Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Two Years and Three Weeks Later

On April 4, 2009, I rejoined Weight Watchers. Again. For the eleventy-third time.  I was mildly thinking about bariatric surgery and knew that I would have to have 6 months of a proven track record in an accountable weight loss program, and that WW would count.  But the only thing I was committing to was following a sensible program to reverse the weight-gain process and see what happened.

Who knew where that would lead?  I certainly didn’t – because I was taking one next step at a time, as they came up, and didn’t obsess about getting to an unrealistic place.  Those steps led to lapband surgery, working with a personal trainer, and most recently plastic surgery to get rid of excess skin.  (Which I’ve told you about in excruciating detail.)

Two years and three weeks after walking into WW, I stepped on the scale and realized I was at my goal weight of 175 lbs (well, okay, 175.2 but I’m still counting it).   I’ve lost 46% of my starting weight for a total of 137 lbs.  The last time I was at this weight was when I was in grad school 34 years ago.

Why didn’t I jump online and tell you all about it, you ask?  Well, I confess to putting it up on Facebook and getting some very supportive responses.  But mostly I wanted to just sit with it a while and let it settle in.

Many people start a weight loss journey at this point and don’t understand why I would stop at 175 lbs when in BMI terms it’s still obese.  But I’m where I had secretly wanted to be when I started all those months and years ago.  I don’t pretend to be skinny.  I will never be down to 125 lbs, nor do I want to.  My primary care doctor set my goal weight at 165-175, and I do intend to lose another 5-6 lbs.  There is no hurry, though, and it will get easier when I’m allowed to get back to the gym.

I’m now 9 weeks out from my plastic surgery, something I had no intention of doing when I had my lapband surgery much less when I started back at WW.   The arms are healed and back to full functionality; the belly still has a little bit to go but then, it was major abdominal surgery.  Sometimes I forget that.  Just another step, though a dramatic one.  But it was the right choice for me, at the right time.

One WW tool I learned (and remembered) was anchoring; having something very specific to see or touch to remind me of what I’ve accomplished and what my goals are.  For me, that’s a silver Pandora bracelet for my weight loss journey.  I already have a clock (it was time), an owl (a wise decision), Chinese symbol for happiness, a present (a gift to myself), a Christmas tree (for the pictures that opened my eyes for the need), a queen bee (“Never underestimate the power of a woman”), an embossed Inner Strength bead, a dangling tennis shoe (exercise and the gym), and pretty glass beads.

Next step:  buy two final charms, one a pair of dangling scissors (for surgical “cutting”) and a butterfly.  For the new me.


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More Than You Wanted to Know About My Plastic Surgery

This is going to be a bit long but I wanted to get this down for myself and for anyone else who may be considering doing this particular combination of plastic surgery options. After a 130lb weight loss, from a combo of WeightWatchers and lapband, I maintained my weight for 5 months within a 3 lb range. My insurance paid for an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and bilateral brachioplasty (upper arm lifts) – I was extremely fortunate to have both covered, as that rarely happens. Here’s how it went:

My procedure took 5 hours, for which I was intubated and catheterized (fortunately not while I was awake to know about either one). Between belly and arms, the surgeon removed ten pounds of skin and fat, but mostly skin. There was no liposuction. However, post-op, the doctor told me that they had done a bit of muscle contouring in the lower belly to achieve the goals we wanted. Which meant more pain and a slightly harder recovery but a better ultimate result.

The tummy tuck incision is along the bikini line (not that I’ve ever worn one, but you get the idea), and it went completely across my front and wrapped slightly around the sides, ending on the side of my butt. Surgical drains (4) were inserted on both ends beyond that point to drain out fluids, help reduce swelling and improve healing. They are emptied and contents measured 3 times a day. I’m hoping hoping hoping that the drains will be removed on Tuesday’s post-op visit coz they are a pain in the butt – literally.

The very long incision is covered by Tegaderm, a clear acrylic dressing that helps hold the skin together for a more narrow scar, protect the incision from bacteria, and serves as a barrier to water. Supposedly I can keep it on for up to 2 weeks at a time, even through showers. (Not that I’ve had one yet; those stupid drains have to go first.)

My belly button is original but it was reattached when the skin was tightened so I have a dressing over that, too. And on top of everything I have a giant abdominal compression binder that feels like a corset. It actually does feel good to have the extra support, especially if I start to cough, and my drains are clipped to the top, which fits just under the bra line. Not exactly attractive but it works.

Now on to the arms: incisions are on the bottom of the arms (think holding your arms out to the side, palm forward; what’s on the bottom got trimmed up) and run from the elbow into the armpit. These incisions are also covered with Tegaderm and I have dressings that run from my back to front inside the armpit. It is next to impossible to make them stay in place. I also have ace bandages wrapped on both arms.

Believe it or not, this 5-hour procedure was day surgery. My insurance (and university) allowed me to transfer in a wheelchair van from the surgical center to the university health inpatient facility for 4 nights, and it made a HUGE difference. Just having two people at a time help me get out of bed was huge (just try getting up when your belly feels sliced open and you can’t put any weight on your arms). There is simply no way I could have managed home-care on my own, or even if I had someone there to help me.

My first week post-op was spent in the infirmary and at home, loopy on percoset, wrapped up like a mummy and dressed in my fleece pajamas. Because getting in and out of bed is so hard, I haven’t napped in bed since I got home. I get into bed by sitting on the side and looping a scarf around one foot at a time to pull the legs up without pulling on the abs.  I sleep with bed wedge pillow to elevate my head and a big pillow under my knees to keep the body in a folded position, also to reduce stress on the abs.

As of now, I feel physically a lot better than I did even yesterday; every day is an improvement. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how the surgeon’s office thinks I can change the dressings on my own. The ones for the drains are on my BUTT and the ones on my armpit run front to back – how the heck do I change the dressings when my arm movement is restricted by stitches? I’m also apparently incapable of correctly wrapping ace bandages on my arms – again, having each one hampered by incisions is not making it easier. I saw my primary care doctor on Friday for a quick checkin and the nurses changed the dressings for me – and asked me how anyone thought I should be able to do them myself. No idea coz I have the same question.

I go back to the surgeon’s office on Tuesday – Day 14 from surgery. I am really hoping the drains come out and I get permission to drive plus a signed note to return to work. I need to find out what the long term plans are for those awful “under the armpit” dressings and when the stitches come out (the ones in the arms; the lower big incision are absorbable). I am still swollen and will be for a while, but every day that gets better and the more I return to normal life activities, the better that will get. No workouts at the gym, certainly, but even the usual ups and downs of standing, sitting, walking here, stairs, etc. will make me feel more normal.

And I can’t wait to get rid of the red moleskin shirt I’m currently wearing. I look pregnant because of the drains clipped in the front on the binder, and this is the only thing (other than my fleece pajamas with polar bears wearing pink scarves) that can cover the drains. Do you think burning it would be too excessive? Only after I’m fitting back into other things again, of course 🙂


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Christmas Then and Now

Two years ago I spent Christmas with my family in Texas.  I weighed in at 312 lbs and was sad and not in a good place with my body or my weight.  This year I went again, weighing 182.2 lbs and oh, what a difference!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone I saw told me how beautiful I was, asked me how I did it, didn’t I feel wonderful, was it hard, what could I eat, etc.  And I found I had a hard time knowing what/how to respond, other than to say “thank you.”

I’m in a good place now, a stable place.  I’m proud of my accomplishments, because they are considerable and have been life-changing.  I’ve lost 130 lbs and enjoy shopping for clothes and finding things that both fit and flatter.  My belly and upper arms are annoying because of all the extra skin, but I’m having medically necessary plastic surgery in March to have those areas trimmed (at last I think we’re doing the arms; it depends on insurance).

Back in 2008 I said: “I don’t want to diet. I want to eat sensibly in moderation, to enjoy a variety of food, to ease the stress on my knees, to be comfortable in my body and with myself.  That may be mutually exclusive.  All I can do is try and take things one small step at a time.”

That pretty much describes where I am now.  Emotionally I’m in a very calm place.  I haven’t really found the weight loss to be hard this time, not since I heard the “click” that said “It’s time now” and took it one step at a time.


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September Progress Report

I saw my lapband surgeon and my primary care doctor this week, covering a lot of bases. They were both pleased with my weight loss (121 lbs in 18 months), which has slowed down a lot lately. But I’m still losing an average of 1 lb/week while feeling very normal; that counts a lot.

I’ve been having problems with my back and my right knee, which limits what I can do for exercise (tho I’m still doing what I can with my trainer and on my own).  One reason for the back issues is probably the apron of belly skin left from losing weight. It’s just not elastic enough to come back to a normal shape.  I got a referral to a plastic surgeon to talk about options, see what they advise and what their rules are, etc. I hadn’t thought I’d actually do this but am seeing now that it makes sense. In any case, the surgeons aren’t likely to do anything until I’ve been at my goal weight for a year.

Which led to the “what is my goal weight?” discussion, really for the first time. I had a ballpark number but have been having some reservations about it as the pounds fell off.  My brain hasn’t caught up with the loss, which is actually normal since it usually takes approximately one year for every 25 lbs for reality to take hold.

Much to my relief, my primary care doctor advised that my goal be 165-170 lbs and that she’d be very happy for me to be at a BMI of 30.  (It’s already dropped from 54.9 to 33.2 so 30 isn’t that far away.)  I’d been afraid she would want me out of the obese & overweight categories and down to 130, a weight I haven’t seen since junior high and don’t think I could maintain.  Dr. W. is practical and stressed that a healthy BMI for ME doesn’t have to match what a chart says.

FYI: don’t worry if you don’t hear from me very often over the next weeks.  I am program chair for my professional association’s annual conference next summer and we’re gearing up to review 200 proposals, evaluate and rate, and finally select programs.  I’m also learning the ins/outs of the new responsibilities I take over on Nov. 1 (the day after we finalize the programs).  So I’m likely to be slow on the blogging front, but I’ll check in when I can!


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How Do I Know What Fits Me?

I shop for clothes by myself and I have no idea what I really look like in what I wear.  It’s not a good combination.  I’ve read that it takes a year for the brain to catch up with every 25 lbs lost, and that certainly resonates.  Oh, I understand that I’ve changed and that I’m different, but the eyes  don’t recognize what properly fitting clothes look like on ME.

After watching Stacy and Clinton for years, I know a lot about what styles and colors work best, but the FIT doesn’t make sense.  My brain knows that tight = too small, and loose = fitted, which doesn’t always translate to looking right.  I’ll try on a top and see nothing clinging to the lumps and bumps, and think it’s a good fit when it’s really baggy.

Since many plus size ladies also shop alone, we give each other feedback and can see “too big” clothes on other people that we don’t recognize on ourselves.  And sometimes, sure, they are wearing “too small” clothes because they are blocked by the sizes/number and not by how things fit.

But yesterday was totally different.  I went looking for some casual pants for fall, mostly just to see what was out there.  Catherine’s is no longer an option for me, since everything in the store is too big, too long, too boxy, or just not my style.  Or maybe all of the above.  So I went next door to Lane Bryant, a store I usually avoid because I don’t like the clothes.  They do have lots of pants, though, so it seemed like a good idea.

Over the course of the next 45 min, three sales women of different ages and 2 customers gave me feedback on how I looked in what I tried on.  I mostly stayed in the dressing room while they brought me pants in different styles, colors, and sizes.  My job was to put them on and come out and model.   Mostly I tried on jeans or pants out of a denim or denim-colored fabric.  I haven’t worn jeans for at least 20 years.

One pair felt as though it was painted on, which caused my watchers’ jaws to drop.  They thought, to a person, that the pants were too loose, which totally shocked me.  It happened over and over.  They made me stand in front of a mirror and said, “Look at yourself. See yourself as you are NOW.  You are not the same size you were before.  These clothes FIT.”  And they were right.  Stacy and Clinton were mentioned frequently 🙂

I ended up coming home with 3 pairs of pants, in 3 different sizes, all on sale with coupons for extra savings.  One is a pair of gray knit pants that will work for the office and for casual wear, size 14/16.  Another is a pair of jeans in size 16, and a third a pair of “jeggings” in size 18.  I’m not completely sure about the jeans, but know that as I lose more weight, I will feel more comfortable wearing them.  Plus I will practice at home before I let anyone see me.

What this reinforced is that I need to go shopping often now – not to buy, but to try on sizes, colors and styles and really see what I look like when I try the same thing on in different sizes.   The sales floor is often quiet mid-week, and taking an afternoon off to shop should let me have extra help and feedback.

I’ll be choosy about what I actually buy; I don’t want/need a lot since I know my size will change, though it’s going slower now than it was earlier (which doesn’t bother me at all).  But as the new season approaches, I know I have next to nothing that fits and I refuse to start the fall in baggy clothes.  The trick is knowing what’s baggy and what’s not.


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A Year in My Life

Two events in my life happen every July:  my birthday, and my national professional conference.  Next year they will even overlap – and I can’t begin to tell you how much I will enjoy spending my birthday doing that, although it will be nice to see friends on the day and I’m guessing there will be cake somewhere.  In any case, both occasions give me a chance to view the previous year in perspective.

Last year my conference met in Washington, DC where it was hot and sticky (kind of like now everywhere).  The convention center was humongous and we had quite a hike from the hotels to our event location.  I had been working on weight loss for a few months and was down about 20-25 lbs. from my starting weight.  But I weighed so much that it barely made a dent in my appearance or how I felt.

My right knee hurt all the time and I lurched when I walked because of the pain and immobility.  I used a cane to get around all week, and took cabs to go longer distances because I wasn’t sure I could manage the stairs of getting on and off buses.  I wore colorful but shapeless floaty dresses and felt like a whale; the folds of skin developed rashes from chafing and heat.  I had little energy and opted out of events and social things I wanted to do because I wasn’t sure I could get to them in any comfort.  It was great to see people except I didn’t really want them to see ME.

Flash forward to July 2010 in Denver, which was hot but much less sticky.  I lost 80+ lbs between the two Julys and it made such a huge difference in how I felt, looked, and acted.  Many of my friends weren’t all that surprised by my new appearance, since they follow me on Facebook and had been following progress and pictures for months.  Others were completely in the dark and didn’t recognize me, which was cool but odd.

Changes in looks, attitude, comfort, and behavior came slowly over the last year and had become normal; it’s just seeing them with the perspective of a year to see the difference:

  • Fitting into one seat on a plane – and not needing a seat belt extender
  • Being able to move quickly and easily
  • Spending lots of time in the exhibit hall and hallways without needing to sit down every 10 minutes
  • Clothes were fitted and still colorful and comfortable
  • Went shopping for more clothes when realized some of what I brought stopped fitting while in the suitcase flying out
  • Making good choices about food, including giving my ticket for a dessert reception to someone else.  Brought protein powder and bars.
  • Felt more confident, assured, and comfortable
  • Had way more energy and was on the go for very long days
  • No CPAP machine to lug around since my sleep apnea is gone
  • Took a mountain train excursion to actually see something of the area instead of hiding in my room

Maybe the biggest obvious sign that things were different:  I was happy to be photographed and even like the results.  In the past, I hated it because I didn’t think I looked in real life the way I looked in pictures – even though it was an objective image.  This time I thought the pictures looked really good because I knew that I looked good.

I’ve lost lots of weight before, and really did think I was the same person inside at the lower weight that I’d been at the higher one.  This time I know I am different.  The lapband was a big part of it, because I simply can’t do “life as usual” now.  I’ve had to think about choices, actions, and consequences, and have taken responsibility for things that didn’t work as well as those that have.

Yes, I celebrate losing weight, but except for big landmarks, I try not to make a big deal about it (my friend may disagree with my success at it, but I do try!).   I’m using anchors to remind me of my success in very tangible ways – I have a Pandora bracelet that I got for Christmas, with charms to mark this specific journey.  And I just bought a new “anchor ring” to replace the one I started with that now falls off all my fingers.

It’s really now about just living a new way.  That way includes eating healthy “pouch friendly” foods that include enough carbs for me to feel normal and balanced, including exercise on a regular but not extreme basis so it’s something I can actually continue.  I weed out clothes that no longer fit and buy new (or gently used) ones that work with the changing body.

I’m not in this for a number on a scale.  I’m in it for my life.  I like myself, my body, my health, my attitudes better now than I think I ever have.  What a nice birthday present to myself!


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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

I’m in between trips and scrambling like mad not to fry in our current heat wave.  It was hot in Texas, but somehow it’s worse here which is just not right.  Thank heavens for AC!

The Texas trip was originally supposed to be to attend my nephew’s wedding, but it morphed into a family gathering at my brother’s ranch (140 acres in the middle of nowhere between my parents’ house and my brother’s place in Houston). They have very photogenic cows 🙂

My mom’s sister was there from California, nephew Rob from Massachusetts, and me from Connecticut.  Rob didn’t stay long, heading west to spend the weekend with his brother (the former groom) and friends going to a baseball game and country western concert.  My youngest niece ran a triathlon that weekend (I can’t imagine doing it in that Texas heat!) but my goddaughter (above) came from Lubbock for the weekend.  We celebrated our June/July birthdays together with carrot cake 🙂

Everyone flipped over my new look and I realized while I was there that I’ve almost lost my mother in terms of weight.  She weighs 115 lbs and I’ve lost 110 – which really is a whole person.  Puts things into very clear perspective.

I had a great time but was glad to come home (as was Tessie).  But I’ve been scrambling again because I leave on Friday for my national conference in Denver.  I have several meetings to facilitate so I have agendas and prep to finish, plus catch up on my paid job.

My conference wardrobe was all thought out, including a few dresses that looked good and were cool and comfy.  Except I’ve realized that all of them – ALL of them – are too big. Great problem but a bad time to figure it out, since the stores are starting to stock fall clothing (just after July 4th, go figure) and only have very picked over summer things.  I did get a few tops today that I can wear with black pants that will work.  I’ll find out soon enough.

I found it pretty easy to eat while in Texas.  My mom generously stocked up on some Greek yogurt, berries, chicken, and guacamole, and there were plenty of good options for me at the ranch.  Mostly people were interested in my choices and asked a lot of questions about the band and how it worked.  It was good practice for going out with more people; I’ve been reading menus for Denver and practicing restaurant eating, at least in my mind.  We’ll see how it goes!

I’ll try to check in from Denver but am not at all sure when I’ll have free time to write.  My time is pretty scripted.  But I’ll check in and at least keep up with y’all even if I can’t write until I’m back.  Stay out of trouble!