9 Months Post-0p

It’s been nine months since I had bariatric surgery. Time is just flying by!

Things that have changed since surgery:

  • I’m several dress sizes smaller. I have no idea what my pants size is because I no longer wear pants, but I imagine I’ve gone down a few pants sizes as well.
  • my hair is thinner–  this is a side effect of surgery and will hopefully go away, and I’ve been taking biotin to support hair growth. I think it’s working, I’m slowly starting to see some baby hairs growing. Hopefully this continues and I get all my hair back!
  • My shoes are too big. I didn’t really notice until about two weeks ago, but my feet have gotten smaller since surgery. I’m guessing that I’m down at least a half size, but more likely a full size. However, my feet are still wide so they will forever look weird in flats. *cries until the end of time*
  • I’ve eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet (which we’ve already talked about in previous posts).
  • I’m more tired AND I have more energy. I know that doesn’t really make sense but let me explain! Firstly, I get tired very easily doing simple things, like standing too long while taking a shower, or standing on Bart to or from work. I think it’s the combination of dehydration plus heat that makes me very faint (I’m still struggling to get enough water in postop). However, I have more energy to do things like climb flights of stairs to my office or go on hour-long walks with Kourtney or work out at home. So I’m both more tired and I have more energy.

More Letting Go (Diet Edition)

In addition to eliminating gluten and dairy, I’ve begun taking other steps to hopefully lessen/eliminate my PCOS symptoms. I’m going to be eliminating refined sugars from my diet in December, for instance. I’ve been reading a lot about sugar, and although I’m not convinced it’s a complete monster for the world I DO know that it’s a monster for my body, and that I really just need to stop eating it. However, sugar is in EVERYTHING, even fruits and veggies. It’s natural. So what I’m doing is eliminating refined sugars– you know, the little white crystals people pour in their coffee (or cereal, or whatever). I did a sugar detox in October and it did not go so well. It was a shit show. But I think now that I’ve eliminated gluten and dairy I’ve taken out most things with added sugar that I was really hooked on and I’ve been sticking to eating food made from home.  That in and of itself has reduced the amount of sugar I’m taking in! My biggest issue now is dealing with condiments (my beautiful, beloved condiments) and those totally delicious but slightly too high in sugar KIND bars I’ve been devouring over the last few weeks. Condiments are sneaky because you think you’re not using enough to really feel the sugary effects. However, I’ve noticed that as I’ve slowly eliminated foods with added sugar, I’ve come to rely on condiments to give me the sweetness I crave– I’ve been adding hoisin and sweet chili sauce to a lot of my meals recently. I need to cut that habit and start eating foods without sugary coating, ya know?

I’ve also fallen in love with KIND bars and Larabars. Most KIND bars are dairy and gluten free which means they’ve been fair game over the last few weeks. However, they are not exactly low sugar, and if you check their ingredients list you can see that it’s not coming from the natural sugars in fruit, it’s added sugar. Sad day for me. Most of the Larabars I like don’t have added sugar, and the sweetness you taste come from dates. However my favorite bar (peanut butter chocolate chip) has added sugar from the (dairy free) chocolate chips added. That might be the hardest snack to let go of, for me. It’s so delicious! And I love peanuts and chocolate together, it’s one of my favorite chocolate combinations! I’m going to take a harm reduction approach and reduce instead of an elimination approach. I know my limits!

Bariatric Life vs. Recovery

The bariatric team at Kaiser made it clear from the beginning that there are good foods and bad foods, foods that are okay to eat and foods that you should avoid. this is very different from when I was in therapy and we were told that food is neither good nor bad, it’s neutral and all fine in moderation. So you can see how I might struggle with trying to balance these to opposite and mutually exclusive ideas. I find that when I go about trying to stick with the bariatric meal guidelines my day ends up looking really strict, regimented and restrictive. That’s the nature of the plan, and also the nature of the process (I mean, they took out most of my stomach, so it’s obviously a restrictive surgery). However, the plan basically encourages eating disorder behavior. I can only eat 3 meals a day, and those meals are all 3oz (so I’m eating 9oz of food a day, just think about that), I can’t drink anything that is over 20 calories a serving, I eat my meals out of toddler bowls so I can’t over-indulge. If I were a skinny person, this behavior would be bizarre and cause for concern, right? But as a fat person this behavior is not only encouraged by the team, but also celebrated by almost everyone I interact with, whether it’s on instagram, facebook, or in real life.

If I were following this plan while in therapy I would’ve been strongly discouraged, my team would’ve saw it as cause for alarm. So I’m having a really hard time keeping to the baristric diet/lifestyle because I have their voices in the back of my mind, it just feels like giving into behaviors. But on the other hand I really want to stick to the heavy restriction because I think it’s the only way I can lose all the weight. I really don’t know how to just eat like a normal person. The problem (and this is the truly tragic part) is that there is so much pride associated with sustaining life with the least amount of food possible. It’s mind-boggling, being proud of eating only 2 ounces of food instead of three, like that’s some kind of grand accomplishment, like it makes me a better person in some weird twisted way. I have pride in myself when I restrict, and I truly think that people are also proud of me when I restrict, which is why the surgery was so compelling, such an irresistible option for me. It forces me to eat less, encourages me to think small and contained and little just about my food intake but about my body– because eating small means being small, and that is apparently more important to me than I thought. I always knew it was important to some extent to my family– they don’t really care about being thin but they definitely find being fat problematic– and important for society, but I thought that after all these years of therapy and self help books and body positive blogs that I would be somehow above the screwed up idea of fat inferiority. But now I’ve gone and cut out most of my stomach and I give myself a mental gold star when I’m under my calorie goal.

I think this is a problem that the bariatric team at Kaiser certainly didn’t prepare for, a problem that leaves me in a constant cycle of avoidance and overindulgence* of food. The healthy relationship with food I had hoped the surgery would foster has not been realized and I’m honestly not even sure it actually exists. Maybe this life is the one where I am at war with myself (hopefully this war will stay in this life and not cross over into the next).

 

* I can no longer overindulge/binge like I could before surgery but I think it’s important to note that even if it doesn’t have the calories of a binge it has the emotions of a binge and I think that counts for something.

The Only Constant is Change

Things that have changed since I’ve lost weight:

  • I eat less. My stomach can hold about 2, 3 ounces of food at a time. It makes eating out kind of awkward because I order a side or an appetizer and still end up leaving with a doggy bag.
  • The clothes I wore before I lost weight no longer fit– at least not very well. I have a pair of khaki capri pants I bought for my trip to Nola last year and they are now 3 or 4 sizes too big but the fabric is stiff enough that the pants still don’t fall down so I wear them as house pants. A light breeze would leave everyone with a view of my (way too big) underwear.
  • Speaking of clothes– I’m suddenly way into shopping now. I don’t know exactly why, because I shop at the same plus size stores just like before. But I think that the weight loss inspired me to buy new clothes (also, I made a commitment to a no pants lifestyle which meant I needed a new wardrobe).
  • I no longer chew gum. I no longer eat corn (popped, roasted, creamed, on the cob, whatever) or celery. I don’t drink caffeinated beverages or bubbly drinks. All I drink is water and it is depressing. I miss corn so damn much I can’t even really talk about it without getting really bummed out.
  • My digestive system seems so much louder. I can hear/feel my food moving around in my body, leaving my stomach and moving through my intestines. It’s really loud about it. Also gas. And I’m not very regular anymore. Another disappointment.
  • My hair is falling out. This is a side effect of the surgery and I KNEW it was going to happen so I’m not surprised but it’s a bit annoying. I think I’m going to start taking biotin to see if that will help with regrowth– hopefully this won’t be a side effect that lasts forever.
  • I pack all my foods in toddler sized tupperware to keep track of my portions. I get some weird looks at work about it, but no one asks about it which I appreciate.

 

Things that have NOT changed since I’ve lost weight:

  • I’m still depressed
  • I still deal with really bad self esteem and body image, and I have many days where I hate my body. I don’t see much change in how my body looks beyond more sagginess, more excess skin. I don’t find that to be terribly attractive, and I know it’s only going to get worse as I lose more weight.
  • I still have issues with food. I’m not going to diagnose myself with an eating disorder although I have been diagnosed in the past. However, I’m feeling the same feelings and using the same behaviors that I used when I was diagnosed, and I feel pretty out of control. I really wish this issue was simply part of my past but I’m beginning to realize that it’s part of my present and (most likely) my future.
  • I can still eat all the “bad” foods. I’ll feel physically ill, but not enough to learn my lesson. Just enough to make me feel like shit both physically and mentally. When I eat something with a regular amount of sugar I get a headache and feel like I’m going to throw up at any moment. I start to feel shaky and I have to lay down. It’s enough to make me feel regret, but not enough for me to never do it again.
  • I still don’t like people commenting on my body. I didn’t like it 80+ pounds ago, and I don’t like it now. I probably still won’t like it 80+ pounds from now. It’s not cool, stop doing it. There are probably a million cooler things about me than my weight or appearance. My body is not for your consumption. I’m not sure how many different ways I have to say it. JUST STOP.

 

Thoughts On Being Fat

I’m a member of a couple of wls groups on Facebook, I have an Instagram account that’s dedicated to my wls journey (I only follow wls accounts there, so it’s all weight loss pretty much all the time). I spend most of my screen time reading about weight loss stories, looking at before and “after” photos, bombarding my mind with images and narratives around losing weight. Most of the time (I would say probably 99% of the time) people talk about how happy they are being thinner than they were when they were fat. I understand that, I see why people want to put that message out there because there’s this idea that all fat people are (besides lazy and gross) totally miserable because they’re fat. If you’re depressed and fat, it’s not because you have a shitty job, or because you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, or because you’re going  through a rough patch in a relationship. It’s not because you just lost a loved one, or because people treat you like shit (because of aforementioned fatness) or because you’ve suffered trauma of some kind.

It’s because you’re fat, and you know it, and you hate it and hate yourself. So, the solution to that is to be thin. When you get thin, the depression will go away. And sure, some people (probably a small percentage) are depressed specifically about being fat and losing weight helps them feel better. But it’s not a cure all for all your woes. Also, not all fat people are depressed in general or depressed about being fat specifically, and that idea totally oversimplifies depression. I don’t know if you can tell, but the whole thing really grinds my gears. Continue reading

I Won’t.

“You’re shrinking!”

I know.

“What’s your secret? Tell me, what are you doing?”

Well I had surgery. It was a tough decision, but I knew it was time to do something. I had the surgery two months ago.

“Oh. Well good for you. Look at you, you’re shrinking!”

Yeah…

“Just don’t disappear, okay?”

I won’t.

Making Lists and Other Coping Skills

I know. I said I would write about Pesach and Beltane like two weeks ago. I truly was committed to that, I promise. However, life has been…. hard. I had a really great time at the Passover Seder I attended and I did really want to blog about it because it was so fun and made me that much more committed to converting to Judaism. It made me want to learn more, to DO more. But every time I logged onto wordpress to write, I just couldn’t muster the brain power to put my thoughts into words.

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I found the afikomen again this year, so I feel pretty good about the whole thing.

Continue reading

Down the rabbit hole I go

This surgery got me messed up.

I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I mean, Dr. Z (the evil psychiatrist) told me that because of my eating disorder history (specifically in regards to restricting) I might not be a good candidate for this surgery– for the first 6 months or so it’s basically a medically supervised starvation diet. It takes months to get up to 1200 calories a day. And to be honest, they really encourage eating disordered behavior. At my last preop class, they were talking about how much food we should take in per meal (by the way, snacks are not allowed in this program), and the dietitian said that in the beginning we can eat 1/4 a cup of food at each meal because our stomachs are still healing. After awhile you can eat a 1/2 a cup per meal, but “try to stay at 1/4 a cup for as long as possible so you maximize your weight loss”. Now, maybe it’s just me and my eating disordered brain, but that totally feels like encouragement to starve. In case you are wondering, eating a 1/4 a cup of chicken three times a day (which is what I’m mostly doing these days) is 255 calories. FOR THE WHOLE DAY. And you want me to do that “for as long as possible”? I know it’s probably well intentioned, and the whole point of this surgery is to eat less than you did before so you can lose weight and prevent/decrease your risk for chronic illness, but that is a little extreme, don’t you think? The body can’t handle that kind of diet for too long, I know from experience.  Continue reading

The Spiritual CAN Influence the Mental

Getting back into Shabbat was the best choice for me last week. I know I have yet to fully experience it as a true converted Jew, but even observing it in the small ways I did was not 4274418_origonly meaningful but also something my mind really needed– a time for rest. I made a commitment to go through the blessings, light the candles and bless the food, but also to stay away from my phone for just the night. It was totally worth it.

Right after work I went to the grocery store to buy my dinner (rotisserie chicken– perhaps this week I’ll make my own chicken in the slow cooker?) and get some grape juice since I can’t drink alcohol. Let me just say, it’s so nice being able to get off work at my regular time, be able to stop by the store and still get home before it’s time to light the candles. In fact, I had enough time to get home, prepare the meat for my weekend meals, do some dishes, and get the table set for myself. Of course I loved the ritual of it all, it felt really good to be a part of something bigger and older than myself. I could just imagine all the other people in the world doing the same thing I was doing, saying the same blessings around the same time and it made me feel like I was a part of something really cool. Continue reading

Can’t Shake the Numbers

In the last two weeks I’ve become really obsessed with numbers. The numbers on the scale, my BMI number, how many weeks it will take me to get to X weight, now many inches I’ve lost, how many calories I’ve taken in…. numbers numbers numbers. I’m getting obsessive in a way that I haven’t in a long time, and part of me is getting a little worried. But there is another part of me (or part of my disorder) that is excited, that feels happy and hopeful. If you’ve never had an eating disorder, you won’t understand. It’s just too weird for most people to wrap their heads around because it’s an excitement over hurting yourself! I would you want to be miserable all the time when you could be happy? I can’t really answer that. And I’m trying to fight it. But the disorder that takes up space in my head? It’s trying to buy more real estate and losing weight, having a smaller stomach, it’s a CHALLENGE. How can I turn this opportunity into maximum weight loss, it says. How can I turn this into a reason to restrict? How far can I make this girl go?

It’s really hard to separate myself from the disorder because it sounds like me. It sounds like me making plans to restrict myself as much as I can after the effects of the surgery start to wear off and I’m alone again. It sounds like me calculating the weight I would need to get to in order to be classified as “underweight” according to BMI. It really sounds like me thinking, Just let me get to that weight, and then I promise I’ll bounce back– I just want to prove that I can do it.

I just want to make one thing clear: I have a rational mind. I know that this type of plan is 1) dangerous to my health and 2) totally unattainable, regardless of weight loss surgery or fasting. My body is not meant to be at that weight. I will never be skinny. That’s not why I got this surgery! But now that I’ve had it, I’m SO TRIGGERED by it. I find myself on Bart sometimes fantasizing about that number. It’s so special to me. It feels like I hold it in my heart. I’m walking around in this world trying to be normal but I carry it with me everywhere and it speaks to me, encouraging me, taunting me.

I have a rational mind. I know that this is a problem.

Maybe this is just a phase and once I get past it, I will be able to focus on healthy weight loss and my real goals– hiking, having kids, being able to keep up with my niece and nephew, having a long and healthy life free from chronic disease. I’m hoping I can fight the disorder and get past it. Maybe it’s just my hormones going crazy since the surgery. I don’t know. Also sometimes all I want to do is just graze all day on food, so maybe that’s to counteract the fasting and I’ll be okay.

 

 

Post Op Update

I’m 3 weeks postop with my sleeve. I’ve lost 23lbs since surgery, 52lbs total since I started the preoperative plan that Kaiser put me on (real food everyday, just smaller portions). I’ve gone down three sizes in pants, a trend which will hopefully continue for awhile.

Those are the facts that most people want to hear about weight loss. But there’s more to this processes than just weight, and for me it is even more complicated because let’s be honest– I have an eating disorder. I say that because although I’m not as symptomatic as  I was when I went into treatment 7 years ago I still am affected by eating disordered thinking and I struggle with that everyday, much like how people in AA call themselves alcoholics when they introduce themselves in meetings, knowing that everyday they have to deal with their addiction and are affected by it even if they don’t drink. I’ve had to stop weighing myself everyday because I’ve been obsessing about how much I lose and it really affects how I show up in the world everyday. Not losing enough each day makes me agitated, and a stall– well, let’s just say I do my best not to lose my shit, but it makes me want to stay home from work and cry a little. So I’m really trying to nip that in the bud. Continue reading

WLS Update

My appointment with the surgeon went well. He was impressed with my progress and told me that I was healthy overall and could pick either surgery. He also gave me a weight goal (which was the weight I was at already) and told me that he would like to see me lose more but to at least stay at or under that weight. I’m really excited about that last part because that means I don’t have to lose 50lbs like I was previously told, and it also validated me a bit because although I’m trying to stick to this pre-op diet I’m still trying to learn new behaviors and it’s fucking HARD. I wouldn’t need this surgery if eating 1200 calories a day were easy for me. So when the surgeon told me he was impressed, it felt good to hear and it took a bit of the overwhelming pressure off of me to be the perfect patient who sticks to this diet 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean I can be lax, it just means I can give myself relief when I mess up.

Anyway, he told me that as far as he was concerned I was ready to go, but I still needed the psychologist to clear me. So he scheduled me for the 19th of January with Dr. Z (and I’ve talked about my experience with him before). Instead of going to that appointment, I freaked out and rescheduled it the day before I was supposed to show up. I was just too scared. My previous experience was just super negative and traumatic, and I personally don’t think he’s a very good psychologist. I think he was actually quite cruel, and it makes me wonder how he got a job working with such a vulnerable population. Anyway, I was so nervous and afraid of seeing him again that I bailed. I rescheduled the appointment for the 4th, which is on Thursday. My anxiety is through the roof now– heart palpitations, restlessness, chronic fatigue. My weight has been up and down in the past month (see my grief in the previous post) and so I’m feeling very vulnerable and afraid that he’s not going to clear me even though I’m at the goal set by the surgeon. I have no idea what happens if he doesn’t clear me. Do I have to go through the program again? Will they let me? Or am I like banned for life? What does that mean?!

My insurance is through Kaiser, and they have two facilities that offer bariatric programs. I’m currently in the Richmond program because that’s the one my doctor assigned me to (probably because it’s closer than the Fremont program, although it still takes me 30 minutes to get  there). If I want to do the other program, I would have to start from the beginning, meaning I’ll have to do the orientation again, meet with a new surgeon and psychologist, and that would also mean my timeline shifts– I might not get the surgery done this year. But part of me thinks it’s worth it to switch if I have such a negative interaction with someone who is supposed to be in charge of my health care.

I’m truly afraid that this appointment is going to be a total shit show. And I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do if that happens.

 

 

Unintentional Hiatus Over

Sorry for the silence here at the blog (for those who noticed). I went into the holidays thinking that I would have enough time for everything I wanted to do, including updating this blog, but that didn’t actually happen. I ended up being super busy with work and with the holidays so I told myself I would start blogging again in January. Obviously that didn’t happen! January is actually a pretty hard month for me. My grandfather died in January 2012 and my uncle died in January 2014, so when I think of that month I usually think of death and loss and grief, and that’s the fog I walk in pretty much through the whole of January. That’s not to say that I didn’t have fun (I did– I went to Disneyland for my sister’s surprise birthday celebration, Kourtney and I celebrated 8 years since we first started dating, and choir started back up again), I just also spent a lot of time grieving– honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever really stop. So every time I thought about posting something I stopped myself, since I didn’t think I had anything to say besides WHY DO GOOD PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE and I didn’t think anyone wanted to read that. Continue reading

Bad Body Day

Some days I look in the mirror and I think WOW. I’m one beautiful boss lady.

 

Seriously, there are days where I’m honestly a little surprised about how good I look. Those are my good “body days” where I’m just totally feeling myself, where I’m not nitpicking about each little flaw. Where I think I’m beautiful WITH my flaws. Where I can eat without all the accompanying emotions (frustration, boredom, sadness, embarrassment, shame, whatever), and just be totally in love with myself. That’s what I imagine self actualized people feel like on the regular.

Today is not one of those days. I’m really starting to struggle with weight loss on this preop diet (I keep fluctuating instead of consistently losing, I feel like I’m losing the same damn five pounds AAAARRGHHHH), and every time I put something in my mouth to eat I am constantly second-guessing: will this facilitate weight loss? Does this have too many carbs? BLAH BLAH BLAH ALL THE TIME. Or I will eat a piece of candy and feel totally mad for hours. My body FEELS large, like I’m super conscious of the amount of space my body takes up today. I feel like I’m too big for everything. Days like today suck. I’m so over it.

I have my preop consultation with one of the surgeons at Kaiser on December 8th. I’m freaking out a little because it feels like a deadline. When I first met with Dr. Z, the psychologist (who made me cry) he told me that I could “easily” lose 50 pounds by our next appointment in January– 20 pounds in the first month, and 15 pounds for the second and 3rd month. Well, I lost 20lbs the first month, and Dr. Z called me saying he was really impressed with my progress so he made me the appointment with the surgeon. Now I’ve got to lose another 15lbs by the next appointment and I don’t know if I can. Keep in mind, he didn’t actually say, “Lose 50 pounds by January or you don’t get the surgery”, he just said I could easily lose that much weight. So…. I don’t know if that’s an actual requirement, or if he was just trying to be encouraging. Either way, it’s causing MAJOR amounts of anxiety. And as I get closer and closer to the 8th, the more freaked out I am because I’m NOT losing weight. I’m gaining and losing, back and forth like ALL THE TIME.

I’m just saying, in this moment right now, I’m totally discouraged. I’m so worried that I’m going to fuck this all up and then I won’t be able to get the surgery. And I have no one to talk to about this.