Happy Friday, Everything Sucks

Happy Friday! Got big plans for the day? Cool, cool, sounds good. Me? Oh, nothing major. Just having a tube put down my throat to take photos of my stomach. You know, like you do. Why, you ask? Because life is a cruel, ironic joke sometimes, that’s why.

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All Pain, No Gain

Writing this post is going to be painful.

Not because of some deep, dark secret I’m going to reveal. I’m not reaching into the the depths of my soul and exposing the raw nakedness of my emotional range.

No, it’s painful because I am SO FREAKIN SORE from working out yesterday that extending my arms and moving my fingers around a keyboard is making me cry a little.

My shoulders and back are in knots. I can’t cough or really even exhale without grimacing, which also hurts to do. Because with all the grunting and teeth-gnashing I did while working out yesterday, my face is also sore.

OK, I might be exaggerating a smidge. Hyperbole is fun to me. But I am sore because once again, I am stepping up my weight loss efforts because as usual, I am plateaued. I don’t even know that “plateau” is an accurate land mass to use. Because that would imply a gradual increase and then flattening out. My weight loss has been stagnant for so long, I’d say I’m “Kansas-ed” or “Great Plains-ed.”

My weight loss is more the foreground than the background.

My weight loss is more the foreground than the background.

My original weight loss goal from over two years ago (TWO YEARS!!!) was to lose 100 pounds. The first year, I lost 34. The second year, I lost 12. Yes, 12 WHOLE pounds. There was a baby born last week that weighed more than all the weight I lost in an entire year. (Kudos to that mom, by the way.)

I have gotten in better shape despite the lack of change to the scale, and I know the scale is bad and BLAH BLAH BLAH. It doesn’t matter to me right now. I’m mad that I set a goal for myself and haven’t reached it. Period.

So once again, I’m changing things up and doing something new based on what “experts” out there say to do. And six months from now, I’m sure I’ll be changing it again because the information out there for the best ways to lose weight and get in shape is nothing if not confusing.

I don’t fall prey to the gimmicks, either. I’m not looking for cheap tricks to “lose 10lbs fast!” or anything like that. I’m not drinking shakes as meal replacements. I’m not doing one of those body wrap things. I want to do things the right way, but there is no clear message as to what that is, exactly.

You gotta start somewhere.

You gotta start somewhere.

In the two years I’ve been working toward my goal, here are some of the main weight loss principles I’ve followed, from what I consider to be reputable sources:

  • It’s simple: calories in, calories out. Get moving and eat less to lose weight.
  • Ok, yes, it’s calories in/calories out, but you need to watch your “bad” carbs and up your protein.
  • Scratch that, high-protein, low-carb is the only way to go. And exercise more.
  • If you eat organic and ditch all chemicals and processed food, you can exercise less.
  • Cardio? Pointless. Weights are where it’s at.

And on and on and on.

I’ve adopted these changes as best I can over time. I’m not perfect, far from it. My diet is as good as it’s going to get, most likely. And I’m ok with that. I’m at the gym as much as I can be and still have a life outside of it. And it’s fine. It’s all vanity at this point (ok, it’s always vanity), but dammit, I want to make this goal in my lifetime.

Most importantly, I want to make this goal and still LIVE life. I want to eat really healthy 5.5 days a week, and once a week, I want to have dinner and drinks with friends and enjoy an ice cream with my kids. I find being at the gym four days a week to be a nice level of activity. And maybe that’s my problem. Ultimately, I don’t want to lose all the weight but hate every minute of the process. I enjoy the gym now. I enjoy finding new, healthy foods to cook for my family. But I don’t want to cross the line into dreading the gym or eating only baked chicken and steamed broccoli all day.

So I’m a work in progress. Slow, slow moving, slow as molasses (that I can’t eat), slower than Christmas on a slow-moving barge pulled by slugs uphill on a salt lick, progress. But I’m not quitting. I’ll get to my goal weight, even if it’s on my 75th birthday. And then I will eat a huge slice of cake.

Running Might Not Totally Suck

Have y’all ever seen that movie, Run Lola Run? It’s a great movie, German, I think. Has that girl in it from The Bourne Identity. I’ll always list it as one of my favorites because A) it is, it’s a really cool movie and B) it’s foreign and with subtitles and therefore it makes me seem smart.

Anyway, there’s a lot of running in the movie, which is kind of like my life. (Great segue, no?) This weekend, I completed my first ever 5K. This is major. Six months ago, I would have told you that I HATE running, always have and always will. I would have told you that weight-loss be damned. I was perfectly happy with my Zumba and BodyJam routines, thankyouverymuch.

And then one of my friends suggested that a few of us sign up for “a really fun-looking race!” And she apparently had Roofied us, because we were all like “YES! Running a race sounds like so much fun right now!” Which is weird because almost none of us have EVER been runners before, but now we were all about it.

So I started the Couch to 5K program through an app by Active.com. Guys, I can’t say enough about this program. It’s GREAT. It advances so gradually that you actually believe you won’t die, but it still pushes you. If you have ANY interest in running, look into it. TRUST ME.

While the program worked great, I still had some setbacks. First off, I started the program on the treadmill because I don’t love nature. I really don’t love nature in the summer, which was when we had to start the training in order to finish it by the race (it’s a 9-week program). So that was all fine and good, until my hip started bothering me. Yes, my hip, since I am 99 years old. I was Googling words like “bursitis” and “inflamed joints.” I was this close to buying housecoats and getting my hair set weekly.

Then I decided that I should probably attempt running outside since the race would not provide me with a portable treadmill to run on. Wouldn’t that have been the BEST though? I could have been pulled through the streets of Knoxville like a Rose Parade float. Maybe next time.

When the temperature got below 1000, I hit the running trail at the park by my house. I was already about 6 weeks into the program, and was able to run 20+ minutes straight at the gym. I figured I’d struggle some and I gave myself permission to walk “if needed,” but I was confident that I could handle it.

And then I almost died and hated everything and wanted to cut my legs off as punishment for failing me so miserably.

It HURT. HURT HURT HURT. And every second that I ran that day  (which equated about 100 seconds, I believe) felt like an eternity. I couldn’t get my pace down. I was constantly afraid someone was coming up behind me or I’d step in dog poo. I hated it.

I knew I had to get over it, though, so I set out to fix the one thing I could control, and that was the hip pain. I got fitted at a true running store for some new running shoes, which was mega intimidating and ridiculously expensive. If you’ve never done this, this is what happens:

Overweight, out of shape person walks in. Sees in-shape healthy looking people discussing marathons. Wants to leave but has been spotted. Immediately over-share every detail of your running history and ask 100 questions about fitness and running and body parts. Worker asks you to run around the store barefoot. Look at the worker incredulously. Become convinced that this isn’t, in fact, a joke, and run around the store. Try on 5 pairs of shoes, continue running around the store. Start to feel like a total dumbass. Pay $100+ for shoes, just so you can leave.

But, I have to say, the Nikes I bought seem to be really great shoes, and going up a full shoe size helped immensely. Yea, I’m barely 5’5″ and wear a size 10 shoe.

For the next couple of weeks, I tried and tried to get used to running outside, but seriously, I HATE it. Most runners seem to disagree, but I don’t care. I don’t need the freedom of the open road or fresh air or beautiful scenery. I need to be in an air-conditioned room with no fear of stray dogs or rapists. So the gym it is.

The week of the race came, and I was pretty bummed. I knew that with my lack of experience with outside running that there would be no way I’d run the entire 5K without stopping, which was my goal. I started to feel like a failure in a way. Which is stupid because look how far I’ve come, blah blah. But I had set a goal and it wasn’t attainable, so that sucks.

But the night before the race, I came to total peace with my progress. I set out this process basically to see if my running hatred was warranted. If I was SO resistant to something, I needed to truly evaluate why. My plan was to stick to the program, run the race and then say “SEE! I TOLD YOU! I still hate running! And now all of you runners can STFU about how awesome it is!” (Because, can we agree that while runner are mega supportive of other runners, y’all can be a little obsessed. Just sayin.) But as I arrived at the end, I didn’t hate it. I can’t say that I love it, but I don’t hate it. And that’s a huge plus.

The race was awesome, though. Everybody told me that races are the best because of the energy and the adrenaline and all that, and they weren’t kidding. I was PUMPED. And totally want to do it again. Especially a race as fun as the Color Me Rad. And no, I didn’t run the whole way, probably only half, actually. But I am totally ok with that. I’ve been running for 9 weeks and I can run 2 miles, which is 2 miles more than I could run for the past 34 years. So I call that a win.

7-Day Ab Challenge or How I learned to hate Bob Harper

Why do you guys listen to me? WHY do you encourage me? Seriously, I don’t have good ideas. Take this turd, for example: “Hey, I know! Let’s find the most INSANE ab workout on the internet and let’s DO IT!!! YAY!!!!” And when I share this “great idea,” 20 of you chime in on Facebook and say “Oh yea, that’s fun, let’s do it! We are just like Great Shape Barbie! Let’s Get in Shape, Girl!” Also, I need to update my pop culture references.

I love any chance on earth to Google “80s Barbies.”

So I found this psycho workout on Pinterest (when will I learn to stay away from that site? Have I learned nothing from my mistakes?) and started tonight. Several friends are also going to do it, too, and our plan is to take photos of ourselves before and after to see if a challenge like this actually works. Being the overachiever that I am, I not only took photos, I’m also going to video my experience for you. It’s like Christmas in July.

This is also my Video Blog (or vlog for those in the know or those who are still living in 2007) debut, and if it goes over well, expect more of them, because me running my mouth is so much easier than typing.

(turn up your volume, I’m kinda Mumble Mouth in the first 3.)

Summer Abs Challange: Day 1

Part 1: Introducing me, the cat and Bob Harper, the asshole from The Biggest Loser

Part 2: I’m already failing.

Part 3: The hate begins

Part 4: The part with moose knuckle (but not mine)

Part 5: It’s over. And I kinda look like Chris Crocker.

Back on the (lap)band Wagon, Part 2: What did you do that for?

Alright, kiddos, I promised you more about my Adventures in Lapband Land last week, and being a woman of my word and also a lack of other topics to write about, here it is.

When we left off, I had just explained how the lapband works. Any questions? No? There will be a quiz later, so you guys better have this down pat. There is no extra credit.

Anyway, why did I choose the lapband and not gastric bypass? Gastric bypass has been around a lot longer than the lapband and I have seen first hand how dramatic the results are. It absolutely gets the weight off of you, and for many people, I truly believe it is a lifesaver. But it wasn’t for me.

I want to preface this by saying this is only MY opinion on things. If you have had GB, are considering it, or are even just curious about all this stuff, please do not take my opinion on things as fact or a judgment or anything other than just that: my opinion. I have an opinion on virtually everything (except basketball. I literally could not care less about anything to do with it. Don’t ever ask me about it. I will glaze over faster than a doughnut.), and my opinion on the different weight loss surgeries is worth as much as any of them: nothing.

So why not go with bypass, the tried and true method that, had I chosen it, would probably have seen my weight loss goal met in less than half the time I’ve had the lapband? There are several reasons:

  • Despite being obese enough for weight loss surgery (WLS), I was at the time of my decision and still am, in excellent health. I was youngish, didn’t have a lifetime of obesity and other than sleep apnea and just being out of shape, I had no secondary health issues based on my weight. YET. But because of that, there was no sense of urgency for me to lose the weight.
  • Malabsorption scares me. Malabsorption is defined as “having difficulty absorbing nutrients from food,” and can be a major side effect of GB. The reason why that really scared me is because in the year prior to deciding to have this surgery, my 38-year-old aunt died from Crohn’s Disease. One of the major issues leading to her very untimely death was malnutrition from the disease. My mom’s two baby brothers also suffer from Crohn’s. I am lucky that so far in my life, I have a gut of steel. I didn’t want to give myself an issue that many of my loved ones suffer from.
  • I knew I wanted to have kids soon, and was afraid of how GB would affect that. I don’t know that it would have. But I liked that the lapband was adjustable, therefore allowing me to eat for 2 for a brief period of time and not derail my progress.
  • If I screwed up and “cheated” with GB and gained my weight back, I don’t know that I could get it to work for me a second time. From what I understand (and please correct me if I’m wrong), you can stretch your stomach back out after having GB. I remember seeing an interview with Roseanne Barr after she had her surgery and had put back on a significant amount of weight. She basically said she just ate her way back to where she was. If self-control wasn’t an issue, I wouldn’t be writing this post, would I?

So that’s how I chose the lapband over GB. Not that the lapband doesn’t have it’s own set of problems as well. The weight loss is MUCH slower. It’s easy to plateau and really have nowhere else to go (any tighter and you can’t eat, any looser and you gain). There’s a THING in my body (which can kinda be a “pro,” too, if you like freaking people out. My port sticks out so much, and I can’t tell you how many times my OB FREAKED THE EFF OUT while poking around while I was pregnant, thinking the baby was punching her. If you ever want to see/feel it, just ask. Muwahahaha.) that is man-made. Many foods just will not be tolerated by the band (bye bye, sushi. I will miss you most of all.) You have to radically change HOW you eat, not just WHAT you eat.

Let me explain.

A nurse used a great metaphor once when describing how the band works in your body. Chronic overeating stretches your stomach out so much that it becomes really difficult to curb your appetite. So the lapband is turning your stomach from an 8-lane interstate to an old country road. You have to slow down, and you can’t handle nearly the traffic.

My old stomach was like the 405, minus the access to In-and-Out Burger.

The path to my stomach is now a meandering road with lovely scenery. And telephone poles.

So this means my eating rules have changed. Here’s what I can and can’t do:

  • Eat slowly, but don’t allow a meal to last more than 20-30 minutes. If I sit at the table for an hour, I’ll eat the same amount as before, it will just take longer and will be really boring by myself.
  • Don’t drink and eat at the same time (this is actually really healthy for everyone and I recommend it), and avoid drinking for up to 30 minutes after a meal.
  • CHEW CHEW CHEW. And chew. And chew.
  • Chew.
  • Take small bites.
  • Learn what foods aren’t compatible and avoid them. For me, I really can’t handle spaghetti/angel hair, a lot of rice, a lot of bread, Chinese food (?) like at all, Brussels sprouts (again, ?), carbonated beverages and anything that is overly doughy, starchy or expanding. Here’s another metaphor: Imagine the esophagus and stomach like the disposal in your sink. If you cram a bunch of stuff down there that can kinda gum up, you will get a clog. Same with me. If I eat a few bites of, say, angel hair, I may take small bites and chew, but as it approaches the entrance to my stomach, it is expanding and becomes hard to pass through. But at first, I might not realize it, so I take another couple of bites, and the next thing you know, I need a plunger. Except they don’t make one for mouths, so I’m screwed

    Don't clog me, bro.

So what does happen if I break the rules and get a “clog,” if you will? Well, it’s not pretty, but it’s not staying around. We’ll leave it at that. Just like a drain with a hairball, pouring water on top of it just causes more pressure to build, so drinking something to “wash it down” not only won’t work, it’s extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes if I am patient, things work themselves out, but more times than not, I gotta fix the problem myself and bring the food back up. SORRY. Like you’ve never puked, get over it. Occasionally, if this happens, it’s no biggie, but if a lapband is too tight over time, you can damage your stomach by doing this too much. Plus, who wants to give themselves bulimia? Not me.

So that’s how it works. The lapband helps me eat slower and less but doesn’t actually affect my digestion, unless I screw up and then I puke. If I need the band loosened, I can get it loosened. And then when I need it tightened, I start over. In the 6 years I’ve had it, I may have lost 55 pounds slowly (due to 2 pregnancies, 1 year-long nursing stint and almost a year of no insurance when I didn’t get any adjustments at all), but if you take away the pregnancy weight, I haven’t gained and held on to a pound at all. In 6 years. How many of you can say that, honestly?

So I’m a work in progress. The lapband is just one tool in my toolbox, as any weight loss surgery should be. There is no such thing as a quick fix. Nobody will lose weight and keep it off unless they change their life. Period. Are you ready?

Back on the (lap)band wagon, Pt. 1

This week, I reacquainted myself with one of the greatest tools I have in my weight loss arsenal: my lapband.

I mentioned in my first post about losing weight that 6 months after my wedding, I underwent lapband surgery, also knows as Laparoscopic Gastric Banding or Adjustable Gastric Banding. I realized this week on my way to my appointment with my bariatric doctor that I have never written about my experience and how I came to the decision to undergo the procedure. I am coming up on my sixth anniversary of having it, so now is as good a time as any, I suppose.

Less than a year before I had the surgery, I had never even heard of the “lapband” before. I had heard of gastric bypass before, thanks to such notable celebrities who had undergone that surgery, like Roseanne Barr, Carnie Wilson and Al Roker, to name a few. And even though I knew I was overweight (ok, OBESE is the preferred nomenclature), I had never even considered gastric bypass. It just seemed like something, well, celebrities did.

Everything changed for me one day while I was working as an editor at a paper in Virginia. I was copy editing a syndicated advice column, and the question of the week was about the lapband procedure. It grabbed my attention and I knew I had found hope.

For those that don’t fully understand what exactly I am yammering on about, let me give it to you in layman’s terms, the only terms I know:

  • You must be morbidly obese for at least 5 years to be eligible for the procedure. Yay for my commitment to fatness.
  • No form of bariatric (fancy word for “weight loss) surgery is a “quick” or “easy” fix. It’s not. If you don’t change your habits to a healthier lifestyle, it Will. Not. Work. It might work in the short term, but I promise you will gain it back if you don’t play by the rules.
  • Gastric bypass is a much faster and much more dramatic weight loss procedure. MUCH.
  • The lapband is not fully permanent, meaning if for any reason there was a complication, you could technically have it removed.

And what is this “it” I speak of? Well, let me show and tell you:

What my insides look like.

OK, so there’s my stomach. Well, not MY stomach, I have never had an organ artistically rendered. That I know of. Let’s pretend that’s my stomach. So on the day of my surgery, my surgeon made 5 small incisions around my abdomen, and with these long stick things (the official name of them), attached a belt, or band, to the top of my stomach. Attached the band is a tube, and at the end of the tube is a “port,” which was sewn into my abdominal wall (did I mention this is kinda graphic? Not too gross, but I’m being honest). The procedure took about 45 minutes and I was home by the end of the day.

OK, so now what? Well, here’s where the “adjustable” part comes in. Inside the band is what I like to think of as a Ziploc bag, but it’s probably something a bit fancier. Anyway, the band is lined with some sort of plastic bag type thing that holds up to 11cc of saline (some hold less, I think. There are different kinds.), which the doctor fills with saline that he injects into my port. What?

This is what makes the lapband adjustable. It's like a tight hug for my tummy.

  • The adjustments, or “fills” as those of us in the know call them, consist of my doctor numbing my port site (the worst part. Why are numbing shots so damn painful??) and injecting a huge needle into the port (which does not hurt with or without the numbing) and then standing me up in front of a moving X-ray machine. He then begins injecting saline into the port, which then makes the band tighter around my stomach. Then I drink some barium (vom) and watch it go down the old hatch and empty into my stomach (which is always cool).
  • A patient returns for fills every 6 weeks or so until you reach the “sweet spot” where you are losing 1-2 pounds a week but can still eat solid foods.

When I got pregnant with Simon, I went in and had all my saline removed so that I could eat like a damn pig normally for my pregnancy.  Wednesday was my return to the lapband world, and I am STOKED to see how the lapband combined with the gym and counting calories works. I am hoping this is the winning trifecta for me.

I would like to talk more about my experience with lapband, and why I chose it over gastric bypass, etc., but this is getting long as it is, so I am going to write more about this later. And if anyone has any questions about the lapband or is considering it for themselves, please contact me! I love talking about it, just like I love talking about everything in my life. You can email me at hayden1222@gmail.com.