Tag Archives: Change

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….

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Sharing the Good After Sharing the Bad…

When I post a blog entry like last week’s From Shame to Hope, I always worry about how it will be received. I seem to forget that every time I share a difficult situation I’m having in my weight loss journey, I always feel better afterward. By sharing my experience, I feel a huge sense of relief. Being honest is difficult, but so rewarding. And let’s talk about all the support and encouragement I receive from family and friends. It’s a good reminder that once you share your problems, you are not alone.

Here I am wearing my new workout clothes while hiking on a different route with a great friend! Changing up my routines is doing wonders for my gastric sleeve journey!

Here I am wearing my new workout clothes while hiking on a different route with a great friend! Changing up my routines is doing wonders for my gastric sleeve journey!

In last week’s blog, I came up with some plans to get out of my funk. What I found was that changing things up really worked! Here’s what I did:

*Acupuncture! I thought it was time to approach my health in a different way. I had a short, but pleasant experience at my sister’s wedding last spring. I kept thinking I should try it and one of my biggest supporters, N., has told me for months about her acupuncturist.  I finally went to her last week and what a great session! The doctor was informative and calming. No, the needles didn’t bother me at all. The hardest part was relaxing for 25 minutes! I am going back this week. I think coming at my stress and weight gain from a different angle will help me immensely.

*New Workout Clothes! Once I committed to running about three years ago, I made sure to buy nice workout clothes. I figured if I wanted to be a runner I should dress the part. Once again my friend, N., helped me this week by taking me to Lululemon for the first time. I’m not sure I would have gone on my own as a store that sells nothing larger than a size 10 still intimidates me. N., my personal fashion consultant found (on sale!) a new pair of running Capri pants and my first running skirt. She assured me that I’m not too old for ruffles on my booty, so I bought the skirt with my Tinker Bell Half Marathon in mind.

*Apple Watch! Yes, this was a huge splurge. It’s an early anniversary present from my amazing hubby. Trust me, its way more romantic of a gift than flowers! I ran with a Garmin watch before, but recently started looking into a FitBit as I wanted to track my overall health. Fortunately, I have an extremely tech-savvy husband who did the research for me. He concluded that an Apple Watch was the best investment. Who I am to argue? I love seeing my walking and running stats. I love that it reminds me to stand up and move around every hour. I also like that it connects to MyFitnessPal so I can easily track my exercise along with my food intake.

OK, by now you’re thinking, “Jen, you’re spending a lot of money to get out of that funk!’ Trust me, the spending, or the monetary investing of my health, is done. And while all these purchases have helped, I also made “free” changes this week like:

*Food journaling! Yes, I hate it, but it really does help. I’ve decided to track my food on Monday through Thursday to start. If my weight loss continues, I think this will be a less stressful tool. MyFitnessPal does make it easier to track my diet and helps me be aware of my mindless snacking.

*Changing up my exercise routine! Each week I make plans to meet up with one or two friends to exercise with. Sometimes it’s running, some times it’s walking. I will learn how to run and talk at the same time! I’m also changing up my program by extending my exercise time, adding stairs, and changing my routes to keep inspired and challenged.

*Positive Mindset! This is the most important change I’ve made this week. Some days you just have to scream at yourself (OK, in your head, not aloud) and say “You’ve got it pretty damn good!” To have a loving family, supportive friends, and a healthy body and mind shouldn’t be taken for granted. Sometimes you just need to step back and look at yourself from the outside.

I’m happy to share that all these changes helped me lose three pounds this week! I am thrilled with the weight loss and the positive changes I made this week. Yes, I’m out of my funk and heading back Down the Scale…

Are We There Yet?

This week I had my one year followup to my tummy tuck/hernia repair surgery. Dr. C. examined my fading scar and said it looked great and to let him know if I needed anything else in the future. Otherwise we were done.

I thanked him and left smiling as I am thrilled with my results, but the word “done” stuck in my head. I never feel done with anything, especially when it comes to my weight loss. Will I ever feel done with my weight loss journey?

I will keep running toward a healthy life as my gastric sleeve journey evolves!

I will keep running toward a healthy life as my gastric sleeve journey evolves!

To be honest, no, I never will be done. For one, I will always struggle with food. Am I a food addict? I don’t necessarily think so, but I definitely can overeat. The gastric sleeve surgery keeps me from overeating in one sitting, but I can eat through the day and night if I’m not conscious of it. Gastric sleeve surgery does not take the desire to “stress eat” away.

My surgery started my path to a healthy physical and mental life, but it was by no means a quick fix. Yes, it did help me lose weight very quickly and that gave me the motivation and instant gratification to change my lifestyle. To keep the weight off and stay healthy is up to me now. I’ve seen how mindless eating and stress lower my desire and confidence in my healthy lifestyle. No, my weight loss journey is not done.

When I think about it, though, it’s not truly a weight loss journey that I’m on now. Oh, I still have at least 10 pounds I’d like to lose, but my focus is on being healthy in body and mind. In many ways, a healthy mind and soul keeps my body in check. When I’m depressed or anxious, I want to be immediately comforted. In the past, food was my comfort. Food gave me pleasure and distracted me from my true feelings. Since I’m determined not to gain back the 100 pounds I lost, what do I do now?

I wish I had the complete answer to that question. Naturally I have some of the answers like exercising, eating properly and talking about my stress and depression. I am doing some of these things, but sometimes it isn’t enough. I need to learn to believe in myself and be comforted by my past successes and current achievements. Keeping off this much weight is a big deal! Exercising regularly and running races are successes!

But to be honest, sometimes it’s just not enough. It’s so easy to fall back on the failures of my journey. Those last 10 pounds taunt me from my scale. Some mornings my walk/run style of running feels pathetic as I watch “real” runners pass me by. Some days I feel utterly alone in my struggle to be positive and healthy.

So for anyone who thinks that gastric sleeve surgery is a cure-all, I am here to share that it is not. Don’t we all wish for a magic pill to fix what ails us? My journey continually reminds me that to be the person I want to be, I have to work for it. No one else can do it for me. I can’t do it for my husband, kids or my friends. It will always be me who is in control of my behavior and attitude.

Now this doesn’t mean I am always alone. I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive network of family, friends and doctors to lean on. I am still learning to reach out. I hate feeling like a burden. I feel like I shouldn’t have to ask for help this far in my journey. Aren’t people tired of helping? Of course the answer is no. The people who love you want to support you. Fortunately I have people in my life who remind me that they’re there for me. I hope I am there for them, too.

So, basically, my answer is “No, I’m not there yet.” For me, my weight loss turned healthy life journey will need to evolve as I do. Sometimes it will be about losing weight. Sometimes it will be about motivating myself to eat right and exercise. Sometimes it will be about fighting depression. It will always be about being the healthiest woman I can be in this lifetime. And that will keep me going Down the Scale…

The Latest Balancing Act

Here I am about a year and a half into my gastric sleeve journey and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s one big balancing act. I feel like I’m a kid playing on a teeter totter by myself. I’m always trying to find that sweet spot on it. There’s a thrill when I’m out of balance, but what I really want is the joy of being in the middle with a sense of control.

JenFeb2015

I will admit I am more confident having my picture taken now that I’m 100+ pounds lighter. While we did take a family photo with Thor at Disneyland, I wanted one alone with him. Who wouldn’t?

What am I trying to balance these days? In the beginning of my journey, it was relatively easy to keep balanced with my success and failure. With the weight coming off quickly, I was motivated and excited. People noticed and complimented me regularly. My body, my mental state and my spirit were constantly changing. Although the journey was difficult and at times I stalled or doubted my abilities, I was always changing for the better.

Now that I’ve maintained the same weight for six weeks, I’m happy and disappointed. I’m still about nine pounds away from my initial goal weight. I feel sad, but I also feel healthy and strong at this weight. I’ve gone from a size twenty-two to a size ten so I really can’t complain…but I really want to be size eight. I can run faster than ever, but I still do a combination of running and walking. I am in the best shape of my life, but some days all I see is flab and stretch marks.

So I find myself balancing success and disappointment. I wonder, though, wouldn’t it be OK to just learn to enjoy where I am right now in my journey. Isn’t it all right to be happy with what I’ve done so far? Isn’t it enough?

Perhaps it is enough, but I worry that thinking that way will make me complacent in maintaining my health. Because that’s my usual modus operandi. I’ve achieved weight loss goals many, many times in my life…for a short time. In the past, my success was always short-lived as I let any type of real or perceived crisis, depression or even happy events like my pregnancies disrupt my healthy path. The weight would always come back as I would just give up until the next time. The cycle always continued. I am terrified of this happening again. But I’m also exhausted of stressing about my weight. How do I balance this fear with the joy of being a continually healthy person?

My first plan of attack is to add new goals that will help maintain my weight loss. I really enjoy running 5K races so my new goal is to run a 10K race in April. I hope this new goal will inspire me to keep up my running program and add in other exercise like yoga to keep fit. I also think making reasonable goals is important. Jumping from 5K races to marathons would be foolish on my many levels, but mostly it would be setting myself up for disappointment and failure.

An important part of my continuing success is setting new, realistic goals. Losing so much weight so quickly was amazing and made me feel very powerful. The new achievements I reach for aren’t going to be quite dramatic and I need to be OK with that.

I also need to find a sense of accomplishment and success outside my weight loss journey. Just as I learned I could be and needed to think of myself as more than a mother and a wife, I need to learn that I’m more than just a person who lost 100+ pounds. I’m still working on this. I hope that writing will give me the sense of power and pride and perhaps even become a career. I’m sure I can find many other goals. It’s time for me to try, isn’t it?

It’s back to the teeter totter I go. Learning to be proud and content with my success and learning to strive for new goals is my new balancing act this year. Although I’m not going “down the scale” literally any more, I know that I have much more to accomplish in my life.

Making an Investment

Next week I head back to the hospital for another procedure since my gastric sleeve surgery. I am excited as well as extremely nervous about my next step to creating the healthiest body I can have. My surgeons will repair the damage to my body by fixing my incisional vertical abdominal hernia and removing excess skin. Committing to more surgery was a difficult decision, but I finally realized that this surgery is just another step in my continuing process of taking care of me.

I have an abdominal hernia from my two c-sections. I never felt quite “put back together” after my first c-section, but I felt a little better after my second so I never really gave my protruding stomach much thought. Since I was obese I just assumed my asymmetrical stomach was normal. It wasn’t until my gastric sleeve surgeon asked me if I knew I had a hernia that I even knew my abdomen wasn’t normal.

15 months after my gastric sleeve surgery and I'm still making changes to be the best "me" I can be!

15 months after my gastric sleeve surgery and I’m still making changes to be the best “me” I can be!

Aside from the displeasing aesthetic look, the hernia didn’t really bother me until almost a year after my gastric sleeve surgery. My running speed and endurance were increasing since I had lost about 100 pounds. I was excited and looking into 5K races. Then the pain started. I couldn’t run without stopping for the pain in my lower right abdomen. After another run cut short by pain, I knew I had to fix the hernia.

Fortunately, my gastric sleeve surgeon could fix my hernia so I headed back to him to schedule the surgery. I just assumed it would be a simple procedure like my sleeve. A few incisions, a night in the hospital and then I’d head home and start running in a few weeks. “No,” was the simple answer Dr. J gave me at my appointment. My assumptions were wrong. This surgery involves pushing my intestines back through my muscles then stitching the muscles up and then my incisions. I’m sure my disappointment and fears showed on my face. I thought I could have this done at the beginning of summer and be back up and running (literally) quickly. This was just a tad more involved, to say the least.

Dr. J added to my fear by telling me that the incisions could get infected easily, especially with all the excess skin I have from my weight loss. He recommended I go see a plastic surgeon to discuss having the skin removed (similar to a tummy tuck). I’m sure I looked at him like he was crazy. Me going to a plastic surgeon? I’m the fat chick aren’t I? It took me a minute to realize that I’m not the obese woman I was before and that plastic surgery was a viable option now. I made the appointment that day to see Dr. C, a plastic surgeon that Dr. J regularly works with on these types of surgery.

My appointment with Dr. C went better than I could have imagined. He’s a calm, practical doctor who answered every question I could think of during my appointment. He showed me pictures of other patients who were like me; seeing proof that my abdomen could actually look normal was thrilling. I appreciated his honesty in telling me my stomach would be better, but I wouldn’t have the abs of a 20-year-old. His office emailed the financial estimate the next day and the ever-supportive hubby and I went through the details together.

Dave and I talked about the surgery and the expected positive outcome for me both physically and mentally. Having the hernia fixed will make me better physically and going back to running will help physically and mentally. I miss running more than I imagined. Even with all the positive reasons to have both surgeries, I was still reluctant. Surgery doesn’t just affect me, but my whole family. After surgery I will have to rely on my family and friends even more than I do now. My husband is going to have to take more of the household and children responsibilities all while maintaining a demanding work schedule. I will need to ask my friends for help in getting my children to school and to their after school activities. The financial burden weighed heavily on my mind, too.

With all these negatives, all it took was one simple sentence from the ever-supportive hubby to make me see the light. Dave looked at me and said, “You’re making an investment.” Besides telling me he loved me for the first time and asking me to marry him, he has never said anything more loving and sexy to me. The person I love thinks that the steps I take to be a happy and healthy person are worthwhile. This was all I needed to hear and I emailed both surgeons to start the process for these next surgeries.

I now realize that my whole weight loss journey is about investing in me. Everything that I do to make me a healthier and happier person is well worth it. Any positive change I make in my life from losing weight to surrounding myself with positive people, is simply an investment in my present and future life. My Down the Scale journey will continue with a variety of investments including my upcoming hernia and tummy tuck surgeries. Who better to invest in than me?

Surprise, Surprise, This isn’t Really that Easy..

My new life began 10 weeks ago with my gastric sleeve surgery. 40 pounds down! My body is changing as expected, but it is the emotional changes that are the biggest surprise. I thought I was prepared for the emotional changes, but I am embarrassed to admit, I was wrong. I was nowhere near ready to deal with the feelings, stress, highs and lows that my new lifestyle would bring. Time to deal with them now, and I don’t think it is going to be pretty.

Starting a weight loss journey is something I’ve done many times, but this time it is extreme. The surgery permanently changed my body and while I knew I would have to change my mindset about food, I was naïve to think it would be simple. When food is your reward, your comfort, your stress reliever and your go-to friend for boredom for more than 40 years, changing your mindset is harder than you think.

Week 9 and on vacation!  A non-food oriented vacation was just what I needed.  Better yet, I loved it!

Week 9 and on vacation! A non-food oriented vacation was just what I needed. Better yet, I loved it!

Some lifestyle changes have been easy, like reducing my craving for sweet things. We were on our first vacation last week, and I didn’t find myself looking for the closest ice cream shop or candy store as I did in the past. We didn’t eat out much so I didn’t face temptation or feel deprived constantly. One of the few times we did eat out, I did indulge in a burger and fries. A half a burger and three french fries were all I could eat and it wasn’t that great. I would have enjoyed a salad more I think.  I hope I can keep that mind-set.

What helped me keep my mind off of food were all the outside activities we did each day. For a girl who used to say “that roughing it was a hotel without room service”, a vacation in Lake Tahoe was pretty radical. We hiked, we swam, we relaxed without making food a highlight of our trip. I guess this is what most people would consider normal, but for me, an emphasis on eating has always been part of my vacations. Treating myself to fattening food in large quantities was part of the vacation experience. This vacation showed me that having fun, by being physically active, is better than any food experience. I am thrilled I have changed my mindset, but I am more excited that my children will think of vacation as a fun time full of physical activities and not food.

So changing my food mindset on vacation wasn’t so hard, so what’s the problem? Every day life is now my problem. We came home from vacation to a stressful traffic weekend due to a three-day concert in our neighborhood. We came home to bills stacked up, loads of laundry and no food in the house. My commitment to my children’s’ school overwhelmed me even before we made it to our home. Real life slapped me in the face and I melted down quicker than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream.

Every day stress is nothing new, especially when coming home from a vacation, but this time I felt crazy, out of control and angry. Part of it could be the hormone changes from my surgery, but I think most of it is that my old way of comforting myself is gone. Oh, I could eat sugar or fatty food if I want to soothe myself, but only two ounces of it. I can’t gorge on food like I did in the past to numb myself. I have to handle stress in a different, more healthy way. This is the biggest struggle I think I have ever faced.

I haven’t handled it very well, I must admit. I have cried more this weekend than I can remember. Suddenly, every stress, every hurt, every betrayal I’ve felt is heightened. It’s not pretty or fun, but I am coming to terms that this is part of life…my new life, and I can’t ignore it. My numbing agent of food is gone. I come from a family of addicts and I am determined not to exchange my food addiction for another.

So, what am I going to do? Now that the tears are gone, I have decided that the first thing I need to do is acknowledge my stress, anger and pain. It’s here, but I think it’s also important for me to come to terms that having these feelings is normal, but how I handle it is what makes me who I am. I will not eat to deal with these feelings, I have to find ways of handling it like exercising, talking with my ever-supportive husband and friends, and of course, writing about my feelings.

The next part is probably the hardest for me. I’ve always wanted to please my family and friends even to the detriment of my sanity and happiness. I used to feel that if I made someone else happy, I would be happy. While I will always believe in a need for compromise, I am finally realizing my joy, my happiness, my peace are important, too. I need to stand up for myself. The consequences of this are not always good; I have lost family and friends because I am putting myself, my husband and children first. Realizing that I am not in charge of everyone’s happiness is still hard for me to believe, but the times I have stood up for myself, have made me realize this is right for me.

I am going to have to change commitments I made, say no to people and really think about my actions in terms of my physical and mental health. I can only hope I will find understanding and support from the people in my life. Saying no to people isn’t easy, just like saying no to food isn’t easy. This tough new journey Down the Scale is tougher than I imagined, but the thought of being healthy mentally and physically is too important to give up, no matter what struggles I face…