Thursday, December 27, 2007

I've Never Been SO Happy to be SO Sick . . .

I've been under the weather lately. Actually I've been "sick" or "sorta sick" or "icky" or "on my deathbed" since I arrived here in Wichita on Halloween. I FINALLY figured I should go see a doctor when I could barely get up the energy to climb the stairs to go to bed Christmas night (actually JOY insisted that I go ahead and make an appointment but, as per usual with these minor battles between us, she was crafty enough to have it LOOK like my idea when it was all said and done).

Anywho, the good doctor could not see me until today at 3:00 and it was totally worth the wait.

I am very pleased to announce that my weight today is 295 pounds. I know that sounds like a TERRIBLY high number to trumpet through the world wide web BUT, for me, it is a HUGELY important number and I could not be more excited right now (okay, truth be told if I could breathe through my nose and without physical discomfort in my chest I would be happier).

I am in the TWOS! My weight starts with a TWO. Not a FIVE. Not a FOUR. Not a THREE but a TWO. I am still losing almost 1/2 of a pound a DAY! I'm only 12 pounds from my initial one year goal (with three months to go I am SURE to meet it and am more confident than ever that I will meet my revised one year goal of 225 pounds lost).

On the third day of Christmas, my doctor gave to me - a greatly exciting weight, a sinus infection and a bundle of regional allergies. Good times!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas . . .

While I still have New Year's Eve and the remainder of Kwanzaa ahead of me, I feel pretty good about publicly stating that I am going to survive my first post-surgery holiday season without any real incident or problem. The only down side to the season was the passing of Joy's maternal Grandfather (the beloved Grandpa Timmermeyer went to his peace on Thursday the 20th) and even that very sad event was marked with a beautiful celebration of his life and an amazing morning of FIVE generations of family in one room, happy to be together, while sad for the reason for the gathering.

Yet, I digress. The season is over . . . the break room here at the office is largely food free today (as the office is largely employee free, that makes sense). The sugar cookies Grandma Amore made with Ava have not tempted me in the least. The equally untempting candies, cookies, brownies and cakes that we had on hand for Christmas Weekend were either eaten, thrown away or both and all of our leftovers from Christmas Eve (Joy made about 15 different appetizers (most of which were fried) that my parents and our family on Joy's side dined on (I had hummus, a little cheese and a few Reduced-Fat Triscuits)) and the six course Christmas Dinner I cooked last night (highlighted with a duet entree plat with filet mignon and pork loin with a hot cranberry-orange sauce for the filet and a chilled cranberry-orange sauce for the pork) are all on their last legs already.

So it is back to business as usual. Gone are the holidays. Gone are the holiday foods that have plagued me for the 30 Christmas Seasons I lived through previous to this one and gone . . . knock on wood . . . are the traditional pitfalls the Holiday Season has brought me in the past.

This Christmas was probably the greatest Christmas I have ever had. Here are 12 of the reasons why (sing it like the song, if you feel so inspired BUT know now that it won't match up to the tune in any way, manor, shape or form) . . .

1 - Joy had the "Christmas Spirit" for the first time in our relationship. It was almost as beautiful as she is.

2 - Ava actually enjoyed Christmas this year and helped open her own gifts. Her reaction to her playroom slide set and her princess horse carriage were almost as priceless as her freaking out (in a good way) over her frog-faced kleenex cover. Ah, simple pleasures!

3 - I had my parents and Joy's entire family with us on Christmas Eve (and I spoke with my brothers three times on Monday and twice on Tuesday so they were sort of "with us" too).

4 - I got my Santa Suit back for the first time in eight years (I outgrew it in 1999) and it is wayyyyyyy too big on me - which means I am officially smaller now than I was in 1996 when the suit was made for me (it was a little loose when it was made but I SWAM in it the other day).

5 - I got CLOTHES for Christmas - from my family. I was not embarassed to tell my family what sizes I wear for the first time since 1997. That, to me, was a greater gift than the clothes I was given.

6 - We watched Uncle Larry's 2007 video (Joy's Uncle Larry makes a photo slide-show/video-archive every year to "record" the year that was) and I saw a picture of myself from last December that made me cringe and pictures from July 4th (I remember how "great" everyone thought I looked on July 4th) and I cringed again. I am HOPING to cringe at the pictures from 2008 when I view next year's video too. My body is changing . . . and it has been an AMAZING year for personal change.

7 - My mother has lost some weight and my father seems to be committed to his diet too. Very encouraging and another one of those great gifts that I can't unwrap but can cherish.

8 - Joy gave me glass blowing lessons for Christmas. People who really "know" me know that I've been obsessed with glass art and glass blowing for 15 or 20 years (I collect large (and sometimes expensive/fragile/soon-to-be-in-a-million pieces) pieces of hand blown glass)). These lessons, for me, are part of the promise of this surgery - that I have a new take and perspective on life and I am doing the things that I always vowed I would.

9 - I was fitted for a new shirt and new pants for Joy's Grandfather's funeral - my neck is now an 18 (it used to be a 22) and my sleeve length is a 34/35, down from a 36/37 - that does NOT mean my arms are shorter, it means my fat body needs less fabric to cover it than it used to and my waist is a 46. That is two MORE inches and I am now down a full 24" from my waist size last Christmas. TWO FEET off my waist. Merry Christmas to my BELT!

10 - I discovered the Nifty Nut House (and it is only an easy three blocks walk from my office) where I can get my fix on dry roasted, unsalted peanuts and - when I'm feeling needy - sugar free candies ranging from Hershey's chocolate to homemade sugar-free caramel, peanut clusters. I can buy all of the above (and more) by the OUNCE so even if I decide I have to go a little crazy, I can just got a LITTLE crazy.

11 - I discovered dessert flavored teas (Sugar Cookie is still my favorite) that not only help make my aching body (I think I'm officially sick after being sort-of sick for almost a month) but taste delicious and have 0 calories and 0 sugar. Yuhmay!

12 - I lost 40% of my body weight this year and, with one week until the start of 2008, I am in the 200s for the first time in a long, long, long time and well on my way to reaching my total weight loss goals by the end of 2008.

Merry Christmas to ME and best wishes to ME for 2008 (and, of course, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you as well)!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finally Watched the Biggest Loser Finale . . .

I finally sat down and watched the season finale of the Biggest Loser last night. In a word . . . WOW.

First off, my man Jez looked great. He lost 150 pounds and gained a ton of self confidence. I STILL think he could have/should have/would have won the entire season if not for bad politics on the part of Neil much earlier in the season but - such is life. He still won by losing in the long run.

A few other people I simply could not believe - JULIE. Holy crap! She lost so much weight, she looks SHORTER to me. Her transformation blew me away in terms of how much better she seemed to feel about herself . . . not so much just because of weight loss but because of what she found in the meantime. Unbelievable what 100 days away from your family can do for your perspective on this life (I did about 60 days this fall and I, like Julie, just hope that my child someday understands why I was away as long as I was). Jerry, too. For a guy his age - he really showed alllll the yungins how it is done - and took his shirt off at the final weigh in to show the guns and the abs. None too shabby.

In general, the episode was just like any other episode for me - a mix of tears and laughs and an appreciation for what I used to weigh - what I weigh now - and how much (little?) I hope to some day way. I was incredibly excited for all 18 contestants on the show - all of whom looked great and felt great about themselves. The teary homecomings and the insight to them still working out and busting their butts was great too - as I continue to struggle to get my butt to the gym on a regular basis.

One twist . . . I found myself looking at all the guys going "Will I look like that when I get down to that weight" or "Dear Jesus, Please don't let me lose all this weight and get those bat-wing bags of loose skin under my arms because I didn't build enough arm muscle while losing weight. Oh, and thanks for the great life otherwise. Love, Sean."

The BEST news of last night's finale (Bill won, by the way - didn't care much about Bill - I'm glad he did well and I admire his relationship with his brother but, I never really got invested in Bill) is that this stupid writer's strike has forced NBC to move up the next season of The Biggest Loser - it starts in just TWO weeks SO . . . I will have another whole season of contestants to root for and to motivate me to work harder and I won't have to wait a year or more for that motivation.

Did you watch the finale? What did you think?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Calorie Counting and Other Annoying Things I Vowed I Would Never Do . . .

I've developed a whole new "twitch" in my growing list of weird, obsessive behavoirs. I count the calories of those around me. I know that sounds/seems weird but it is a game that - for me - has a point.

The simple truth is that very few people in my can/do/would ever eat the amount of food that I used to eat in the average day/meal/sitting/mouthful BUT, since my surgery, most people around me do eat more than I do.

The point of my counting is not, to be clear, to embarass or otherwise criticize those around me (I never share the calorie counts with anyone - even if caught crunching numbers in my head) but it is more to educate myself on how I used to eat and how I can and can NOT eat in the future (as my life returns to "normal" and the newness of my diet wears off, etc. - there are going to be certain mistakes I make and foods I start eating again, etc. - no doubt).

Here is the point . . . calories count up QUICKLY in this world. Before you know it - you're wayyyyyy over whatever amount of calories you wanted to eat. Case in point . . .

We went to Starbucks in Fort Worth before our meeting with our client yesterday. Here is what everyone ate and the calories they consumed (NOTE - I ballparked the calories for each and then did the research to confirm it - in all five cases, I was within a 20% up or down on all estimates). For extra fun - try to guess which one of the following is my order . . .

1 - Venti Peppermint-Mocha Frapaccino with Whipped Cream and Two Frosted Cut-Out Cookies . . . 1600 calories, 50 grams of fat and 400 grams of sugar.

2 - Venti Caramel Macchiato and the Fruit and Cheese Plate . . . 740 calories, 33 grams of fat and 65 grams of sugar.

3 - Tall Nonfat Caramel Latte with Sugar-Free Syrup and a Plain Bagel with Cream Cheese . . . 590 calories, 11 grams of fat and 19 grams of sugar (note the coffee only had 100 calories, no fat and 5 grams of sugar).

4 - Grande Nonfat Steamer with Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce Syrup . . . 180 calories, no fat but 26 grams of protein and 26 grams of sugar (all lactose from the milk).

5 - Hot Chocolate with Whole Milk, Peppermint Syrup and Whipped Cream and Two Slices of Pumpkin Loaf . . . 1300 calories, 46 grams of fat, 168 grams of sugar

Okay, so I had the milk. No real surprise, I guess. And it was DELICIOUS. My new favorite guilty-pleasure. AND, with about 1/4 of my suggested daily calories but 1/3 of my suggested daily protein - I can totally justify it!

In the meantime, I won't even tell you how many calories everyone had at dinner as I ate my lamb skewer appetizer (and left most of it on the plate). For some real fun . . . check out this great directory of food nutrition for just about any fast food or casual sit down chain restaurant you can think of. Happy hunting for the good stuff!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Business Trip . . .

I am leaving a little later today for my first business trip since my surgery.

I tell you this only because there was a very exciting twist to the usually dreaded task of packing last night. Since I only have one day of meetings (tomorrow), I decided to use my garment bag for packing. I put my suit in the garment bag and zipped it up.

That's right. Just in and zipped. I didn't have to fold the jacket over itself and then do the thing where you put the sleeves just so and then tuck the bottom of the coat back up as such - being sure to leave everything else perfectly flat at the same time.

In otherwords - my suits fit in a garment bag. No fancy moves or folding tricks required. Just in, zip and go. NO need to iron the entire suit tomorrow morning. NO worries about ruining my suit during travel (my formerly used magic packing moves are downright dangerous for wools) AND no need to send it out for a formal pressing upon my return either.

If my meeting goes HALF as well as the packing process . . . I'll be a happy, happy guy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

'Tis the Season for Holiday Treats (a.k.a Fancy Junk Food) . . .

In the five business days, we have had the following deliveries made to our office . . .

1 - Four dozen sugar cookies, 1/2" thick with another 1/2" of icing and a generous coat of sprinkles and those freaky, edible metallic balls on top of that.

2 - A five gallon tub of popcorn, divided in thirds so the buttery, cheddarish and caramel inspired (code for artificially flavored) goodness won't mix anywhere but in your mouth/stomach.

3 - A two-pound bag of nuts (stop giggling) that are coated in a sugary/salty "glaze"

4 - A basket full of dried fruits, nuts, snacks, baked goods and packaged cheese/meats.

5 - A Sweedish Pastry Ring (all caps to show respect) that looks, at first, like a cinnamon ring but it has poppy seeds AND cinnamon instead of just cinnamon under the glaze, the sprinkles, the marschino cherries and the m&ms on top.

6 - Three dozen Panera bagels, cookies and danish and a bucket (best word for it) of homemade sugar butter (yep - people make such a thing) to go with the baked goods.

. . . and, finally . . .

7 - A cheese log/roll in the shape of the state of Kansas (the rest of us call it a rectangle) with pita chips, tortilla chips and various crackers to go with the cheesy/nutty/spiced lump on the platter.

Now, mind you, it is only December 11th. My co-workers are all promising their own holiday treats and traditional dishes in the days to come before we close at noon on the 21st for the four-day Christmas weekend we are all living for.

Here's the rub . . . I have not been able to eat a SINGLE thing that has been brought in or sent to us. I can't partake in any of it (some of it I COULD eat (technically) - the crackers, pita chips, cheese log, dried fruit and the cheddar or butter popcorn, specifically but WHY take on the fat and the calories without the protein or the desire to eat the stuff to go with the bad stuff?).

My co-workers have taken every single morsel of the food out of here in their bellies (okay - full disclosure - there is a little bit of popcorn left) and many of them stand around the kitchen table each morning (my desk is next to the kitchen so I am privy to all the happenings of the "break room") and openly lament how they don't "need" the food or "shouldn't be doing this" (tee hee, tee hee) and the comments about the sizes of butts growing has already begun.

It occurred to me a few minutes ago (as I snacked on my Revival protein chips) that - a year ago - I could not have sat next to a kitchen full of junk food 45 hours a week. I could have never NOT partaken in (and eaten more than my share of) the junk food and the snacks that are being delivered daily and I could have NEVER looked at the spread on the table with disgust and disinterest just nine short months ago.

"They" say that when some patients have gastric bypass, their food urges (the mental component to morbid obesity) is somehow altered. Some lose those urgest altogether (I was warned by one peer that about a year after surgery those urges might return) and some just lose part of their food lust.

Knock on wood - I am almost nine months out and I have not had a single food urge. SURE - I might eat a Cheez-It every now and again and I don't always eat reduced fat cheese and I at a Chicken McNugget the other day when I was cleaning up Ava's lunch mess BUT I have not craved sweets or sugars and I have not binged with the out-of-control zeal I used to bring to my eating.

That, for me, is the best gift of the season for me and one of my deepest desires for 2008 - to go another year without food urges and to maintain my commitment to a lifetime of eating well, feeling great and improving myself - one passed up table of Holiday foods at a time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back to the Gym and Other Weekend Adventures . . .

What a weekend! I went for my initial consultation with my personal trainer (giggle, giggle, gag that I have a personal trainer) at the YMCA Saturday morning. The first thing he wanted to do was weigh me, get my blood pressure, body fat percentage, log my BMI and get my fitness goals. While my numbers would probably HORRIFY the average personal trainer (or the average gym goer, for that matter), I was PROACTIVE to tell my trainer that, while I didn't know exactly how much I weighed, I have lost about 200 pounds since the begining of the year and over 170 pounds since my gastric bypass surgery.

Here are the specifics (I am proud of them, gasp in horror all you want) . . .

Weight - 303lbs. That is 230 pounds less than the heaviest I have ever weight, 180 pounds less than I weighed the morning of my surgery (less than nine months ago) and 20 pounds less than I weighed the last time I stepped on a scale in late-September (still losing about 1/4 - 1/3 of a pound per day). MOST encouraging . . . I am almost in the 200s (should be there by the end of the week or by my 9-month marker for SURE) for the first time since I started at GW in January,1998).

% Body Fat - I'm at 38% right now. That means well over 1/3 of my body is fat. That being said, I was in the high 60s the last time I had my % body fat tested. I'm down to almost half of that fat percentage. More interesting (for me) is the fact that I am not that far off the national figures for my gender and age on % and - if I meet my weight loss/fitness goals in the next year - I will be BELOW average (and in a healthy range) by this time next year. That is a statement I could not have even said, without laughing, a year ago.

BMI (Body Mass Index) - My current BMI is 42. That is down from 66 the morning of my surgery. I've lost over 33% of my body mass in the last nine months. More encouraging - if I can lose 3% more of my body (about 20 more pounds) - I will be simply "obese" instead of "morbidly obese" for the first time since the start of my junior year of college.

So all those numbers and stats are great and encouraging and exciting but here is what is even better . . . Joy and I went ot CasualMaleXL on Friday evening so I could buy some sweatpants and t-shirts for the gym. I bought a 2x for both. There was a time - not that long ago - when I wore an 8x for both. The morning of my surgery, I wore a 6x for each. Visually it looks like this . . .


See the difference? How about this . . . I was also treated to a new pair of jeans (my wife loves me) and I tried on the 52s (the last pants I bought) and they were too big. I tried on the 50s and they were too big. So I got the 48s. That's 22 inches off my waist, for those keeping track at home. I have lost almost TWO FEET from the equator that is my waist. Not bad at all.

Anywho, I start my four days a week work-out routine tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. I'll be anxious to see how quickly I can get down to my goals now that I have sweat and physical activity back on my side (I've been more than a wee bit lazy on the workouts since Labor Day).

Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

C-c-cc-Cold E-e-e-eev-ening in Wi-wi-wi-Wichit-t-t-ttt-a . . .

Joy and I, swept wayyyyy up in the holiday spirit, decided to take Ava to Wichita's performing arts and convention center, Century II last evening for the official lighting of the Wichita City Christmas Tree (yep, we are here in the Heartland where you can just say Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays without fear of what might happen - it's an odd feeling after more than a decade in Politically Correct America).

I have talked in the past about how summer turning to fall had me realizing that there are some "downsides" to losing 200 pounds in nine months . . . namely (in this scenario) the insulating impact that weight once had on your frame. Let me be very, very clear - early October in Connecticut simply does NOT compare with early December in Wichita in terms of realizing just what a difference a few hundred pounds can make on a person's body.

It was COLD here last night. All day yesterday, frankly. It never got higher than 35 on the old thermometer and the wind chill put it in the low 20s. I ran home after work to put on a sweater and to grab my coat and scarf. That's right. I wore a COAT and a SCARF and a SWEATER. A year ago - the very thought of all three clothing items at the same time would have made me sweatier and itchier than I can even explain. I even considered wearing the same socks that I used as gloves while decorating the outside of the house on Sunday morning (Dear Santa, I need some gloves. Please. - Sean) to keep my fingers warm. That would have been a bit much though, right?

So we got down to Century II and we were early - too early - about 5:35. We huddled in the lobby of the building for 15 minutes and then headed out in to the cold. The Mayor arrived, the college choir took the stage and I slowly realized I could no longer feel my nose, fingers or ankles. The choir sang their first song. The shivering began. The choir sang their second song. My back started to hurt from the cold (it was not Ava's 20 pounds of warmth in my arms (Ava, by the way, was wearing three layers of clothes, gloves, a hat and a scarf (she was actually toasty warm when we got her home and started to peel the layers off)). The radio DJ spoke. I started looking at the tree going "eh, who cares?!" The Mayor spoke. Yadda, yadda, political yadda, I grunted. The choir sang AGAIN. Surely Jesus doesn't want this to mark his Birthday, I thought. The countdown began "10, 9, 8" "The MINUTE they flip that switch, we take two pictures and run to the car," I stuttered. "7, 6, 5" "Hell yes," Joy retorted. "4, 3, 2, 1" - CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. Thump, thump, thump (My frozen feet across the cold, cold concrete).

All in all - it was nice. The choir sounded great. The tree was pretty. We went and took part in the festitivites and Ava's photo album will never know that we didn't stick around for the fireworks, face painting, Santa's arrival or horse drawn carriage rides.

I drank three mugs of hot Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Tea (I swear it tastes JUST like cookies and is a great Christmas snack for the GBer who can't eat cookies anymore - they also have Gingerbread Spice and Candy Cane Lane too ( have yet to try them)) while preparing dinner.
It was goooooood. The tree lighting, the feeling returing to my extremities and, of course, the holiday spirit and this Christmas just being DIFFERENT!

Friday, November 30, 2007

American Obesity Leveling Off? . . .

According to the ALWAYS reliable and never-using-science-to-meet-political-needs CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and a recent report from the group, American obesity has flatlined. Yep. It's true. Only (that was sarcasm) 35% of American women and 33% of American men are considered to be obese today. Flatlines for both genders.

According to a New York Times article on the report, and my own cynicism, that statistic is not much to celebrate. That we are not getting fatter is a huge thing (I would like to think that by a year from now myself and, over time, my fellow GBers will no longer be considered "obese" and I can help start dropping the obese percentage in America (smile)) but that a third of all men and more than a third of all women are considered obese in this country is not something to shout from the roof tops.

For now though - we'll focus on the positive - that the trend of getting fatter has stalled, at least according to the always reliable and never-using-science-to-meet-political-needs CDC!

The 20 Worst Foods in America . . .

Men's Health magazine has an article in this month's issue that looks at the 20 Worst Foods in America. While I'm not sure that it is a "definitive" list it was very interesting. Here are some of my personal "ah-HAH" moments . . .

There are SALADS out there with 1,500 calories in them!

There are TURKEY BURGERS with 1,400 calories and over 70 grams of fat in them!

And the clinker . . .

The Chili's Awesome Blossom (a la the Bloomin' Onion at Outback) has 2,700 calories (that is more than three days worth of calories for me) 203 grams of fat (that is almost seven days worth of fat) and more than 20 days worth of sodium!

And I used to eat an entire Awesome Blossom by myself back in the day.

Father, forgive me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We're Going to the Y-M-C-A . . .

Joy and I have a BIG weekend planned (can you tell last week's three day work week spoiled me for the five day work week that followed so I'm already daydreaming about the weekend that is coming in just 53 short hours (smile))! We're going to do our holiday decorating (inside and outside - it is supposed to be in the mid-50s here in Wichita on Saturday so we'll probably do the outside first) and we're going back to Ava's gymnastics class (they didn't have class this last Saturday and Ava is teething again so she was in no mood for it the week before) and we are going to join the gym.

Yep. You heard that correctly. We are going to join the gym. As a family. And not just any gym but the YMCA! While the place has a certain "mystique" about it ever since the Village People sang about it 30 years ago (or whenever that song became part of the lexicon) it is actually (in Wichita at least) a very nice place. There are seven different YMCAs to go to in Wichita (three of which are easily accessible from our home) and each one of them has at least one pool (some of them have three or four pools including actual water parks (wave pools and wading pools and slides for the kids, etc.) and each of them has a track and - as a whole - the YMCA of Wichita offers over 600 different water and land classes each week to its members.

Joy and I went with Joy's sister Stephanie to the Express Fitness class this last summer during one of our visits. The 30 minute program features cardio, weight training, resistance and ab excercises and it left the three of us sweating, panting and begging for more.

I am very excited about getting to the gym. My weight loss has slowed way down in the last month or two. I've not been on a scale since mid-September so I don't know how much I've lost but I know that I haven't had to buy new clothes since then either (although I am getting smaller because I know wear a size 2x sweater and my latest pants are getting looser than they were, etc.).

The reality is that my diet is still pretty good - I hit my calorie and protein goals daily and I get lots of fluids, etc. BUT my excercise is not what it should be. If I can get more active physically, I can burn more calories in the average day and I can kick start my weight loss again.

I'm still on target to hit my goal of losing 225+ pounds in my first year out of surgery (I have four months still and I'm feeling good about getting there) but this new commitment to excercise will certainly get me there - and hopefully beyond - by mid-March 2008.

I'm very excited about getting started . . . I only hope that the excitment continues in the weeks and months to follow (I've never really "loved" excercise - truth be told) and I hope Joy takes full advantage too (she says that she is not feeling as strong as she used to be and she swears she's gained some weight too - which is simply not true, from what I can see/tell) AND that we can get Ava started in swimming lessons and then toddler play classes, etc. so she has a good appreciation of physical activity from a young age (since we probably won't be forcing her to play too many organized sports, etc. - it will be more about back yard and park play and that sort of stuff to keep her moving and growing strong).

See YOU at the Y-M-C-A, Cowboy, Indian and Police Officer Village People (the rest of you boys don't have to show up for excercise class if you don't want to)!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dance, Dance Fever and Fighter Jet Madness . . .

After work yesterday we went to Chuck E. Cheese's to join my niece, Lexy, and the rest of the family to celebrate Lexy's 8th Birthday.

Chuck E. Cheese, to me, is sort of like the dentist.

There ARE people who enjoy it. There ARE people who see the value and the importance of going. There ARE people who anxiously count the days until they can visit again. For me - both places are just torturous locations full of crying kids, scary metal objects (swap drills for the "animated" Chuck E. Chesse Band) and things that taste terrible (flouride or pizza).

MOST people who like Chuck E. Cheese will tell you (I hope and pray) that the beauty of the place is the games. It certainly would not be the pizza (which I didn't even consider nibbling on) or the salad bar (which, sadly, I did try to partake in).

But the video games - oh the joy of video games - now you've got me back to enthused. I used to play a LOT of video games. Actually - let me rephrase that - I used to spend many, many, many hours playing the same video game . . . Tiger Woods Golf. I once played for 11 straight hours - took and hour off and played for four more hours. That was long, long ago though and that was sitting on my couch with a controller in my hand.

Chuck E. Cheese has very different games. You can either hand over token after token after token to get cardboard tickets that you can eventually swap back for prizes that are no where near as valuable as the $10 in tokens you wasted to earn them OR you can play these hugely overscaled games that feature guns, pedals, moving seats, taped off marks on the floor for "clearance zones" and dizzying lights and features to add to their allure. Not being much of a ticket swapper at this stage in my life . . . I decided to just sit out the games. I would simply walk Ava around and let her see the sights and sounds and enjoy being with the family.

Then - I saw it - a HUGE jet simulator video game with a fully moving seat and enough blinky lights to make it worth risking the seizure I might suffer for playing. My father-in-law actually saw it first but . . . I decided I MUST play it first. I stole a token from my niece (in my defense, we had given her 50 of them) and climbed on.

As the game began, I had a revelation . . . I was on top of a video game. In PUBLIC. I was not worried about if I would fit on the game or not. I was not worried about breaking the game. I was not concerned that I might not be able to really move with the game. I just wanted to check it out. I rode the jet and I blew LOTS of stuff up. Including my own jet. Several times. I giggled with delight at the whole thing . . . I was like a kid again - riding a video game and blowing stuff up. Something I have not even THOUGHT about doing in well over a decade (I was a senior in high school the last time I "rode" a video game).

I eventually handed off the controls of my kick-ass fighter jet to my father-in-law and then headed over eight feet to see what all the girls were giggling about . . . DANCE DANCE FEVER. That's right - the Asian-Sensation of video games. The sweat pouring, booty shakin', hip breakin' fantastically silly game where you jump around on nine squares that coorespond to the dance moves the game lays out for you on the screen to earn points and to show your dance floor dominance. And here is the REALLY weird thing . . . I waited my turn and jumped on the dance pads and had a go at it.

I only danced for about 15 seconds - it is not nearly as easy to keep up with the screen as I thought it was going to be - but I was jumping up and down on a video game in public too - with my mother-in-law taking pictures the whole time (pictures that will NOT make their way to this blog).

I didn't enjoy Chuck E. Cheese nearly as much as Lexy did (or Ava did for that matter) but, I felt a little bit like a kid none the less . . . and that made the whole experience a little more enjoyable.

Monday, November 26, 2007

So. How was YOUR Thanksgiving?

I returned to work this morning, as I do after every long four-day Thanksgiving Weekend . . . anxious to just shop online all day (Hello - CYBER MONDAY!) and to try to figure out exactly how many days of work I have until my Christmas/New Year's break begins.

Another tradition of Fatty-Monday (as I, on this the 26th day of November, 2007 am declaring the henceforth nickname for the Monday after Thanksgiving - for all mankind for the rest of time - for those that want to just stand around and talk about how much they've eaten in the last five days and how delicious the misery was/is/will be) is, of course, standing around talking about how much everyone ate in the last five days and how delicious the misery was/is/will be!

This year, I have a new work environment in a new time zone but - the tradition remains the same. I've had no less than 15 chats about the Thanksgiving feasts my colleauges overdid-it-on and how much they enjoyed it. The weight of the Turkey. The size of the scoops of mashed potatoes. The kernels of corn eaten (to the nearest thousand) and, of course, the pie - and how many pieces and slivers they all ate and what variety.

One key difference this year . . . just a slight one . . . I have a new perspective on the holiday.

I had no "war stories" to share. NO tales of wonderment at how many mounds of Stove Top I could take down. NO wonderous boasts of entire pies disappearing through my mouth. NO belt loosening, pants unbuttoning, shirt untucking, forehead swetting, long nap taking misery to follow the meal and NO regrets about what I had eaten.

I was happy to listen to my co-workers go on and on. I laughed with them and smiled politely as they shared their great victories and woeful struggles from their never ending parades of food-bliss (leftovers really are the devil's tools) and I was happy to tell of the feast I put together for my wife's immediate family on Thursday and the great, great spread that Joy and her mother and Aunt Joyce and cousin Stephanie layed out for about 35 members of the extended family on Saturday. Everyone seemed to love every bite, I boasted. No one left hungry, I quipped. We'll have left overs through January, I lamented.

Alas, I could not share my own story though. How exciting is three to four ounces of white-meat turkey, some triscuits, some hummus, some Pepper-Jack cheese (not even low fat (I mean a guy has GOT to live it up on the Feast Day, right?)) anyway?

The ONLY boasting I could do is that I discovered a new dessert - four Whole Wheat Ritz crackers with 1/2 tablespoon of sugar-free, seedless Blackberry Jam on each (about 5 grams of sugar, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and about 95 calories total). And how much swaggart does that dish even bring to the table? I know, I know - NONE.

Anywho, as per everything lately . . . I was of course force to recount Thanksgivings gone by and how I would eat and eat and eat and how I would just make myself miserable with overeating all weekend long and how little I seemed to care at the time about calories and fat and sugar and protein and overall nutrition and the IMPACT of such eating on my health.

I was very thankful, to say the least, for my new attitude about Thanksgiving and for my new dessert - which I had again on Sunday - the binge CONTINUES (smile))!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things I am Thankful For . . .

On this lovely Friday afternoon, a brief list of the things I am thankful for in this world. In order(ish) . . .
Family (Amore), Family (Terry/Timmermeyer/Salmans)
Family (Extended)
Gastric Bypass
Day After Thanksgiving Sales and Shopping
LIKING the taste of Turkey Breast and only turkey breast at the Thanksgiving Feast
Life settling back in to "normal" - as a family
Weight Loss
Feeling Better
Guliani slipping in the polls
Richardson surging in the polls (let's at least make it interesting for Hillary's sake (and the rest of us too))
That Ava doesn't YET like Tickle-me Elmo (or anything Elmo)

and . . . the difference in my general appearance in these two pictures - taken just one year apart (Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving).

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Wedding Ring No Longer Fits . . .

Statistically, this was all but inevitable. The research is rather staggering - after an experience like gastric bypass surgery it is very common for things in your life that used to feel so right and that used to be "perfect" start to feel wrong. Statistically, 60% of all women that have gastric bypass surgery will re-examine their marriage or long term relationships and as many as 9% will change or dissolve their relationships following surgery.

I can understand that. We are changing. Our bodies are getting smaller. Our minds are realizing all that we've been through and we're taking stock of who is in our life and why and how we might have never formed or kept relationships with people if we weighed "then" what we weigh "now" (or at least had the introspection we have now).

In my case - I've had a lot of these realizations. Forget people or ways I've acted - let's focus on tangable things . . . like clothes that are black. T-shirts with pockets. Pleated pants. Chicken McNuggets. Soda. Gum. All things I was once pretty sure I could not live without and - low and behold. I CAN. I DO. I PREFER IT! At the same time, things I once vowed to NEVER like . . . corduroys, white dress shirts, booths in restaurants and 3-D animated movies "starring" Angelina Jolie, for instance it turns out are all pretty okay.

Perhaps the things I wanted were never right or perhaps and perhaps the things I like now still aren't right but there is one thing that I've been perplexed to find no longer fits me . . . my wedding ring.

That is, of course, no "figurative" way of saying that I am unhappy in my marriage. To the contrary. Things are possibly better now that they ever were or perhaps ever could have been without my surgery. It is the ring itself that doesn't fit. It slips right off my finger. I have "lost" it a dozen or so times and spent hours searcing frantically for it. I have lost it in the laundry, lost it in moving boxes and, in one case, lost it in Lake Erie.

Today I realized I could take it NO MORE! I could never lose my ring and "survive" - I would be a mess. Anyone who was at my nuptuals to the lovely Joy could tell you that I cried like a baby the entire time I stood on that altar and waited for my band of white gold and it is much, much more to me than a simple piece of jewelry. It is a sign of my life, as I live it, as a husband and a man trying to improve for a wife he doesn't always deserve.

$22. That is all it is going to cost to have my wedding ring fit me again. It will be ready on Friday.

Now, if only all the things I've found in my life that no longer "fit" or that suddenly do "fit" were that cheap, quick and easy to fix.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dillon's v. Stop and Shop . . .

One of my great frustrations of life post surgery, as I've talked about here several times, is that I find trying new foods to be very frustrating and intimidating so, I choose to just stick to a very limited arsenal of foods.

That was all fine and dandy in Connecticut. I was used to my local Stop and Shops and the layout of the stores and the offerings they carried and life was good. I enjoyed grocery shopping and it took very little time for me to zip through the store gathering foodstuffs for Joy, Ava and me wit-da-quickness.

Now we're here in Wichita. No more Stop and Shops. No more Caraluzzi's. Here in Wichita, we food shop at Dillon's - part of the Kroger grocery empire.

Here is the problem with Dillon's . . . it is simply NOT Stop and Shop. It is no better. It is no worse. It is just not what I'm used to. The reality is that foods here and foods there are not the same.

The Bread Aisle . . .
You can not, for instance, get Thomas' Multi Grain Light English Muffins here. You can not get ANY Thomas' English Muffins here. You just can't. They don't sell them. You also can not get, for some very, very strange reason, any Whole Wheat Pitas that don't already come cut in half . . . Joy and I had enjoyed pita-pizza night . . . it is hard to do that on half pitas.


The Meat Aisle . . .
While Chiken Gizzards are readily available here (not so much in Connecticut, as I remember) . . . you can also get a far wider variety of Chicken and Turkey products. Let me tell you how much I love Honeysuckle White! I mean absolute geniuses over there . . . they chop up turkeys and chickens to make delights like you can't IMAGINE until you find yourself in the meat aisle of a Dillon's on a Sunday night.

I'm sure I will adjust to my grocery-shopping life here in Kansas, as I'm adjusting to the rest of life here but - for now - my grocery trips are about 90 minutes long (up 200% from the 45 minute runs I used to make) and I am having to find all new foods and ways to get my protein and my calories.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Stares, Awkward Looks and Stairs . . .

Joy and I were talking last night about how much we love the new house. It is about 2 1/2 times the size of our "miniature mansion" in Connecticut and it has three full floors of living space . . . and we use every square inch of it.

Our bedroom and Ava's "big girl room" (we are no longer calling it a nursery for various reasons - many of which make us look slightly nutty so we won't get in to them here) and a bathroom are on the top floor. The main floor is our living room, dining room, kitchen, guest room, bathroom and Ava's playroom. The basement is our family room, a second kitchen, the third bathroom, the laundry room and a utility/work room. LOTS of space.

Now here is the kick . . . you have to go up and down stairs to get from Point A to Point B. For instance - we put Ava to bed at 7:00 PM at night. The beauty of Central Time is that primetime television starts at 7:00 too so we get her settled and then go to the basement to watch TV. Every up and down for Ava involves two flights of stairs.

Here is why I'm telling you this . . . I sort of let it slip last night that I don't know if I would have liked our house . . . much less loved it . . . eight months ago (before my surgery). Why? Too many gosh darned stairs.

I used to go out of my way to avoid even five or six stairs and I would never, in our house in Baltimore, go from basement to upstairs without a layover on the ground floor in the middle. We had looked at a condo when we first moved to Bethel that had stairs EVEYWHERE that I came up with other reasons to hate without telling Joy it was the stairs.

During my DC days I would not go to certain social functions based on the closest Metro stop and wether or not I would be willing to walk up the stairs from the platform to the gates or the gates to the street should the escalators be out of service and the elevator inconvinient. I used to avoid the "Courthouse" movie theater because of all the stairs you had to use to get to some of the theaters. My apartment was on the ground floor but you had to go up eight stairs to get to it . . . and some days I cursed all eight of those stairs. I was truly THANKFUL when I found out my workspace was on the ground floor at my last job. Even with elevators for use, I was still happy it was not an issue I would have to worry about.

I was just too fat and too out of shape to handle stairs when I was in DC and could not manage all the stairs in my life even just 2/3 of a year ago. I'm not proud to say that but I'm comfortable saying that, now.

Today I can bound up and down them several times an evening (as needed) and I don't look for reasons why I can't go basement to upstairs in one swift series of motions.

Joy looked at me when I told her my "stair secret" like she was sort of horrified, sort of sad for me and sort of relieved that I had the surgery when I did. Our house is all but perfect - it would have been a shame to have passed on it because of my weight and my inability, at the time, to be open and honest about how it impacted and limited my life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Heaviest Day . . .

It was January, 2003. I knew that whatever number awaited me was going to be big and scary and depressing. I approached the triage desk with a nervous energy and a longing to get out of there to go eat lunch. It was a Tuesday morning. 8:00 AM. I had gone for my annual physical the previous afternoon (true to form - my blood pressure and all of my other physical health indicators were "normal" - my blood work, which would come back a week or so later revealed that all was "normal" inside my veins too) and I tried to get on the doctor's scale in his office and - I tipped it. I had tipped a 500 pound scale. In hind sight, I should have become physically ill at this and thrown myself off the nearest tall building or at least gone straight to the grocery store to get some fixins for a salad.

Instead, I got annoyed. Why? I was told I would have to go to the hospital to be weighed. That meant a longer Metro ride the next morning, a one block walk to the hospital and then an extra block's walk back to the Metro, a train ride to my office and then that walk too WITH stairs to climb in the Metro stations. The HORROR of ALL THAT energy and "excercise" upset me.

I had made it to the hospital though . . . now I just needed to get this over with. The triage nurse looked at me like I was crazy "You just need to be weighed?" she scowled. "Yes," I muttered. "Do you know this is an Emergency Room with people in serious medical need?" she groused. "Do YOU know that I weigh more than 500 pounds and that I might myself be in medical crisis and I need to know my weight accordingly," I snapped back. "Go on back then, sir," she gritted "scale is at the back of Aisle 2. Help yourself." "Thanks," I spat.

I took off my shoes, my shoulder bag, my swearter and my over shirt (I knew this number would be bad - every pound I could take off would help make it more stomachable. I turned on the scale and climbed on. The digital numbers zapped up and down for a minute. The first number locked in 5. The second number 2. The third number 8. And 6 ounces for good measure. I felt sick to my stomach.

I put my shirt and sweater and shoes and shoulder bag back on. I walked back out of the Emergency Room. I thanked the triage woman for her "assistance" and I walked out to the cold DC air to head back to the Metro.

I made it about 10 steps. I stared to feel very sick and very sweaty and I started to cry. Sob. Shaking and twitching and gasping for air type tears. Like on Saved By the Bell when the girl is taking speed to get ready for her talent show and the SATs and her big test and she sleeps through the talent show and Zac goes to check on her and she breaks down . . . the streets started spinning. I felt very dizzy. I sat down. On the sidewalk. I cried for about 15 minutes.

I called my doctor that morning to give them the number. The receptionist asked me to repeat myself. I did. The doctor called me back about 20 minutes later. He was actually angry. Very angry. He challenged me, at the age of 26 to defend that sort of weight and that sort of condition. And then he challenged me to come back in six months - on my birthday - and to not tip his scale. He gave me the numbers of two nutritionists and a shrink and a personal trainer. He hung up on me.

I did the math . . . 30 pounds or more. Six months. Five pounds per month. 1.25 pounds per week. A few ounces a day. I could TOTALLY do that.

And I did. I went back - on my birthday - at 8:00 AM. I weighed 492 pounds. I went to McDonald's on my way to work to celebrate.

My how far I have come in about five years.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat? . . .

The TREAT was being home in time for Halloween Trick or Treating fun. The TRICK was a 23 hour drive in just under 26 hours . . . with sleep. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

On the Road Again . . .

With only about 30 hours to go until I strap in to the ol' Matrix for the drive to Kansas, this story appeared today on with healthy eating tips for a road trip.

According to the article - a few simple actions can make all the difference . . .

• Plan ahead, bring food with you
• Drink plenty of water
• Choose grilled chicken, fish, meat
• Eat fresh fruits and vegetables

Finally a suggested diet that feels like just about every day to me. Here's what I'm packing (food and beverage wise) for my road trip . . .

1 - Four "Super Sized" Pure Protein Blueberry Crumb Cake protein bars (28g of Protein, 10g fat and 3g sugar in each bar). I'll eat one for dinner Tuesday night and then one for breakfast Wednesday morning with the other two as "safety" meals in case I can't find something else I want to eat (I should be home in time for dinner Wednesday night).

2 - A 1.5 Liter bottle of Glaceau's Smart Water - I'll nurse it all day Tuesday and will have it Wednesday morning too, just in case (room tempurature water doesn't scare me - it is apparently better for you and digestion anyway). I'll likely need more water along the way too but, that is why we stop to pee anyway, right? So we can put more fluids in our bodies?

3 - Three bags of "Smaller Hips Jalapeno Cheddar" Revival Diet Non-Naughty Nibbles. Don't let the name fool you - unlike "the pill" they may be MARKETED to womean, but they are ingestible by either gender. These snacks pack quite the flavor wallop and with only 100 calories and 7 grams of protein (0 grams sugar) they make a great road trip snack (or TV snack, for that matter).

Now, unlike when Joy made the trip two months ago - I will not be stopping for sit-down meals so I should make better time on the trip BUT I will be stopping every three hours to walk for 15 - 20 minutes and to just stretch my legs in general (I need my excercise daily, right?) and also, unlike Joy, I will probably rob a gas station somewhere around the Ohio/Indiana state line - just to prove that I can do ANYTHING after surgery.

Okay, that last part is a lie. Joy robbed a gas station too.


If you are the Indiana State Police.

Or the owners of the gas station.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pants - My Life Seems to be About Pants . . .

My khaki obsession resumed today when I tried on two pairs of pants in two different sizes at the JCPenney in the Danbury Fair Mall.

Now I know, I know . . . STOP talking about your stupid pants, Sean. And I will try. I promise.

There is a point to this open love letter to the cotton twill pant - reread that first sentence. I was shopping for khakis IN a store IN the mall. Not CasualMaleXL. Not Rochester Big and Tall. Not Westport Big and Tall. Not even Men's Wearhouse. I was shopping for pants - and had options - in yet another store that - until very recently - only my skinnier counterparts could frequent for all their khaki needs.

There is good news and better news. First - it was great. They had brown, navy, olive, black and grey pants to choose from . . . they had two different inseams to choose from . . . they had pants made by four different companies to choose from . . . I HAD CHOICES in khakis. Second - I am another two inches smaller in the pants than I was just a month ago. I've lost 18 inches off my waist. 18. That is a foot-and-a-half to you and me. Ava's waist is not even 18 inches around to begin with. I've lost my daughter's waist from my waist . . . and then some.

Anywho - I didn't buy the khakis when it was all said and done. I couldn't find the right inseam/waist ratio and if you factor in the price of the pants and the price of the alteration - they were more expensive than the pants I could get at CasualMaleXL that come to my exact specifications.

What a great thrill though. Another store to shop in. Another 2" off my waist. Another of life's little moments after surgery that remind me how wonderful life after surgery really is.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dinner with Tom Kelly . . .

I had dinner with one of my best friends from college tonight, Thomas J. Kelly. Now Tom and I used to have a very similar life - we both lived in the same 12ft. x 17ft. room. We both studied Mass Communications and we had the same circle of friends.

Life, of course, could only be that simple for the four years we both spent at Quinnipiac. A lot has changed since then. Tom works for The View. He also writes a radio prep sheet for morning radio shows and he writes comedy and preforms stand up comedy. I work in Public Relations. We both have followed our paths and we both seem very, very happy in our choices and our chosen lifestyles.

That being said - we're just not as close as we once were. Not that anything happened or that we had a falling out or whatever . . . I mean, sure, there have been some issues along the way (we were friends, right? friends fight, right?!) but the main obstacle to our friendship has just been life itself. We have lived within 90 minutes of each other for 18 months - and I just saw Tom four days before I left town - and he came to see me on his way to a wedding up 95 from Stamford.

It was a great dinner, truth be told. It was nice to sit down with Tom, catch up, share some memories and talk about how different life is now v. 10 years ago when we thought we knew what the next decade might bring us.

Tom, of course, made a big deal of the new smaller me. He thought I was back down to my Freshman year weight (truth be told - I'm about 20 pounds heavier now than I was when we graduated so - I have about 80 more pounds to go to get back to Freshman year weight). I was just happy to think that I have undone almost a decade of weight gain and could still sit and enjoy a meal with a friend who knew me when . . .

The peace tour continues. And it feels great.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gastric Bypass? Are you CRAZY? . . .

I'm behind by about ten days on this release but a co-worker just sent me this story from WebMD and CBS News that finds 20% of all gastric bypass candidates are eliminated from eligibility for the procedure through psychological screening.

Now, 1 in 5 is a considerable number. To put it in perspective - only 9% of all first time drivers license applicants were denied permission to drive, in Utah, according to a 2002 review and only 14% of all Americans believe that Double Stuf Oreos are better than the original sandwich cookie.

BUT that number, to me, seems about right. I've been around the GB block, yo. I've known many a candidate, many a patient, many a happy success story and many a person who had the surgery and is not doing enough to realize the full benefits of the surgery at this time. Why? It is HARD to be ready for gastric bypass because, as I see it, morbid obesity is not as much a physical condition as it is a mental condition.

I'm not alone in that opinion. According to Dr. Sean C. Amore, PhD in Nothing from the University of Make Believe, there is absolute and undeniable clinical proof that any person who can get to a weight and a BMI significant enough to qualify physically for GB has no doubt been through enough mental stress in their life to lead to their weight and mass.

It could be any number of things to explain the mental impact on the physical condition on the day OF evaluation. According to the WebMD article the main mental reasons barring people from surgery are . . .

- Overeating to cope with stress or emotional distress (62 percent)
- Eating disorder (27 percent)
- Uncontrolled mental disorder (20 percent)
- Current significant life stressors (11 percent)
- Lack of effort at following a formal diet program (8 percent)
- Lack of social support to cope with the transition after surgery (4 percent) - Unrealistic expectation of change (2 percent)

I would argue that the list of things that lead, mentally, to the day of the evaluation and the weight of the patient might include abuse (physical, sexual, mental, verbal, etc.) as a child, adult or both, a poor self image through negative reinforcements and peer pressures, a significant life event that lead to depression without enough other coping mechanisms beyond food and, in my case, a sense that you are not your weight and people should know better.

I, myself, had two significant mental problems that lead to my life of severe obesity. One, I was never really sure of myself as a child/adult/person and two, I was pretty sure that as long as I didn't know myself, I might as well keep on eating. I was crazy enough to think that I would find myself at the bottom of a bag of chips or at the crust of the last slice of pizza or in the bottom of a large soda or whatever.

I won't blame any one person or any one thing for my life or my weight. Well - I blame MYSELF for it, I suppose.

In the meantime - I'm less emotional than I once was. I'm very much at peace with my role as a husband and a father and with profession and with my family and with my friends. I found myself some where along the way and realized, about two years ago, that I had to have this surgery and I started trying to clean up the mental challenges at that time to be more ready when my surgery date actually arrived.

To those people that maybe did not get through the mental screening of the pre-surgery procedure or for people who are prepping for surgery and are afraid they won't be able to say good-bye to food or that they are not ready for the changes they will have to undertake - I say GOOD FOR YOU. Take pause. Think it over. Be ready. Get ready. Look at why you are eating and try to figure it out and deal with it and put it to peace before the surgery. Another month or year of delay as you work on the mental - or never having the surgery period but KNOWING what is driving you to overeat and gain weight, etc. - is worth the delay because you will be better off on the other side of that delay.

As any one who has gone through the procedure only to find themselves not ready on the other side could tell you - that number, 20%, sounds fair but - if it was 21% or more . . . it might not be a terrible thing.

In the meantime, I wish continued health and success - physically and mentally to you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Whatcha Been Up To? . . .

Greetings. I just realized that I haven't posted in almost a week . . . very unlike me and I apologize. Things are okay - fret not. It has been QUITE a week though - no joke, no doubt . . .

FIRST - my mother is in the hospital. As I've mentioned many times, I come from heavy stock. My mother and father - while not nearly as heavy as I have been in my younger life (I still weigh more than them, frankly) BUT - they are much older and much more "entrenched" in their mentalities about food and diet. That being said - my mother is having some serious colon issues. She has diverticulitis and she has a perforation in her colon and she has only just started to realize that a lifetime of poor diet has had a terrible effect on my mother's health. She is facing the chance of multiple surgeries and she's been in the hospital five days already and the end is not yet in sight for her. My heart goes all the way out to her and I wish her a quick and full recovery, clearly, but the whole time I was at the hospital this weekend - I just kept thinking - THANK GOD I had this surgery before all the health demons under an unhealthy eater's bed came out and got me while I slept (or worse, while I was awake). I am so very, very sure that a far worse hand would have been dealt to me if I would have stayed on the path I was on. Get well soon, Mom. I love you very, very much and wish you all the best through this process.

SECOND - I have been busy prepping for my big drive west to Wichita. Once again, I have been thinking a lot lately about time and opportunities and how life is a funny thing. We have only driven out to Wichita together one other time. It was the summer of 2006 when we were waiting for Gracie to be born. I was in the high 400s at the time. The whole drive was almost painful. Crammed behind the wheel. Stuffed in the passenger seat. Only stopping long enough for gas and to eat, go the bathroom and sleep. I got to Wichita and I was so damned glad to be out of that car, I swam about two hours a day in Mom and Dad Terry's pool for the first two weeks we were in town. I lost about 20 or 25 pounds. Then, I got an ear infection - a pretty bad one - I was ordered out of the pool until I got better and then Ava was born and then we left . . . I wonder how much more comfortable the drive to Wichita will be next week and I wonder if being trapped in my car for two days will make me want to walk and walk and walk for miles and miles and miles when I get there. How much weight will I lose just being reunited with Joy and Ava and just having my heart back in one piece? I can't wait to find out . . .

THIRD - I am continuing my "peace tour" - it was great to be back in Upstate, New York this weekend and to get some Ithaca-in-October air in my lungs. My father and I went to collegetown so I could get a Cornell sweatshirt and we had to park a few hundred yards away from the store. As anyone who's been in Ithaca's collegetown before could tell you - it is pretty much all up and/or down hill to walk around. We had quite the climb to get to the sweatshirt store and my father didn't do so well. We had to pause in the middle of the hill for him to catch his breath and he sat in the store while I shopped to further recover from the climb. I, on the other hand, had no problem climbing the hill or shopping at the top . . . what a difference seven months has made . . . NO WAY I could have ever climbed that hill before my surgery. NO WAY I would have not been winded and NO WAY I would not have driven around for an hour looking for a closer parking spot to avoid the walk/climb. In the meantime, peace be with you - collegetown!

FOURTH - I have just posted to my blog - for the first time in almost a week.

PS - Jez, you are my hero! Keep it up, bruddah!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Long Term Goals Cut Short . . .

I attended support group last night, as I have once a month for the last nine months, and I had another fun evening with friends old and new (lookin' good Hank, Cathy, Kate and Julie, etc.) and, as per always, the evening was well worth the time invested.

The only lowlight (overall - a very upbeat and fun session) was something that I don't know if anyone but me in the room even realized or took as a slight but, in my beady little brain . . . there was another sign that no matter where you are, people will sell you short because of your weight.

The set up . . . we had a guest speaker (who was great and he meant NO harm (to level set)) who gave us all a quiz at the end of his presentation.

Got your pencils ready?

Question number four (paraphrasing) . . .

A long term goal to lose a large amount of weight is a good short term motivator: TRUE FALSE

What is the answer?

THAT is where the "conflict" was born.

Our speaker, in his medically trained and professionally qualified experience (and in his ignorance that I was in the room), felt it was absolutely false that deciding that you want lose a large amount of weight over a longer period of time in any way motivates you to work harder in the short term. He felt that it would only be appropriate, if weight loss was your goal, to set short term goals to work towards in the short term. It makes sense, right?

Not to me. Here's my thing (get out the soapbox, kids, I'm climining on it) . . . don't sell me and my fat peers short. Don't decide for us what motivates us or what motivations will work for us. All of our lives - no matter where we go - people are doing that. Making decisions about who we are and what we are and what we are capable of based on our physical bodies and our inabitlity to maintain our weight BUT every journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step BUT - if you are foolish enough to WANT a 1,000 mile journey . . . you were working for that when you took that first step, right?

The medical community has long sold obese people short. My primary care doc, her degrees on the wall behind her, treated me like an idiot that would not even read her pamphlets on healthy eating and blood pressure management because of my fat. I'm heavy, not illiterate, you twit!
I get why she did that, I guess. Our culture sells us short. Our friends and family often sell us short. Shoot - we sell ourselves short most of the time.
There is ONE place where we need to get all the credit in the world . . . in that room. In that support group. In the medical and social treatment of us before, during and after our surgery. We clap for every little thing in that room - because none of them are small things in that room.

No one should be able to sell us short in that room. No one should doubt us.
We are all coming to grips with (before or after surgery) a HUGE decision, a HUGE life change, a HUGE defining moment in our lives and a HUGE challenge to live the next x days of our new lives knowing that all we knew is gone. All we used food for is gone. All that our weight meant to us (good and bad) is leaving. We need to be supported and encouraged. Even if we fail. Even if we aren't able to motivate ourselves. Even if we are frustrated and annoyed. We need, most importantly, to believe in the power of ourselves. That WE (you, me, the new guy, the former Marine, Cathy's sister . . . WE CAN GET THERE - we CAN overcome our weight - in time.)

Here's my thing - I have always been fat and was always gaining weight (with brief periods of diet and loss here and there). I knew, with every pound I gained in my life (and I gained 520 of them) that I would eventually want to have those pounds off me. I would lose them - one after another - or I would die and my soul would leave all 520 behind at once. One way or another . . . I would lose them.

The week before my surgery, I set my goals. I wanted to add 20 years to my life. I wanted to dodge diabetes and cholesterol and heart disease and stroke. I wanted to climb stairs and have my breathe when I got to the top. I wanted to skydive.

More relevant to this rant . . . I wanted to lose 10% of my body weight (48 pounds) in one month. I wanted to lose 10% of the remaining weight of my body in the next three months. I wanted to lose 10% of the remianing weight of my body in the next three months. I wanted to lose 10% of the remaining weight of my body in the next three months, etc. etc. etc. One week before my surgery, at 483 pounds and in my car in the drive thru at McDonald's (ah, inspiration strikes where it wants to strike, I guess), I decided that I would some day weigh 220 pounds (I've since changed my goal weight to 200 pounds).

So, how am I doing? GREAT, thank you. Ahead of schedule, thank you. Still losing weight, one pound at a time, thank you. Still BELIEVING that I will get to my long term goals based on short term success and incrimental movement towards those goals, thank you.

Will I get to my goal? Hard to say. Am I MOTIVATED to get to my long term goal to lose 263 pounds eventually by the loss of each individual pound in the meantime. You betcha!

Bottom line - enough of this doubting and trying to protect us from setting big, long term goals. Enough of the nay sayers and the doubters and the cynics and the people who will decide that because you are fat and you needed this surgery to battle that fat that you can't get to where you want to go with your weight. Enough of the negative reinforcements and doubting the will power of the obese. No more of the implication that you can't dream big about getting small.

YOU can do it, my friend. Set yourself a nice, big, lofty, ambitious and brazen goal. Hell, set TWO of 'em.
If you can take it one step at a time and if you can follow the rules and ride out the low moments . . . I'll look you in the eye and repeat that you can and you WILL do it any time you want to hear it.
YOU, like skinny people (if I understand how the world really works (smile)) can do anything, if you just take it one step and one pound at a time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Want Some Taco Bell . . .

Some co-workers are going to Taco Bell for lunch today. "Makin' a run for the border," they quipped (hardy-har). The obligatory "Do you want anything, Sean?" was, of course, lobbed at me and the equally obligatory "No, thank you." was lobbed back. Then, I got to thinking . . . I COULD eat at Taco Bell. I have since my surgery, for that matter. Three times. We were, all three times, traveling and it was the easiest fast food and their Bean Burrito "Fresco" style only has 7g of fat and 12g of Protein (for full nutrtion of all of Taco Bell's "treats" click here).

Anywho, I had another one of those "oh my" moments. Back in the day - if my office mates were rolling out to Taco Bell. Or if Joy wanted Taco Bell. Or if I was driving past/near/in a 10 mile radius of a Taco Bell. I WOULD have had Taco Bell. And LOTS of it. And not the "Fresco" style (I had to protect my "honor"). I used to eat a lot of Taco Bell. And Popeye's and Long John Silvers and McDonalds and Burger King and Wendy's and Hardee's and . . . you get the picture.

I can honestly say that I am sort of sickened by how much fast food I have eaten in my life - especially in the four years since I first bought a car (when the real trouble began, frankly). I'm mainly just ashamed of the way I would eat fast food. The way I would think about fast food. Like if it was eaten in my car, and if it was only $1 or so per item . . . it didn't really count or something. Joy mentioned it in her post a few months ago but I would eat fast food on my way home to eat fast food. It was a problem. I am sorry for it now. I can't go back though - only forward.
I won't say I will NEVER eat fast food again - that would be a lie. I like the grilled chicken wraps from McDonald's (no sauce, light cheese, throw away the excess tortilla/wrap-thingy) and I like a bean burrito from Taco Bell every now and again too. BUT I have maybe eaten fast food seven times since my surgery. That's about once a month. And only about 300 calories per time v. the thousands I probably used to consume each time that I "treated" myself to it. I WILL say though, on this cloudy and dreary Wednesday morning, that I won't eat Taco Bell today.

Day by day. Day by day. Day by day. These are how the changes in a life are measured and how the progress in eating habits are seen.

Enjoy your Gorditas and your Chilupas, officemates. I am going to have turkey and cheese on a whole-wheat pita.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cleaning Out My Closet . . .

Upon retuning from Wichita late last night (it was about 1:45 AM by the time I got off the road for the night) I was trying to unpack my suitcase and I realized that it is once again time to clean out my closet.

I have four different sized pants in my closet. I have three different sized sportscoats. I have three sizes of dress shirts and four sizes of casual shirts (can you tell that I got a little distracted by my clothes - even well in to the early morning hours?). As I started stuffing in to a garbage bag (Goodwill will be getting some good will from me this evening) - I started thinking about the metaphoric closet of my life too.

As many of you know, I am just a few weeks away from making the move to Wichita to be there with Joy and Ava full time (for those that don't know - I am just a few weeks away from making the move to Wichita to be there with Joy and Ava full time). I am leaving behind my job, the 31 years I have lived in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States, the nuclear family of my childhood and the extended family and network of friends I have come to rely on over the years.

There are a lot of emotions I have about this, naturally. The first and the most powerful is - of course - elation that I am soon going to be back with MY family (Joy and Ava) and that that I am making the necessary sacrafices for us to have a better and happier life as a family. At the same time, I have some anxiety about having to resocialize myself and going in to a very different political/social culture than the one I am used to (PLEASE don't start stereotyping Wichita or Kansas - it is a wonderful place - it is just different than here - not better or worse in all ways (but better and worse in some)).

I am also struggling with the fact that I am going to be facing the very real chance that I might never again see friends of mine from high school, college, my DC/Baltimore years and even my year and a half here in the New York/Connecticut area. Not that I don't want to see them again or they don't want to see me but I have barely seen any of the people from each "previous phase" of my life as I enter in to the "next" phase . . . why would this transition be any different?

So I'm at a crossroads - I can make myself crazy and try to figure out a way to see everyone one last time (or see them again and promise (each and every one of them)) that this is not goodbye OR I can just sort of let my life and my actions in this life speak for themselves.

There are, true to my nature, complications with that logic. What about the friend that I left things on not-so-good terms with? What about the friend that is still waiting for me to return borrowed DVDs or CDs? What about the friend that owes ME DVDs or CDs? What about the friend that worried about my health and my weight for years but never saw me in this phase of my weight struggle - losing weight, feeling good, hopeful that I've "won" this time, looking healthier than I have in almost a decade, etc.? What about the friend that I never told them how much them meant to me? Or the friend that never had a chance to tell me what a jack ass I am?

So, for now, I'm going to start cleaning out my other closet too. Getting out the trash bag and heading for the Goodwill.

I won't make myself crazy in that process though. I'm not even going to try to see a fraction of the significant number of people that have meant significant things to me in my life. I might send some e-mails, I might make some calls, I might hope to see a handful of them and I might even try to plan our next trip back east around the hope of seeing people then. I might just make sure that my contact numbers and e-mail addresses for people are up to date. I might just try to make sure they have my information (this is a two way street, I suppose).

I'm rambling.

The point is that I am mainly looking for peace at this point. I am already AT peace with my (our, more over) decision to make this move. With leaving this job. With finding another one. With having my family in a better place for us.

What I still need is more peace. Peace with my weight. Peace with the struggle that I am currently waging against my weight. Peace with my family. Peace with my friends. Peace with the voices in my head that used to make me feel like I "had" to see all these people or "had" to reach out to all of these people. Peace with the fact that part of the transition in my life is understanding that everything is changing: my eating, my body, my mentalities, my emotional crutches, my hopes for "normal" and the way I am percieved by strangers and intimate relations alike based on the size and shape of my body, etc. My zip code, social circle and mentalities on who I have been and who I will be might as well change too.

I can't afford to look too deep or too long at my old life or the person I was or the great times I had or the adventures I undertook or the stupid things I said or the mistakes I made in those "previous" phases of my life. I can only offer peace and try to take peace away in return.

I will only find peace with all those things if I clean out my closet and share that good will back.

For those who know me best and are rolling their eyes right now - I might remind you that if you don't know this part of me (DISCLAIMER - Just a few short years ago (months?) I would have laughed in your face if you tried to talk to me about making peace and acceptiong things and trying to make your life simpler by doing so, etc. I have not always been the nicest of jolly fat men!) perhaps it is because you don't know the next phase of me or the latest attempt at me.

Me today is cluttered. It's not perfect - but it is improving. It's streamlining, it's decluttering, it's focusing on quality over quantity and it is looking to grow and develop and further to reflect who I really am versus what used to fit "me" or who I was or what seemed like the right thing for the moment. Just like my closet.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cause of Death . . .

Clearly, I have nothing but sympathy for the husband and six surviving children of Annette High but I have a problem with the way the story of her death has been told.

Here is the headline . . .

"Mum-of-six dies days after gastric bypass she was convinced would 'improve her life'"

Here is the cause of death, three paragraphs below . . .

"She died as a result of heart disease."

NOW - no doubt that being overweight most of her life, as the article implies she was, had put strain on her heart and no doubt that, as the article points out, the surgery itself might have put her body through enough stress to agrivate the heart condition she had PREVIOUSLY DEVELOPED but - is it responsible to imply that gastric bypass killer her?

NO! It would be like if you went to McDonalds and used the drive thru and, as you pulled back on to the street you were blind sided and killed . . . and they said the Big Mac killed you. Okay, maybe not but you see my point.
What WOULD be appropriate is what she said to her husband who begged her not to have the surgery . . .

"I warned her people had died having them, but she said people also died from being overweight."

What killed Annette was her weight and her heart. She had tried the lap band which worked at first, as it often does but it was no longer as effective and she was gaining weight again (as statistics would show is very common). She decided to take her weight in her own hands and have this surgery. She saw it as a way to extend and protect her life and her health.

Her heart, not gastric bypass, decided otherwise.

Again, no disrespect to Annette's memory or the remorse of her family and friends - I'm sure that I would be looking for any one to blame and any finger to point if my wife was ever taken from me by any circumstance BUT, the journalist who wrote this story should have had better senses to put this story in the appropriate context.

The story does point out that there are risks of death following surgery (I would disagree, based on my readings and research and experience, that 2% of patients die within a month of having the operation but - the University of Washington says it is true so . . . ) and that her heart condition was "possibly" upset by the surgery.

I, like Annette and no doubt many other people who have struggled with their weight and made this agonizing and somewhat scary decision looked at the risks of surgery and the chances of serious complications (including death) associated with it and then I, like Annette, looked at what my life might include without the surgery and the far more serious complications and risks that I would face and the far greater likelihood that my life would be cut short without doing "something."

I can only hope that most would-be patients are confident and emotionally ready enough to make their decision without stories like this - freakish occurences - obstructing or blurring their view of what lies ahead of them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Feeling Blah about Food . . .

I think I'm hitting my "wall" when it comes to my normal food regiment.

Not to say that it has to be this way - in reality I CAN eat thousands and thousands of foods in this world. Flavors could and should abound. It should be a great treat and a great reward to find foods that are delicious and nutrtious and dine sensibly on them. I just have to be smart about it, watch portion size, count my calories, sugars, fats and proteins and know that I am responsible for every bite I put in my mouth.

The reality is also that I am very afraid of food still - after almost seven months. I eat a very, very small arsenal of foods. Those foods include . . .

- Fat Free/Skim Milk
- Reduced Fat Triscuits
- Reduced Fat Cheese
- Chicken Breast (no skin and often from the deli)
- Turkey Breast (no skin and often from the deli)
- Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Pitas/Wraps
- Protein Bars (I like Pure Protein and Protein Plus brands the best)
- Fat Free Refried Beans
- Chicken, Turkey and/or Beef Chili
- Boca Chik'n and "beef" Patties
- Black Bean Soup
- Fat Free Sour Cream
- Fat Free and Sugar Free Yogurt
- Hummus
- Veggies
- Sugar Free Mentos candies (no more than two or three discs per day)
- Egg Whites
- Salsa, Mustard, Reduced Fat Mayo and Pickle Stackers for "flavor"
- Water, Flavored Waters and my new favorite Fuze Slenderize and Tea (hot or cold) every now and again too.

Oh - and I eat Fat Free Pringles Light and Fat Free Pretzel Nubs if I'm feeling desperate for "salty junk food" (limiting portion control to no more than one portion per day and being sure to count those calories for the day (fret not)).

That's pretty much it. Has been. For seven months. If I'm being honest - MOST days, I just consume fat free milk on my drive to work, a protein bar for breakfast, a cup of chili for lunch, a turkey or chicken or Boca pita for dinner and some triscuits for an evening snack. I eat on the low end of the 800 - 1200 calorie per day dietary guidelines almost every day.

I'm in a rut though. It's starting to take its toll on me. Like looking at my closet in the morning trying to find something to wear - there are lots of options, there are lots of things that I am familiar with and that have served me well and that would do the trick but - I just can't seem to find anything I WANT to wear. Today, for instance, I'm wearing a blue v-neck wool sweater, a button down shirt from before surgery so it's way too big on me (collar just POPPING out) some pleated (I just thew up a little in my mouth) khakis so I can have the smaller waist I want and the room for my still-big belly that I need and my favorite loafers. Uninspired! I'm feeling the same way about my brown bag lunch and my breakfast too. Thank GOD they don't make pleated protein bars.

I need to break out - in my closet and the fridge. I know this. I've struggled with this before. In my long and legendary history of a dieting, about the time the food starts to bum me out - the diet starts to bum me out which CLEARLY means the diet needs to go (in my head at least).
I don't have that option now. This diet is for life.

I DO have the option to shake up my food choices though. Maybe I'll get a new bag-o-tricks for the next seven months or at least expand my food circle a bit.
In the meantime, my morning milk is getting warm and my protein bar is not going to eat itself after that. Blah.