Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting Closer

The only things in my refrigerator are old condiments and protein drinks. I have cans of broth on my counter ready to heat when hunger strikes.

Surgery Monday. I did most of my pre-op stuff yesterday: Got weighed and blood pressure checked. BP is good and I lost another 11 pounds! Most likely due to the protein & liquid regimen. That makes a net loss of about 25 pounds since March (I gained a few pounds early in the process).

Met my surgeon Dr. Roger de la Torre, seems like a nice guy. Signed a blood transfusion (just in case) consent form. Then I went to University Hospital where I had blood drawn (including pregnancy test), my first-ever EKG, and then a couple of chest x-rays. This stuff seems to be in aid of making sure I am fit for the actual procedure. Then I pre-registered, which means all I have to do Monday morning is get a couple of wrist bands and talk the the anesthesiologist. About what, I am not sure.

I did better than expected making it through my time at work these past two weeks on the protein & liquids. This week promised to be extra challenging because I had to work a few more hours each day to fill in the gaps left by three other managers who happened to be out this week. Actually, it turned out to be a good thing because I was not sitting around thinking about food or how hungry I was. I took cans of broth and Slim Fast with me to work. Easy Peasy.

By the way, I have to give props to Slim Fast Low Carb Chocolate & Vanilla . They taste pretty good, and one can provides 20% of the protein intake required in pre-surgery. I also like the Muscle Milk Lite mocha latte. The EAS AdvantEdge Carb Control in chocolate and vanilla are fine. The only clear protein drink I've tried is Isopure, in iced tea and apple melon. Pretty decent.

After surgery, there's a week of clear fluids, so I will have to stock up on the Isopure and pick up something called New Whey. Plus broth. O, glorious broth! The deep rich smell and food-like taste are elixirs. Especially the chicken broth from Campbell.

This week I came across pictures of another old boyfriend on Facebook. He looks great. He was partying with three other people and a buttload of Moet ( to judge by the empty bottles on the table). At age 38, he is living his life very much as he did at 19 & 20, when we were together. Was that a bit of existential fatigue I saw in his eyes? Probably wishful thinking on my part.

Still, those pictures reminded me that I allowed relationships with boys and men to weigh me down. I gave these males far too much credit for being better than me. For knowing best. For having good intentions, underneath it all. These disasters entered my very flesh and I fed the sense of failure with self-disgust and actual food. Talk about baggage. My thirties are almost gone now, and I wasted the personal side of my life wallowing in fat. It was a sort of emotional hibernation, with brief forays into romance and other danger zones, like losing control of my finances. Food was my reward for suffering so much. This is what I told myself.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feeling Better, Optimistic

It was a strange first week. Cranky, euphoric, tired, weak, discouraged, purposeful. These were just some of the emotions I experienced on my protein/liquid diet.

I found that by eating a "meat salad" (greens and some kind of meat, chicken) in the evening I can manage to get through the day. I don't know how this will affect the liver shrinkage, but I imagine that compared to what I was eating before my liver is a lot better off.

Tomorrow marks one week before the surgery. I meet the the surgeon for the first time on Thursday and then talk to the anesthesiologist.

I feel so ready to fly! I want to soar and be great. I've been hiding my light (and now I really do feel I have light) for too long.

Confession: part of what is motivating me lately is a pronounced "that'll show 'em" attitude. There are people (friends, relatives) who probably think I've thrown in the towel as far as my weight goes, that I've decided not to care about myself enough to be healthy. There are men who may have liked my personality, even become attracted to me, but decided they couldn't date a fat woman. Hah! Just you wait! "That'll show 'em." It's almost like revenge. Not the purest of attitudes, but there it is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feeling Furtive

Last night I felt like a drug addict jones-ing for a fix. I made it through the entire day on the fluids, then -- ravenous at about 8 pm -- heated up some remaining pasta sauce and drank it like soup. Then after 10 pm, I got dressed (I'd already put on my pajamas) and drove to Wendy's and bought a taco salad. It comes with iceberg lettuce, a cup of chili, a few sprinklings of cheese and slivers of a nacho-like garnishment. Also, a creamy salad dressing. It was the most delicious thing ever. I don't feel very guilty, just worried about the condition of my liver and whether I am undermining the surgery.

I am finding it hard to fall asleep, whether for a nap or at bedtime. My body is weak and I'm tired but my mind is wide-awake and active with all kinds of thoughts, worries, doubts, etc. Oh, and I am having my period. So, I'm miserable.

This afternoon, I was checking Facebook and had to do a double-take when I saw a face from the past as a suggested friend. It was a guy I was engaged to in my twenties. We had known each other in high school and then gotten reacquainted. He called things off about three months before the wedding, which devastated me. I was looking great, too. One of the many failed relationships which confirmed to me that attractiveness was not much use, if --in addition to being smart, fun, friendly, affectionate, caring, and generous -- I couldn't make a relationship work. Especially since HE had pursued me in the first place.

I began to gain weight steadily after that breakup. One of the hardest things to deal with was not knowing WHY. His explanations were meager and unsatisfying: "I am not ready to be responsible for another person" was the gist of what he told me. What I assumed were things like: I was not attractive enough, I was not smart enough, I was not enough-enough.

Now to see him smiling back at me from the computer -- looking happy, handsome, and a tad bit pleased with himself -- hits me hard. His life has been great, I assume. He made the right decision to cut himself loose from me. My life has been a series of mistakes and bad judgment calls. He knew what he was doing.

Have I mentioned that I'm miserable?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Women & Food

Women talk about food a lot. My students (20-somethings) always seem to be talking about what they are going to be eating next and reflecting on what their previous meals were like. Today I went to the UPS Store to express-mail something and the all-female staff was discussing getting Subway for lunch. It was just past 11:30 a.m.

My sister-in-law Emily and I have discussed this phenomenon. It seems even skinny women think and talk about food. Perhaps even more feverishly than women who struggle to maintain their weight. Perhaps skinny women (like my young students) have more to lose (or gain!) by gaining weight. I used to be one of those skinny gals. Of course I thought I was overweight; par for the course these days, right? I remember the terrible sense of failure and self-loathing when a pair of pants suddenly seemed a wee bit tight. The awful punch-in-the-gut sensation upon hearing a family member or friend I hadn't seen in a while say: "Girl, you've put on some weight!"

Here is a list of the diets and weight loss cycles I have put myself through:

Age 17 -- sensible three meals, no desert, no soda, few carbs (felt I only needed to lose a few pounds)
College -- The breakfast-only diet, with aerobics in the evenings (lost probably about 15 pounds or so) ALSO, the cookie diet, surviving on the oatmeal cookies my roommates mother made. A couple of those in the morning and that was it. (Lost probably about 5 pounds or so).
Early 20's -- Jenny Craig. Lost 40 pounds. Kept it off for about a year. Jenny Craig again about two years later when I was engaged and getting ready for my wedding. Again lost about 40 pounds. Gradually gained weight through my mid-twenties as depression set in. Weight from size 10 to 12, 14, 16.
Late 20's -- sensible three meals (Lean Cuisine and yogurt for lunch, for example) and walking 30-40 minutes each day. Don't know how much weight I lost, but friends and co-workers noticed the change. This lasted maybe six weeks. Soon after...
Also Late 20's Weight Watchers -- lost maybe 20 pounds but fell off the wagon when my meetings (in a beautiful old mansion by the lake) moved to a generic Weight Watchers Center and my leader changed. Size 16 to 18.
Mid-30's -- Weight Watchers again. Great meeting, great leaders. Lost 45 pounds, back to size 16. Yay! This lasted until just after I got married about a year later. Tough period emotionally. Up to size 20.
Late 30's -- Slim Fast, only lasted a week. Hated it. ALSO, Nutrisystem. Again about a week. Hated it.

Now at age 39... I weigh about 320 pounds, that's size 22-24. Most of my shoes are extra-wide and have to be ordered from catalogs.

I need to lose about 160 pounds, according to the needs of my body (height, age, etc.) This will put me at about a size 14. People always tell me my appearance doesn't match my actual weight, so perhaps I will look like a size 12? Ha ha!

About the protein/liquid regime. Yesterday was tough. I made it through the entire day, but when I tried to fall asleep about midnight the hunger set in big time. I lost control and ate an Amy's Kitchen Organic Breakfast Burrito and a cinnamon raisin bagel with nothing on it. These are the last edible things in my apartment aside from the protein drinks and cans of broth. I had three cans of broth yesterday -- 2 Campbell's chicken, which were pretty delicious and comforting, and one Swanson's beef which was bland.

The clinic I am working with requires this regime for two weeks (!) before surgery. It's supposed to shrink the liver to allow the surgeon better access to the stomach. I can't help but wonder, if I eat at least one high protein meal/low carb/low fat a day will that sink my surgery? I am afraid to ask the clinic in case they decide I am not fit for the procedure, willpower-wise.

Monday, July 13, 2009

No food, just fluids -- 2 hours in

Day one of the two-week pre-surgery liquid diet. I have to ingest at least 100 grams of protein a day, plus 64 ounces of clear fluids. The ingesting part is not too bad, it’s the hunger and desire to chew on something later today that I am afraid of.

I veer between apprehension and excitement. This is the start of the new me, or the improved me – I hope.

So here are some of the reasons I am doing this… Things I need to remember as I hit the rough patches in this process (in no particular order):

Feel better about myself
Be able to buy fashionable clothes & look good in them
Fit comfortably into airplane seats and not need a seatbelt extension
Have more energy
Look attractive to men
Have sex
Not feel scared about seeing people who knew me when I was skinny
Set a good example for my niece and nephews
Allow my family not to worry about my health and well-being
Be healthier

Now I know what it feels like for smokers and drug addicts to try to kick their habits: It feels like a minute by minute fight to tolerate hunger accept the fact that there will be no food for a very long time. Just yucky protein drinks, water and broth.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Waiting and Worrying

It's the waiting that's getting me now. There are three July dates circled on the calendars in my apartment and at work:

July 13, 2009
Begin protein supplement & liquids regimen.

July 23, 2009
Visit with surgeon and anesthesiologist about procedure

July 27

At the moment I am almost most worried about surviving the two weeks without solid food than I am about the surgery. Will I feel weak all the time? Will I be able to concentrate? Will I have cravings?

The purpose of this two weeks of fluids (most of my diet will consist of protein shakes, broth, and jello) is to reduce the size of my liver so the surgeon can have easier, safer access to my stomach.

My procedure is the gastric bypass, otherwise known as the Roux-en-Y. Here's what WebMD has to say about it.

I need to lose about half of my current weight, and I decided that the gastric bypass would be the best way to achieve this. The other option was the Lap Band, which is not permanent and less invasive, but generally does not lead to the major weight loss I need.

The only people I've told about this are members of my family and one long-time friend who also has had the surgery. In explaining to my bosses why I need to be off work for two to three weeks, I simply said I have to have surgery. I didn't go into specifics and they cannot ask, so that's that.

Before I even got to this point I had to keep monthly appointments at the bariatric clinic. This was an insurance company requirement. I suppose they hope you change your mind so they won't have to shell out the dough for the procedure! These sessions consisted of: a weigh-in and blood pressure check, short meeting with a doctor, and a class with fellow prospective patients. In the class we learned a lot about how much our lifestyles will have to change after surgery and also did some written exercises to evaluate our motives for surgery and self-esteem. I also had to keep logs of my food intact (concentrating especially on protein) and exercise. I actually lost thirteen pounds during this time! And, I really learned a lot, so it was definitely worth it.

And there's more... The insurance company also required a "psych evaluation," so I went to one of the doctors recommended by the clinic and answered questions about how long I'd been overweight, why I wanted to have the surgery, whether I had family support, etc. Toward the end of the hour I unexpectedly started crying. I was thinking about the younger me, the one who hated to be looked and leered at, the one who had been hurt in relationships, the one who already felt overweight (even though I was quite normal), the one who told herself it was better to be insulated from pain, better to be alone that part of the frenetic relationship/jealousy/beauty/competition scene. Better to feel very little than to open oneself up to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

I hope this blog will help me through the process of drastic weight loss. Perhaps it will also help others.

Until next time....