Body Image

Today I am proudly borrowing this post from Teresa1031, a friend from my online community, because I felt like she was speaking to me.

It’s been a while since I posted this but it’s one of my favorites. I’ve read posts here lately from people concerned about pictures, whether they look too thin, things other people say to them, etc. All are common issues with people who have had WLS, I believe. It means we have to work on body image. What we look like needs to be more closely aligned with how we view ourselves in our heads. 

I’ve written about this before (probably many times) because it was a tough thing for me. Some people can maybe just shift into a thin way of thinking, especially if they had been thin at one point in their lives. I don’t remember ever in my life thinking of myself as a thin person so it was a difficult adjustment.

My husband believes that unless you start thinking of yourself as thin, the changes in your physical self (weight loss) are harder to maintain. We fight hard to keep mind and body together. I made a list once of things I could do to help with the adjustment in my thinking. Not sure I can think of all of them again but maybe we can add to this thread…ideas to change your body image. How do you start thinking of yourself as a thin person and stop thinking of yourself as the morbidly obese person?

1. Take lots of pictures and study them. My husband has a nice camera and loves to take pictures. When I buy new clothes he has me try them on and he takes pictures so I can see what I look like. He takes lots of pictures. Sometimes I print them and I have kept a few in my desk drawer. I know it probably seems vain but I’m not showing them to other people as much as absorbing this new image of myself.

Sandy’s idea: Another way to see the changes is to take a photo with out your head, just your body. When you look at your own photo you see yourself in your mind not as you are. The headless shot shows the body without a veil in your mind.

2. Get rid of your old clothes and buy things that fit you. Find a store where the sales folks are willing to help. Tell them you have lost a lot of weight and need some assistance finding your size and what looks good on you. Or take a supportive friend along. Do not keep wearing the same old baggy stuff! Shop at thrift stores and discount stores until you settle into a size but don’t go around with safety pins in your clothes. Smaller sizes are physical proof of the changes in your body.

3. Don’t neglect your under garments. Some women appreciate lingerie and if you are one of them, buy some! They make you feel good and them help you appreciate your new body. Once as I was losing weight, my cousin took a photo of me and photoshopped my boobs up where they should have been rather than hanging down where they were…if you get my drift. It made such a difference in my appearance. Get some help with fitting from a professional if you can.

4. Measure yourself! Now there is proof that your body is changing. I measure myself the day of my first consult and once a month after that. My waist was 52 inches the first day and now it’s 28. I hold the tape out to 52 sometimes just to visualize the difference. Measure your upper arms, your calves, your neck, your bust, your waist, your thighs, and your hips. Make a chart so you can keep track of the changes over several years.

5. Alanis Morissette said:I think there is no better way to invite a human being to view their body differently than by inviting them to be an athlete, by revering one’s body as an instrument rather than just an ornament. It’s a really great way to reorient how you see your body so you can see it as this incredible, awe-inspiring machine that you need to fuel well in order for it to function.

Even if you don’t get into exercise, do something physical with your body. Recognize the things you can do now that you couldn’t do before your WLS. Can you run up steps? Can you pick up your grandchild? Can you carry two bags of groceries? Do you dance? I had WLS so I could DO things and paying attention to all the things I can do helps me cement the image of the new me in my head…which decreases the risk of going back to the obese person I was.

6. Brag about your efforts and your rewards. Your family and friends might get tired of hearing about it but we don’t here at your 24 hour a day support group! People who have been obese are not very comfortable bragging about themselves especially when it comes to their appearance or their athletic pursuits. Get over that! We love to hear about the wonderful changes that are happening in your life…your new size, your new exercise class, your new romantic interest. Get out there and live your precious new life and then come back and tell us about it!

7. Accept compliments graciously. When people tell you that you look good and healthy and strong, just say thank you and it’s been a lot of hard work. Don’t minimize the effort that it’s taken. Kathy adds: It was very hard to learn to just smile and say thank you when complimented; I kept pointing out what I thought was wrong…oh my arms are so gross….my stomach is so big….nobody else notices those things…it is just my mind trying to trick me into my old patterns and habits.

8. Deal with your other psychological baggage. WLS won’t make your life perfect but it sure helps with that obesity thing that hung around your neck for all those years. WLS won’t solve all your problems but it gives you a head start on a new way of thinking about yourself. Pinkie adds: If you are not ready to deal with the baggage, you likely are not ready for the surgery! Its a very tall order, but also a very doable one.

9. From Yvette: Get a full length mirror and look at yourself every day. I have one hanging opposite my bedroom door, so I can’t help but look at myself every time I walk out of the room.

10. From Chandra: It’s important to me to find areas of my body that I like, think about why I like them, and to remind myself of them, even by touching them sometimes, every day, several times a day. For example, I love my shoulders and arms, and the flatness of my belly (shrinkles aside). If I focus on them, I am not only reminding myself of how different I am now, but I am also focusing on the positive versus the negative aspects of my new body. And you know, even though the girls don’t look so hot naked, the fact that they are much smaller is a plus when I’m running, hiking, or playing a sport (and the right bra makes all the difference!). Yvette adds: I have recently fallen in love with my waist. I don’t remember it ever being this small. I keep looking for clothes that show it off. Lately I have caught myself smoothing my hands over my waist in the back. It’s like this reminder that “yup, I have a new skinnier body”…

11. Another one from Chandra: But perhaps the best way to remind myself is to deliberately move myself through or into small spaces whenever I find them. In the gym the other day, I looked at the space between the arms of two elliptical machines and automatically thought, “I won’t be able to get through that.” I recognized the thought, shoved it away, and mindfully thought, “Bet I can!” Then I did it – without touching either arm. Same goes for those walks through restaurants that we used to dread, walking between racks in clothing stores, sitting in an airplane seat, sitting in a restaurant booth where it looks to me like, “uh-oh, it looks like that’s going to be tight fit,” or sitting in a desk at my daughter’s school, among many others.

12. Another from Chandra: I think that the single most important way to correct our body image is to engage ourselves in mindful self-talk – to combat those negative thoughts about our bodies with new, more positive ones, and making it a habit, day in, day out. When we were MO we were obsessed with how awful we looked, so why not be obsessed with how good we look now?

I was just going to post a link, but you can’t get there from here unless you are a member. If you want to be a member, go to beforeandafterhelp.com and sign up. Great place, lots of wonderful people and useful information.

PS: Here is my headless torso picture. Without my own head in the picture, I find that it looks thinner. Strange, but fascinating.

Anger after WLS

I responded to a post on BariatricEating.com yesterday about the anger she felt after weight loss surgery and thought I’d share it here:

Hello!

I can see that you had surgery recently and have already lost over almost 40 pounds. Have you EVER in your LIFE lost that much weight in 2 months? And you will lose MORE in the next few months, whether you are following those good, new habits or you let your old, bad habits sneak back in. But if you do that, eventually, you will gain most, if not all of the weight back.

I think you should be very aware of your anger. For me it was always an indication – kind of an x marks the spot – for areas that I needed to work on with my weight loss therapist.

I felt ANGRY that I couldn’t eat what I wanted to eat after the surgery and I learned….
that I had been eating what I wanted before the surgery, but it didn’t make me happy. So it won’t make me happy now. Happiness isn’t about eating what we want. It’s about doing what we want, living how we want and feeling good about ourselves.

I felt ANGRY that other people could sit around eating junk food in front of me and I learned…
I could set a good example and the people around me would follow my example instead of the other way around. Now many of the people in my office are like me and bring their lunch and often take nuts or fruit or just a drink into meetings, instead of chips or donuts or pizza – and a lot of people have lost weight in my office. Be the example you want to see.

I felt ANGRY when I thought that I have to eat like this for the rest of my life and I learned…
That I don’t have to eat this way, it is pretty easy to go back to the old ways after only a year. But – I WANT to eat this way and I CHOOSE to live this way so that I can continue to lose weight and stay healthy.

Those feelings were real and hard at the beginning, but with time and a lot of work, all this has become easier for me and the anger has faded. When it flares up again, I hope I can continue to be gentle with myself and listen to what my heart is telling me so I can keep learning and growing and changing.

This isn’t easy and I’m sorry if you expected it to be. That’s why the statistics for re-gain are so high. It’s good that you are aware, good that you are posting and good that you are working so hard to change NOW when you have your new pouch – a strong tool to help you change.

Good luck!

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”.

Holiday BLOB and WTF

I was just thinking how strange it is to wake up in my oh so quiet and sleeping Jewish household at 7:30 on a Christmas morning. All my sisters’ and brother’s families have probably been up since before dawn and are now surrounded with opened gifts and their Christmas morning breakfasts. When I was young I ALWAYS wanted those packaged, baked sweet rolls with the orange glaze you put on the top after they are baked. The scent of that takes me right back to being a child and those Christmas mornings.

Since I don’t eat that stuff anymore, last night I made up a big batch of BLOB – Brier’s Luscious Orange Bath – my own concoction – of sea salt, orange peel, olive oil and sweet orange oil and put them into pretty glass containers for my sisters and my brother – a non-food way to celebrate that memory. Then I made up a batch of Brier’s Winter Foot rescue (which I wish I’d thought to call WTF – Winter Time Feet)  – also my own concoction – with the lotion base from Hobby Lobby, some vitamin E and cocoa butter and then lots of lavender buds and lavender oil. Instructions are to warm in the microwave for 30 seconds and then slather on your feet, put on your socks and leave overnight. I hope that someday my nieces and nephews will have sensory memories of the holidays that remind them of something other than food!

Now I’m just about to whip up some huevos rancheros with crispy roast pork that has been cooking all night. How’s that for a fabulous taste/scent memory? Tonight we will have a beautiful roast chicken and celebrate the Shabbos together. (edited: my husband just pointed out that LAST night was the Shabbat. HA! Well, G-d won’t mind if we’re one day late. And if he does, it’s been nice blogging with you all!)

So whatever your religion, enjoy this day and your families and your SELF – both the new and the old.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

I’m still reading all the blogs from A Weight Lifted from the Green Mountain at Fox Run program. It makes me nostalgic about how long I’ve been on this road to health and how many things I’ve tried to get control of my eating. Twelve years ago this week, in the winter of 1998/1999 I went to Green Mountain for four weeks to focus on my compulsive/emotional eating and binging. I learned so much:  about food and emotions; food and health; food and life.  I also learned about exercise, but frankly, I kind of ignored all that at the time and focused on the eating.

So much of what I’m doing now started there: that was where I first encountered Geneen Roth’s books. That was where I first learned about really healthy cooking – making my own stock, vegetables, lean proteins – and that was where I started learning about the balancing act between carbs and protein and fat. That was also, now that I think about it, where I learned about trying different kinds of exercise until I found something that worked for me.

Most importantly, that was where I finally learned to forgive myself for the binging and stop the horrible cycle of binge, guilt, binge, guilt that kept me prisoner for most of my life.  To be kind to myself. To start the long road towards self-love. I’m not done yet, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been and ever day I get a little closer.

So – Never give up, never surrender!  Galaxy Quest was a funny movie, but you know something? Maybe they were stumbling around, not realizing that they were on a quest, that what they were doing was real. But when they did, they chose not to give up, even though they knew they could fail.

I have tried so many things in the last 35 years. So many diets, exercise programs, shakes, pills, powders, soups and even cookies! (What was I thinking??) Losing weight wasn’t about finding the perfect vitamins and supplements or the best tasting protein powder, though, of course, those have helped.  For me the combination for success (so far) has been focusing on how I MOVE, what and how I EAT, how I LIVE and then to THINK about all that. For me, that means weight loss counseling, Weight Watchers, surgery, exercise, group support and my writing.

All that is a pretty long-winded way of saying that I KNOW that even though I might try a million times and fail, as long as I try a million and one times, I’m going to succeed.

What do you believe?

I am waiting for the sun to rise after the end of the longest night. The solstice is over and starting now, each day will be a little longer until June 21, 2011 – the summer solstice. I believe our ancestors built stone monuments to mark the sun’s passage across the sky because they needed to believe that the sun would rise and the days would lengthen and warmth would come back into their lives.

Which made me think about what I believe:

I believe that the sun will rise and the grass will grow and spring will come again – every year.

I believe that it only takes one person to start a revolution that can change the world.

I believe I can reshape my life through my thoughts and actions and be strong and healthy.

I believe that you can start with nothing and create anything that you can dream.

I believe that there is more good than evil in the world.

I believe that love is the strongest and most widely available, but woefully under-utilized, power in the universe.

I believe that the sweetest things in life cost nothing, have no calories and are all around us.

I believe that love lasts through this life and long after we are gone.

I believe that the most beautiful thing in the world is the curve of your child’s cheek.

I believe that it is, and always has been, my choice to be happy.

I believe.

What do you believe?

Eggnog and Biscotti

Eggnog: I really wanted some eggnog yesterday, so I checked out Linda’s no egg recipe on Eating Well Living Thin. But I didn’t have Cinnabliss and I really wanted something more traditional. I found this recipe on about.com under low carb eggnog recipes. So what I did was merge the two. Here’s what I made and it was delicious:

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs – separated
  • 4 cups fat-free half and half (post-ops be careful – there is a lot of sugar in the Land o Lakes version I just discovered)
  • ½ cup splenda or more to taste
  • 1 tsp McCormick’s rum flavoring
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I used more)
  • Fresh Nutmeg for grating

Separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the yolks with the splenda, rum flavoring and cinnamon until light. In another bowl, beat the whites until they form soft peaks. In a big bowl, whip the half and half until frothy. Then combine everything with a whisk (don’t overmix) and grate fresh nutmeg on the top – about 1 tsp.

This made 6 servings of the most fabulous eggnog I have ever had, except for this one really memorable occasion at Yale when Cricket made a traditional 150 proof version. Of course, I don’t really remember much after the first sip.

Biscotti

Another thing I have been craving lately is biscotti. That crispy snap that melts beautifully into a cup of fat-free sugar free hot cocoa. Today I’m going to experiment with the flourless chocolate cake I made last week and bake it thinner. Then after it cools, I’m going to cut it into finger sized pieces and bake it AGAIN, but in a very cool oven. For about an hour. I will also add some almonds and craisins to the batch for a little variety in texture. I’ll come back later and post how it went and a picture.

Update: the biscotti turned out great. I used Linda’s flourless chocolate cake recipe again but added in some chopped almonds and some cranberries (craisins that I soaked in hot water and rinsed to remove as much sugar as possible).

I baked them in a rectangular glass pan and then when they were cooled, I cut them into 1 by 2 1/2 inch pieces and baked them again, this time in a cool oven at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. Half way through I rotated them onto their sides. They came out crispy and hard and perfect for dunking!