Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Don't Know How Much "Labor" I'll Have That Day . . .

Ah, the unofficial end of summer is upon us. Gone are the summer vacations of America's youth. Used are the vacation days of America's working generations. Expired are the excuses to wear jeans and a t-shirt and flip flops to the office. Lost are the long, long days and the hot, hot nights. I can't say I will miss you, heat and humidity. I CAN say I plan to see you off in style.

My family and I will be journeying to our favorite home away from home this weekend, Wichita, Kansas to spend time with my Joy's family.

And with travel, for me, brings food anxiety. NOT that I am afraid that I won't be able to eat enough or that I will eat to much but more - that I am out of my element so I have to be more flexible with my food intake for the four day weekend we plan to take.

I'll still pack my protein bars that I eat for breakfast, I'll still find myself some fat free milk for my morning snack. I'll still be able to pick up some reduced fat Triscuits that I eat instead of bread and I will still have tons of proteins available to me (cold cuts, BBQed chicken breasts, reduced fat cheeses, powders, bars, etc.) BUT I won't have it all in its normal places and at its normal time.

Traveling and vacation, for me, USED to be an excuse to eat like some sort of recently escaped kidnapee. At the airport? You HAVE to eat Cinnabon - nothing else to eat, right? On the road? You HAVE to eat at McDonald's - no time to stop, right? Spending time with family? Four cookies and a slice of cake are just being polite, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The reality is that the challenge of eating on the road for me is just a way of me seeing how out of control my eating used to be and how many excuses I would make just for the sake of eating whatever I wanted.

My lovely mother-in-law came to be with us during my surgery and then I didn't see her for four months. When I finally did, I had lost 100 pounds and my entire mentality on food had changed. She made several comments, all positive, about the changes in my eating habits and how wonderful I looked and how well I seemed to be doing. Her compliments alone make the flight and the layover in Atlanta worth it (smile).

I would give the following advice to those of you who might be traveling for the first time on your post-surgery diet this weekend (or those that struggle with eating on the go).

1 - Plan Ahead. Look at the whole day ahead of you - where are you going? What are you doing? What is the general mood of the crowd you will travel in? Do you KNOW you will get three good, sensible meals and a snack? How about fluids? Will they have water where you are going? Will it be cold and refreshing? If not - how can you improvise to ensure that you get what you need?

2 - Speak Up. Don't be that whiner in the group BUT you can't just eat "anything" anymore and you can't go all day without "anything" either. If you are needing something (fluids or protein) and your group doesn't seem to be giving you opportunities - remind them that you are a different person than you were and your diet is different too.

3 - Pack. I don't leave home for more than a few hours at a time without a bottle of water and a protein bar - as emergency nourishment - in the car or in my wife's purse or Ava's diaper bag. It's doesn't take up much space and it could save your life.

4 - Make Good Choices. You are on vacation so - live a little. A LITTLE. Don't eat just for the sake of eating and don't break the rules for the sake of "embracing the break from real life". It's not worth it. Sugary sweets might look good at the amusement park but - does dumping syndrome? Not so much.

5 - Take All the Puzzle Pieces. Make time to excercise. Take your medicines and your vitamins and suppliments. Sleep enough. Eat right. Drink enough.

So that's my thougthts. Enjoy the weekend. Enjoy the rest of summer. Take a moment of pause to remember that NEXT summer will be very different than this one and that the fall and winter might seem colder than last. Life after surgery is all about change - the seasons AND you. Enjoy it all!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Translating Trans Fats . . .

My parents came to town to visit this weekend. They love time with their granddaughter (and their son and daughter-in-law, they say as an after thought (smile)). While we ate dinner one evening, the subject of trans fats came up.
I was sort of shocked to realize that my parents didn't really understand what trans fats are - OR that removing trans fats from foods does not in any way imply the foods are actually healthier for you (9 times out of 10 the trans fats are replaced with other fats in the overall nutritional content of the food) . . . just that one type of fat is removed.

Now, I'll grant you that trans fats are the "baddest" of the fats. Trans fats are a result of injecting liquid hydrogen in to otherwise "semi-harmless" vegetable oils to harden the oils. It is better for shipping the oils that way and it is easier to store the oils. One thing I read also said that trans fats allow food that is fried to cook faster and at higher tempuratures and I have also read that so called hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are also a cheap preservative for shelf foods (preboxed cookies and grocery store birthday cakes, for instance). Trans fats are thought to be so terrible because they are instant cholesterol impacters - they raise bad cholesterol and reduce good cholesterol. Not a good impact!

Dunkin Donuts is the latest food chain to announce that it will be removing trans fats from it's pillowy circles of dought and other decadent delights. Other chains include Starbucks, KFC and Baskin Robbins (owned by Dunkin Donuts).

I have a friend, Carrie, who lives in the DC area. She once went on a "No Hydrogenated Oils Diet." At first I thought that meant she wouldn't eat McDonald's any more or that she would no longer eat Oreos or whatever - I had NO idea, until she started her diet, just how common trans fats are in foods and just how many foods were no longer on Carrie's list of edible foods. Quite the education.

I feel the same way, since my surgery, about sugar. I know that we can have some sugar. That as long as it is a few grams or less per serving and the 6th (or lower) ingredient in a food you should be okay BUT I am fearful of dumping syndrome to the point where I even avoid fruit (and fructose is an "okay" sugar) for fear of what might happen.

The point is that food companies cutting trans fats from foods is great. I'm allllllll for it. BUT - let's be clear about what is really going on here and that food is not really any healthier for just getting the trans fat out. Cutting the FAT would be something to celebrate.
In the meantime - I have educated my parents (as Carrie educated me) a few years back and I hope that you will share your knowledge with a few others too . . . especially if you know someone (and who doesn't) that might have cholesterol problems (obese or not).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Let's Go For a Walk . . .

My wife and I walk for excercise. When we first moved to Connecitcut, in May of 2006, she was all gung-ho that if we got out and walked it would be good time for us as a couple AND - bonus of bonuses - we would become more active and would burn some calories and lose some weight.

ALMOST all of that was true. We did get some good quality time and we did burn some calories . . . but I'm not sure if we lost any weight. The fact is that the walking didn't last long. It was turning from Spring to Summer and we were in a new house and I had a new job and we left in late June to go wait for Ava to be born in Wichita. I think, total, we walked about a dozen or so times.

Since then we have resumed our walks. Sometimes alone, sometimes together, usually with Ava in tow in the wagon her Uncle Ryan gave her for her birthday in late July.

Walking, for me, is one of the greatest forms of excercise. More power to you stationary bike lovers. Sprint on, all you runners. I admire your strength, weight lifters. I follow your lead, aerobic class junkies. For me - excercise is about one foot in front of the other - at my own pace OR using one of my The Biggest Loser DVDs. It is usually just my way of getting another of the four crucial pieces to the "Overcoming My Weight" puzzle (surgery, excercise, healthy eating, healthy mind and body).

HOWEVER - On the last Sunday of September there is a very important walk that I am hoping to partake in that is worth much, much more than just a small piece of the puzzle.

I would encourage every one - regardless of if you are a surgery candidate, if you have had surgery, if you battle the bulge or if you know/love/admire someone who does - to participate in this year's Walk From Obesity of Greater Connecitcut.

The walk is a fundraiser to help further obesity research AND, more importantly in the short term, obesity education and understanding.

The contact at Danbury Hosptial for the walk is the lovely and talented Marcia . . .

Marcia Hansen, BSN, RN
Bariatric Care Coordinator
Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Danbury Hospital
203-739-7131 x 7523
fax: 203-739-1669

BUT all that you need to know can be found on line. To sign up for the Connecticut Walk From Obesity and to learn more about it click here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Oh, Really? Gastric Bypass Lowers Risk of Death? SHOCKER . . .

Maybe I'm overly cynical and I've been drinking the surgery Kool-Aid a little too much but TIME magazine ran an article this week on a study from the New England Journal of Medicine with the "No S*it, Sherlock" title of "Gastric Bypass Lowers Risk of Death".

The equally unsurprising (and sorta condiscending) lead of the story reads . . .

"Whether one regards bariatric surgery — last-resort weight-loss operations such as gastric bypass and stomach stapling — as an essential treatment for obesity or as a failure of the fat person's will, the fact is, it works."

Some interesting facts from the article -

  • The mortality rate attributable to obesity-related disease was 52% lower on the whole in the surgery group.

  • After gastric bypass, patients were 92% less likely to die from diabetes, 59% less likely to die from coronary artery disease, and 60% less likely to be killed by cancer.

Here is my problem with this article - of COURSE the surgery reduces death risks!

It is MODERN MEDICINE. We're not rubbing mud from the Mississippi Delta on our bellies. We're not taking pills with the oil of a rare fish's eggs inside. We're not wrapping our bodies in Saran Wrap. We're not just trying ANOTHER fad diet. It's not electro-shock treatments on our muscles. We're not praying to Saint FattyPants for "mercy" from food.

We are leveraging one of the greatest advances in the history of obesity medicine to our own health advantage.

OF COURSE gastric bypass will lower death risks. Why would any one ever think that the surgery would NOT reduce the risks of death? Hmmmmm - lose dozens to hundreds of pounds (depending on where you start and how far you go with the loss) and get off your medicines and get rid of your C-PAP and see your feet for the first time in years and start to like yourself again and excercise more and lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol and your risks for heart attack and stroke - all POSSIBLE, for me (and I would presume all of us), because of a surgical procedure.

And don't bring MY "will power" in to this. Do we look at the clinically insane as just being too "lazy" to get happy? NO. Do we criticize people with learning disabilities for not working hard enough on their reading, writing and arithmetic? Uh-no. Has any study in a prestigious medical journal ever challenged that a person with severe and regular migraine headaches is just too self absorbed to shake the pain? Nope. These are all medical conditions that are treatable. They can all be overcome. They can all be managed. How? MODERN MEDICINE.

Now, I hate to get on my soap box AGAIN but why, in late-2007 is it still okay to take cheap shots at fat people and our use of this surgery? I often discuss (and this is not my original thought so I am not taking credit for it but I love the logic) that gastric bypass for me is like chemotherapy and radical surgery for a life long smoker with lung cancer.

No where in the history of media coverage has an article that I have read (please feel free to prove me wrong) nor has the medical community nor has the general public opinion EVER said publicly that a smoker who gets lung cancer doesn't deserve to have medicine on their side in their fight. No one ever dismisses the condition they are now in because they lacked the will power to quit smoking years ago. Never do they have to read in TIME magazine that chemo and surgery can actually help fight and beat lung cancer if done right. Why? It is MODERN MEDICINE. And they deserve whatever treatment and help medicince can offer them - regardless of how or why they got to where they are when they decide they are at rock bottom and they are ready to get healthy.

Alright, enough - I've got a pile of work to do and I am leaving a little early today to get in an extra long workout this evening (I hope TIME magazine approves of my use of excercise to overcome my weight battle).

To read the TIME article, click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

For August - it Sure is Chili . . .

Perhaps it is my recent weight loss, maybe it is just that it is dreary and rainy out, maybe that it is only 60-some degrees, perhaps it is all of the above - or MAYBE it is just that I looooooooooooove a heaping cup of the spicy stuff but - today just felt like a Chili-for-lunch kind of day for me!

Long a fan of the soup-genre, I have rarely met a bowl or cup of the stuff that I didn't like. I think it started as a kid with tomato soup and grilled cheese followed by Chicken Noodle and Saltines and then, later, after several years of all sorts of homemade, canned, store bought and restaurant prepped soups - I had a brief but fulfilling love affair with the cream based creations at Au Bon Pain during my days in DC (I still think of you fondly, Corn Chowder!). I must say though - the one spicy spoonful that has always had my number is Chili.

Now - let me be very clear - I currently eat only turkey chili with a reduced fat and lower oil content. I don't put much cheese in it anymore (perhaps a pinch or so - always reduced fat cheese) and I don't eat it with crackers anymore BUT I still eat Chili just about every time I can.

The beauty of Chili, for those about to have, who have just had or who years ago had surgery is that you can eat it in almost any stage of the surgery diet. You can puree it, you can eat it during your soft solids and you can certainly whoop it up in the solid and latter stages of the diet too.

I suggest eating about 1/2 cup of Chili in a sitting. You'll get about 2 - 3 grams of meat and beans (up to 25 grams of protein) and you don't take on more than 225 calories or so for the chili and the sprinkle of cheese so it is well within your daily calorie limits.

Stew Leonard's, for those who have one near by has an EXCELLENT low-fat chili, for those - like me - who don't have the time or enthusiasm to make their own!

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Lovely Wife Weighs In . . .

When I first met Sean on August 2nd, 2003, there was no hiding the fact that he was a big man. He was a big man in every way though – big man, big smile, big laugh, big heart. I count my blessings every day that we happened to meet and that I have always been able to see him for who and what he is and not just what size he happened to be at the time.

Truth be told, I never really thought his weight had ever really complicated our lives much outside of choosing a table instead of a booth at a restaurant and sitting really close on planes. Even on an intimacy level, our mental and emotional connection always seemed to make up for what our physical life was lacking. It wasn’t until the outside world reminded with a dirty look or a completely inappropriate question or comment that I realized that we weren’t the “average” couple.

When Sean asked me to share with you the changes I have felt either indirectly or directly due to this life change, I thought I didn’t really have anything to share. Our relationship has never really focused on or been centered around food so, I don’t have the typical complaints that I hear from other spouses about not being able to eat this or that together or having to prepare two separate meals. In fact, anytime Sean needs something different than what Ava and I are eating, he prepares it himself. Actually, he does most of the grocery shopping for our household. I don’t have a single complaint as relates to meals or meal planning and preparation. Our relationship also hasn’t changed the way most people assume it would with such a huge weight loss. I don’t suddenly find him sexier. We are not like newlyweds again. I have always found Sean sexy regardless of his weight.

Since Sean’s gastric bypass five months ago, Sean has experienced a world of change that I can only try to understand and relate to. I, Sean’s wife and partner, have only really experienced major change is two areas.

One, the way we deal with stress and two, watching the world catch up.
Food has always been Sean’s best friend and shoulder to cry on when the life was stressful. Food meant comfort. Falling in love, getting married, joining households, starting a family, those are all things that while they may bring great joy, they also bring great stress. I remember days when Sean would work a twelve hour day, commute over an hour and then try to race home to be a husband. On those days, when life just really got to him, he’d walk in reeking of fast food and ask “what’s for dinner?” like I was somehow oblivious to the fact that he needed that french-fry fix to help shake off the day so he didn’t bring it home with him. That’s just the way it was. It was something he learned and something that stuck with him into adulthood. Like a drug addict needing a fix, he needed food to soothe him. He’s worked so hard and come such a long way and I am so very, very proud of him. However, he never really learned how to deal with the inevitable stress that is life. So, it’s a struggle, for him and for us to try to find a new way….and we’re getting there bit by bit.

Outside of figuring out how to deal with stress, the biggest change that I have the privilege of witnessing is the outside world finally seeing Sean the way I’ve always seen him. I wouldn’t believe it unless I’d seen it with my own eyes, but Sean has been treated so differently because of his size. People used to look through him. People used to make the most insane assumptions and feel free to make the most hurtful comments and ask truly insensitive questions. It really would not be tolerated if Sean was being treated this way because of his religion or ethnicity. At times I’ve been struck speechless and at other times I’ve just wanted to strike someone speechlss. Sean learned to just ignore it and somehow always be the better person. I’m not that strong. I can say that after the 140 lbs. plus weight loss that he’s experienced, the world is finally treating him like the kind, sensitive, intelligent man that he is. I am both angered and delighted when people now ask if he’d like help in a retail store or when someone actually looks at him enough to realize that he’s gotten new glasses or a different haircut. People no longer look quizzically when I say “we’re together” while waiting to be seated. It’s about time.

I know I shouldn’t get so angry, but if you’re lucky enough to know Sean, you know that your life is richer because he’s in it and to see him somehow discounted simply because of his size….well, it just breaks my heart.
I know that every person’s struggles are different, that vastly different life events have brought you each individually to this place. But, the one thing all who have undergone gastric bypass and the people who love them can collectively celebrate is that somehow, someway, you’ve made it here. You’ve hit reset. You get the chance to dream bigger and better. In spite of the struggles you may encounter along the way, write this new chapter in your life as a love letter to your mom, your dad, your children, your spouse, but most of all to YOU.

Having the chance at a long, healthy, happy life is worth every minor inconvenience you may have to endure.

5 Months Later - The Morning Of . . .

Five months ago - 152 days ago - was day one of the "rest of my life" - the birth of the "new" Sean - the start of the next chapter - etc. etc. etc. A LOT has happened since then that makes the surgery itself seem very small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things (they aren't kidding when they say the surgery is just a tool). Here is what I do remember about the morning of my surgery though . . .

I remember crying while I brushed my teeth. Not that I was scared or thought I had made a mistake but I was so emotional and it was a long 30 years and 9 months to get me to this day. I remember how slow I was to get dressed. How timidly I put on my shoes. How resistant I was to kiss my mother-in-law (who was watching Ava so Joy could sit, in peace, at the hospital during my surgery) good bye and how I shook when I held my daughter and kiss her forehead and whispered "Be a big girl, Gracie. Love your mommy and know that I love you with all I have and that I will be home in two days a far better father than the one that leaves you here today" in to her ear. That was it though!

I walked out the door with my wife and a calm came over me. It was just the two of us. Like when I woke up on our wedding day. Or on our first real date. Or on the first time I told her I loved her and she told me. Or like the first time we found out that we were going to be parents. It is, by now, another one of the most important moments of my life - as I count them - and, like most of the big ones . . . it is just me and her that shared that moment.

The car ride was pretty silent. We held hands and a mix-CD I had made her played on the stereo. We parked and took my bags out of the car in the dark and walked the bridge to enter the Duracell Surgery Center in near silence on one of those first "spring" mornings when it's not "warm" but you don't want to run for the inside to get out of the cold. We got inside and sat with just our thoughts in our own heads to keep us company. They called my name and the anxiety began again - I was fine with the two of us. Being with her in the quiet was perfect. She calmed and centered me but - was this it? Did I have to say "goodbye" already?

No! She walked the long hall with me. She helped me tie those stupid gowns they make you wear up. She put my surgery socks with the grippy nubs on them on. She laughed at the smiley face I drew on my belly to show the surgical staff where my surgery site was. She held my hand as the 15th person to ask me what I had for breakfast said "Just checking." as I told them I had started fasting at midnight. She looked at me calmly as the OR staff tried, again, to get my IV in. She encouraged me as I started to pray for a quick surgery.

I kissed her a very casual kiss as they started to wheel me a way. My wife is not a big fan of PDA and I was already focused on what was ahead. I wish I could go back and give her a real kiss. One that would let her know that it was all going to be fine and one that thanked her for loving me and accepting me from the day we met up until that moment - and one that would tell her, like I did for Ava, that the husband she would get back was a better man than the one she was losing for a few hours. Hind sight is always 20/20 though.

They wheeled me down the long, cold hall. I was flooded with things I wished I had told Joy or Ava or my parents or my brothers or friends of mine, etc. NOT that I was scared or thought I might never get a chance to speak to them again or whatever but more that I realized, in that moment, that I didn't do enough to tell the people in this world that I love that I do love them and that they mean so much to me. I am doing better with that now than before my surgery.

Anywho, they got me in the room. We all had a few laughs (I think (smile)) and Dr. Zuccala came in and set up his iPod and I went off to sleep. The rest is history, I suppose.

I don't remember any of the rest of the day of my surgery. I remember waking up in the recovery room but not really being awake. I remember waking up again what was probably hours later and having my wife there to hold my hand. I told her that "We did it!" I woke up again hours later and she was still there. Sitting in the dark and watching Monday Night Lights (one of our favorite shows) and watching over me - just in case I needed anything.

Like I said - me and Joy - the greatest moments of my life, shared by just two people. This one just happened to be the first great moment of the "rest" of my life.

By the Light of the Star(s) . . .

So Star Jones is officially back on television. Her new show debuts today at 3:00 PM ET on CourtTV. A lot has been said of Mrs. Jones-Reynolds over the years. Some good, some bad, a lot of it based on people knowing very little about her and making assumptions about her accordingly.

Since leaving The View in May of 2006, Star has largely retreated from the spotlight and as her limelight got smaller, so did she. Many whispered she had surgery - many whispered that with more free time she was finally able to focus on her and her health.

Rosie O'Donnell was probably the first to publicly speculate AND challenge her on live televisoin that she had undergone Gastric Bypass surgery to help her lose weight. Star denied it. She kept losing weight and losing weight and losing weight and she denied, denied, denied the surgery.

Then, a few weeks ago, with NO surprise to any of us that have battled weight our entire lives . . . low and behold . . . Star admits she DID have Gastric Bypass and that the reason she's been "quiet" about it (note that she doesn't admit to lying, repeatedly, about it just that she's not really talked about it) is because she was not sure how she would be treated.


Now, let me be very clear about this. I seem to be in the minority camp of people who are all too proud fthat they made this decision and have had this surgey and accepted all the risks and rewards that can come from it. At support group the other night, the group seemed sort of split on if it was anyone's business and if it was relevant and if how much weight you had lost should be a topic of conversation and even if showing your scars was acceptable. For me - every bit of it is okay. I'm unafraid. BUT I certainly respect the privacy and the right to not talk about the surgery to any one that wants to keep it between them and the medical staff that got them through.

I'm fine with John and Jane Doe keeping their surgery a secret. Do your thing!

I can NOT, however, understand why Star Jones would deny the whole thing ONLY to turn it in to a publicity stunt when it served her purposes.

If she was afraid of perception . . . why then did she expose herself to it?

Here is why I single her out - she's "famous" - she is a "celebrity" - to a number of people in this world who watched her on The View and how gleefully looked at pictures of her wedding and who are excited she is back on TV she is a "hero" or someone they "admire."

I suspect many of her fans are themselves overweight women who have struggled and see her success as proof that if you work hard enough you can be anything you want to be in this world. Sure, I get that. BUT what a disservice it is to those same women who have supported her for years and cheered for her, etc. to have them maybe feel defeated or otherwise unable to win their weight battles on their own.

Forget her fans . . . what a disservice to the medicine and the science of gastric bypass that someone who can be seen as such a success story to distance themselves from the medicine in such a public way - as though it is shameful or wrong to need the help of modern medicine to lose the weight and (knock on wood) keep it off.

People like Star Jones who will accept the help of surgery and then deny it until it suits their own publicity to confirm it are exactly why there is still such a stigma about the surgery and about our battle with obesity and about what "kinds" of people need the surgery to succeed.

Star clearly needed the surgery to succeed in losing weight . . . I'm sure she hopes the surgery might help her new show succeed too.

I wish her all the best in her weight struggle and with the show and I welcome her to the minority camp of proud GBers!

Friday, August 17, 2007

In a New York Minute . . .

I was in "the" city (that's New York City for the cynics, like me, who are not sure that the island of Manhattan is the end-all and be-all of life surrounding by water and 6,500,000 other people) yesterday for work. I drive in about once a month for work. I lived in Washington, DC for 7 years and worked in DC for over 8 years before moving north with my wife. I like "city life." I like how things are close and easy and you can walk everywhere and you can just sort of disappear in to the crowd.

One of the things I USED to love about my trips in to the city is the food. Restaurants, coffee shops, snack shops, street carts, etc. etc. etc. You name it - it is within a block of where ever you are. I have never been to a place where that is more true that New York City (1 point for Manhattan - I'm still not sold). You could eat just about anything you wanted to eat in a short, New York minute.

SINCE my surgery - it is different. The food is still there but I find it more difficult to eat in the city. I don't have enough trust in the world yet to eat what I "think" is healthy based on what I "think" is in the food. Ingredients change, tastes change and I never really knew what was in most of my favorite Indian foods to begin with, for instance.

Thank GOD for protein bars and skim milk. I was able to manage breakfast, lunch and a snack (some triscuits and some reduced fat cheese) with no issues and no fear.

One of these days I will be confident enough to go in to a place, as enough questions to know what I'm ordering and what is in it and resume my love affair with the foods of "the" city but - for now - I'll keep playing it safe. One step at a time. One day at a time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Living Large . . .

I want to talk to all the men out there for one quick post. NOT that women can't read this - to the contrary - they are encouraged to BUT, this is "for" the fellas.

As you heavy men know - it is very hard to find resources out there that are catered to helping and inspiring men to fight the battle of the bulge. Sure, The Biggest Loser has men and women (love that show - can't wait for it to start back up - will blog about it weekly) and Al Roker is the poster child for men who have had gastric bypass too but - by and large - there is very "little" for us out there in terms of resources and encouragement.

Excercise DVDs are almost all designed for smaller sized and more agile and more feminine people. Excercise equipment is largely more feminine too (pay attention next time you are at Target to just how few men are pictured on the boxes for those stretchy bands and blow up balls that help you work it on out).

The special issues of People magazine almost always profile women who are now "Half Their Size" and the self-help books and testimonials and websites are almost all for, by and of the (female) people.

So what are we supposed to do? Most of us men don't want to have to cry out for help (we won't even cry out for directions, right?) and we don't always know it all on our own either.

NOT that I am some sort of mysoginist or that I don't think I can learn from or be inspired by a woman (my wife and my daughter each teach me and inspire me daily, I think of Techia at the hospital as a true friend and trusted advisor who has played a large role in my success to date, etc.) BUT - this is different. It just is.

I want to hear from other big men. I want to know they share MY struggles. I want to know that while they know they need to lose weight for their health, they are, at the end of the day - okay with being a big man.

ONE great resource I have found (have now read it twice) is Mike Berman's book "Living Large: A Big Man's Ideas on Weight, Success and Acceptance". It is a great read. Mike, like me and many of us (I presume) has struggled with his weight his entire life. He's had tried every fad diet in the world. He joined overpriced gyms. He starved himself at in-clinic facilities, etc. etc. etc. And - he still wound out heavier than before. ONE DAY he finally figured out that it's not just about "weight" - it is about feeling good. It is about lifestyle changes. It is about the commitment to try harder and the self confidence of loving yourself if you fail.

The book reminds me so very much of my own life (hiding food, being shy with girls, falling madly in love at first sight with the woman you will spend your life with, putting yourself in harm's way to avoid the harm of life, etc.) and I hope that - when my journey on this earth is said and done - I have the peace that Berman seems to have and the self love that the book tries to promote and instill.

If you are a big guy or if you love and worry about a big guy (having the surgery, already had surgery, not even interested in surgery, etc.) - check this book out. It is an easy read, it is well written and it is wonderful.

Mike's website can be found at . . .


and his book is available just about anywhere (including a link on his site to buy it). Mike Berman can be one of my inspirations and guides. I'm looking for more though and I hope that I can help other people through this struggle too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We Are the (Obese) World . . .

Marcia, the hospital's outstanding Bariatric Care Coordinator sent me this link a week or so ago.

My inbox is a bit of a disaster so I don't always get to stuff right away but I'm glad I finally took a look at it.
The link above will take you to an illustration of the world's obesity percentages. No surpise the US is in the lead (if leading has any status in this sort of "race").
What did surprise me was where other countries stacked up. Greece is 22% obese. I've always heard the Greeks are so healthy and that all that olive oil and sunshine was a very healthy way to go through life. I would have imagined Italy would be a heavier country too. I know the models are broomsticks in over-priced dresses but I've seen pictures of Italian men in Speedos. Ouch. The pasta and the meats and the wine and the bread and the cheese . . . love me some Italian food!
I guess my point is that the world is getting heavier, no doubt. Something needs to be done, no doubt BUT as a lifelong weight struggler . . . it is nice to not feel so alone here in the United States of Obesity.
Alright, I'm off - I am going to record an all song tribute song with Tina Turner, Chaka Kahn, Bono and Steve Wonder now.

Play That Funky Music . . .

For the past two years, I have had an iPod. I have about 9,000 total songs in my iTunes library (all genres, all formats, all flavors). I have always, since I was a little kid, enjoyed music. I like that it can put you in a good mood, can make you sad, can remind you of what a specific time in your life was like and can make you hopeful for what tomorrow might be. I also like that it is readily accessible (in your car, at your home, in the office, on your iPod (in your pocked)) and that it is - all things considered - pretty inexpensive rather you like iTunes downloads for $0.99 or whole CDs for $12.99 at Best Buy. It seems like music is a cure all companion for whatever life is doing to you at any given moment.

Interestingly, reread that paragraph and sub in food for music. Okay, make a few other changes too so the rest of it makes sense (smile). The paragraph still rings true though - food and music have always been there for me.

NOW, I just have music. Sure - I still eat. I occassionally eat bad stuff too (shhhh, don't tell Mary Lou (smile)). BUT, in context - now I'm eating a few extra Triscuits or eating some peanuts instead of almonds, etc. It's a MUCH different world now than before surgery.

I still have music though. Thank the heavens. I had a crap day yesterday. Just awful. Work was not great, Joy and I had a little tift (which is code for full blown argument) and I am feeling very stressed about life these last few weeks. I went home last night, had some dinner, gave Ava her bath, helped get her off to bed, mowed the lawn, watched some bad television and then . . . I went to the computer and went NUTS.
I downloaded 26 songs last night. Total cost? $25.74. Total value? Immesurable. Every one of the songs I bought is probably pretty useless (Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns-n-Roses will NOT actually make my day any better . . . but for four minutes it sure felt like it was) BUT it felt great to just get some new music to add to the collection and to have a distraction and to have something to make me feel better.
So, for now, it's all music all the time when I need anything (good times, bad times, happy times, sad times) that another human - like my amazing wife and my family and friends - can't offer me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I Do (Not Miss Wedding Food) . . .

I had one of those important "firsts" this weekend. My first post-surgery wedding. It was lovely. A beautiful August day in Buffalo, New York. The happy couple. The friend signing a little off tune. The drunken toast from the best man. Goooood times.
Now, despite my love of food - I have never really enjoyed "wedding food". How many crudite platters can you really look forward to? How much baked ziti does one man need to eat? I was all too excited, this lap around the wedding track, to sit the buffet out.
I thought it would be a little awkward. I had some cheese cubes during the cocktail hour (I was behind on my calories for the day because of traveling and I could afford to take on a few extra grams of fat too because of what I had eaten during the day). I had some cucumber circles too. I can NOT pass up the cheese platter or the cucumbers. Just can't - no WON'T do it.
Then came the main fair. The buffet. They had baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked ziti, fruit salad, chicken cord-on-bleu (sp?), beef, pork and scalloped potatoes. I took a slice of pork (it looked pretty lean and was not marinated or coated in anything that I could not identify). I thought about a little bit of fruit. I skipped all of the potatoes because I don't enjoy eating the starches anymore (I have tried a few pieces of bread but can't get anything more than Triscuits and pitas past about one bite) and I didn't even think about the baked ziti (I can eat pasta but it just didn't look worth it to me). The chicken was breaded and looked oily so I knew that was way more calories and fat than I was looking for. I've never been much of a beef guy. Anywho, the pork was drier than prohibition so I just left it on my plate.

We left the reception right after dinner so the dessert buffet was not a factor in the evening but, I'm not going to lie, it didn't look like anything I would have "missed" if I was there when the cut the large, frosted layers. I have not (knock on wood) craved a single sweet since my surgery.
I ate, if you are wondering, my Never Leave Home Without It protein bar on the drive home from the hotel. Got my 60+ grams of protein for the day after all. No calories or fat I didn't want or need, all the fluids and all of the protein.
Anywho, I wish Tiffany and Tim a long, long life of happiness, health and love. And I thank them for sharing their lovely day with me. It was a great evening. Even without being able to partake in the buffet binging that was once so much a "part" of a wedding for me.
I'm pretty happ(il)y (ever after) without it!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Me and My Girls . . .

My beloved wife, Joy, was looking over my blog posts last night and seemed a wee bit hurt that she had yet to make a formal appearance on the blog (okay, I made up the "hurt" part - she DID mention it though).

I figured I would rectify that immediately.

Joy is the intellegent, caring, funny, selfless and - frankly - BEAUTIFUL red head on the left in this picture (in case you were not sure). And no, we don't intentionally try to match our clothes every day (some days - sure - but not "every" day).

When Less Is More . . .

There is an interesting read in this week's issue of Time magazine. According to a paper published by the Obesity journal and a few academic research projects that the Time article is based on, consuming "diet" or "lo-calorie" or even "zero calorie" alternatives to "regular" foods or drinks (the article focused on soda) doesn't really help because we humans are aware of the sugary, fatty, caloric content of our snacks and having "lesser" alternatives to them can actually trigger the body to demand more calories from another source.

The net finding for the research is that the more you "diet" - the more you will ultimately eat and the more weight you will, in theory, gain. One step forward, two steps back, right?

Now, I have to tell you, not everyone agrees with this academic research. Myself included but, perhaps more importantly (perhaps) - other academics disagree too. Including the guy that works for the American Beverage Association (a group with a multi-billion dollar per year investment in diet and regular sodas and other drinks)

I used to drink real soda. Mountain Dew. The ONLY soda on the market (that I know of) that actually contains FAT - that's right, there is OIL in your Mountain Dew. Yuhmay, right?! Anywho, that was before I realized that there are 110 calories in 8 little ounces of Mountain Dew (a gas station bottle of the stuff has over 250). I started drinking diet soda exclusively in grad school (eight years or so ago now). I have gained weight since that time but I very much doubt I could pin it all on diet soda.

The point of me getting in to all of this is simple - dieting and weight loss success is not about any one thing (the calories, the sugar, the fat, the quantity consumed, etc.) it has to be about holistic life changes and atttitude changes. You have to be mindful of and responsible for the food that goes in your mouth and you have to be the one that moves your body a few times a week (if not daily) to burn those calories and you - especially after gastric bypass surgery - have to understand that your body needs certain stuff and everything else is better left, well, being fed to the lab rats at the University of Alberta.

Here is the article from Time . . .

There IS some good news for me, you and the rest of the gastric bypass community. Regardless of if you agree with the lab rats in Alberta or the American Beverage Association, you can't drink soda after gastric bypass surgery anyway.

In the meantime, cheers!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

And the EMMI Goes To . . .

A few of my loyal readers (I love you too, Mom and Dad) asked me to talk a little bit more about the TV appearance I made on Sunday (referenced in an earlier blog post). For those who don't watch local TV at 7:23 on Sunday mornings and are curious, here is some background.

I'm truly honored to have been asked by the Danbury Hospital to do a few television interviews with Dr. Pierre Saldinger (the hospital's chief of surgery and an all around great guy with a Suh-weeeet car) to talk about the EMMI solution.

EMMI, for those who are just getting started with the surgery process, is an online education tool that allows you and your family and friends to "see" how gastric bypass surgery works and to go through the steps and the process at your own pace. There is even a place where you can take notes that you can then take to the medical professionals at the hospital for answers and more information.

I did EMMI about four months before my surgery. I have known about GB for years and have even looked in to having the surgery twice before (long stories for another time). Anywho, even with all I "knew" - I still learned some stuff. MORE importantly, my wife could go through the program at her own pace and without me over her shoulder. My parents, with all their fears for the procedure, could find comfort. Some friends who wanted to know more about the surgery could "see" the surgery and learn for themselves.

IF you have not yet been given your EMMI passcode and instructions, you soon will. IF you have gotten your passcode and done the program - please do share the code with your family and friends and have them go through it. It made my whole family and those that were worried learn more and everyone was left more comfortable with me and my decision.

To see the clip, click on this link and then click on the TV camera icon in the upper left corner of the screen . . .


For more on EMMI, check out . . .


When 12 Inches Is More Than a Foot . . .

I have to confess. One of my favorite AND least favorite side effects to my weight loss is clothing. It's expensive. It's a lot of sweaty palmed anxiety around "What size I will I fit it TODAY? What about TOMORROW?" and, of course, there is a weird part of me that is scared to get rid of all my old clothes because I've not had much success keeping the weight off in the past.

THAT being said - I love it, frankly. I am down a little over 130 pounds and that means NOTHING that I wore at the time of my surgery fits (my wedding ring is too big, my glasses frames no longer fit because my "old" head stretched them out, my shoes are loose, etc.). I've lost 3 inches off my neck, 2 shirt sizes on my t-shirts, 10 inches off my chest and TWELVE inches off my waist.

Buying shirts and sportscoats for work and t-shirts for the weekend is one thing - I'm still a few inches (literally and figuratively) away from fitting in the offerings of the mass retail community. BUT - the PANTS - the pants I have hit a major milestone on.

It means the world to me to be at my current waist because SUDDENLY - the whole world of pants buying (I wear chinos seven days a week) has gotten bigger for me . . . I can buy Dockers (the best selling Chino in the world - they will have you know) and I can buy Ralph Lauren Andrew Chinos and I can but Nautica chinos. I can but Savanes and I can buy other brands that I didn't know were out there until this last weekend.

I no longer have to buy all my pants from CasualMaleXL or King Size Direct. I will probably still buy my chinos from CasualMaleXL for now because they have these nifty elastic slides in the waist that give a little bit but don't look like a diaper at the same time. Check 'em out, fellas . . .


The point is that I haven't just lost a foot off my waist - I have GAINED a wonderfully enlarged world of chinos. To me, that means a LOT!

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Easy Way Out

I'm usually pretty casual about people asking me about my weight. I learned, as a child, that to be defensive about my size would only bring more questions and/or criticism. I try to take questions about how I got "so big" or if I blame my parents for my obesity or why I have "never" tried dieting, etc. in stride. I just assume that, for some people, it is just like any other appearance or behavior that is "different" from their own . . . it makes them uncomfortable but - hey - at least they want to know more.

I had support group tonight. Small group. Just three of us. Liz and Betty were both looking great. Betty's daughter is getting married at the end of the month (Betty had the band, her daughter gastric bypass - her daughter is down 100+ pounds and very excited about the way her dress will fit, I would presume) and Liz had her surgery just a month or so after I did and she looks terrific (I think I heard her tell Betty she's down 60+ pounds). Aywho, as we normally do, we all paid each other a compliment or two about how great everyone looks and how inspiring we are to each other, etc. I say "etc." to illustrate that it's pretty simple stuff NOT because I think of it as "blah, blah, blah" like it's just lip service or we don't mean it. I absolutely mean it when I tell my friend Kate how wonderful she looks or when I call Tommy to see if he's feeling better than he was, etc. I really admire every one that has thought about, had the courage to have and then done the work after the surgery to get to where they are today.

That being said, I was feeling pretty good as I rolled out of support group. Then I stopped to get some gas. Some woman at the pump next to me had apparently seen me on TV Sunday morning (aparently people DO watch TV at 7:20 on Sunday mornings - my neighbor saw me too) and she had just one question . . . Did I worry that I would gain all my weight back since I had taken the easy way out?

Now - as I said - I'm usually pretty easy going about the stupid questions but this is one that just gets my proverbial goat. I counted to 10 in my head (actually I thought "one . . . two . . . TEN!") and I simply replied "The EASY way out would have been to do nothing. I would have eventually racked up pounds on my way to medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and liver disorders, maybe developed diabetes, I might have lost a leg from poor circulation, I could have had a heart attack in my early-30s or had a stroke on my way home this evening. No, ma'am, I don't worry about gaining my weight back BECAUSE of the choice I made - I worry because life is challenging and my weight has always been a struggle. I also disagree that I took the "easy" way - I actually might have chosen the hardest fight I might ever face - this tool, my surgery, will help me lose weight but I still have to watch every thing I put in my mouth, I have to excercise, I am on more medications now than I was before my surgery (just vitamins and such but - she didn't need to know that) and I am spending a small fortune to keep myself in clothes that actually fit (she seemed pretty simple and vain to me - I felt the clothes would be something she could relate to).

She seemed stunned. She apologized for "clearly" offending me and I, after another rushed count in my head, I DID take the easy way out and simply clarified "You have not offended me. I have worked too hard to get to where I am today to take an innocent, thoughtless question like yours to heart."

I wished her a good evening, got in my car and waved as I drove away from the pumps.

I've done what is right for me. I have tried and failed to diet over 20 times in my life. This is it. This is my last stand. Me v. my lifelong weight issues. For the rest of my life. My decision is NOT the easy way out.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

Me on the day my daughter was born . . .

Me last weekend on her first birthday . . .

Seeing the difference in myself in the two pictures makes me excited and hopeful for the difference I hope to see in myself by her second birthday. Make a wish and blow out that candle, Gracie!

Ice Ice Baby

So my lovely wife asked me to run and grab some ice last evening. No problem! I realized two things there in the parking lot of the Sunoco.

1 - Buying ice is a TOTAL racket. I'm going to buy some ice trays tomorrow.
2 - The changes in my life since surgery are every where and I don't even stop to think about them most of the time.

See - I used to avoid certain gas stations (like the Sunoco) in the neighborhood that sold ice because they kept their freezers outside the store and locked. That meant multiple trips in and out of the store to buy the ice, get the ice and return the key.

TOO much effort for me a year ago. LAST night though (90 degrees and all) - no problem.

Closest station, extra steps, key that didn't work so another trip in to get the right key, not thinking twice about the effort it took to buy the ice . . . you can keep you trays - I'll run out and grab a bag of ice any time!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Weight History . . .

I've been asked to post to this blog to tell my gastric bypass journey. I don't really know where to start BUT I know I'm always happy to meet a fellow GB patient and to hear their stories so . . . Maybe I'll use my first batch of posts to just give you a little background on me, my weight, my family, my experiences before surgery and how I got "here."

Then I'll get more in to the surgery itself (fears, realities, the socks they give you with the grippy things, etc.)

I'll just talk today about my weight history today. It is boring and sort of unnerving to tell the world (or the two people who might actually read this post) my weight history BUT I think it is an important part of who I have been and who I am. You should know sooner v. later that I don't have self esteem issues, I'm no shrinking violet and I'm not ashamed of my weight or who I have been or am.

It all starts 31 years ago. I was born to two loving and pleasantely rotund people that each come from a long line of moderately overweight to obese people.

I have always been overweight, I think. I remember being "husky" and I remember being only 10 the first time the doctor talked to me about a diet and 12 the first time I started shopping in the Men's Department and by 16 I was getting all of my clothes from Big & Tall catalogs (if you want to ensure "coolness" in high school, shop EXCLUSIVELY at the fat man's store). I weighed 250 pounds when I left for college at the age of 18.

I came home for Christmas of Freshman year weight almost 300 pounds and I went back weighing 310 pounds.

I was back down to 250 again when I graduated from college. By the time I finished graduate school - two years later - at the age of 24 - I weighed 350 or so pounds. I haven't seen a 2 at the begining of my weight since college. Sadly.

By the age of 27, I weighed in at 530 pounds. That's right, 200+ pounds gained in a little under three years. I know people that freak out when they gain 5 pounds or so per year.

I'm not taking that number lightly (no pun intended). That is a bad weight. A troubling number. A lot of man. That is the heaviest I have ever been. I can honestly tell you that I pray to God every night before I go to bed for four simple things 1) the health, safety and happiness of my wife and daughter 2) the health, safety and happiness of my family and friends 3) that I will never see 530 pounds of my own mass again and 4) that I might someday own a pony (I've been praying for that for a very, very long time now).

I met the woman who is now my wife when I was 27 too. I was a very "thin" 485 when I met her. I had done some dieting that summer and had some good success. I ate nothing the week I met her. NOTHING. Not healthy either but - that's for another blog. Anywho my wife, Joy, somehow found her way to loving me at nearly my heaviest and she has stood by me through the ups and downs of life and my weight ever since.

I was supposed to have GB in the fall of 2005. I got down from 480 to 430 that summer because Joy and I got married and I was trying to minimize my risks on the surgery table. My insurance company decided that if I had lost 50 pounds on my own - I could lose the other 200+ on my own too. I gained 40 of those pounds back in 6 months from depression and general anxiety - fearing I would never lose the weight and I would not be long for this world.

I was back to almost 500 again when I turned 30 in the spring of 2006.

My daughter was born later that summer and I had lost 20 pounds to look as good as possible (it was all relative at the time) for her birth. She weighed less than 7 pounds. She fit - FIT - in one of my hands. I realized I could stand to lose a fewwwwww more pounds. I tried to convince her when she was about one month old that I would lose one pound for every pound she gained. I've since let her off the hook . . .

I have lost and gained probably a thousand pounds in my life. I'd lose 10, gain 12, lose 20, gain 30, lose 50 . . . gain 75. Always ended out heavier than I started and I always could sense when a diet was about to fail (the weight loss would slow and I would bail out on the diet). I knew I needed to do something permanent - the risk of surgery is often thought to be high but - what is the risk of doing nothing? I know that risk is MUCH higher in my case.

Anywho, I entered the surgery program at Danbury Hospital in November, 2006. I was at 490. While I have been VERY lucky to avoid high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart or lung issues, joint issues, muscle aches, etc. etc. etc. - my sleep apnea was fierce and I had significant lymph adema in my left leg. I knew the rest of the "co-morbidities" were just a matter of time.

I want to be clear - I had the surgery for me. NOT to lose weight. NOT to look good in tight jeans. NOT to fit in an airplane seat. NOT to go on a roller coaster again. NOT to not get stares from kids. NOT for any vanity or anything superficial. I did it for ME - BUT I really had the surgery for my commitment to my wife and my daughter to be here for them and to love and support them for a very, very long time. Make no mistake - you can not have the surger "for" any one or any thing else, you have to do it "for" you BUT I am also positive that you CAN (and maybe should) have other people and skinny jeans and cross-country flights on your mind every step of the way through the surgery program and during that chilly ride down the hallway on the guerney the morning of your surgery. AND especially in the days, months and years after your surgery.

Anywho, I went in to the hospital the morning of my surgery at 483. Today, 4 1/2 months later, I weigh 358. I've lost 125 pounds already. It feels great BUT I know there is a long road ahead of me. I want to lose another 135 pounds (at least) and THEN I need to maintain or lower that weight for the rest of my life - which I likely have added many, many years to through the surgery.

Now you know one of my stories. I promise they won't all be this long!