Monthly Archives: October 2014

Keeping It Going Over a Year Later….

16 months and 106.5 later, my gastric sleeve journey continues here at Down the Scale. To keep me motivated, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the positive habits I have made. I think it helps to remind myself of all the things that go into keeping myself healthy and happy as I continue to strive to lose weight.

For me, the most important change I made was to eat smaller portions of healthier food. My smaller stomach helps with this, but I still need to think about what I eat and how much of it I eat. I prioritize my food by protein first and then vegetables. I eat fruit as a snack or part of my breakfast occasionally. I rarely eat carbohydrates as they fill my stomach very quickly. I haven’t cut them out completely, but when I do indulge, it’s usually only one piece of bread or a small portion of rice or pasta.

Now, I must admit I still indulge in less healthy food from time to time. I still drink alcohol, but only one or two glasses. I do splurge at parties with a small piece of cake. The difference now is the amount and frequency I eat higher calorie and sugary food. It’s supposed to be a treat for a reason and now I finally “get it.”

I also have finally learned that I need to cut some foods out completely. Really, I wasn’t eating trail mix for the nuts…who does? And Chex Mix is banned from my home. I never once measured out either food like I said I would when I bought them.

There are times I do need to measure my food and track it. When my weight loss stalls I find that recording my food intake helps. Using the app My Fitness Pal is an easy way to keep an eye on my eating habits. I only have to do it for a few days to get back on track.

A year does make a difference!  On the left is last year's visit to the pumpkin patch 4 months after my surgery.  On the right is this year's photo.  I'm looking forward to comparing these to next year's photo!

A year does make a difference! On the left is last year’s visit to the pumpkin patch four months after my surgery. On the right is this year’s photo. I’m looking forward to comparing these to next year’s photo!

I also use My Fitness Pal to record my weight. I “officially” weigh-in once a week. Making my weight only count once a week keeps me from focusing solely on the numbers in my weight loss journey. While I would still like to lose seven pounds, I prefer to concentrate on maintaining my current weight loss. To do this, I have a “weight window.” It’s a five-pound range I want to stay in. This keeps me aware of my weight, but allows for those weeks where I indulge a bit. If I go above the window, I start tracking my food immediately.

If I go below the window for a month I know it’s time to adjust the window. I just changed it a month after my hernia repair and tummy tuck surgery since I lost about nine pounds. Some of that loss was from the excess skin removal and lack of eating after surgery. Now that I’m a month out and I’m maintaining a new weight, I adjusted the window to keep myself on track and motivated.

Exercising is a big key to maintaining much of my weight loss. And when I say exercise I don’t necessarily mean exercise in the sense of a dedicated activity for a set of amount of time. I do think that kind of exercise is important and I’m looking forward to running once again. And I do know that I must start weight lifting to tone my body. But I think it’s the everyday physical activity that is essential to my healthy lifestyle. Walking as much as I can is extremely important to me. I could tell how much both physically and mentally I missed walking during my surgery recovery. Now that I’m back to walking my kids to school, I am happier. Adding more activities to my week keeps me healthy physically and mentally.

16 months of concentrated weight loss has been daunting at times. I find when I get frustrated, bored or depressed, I need to go back to the basics:

*Eating better

*Tracking my food

*Getting on the scale only once a week to see if I’m in my weight window

*Adding more exercise, either structured or relaxed

And last, but not least, I remind myself how far I’ve come in my journey…106.5 pounds gone for good! Feeling healthy and happy really are the best reminders of how important taking care of myself is for me and my family. I’m thrilled to still be going Down the Scale…

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The Line Drawn on my Abdomen…

A month has passed since my abdominal hernia and tummy tuck surgeries. How am I doing? Honestly, it’s bad. Honestly, it’s good. Yes, I’m a bit wishy-washy about how I feel about my surgery. Just as there are two sides to a coin, there are two sides to my recovery.

Let’s talk bad and get it out of the way. The worst part is that I feel like Frankenstein. I have a large incision from hip to hip. It’s pinkish with a few scabs here and there. At each hip, the incision is bumpy and ridge-like. My lower abdomen is swollen and my abdominal muscles hurt from time to time. Beneath my clothes, it’s just not very pretty.

Here I am about 3 weeks after surgery, out and about with my family.

Here I am about 3 weeks after hernia repair and tummy tuck surgery.  It feels amazing to have lost 105.5 pounds since my gastric sleeve surgery!

Since my surgery, I have been concerned that I was healing properly. I meet with both my hernia repair surgeon and plastic surgeon last week and I finally was reassured. Dr. J. said my hernia repair went well and I was in good shape. He gave me his approval to start moving more and to even run when I’m ready. Phew!

My meeting with Dr. C., my plastic surgeon, was even better. I disrobed and he took one look at what I considered to be my horrible stomach and said everything looked great. Really? I pointed out parts and he said the healing was all completely normal. The ridges on my hip incisions would settle in time. The incision was healing properly. He had no concerns. I had to laugh when he told me the scars would lessen in time and would be like my c-section scars. I actually never saw my c-section scars due to my large overhanging stomach!

My concerns lightened even more when Dr. C said I could be swollen for 9 to 12 months after surgery. Even with all my scars and swelling, I will admit I think I look pretty good right now…with clothes on. Considering how far out my stomach protruded before surgery, my stomach seems pretty flat to me. I am now excited to see how it will look a year from surgery.

More importantly, I feel good. The first few weeks, I was very achy and scared that I would be sore for a long time. A month later, I am sore at the end of the day, but I can get around much better! I’m back to walking my kids to school. Both doctors gave me approval to start running as long as I feel up to it, so I have committed to my third Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving. I don’t expect to run a personal best, but if I run any of it, I will be thrilled. I am just happy to get back to being the active person I became after my gastric sleeve surgery.

My surgeries were not the easiest procedures I have been through, but I don’t regret them one bit. Everything I do from surgeries, to eating better, to exercising, are all part of my overall plan to be a better me. Looking good on the outside is great, but feeling healthier and happier are the best rewards.

Going Down in Size and the Scale…

Two weeks after my incisional hernia repair and tummy tuck, and I'm up and going!

Two weeks after my incisional hernia repair and tummy tuck, and I’m up and going!

It’s been two weeks since I made another “investment” in myself. I’m recovering from my abdominal hernia repair and tummy tuck surgeries relatively well. I’m sore, tired and emotional, but I’m slowly getting back to normal. I thought this recovery would be easier than my gastric sleeve surgery, but I’m not sure that it is. The physical pain is worse and the emotional aftermath is more than I anticipated, but just as I knew my sleeve surgery was worth it, I feel the same way about this surgery. The past two weeks are just another part of my journey to a healthier me.

So, let’s go back two weeks ago. The ever-supportive hubby and I arrived at the same hospital in the morning. I was excited, nervous and dying for a cup of coffee. Not eating before surgery is easy, but no coffee is torture. I forgot my coffee desires once I went back to pre-op. This experience was easier than last year’s experience. Losing 100+ pounds makes an IV go in a lot easier and quicker!

The strangest part of pre-op was having my plastic surgeon, Dr. C., take a Sharpie pen to my body to mark the incisions and areas where he would remove the skin. The reality of my future body hit me. I would have a “normal” stomach. The reality of the future pain also dawned on me as I saw how much he skin he would be taking. To distract myself from that thought, I asked Dr. C if they would weigh the skin they removed. OK, I know it sounds gross, but wouldn’t you want to know? He promised me he would let me know.

Finally, I went in the operating room and I was out before I knew it. I’m not sure what my surfer-dude anesthesiologist gave me, but I went under quickly and I woke up in the recovery room feeling great. My nurse kept the good feelings going with a cup of delicious ice chips. My mood continued with Dr. C walking in. My hernia surgeon, Dr. J, finished his part first, so Dr. C was there to check on me and call my husband with the results.

Everything went well according to Dr. C. I was thrilled to have my hernia repaired, my intestines put back into place and the skin removed. Dr. C. gave me the number I asked for…three and a half pounds of skin and fat removed! Yikes! No matter how much exercise I did, I would have never worked that off my stomach.

Unfortunately my good mood faltered once I got to my hospital room. My poor roommate was in pain after whatever surgery she had and she didn’t speak English. She and the great nurses managed to communicate when her family wasn’t there, but it made for a chaotic setting. It did distract me somewhat from my own issues. The nausea set in as soon as I settled in my room. I do not handle the IV pain medication well. I must have had my own language issues because I couldn’t get the nurses to take me off it They would give me anti-nausea medication thankfully, but it made for a long night.

The next morning the hubby joined me at the hospital. Once Dr. C and J., Dr. J’s physician assistant come by and told me I needed to stay another night, I sent Dave home. I learned from my sleeve surgery that I needed to sleep as much as I could so Dave didn’t need to keep me company. Also, I felt better having him home with the kids. Much of my surgical anxiety comes from my children’s emotional well-being. Knowing Dave was with them helped me.

So, I was stuck another night at the hospital. I was not a happy camper. Just when I was resigning myself to another night of nausea and noise, an angel appeared. I didn’t think it would be in the form of a tall, slightly German accented man. This nurse happily took me off the IV pain medication. Nurse A was my hero! He switched me to a liquid painkiller, which even with its rock candy dipped in Kool-Aid flavor, was 100 times better. The nausea went away and the neon green lime jello was finally appealing.

When Dr. J and J, the physician assistant, arrived the next morning, I was sitting in a chair chatting with Dave. They smiled and said I looked like I was ready to go home. Yes, I was! Of course, it’s never that simple. I kept hearing that line from the song “Hotel California”, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Nurse E needed discharge papers from Dr. C and he was in surgery. Can I tell you how wonderfully persistent Nurse E was for me? She called, she texted and she kept calling until she received the discharge information. She and the hubby helped me get ready to go home which included finding an easy way to get dressed with my drains.

Yes, I was sent home with two drains, one near each hip. From what I understand, they are there to help with recovery, but I found them to be a huge pain and gross. I now have more sympathy for men and their external genitalia. These bulbous shaped drains were pinned to my shirt, but they bounced around and I was always worried about sitting on them.

Finally, I was home to see my babies! My ten-year old’s smile was beautiful and soothing. My six-year-old managed not to squeeze me like she normally does and it was her glowing smile that made me feel warm and fuzzy. And all the “pretty things,” like her butterfly nightlight and flowered shaped trinket box, she insisted on giving me from her room, kept the mood light.

So I was home with my spectacular family when the reinforcements arrived! My always thoughtful friend, N, organized a group of friends to help pick up my kids from school and bring dinner. We were spoiled by all the generosity and help. It was just another reminder of how lucky I am to have such a special group of friends.

Six days after surgery, my drains and many of my bandages were removed. I could finally see some of the results of my surgery. I think “Holy Sh*t” were my exact words the first time I looked in the mirror. I was shocked by my new stomach, in a good way. Although my incisions are Frankenstein-like and my abdomen is swollen, I can see that I am considerably smaller. Let the photos show you:

Here is abdomen on the day of surgery and two weeks after.  What a difference!  I can't wait to see what it looks like when my tummy isn't swollen and is completely healed!

Here is my abdomen on the day of surgery and two weeks after. What a difference! I can’t wait to see what it looks like when my tummy isn’t swollen and is completely healed!

Impressive, if I may so myself. I cannot wait to see what it will look like when I heal completely. I know I will never have the abs of a supermodel, but I don’t care! I just want to have a “normal” body.

So here I am healing and finally getting out and about. I am nowhere near 100%. I tire easily. I am very sore. My incisions itch now and then and they’re still gross to look at. I didn’t expect to be so emotional, but some days I am weepy. I think it’s because I feel a bit helpless and unproductive. In theory, it sounds great to lay around and rest, but after a while it is surprisingly depressing. I never thought I would have strong urges to get up and clean and organize my house. Who knew I would have laundry withdrawal?

Hopefully, these cleaning and organizing urges will be around when I’m allowed to resume normal activities. I’m listening to my surgeons and my personal doctor, Dr. Hubby. My ever-supportive husband is incredible. He is handling his normal responsibilities plus mine while taking care of me. Once again, I realize how lucky I am to have him as my partner in my journey.

Just as I took charge of my health in June 2013 by having gastric sleeve surgery, I am happy that I took charge once again and had the hernia repair and tummy tuck surgeries. Every choice I make that improves my health is worth any pain, depression and nausea if it gets to me to my final goal: being the healthiest and happiest person I can be.