One year later, would I do it again?

It has been almost one year since I had my bariatric surgery. As writer Roxane Gay said, “this surgery is barbaric when you think about it.” Did I mention she said that directly to me? See how I threw in that name drop? Yes! I met Roxanne last Friday at a conference, and I raised my hand, and asked her about how she was doing since she had the gastric sleeve (same as me). She said that she is happy that she did the surgery, and I agreed. She said that she misses being able to “eat her feelings” and I nodded. Food is fuel. Repeat after me. Food is fuel. Here, Roxane writes about her feelings on the surgery.

So, one year later, would I do it again? 100% yes. Now, if you secretly think it is an “easy way out” of obesity, I will say that having 75% of your stomach surgically removed through five small incisions in your body is anything but easy. The recovery time is fairly swift (back at work after 2 weeks), but it took me a few months before I really got the hang of my newly-renovated organ.

Last night I went to the support group at the hospital where I had the surgery, and it was the “meet the starts” panel of people reporting to pre-surgical folks about what to expect. I went because some folks have been doing some diet talk around me lately, and it is bothersome on many levels. I wanted to ask the group how they handle it. I learned that everyone’s recovery is just a bit different but there are some commonalities. Here’s my list for curious readers and people contemplating the surgery:

  1. Everyone’s recovery from bariatric surgery is unique.
  2. Protein is crucial. With a tiny stomach, protein provides slow and steady energy. And make sure that protein is moist. Dry stuff tends to get stuck. Honey mustard, ranch dressing, etc are perfect accompaniments to grilled chicken, steak, salmon, etc.
  3. You may have to say goodbye to your favorite carbs, like rice, pasta and bread. I can’t remember the last time I had sushi. Before my surgery, I ate it religiously. Now I go for a teriyaki salmon instead when heading to a Japanese restaurant. Still delicious.
  4. Your shoe size may change! I was a solid size 8 for years while heavier. I am now a 7, maybe a 7 1/2. I’m slowly replacing all of my shoes. If you’re a size 8 and want to raid my closet, give me a shout out before I sell them all on Poshmark!
  5. Speaking of Poshmark, resale websites are a great place to get rid of clothes that are too big. I also do a lot of donating via the Vietnam Veterans of America, who pick up at my front door. I’ve sold about 7 bags to ThredUp as well.
  6. Many people will comment on your body changes. Some won’t. It’s good to decide up front how you want to respond. My general response when someone tells me I “look good” is to say, “thank you, I feel good.” I did this to feel better and be healthier, so my response is appropriate. I do not mind if people comment. It happens. I don’t sweat it.
  7. You do not need to be so open about how you lost the weight. While I am open about having the surgery, others just tell select friends and family. Totally fine too.
  8. Your tastebuds may change. I can immediately tell if something has added salt now. At first, I can’t stand it but after a few bites, I am usually ok.
  9. Going out to restaurants can be incredibly stressful. Since I’m open about my surgery, I usually say to wait staff, “I am going to eat a small amount of food, very slowly, and take the rest home. It doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.” I find this allows me to eat in peace. I do not do this to help the wait staff. I do it to help me. Remember that if I say this when I’m out to eat with you. It helps me eat in peace.
  10. People are curious and generally uneducated about this surgery unless they know someone who had it. People will think you had a lap band or a bypass. It’s an easy thing to clarify. Don’t sweat it. And I don’t mind answering questions for curious minds.
  11. Not drinking enough can really be detrimental to your body. You’ve seen my previous posts about “severe constipation.” Drink up. I’m sipping on a Powerade as I write. No sugar gaterade-type drinks are fantastic to help with this problem.
  12. Speaking of drinking, be very careful when you drink alcohol again. I will only take a few sips when out in public because you can get drunk very quickly. No one wants a DUI.
  13. You can gain the weight back. The human body is a miraculous beast – that stomach can stretch, you can fill it with ice cream and then fill it up again shortly thereafter, and suddenly, your weight can go up again. So, it’s good to be mindful about food intake.
  14. Exercise is important to one’s success. I wish I could say I’ve been diligent in this area, but I’m trying. Wanna take a walk?
  15. Despite the stats, relationships can survive the surgery!

 

A whole new(ish) world

One of the wonderful side effects of my weight change is that I can now shop in many more stores – the ones that sell “straight” sizes versus “womens” or “extended” or “plus.” Pick your favorite euphemism.

I have been dipping my toe in some size L/XL items from TJ Maxx, but today, I jumped into the pool & journeyed to the world of Assembly Row in Somerville. For those of you who aren’t local to Boston, it’s a newish outdoor outlet mall with shops, restaurants, AMC theater, LEGOland, and more. I have only been there once years ago to see a movie. I hadn’t ventured there because they had few stores I could shop in besides accessories, etc.

Today I hit up Loft Outlet and got some cute things that were not expensive. Last week I got a few more tailored work items at Ann Taylor Outlet. These are definitely part of my comfort zone – “inside-the-box” kinda clothes. I look forward to branching out, back to BCBG and Nordstrom and Saks outlet for some edgier things. I’m still wearing my plus size Avenue jeans – again, comfort zone, but I’m almost sized out of them.I will miss Torrid and Lane Bryant, but I will not miss the frumpy and sequined tops that scream “I’m fat so I must shine in sunlight!”

I can’t deny it – walking around in my new puffer coat – 2 sizes smaller than my last purchase – feels good! I’ll try to post some photos soon. Ciao!

19 days

It’s amazing how pjs and a cozy bed can help one’s mood.

I went to the Mt Auburn group tonight and while the session wasn’t super helpful, I did get some great advice:

“This surgery is the best thing I ever did.” — said a woman who had the surgery 6 years ago.

“I was driving again 8 days post-surgery.” –said a woman I met at the last group who was pre-surgery and is now post.

I told them all I care about is getting back in the car to see my mom as quickly as possible.

Optimism.

Curves

It’s finally #thecurvycon!

The Curvy Con is a 2-day fashion show, body positive conference, and shopping extravaganza. Hundreds of women & men (maybe?) gather during NYFW to express power to our curves. Of course, I’m going to be losing weight post-surgery but no doubt I’ll be curvy. I’ve been curvy even when thin!

I’ll be blogging during the con and will post videos & pix too!

Strength

My mom is the strongest and bravest person I know. ❤️

Immersion Day

I took the day off from work and experienced what Mt Auburn calls “immersion day,” where you spend the day learning everything you’d ever want to know….and more…about bariatric surgery. We heard from the surgeon, behavioral psychologist, dietician, nurse, and from each other – 4 strangers about to embark on a monumental life change.

I still have many tasks ahead prior to surgery: physical with pcp, visit with pulmonary specialist, 3 group sessions, a visit with the nutritionist, a visit with the psychiatrist, blood tests, and more. Tonight I placed an order on amazon for a food scale, measuring spoons/cups, a book on bariatric surgery, protein shakes, and a Where’s Waldo? Book. Ok, the last one is for a 6-year old bday party coming in Sept!

I’m glad I waited to call mom until after the day was over because she had a rough night and had to see the oncologist today. She felt better when we spoke later in the day because she had gotten an IV drip. Still, she wanted to hear about how my day went. I called back again later and filled my dad in on the day. I reminded him how brave & strong he and my mom are in this process.

Today was exciting – for the most part – and it confirmed: I’m ready for the surgery! I’m working hard to have it done at the end of October, before mom’s chemo is done, and after our big campaign event at work. Trying to imagine 2 weeks off from work, staying home because I’m on pain killers, is daunting.

I don’t remember the last time I took 2 weeks off, in a row, from work. I’ve been slowly telling my colleagues that I’m having the surgery so they aren’t caught off guard when they see me in Jan at our next retreat and I’m a bit smaller.

I am also mourning the loss of my wardrobe a bit. It may be larger sizes, but I love the stuff I’ve acquired over the years. But, it’s just stuff. I’ll replace it with more stuff.

Ciao!

It’s a new week.

I’m not sorry to say goodbye to last week. It was a tough one. I started out with a 3-day retreat for work that was focused on giving & receiving feedback. Needless to say, it triggered the heck out of my anxiety, but I pushed through it & then headed back to my parent’s place, which was only 30 minutes away from the retreat.

My mom has lost 15 pounds since her surgery & she’s having trouble eating. I went to the supermarket and picked up as many creative things I could think of that she might want (and could) eat: protein shakes in her favorite flavors, pudding, fruit & cottage cheese, fruit juices, peaches, cheese & crackers…. dad send me an email tonight saying that she drank the whole vanilla protein shake so that was encouraging!

And, I went out to get mom new shirts since her old ones are now too big. I picked up camis since she can’t wear a bra because of her incision.

In the midst, I tried to keep up with my work emails and squeezed in a lovely lunch & mani with a dear high school friend.

But my head is constantly spinning and ruminating. Work, friends, mom, Mr T, my own surgery, my upcoming colonoscopy & endoscopy. It’s a lot to process at once. When I get overwhelmed, I start to shut down. So, I’m trying to process things at a pace I can handle.

But it’s hard not to worry about mom. She has a wonderfully positive attitude, despite the crazy things infesting her body right now. I need to keep her as my inspiration. If she can stay positive, then, darn it, so should I!

During the week, I listened to the audiobook called Hunger by Roxane Gay. It was sad and angering and, in many ways, relatable. She struggles with her weight and food – sadly due to a terrible rape as a little girl – but her body issues are very relatable. And, she just published an article that she had bariatric surgery in January. In her raw way, she talks about the before and after effects. I found it helpful to read and relate to as I go through the steps myself.

Many of you have reached out as a support, and I thank you. Of course, my continued gratitude to those of you who have been calling, texting and sending cards to mom. She’s loving her plants, cards, and good wishes!

The Gifts of Imperfection

A few hours ago, about 15 miles away, author and psychologist Brene Brown took the stage at a conference and spoke, likely, about her newest book and research. Sadly, I didn’t get to experience her lecture in person, but there are plenty of her past interviews and talks to listen to online.

brownI can’t remember, but I feel like I’ve probably written about brown in the past. I first learned about her if you jobs ago when we read the book “Daring Greatly,” which focuses on vulnerability. It particularly resonated with me because she discusses that when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we can help eliminate the shame we feel about our imperfections.

I recently purchased Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” to help me continue on the path to “knock down” and remove the power of my so-called perfectionism. You see, perfectionists like myself aim to be good at everything – or, at least on the surface – so that we don’t have to deal with the shame or hurt feelings as a result of making a mistake or being imperfect.

My past history with an eating disorder clearly matches up with a perfectionist personality. When I didn’t want to feel, I would attempt to numb my pain with food. Well, guess what, that didn’t work!

Through years of hard work, I’ve been able to tackle my perfectionism and exist with my feelings – good or bad. But, let me tell you, it is hard!

I listened to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast where she interviewed Brown. Listen. Trust me, it’ll be 30 minutes well spent. And there is a part two!

Brown mentioned something that has been resonating with me all day. She said that we don’t pair “joy” with “gratitude” enough. We need to take the time to relish the good things that happen every day, whether it is the wind on our face as we open our sunroof and windows on a beautiful day….or the company of a good friend over an unexpected lunch date….or a morning with little traffic on the way to work.

I can tell that I’m conquering my perfectionism. I made a silly mistake today at work – no big deal and typical for someone still learning their job after only being there for 3-weeks. I am not obsessing over it the way I would have in the past. I acknowledged it with an “oy vey!” and moved on (besides writing about it here!). In the past it would have kept me from sleeping at night – this silly little thing that means nothing in the scheme of life. But tonight, I will not let it fester. I will work hard to let it go!

I will continue to look for things in Brown’s writing and research that resonate. I look forward to discovering more of her wisdom and using it to grow as a person.

Now, go out and dare greatly!

Tony Robbins is tall and a genius.

3946634-anthony-robbins-quote.jpgI’ve never paid much attention to Tony Robbins. Before last night, I knew his name, that he is a famous motivational speaker, and that he has a raspy voice. That pretty much covers it.

I had a bad case of insomnia last night. This happens from time to time, but most often when I have a big work event coming up. This time it is our annual gala.

So, often I will listen to podcasts to help lull me to sleep. One of my favorite reporters/newscasters is Katie Couric. She’s spunky. She has a new podcast where she interviews politicians, celebs, people of notable interest, etc. I had the Tony Robbins interview in my queue for a bit because I wasn’t that interested in hearing it, but last night, I figured I would give it a whirl.

Tony Robbins is a brilliant and fascinating man! He grew up in an abusive household and despite the odds, ended up on top! He gets paid about $1 million a day, and he tries not to have more than 3-4 clients at a time. They are usually top CEOS and, you know, the President of the United States, though Trump is not a current client.

hqdefault.jpgBut what intrigued me was the quick-thinking advice that came out of Tony’s (like how we’re on a first name basis?) mouth? Just brilliant. I can’t afford his advice, but I can watch his TV specials or something on YouTube…and I can afford a book!

P.S. Uh oh. He sells a green drink on his website. Let’s pretend we didn’t see that, huh?

 

 

 

 

Intuitive Eating

Have you ever heard of “intuitive” or “mindful” eating?” It’s a great alternative to the diet mentality where you deprive yourself of certain foods to lose weight. Intuitive eating basically encourages you to listen to the cues that your body provides in order to nourish yourself.

On the website www.intuitiveeating.com, run by Evelyn Tribole MS, RD, they highlight the 10 principles of intuitive eating, which you can read in full here.

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I really like the concept of “honor your hunger.” I stopped doing that for years during my time with binge eating disorder. Now I’m working hard to pay attention to when I am hungry and what is my body craving. Lately I’ve been wanting peanut butter, which may be because I like the taste, it’s easy to eat, and it is filling. I’ve been stocking up on Nature Valley Peanut Butter biscuits. They’re portable and taste good.

I also really like “respect your fullness.” That is definitely something I’ve needed to be mindful about during my recovery. I used to eat so much and then be so uncomfortable. Now I try to eat a good-sized portion that will fill me up but not leave me so stuffed!

Can’t wait to learn more about intuitive eating as I move along the next chapter in my healthy relationship with food and the emotions I feel around eating.

 

 

Good Mood

downloadI woke up this past Saturday in a good mood.

I cannot remember the last time that happened. I woke up, rest, and ready to start the day. I felt happy. As someone who has dealt with a mood disorder since her early 20s, this is almost a miracle.

Why, I asked myself? I think part of it was that my mammogram came back normal. It was the start to a long weekend. I was heading to a wedding – a happy celebration of love.

Feeling good, being in a good mood is unbelievable when you’ve been waking up feeling anxious and depressed nearly every day for the last 5 years.

I told someone the previous week that I thought I was going to die young due to all of my anxiety. I seriously thought it would kill me. Isn’t that a horrible thing to not only think but say out loud?

But I’m feeling more positive now, like I have more of a kick in my step.

At the wedding, I even made declaration that by the time my brother turned 50 (5 years), I would be in a relationship.

 

 

 

Europe: September 2013

Oh, where do I begin?

The last time I wrote, I was embarking on a journey to Europe and was sipping on a cup of espresso in France, waiting for my connecting flight to Barcelona.

I’m going to share the tale of my adventures in Europe through words and pictures. The words are excerpts from emails I sent to my family and friends while abroad. I think it does a good job of capturing my feelings at those very moments.

Paris, September 9: Email to mom

img_5798Chilling at airport in Paris.  My flight doesn’t leave for 3 hours – slight delay – so having an espresso & croissant.  And yes, I could taste the butter!

I don’t think it has officially sunk in yet that I’m in Europe!  Looking forward to a nice shower tho!

 

 

 

Barcelona, September 9 (later that day): Email to parents and brother

IMG_5845.JPGAt my “apartment” that I rented for a couple days. It is really nice!

And the most random thing happened at the Paris airport. I was chatting with a girl from New York online – – she randomly got online behind me – – and we got to talking and it turns out that she is from Lincroft and went to Middletown South!   She is 32 so we wouldn’t of known each other, but we thought it was really funny that we had to go all the way to Paris to meet someone from the same hometown.

I am going to shower and get some food and rest. Today is my reading  day.  Will hit the town tomorrow!

 

Rome, September 14: Email to close friends and family
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Greetings from my happy place – Rome. I haven’t felt this content and at peace in years.  The people in my cruise group are fabulous & I’ve  made a lot of friends.

You guys are going to laugh but the first night, I got propositioned by a 67 year old man from north Carolina.  Yes, “propositioned.” Everyone keeps making fun of me for it!  No, I did not accept the offer.  He said “no strings attached.” He could be my father!

Yesterday we spent the day in Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii.  Since I’d seen Pompeii before, I sat and had a coffee with an 85-year-old man from my group.  I hope I’m on a European cruise when I’m his age!  He is an attorney – still working – and we talked politics (he’s a republican for Hillary), socialized medicine, you name it. The tour guide gave me a big kiss for taking care of John.  I enjoyed it!IMG_5888.JPG

Today I’m wandering Rome.  I walked my 10,000 steps in 2 hours!  Now I’m relaxing at a cafe near Piazza del Popolo on my way to St. Peter’s.

Tomorrow I’m going with the group to Pisa and Florence.  I haven’t been to Florence in a long time so it’ll be nice to see it again & experience it through my new friends’ eyes – many of the people in my group have never been.

After Italy we head to southern France.  I booked a trip to Nice & Eze upon the recommendation of my colleague.  Then onto Marseille and back to Barcelona.  Now I’ll have people to hang out with in Barcelona.

Somehow I got a free drink package on the cruise so I’ve been enjoying a lot of free wine!  There is a Cirque de Soleil tent on the ship so a group of us plan to do that one night.

That’s pretty much it.  Off to stroll some more!  Ciao.

 

Cannes, September 16: Email to close friends and family

Hello from France.  Traveled from port in Cannes to Nice & Eze today.

In the last few days I’ve walked about 30  miles!  Not looking forward to sitting behind a desk again. Ate a crepe with Nutella today.  Ok…maybe 2 of them 😄

 

Marseilles, September 17: Email to college friend Jen after spending the day with her longtime pen pal, Lucille

IMG_6120.JPGIt’s like we’ve known each other for years!!  I think Lucille & I both know you so well.  I filled her in on your life!
Lucille, please come visit us.

 

Barcelona, September 18: Email to mom

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Sad to come home (followed by many sad-face emoticons)

 

What inspires you?

Sometimes we need to stop, take a breath, and remember to reflect on the small things in life.  I like this list of 50 ways to find inspiration by blogger .

I experienced #29 today – a half day conference on board & staff relationships.  Interesting stuff.