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.

Running for my Life

I told someone the other day that I don’t really like to run, I do it because it is a way to measure my fitness. When I started trying to come back from morbid obesity in 2008, I could walk, but not too fast and not super far without a lot of pain. I started doing sprints in November 2009 – run as fast as I could for 30 seconds, then walk back. Run 30 seconds, walk back. I could do maybe 5, sometimes 10 if I really pushed myself. I have no idea how far I went – it was inside, so I’m guessing 20 yards. But you’ve got to start somewhere and that was where I started.

On Thursday I celebrated two milestones: one year of successfully managing my weight loss after gastric bypass and being able to run a 5k. I ran the first mile without stopping with a time around 12 minutes. The course was more hilly than where I’d trained, so I’m actually pretty happy about that. I finished the 5k in 37 minutes and 38 seconds which means I averaged 12 minute 32 second miles. Not too shabby considering I walked at least 1 mile of that.

I’m an athlete. I have completed a triathlon. I have run my second 5k. I kickbox, swim, bike, run, lift weights, walk, hike, snorkel and now I am adding scuba to that list. (Great class last night – spent lots of time in gear on the bottom of the 12 foot pool. Never made it that far in my previous attempts!) Next – belly dancing!

Here are a few pictures from my surgiversary “party”:

Reframing the Stall

Yesterday was my surgiversary (I promise to post my 5k pictures later tonight) and officially (the wii fit is my official record) I have gained 2 pounds since last month. My regular scale says I haven’t gained, but I haven’t really lost either.  Bizarrely, I keep having a tiny little bit of weight loss at my weekly weight watcher’s meetings, even though I’m not losing at home: 4 ounces, 6 ounces, 12 ounces. Today I was down a whopping 1.2 on the WW scale. That is so weird since I’m really not seeing that on the home scales. In the past I would have assumed one of the three scales was broken, and raised Cain, but now I’m just thinking – who cares?

I’m building muscle and my body is adjusting to the novel experience of consistently losing weight for over 2 years. May 2008 to August 2010. Two years and three months. 27 months of weight loss. From 321 to 278 the first 15 months. 278 to 177 since the surgery 12 months ago.

So is this a stall? I’m not sure. Okay, so the scale hasn’t moved pretty much at ALL for 2 months. A pound up, a pound down – pretty much normal fluctuations, I’d say. In fact, except for the 5 pounds I gained on vacation and then lost, my weight hasn’t changed significantly for 2 months.

But – I have dropped a size and bits of me are thinner than they were. I feel a lot stronger and I see the muscles in my legs, where before I could only feel them. Got a compliment on my arms today, too. That was cool, since I have, you know, fat wings.

So whether or not this is a stall, I’m treating it as an introduction to maintenance. Maintenance is my ultimate goal. A time when I never gain, never lose and stay at the same weight, give or take a few pounds of fluctuations. So I’m going to keep doing the right thing, not worry about the number on the scale (unless it goes up!) and enjoy the benefits of my three years of effort.

I’ve never been in maintenance before. All these decades of diets and I have never stayed at a weight that I achieved. As soon as I stopped (usually short of goal) I started to eat my way back up, usually past that starting point and to a new high. So I need to just learn to be patient and content at the weight I am. If it is higher than I want it to be, it is 144 pounds lighter than it could be!

I keep thinking about doing something to shake up the weight loss, like a diet.  Am I insane? Didn’t I just write that every time I dieted, or did something short term, as soon as I stopped I would eat my way back up past where I started??? Diets don’t work. So I need to just keep on doing what I’m doing. Exercise. Eat right (small portions, balanced, healthy choices, eat slow, chew, no drinks with meals). Take my vitamins. Get my water. Exercise again.

Probably if I was journaling and tracking what I’m eating, I could analyze that data to see where I could make changes. Obviously, if I am not doing it, it is because I don’t want to make changes.

Hmm.  Something to think about, isn’t it?

There should be a parade

I am overweight!

Unless you have previously had to hear the news that your weight and height put you in a category called Super Morbidly Obese III, you may not be able to appreciate the fact that this is a victory.

This is big.

There should be a parade. The President should send me a telegram. I should be turning down movie deals and paparazzi should be stationed outside my house to see me going for my morning run.

Yes.  It’s that big.

From Wikipedia:

BMI Classification
< 18.5 underweight
18.5–24.9 normal weight
25.0–29.9 overweight
30.0–34.9 class I obesity
35.0–39.9 class II obesity
≥ 40.0 class III obesity

Some modifications to the WHO definitions have been made by particular bodies. The surgical literature breaks down “class III” obesity into further categories whose exact values are still disputed.

  • Any BMI ≥ 35 or 40 is severe obesity
  • A BMI of ≥ 40–44.9 is morbid obesity
  • A BMI of ≥ 45 is super obese

At 321 pounds, my BMI was around 54. Not that I’m focused on NUMBERS or anything.

<insert big belly laugh here>

Yes, I’m way too focused on metrics. It’s partly my job, sure, but mostly, how I’m wired. I need to measure things to see how they are changing. Particularly when it’s me that’s doing the changing. I just can’t SEE it or FEEL it. I’ve got to measure it.

Well, by any measurement, I’ve made it back from the edge. I’ve pulled back from certain death and the hideous embarrassment that was my life.  I no longer have to suffer the torturous daily struggle as I try to live in a body that is double the size it should be.

Waking up with a headache because you’re so fat your neck tries to strangle you as you sleep.

Moving slowly because every joint is screaming their grievance as they strain to support and not break as you try to get yourself up and to the bathroom. I won’t go there, but if you are obese, you KNOW that going to the bathroom stops being a natural, biological process and becomes instead a contortionist’s nightmare.

Many obese people spend their lives in bathrobes and sweatpants because the fatter you become, the more challenging it becomes to find clothes that fit. If you can find anything, it will be more expensive but poorer quality than regular clothes. And forget about being attractive. Our goal is to cover and camouflage the worst and try to hide our sins in yards of black and navy blue fabric.

Every bite we eat is painful. We want it. We crave it. We can’t NOT eat it, but every single bite feels guilt ridden and criminal. How can we continue to abuse ourselves with every bite? How dare we enjoy it? We eat in private, and in public we nibble and taste and maintain our completely unbelievable pose that it must be thyroid or hormones or genetics or something. SOMETHING other than the pint of ice cream, basket of french fries and 3 dozen chicken wings we snarfed down as soon as the delivery man dropped them off last night. We go through the drive-thru and order three meals, complete with drinks and dessert to maintain the fiction that our children or spouses will be eating it by saying and add one Diet Coke for me at the end. The only one who believes this is us.

Our doctors try to tell us, but we cannot hear it. We continue to look for some reason, some cure, some pill or program or cure that will magically make us want to eat broccoli and poached fish instead of Big Macs and french fries. We inject our insulin and take our blood pressure pills with a glass of sweet ice tea and tell ourselves that it isn’t our fault.

Our spouses and family, if they are kind, try to gently suggest changes. If they are not kind, they ridicule or abuse us. Our friends, for the most part, support us, because they love us and most people do not equate that love with anything other than tolerance for what we are.

It is strangers through whom we really see the truth. That look in their eyes as they see you coming down the aisle of the airplane or theater. First there is the shock of your size and then the fear that you are coming towards them. Then the resignation or ANGER that you are going to sit next to them. And why not? They have paid for a whole seat. I should have paid for two because no matter how hard I tried to hold it in and suck it up, my thighs were going to overflow the seat and into the seats on either side of me. I would squeeze up against my husband or son on the other side, if I could. I would look anxiously around for an empty seat so I could try and trade with someone. I often traveled on inconvenient flights in the middle of the night or really early in the morning so that I could be on a mostly empty flight. Then I would get on last and waddle my way to an empty row of seats and ask for my lap belt extender.

Every area of my life was affected by my weight. Even my career. As a consultant, I really felt that I spent most of my time in interviews and first interactions convincing people that I was a lot smarter than I looked. How smart can a 321 pound woman look? It’s not SMART to be that fat, that unhealthy. Am I really going to pay this person for her opinion, her expertise if she can’t even take care of herself? And forget about longevity. No one wants to make a consultant permanent if they are going to be a drain on the employee benefits or be out sick all the time.

This is not my life anymore. I finally got smart. I finally got strong. And today I get to celebrate that I’m overweight.

I’ve earned my parade.

Belly Dancing, Scuba Diving and Rock Climbing

I think it is time to mix it up a little bit! I’ve signed up to take a scuba diving class that starts this Friday. I’ve tried several times in the last 15 years to get certified, but I think that being in better shape and more in control of my body should help with the panic attacks. I hope the instructor isn’t reading this. I swear, nobody died – that time. This will be the first time I’ve tried it since my honeymoon in 1998. I think 12 years is long enough that I’ve forgotten why I was afraid.

Coincidentally, there was also a Groupon today for a 6 week course of belly dancing. So I bought one of those for $25. I can start the class anytime between now and the end of the year, so I can start after boot camp is over.  If anyone wants to do it with me, I’m looking at an evening course, 6:30-7:30pm starting sometime in October or November.  I am flexible about the day of the week (though I don’t think they have one on Saturdays, which is odd, so I’ll check on that.)

There’s also a Momapedia offer for Atlanta Rocks. That one is $60 for a month’s membership and rental and an intro lesson. I was thinking that since I signed up for the Warrior Dash next  spring, I really need to learn to climb over things. Again, I’ve got some issues, like vertigo, which MIGHT be a problem. (I think it might be something like that episode of Big Bang Theory when Sheldon tried rock climbing….) Still, I’m tempted to just TRY it.

I think those are all good signs. Wanting to try new things. Things that get me moving and having fun.

Speaking of getting moving, I am running late today. Stayed up late (too wired after boot camp and a just a tad sore) and then slept late. So gotta put my skates on and get out of the house.

Have a great day!

Hey, Dr Phil- it’s been over a year!

I got on the Wii Fit this morning and noticed that it has been 395 days since I started making changes to my life. Must have missed the 365th day – but it helps if I take a moment to remember the changes I’ve made, even if it is a month late:

Move! I exercise almost EVERY day.

Eat! I eat as little as possible, as healthy as possible.

Live! I am doing the right thing, being responsible, going for joy.

Think! I am learning to think positive thoughts, be gentle with myself and others, learning to meditate.

The result is that in 395 days I’ve gone from being unhealthy to feeling (at times) that I’m not half bad. LOL – okay – maybe a bit better than that. Let’s face it – I’m feeling NORMAL for the first time in my life. I’m still obese (can’t seem to get past that 30 BMI) but my body fat percentage has dropped from above 50 (and no idea how far above, frankly) to 36%. Weight is down from over 300 to 178 (and holding, holding, holding – gotta love the plateaus!). I was able to do the Wii fit for 5 minutes at a time, now I can survive boot camp for 75 minutes. I have dropped over 12 dress sizes – from 28 women’s to 10 regular.  My stomach measured 59 inches and now it is 36 – that’s almost 2 feet.TWO FEET!

Change does happen, you just have to work at it. When I was cleaning out the garage a few weeks ago, I came across the Dr. Phil Keys to Weight Loss Success cd set that I bought when they came out – 2002? 2003? Anyway, I don’t remember if I listened to them all, but I decided, since I’m focused on losing the last 30 and KEEPING it all off, I’d give them a listen. I’ve been playing them in the car, which means I only get a few minutes because I have a short drive time. But I’ve discovered that I really have made a lot of the changes that I need to make to keep losing and to keep it off. That’s reassuring. The program also reinforces some of the stuff that I haven’t been doing so consistently that I need to work on:

Accountability – I have found a new Weight Watchers meeting, but I’m not REALLY counting points or tracking. This would probably be a good thing, since I’m stalled at 178 for the last two months. Until I collect some real evidence about what I’m doing, I could be lying to myself about how much I’m eating. Probably am.

Environment – I have let the junk food back into the house. I don’t buy it, but the boys do, and I need to convince them to either keep it in a cupboard separate from where I look, or to get rid of it. Frankly, they don’t need it either. I also had easy to reach snacks at my desk – healthy ones – but too easy to over do it. I moved them into the pantry at work and now I have to walk to the other end of the building to get them. It is amazing how much that helps.

Thoughts – trying REALLY hard to meditate and think positive thoughts instead of “My god, woman! Look at the size of that stomach! If it looks this bad after losing 140 pounds, think of what it looked like when you were at your heaviest. Yuck!” Now I’m trying to think “Wow! What a lot of progress! See how much stronger I am. I can lift things and balance. My body is doing what I want it to do and need it to do. Good body. ” Occasionally I even notice that my legs look nice and thin or that the tops of my arms and shoulders look trim and that I have a waist. It is still too hard for me to focus past my stomach and the horror of the bulge. But I’m working on it.

Life  – I’m caught up on my taxes (I was 4 years worth behind!), my garage, basement, yard and house are more organized. I will start a second pass and REALLY organize things, now that the worst is done. It would be nice to be able to find all 11 hammers at once, instead of going out to buy a new one when we need to drive in a nail.

Work – I have a great job. I work for a wonderful boss and am part of a fun, hard-working team where no one gets stressed and yells (even me) and we get the job done, but are more sane about work/life balance. True – I don’t get to travel internationally anymore, but I can do that on my vacations. I make enough so that Fred can do the stay-at-home Dad thing and he and Jacob are so much happier and less stressed.

Fun – I’m trying to have more fun and see my friends more often. I have to really work at it, because some of them live in different countries or states, but it is worth it. I love reconnecting after so many days, weeks, months and years passing in a blur of work and stress with too little time spent together.

Anyway – that’s my status, day 395. Gotta get to work now.

Where’s the Parade?

I’ve missed you guys. My computer has been on the fritz and I’ve been super tired from boot camp and blah blah blah excuse excuse excuse. If I can’t be honest with myself, I can at least be honest with the world:  the truth is that I’ve just been down in the mouth, as we say in the South. Grumpy and mean and bitchy about my lack of progress. Which is ridiculous, because I am making progress. Hell, just being on track and focused for over a year is tremendous progress for me.

And I know, this journey I’m on isn’t supposed to be about the number on a scale. It is supposed to be about changing my life and living strong and healthy. I know I’m a size smaller. I know I’m stronger. I’m faster. I have more endurance.

But – in the last two months I’ve gained 5 pounds on vacation, lost those, then gained two pounds at boot camp, lost THOSE and I am STILL  at the same weight I was three months ago.  ARGH!
If someone else was saying this, I would be merciless: “Forget about the number on the scale. The scale should not rule your life. Your focus needs to be on how you feel. How you look. What you can do. Forget about the scale.”

Easy for me to say. But –

I can’t have my big Hurrah I made it to goal party and parade IF I NEVER MAKE IT TO GOAL! What if I never do? Should I just go ahead and have the party and parade? Like those women who want to be married, but don’t have a guy, so they plan the wedding anyway? Or wait, did I dream that?

Anyway today I’m going  to yoga class to stretch out my spine and work on my meditation and dream about my parade.

Weekend Warrior

I finally got off my duff and exercised yesterday. Went to yoga class but was so crazy I couldn’t relax and had to leave. Went shopping at the Goodwill in an attempt to distract myself while waiting for the zumba class to start. MISSED the start of the zumba class so went in late and then couldn’t keep up.  But I stayed for 40 minutes until my knee started to hurt. I will try again next week, but be on time so I can try and keep up. I liked the music and the feeling of just having fun.

Then I swam for ONE MILE. I keep writing that down and thinking really? I swam 70 lengths of the pool. 35 laps. That’s 1750 meters. (I had to use a calculator for that.) I’m not sure why that makes a mile, but all the signs at the pool supported the idea. I used my zoomies for all but 3 laps, so my next goal is to try and do half the mile without zoomies and then work up to doing the whole thing without zoomies. If you don’t know, these are zoomers but I call them zoomies because I can’t remember zoomers 😉

So AFTER the one mile swim, I went home, had some lunch and then went out and hiked up and down Stone Mountain in 100 degree heat. In case you aren’t from Atlanta, Stone Mountain is a big rock that has a park around it and a trail up it that crazy people walk or run. I actually RAN down part of it. But I was afraid I would break an ankle on the rocks, so mostly walked. But I did it round trip, including a break for bathroom and water at the top in 51 minutes. A PB – personal best – for me!

Of course, all that was to make up for the two days before when I did NOT work out and for the 5 pounds I gained on vacation. I was worried that I seriously overdid it, but amazingly, I’m not even sore.  So I guess it just shows that my body is strong, stronger than I think.

But wanted to say thank you for the supportive comments – it is nice to know that if I give up, someone will come and kick my butt in a sweet and loving way.

I’m going to go running now and run to the bank and run to the grocery store for carrots. Because I can. I think I read a poem like this before, but this is my version:

The day may come when I cannot run

But this is not that day.

The day may come when I cannot swim

But this is not that day.

The day may come when I cannot climb a mountain

But this is not that day.

There are days when I push myself to see how far I can go.

There are days that belong to the warrior inside me.

Today is that day.

Update: Found the quote – Tolkien:

Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand! Men of the West!

The Night Shift Plan

There was a question on the BE board today about working the night shift.  Ah! The night shift. I know it well! Pre-WLS and many, many years ago, I used to do international support so I traveled a lot, but when I was home, I had to work 11pm-7am. I did well for a while, but didn’t make enough effort to have a social life, so eventually had to quit (but not before I gained 40 pounds).

Since she wants to keep losing and get ready for surgery, then she has to not only figure out how to do that now before surgery, but also how to make it successful after surgery. These are the questions that need to be answered:

Move: when will you exercise?
Eat: what time will your meals and snacks need to be scheduled?
Live: how do you have a life, stay in touch when everyone else is asleep when you are working?
Think: what mental changes do you have to make to avoid “medicating” yourself with food?

I don’t know if this lady has young kids, but looks like older kids and a husband. I can only assume their schedules are more mainstream, so that I can suggest where she can overlap them the most. Working out can be when they are in school or at work, and the same for sleeping.
Vitamins just follows meal and sleeping schedule, so once you figure that out, then you know when to take them.

If I was going to go back to the night shift, and since I have a husband and 8-year-old, here’s what my schedule would look like:

4-5:00 pm – wake up and have a big glass of water and then spend time with your family. Their dinner becomes your breakfast time – with the right attitude, this will make it mentally easier to eat what you should eat, rather than what they are eating. Take your first vitamins of the day and get ready for the day: do chores, laundry, cooking ahead, menu planning, packing up  vitamins and protein powder to get ready for the day.

8pm – kids go to bed, you go to the gym4-6 days a week (take your work clothes and lunch bag with vitamins packed and go straight to work after). At least once a week, schedule some time with a girl friend or group and do something social.

10pm – arrive at work, with my “lunch” bag packed.  I would bring in a magic bullet to work along with greek yogurt and frozen fruit and stash in the freezer for snacks and meals.   Get your “morning” coffee and add a shot of chocolate or caramel or vanilla protein powder and sip it while checking email and get going for the day. (will depend on what your job is of course) Take your next batch of vitamins. Start sipping water.

12 midnight – eat “lunch” – sandwiches are not good for us, but some dense protein either by itself or in a soup or stew is satisfying and helps to avoid snacking. Get away from your desk and eat with whoever else is in the building. If there isn’t anyone, then at least turn away from the computer (Thanks Dee!) while you MINDFULLY eat your meal. Take a walk around the building (inside if possible – remember to be safe). Dig out your resistance bands or some hand weights and stretch and play some music or use headphones. Take your next batch of vitamins.
30 minutes later, start sipping water again. Try to have only non-calorie drinks while on the computer or working. Don’t eat and work. This way lies morbid obesity.

2-3am – I eat every 2-3 hours, so at this point, would dig out the magic bullet and create a beautiful smoothie with the greek yogurt, small amount of frozen fruit and protein powder. Add a little peanut, almond or sunflower butter for some healthy fat. Or have some cottage cheese and veggies if you prefer savory. But DO NOT let yourself be seduced by the vending machines. Visualize that they are filled with poison (just got that suggestion from someone on the BE board yesterday!)  because they will sabotage you. And with no one to see you, you have to be your own food police.
IF the munchies strike at this point, get the music out again and boogie woogie all night long. Sip green tea, lots of water. If you must snack, try on salted edamame if you need salt and crunch (you can keep them in the freezer and microwave them) or make another smoothie for sweet and creamy.

5-6am – IF you haven’t been snacking already, have a protein bar or other low carb, high protein, low-fat snack before you head home. Top off your water bottle to sip in the car or make a nectar protein drink and sip it on the way home to avoid fast food breakfast temptations. (These were always the worst temptation).

7am – arrive home for “dinner” and spend the morning with your kids and husband and have breakfast together. Make sure this is a WLS friendly meal for you. Take your last batch of vitamins. Help them get ready for work and school.

9am – go to bed with eyepatch and earplugs (may need some white noise, guided imagery ( or sleep aids to get onto this schedule at first) Take your iron pill and brush your teeth. Sleep!

4-5pm – wake up and start the day again!

Start now to keep a journal. Be aware of how you feel, what you do and what you eat.  Watch for trends like: felt lonely, ate twinkies. Mad at the world, drank a coke and ate potato chips. Worried about the kids, ate a candy bar.  Skipped my workout, gained 5 pounds.

If you work the night shift and have obstacles to this plan, post them – I’d love to help more!