in a way that I can maintain – no deprivation – no weird soup diets or pills. Just me and my pouch and my HEALTHY low carb/lean protein eating plan, vitamins, water, exercise and therapy.

I don’t regret this three-month break. Because I didn’t stop living healthy, and I didn’t go that far off track. I just stopped expecting to lose every week. No, I’m not as toned as I was in September, but despite that, I feel mentally strong and stable and not scared anymore. I know what I have to do to maintain, so I feel as if it’s safe to work towards my goal now. I’m no longer afraid that I’m finally going to reach it and then fail, which would be heartbreaking.

My New Year’s resolution? Next December, when I’m looking ahead to 2012, I want to be able to say “2011? This was the year I kept the magic going”.

New Support Group

Finally! An in person, real live support group that I can attend! Dr. Rick Finley’s patients meet once a month on Mondays at Emory University Midtown (aka Crawford Long if you are an old-time resident of Atlanta) at 6pm.  I’ve volunteered to help them set up an online presence so they can share info and help all Dr. Finley’s patients – even those who live hours away from Atlanta.  I’m excited!

Last night I met another Karen – the surgical nurse who helped with both my surgeries. She runs the group. We had an impressive presentation from a high school senior’s project. Interesting survey results. Then there was Stacey, who works with Dr. Finley to provide nutritional counseling, talked about basic nutrition and vitamins. She’s also a personal trainer and works extensively with the bariatric community in Lake Oconee.

I initially thought, hey, I know all that. (Ha – such a know-it-all!) But it was well put together and I DID learn something. Several things, really:

One, I have not recalculated my protein requirements since before my surgery. I am now getting almost double the protein that I really need.  Her recommendation was 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight. I had to get help with the math, but 172 pounds times 2.2 conversion rate = 78 grams of protein required – NOT 128. Ooops!

Another thing she was very helpful about was the whole net carbs, absorbed carbs marketing lingo. That’s all it is – the companies invent that stuff and then lure us in with whatever they want to put on the label. Here’s her guidelines:

Count half the sugar alcohols as carbs/sugar. Some people, (moi!) must count them all, because they really have an impact on our blood sugar and cause severe digestive upsets. Translation: eat them and pay! The sugar alcohols are sorbitol, manitol, etc – all those things you find in sweets designed for diabetics. Sigh.

The other thing that got me was that I’ve always counted all the fiber in a serving and subtracted it from the carb count. Her recommendation is to only count it IF it is 5 grams or more of fiber. Dang it! No wonder my weight loss has stalled for so long. I’m DEFINITELY getting too many carbs if I change the way I’m counting them. But it’s good to know this stuff. This is a life long change – I’m not going to get it perfect right off the bat. Might take me another 50 or 60 years!

Also got to taste test the celebrate vitamins. I loved the multi-vitamin, but the calcium was big and thin, versus medium and thick like my Bariatric Advantage calcium. Plus, didn’t really like the flavor. Got a few more, including Purity, to try. Also a reminder that I’m not supposed to take my calcium at the same time as my multivitamin because of the iron in there. Dang it! I had forgotten that over the last year and I always take them in the same half hour time frame. Drat! More change! But it is so important because osteoporosis is not pretty and it could be years before I notice that I have a problem. Must be proactive on that front.

Well, gotta get some of my spiced pumpkin oatmeal going and then get on the treadmill. I feel a bit sore from yesterday, but not as much as I expected. I suspect the soreness is from trying to go too fast on my warmup. I’m going to stick to the 2.5 mile an hour warmup and crank up the speed to 4.2 as soon as I can and keep it there for the rest of the walk. That should still get me to 4 miles in 60 minutes.

It is cold today. Just want to say a big thank you to my father in law who gave me my treadmill before my surgery last year. It would not be fun to have to go outside and get in my frozen car and drive to the gym this morning. It really is the no-excuse workout!

Status Update

I started the Weight Watcher’s PointsPlus program last Friday. Friday was my first weigh in – and guess what? I lost 1.8 pounds! That’s my biggest loss in MONTHS and I wasn’t really trying to lose – I was eating on “maintenance”.

I ate all my extra weekly allowance points, as well as all my activity points. I was never hungry, I ate way more than I thought I should, but still, I lost. There must be some strong magic in that program.

I’m excited about week two because I’m down to 172.4 pounds (naked, at home, before breakfast). In 1.4 pounds, I will have lost 150 pounds and be at my endo’s goal weight for me. That could happen NEXT FRIDAY. How exciting is that?

In 2.5 pounds, I’ll be at 169.9 and below 170 for the first time since 1981. That’s turning the clock back by thirty years. And that could happen in a couple of weeks (theoretically). It’s a theory I’d like to consider, target and embrace with hopefulness.

I’m ready to be at goal. Not just physically, but mentally.

Bring it on!

Maintenance – Week Five & Six

I guess even I’m tired of hearing about maintenance, because I didn’t blog about it last week. I did lose a trifling .4 lbs from the week before.  I tried to get excited, but hell, I could fluctuate 5 pounds in a day in the old MO days, so .4 is just NOTHING. Over time, though, it does appear that I’m losing, ever so slightly on maintenance. And I’m eating a bit more and adding in some treats. Plus I’m exercising more gently and for less time. So the fact that I continue to lose is good. Even .4 lbs.

Why is it that, even though this is my one true goal, it is very hard to get excited about maintenance? Every week I step on the scale and Hurrah! I haven’t gained. I haven’t lost. Whoopee!


I get bored if things don’t change. I can see how people, some people, not me, of course, would eat their way back to obesity so that they could have the challenge and the rush of losing it again.

But not me.

Nope. Not me.

Today is Friday and time for my weekly weigh in at Weight Watchers. I put the scale back in my bathroom yesterday, so I think that I am either on target or may have lost a bit more. I measured my stomach and I am the same all over. Which is really hard to believe, since I FEEL much flabbier and fatter. I’m trying to realize that is just the mean girl in my head talking and it isn’t reality. I think there is something about not losing that makes me feel less respectful of the bulge that is left. When I was really pushing it, I took pictures in my bathing suit – bigger than I am today. I took pictures in my workout gear – much, much bigger than I am right now.  But now? Bring on the girdle!

Welcome to the Circus! Maintenance – Week Three

Last week was a bit of a roller coaster ride as far as my weight was concerned: I was up one day, down the next. But when the ride was over, I was back to where I started and maintained my weight for another week, including a teeny tiny .2 lb loss – so negligible it might have been my earrings or a different shirt!.

I’m feeling good about that because it was NOT an easy week. For two weeks in a row I’ve worked with no days off and long hours to support a software release and design tasks for new projects. I’m tired, but apparently I didn’t rely too much on snacking to keep me going – something I would have done in my morbidly obese days. Instead I made sure I got in some exercise every day and I tried to eat healthy meals and snacks. I went off plan a few times, but I tried to balance that with lean protein and veggies at the following meals, walking the tight rope between loss and gain.

There were some days this week where I felt like the fat lady at the circus. Cutting back on exercise has had a pretty quick impact on how toned I was, so there’s a lot more flab than I had at the end of the last boot camp. Initially I freaked out about that, but logic and reason have returned and I am trying to focus on the 145 pounds I lost and how big a difference that is. A pound of flab may feel huge and disgusting but in reality, I’m the only one who noticed. (Or at least the only one who said anything! LOL)

I have to keep remembering that the difference is dramatic. Did I mention my neighbor who didn’t recognize me? I was going into the gym yesterday and held the door for a lady who lives just down the street from me. I said hello and she nodded politely and I realized she didn’t know who I was. Initially I thought it was because she’s older, but when I introduced myself, she immediately knew who I was, but was so floored by the change that she kept me talking for 10 minutes!  That felt good – I can see going around and looking up a lot of people I haven’t seen in a year or more to relive that feeling. Just kidding. I think.

Getting a late, lazy start this morning. I’ve just been enjoying the sunshine and the first fall colors in my front yard. The boys and I are going on a bike ride tomorrow, so I hope we see a lot more of that. I can’t wait! We’ll take a picnic and bike out to the lake on the silver comet trail and eat our lunch, then come back. Or maybe we’ll find a new section to ride. We like the Rambo to Coot’s Lake section so much, that we tend to go every time. But it’s good to try new things.

Well, I’m off to yoga, then my son’s final baseball game of the season. Then I have to choose between a Weight Watcher’s event or lunch out with the boys at the farmer’s market. Maybe we could do both? Hmmm….

Have a great weekend and enjoy the fall weather. Before we know it, winter will be here (already is for a lot of my friends!) and we’ll be pining for sunshine and blue skies, so get some sun while it shines.

Listen to your pain

I slept late this morning – never even set my alarm. Woke with the sun and the first birdsong at 7:36! So now I have to skeedaddle so I can get to Weight Watchers and then get my swim in before work. I had an amazing workout yesterday with the boys. We all went to the DBC Fitness center in Dunwoody and did the couch to 5k program on the indoor track. That was perfect for us! We kind of all did our thing and walked together sometimes, ran together sometimes, but mostly just circled around each other. We could all stay in sight and all go at our own pace. Then we went to one of the exercise rooms and lifted weights, did situps and squats together. We all really, really enjoyed it. Loved seeing my husband jogging. Love, love, LOVED seeing my handsome son running around the track and counting his laps. He was DETERMINED to finish a mile. I think that’s pretty awesome and he can already see that he’s able to do more than he could last week. A great lesson to learn when you are only eight.

Makes me think – what would my life have been like if I’d learned to stick to exercise after I left junior high? I used to be on the track team when I was 13. If I’d stuck to that, then the PCOS probably would never have gotten so bad. I definitely wouldn’t have ballooned up over 300 pounds (over and over again) and I think my battle with depression would have a lot more successful skirmishes.  I would still have needed to deal with all my past baggage and issues, but I wouldn’t have been simultaneously dealing with low self-esteem and a poor body image, which I dealt with by medicating myself with food.

Right now I keep straying off the path but the resulting feelings about myself are so painful, after all these months of being proud of myself. That pain is a great alarm system and I realize that it is one of the things that is helping me make course corrections right now. If I can keep dealing with that pain and responding to it in a way other than eating myself into a coma, then I’m going to be alright.

I can’t  continue to suppress that pain with food, I have to let myself feel it – even if just for a few minutes before I distract myself from it again. Every day, I try to feel it a little longer until I can really hear it and understand what is causing the pain. Once I figure that out, then I can start to deal with it in a way that doesn’t involve a bag of Doritos and a pint of ice-cream!

Well, I’ve got a scale to face at Weight Watchers and a pool to conquer. Then I’m going to treat myself to a half hour of steam and jacuzzi before I head to work. I have the best job in the world, even if I was working until 7 pm every night this week!

Have a wonderful day and try to listen to any pain you might be feeling.

Maintenance – Day Three

Yesterday was so busy that I forgot to publish my blog. First the insurance exam, and then work was nuts. It is a pre-release week for my software project and the usual scramble to get everything finished and into the release. It’s my first truly Agile project and I find that I love the energy and the flexibility.  Except that I tried to leave a little early to go bowling with my family.  Nuts, right? In the middle of all that was going on, and I was trying to get out at 4:30. I actually made it at 5:00 and it appears from checking my email that nothing catastrophic occurred because I left. Ha ha! Good reminder for me to keep my life balanced and that I am not indispensable.  With the unexpected hours I put in this weekend, I was 4 hours above plan, so I’m glad I took the extra couple of hours yesterday and today. Keeping promises to my son is so important and I didn’t get to spend much time with him this weekend.

I was working with someone yesterday whose signature line says “I do what I can, as well as I can, when I can”. I think that is so sensible an attitude. Not my old mantra, which was “I will do everything perfect and as soon as I can no matter what”. The result of my mantra was missed promises to my family, my friends and my job, since NO ONE can do everything, do it perfectly and keep up the pace I was trying to keep. No wonder I was hard to work with at my old job – my standards were impossible to meet, so I was always disappointed and critically judgemental.

I like the new attitude. I like my new schedule where I get my exercise and health stuff done and then I go into the office. Works out well, since I work with a Seattle-based team. I shoot for 9:30, but if I get in at 10, I can just work until 6 and get my hours in and be there during critical hours. A lot of the time that slips to 7 or later, so I don’t have any guilt about coming in at 10:30 or a couple of times at 11 because I was running behind or pushed my workout a little extra.

All this is good reminders because I didn’t work out yesterday – didn’t even get a walk in. I was planning to ride my bike and didn’t do that. So I’m up at 6 this morning to finish my writing and get to the gym for a solid workout and some good cardio. I’ve got my glass of water and my oatmeal is waiting as soon as I get rehydrated.

I realized yesterday that one of the reasons I’ve been overeating at my desk is that I have a huge bag of almonds at my desk. It makes it easy to grab a handful when I’m hungry, and that’s a great snack for me. But it also makes it too easy to overeat. So I’m going to go back to measuring out and packing my almonds for the day and keep the big bags at home, out of sight in the pantry. I think I had 3 servings yesterday. On a day with no exercise, that’s not good. Okay, part of that was that I went to get my greek yogurt and fruit and while trying to pour off a little extra liquid, I accidentally tipped the entire container of yogurt into the trash. So I had the almonds with the blueberries. But still! The extra handful was pure mindless snacking because I got caught up in a problem solving frenzy. Frankly, if it isn’t there, I can’t eat it. And I think I’ve gotten control of myself enough that I’m not going to go down to the cafe and buy something crappy, I’ll have a protein drink or something I’ve brought from home or fallback on the emergency Rock n Roll protein bar.  It’s a big part of the Weight Watchers program success: you have to prepare your environment for success.

One thing I still have to think about is what I did after bowling last night. Yesterday morning my husband commented that in my current collection of clothes there were a lot of black and white – not as much color as I’d had. So I took that as permission to go to the Goodwill last night – despite my self-imposed and budget-imposed moratorium on shopping. On the one hand, I found 1 jacket, two sweaters and a blouse all in gorgeous colors that look good on me. On the other hand, I spent $30. I have worked a lot of overtime this week, so the budget was more flush than usual, but we’re still in the red, so I really didn’t NEED to do it. I have to admit, I felt a litttle of the same mental feeling I used to get on a binge. It would have been easy to race up and down, grabbing anything that looked good and piling it into the cart and then recklessly ringing it all up, no matter how much it was.

But I didn’t. I piled my cart up and then went to try on everything, then picked the four best pieces. Then my son insisted I add a really gorgeous blue sweater, so I ended up with five. Part of me is thinking that if I’d bought those things new, I would have been lucky to find one of the sweaters on sale for $30. The jacket would have put me out at least $100 and all five pieces would have been more than $300 – easily.

The OTHER part of my brain is thinking, you said you wouldn’t shop. You don’t really need those clothes. You have enough clothes. And here’s the part that’s hard to admit: the reason that my husband saw only black and white in my closet is that all my more colorful clothes, that I like to wear every day, are in the laundry. I just didn’t do laundry this weekend because I worked all weekend. So really, truly, I was lying to him and to myself when I said I NEEDED them. So I made it only eleven days without shopping. Sigh. Two steps forward, one step back. 

So, I start again! Hello, my name is Karen and it’s been one day since I shopped.

Well, it’s getting late and I want to be at the gym by 7, so I’m wrapping up for the day. Have a really special day today – do something you’ve been putting off – you’ll feel better for it!

Happy “Surgiversary” To Me

Couldn’t sleep. Reminds me of last year at this time. I posted about how I was feeling and got so many great responses. So supportive. I was downstairs fighting my head hunger and finally realized what I really needed, so I came online tonight and started reading and posting.
Time is ticking away and in another minute it will be my one year surgiversary.

Just read a whole bunch of wonderful things that everyone said and that made me happy and tearful all at the same time.

It’s midnight. But my midnight of the soul was last year. Now I’m almost a different person. Not just the weight loss. The change in my attitude and outlook and lifestyle is unbelievable to me. I can’t imagine going back to that. I fear it, but that will just make me more vigilant.

The old Karen would have had fried chicken and icecream to celebrate.
But I made some homemade yogurt and bought some fresh organic blueberries to have for my “birthday” breakfast.
And tomorrow night I’m running a 5k to celebrate my year of change. I thought that was more fitting for the New Karen.

The old Karen would have been snacking all night on junk food and feeling sick.
The new Karen made bison meatballs and brussels sprouts.

The old Karen would have been sitting in a dirty, disorganized house, too tired to do anything but ignore it.
The new Karen has been busting her butt to organize and clean for the last few months. (Still some ways to go, but SO much better)

The old Karen would have been mindlessly reading a Nora Roberts and eating in bed.
The new Karen is surfing the Board and sipping water. (Though I still like Nora Roberts!)

The old Karen would be planning to come home and crash tomorrow.
The new Karen is planning to run a 5k after work.

The old Karen would be sad and angry and have no idea why she was heading for the ice cream.
The new Karen has been delving into her head so much, she’s got to the point she says outloud – oh hell, I’m emotional eating again because of such and such – AND I STOP.  (Sometimes now I realize it BEFORE I start!)

The old Karen would have laundry piled up because she’s too tired to do it.
The new Karen has laundry piled up because she’s taking boot camp and scuba diving and yoga and swimming and she’s busy, plus all those wardrobe changes play havoc with the laundry basket.

The old Karen would have ice cream, fried chicken, pudding, whole milk, full fat cheese and leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge.
The new Karen has fat free milk, homemade yogurt, half fat cheese and leftover brussels sprouts in the fridge.

So good bye Old Karen. New Karen is hear to stay. May you rest in peace.

Size 12 - July 2010

Size 12 - July 2010

Before Dec 2008

Before Dec 2008