Category Archives: Weight Loss

Not Just a Month, But a Lifetime

Jen Week 1 Elimination Diet

Here I am, finishing up week one of my elimination diet! I feel strong and healthy! New foods and more exercise are always part of my continuing gastric sleeve journey!

“Not Just a Month, but a Lifetime”

By that statement you might think I mean that my elimination diet feels like it’s lasting forever. In some way it does feel that way as I’m missing the convenience and flexibility of eating foods with wheat, sugar, dairy, and almonds. What I’ve really come to realize is the I need to think of this diet as a lifetime change. By that, I hope to keep many of the healthy changes I’ve made so far this week. Some of them include:

*I’m focusing on eating protein first. When I first started eating non-liquid foods after my gastric sleeve surgery, I always ate my protein first followed by vegetables. Now that wheat is off my list, I am making protein my first choice in my meal. Not only is this helping me by giving me more energy, I’m sure my iron levels will show an increase on my next blood test.

*There are less preservatives, sugar, and sodium in my diet. By taking the time to read food labels, I’m now aware of what really goes into food. Well, if I could understand what some of the words included in the food are, I would know if there were good or bad. If an ingredient has more than four syllables, my guess is it isn’t good for you. I could be wrong, but I’ve decided this month to buy foods in which I actually know what the ingredients mean. There is one exception but I’ll talk about that later.

*I’m not frantically trying to figure out what I’m going to cook for each meal. I wish I was one of those people who meal plan and cook on a Sunday, but I’m not. With my kids and husband’s ever-changing schedules, I don’t always know when and who will be home for dinner. So, each morning I decide what to make for dinner based on what I know that morning. Tuesday is always Taco Tuesday thanks to the Lego Movie, but every other day, the meals change. Fortunately, I have a number of dishes that I can draw from based on the amount of time I can cook that day. My Pinterest board is filling up with more healthy recipes.

*I have more energy…finally! After wondering why I was so tired for so long, I finally feel energetic for most of the day! Instead of trying to keep my eyes open past 9 PM, I can make it until 10 PM. OK, so that makes me still sound old, but some days you just enjoy these small victories. I’m sure the new vitamins and iron supplements I’m taking are part of the reason I feel better, but I know eating better is a big part as well.

*I can exercise more! With better fuel and vitamins in my body, I am able to workout longer and better. Now, I’m sure working out with my trainer twice a week is a large part of my increased athleticism. Having a professional guide you, motivate you and push you is well worth the cost and time, in my opinion.  And by my increased interest and commitment to working out, this is a new way of living that I plan to keep!

With all these great changes, what in the world would I not want to keep from this elimination diet? Here you go:

*First, I would say coffee, but as I mentioned in my post about day one, I decided not to give it up. I tried for the first few days to drink it with cashew milk and stevia, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t particularly good either. So I broke down and went back to my non-daily sugar-free creamer. Yes, the one with words that are too long. Honestly, if this is my only vice in life, I’m good with it. Eventually, I’m willing to try other sugar alternatives, but for now this creamer makes me happy. Silly, I know, but right now this is my biggest vice, so I’m OK with it.

*All right, I’ll be honest and say that sugar-free non-dairy creamer is probably not my biggest vice. My love of Starbucks would be my worst vice. Now, if I was buying pastries or bagels along with my espresso, that would be really bad, especially when I know how great I currently feel without large doses of fat, sugar and wheat in my diet. I broke down on day three of the elimination diet and drank a tall soy latte. The only reason this drink breaks the rules of my diet is that Starbuck’s uses vanilla soy which has cane sugar in it. This is my big treat about three days a week. Yes, it might seem ridiculous, but I really enjoy lattes.  I really love grabbing one while I’m out running errands or drinking one while I write outside my home. Yes, I know they make regular coffee, but I don’t particularly care for it. I want my latte and I’m going to keep getting it..no pastries or bagels, though.

*I can’t wait to eat at a restaurant again! As a family, we only eat out once a week, but it’s a nice break from cooking for me and it gives us a chance to focus on our time as a family without home distractions. I’m sure I could eat out, but honestly I believe it will be a pain to frantically search the menu for food without dairy, sugar, wheats or almonds. Choosing better dishes that are protein and vegetable centric will be my new goal when we return to dining out.

Now, some of you might question why I couldn’t give up a few things like coffee, creamer, and Starbucks for just a month. True, in the scheme of life it’s not that long to remove these foods from my diet. But it was making me cranky, irritated, and I was focusing on what I couldn’t have instead of the what I could eat. I actually have a wide range of foods I can eat and I’m discovering new foods like sunflower butter and paleo-style meatloaf that I love. I have decided that I need to concentrate on what I can do easily and forever, not just for a month. I keep going back to the thought that I’m working on a lifestyle change, not just a month change. Just like I realized that going Down the Scale wasn’t a “before/after situation” but a continuous journey, this elimination diet is helping me focus on a healthy lifestyle permanently!

Is it Over Yet? Day 1 of the Elimination Diet

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Here I am making a new recipe, dairy-free asparagus soup! My gastric sleeve journey continues as I strive to be the healthiest person I can be!

So I survived Day 1 of my elimination diet! Only 29 more days to go…oh my! As I wrote in my last blog post, “Standing Tall”,  dairy, wheat, cane sugar and almonds are no longer a part of my meals for the next month. The food sensitivity chart marked these foods as ones I should avoid. Yes, coffee was on the list, but for my sanity I’m not giving it. A woman can only handle so much in one month!

So, how was the first day? At times, it was ugly and other times it was just fine. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

*Cane sugar is in everything! My beloved bacon is full of it and of course, all the flavored dairy substitutes have it. I must have shopped twice as long at the grocery store yesterday to find items that didn’t have it.

*Almonds are in everything, too. I was excited to find cashew butter and milk, but the first brands I looked at also had almonds. Again, it took a lot of label reading to find items without it.

*Yes, you crave certain foods when you can’t have it. The sugar-free chocolate pudding is taunting me from the back of the refrigerator. I forgot it was even there until yesterday. Is it that good? Not really, but when you plan to take certain foods out of your diet, you think they’re the best food ever. My guess is the apple I ate instead last night was just as good as the pudding.

*There are tons of resources to help including doctors, nutritionists, family, and friends. Naturally, I’ve been on the web researching new recipes and food alternatives, but the best resources are actual human beings! My new doctor and nutritionist took the time to answer all my questions and gave me the tools to set up this month-long diet. I am extremely fortunate to have a sister who is well versed personally and professionally in healthy eating. The information she shares, but more importantly, her encouragement and support make the world of difference to me. My friend, N., texted me throughout the day to check in on me which helped tremendously! My biggest cheerleaders are my ever-supportive husband and children. They always back me up no matter what I need to do, but I think they were more relieved than me when I decided to keep coffee in my life!

*Cooking from scratch will be my saving grace. After spending over an hour grocery shopping yesterday, I concluded it would be easier to do as much cooking as I can. So many repackaged foods are full of sugar and sodium, that I fear I won’t really learn much about my body if I eat them this month. So yesterday, I picked up ingredients to make my own meals like meatloaf, sausage patties and soup. And don’t mind me when I tell you my first soup, was great! While this does mean more meal planning, shopping, and cooking for me, I think it is well worth it to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

*Exercising is the same so far. Day 1 of the elimination diet was also another hour-long training session. How was I going to lift weights and run on such little food…OK, how would I workout without having had my coffee and sugar-free creamer? Umm…just fine! My session was tough, which is normal as I have a great trainer, but I didn’t feel any different having had my coffee with cashew milk and stevia. My breakfast of bacon, kale and brussels sprouts was plenty of energy to get me through the morning.

*I feel like I’m back at the beginning of my gastric sleeve surgery and that’s not a bad thing. Once you’re done with the liquid stage of post-surgery, you get to eat food with the emphasis on protein. Because of my low iron levels, I’m really concentrating on protein. And since I’m eliminating wheat, I’m focusing on more vegetables. By resetting my diet I hope it will help with weight loss in addition to finding out what foods my body truly needs.

I fully admit I was whiney when the day began and I’m sure I’m going to feel deprived and frustrated as the month goes on. When I really stop and think about how I’m feeling physically and mentally I know that it’s really not that bad. I plan to stay focused and positive. Change is always hard, but I find that it’s always worth it. I look forward to feeling better and continuing to go Down the Scale…

Starting off on the Right Foot

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Finished my first run in 2017 at the indoor track at my local YMCA!  Neither weather delays or long to-do lists could keep me from getting back to exercising! I am thrilled to continue my weight loss journey in 2017!

It only took me to January 10th, but I finally got my first run in for the year.  As I wrote last year, I don’t make resolutions any longer, but I do like to start the new year on the right foot.  The holidays alway make it harder to stick to a healthy eating and exercise routine.  And let’s not forget that trying to stay sane and calm doesn’t always come easy during the holidays.

This was true for me.  Between construction in our rental home, stomach bugs and homesick kids, our first Christmas and New Year holidays in our new home state made the whole family feel a bit out of sorts.  Adjusting to some many new places, people, schedules, and even snow, was exhausting for all of us and it took its toll on my body and mind.

So, yes, it’s taken me this long to get back on track.  And I thought it wasn’t going to happen as school was delayed two hours due to icy roads.  I planned to go run at the YMCA, but when I woke up to the school news, I almost gave up on my plans.  Oh, it would have been easy to skip it. My to-do list is a mile long, but I stopped myself and said, “You are important, too.”  My health must be a priority.  I know how I feel when I don’t take care of myself and I don’t like it.  I never want to go back to the version of me who didn’t think it was important to make my physical and mental health a top priority.

Although it was only 30 minutes, I did get to the YMCA and run around the indoor track.  For that quick half hour, I recharged my batteries.  Isn’t it strange how exercising actually makes you feel better?  That good feeling was just the reminder I needed to keep to a schedule when it comes to exercising and planning healthy meals.  I’ve already put my exercise schedule in my calendar so I remember to keep it a priority!

So whether it’s January 10th or May 10th, whenever you start a new routine or go back to your previous one, it’s not too late.  I am excited to start running again, trying out new recipes, finally unpacking the last boxes, and exploring my new hometown.  I will continue to keep trying to be the healthiest version of me as I go Down the Scale in 2017….

 

New Workout and Friends in a New Hometown

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Since I started my gastric sleeve surgery journey over three years ago, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who encourage me to keep active.  My friend, N., started me on running journey even before I had surgery, and she continues to encourage me to try different workouts like spinning.  My other friends like A. and R. ran races with me and I even ran my first half-marathon with my college and adult friend, B.

Now that we’ve been in our new hometown for a little over a month, I’ve struggled with keeping active.  Instead of walking my daughter a half-mile to school each way, I walk down the street to the bus stop.  I am still unpacking  and getting settled into our new place, so I’m not running as often as I like.  With winter approaching, I was concerned about keeping active.  Running in 30 degree weather doesn’t sound as appealing as sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee, does it?

As I’ve shared many times, my weight loss journey is just that…a journey.  It’s not just about weight loss, but about continuing to strive for the best me I can be.  I realized that if I want to continue to keep the weight off and improve both my physical and mental health, I need to be proactive.  Last week the family joined the YMCA and today was my first visit.

I knew from previous experience, the Y is a great place to workout and meet people.  When we moved to Florida when my oldest child was an infant, the Y became my go-to place.  And even though I was obese then, I kept active, albeit slowly, and I met other stay-at-home moms.  Finding a community, especially with little kids, was my saving grace.

I finally committed to using our new membership this week and I was fortunate enough to have a new friend show me the ropes.  While volunteering at my daughter’s school a few weeks back, I meet another mom, S., who mentioned she belonged to the Y.  We made plans to meet today and I am so grateful we did!

To make a new friend in a new hometown is always a relief and comforting, but to make a friend who also likes to work out and has a positive energy and spirit is even better!  S. was kind enough to show me all around the Y after we walked about three miles on the indoor track. We’ve even made plans to try out the pre-masters swimming program in January.  I am so thankful to have found someone who is active like my San Francisco friends.

I still have new plans, including coming up with better, more interesting eating habits and ways to incorporate being active besides workouts,  to develop as we settle into our new hometown.  But I feel more grounded now that I have a new workout place and friend.  Sometimes, it’s just the little things that help you feel grounded, and in my case it’s the little things that help me continue to go Down the Scale…

 

 

Let’s Get Uncomfortable

“You’ve become comfortable.”

Those important and truthful words were simply stated last week by my friend, N. She is one of my strongest supporters since I began my weight loss journey. She is also my most honest friend. She is brave enough to speak the truth even when I don’t want to hear it. That is the sign of a true friend.

“You’re right.”

Most people would consider this a "before and after" photo, but I like to think of it as a "before and my current state" photo. My weight loss journey continues to evolve as I strive to be the healthiest person I can be!

Most people would consider this a “before and after” photo, but I like to think of it as a “before and my current state” photo. My weight loss journey continues to evolve as I strive to be the healthiest person I can be!

That was my immediate response to N. When you speak without thinking, without filtering your spoken words, you know you’re sharing your truth.

Why did I agree I’ve become comfortable? Because I feel stagnant in my journey to become a healthy person. No, it’s not just about losing weight; it’s about physical and mental progress. For me, becoming comfortable can lead to falling, even jumping, backward. This is not what I want.

I’ve become complacent in terms of my physical health. The weight I gained over this past year is still here. I am used to it. And if I felt like this was where I wanted to be, that would be OK, but I don’t. I don’t like my tight jeans. I don’t like the new extra jiggle in my arms. When I’m honest with myself, I am not happy with my body now.

I’ve also eased off on my physical fitness. Having run my first half-marathon in May, I should set a new goal. I like having goals. I unabashedly admit I like to check off boxes on my own to-do list. I like something to focus on down the road. I’ve become too comfortable with running two to three miles twice a week and one spin class. While it’s great that I do have an exercise routine, I’ve been comfortable just keeping the same pace and exertion.

The biggest area I’ve become comfortable with is eating. Yes, my gastric sleeve stomach keeps me from overeating, but I admit I have been snacking more. The protein bars I claim to buy for meals have turned into candy bar snacks. It’s easy to slip back into poor eating habits. “I’ll starting eating less and drinking more water” is my new Sunday night mantra.

Now that I’m being honest with myself, what do I do next? Staying comfortable is not an option. I need to push myself to get over this plateau and stop the backward sliding into poor habits. I want to get to the next level of mental and physical fitness. This means being uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean forgetting where I’ve come from, though.  This just means reminding myself of the success I’ve achieved. I’ve come along way, baby! I’m maintaining a huge weight loss, exercising regularly, and, for the most part, eating healthier. Yes, I am proud of where I am, but I know I can do better. I can be better.

And this is what I’m going to do to get to the next level of health: I’m going to get uncomfortable:

*It’s time to weigh myself weekly. While I’m a firm believer that the scale isn’t the end all, be all of fitness, it does give me a tangible indicator of where my health is going. My blog isn’t called “Down the Scale” for nothing!

*Crank up the physical intensity. I already started last week at spin class by turning up the resistance on my bike. I ran faster and longer on this morning’s run. Sure, I was tired after each outing, but my head and body felt better. Pushing through the initial pain made me improve. I still need to come up with a tangible goal like last year’s half-marathon, but starting to challenge myself in my every day life is a good start!

*Back to eating mindfully. Snacking, for me, is a mindless activity. Snacking, even if it’s healthy food, is mostly done without thought. I do it for the instant gratification or to help ignore stress, pain or depression. I promise to take the time to think about why I’m eating. I know this will be the most uncomfortable step in my continuing journey. It’s easier to ignore my feelings by eating. That is my lifelong struggle.

When I began sharing my experiences, I thought I would have a definite before and after photo and story. Yes, I have before photos, but the after photos and stories are just landmarks on my personal map. Sometimes these landmarks are strong and majestic, but some times they are more weak and ugly. And by ugly I mean negative, unhappy and dull. They are not the places you want to stop at when looking at a map, but I’ve learned I can get through those places.

When I am complacent in taking care of my body, mind, and soul, I slide back into bad habits and negative thinking. It’s easy to be comfortable in the dark. Pushing out of the dark and into the light is hard, sometimes frightening and it is definitely not a straight line type of journey. For me, stepping forward after going backward is always worth it. Being truthful is hard! Here I go being honest as I seek out new, positive landmarks on my journey Down the Scale….

Cooking and Weight Loss Go Hand in Hand

I love cooking with my kids!  And maybe one day, I'll get them to chop the onions!

I love cooking with my kids! And maybe one day, I’ll get them to chop the onions!

You learn many things when you start a weight loss journey. Of course you learn about exercising and eating right. You learn about taking care of your head and heart as well as your body. One of the more practical things I learned over the past three years is to cook. Yes, I could cook before my gastric sleeve surgery, but I’ve realized that I’m actually a better cook now than I was before I lost weight.

I can definitely attribute some of my adult weight gain to my cooking skills…well, my lack there of cooking skills. I claimed it was easier and cheaper just to get take-out or buy frozen meals since I lived on my own. I lived so close to quick and cheap take-out restaurants so it was convenient as well.

When I moved in with my husband, we weren’t the best at cooking at home either. Occasionally we would be inspired to cook new foods, but most of the time we just made pasta dishes since they were quick and simple. And when we added two children to the family, cooking became another chore, another necessity to keep the kids happy and heathy. Take out food, frozen meals, and once the kids could sit at a restaurant without too much damage, eating out were just the easiest ways to eat.

Now I can’t say that post gastric sleeve surgery meant I was suddenly the next Julia Child. For the first few months, food was a chore and I wasn’t really interested in expanding my cooking skills. And while I did start to cook at home more often, it’s really been the past year that I’ve made more of an effort. When I started to analyze labels and food costs I decided to make a change. I knew by cooking at home I would eat better, my family would eat better, and more importantly, I would set a better example for my children. How can I send them out into the world and expect them to cook on their own if I haven’t shown them?

So what am I cooking these days? Here are a few examples:

  • Crock pot meals are awesome! Really, there’s nothing better than to come home in the afternoon to the smell of a home cooked meal! Now, there is some prep work to making a crock pot meal like browning meat or chopping vegetables. Of course, there are recipes that are just a protein thrown in with a canned soup, but I avoid those since they’re full of sodium and not always the tastiest. Here are a few of my favorite meals:
  • The oven is also your friend! As much as I love my crock pot, I’ve found a number of easy meals to make in the oven. Some of my regulars are:
    • Crispy Chicken Thighs. These are boneless and skinless, but with just a bit of seasoning and olive oil, this recipe reminds me a bit of fried chicken. Not only is it healthier than fried chicken, it’s easier to make. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269512358930672295/
    • Baked Fish. I admit I wasn’t a big fan of fish in the past. Once I realized that fish really is good for you and doesn’t have many calories, I became a convert. I still only like the meaty white fish, but it’s a start. I buy wild caught Mahi Mahi from Trader Joe’s and with just a little olive oil spray, seasonings, and lemon, it makes a great meal in less than 15 minutes.
    • Zucchini lasagna. First, let me say, this takes a bit of prep work. Sure, using pasta noodles instead of zucchini would make it easier, but I think the zucchini actually tastes better than pasta and, of course, it’s fewer calories! I’ve recruited the whole family to help me make this dish and that in itself makes it a fantastic meal! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269512358930794427/
  • Prepared meals are a necessity, too! Listen, we all have days when dinner needs to be quick and easy. Here are a few meals that make my life a little easier some days:
    • Prepared salads are fast, easy and tasty. Trader Joe’s has a wonderful selection of salads, but you really need to read the labels. I always check the calories on each salad. Remember, salad doesn’t always equal healthy. Salad dressings and toppings can be full of fats, sugars, and calories. My current favorite is the Lemon Chicken & Arugula Salad. It’s a nice mix of flavors and only 300 calories for the whole package!
    • Pre-seasoned meats. While I mentioned earlier I’m not a big fan of crock pot meals made with canned soups, there are days I don’t have a lot of time to prep a meal. My go-to pre-seasoned meat is Trader Joe’s Cabernet Beef Pot Roast. It’s flavorful and we always have leftovers. Some days, you just need to let someone else do some of the work for you.

Again, I’m not a fancy cook by any means, but I’ve learned a few tricks to make my meals better:

  • Flavored salts go a long way to make food better. Almost every day I use Eatwell Farms flavored salts that I buy at our local farmers’ market. Rosemary salt goes on thinly cut pork chops while heirloom tomato salt is perfect on roasted vegetables. To add more flavor to baked fish, I use the lemon salt.
  • Switch things up! I admit that I get in a rut when it comes to cooking. I tend to do the same meals over and over. While it does make life easier, it also makes dinner boring. I’ve learned to mix things up; not every Tuesday needs to be Taco Tuesday. I also plan to change how we eat our favorite meals like fish. Baked fish is great, but why not make it into fish tacos?
  • Getting the whole family involved in cooking is fun. Of course my kids love to bake cookies every Christmas, but I finally noticed that they enjoy cooking all year round. My kids love to help in the kitchen and I’ve learned that they can do more than I realized. Somehow I always end up being the one to chop onions, but they like to chop other vegetables and brown the meats on the stove. The zucchini lasagna has become a family meal from prep to cooking to eating!

Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoy the occasional take-out meal and restaurants. Who doesn’t? And sometimes you have to eat the best and quickest way you can that night. But now that I put effort into meal planning and recruited the best sous chefs, we have better meals. Learning to cook and appreciating healthy and tasty food is one of the best results of my healthier lifestyle. The fact that I am sharing this with my children is even better. I am thankful I can share this positive effect of my weight loss journey as I continue to go Down the Scale…

I love that the whole family takes part in cooking dinner.  Zucchini Lasagna is our current favorite!

I love that the whole family takes part in cooking dinner. Zucchini Lasagna is our current favorite!

Keeping the Vacation Alive…

With my hat and shorts, I was ready to start Summer Vacation 2016! Being comfortable in my own skin is one of the best rewards of my weight loss journey!

With my hat and shorts, I was ready to start Summer Vacation 2016! Being comfortable in my own skin is one of the best rewards of my weight loss journey!

Another summer is winding down and it will soon be time to get back to the “real world.” You know, the world that includes a schedule, rules, and hard work for children and their parents. There is something to be said for a bit more structure in life, but I must admit I’ve really enjoyed the relaxed months of summer. Besides my children fighting with each other, this summer was full of days of “let’s see where the day takes us.” Our 12 day vacation to the East Coast was full of those kind of days. I also realized that for me it was full of really active days, which before my gastric sleeve surgery, wouldn’t have happened.

I decided to really enjoy this summer and not pressure myself about losing weight or exercising. Without this pressure, I realized I didn’t go too crazy with my bad eating habits and I kept active naturally. This is what happened on vacation:

*Food was enjoyable, but not the end all, be all of the vacation. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t look forward to every meal in New Orleans. It is an amazing place for food! I’ve learned to savor special foods and meals, but that doesn’t mean overindulging. One beignet gives me the same satisfaction as three beignets would in the past. Certain foods and drinks like pralines and Pimm’s Cups I only eat or drink when I’m in New Orleans so I know that it’s a treat. My weight loss journey has taught me to enjoy the treats because they’re special and not everyday food.

Here I am overlooking Jackson Square on my 7AM run in New Orleans. It was well worth the heat and humidity to run through this beautiful city. And the beignet at the end didn't hurt.

Here I am overlooking Jackson Square on my 7AM run in New Orleans. It was well worth the 80 degree heat and humidity to run through this beautiful city. And the beignet at the end didn’t hurt, either.

*I realized “formal” exercise on vacation can be fun. OK, full disclosure here…I only ran once on my trip. The only vacation I’ve run on was in May for the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon, so this was a big step! 7AM on a hot and humid morning, I was out there running through the French Quarter. It will go down as one of my favorite runs. Not that I ran fast or for very long, but on this run I really felt like a runner. What I mean is that I didn’t run for any particular goal, I ran because it felt good. I didn’t run with any music as I normally do; I took in the sights, sounds and some unfortunate smells from Bourbon Street. This run was also for research for the novel I’m working on, but I would do this run over and over just for the joy it gave me. And yes, I did end the run at Cafe Du Monde. I earned that beignet that morning!

*Nothing reminded me more of the success of my weight loss than being active. Now, I’m not talking about formal exercise, but just the fun activities you do on vacation. Walking around New Orleans in 90+ degree weather isn’t as draining as it was when I was obese. On one day, between running and touring the French Quarter, I went 8.5 miles that day. I would have been miserable if I had even tried that before my surgery; actually I wouldn’t have tried to cover that much ground. I try not to think about the activities and places I missed in the past when I wasn’t interested in being active. I am thankful I have the body and mindset to appreciate the places I get to go now as a healthy person.

*Letting go of my body issues means more fun, especially on vacation. I shared a few years back about how I’ve learned to wear bathing suits and sleeveless shirts without care, and this vacation I took this to heart. Yes, my thighs are wrinkly and flabby, but who cares? My arms aren’t full of muscles, but sleeveless shirts are comfy and look good! Now that I have a properly fitted swimsuit, I am out in the pool and beach with everyone else. Really, when you feel confident you look good, not matter what size you are. So there I was at the pool and the beach enjoying my time with my family, not thinking about how I looked. When the waves at the Atlantic Ocean knocked me over, I just pulled up my suit, brushed my hair off my face and went back to laughing with the people I love spending time with the most. Thank goodness I learned to appreciate my body for what it can do!

A visit to Florida isn't complete without a trip to the beach! Neither getting into a bathing suit or the big waves kept me from having fun in the surf with my family!

A visit to Florida isn’t complete without a trip to the beach! Neither getting into a bathing suit or the big waves kept me from having fun in the surf with my family!

There was one day in particular that summed up my new life as a healthy person. My fun-loving sister brought 300 water balloons for us to play with at my parents’ home. Yes, three adults and four children were going to have an epic water balloon battle. I shared with my sister that I wouldn’t have wanted to take part in something like this before my weight loss. When you’re obese, the thought of being in a bathing suit and running around is terrifying. I know three years ago, I would have watched from the sidelines, smiling at everyone else, but feeling sad that I wasn’t part of it.

As I ran around the yard, dodging water balloons and chasing everyone, I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. Well, first, I’ll admit it was really, really fun to throw water balloons at my children. While it will never make up for the years of watching Power Ranger at 5AM during their toddler years, it was satisfying to run after them during the battle. And I know they loved chasing their mom around knowing there would be no repercussions for dousing their mother with water!

If you want to feel like a kid again, start a water balloon fight! Running around after losing weight is so much fun!

If you want to feel like a kid again, start a water balloon fight! Getting to chase your kids with water balloons is the best therapy ever!   Running around after losing weight is so much fun!.

The battle was short, but oh, so, very sweet. I can’t think of a better example of how far I’ve come in my weight loss journey. I didn’t think about how I would look in photos, wearing a bathing suit and running around like a crazy person. I got out there and took part of a fun and special moment on our vacation. I didn’t let the fun happen around me…I was part of the fun! Being present and contributing to a happy moment in my family’s life was life affirming, as dramatic as that may sound.

Now that summer is ending, I hope I can keep these positive attitudes and actions as part of my scheduled life. When I want to eat another protein bar, I want to remember that sweetness and fullness that one beignet gave me. When I want to skip a run, I want to remember the joy and sense of accomplishment of running through the hot and humid French Quarter. When my kids ask me to play with them, I want to remember the silliness and fun of our water balloon fight. I can’t spend my entire life on vacation, but I know I can keep the spirit of it alive as I continue to go Down the Scale…

Three Years and Counting: My Gastric Sleeve Anniversary Month!

The month of June means many things to people, like the start of summer, but for me it’s my three-year anniversary of my gastric sleeve surgery! I find that every year brings new challenges; surgery does not mean instant and constant success. On my three-year anniversary I find I am still working harder than ever to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This past year is full of successes and failures, so let me share what I’ve learned this year…

From 2013 to 2016, I've made many changes to my life through gastric sleeve surgery!

From 2013 to 2016, I’ve made many changes to my life through gastric sleeve surgery!

First, I’ll start with the failures. Well, maybe failure isn’t the right word, but at times my mistakes or missteps feel like overwhelming failures. First, I’ve gained weight this year. I’m up eight pounds from last year. It feels like I’ve gained a ton of weight, especially when I put on my jeans. Tight jeans are not fun nor comfortable. The fact I can put them on still is a relief, but at the end of the day, I can’t wait to get them off.

So what happened this year? A few things, but I must admit, I’ve had a bit of an invincibility complex.

Here are a few of my thoughts this year:

  • “Hey, I’ve maintained almost a 100+ pound weight loss at times, so I’ll get these extra pounds off in no time!”
  • “I’ll just eat a pastry with my coffee today, but not the next time.” Guess what I did the next time?
  • “I’ll just walk or run more and I’ll burn off those extra snacks I had today.”
  • “I’ve kept off 90 pounds, isn’t that enough?”

I always laugh when I read online about how gastric sleeve surgery is a short-cut and the easy way out. Well, I’m here to tell you that gastric sleeve surgery is not an easy lifetime fix. Sure, I lost over 100 pounds in a little more than a year, but weight loss still isn’t easy for me. I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble who is thinking about weight loss surgery, but I think it’s important to be honest about the reality of surgery.

Sure, my small stomach keeps me from eating too much at one time. I still eat smaller meals, but snacking is still a problem. And if I decide to treat myself with food like chips, I can eat more of that than I can something like vegetables or fruit. This year I’ve fallen into the trap of pretending that one little treat like chips or sweets really doesn’t add up. Um, yes, yes, it does!

This year it was like I had a Superman logo on my chest, but mine said “GSS” for gastric sleeve surgery. The sleeve is not a shield keeping me from food. It’s not a shield from the stress and depression I experience. Yes, food can be my Kryptonite, but unlike Superman, I can’t avoid it. I have to eat to live.

So since June 2015, I’ve told myself that the weight I’ve gained will come off easily when I get to it. Well, now that June 2016 is here and that hasn’t happened, I’ll call part of this year’s journey a failure.

It’s not a complete failure, though! While this weight gain is hanging around my neck, or actually it’s hanging around my stomach and thighs to be specific, I ‘m going to take this time to think of what has gone right this year. Yes, I feel like I do have some successes to share on my anniversary! Some highlights from this year are:

  • I ran a half-marathon! Yes, this woman who didn’t consider herself athletic three years ago, ran 13.1 miles… for fun! I followed a training plan and did it. Yes, I am very proud of myself! I set a goal to do it and I did it with the overwhelming help and support of my family and friends.
  • I sought help during the most stressful times. I found that acupuncture and therapy were two ways I could improve my health, both physically and mentally. There are times when you need people outside your family and friends to help you see the big picture and to work on ways to improve your health. There is no shame in asking for help when life get tough.
  • I didn’t buy bigger clothes. To some, this might seem like a strange success, but in the past, I would just buy larger clothes when I gained weight. Trust me, it’s easier to buy clothes than lose weight, but it doesn’t make you feel any better. I’ve been tempted to buy the next size up in jeans, but I won’t let myself. I know that I can maintain my current size with a little room to spare.

After having a year filled with failures and successes, where do I go from here? I think acknowledging how my failures have come about is the first and most important step in my continuing journey. I need to be accountable for the foods I eat and I’ve gone back to tracking my food on MyFitnessPal. I’m aware of what I’m eating, and more importantly, when I’m eating. Realizing that I’m eating when I feel stressed or bored, is helping me think about it. I’m saying no to sweets with my coffee and realizing that I’m just has satisfied without them.

Creating new goals is helping me keep a positive mindset which in turns keeps me healthy. If my mind isn’t occupied I tend to snack and be less mindful of what I’m eating. Last year my big goal was to run a half-marathon, but I’m not adding a full-marathon to my goals. I’m not that crazy…well, not yet at least. Here are some new goals I have come up with:

  • Write more! I keep saying I’m going to turn my blog into a book and that I want to write my first mystery novel. Well, no time like the present! I’ve learned that I need to separate my writing time from my “mom time.” Trying to concentrate at my house with all my “home responsibilities” is tough for me. I’m learning to get over the guilt of “me time” and learn to accept the help my ever-supportive husband gives me with a thank you and then head out the door.
  • Find new types of exercise! I will always run because I love it, but I know I need to try new exercises to help my body and mind stay healthy. I’m starting small with the seven minute workout app that features body weight exercises. This might be the year to add in yoga regularly or start Pilates. I’m open to new workouts, but I’ll never say no to a run.
  • Have more faith! What in the world does this mean? Well, when life is tough, I tend to feel it with every bit of my heart, head and soul. Sure, I make statements like “Everything happens for a reason.” and “It always works out for the best.”, and while I do believe it, I don’t always act like that. I can get depressed, stressed, and angry about things, many of which I can’t control. While I always pull myself out of this state, some times my feelings go on for too long. And I know this affects my health, especially when I use food to numb or comfort myself. I hope that writing, exercising, talking it out, and some good old-fashioned prayer will get me through the pain and stress faster, and hopefully, lessen these situations.

While it’s been a tough three-year anniversary, I’m thankful that I can share the ups and downs of my weight loss journey. Keeping off 90+pounds for these past years is a success and I remind myself of that every day. And I will also remind myself that losing weight isn’t a onetime moment for me. I will always have to work on my health; it’s just part of who I am. Accepting my shortcomings as well as taking pride in my successful traits, is an important part of my journey as I continue to go Down the Scale toward year four….

Tangible Versus Intangible: Thank Goodness for Both

Today my ever-supportive husband hung up the wonderful running bib and medal holder he made for me. Since I started running in 2012, my bibs and medals have been scattered around the house. It was wrong to treat them as knick knacks because they aren’t just meaningless objects. The awards from the races are tangible rewards of my heathy lifestyle that I started with my gastric sleeve surgery and continue to strive for each and every day.

"I Did It!" Why, yes, I did run all these races featured on my new display. It still amazes me that running is part of my life. From obese to a runner...my Down the Scale journey makes me so happy!

“I Did It!” Why, yes, I did run all these races featured on my new display. It still amazes me that running is part of my life. From obese to a runner…my Down the Scale journey makes me so happy!

Since I’ve become the healthier version of myself over the years, I’ve realized I have many tangible results. Obviously I look different. I’m in better shape and happier than I was before I took charge of my body and mind. Photos from the past compared to the present show the obvious difference. Smaller sized clothes, a collection of race t-shirts, and a closet of running shoes and accessories also prove my new lifestyle is a reality.

The way I live my life is more tangible proof that I’ve changed for the better over the years. While I’m still battling some weight gain this year, I am healthier according to my scale and by my blood work. My normal blood pressure and “regular” sized clothes are part of my life now. Now that walking and running are part of my life, I can see how sedentary I was before I made the decision to change my lifestyle.

So what are the intangible results of living healthier? In some ways, the way my life has improved since my surgery is hard to quantify. Everyone can see results through numbers and pictures, but I think the “hidden” improvements are the best. My improved disposition is measurable proof that a healthy lifestyle does make a difference. Trust me, I’m not overly perky or positive, but I don’t think I’m Debbie Downer either. And of course, I still battle stress and depression, but I know that I handle it better than before. When I face difficult challenges, both physically and mentally, I know I will get through them. My weight loss story shows me every day that I can tackle what life hands me!

My new race display perfectly represents my journey. It shows my successes in a tangible way, but when I look at it, I see more than medals and finishing times. I see that I take on challenges and that I finish them. Some races were easy and some were hard, but I didn’t shy away from a difficult test of my physical and mental abilities. My race display encourages me to keep working toward new running goals and to keep trying new races. While the board shows the tangible results of running, in my heart I know it’s also proof that all the intangible results of my hard work are there too. Here’s to adding more medals and positive changes to my Down the Scale journey…

Another Goal Met: My Half-Marathon and More!

Yes, I did it! I ran my first half-marathon on May 8, 2016! Sometimes I can’t believe I went from this woman in her first 5K race in 2012 to this woman who ran her first half-marathon!

Here I am celebrating at my first half-marathon and my first 5K! Gastric sleeve surgery has changed me in so many ways!

Here I am celebrating at my first half-marathon and my first 5K! Gastric sleeve surgery has changed me in so many ways!

What was it like to run 13.1 miles? I’ve thought a lot about it this past week and I finally decided the best way to describe it is to compare it to my weight loss journey. Let me share the ways…

First, committing to a half-marathon was like committing to my gastric sleeve surgery. I wanted to change-up my running routine and a half-marathon seemed like the right choice. In August I registered for the Disneyland Tinker Bell marathon and then I knew there was no turning back. It was like when I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery. I started in October 2012 researching this life-changing procedure and had to wait until June 2013 to have the surgery due to my insurance company’s rules.

Waiting for a major event is tough. It gives you time to worry if you’re making the right decision. You question if this really is the right thing to do. Now, running a half-marathon isn’t quite like reconfiguring your stomach, but committing to new things can be scary. And just like when I announced on my blog that I was having surgery, I proclaimed that I would run a half-marathon. For me, sharing my goals helps me be accountable for my actions. When your friends and family want to know how your prep work is going for a new goal, you can’t hide!

Just like I prepared for the half-marathon, I had prepared for my surgery. I did all the homework on how my life would change with the sleeve. Weight loss surgery is a physical change and of course, it means you change your eating habits and exercise routine. But it is also a very mental change and in some ways, it’s the more difficult change you must make to be successful. I went on websites and I talked to people who had the surgery. I took in as much information as I could.

For the race, I also read as much as I could about running from magazines and websites. I joined Facebook groups about Disney races so I could prepare as best I could. During my race training, I reminded myself of all the changes I made to lose weight, so I shouldn’t let a training schedule scare me. Well, it did when I started. I followed Jeff Galloway’s program for the Tinker Bell run in the beginning. I changed it up when I had other races. I started the training with my first 15K which was not in schedule! It was a difficult race, but my local running partner, R., kept me going. We had to finish for the hot chocolate! Finishing this race gave me the confidence that I could do longer races, but it was a good reminder that it would be tough.

And I’ve tackled tough things during my Down the Scale journey. Weight gains, boredom, lack of confidence, stress and depression are just a few problems I’ve met and admittedly, I still fight. So even when my training runs became longer, I knew I could do it. I would do it my way, which to most runners is really slow. I run. I walk. I run again. My training pace was under the Disneyland required pace of 16 minutes per mile, but I worried about it anyway. I even tackled hills, including my beloved Golden Gate Bridge, to build my stamina and to try to quiet my fears. If I can run 12 miles throughout hilly San Francisco, what was 13.1 miles of flat Disneyland and Anaheim?

“It’s scary, that’s what!” This is what I said to myself at 5 AM on a dark Sunday morning when race day arrived. Fortunately, it was only a moment of doubt as my amazing race partner, B., kept me focused and excited about what was to come. Let me take this moment, to share how much it meant to me to have my friend, B., with me for this special day. I have known her for over 20 years and not only was she an incredible friend and sorority sister during our college days, she’s been there, via long distance though my adult life and my weight loss journey. When I asked if anyone would like to join me on this race last year, she said yes and flew across country to do it. B. is someone who I admire for so many reasons and to have her running next to me was more than I could ask for.

B. is one of many people who have supported and encouraged me since I started my journey. Listening to B.’s pre-race pep talk reminded me of all the people who have made my success possible. I remembered my fear of hitting the publish button on my first blog post, hoping I would be supported and not ridiculed for choosing weight loss journey.  A whole new world opened up to me, full of cheerleaders near and far. People shared their stories with me all while encouraging me to go after my dreams of a healthy life. By sharing my story, I have strengthened relationships and made new friendships that keep me going.

The smiling faces and cheers from strangers along the course reminded me of all the “real life” cheerleaders I have in my life. They have cheered me on during my successes, big and small! Now random strangers were encouraging to keep running (or keep swimming as it was a Disney race after all). From high school marching bands to the Red Hat Society women to Tinker Bell, there was joy and well wishes throughout the miles!

My amazing friend, B., with me at Radiator Springs during the race! Disney races are the perfect ones for first time races since you know you're doing to stop for photos!

My amazing friend, B., with me at Radiator Springs during the race! Disney races are the perfect ones for first time races since you know you’re doing to stop for photos!

Nothing is more exhilarating than to run through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Radiator Springs when you’re a Disney fan like me. I’ve thought about all the times I’ve walked both Disneyland and Disney World and before last year, not once did I think that I would run in the parks. I have always enjoyed Disney parks even when I was obese, but when I lost weight, these trips became even better. To think I’ve gone from worrying if I would fit in a ride to running through the parks in a half-marathon was a bit surreal.

Just like the struggles I faced in my beginning of my gastric sleeve journey, I struggled during the race. 13.1 miles is long. Really long. Especially at Mile 8. Yeah, you’ve gone 8 miles! Oh, shit, you have 5 to go!! My walking intervals became longer than my running intervals. I was chewing on my Sports Beans like they were crack. I dug deep in my head and heart to remind myself I could do this. My longest run was 12 miles so I knew my body could do it, even though my thighs were trying to disagree. It was my head and my soul that were struggling the most.

And just like when I doubt myself in my abilities to keep healthy, I turned to my support group. In this case, it was B. who knew just what to do. She started timing our intervals. She pointed out the amazing scenery and the encouraging crowds surrounding us. She reminded me again and again, of this special race we were running and that we would could do it! I will be forever thankful for her determination to keep me going and for her reminders that I could succeed.

What also kept me going was seeing my ever-supportive hubby and kids near the finish line. They are 3 of the biggest reasons I had surgery and that I continue to work on my health. They support me in everything I do and this race was no exception. While I was pretty excited to see Captain Hook at the end of race, it was the smiling faces of my family that made me cry. I hope that my kids see that even though their Mommy is a bit crazy and stressed a times, that she’s also silly enough to dress like Tic Tock Croc and run 13.1 miles for fun! I’m not sure if they’ll ever know how much they help me to achieve my goals. I just hope that seeing me set up goals and then meet them, even with much difficulty, will encourage them to do the same.

Running over the finish line made me cry, too! B. turned to me and said, “You did it!” and that just made me cry more. It also made the woman next to me cry, too, after she hugged me. And that is also another amazing thing about sharing your joy…it affects everyone around you! The best running races are the ones where everyone encourages each other, and the Tinker Bell race was one of those! Even though I’m sure the woman giving out medals was exhausted, she took the time to let B. take a photo of me getting my medal.

I'm sweaty and exhausted, but excited and amazed that I finished my first half-marathon!

I’m sweaty and exhausted, but excited and amazed that I finished my first half-marathon!

And while this isn’t the most flattering photo of me from the race, I think it’s an important one to share. Yes, I’m sweaty and exhausted from the run, but I was overwhelmed with emotion receiving my medal. For me, it’s like an Olympic medal! From stumbling through my first 5K as an obese woman to running a half-marathon as a healthy woman, here I was, a better version of myself that I never dreamed was possible. Pushing myself through the race was just like pushing myself throughout this weight loss journey for the past three years. I chose to set a goal and I followed through. This is my success.

The post-race day is a bit of a tired blur. I had time to shower, take family photos with B. and enjoy beignets with no guilt. We left that same day and the car ride home was long. My thighs complained for 2 days about the race, but the rest of me was actually in good shape. I did take a week off from running, but I’ve started back up. Somehow, it’s not as fun without the cheering crowds and views of Disneyland, but it always feels good to run.

Yes, I’m back to running and I haven’t picked my next race. No, it’s not going to be a marathon! Honestly, having run 13.1 miles, I can’t even fathom running twice that amount! Even with my B. as my coach, I think I half-marathons are my max! I have set some new running goals though. I want to work on my pace and endurance. Running will always be my first love when it comes to exercise and while I want to keep physically improving, I don’t want to lose the positive mental benefits I get from it. Goals are important, but making them reasonable is important too.

Thank you to everyone who supported me during my training and my race. From my first cheerleader, N., who started me running to R. who runs with me locally to A. who restructured my training schedule and took me out to celebrate my race, I am incredibly blessed to have so many people like them in my life. When I started on journey 3 years ago, I thought it was just about losing weight. It turned out to be so much more. I became heathy. I became a runner. I became a writer. I became the person I wanted to be, but never thought I could be. Once I started sharing my fears along with my goals, I was finally able to tackle my weight as well as my mental health. While I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning, the most important thing I’ve realized is that I can do what I want to do! It’s not always easy and failure is part of the process, but it’s a journey worth taking. I plan to keep running and keep setting goals as I continue to go Down the Scale…

Nothing is better than celebrating your half-marathon with your running partner afterward! We stopped for photos before beignets!

We did it!  Nothing is better than celebrating your first half-marathon with your running partner afterward! We stopped for photos before beignets!