Sunday, January 31, 2010

The change inside

The change outside is well underway. I've lost 118 pounds in all, with about 50 left to my goal and lifelong maintenance. Today I tried on some boots I ordered a couple of years ago. Even though I got the extra wide width, they did not fit at the time. I loved them so much I kept them. Now they fit! And they look good, if I do say so myself.

The boots are just the latest exterior things that have brought a smile to my face and a spring to my step. More coworkers and acquaintances are noticing my weight loss and giving my positive feedback. That's nice. I am getting second looks from the male of the species. Feels good! I have a bit of flappy flesh under my arms, but I have been pleasantly surprised by my 40-year-old body's ability to adapt to my new weight without too much sagging skin. Whew! (Thank you, water aerobics and good genes)?

Now for the inside stuff, which is more of a mixed bag. I don't have that feeling of, "I really should do something about my weight" hanging over me, which is HUGE. As this blog has shown before, I had a bit of depression late last year, wondering how come my life was still pretty much the same, despite the changes in my health and appearance. Now what I am grappling with is a sort of disconnect between the outer self and the inner, which has to be reminded how far I've come; how different I look to others and myself; how I no longer should be hiding out in my apartment; or dread reunions with old friends, family or flames who would be shocked at seeing me so heavy.

The other thing: men. I haven't been in a relationship or even gone on a date since my ex-husband and I separated in March 2006; that's nearly four years. I've had at least two fearsome crushes, both on persons who may or may not have been interested in me. I've always had a terrible radar for knowing when someone I am attracted to is attracted to me. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the two guys I was crazy over did not find me attractive, although I know they both liked -- and continue to like -- me as a person.

When I was bigger it was easy to tell myself, "He doesn't like me because I am fat." As a become more attractive, when I experience rejection there will be no easy ways to explain it away. I will have to face the fact that a given guy may "just not be that into me," for whatever reason. This was always hard for me to accept. Here I was: pretty, smart, nice, lots of personality, caring. And yet, dismal relationship track record. Always the dumpee, rarely the dumper.

So, what are my flaws? I can be too needy. I fall fast and hard and want things to progress quickly in the romantic sense. I misread signals. At the same time, I can be quite selfish and set in my ways. I need lots of personal space. On the one hand I want to fall in love and have a great physical relationship, which requires some stability. On the other hand, I get bored with places I live and jobs I have and so want to move and move and move.

I did what I called (to myself) an experiment with a person of the opposite sex earlier this month. I am not going to pretend it was just an experiment, though: This guy appears to be the goods. I met him in April 2009 at a conference. Turns out, we live in the same town and know people in common. I remember being surprised that he and I ended up talking for about thirty minutes just seconds after meeting. Plus he was -- and is -- tall, dark, and handsome. Cerebral, funny, self-deprecating but confident. Right up my alley. Funny thing was, despite being about 100 lbs heavier than I am now, I felt there was a genuine connection between us. We talked some more over the course of the conference. Color me smitten.

Flash forward to January 2010. I knew I was looking a lot better, so I sent him a message on Facebook inviting him to have coffee. He accepted! I found him already seated at the cafe when I arrived (on time). There is no way he could have missed the fact that I lost 100 lbs, but he didn't say anything or look surprised. We ended up talking for two hours. Throughout, I felt pretty and witty and happy. I learned he's single and he learned I'm single. Mission accomplished, right? Since then we've had a couple of occasions to meet, but he hasn't asked me out for coffee or anything else. He is 7 years younger than me, and has sought my advice in the professional realm, but that's about it. Over coffee he told me he wasn't about to fall in love for the time being, which I thought was an interesting thing to say to someone you're just having coffee with. Was this a warning to me? Perhaps. Of course, warnings such as this have little or no impact on me when I am feeling something about someone. I've been known to overestimate my ability to change a man (can't be done, for the record), change a mind, and will a relationship into being what I want it to be.

So all this previous baggage is colliding with the new svelter me. I have to remind myself that if this guy doesn't dig me or pursue me, there will be others. Still, I can't shake the fear that I will never find that great partner/lover/friend in life. Funny, this didn't bother much 100 lbs ago.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Getting on with it

I have to say that it’s great to greet the New Year without kicking myself for being overweight and wondering how the heck I was going to get rid of said weight. Instead, I am one hundred pounds lighter than I was on New Year’s Day 2009. Yesterday I found myself dancing around my living room to N’Sync and Beyonce! I wore a denim skirt, black tights, a black turtleneck, and my cute green shoes. It felt good!

A parallel transformation is my hair. Starting at age twelve or thirteen, it’s been an adventure in straightened, very short, medium length, cornrows, braids, and so on and so on. Now my hair is about 95% natural, just a little relaxed portion left to grow out. I wore it scraped back in an “Afro-puff” top-of-the-head ponytail yesterday and got a compliment from someone who never compliments me! I can wear it parted in the middle in a low ponytail, in a French braid (or two), or loose (after washing).

How come it took my so long to like my hair? I might as well ask myself how come it took me so long to like myself. I am forty and I spent most of my life – including when I was skinny, when I was Miss Belize, when I could have conquered the world – downplaying my gifts and my physical attributes. Why? I have tried to get answers to this question through therapy, my writing, lots of brooding. I don’t have much in the way of an answer, except that I had a deep-seated ambivalence about being attractive and smart. I felt undeserving and ill equipped emotionally to handle the responsibility. That old saying about to whom much is given, much is expected comes to mind.

I can’t say I have totally come to terms with all of this, or maybe I have? I simply don’t care as much about what’s expected. And who is doing all of this expecting?

Oh well… At some point, we just have to get on with life.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

91 pounds

I've lost 91 pounds. I've put a bunch of my clothes in a large garbage bag to take to Goodwill or Salvation Army. I've bought new clothes and new shoes. I've swum in the Caribbean Sea in a new bathing suit. I look better. Physically, I feel better. I can do more: walk farther, climb steps without discomfort, enjoy exercise.

I no longer feel as if food has some kind of hold over me. I can only eat so much. There are consequences to "just one more" bite: pain in my chest, vomiting over a period of a couple of hours. It's no fun.

This month, for pretty much the first time, I am beginning to feel depression set in. It's that apathy, that lack of spark, that desire to do nothing. I expected my life to change. I'll admit it. I expected all the things I dreamed of to come true. I expected to feel exultant and proud. I just feel something like deflation. As if the pounds going away took some part of me with them.

I try not to dwell on people looking differently at me. I actually prefer when someone asks me about the surgery, or asks if I've lost weight. The silence and wide eyes make me feel slightly furtive, like I've pulled a fast one. Most people seem to be treating me the same way, acting as if nothing has changed. This makes me feel weird. Again, I prefer people to voice their impressions, ask their questions. The silence is disconcerting.

At my 3-month appointment, the nurse who runs the group classes said depression medication is possibly the only exception to the post-surgery rule. That is, in most cases, bariatric patients take less medication after losing weight: Diabetes abates, blood pressure goes down, sleep apnea is silenced. No need for pain meds when your knees/back/ankles, etc. no longer hurt. Nurse Natalie said the malabsorption feature of the surgery may undermine the work of the depression medication. Great.

I dislike my job more, rather than less. Somewhere in my mind I figured that since losing weight would make me happier with myself, maybe I'd be happier with my situation. I would be okay with my job. I would go ahead and buy a house. Instead, escape is my constant and most fervent wish. How can I get out of here? How can I pack a few bags and just hit the road. I would love to drive and drive, stop in a hotel when I'm tired. Get up and do it again the next day. I'd take pictures. I'd see sights. I'd visit old friends from coast to coast. When I got to the coast, I'd get on a plane or a boat or a ship and keep going.

I cleaned out what was left of my pension from a former job and paid off half of my debts. If I could get rid of my debt, I would quit my job and go find what's out there.

So, I've lost 91 pounds. Seventy-one to go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's been a while..

But here I am, minus 54 pounds since March. About 110 pounds to go. I've been fighting a cough for about 10 days, and it's now on the wane. It's been tough to get my 65 grams of proteins in as I've tired of protein drinks. At my doctor's appointment yesterday, though, I was reminded that not getting enough protein can cause my hair to fall out. Luckily, now that I can eat more foods, there are more options. Smoothies with protein powder on high on my list to try.

As you may recall, I lost 24 pounds between March and surgery at the end of July. So, since surgery I've lost 30 pounds. My main preoccupation lately has been figuring out which foods agree with me and which do not. Eggs have not been a success, whether scrambled or hard-boiled. When foods don't go down well, there's a heaviness or sometimes a bit of pain in the area of my new stomach pouch. Sometimes it can trigger vomiting. This happened when I first ate tilapia. I realized that I had to slow down my eating pace. That seems to do the trick. I will try eggs again, eating slower. Each meal is supposed to take at least 30 minutes to complete, which can be a challenge when you only have about half of cup of food to finish! Still, it's a must for painless eating, so I am getting used to it.

Otherwise, I've been enjoying tuna, tilapia, even tofu! Baked potatoes are great, of course, but not very valuable in terms of the nutrients I need. Whole wheat toast, whole grain wheat thins, Yoplait fat-free yogurt. I had lentil soup at a restaurant that went down pretty smooth.

Here are some recipes that I came up with and am enjoying:

HOLLY'S BAKED TILAPIA -- 3 ounces have 22 grams of protein!

Saute about 1 tsp of minced or chopped garlic in 1/4 cup white wine, 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice for about 3-4 minutes

Place 2 tilapia filets in a baking dish (spray with Pam beforehand). Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Pour saute mixture over filets. Add a dash of black pepper to filets.

Mix 1/4 cup bread crumbs with 1 tbsp parmesan cheese. Spread over filets evenly.

Place filets in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Turn off heat and let filets stay in over for a few more minutes. Remove from oven.



Depending on your preference, use firm or extra firm tofu.

Chop tofu into in small blocks.

Prepare marinating mixture: 1 cup beef or chicken broth, 1 tsp curry powder, a dash of black pepper, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp minced or chopped garlic. Toss in tofu blocks. Marinate in fridge for about 2 hours.

Remove tofu and marinate from fridge. Place blocks on a baking sheet sprayed with Pam.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Eat! Serve with toast or anything you want!


For best results, use solid white albacore in water!

Mix tuna with lite Miracle Whip, to taste.

Add Mrs. Dash lemon pepper seasoning and dill to taste. Toss in a dash of black pepper.

If you like, stir in a tsp of relish and/or finely minced onion.

Eat! Great on wheat thins ;)

August 10, 2009

No More Naps?

Before my surgery, I built my days around naps. Since I work evenings and get home at about 11 p.m. and get to bed around 1 a.m., I would get up around 9 or 10 a.m. and start my day. Not that I got much accomplished. Breakfast was coffee and a muffin or bagel (although after I started planning for surgery I cut out muffins and cut that bagel in half). I would watch the news, Will & Grace reruns, and HGTV while I answered emails and did work on my laptop. Sometimes I would do an errand or two, always keeping my eyes on the time so that I could be sure to fit in lunch AND a two-hour nap.

Granted, this recovery period is pretty much stress-free, and no work. So, I may get back into the napping habit once I get back to work next week. I suspect there will be some days when I'll want a nap and others when I won't. We'll see.

Back to the muffin... It's not the only thing I gave up starting back in March. Just cutting out certain items and replacing them with more healthful foods helped me lose 13 lbs by June. I also stopped grazing at work, on whatever the students or my colleagues would bring in -- stuff like cookies, chips, pretzels, etc.

Fast food & other restaurant food had to go. My faves were the burgers and spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy's with fries, Culver's fish and chips and concrete (custardy ice cream with chunks of peanut butter cups), Big Mac, General Tso's chicken, shrimp fried rice, cheese cake, avocados, nachos, pizza -- you get the idea! I started cooking more, avoiding carbs as much as I could stand. If I did eat out, I would pick up a Greek Salad with chicken from Panera or a Chipotle salad (no rice, of course). Ice cream and other fatty deserts I replaced with Edy's fruit bars (lime and lemonade are my favorites) and the mango smoothie at Panera. Also Yoplait yogurt. Looking back, it wasn't that hard to do. Of course, I slipped up from time to time -- mainly after work, when I would get hungry on my way home around 11 p.m., having eaten dinner at work about four hours earlier. I worry about this still. Will my dinner at work keep me full until bedtime?

Today I went walked at the park, just about 15 minutes -- not much, but a start. I definitely got my heart rate up, but did not really sweat much as it was cool, overcast and breezy. I sat for a while afterward and let the delicious breeze flow over me, listening to kids playing and a fountain splashing. I reflected on how good it feels to be DOING something about my weight, rather than sitting around THINKING I should be doing something about my weight.

August 10, 2009

Today was my first day completely alone since my surgery on July 27. My mother stayed with me through yesterday, and my brother came to visit a couple of times. He's a doctor, so it's been good to have him around for some of my appointments.

I cried last night, that's how much I missed my mother. I am 40 years old! We talked on the phone and she promised to check in with me today. This morning I got up and got out the door (after a Slim Fast and my first round of vitamins), picked up a coffee at Starbucks (I can't stand the smell of coffee in my own apartment) and listened to This American Life on NPR sitting in the park. Then, I hit the road and drove around my area. There are some very scenic towns and countryside, so I took photos (tramping around was good exercise) and nipped in and out of antique stores. I drank a delicious iced tea at a little general store/cafe, then came back to town to do some shopping at Target.

As I drove around, I found tears streaming down my cheeks from time to time. It was a sense of profound relief, gratitude, and accomplishment. I did it. These are the times when I truly believe there is a good, that's how profound the feelings were. I know I'm just at the beginning of the rest of my life, but now I feel there's something to look forward to. I was so tired of feeling like the elephant in the room -- literally! No one said anything (my family avoided the subject after many years of trying to get me to lose weight), but "it" was always there.

On another note, I don't know how other surgeons do it, but the team I am working with seems extremely thorough. They don't beat around the bush when it comes to the dire things that could happen if you don't properly follow the post-surgery diet progression, take your vitamins, and otherwise decide to do your own thing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Feeling better & different

I am beginning to feel less like a walking, talking side of a house. Thursday (my fortieth birthday), I had my first post-surgery appointment and was happy to say goodbye to the drainage tube and mini football. I felt a strange, cringe-worthy sensation as the nurse sort of yanked it all out of my side. The hole left behind was immediately covered with gauze and tape, and that was it.

Also at this appointment I learned I had lost 12 pounds since my previous weigh-in on July 23. Twelve pounds in about two weeks. Crazy. So, to date: Lost 13 pounds from March to June, 11 pounds from June to late July (liquid pre-surgery diet), 12 pounds after surgery.

My watch slides around on my wrist. My bras fit more comfortably. Clothes are looser. No swollen ankles (not that I've been on my feet as much as usual).

In the week immediately after surgery, I had started taking my vitamins and other medication -- rather half-heartedly, I admit. After neatly organizing them in a brightly colored plastic case (a different color for each day of the week), I sort of lost hope. Somehow, seeing them all in one place made me wonder how I would ever get them all down. My post-surgery appointment reminded me how vital these are to my health. For the rest of my life.

6 multivitamin capsules a day
1 chewable iron tablet
4 chewable Calcium citrates (they taste and have the consistency of Starburst candy, never one of my favorites)
1 Pepcid (to prevent acid from eroding the lining and sutures of my newly small tummy)
Twice a week I have to put a small B12 pill under my tongue until it dissolves

Oh, and I have to exercise, plus make sure to get 65 grams of protein (Slim Fast), and 64 ounces of clear liquids. I admit, thinking about all of this gets me down sometimes. It all seems daunting. But, I just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. The alternative is unacceptable.

Next Thursday, I'll begin eating real food (half a cup per meal)! My menu choices are "cream of" soups (blended to get out any chunks), mashed potatoes, sugar free pudding, and scrambled egg! By the time I go to a conference I'm attending at the end of the month I'll be enjoying shaved deli meats, cheese, and toast. All these mundane foods sound sublime to me now.

I do think about food quite a lot, mostly at night when I am trying to fall asleep -- even though I am not hungry. This must the psychological part kicking in: the comfort and routine of a hot meal and eating until I'm stuffed (and then having desert).