Friday, September 28, 2007

Eat Up, Lil' Girl . . .

Joy took Ava to a new pediatrician (Dr. Barker) yesterday. While Ava is not wasting away or skin and bones - she's by no means heavy and she is small for her age. We had been concerned that, especially having taken Ava off formula and with her teeth coming in, etc. that she was not eating enough or taking in enough calories, etc. and that she might actually be losing weight.

While Joy was at the peditrician's office, an interesting thing happened . . . we got SCHOOLED in the ways of eating. It seems that our previous pediatrician had given us some very "personalized" advice (and by personalized I mean that it was their professional opinion for us but was in complete contradiction to the opinion our new pediatrician gave us) that, as was explained to us, was just short sited and stupid.

You see, dear reader, our previous doctor had suggested that we feed Ava all the fatty foods we could get down her to help boost her weight gain. You know - chocolate and peanut butter and mayo and butter and gravy and mashed potatoes and milkshakes and french fries. Sounds delicious, right?

RIGHT. But it might also have been a very stupid decision on our part that we appreciate Dr. Barker talking us out of. As Dr. Barker explained, we are, right now, setting Ava's eating habits for life. Will she eat three times a day? Is breakfast important? What is a good snacking option while watching The Backyardigans? Why do we only have certain foods every "once and a while"? Etc.

I thought back to my own childhood - to test Dr. Barker's theory - and I honestly can't remember when I started eating poorly or when I started making terrible food decisions . . . I guess I just always have. Overeating and eating the wrong foods, etc. have sort of always been a part of who I am.

Is it the fault of my beloved parents? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I have two brothers that grew up in the same house and had the same food and the same options and the same parents available to them. Neither has a weight problem that I can see and certainly they have never struggled with their weight the way I have. In my parent's homes my mother had a brother and a sister - both older than her - that seemed to do okay with food. My father's four siblings have all struggled with their weight - to varying degrees though. Hmmmmmm.

What Dr. Barker said (and Russell Crowe said something similar in the movie Gladiator) about what you do today can impact the rest of your life does make a lot of sense though.

I'm very appreciative that I nipped my eating with this surgery. I am grateful that my wife has always been much more sensible with food than I ever was and that we have a chance to raise Ava to better understand and better appreciate food. To understand that a few pounds today could mean lots of problems tomorrow but that a few extra pounds is okay too - in moderation, etc. I don't want her to every worry about or struggle with her weight (too high or too low) but I DO want her to understand and appreciate food and eating.
Today and for the rest of her life.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

BIG Day . . .

It's odd that I KNOW how much weight I've lost. I KNOW that I am smaller than I was and I KNOW that I'm doing very well with my post surgery diet and excercise mandates (er "guidelines"). That being said - some days I still feel HUGE. Heavier than I ever was type huge . . .

Today is one of those days. I honestly feel like I have ALL my weight back on me and my clothes are too tight (in reality, they are falling off me like they do every day) and I feel like I am going to get winded walking up the stairs of my office building (I do not) and I look for reasons to not walk to the cafeteria with office mates so I won't get tired (which I won't), etc.

I wonder if that sensation will ever go away?! Will I ever just feel comfortable in my body and with my weight? I know I have a long way to go to hit my target weight and my post-surgery goals so I guess the adjustment of my mentality will take a while too but, for now, it is odd to me that some days I just feel like the "old" me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Biggest (Ommission from the Biggest) Loser . . .

As I've blogged about previously, I LOVE The Biggest Loser. I am really, truly convinced that it is a great, great TV show and is probably the first and only reality TV show that has really changed people's lives - contestants and viewers - for the better (well, that and the "Are You My Baby's Daddy?" episodes of Maury Povich, I suppose).

For those who've never seen the show - a quick summary . . . The show takes people (18 this season) form their normal lives and secludes them with nothing but excercise, nutrition information, a personal trainer, a team of "like" souls and challenges to fill their days so they can focus on getting heatlhy (no TV, no phones, no Internet, no nuttin'). The contestants start on teams (it eventually becomes an individual competition as the contestants get eliminated) and each episode has a temptation/reward challenge and a physical/reward challenge and the contestants work out daily with a team trainer - at the end of each week everyone goes on the "giant scale" to be weighed and the team that loses the least total weight has to vote to decide who on their team is "weighing them down" and that person is kicked off the show. Ultmiately, one person is the Biggest Loser and the get a ton of cash and a cover photo on People magazine (or whatever). We good? Good.

Season Four has been no let down to me in terms of the tears at each episode (I bawled AGAIN last night as the winning team got to call their families for 10 minutes each and again during the elimination but - more about that later) but there are parts of the show that really do sort of bother me. Mainly because, as a person who's struggled with food and weight my entire life, I feel like the show could do a better job of explaing two things . . .

1 - Food Itself. Last night's episode was a wonderful illustration of how strong of a force food really is for someone with lifelong obesity. The show put the contestants, one by one, in a room full of 400,000+ calories of junk food for four minutes each. The challenge was simple - eat nothing or go CRAZY. The person that ate the most calories would get an additional three pounds added to their weight loss for the week which could help them earn individual immunity from being sent home and could help their team avoid having to send someone home too. Here is the thing that could have been explained better before the challenge. These people are all on this show for a reason - their will power around food is not great. NOW, imagine two weeks with strangers, working out four hours a day, taking your shirt off on national television for weigh ins and having NO interaction with your family and friends while eating only very healthy foods all the time. Then, suddenly, you are alone in a room with all the food that has ever comforted you in times of stress. What's a pudger to do? Well, some people did very well (ate nothing), most had a little something (I mean - why not - everything in moderation, right?) and a few went NUTS. The Blue Team had strategized that Neil (the heaviest person on the show) would eat a lot because he had the most weight to lose anyway and had done fairly well at the first two weigh ins. They also figured that by ONE person eating a lot - the rest could eat nothing and they would still get the weight bonus. So Neil came to play - he ate over 1,700 calories in four minutes (that is two days worth of food for me these days so I get a little nuts thinking about how much I used to eat in that context). They win, right? Well - sort of. Patty, who until last night was my sentimental favorite to win it all, went straight up loony and wolfed down 1,900+ calories. Why? She just couldn't resist. LONG story, I know, but the point is that food is very, very tempting. Patt was having a very hard time being away from her family and her life and she lost it. Nothing we haven't all done at least once in our lives and nothing we can't understand but they didn't really give it context. They let the episode serve merely as tension within the blue team and a way for the trainer (Bob, who my wife and I work out with almost daily on his DVDs) to remind everyone that they are a team and have to trust each other. Please, NBC, for the rest of us - give it more context. Hire a shrink to talk about the mental impacts of food and the lack of control some people have around food, etc. It would have made Patty much more sympthasizable (word?) in her actions and I might still be rooting for her - instead, I've picked a new pony. Hypocrtical of me? NO! While the food draw is powerful and while I have been there myself . . . she was part of a team and the team decided to do something risky but clear. She ignored that and did a DANCE while eating. You, Patty, are no longer my Biggest Loser. I wish you well though.

2 - Diet and Excercise Plateaus. Here's the other thing that happens every season on the show. The first week everyone loses a TON of weight. Jerry, a 62 year old, lost like 30 pounds in the first week alone (they sent him home last night - something I'm rather pissed about), for example. Everyone feels great and everyone cheers. Week two is also a good week for almost everyone and things start feeling "real" - we're going to BEAT the weight, they all think. Then . . . week 3. 1 pound. 2 pounds. 5 pounds at best (I think one guy lost 9 last night, the rest all less than a handful). Why? Well - simple - after 21 days of this regimen, the body has readjusted. The calories you are taking in are now "regular" to the body. The body is in protection mode because you are working it four hours a day so what little you take it - it is keeping. In the meantime, you are working out for FOUR HOURS A DAY (v. 0 minutes per month in most cases before the show) so you are building a ton of muscle which weighs more than fat and technically makes you heavier. NO ONE ever really explains this to the contestants. They cry and they say "it is heartbreaking to see you so upset" but no one says - "Your body is changing. Look at your man boobs - they are getting biddy, right?" Instead, the contestants get dejected and they feel like they are not doing enough and people at home might have the same concerns with a new diet and excercise plan and that first plateau is when most of us walk away from the diet. Some of these people will lose 100+ more pounds during the run of the show . . . and maybe those of us at home could to but - they don't take the time to explain it. They need, again, to hire someone to come on the show and just explain it to everyone. No big whoop.

Anywho, my point in this very, very long post is just to say that food is powerful. Some of us (I pray GOD not me, no offense) will eventually resubmit to food. We'll start "grazing" or we'll start cheating or we'll eat cake the first chance we get or we'll go back to sneaking food. Even after all we've been through and the life changes we've decided to make (like leaving a family to go on TV, etc.) - we will still not be strong enough to beat food and ALL of us will eventually hit a plateau in our weight loss and with our post-surgery success. We need to remind ourselves that it is natrual and normal and something we will have to overcome. I just think the show could do a few small things "better" to help reinforce the good that it does for 95% of the show.

In the meantime - I'm embarassed for the Blue team that they got rid of Jerry. He was the man and I think the Blue team will have a hard time recovering from his loss. They will be in big trouble without him. My NEW favorite to win the whole show is Jez - a 24 year old guy who reminds me a little bit of another great man with a much better person inside him than most people might "see" and a man that have always taken time to cheer for - me (smile)! Go get em, Jez!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Mean, I Won't Be Running a Marathon Any Time Soon (Chortle) . . .

I'm at the point in my weight loss where people have started asking me all sorts of questions that I guess I didn't anticipate hearing for another hundred pounds or so . . . Are you at your goal weight? Have you lost all the weight you hope to lose? Do you realize the baggy pant era is officially dead? You know the routine. One question that I get asked more and more often -- including this morning - I'm attending an event in NYC today with one of the executives I support at work and he chose to tell a table full of industry experts and journalists that I'm half the man I used to be (giggle, giggle, NOT IN FRONT OF THE COLLEAGUES AND JOURNOS, please, sir!) -- is 'What are you goals? What are your hopes?"

Now, I have another one of those ho-hum but terribly sincere answers . . . I just want to be healthier and live a longer life with my girls. Period. That is the answer the masses get. To indugle beyond that, until recently, felt sort of like asking a guy who won the lottery what he was going to do with the money and he says something about four wheelers or a new double-wide for ma or whatever . . . it seemed like a mis-focus on the world of opporutnities.

Like I said though - that was until recently. NOW, I'm just screwing with people. "Oh, I hope to finish the world peace process." or "To look fabulous at my 20 year high school reunion." or "Now that I can fit in them, I'm going to throw away my cell phone and start using pay phone booths for all my calls." etc. I've got a million of them. Sure - only one of the three is even sort of funny (but which one?) and I'm sure it annoys people that I am so flip about it but - I still have a hard time really sharing that I have goals or "ambitions" or "dreams" for my new body. To get over that anxiety - I'm going to share five honest-to-God goals or hopes with you here and now. Don't judge me (smile)!

1 - Skydive. I don't know why but I've always wondered, despite being afraid of heights in most scenarios, what it would be like to just hurl towards the earth with nothing but a back-pack of lightweight fabric to slow my roll. Joy has said she will do it with me and we've already found the place we want to do it (in Kansas - you can see all the way to Oklahoma, I'm told, from the air about Wichita). The DAY I hit my goal weight - we're making the reservation to jump!

2 - Walk in to a store and buy just any old thing. Sound crazy? It is. BUT I was 13 when I outgrew most clothing options in stores. By 15 my mother and I would back to school shop from the JC Penney Big and Tall catalog. I've never worn "cool" or "trendy" clothes. I spent most of high school dressing like a middle aged man and now I'm in my 30s and want my youth back - - clothing wise. I just want to walk in to a store and see a sweater on the dummy and say - that sweater would look good on this dummy too - I'll take it, my good man (in my head - there will be a butler-like employee eager to help me when this scenario plays out) . . . and NOT in the biggest size you have. And get something pretty for my wife and daughter too - we're celebratin' here.

3 - Camp at a National Park. When I was still under the charm of my parents, I was in the Boy Scouts - I am an Eagle Scout, on paper (long story for another day) - but I HATED camping then. Why? Hmmm, let me think, because I was a fatty-fatterson. I couldn't really be comfortable in a sleeping bag, the hikes would just about kill me and those metal cots at summer camp sounded like the jaws of life doing their job when I would lay on them. BUT, fast forward 16 years and I have a wife who LOVES to camp and a new appreciation for the world around me and a daughter that I hope will always enjoy the world around her. What better way to make the most of life than to rent some gear and a GPS lo-jack for each of us and head out in to the mountains where the bears can eat us . . . if they can catch us (insert evil laughter here).

4 - Return to the Thee-ay-tah. When I first moved to Washington, DC the first thing I did was put season's tickets to the Kennedy Center on my credit card. If you've ever looked in to it you'll know that is NOT a cheap thing to do. But, three performances/shows later - I stopped going. I've not been back to the theater for any reason (save for a production of The Nutcracker that a group of 5 - 9 year old girls put on in Maryland two years ago (one of their mothers was a member at the Curves Joy used to manage and Joy bought some tickets) since. Why would I stop going? Simple. I like blood flowing to and through my legs. Simple as that. Two hours in a theater chair, to me, felt almost dangerous to the longevity of my ability to walk. Not any more. We just bought some Opera tickets and some musical theater tickets and some play tickets and I can't wait to go see The Nutcracker again this Christmas. I hope those professionals are as good as the 7 year old leads in the last production I saw.

5 - Finish the World Peace Process.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Little Help From My Friend Kate . . .

I spent a good part of Saturday with my BGBFF (Best Gastric Bypass Friend Forever) Kate. NOW - if you don't know Kate, you're missing out. She's a class act. You MUST get to know Kate. Here's why (in a nutshell) . . .

She's three months out and she's lost about 60 pounds (but she's working out a lot and adding muscle so her body has changed more than just the weight loss might infer) and she's kind and gracious about the importance of the surgery, what the surgery has meant to her and the hope it gives her (I won't dish all of her secrets but presume we're talking about fulfilling life long dreams, etc.). Kate, and her experience and hopes, are exactly why gastric bypass is so important and should be seen as a vital tool to giving obese people their lives back.

I went to Kate's home on Saturday. Cute place. Lots of apples and sailboats everywhere and TONS of pictures of her family and friends. We met up and went to Choose 2 Lose (I'll post something this evening about that place - amazing - time WELL spent) and then we went to Target and then I introduced Kate to the WONDER that is Stew Leonard's Chicken Chili (click on the link for the recipe to make YOUR Chicken Chili). Along the journey of the afternoon we chatted about all sorts of stuff - as we do every time we get together.

We talked about my family history and Kate's family history - shocker we both come from heavy stocks. My hopes after surgery. Kate's hopes after surgery. The struggles each of us is having. How trivial those struggles seem compared to the joys we are each experiencing after surgery, etc.

As WONDERFUL as Joy has been through every step of this and as much as she is my best friend in the world and is a completely irreplacable influence on my life and as much as she has lead and guided me through this process and as much as I love her . . . and as much as I enjoy the support groups and the appointments and the meetings with the medical staff at the hospital and as wonderful as everyone else (my friends and family, etc.) have been to talk and ask about surgery and what it means . . . there really is NOTHING like talking with someone that had a lifetime of obesity and struggled with what to do and who has been on that table and that is following all the rules and succeeding on the other side of the procedure.

My point is this . . . a shared experience beats a viewed experience nine times out of ten. NOT to say that you should not also lean on everyone else in your life but, get yourself a BGBFF. It's like a sober buddy for a reformed drunk or a hand holder for a street-crossing six year old.

I always like e-mailing with or talking with Kate and seeing her at support group. This was our first social outing and it was just a longer version of our normal chats and exchanges.

With Kate, I don't have to preface questions or mask frustrations. I don't have to worry that me complaining might mean regrets about the surgery or me on the verge of lapsing on my diet or doing harm to myself. My pride over my early successes and my determination for long term success are not just met with a "good for you" but a "yeah, me too." It really has made a huge impact on my experience and I'm incredibly grateful to Kate for being such a good friend to me for the last six months.

Get to know Kate. You won't regret it but - in the meantime - get yourself a BGBFF that you can rely on and that can rely on you. We all get by with a little help from our friends . . . even the Beatles would agree (smile)!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Goodbye Old, Yellow, Spongy Friend . . .

As a reformed Twinkie lover (no one can eat just one, right?) - I really enjoyed watching a CNN video clip on the "engineering" of the Twinkie and the comfort that goes with knowing that I'll never eat another Twinkie (or even a bite of one) either way. Enjoy . . .

Click here to watch the video! YUHMAY!

Six Months Later . . .

I had my six month follow-ups yesterday at the hospital. It seems that everything is progressing nicely inside my shrinking body. I've lost a total of 151.6 pounds in six months. A miracle. I could not be more excited or pleased or grateful to the early success I have had since surgery.

My cholesterol - while never "high" is down almost 60 pounds and now sits at the lower end of the "normal" scale. My blood pressure - while never "high" is down to a comfortable 118 over 78. My vitamin and mineral levels are all in the normal range except my B-12 which is a litttle high but no where near problematic. My lymphadema in my left leg is considerably better and improving every day. There is NO part of me that is not healthier and better and improved since my surgery.

There are some other wonderful perks that come with crossing the six month mark in good form . . .

1 - No more preggo vitamins. I can now take two chewable Flinstone's vitamins for children a day instead of one very large and very gross tasting prenatal chewable vitamin. I opted for the sour gummy vitamins since, well, if at the age or 31 I have to take a chewable childrens' vitamin twice a day for the rest of my life - I'm going to REALLY embrace the irony in the situation.

2 - No more Orso-Forte. Who knows what is ahead for my gall bladder and me but, to this point, I have had no stones or issues and it doesn't seem I will have any troubles. It seems that the gall bladder is most likely to develop stones during periods of rapid weight or gain and Techia told me that I MIGHT just see a slower weight drop from here on out (shocker, I know, that I won't maintain this pace).

3 - I don't have to go back to the doctor for six months. Sure I WILL go to the doctor in December for my annual physical (I don't like to go more than 12 months at a time without having certain parts of my body checked for lumps, bumps and other frumps - if you know what I mean) but, I don't have to go for a while. To me - that means I won't see my medical professionals for a while (which doesn't make me all that happy - Ireally do like them all) AND, more importantly, that my surgery experience is now behind me (for the most part) and this is now just "life" from here on out.

4 - I am between 1/3 and 1/4 of the way to the end of the gastric bypass "ride". General research has shown that most patients - by 18 months to 2 years out - have lost all the weight they are going to lose from the surgery. From there, it is maintenance and upkeep for the rest of your life. I have had a great first stint. I have 150 pounds gone - 110 - 130 to to (I am modifying my original goal weight, I think). I am positive that I'll lose all that by or around the 1 year mark BUT - it is good to know that, like with the less frequent doctor's visits, soon enough - it will just be "life" - not life post surgery or whatever.

I had a great time at support group on Wednesday. I had a great set of appointments - I got to spend time with my beloved Techia and I saw Drs. Zuccala and Saldinger and I saw Marcia and I saw Deb and . . . - and today is FRIDAY and I'm going to Chose 2 Lose with Kate for the first time tomorrow. A pretty darned good week - all in all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Shot in the Butt . . .

I was thumbing through today's New York Times and, as per always, I went straight to the Fashion & Style section first (I swoop back around to the real news from time to time too - don't worry) and I came across this article on a new rage in the heartland - anti-fat shots!

Here's the bulk of the story for you . . . there are these clinics popping up in Missouri and Kansas where patients, predominently women, are going in droves to have shots of a non-FDA approved "medicine" shot (some of the ingredients are approved by the FDA, in the interest in full disclosure) in to their flabby spots through a non-FDA approved methodology. Called LipoDissolve, the procedure is not even done exlusively by doctors (some physicians are doing tests of the product for potential FDA approval).

Costing about $2,000 for each body part patients want LipoDissolved, the group behind the "science" even admits that the results are hard to see and to prove and require expensive MRIs to even see the progress.

I guess I'm confused . . . people criticize gastric bypass patients for the "crazy" science behind our procedure and the cost of it and people ask why people like myself can't just lose weight on their own but there are people in the midwest silly enough to let someone shoot them up with an experimental drug through experimental methods to chase their localized fat away - for VANITY reasons?

Yeah, I'm the sucker. Sure. That's right. Uh-huh.

I'll be honest - I've never actually understood people who work out like lab rats because they have 10 extra pounds on their bodies or who are slaves to the Atkins diet so they can go from a skinny pant to a skinnier pant. More over, these people who talk about how "fat" they are because they have a rounded, plumped butt or because their arms are not taught and toned or because they may or may not have a neck like a Thanksgiving turkey just before the feathering and beheading begins just confuse me. I know a girl in Baltimore that gained 40 pounds on PURPOSE just so she could have a BMI big enough to qualify for gastric bypass. The mental component of the pre-approval process got her with a big net and a padded room - don't worry. I have had friends that admitted they were not overweight but cursed the hips or thighs or cankles that their family lineage provided them becaues they were "fat" body parts.

My lovely wife, for example, has long struggled with her feelings about her weight and if she is "fat" or not. I can appreciate that she FEELS like she is fat - that is entirely subjective and who am I to judge - but I always remind her that she is NOT fat. She might have a few extra pounds on her that the medical community's chart of "regular" or "suggested" body weights don't account for but she's a beautiful woman with a very attractive body and I, frankly, like her body just the way it is. She's sexy. Very sexy. (There, I said it and yes, my in-laws and my family have access to this blog too).

I would worry FAR more about my wife getting these shots than she probably worried about me having gastric bypass. I would worry about the safety issues that she didn't have to fear with my surgery. I would fear the emotional impact of them immediate results that she didn't have to fear with my surgery. I would worry more about the long term impact of the shots that she didn't have to worry about with my surgery.

I'm rambling so I'll close with this - next time someone gets judgemental about your surgery (Erin, a young woman who took her health by the chain with this procedure and who sat with her mother Rhoda (?) at support group last night and chatted with Kate and I about how to talk about the surgery and why she had it, for example) . . . just tell them about the REALLY crazy stuff some people in this world are doing to fight their fat.

That oughta' shut 'em up for a while.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dinner with Friends . . .

I worked in Manhattan yesterday and, after an 11 hour work day, went to grab dinner with two good friends and former co-workers, Kate and Jason. Kate and Jason knew me when I was at my absolute heaviest. They were there when I announced I would have gastric bypass surgery in the fall of 2005 and they were there when my insurance company said "Not so fast, fat man." They have always been good friends and always supported me and encouraged me.

I last saw Kate and Jason about four weeks after my surgery. We went to lunch. I brought a Rubbermaid container with some pureed chicken and peas in it. They ordered burgers and fries and milkshakes. They finished all of it. And faster than I ate my blended goodness. We laughed about what my life of eating had become compared to the "Good Old Days."

Fast forward to last night . . . Kate almost CRIED when she saw me on the street. She could not get over the emotion of how different I looked or how much better I looked. Jason, a reserved man with little to say about most things "superficial" even gushed about how I looked and how happy he was for me.

They had burgers again - with tater tots. I had a chicken breast with a little mult-grain roll (I can't get regular, people!) and some reduced fat mayo. I ate about four bites and was full from the stupid bread (one of these days I'm going to blog about how much I have come to HATE bread). Not surprisingly, the converstation turned to my diet and how I eat and what I eat and how I eat it. It's pretty typical now. My parents and I had the same talk this weekend and I had lunch with some co-workers last week that asked the same questions. It is interesting to me that people "understand" how gastric bypass works (BIG stomach ===> little pouch) but disconnect on why you aren't really eating anything.

Words like "weird" and "cool" and "crazy" come up in the conversation and I'm often left feeling like two parts circus freak, one cup medical miracle and a dash of special, for flavor. It feels good though.

I like that I am reconnecting with old friends - showing them a much healthier and much thinner and much more energetic and engaging man than I was for many years. It is interesting to me that I am back to about the weight I was at when I graduated college. My entire professional life (almost 10 years) I have been heavier than I am now. Every co-worker I've ever had, every client, every boss and every reporter meet and greet . . . they've seen a heavier me as a first impression.

My real friends have always been kind. They've seen through the weight and just accepted me. I've made their day from time to time, I've disappointed them, I've been a good friend and I've been a lousy buddy but - like last night - it is good to know that I can still breeze in to a restaurant, have some laugh with good friends, have plenty to talk about and, on a really good night, leave them in tears of delight - just by showing up and being "me."

Thanks for dinner, Kate and Jason. Hope to see you again soon!

Monday, September 17, 2007

FALLing Tempuratures . . .

I LOVE fall. I love it. I love it like I love khakis and pocket t-shirts and I love it like I love my wife and daughter and I love it like I love reduced fat Triscuits. In other words - I am SURE of my love for fall and it is real and it is is forever!

While it may be premature to declare fall is"upon us" (we are supposed to have tempuratures back in the low 80s later this week here in the Danbury region) -- I am feeling pretty confident when I declare it has "begun." And that makes me very, very hah-pea!

Fall, for me, is the perfect time of year. The days get shorter and the wind blows cooler and the heat stops blazing and the humidity dries up and the leaves start to turn and then they flutter to the ground. Soon enough, we'll all be drinking apple cider (well - not ALL of us) with cinammon sticks and carving pumpkins and asking what people's Thanksgiving plans are. BUT - for now - the primary concern and interest is the weather itself.

It was in the low 40s this morning when I went for my walk. First - I'm pretty sure I need to start walking indoors (treadmill, track . . . maybe laps of the kitchen just back and fourth and fourth and back). Second - I am going to need a coat.

That's right. A layer of clothing to wear over my clothes. I've seen thousands of people, for years, wearing these odd shells during the fall, winter and spring first in DC and then in Baltimore too and now in Connecticut but, gulp, I never imagined I would need a coat. In SEPTEMBER.

I have always joked that I had plenty of insulation for when the cold weather came. That I had enough fat to warm a whole village for the winter. That if I ever declared a day "chilly" or "cold" - you could have $5 from my wallet. That cold was a four letter word . . . that one, turns out, is literally true.
Anywho, I own A jacket. I bought it in 1999. The zipper only sort of works and I wear it probably two or three days a year. When it was super cold AND actively snowing at the same time - mainly to keep my other clothes dry. I have a few sweatshirts from my 8x and 6x days (aka LAST year and the nine years before). I used to wear them when my t-shirts were stained or I thought I might be out really late on a fall night and the dew would be falling by the time I got home and when I thought I could actually disguise my size with a bulky sweashirt. I tried one on yesterday. Picture spongebob square pants only in red. With a 1/4 zipper at the top. And without the bulging eyes or stick legs. Not cute. Thank God I wear sportscoats or a blazer to work almost every day.
That is all changing. I am going to go out TONIGHT and buy myself a fall coat and then, when it turns really wintery, a JACKET. I'm not sure of the difference between the two but I'm sure there is one and my wife, who loves fashion like I love fall, always tells me I need a coat for fall and a jacket winter. Is it the other way around? I'm not sure. I might have to get a scarf . . . a hat . . . some gloves. Such LUNACY I never thought would be my problem. It's a whole new season on the other side of surgery.
I'm COLD. My little(r) hands were bluish as I first drove to work this morning. I turned on the heat in my car. My neck felt pasty and chilled when I took my laptop bag off my shoulder upon arriving at the office. My ankles - even with socks - were upset about the wind blowing on them.

My head still loves fall. My changing body is not so sure. I'll put a coat on and the season will once again feel warm and fuzzy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday, Friday, Friday . . .

Ah, the weekend is here. Like any given Friday - but more so today - I'm really happy about that.

I've been a wee bit stressed the last week or two (long story, for another time) and I will say that this week has been particularly "trying" for me.

I have typed before about how, without food, stress is a very different experience for me and I will say that there have been a few moments this week that I was not so sure that I don't "miss" food and the comfort it would bring me.

Would I undo all this so I could binge on a crappy day again? Just once?


I mean, look, sure it used to help - for a very temporary amount of time BUT I look at all that I have accomplished - forget the weight loss or how great I feel and how much better life is, I'm talking about how much I've learned about myself and how much I am capable of without food - and I would never want to go back. NO amount of money or reward or stress would ever be worth it for me. Even for just one brief moment.

I went last night and blew off some steam though. $200 later at good old CasualMaleXL - I was happy as could! Still am. My new khakis are outstanding!

I have told lots of people this, and I will preach the Gospel of Sean here again, this is not about weight loss for me. That is just a wonderful side effect of the real transformation that I'm in the midst of.

When I get to the other side - even these brief moments of stress will be just memories (if at all) and I will be even more appreciative that - six months in - I am still strong enough and content enough that I don't let "sliding" or "lapsing" even factor in to my thinking.

Life is good - especially on a Friday afternoon. Yuns have a good weekend, k?

Fight the Good Fight, Gary . . .

I blogged about this guy and his family before (read about it below) but I'm happy to report that there is an update to the story of a man who had gastric bypass to keep his family together and a ray of light and hope for Gary and his family. God speed, Gary!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Trainwreck? Maybe. Fat? No . . .

I have closely followed her rise and fall and I was, like most of America, sort of sad for her the other night on the MTV Video Music Awards. I won't waste your time with the rest of my opinions on what has happened to her and how I feel about it. I WILL get in to one point of the argument though . . .

Say what you want about Britney Spears but please - for the love of God and, more importantly, ALL the teenage (and 20 and 30 something year old) girls that make the mistake of looking to TV, movies, pop culture and music for what "cool", "pretty" and "popular" look like - stop calling her FAT!

I grew up idolizing John Candy. Why? He was hilarious and I read an interview he did in a magazine once that said he had never felt the pressure to succeed meant he had to lose weight any where near as strong as the failure he felt when he didn't succeed to lose weight (or something like that). My hero and I can honestly say I've modeled my mentalities on size and success around that example.

John Candy was a big man, sure, but he was described as funny, charming, handsome, talented gracious and kind more than he was tagged with adjectives to describe his size. Maybe I just saw the potential for a kid like me in the success of a man like him.

Maybe there is a girl out there right now wondering if she will ever be able to make it if she is "fat" like Britney. The world could use a few more John Candys so - to that little girl - I say GO FOR IT! Prove 'em all wrong!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Biggest Loser Makes Me Cry . . .

The five greatest TV programs of my life time, in my never humble opinion rank as follows . . .

Felicity, the story of a young woman who follows a boy to college and finds herself in the process. The show, which debuted right after I finished college, hit a chord with me and still to this day reminds me of my own experiences of becoming "me" - without the perfect hair, clothes and roommates (smile).

Lost, while it may be a little confusing at this point - for me, it doesn't get much better than a bunch of strangers forced in to a fight for their lives with back and forward flashes to show you that this is probably not the first or the last time that these people will feel like the deck is stacked against them and that life can be wonderful and wonderfully unfair.

Sports Night, a short lived beauty that has little to nothing to do with sports save for the morals that the sportscasters can learn and take from the athletes they profile on their fictional sports broadcast. I always like that these people were all obsessed with the glory of the game that was either reached or lost - not by themselves - but by the athletes they profiled.

Gilmore Girls, the story of a young mother who leaves behind the wealth and privelage of her family to raise a daughter through hard work, hard times and lots of love. The show was smart and funny and cleverly written and the plots twisted and turned but one thing was constant - that if you love your family and do your best - you will eventually graduate from Yale (or you will see your daughter walk the aisle to her Yale diploma at least).

And, the sentimental favorite and the reason you are all here right now is NBC's The Biggest Loser. That's right, kids. It is BACK! Season four kicked off tonight and, assuming there are 15 episodes in each season, this is the 46th straight episode to make me cry. I cry because I see myself and my struggle in every one of the contestants and I see myself in their failures and their successes and in their pride and in their pain.

Tonight's episode, I must admit, was particularly interesting for me . . . there are people on the show that, for the first time ever, are HEAVIER than me. I route for them all as I route for myself . . . that we might all be the Biggest Loser!

Check the show out - it WILL inspire you and you WILL learn about health, nutrtition, fitness and weight loss. It is TV time, and kleenex, well spent.

An Open Letter to Myself . . .

One of the more uneven parts of the post-surgery voyage for me is the gift and the curse that is the "support group."

Unlike any AA meeting I've ever seen on television or in a movie - there are no tears, there are no pins or ribbons, there are no donuts or stale cups of coffee. Andy Garcia does not get up and talk about his (movie) wife Meg Ryan's 1,000 smiles and how the all light up a room, etc.

There is, instead, a sign-in sheet, a water cooler, some protein bars that people bought and disliked so they somehow think the horrid flavor of them will appeal to their fellow GBer and - inside the doors of the meeting - simply a room full of people that have a sort of shared experience and very individual perspecitves and opinions on what life could/should/would be both before and after surgery.

One of my monthly support groups, lead by Bill Gillotti (I'm sure I'm butchering the spelling of his last name - my apologies) met last night and our assignment was to write a letter to ourselves about the surgery and what it means to us.

I decided to share the letter with you, my loyal readers.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dear Sean –

I am writing to you – largely under the pressure and fear that comes along with being the only person at support group tonight who has not written a letter to myself – to reflect about your gastric bypass surgery and the impact it has had or might have on your life.

You’ve lost 145 pounds. Great . . . you have 115 more to go to reach your target weight. You are on target to hit your goal weight by or around the one year anniversary of your surgery. Congrats . . . you will then have about 50 years of life ahead of you to maintain that weight. You have lost 14” off your waist, 3” of your neck, 12” of your chest and your wedding ring fits you like the adjective “liberal” fits the Catholic Church.

You’re doing really well but – please know that ALL of it is temporary.

I choose the word “temporary” very carefully. I would not be the first one to wonder around, hint at or suggest that you might well, if prior diet experience is any indicator, gain every pound of that back and more but I will not infer any of the above. I won’t do that because I truly believe, for the first time in your 31 years of life, in you. You are on the cusp of being the person you always wanted to be. You are serious and committed and devoted to this process and life after surgery. That change in you, I believe, is solidified. It is not temporary.

Instead, I choose “temporary” because I don’t want you to pause, focus or rest on the early success of this process.

You have a long way to go. You have a lot more weight to lose. You have a long life ahead of you post surgery to maintain that weight. You have the future temptations of food, new found comfort and complacency to stare down. Your exercise routine will not always be fresh or fun and you won’t always see the results you are seeing now for the effort you put in. You will not always drop weight at the rate you are now and you will someday (gasp) plateau.

Today, self, is “temporary” because you are going to have to work harder, eat smarter, look more introspectively and reinvent yourself externally to keep it going. It is temporary because tomorrow should be and will be better. There will be further progress. Further weight loss. Further development. The day after that – more. The day after that – more.

I hope that you succeed in this pursuit. I hope you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. I hope you fall under that 220 pound goal weight and, instead of being done, you just keep on dropping weight and gaining muscle. I hope you never again crave sweets or fatty foods or anything that is not on the “eat up, GB-boy” diet list. I hope exercise just becomes part of life. I hope that your temporary changes lead to a permanent life modification.

More importantly, I hope you still believe tomorrow what you have thought/feared all along and have just started to really accept – that it is just weight. It is just your body. It is just the physical casing of who you really are.

Do more. Be better. Become the husband that Joy deserves. Be the kind of father that Ava will always be proud to call “dada” and that will set her a proper example of what she might want in the man she might someday spend her life with and raised children with. Return to the friend you once were to those that you love who are not connected to you by blood and reinvent yourself as a brother and son to your immediate family.
This surgery carries with it all the keys to success you might ever want. It is what you do with them today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow that will really tell if the surgery was a success or not.

Remember, this is all just temporary. It could continue to get better or it could, pray God it does not, get worse over time. It will be that day that you will want to remember that it is just your body, it is just your casing, it is just the physical vessel for the real you. Make sure you get the “you” right accordingly – this is, as I’ve said repeatedly, temporary.

With my hopes, prayers and best wishes for continued success and long life and health, I hope you hear my words and know they come from the heart.


PS - Do these pants make my butt look big?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Freshman Fifty . . .

I took a walk down memory lane today with my friend Casey. We took a drive down to my alma mater, Quinnipiac University where I tried to buy a sweatshirt for Ava (the book store was closed, shocker). After we visited the campus, we had lunch at my FAVORITE place when I was in college, Side Street Grille.

I had another one of those "Ah-HAH" moments while I was thumbing through the menu for something to eat. The regular basket of popcorn sat on the table, the beer Casey ordered had been delivered and I remembered that, once upon a time, I didn't need to stinkin' menu at Side Street. Beer. Two of them. Wings. Lots of them. Popcorn. Keep it coming, hun! As I waited for my cup of chili, I remembered all the other places that we used to go eat in college.

There was La-La-LOOTzy, where we used to go for our Italian subs (chicken cutlet, double cheese, mayo - LARGE size) and there was Aunt Chilada's, where I would routinely eat the Three Amigos (a large buritto, a chimichanga and an enchilada) for lunch - I once went golfing with some friends at the Sleeping Giant golfcourse next door JUST so I could have lunch and a huge frozen margarita when it the nine-hole walk was over.

Forget the meals at the student cafeteria where I would eat foot long subs and double chicken patties with cheese and french fries and mozzerella sticks and cookies by the DOZEN.

I also won't get too bogged down in the detail that is the amount of booze and beer and late night junk food and happy hour buffet sludge and the snacks from home or the care packages my friends would get, etc. etc. etc.

What really struck me was how I had all but blocked out just how much weight I had gained my freshman year of college and the three years after. I would say I easily gained 50 pounds. Even my closest friends, Bruce, Delenick, TJK and Pezzu were even expressing concern by the end of the school year.

Most kids look forward to going away to college for the freedom that allows for drinking and smoking and hooking up and sleeping in and skipping class and tiptoeing to the edge of trouble. I HONESTLY remember the ONLY freedom that I was immediately aware of was that I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I guess college is really all about learning and education. My parents often said, and I believe, that it is also about finding and learning yourself. I learned a very valuable lesson early on but didn't pay enough attention to pass the test.

I didn't waste any time lamenting how I had eaten then or that my freshman year of college was likely when I opened Pandora's Eating Box or that I could have, should have and would have done it differently if I could go back.

I just didn't think there was any point in kicking myself now for what I did then.

I did finally learn the lesson though - 13 years later - the chili at Side Street is really, really good - you don't need the popcorn, the beer or the wings to have a nice lunch with a friend.

FASCINATING, in hind sight (smile).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bigger Man, Bigger Love . . .

I have been following a very happy and encouraging and yet sad story out of Missouri for the past few weeks HOPING that common sense might actually prevail in the story and I could post to this blog about how good people, regardless of size, can overcome in this country but - instead - now I have to complain about how the obese are the last group in our country that can be openly discriminated against and how much it gets my goat!

Here is the backstory - there is this great guy in Missouri, Gary Stocklaufer, who is married and has a very cute son that he and his wife adopted in 2000 that they love and provide for. The American dream for a guy, right? Find a loving wife, set up a cute little family and have love to spare. SO much love to spare, in fact, that when the man's cousin had a son in April that she could not take care of - the Stocklaufers showed their love and took in that little boy. They grew their family and they took on the parental duties so that the child might have what he needs in life but still know family, etc. A beautiful story about love and parenting and family and selflessness, right? RIGHT!

But, Missouri, with apparently no real problems to deal with or enough work to keep the state employees busy, used the fact that the Stocklaufers did not follow normal procedure to adopt the baby in the first place to interupt and rip apart that family. I'll give you that - you have to play by the rules. You can't just grab a baby and say "mine" and that is that BUT as parents who have already adopted in Missouri - why can't they just speedpass the adoption process and keep the child while they sort out the paperwork (which they were taking care of when this story caught media attention). Because, my dear readers, Gary weighs 500 pounds.

That's right . . . apparently Gary is too fat to be a good father according to the great state of Missouri. The state said (and I quote) "It is highly probable that there are available petitioners who are better situated to provide a permanent home for this child." WHAT? Better suited on what grounds? They WEIGH LESS?

Okay, so, again, as a father losing weight it is WAY easier to deal with Ava now than it was at almost 500 pounds. I get that (oh, to digress, I weighed myself today - I'm down to 144 total pounds to date (yeah Me!)! BUT Gary, being the good man that he is and the loving father said - alright, no problem, I'll have gastric bypass surgery to help with my weight. And he had the procdure donated to him by another kind and loving soul in Dallas, Texas.

So Gary is down 30 pounds AND a son today. The state refused Gary's appeal and still feels that their stupid procedures are more important than the love of a family and letting a good man be a good man for his wife and children.
To watch an interview the morning of his gastric bypass with Gary and to hear his own thoughts on life as a big man, the adoption controversy and the surgery itself, click here.
The story makes me stick to my little, biddy, ping-pong ball sized pouch! I imagine myself, as a 485 pound man, trying to adopt Ava with Joy (our best chance at being a family) and having a judge tell me that I was too heavy to love or provide her Ava. I imagine myself not being able to get a job because of my size. Or to be taken seriously because of my size. Or to be able to feel like even if I do enough and love my wife enough and have a big enough heart that I still won't be able to provide for a child JUST because of my size.
I cried a little when I read this story update today. I cried because it made me feel so much for this man to have gone through this surgery and to have lost the comfort of food only to have the world rip the rug out from under him (I can't imagine his mindset right now) and I cried because I can't imagine if I had to go through the same ordeal and then to still be told that I wasn't good enough.

I'm thankful that life has never done that to me. My wife will tell you about the looks and the treatment and the abuse I've suffered because of my size but I'm pretty obvlivious to it - I guess I started ignoring it at a young age. I'm thankful that I have my daughter and my loving wife and that we will raise Ava to be smart enough to not judge people for the color of their skin or the religion they follow or the size of their body. Apparently not everyone's parents bothered to teach them that, at least not the parents of the fine people running the state of Missouri.

Shame on you, Missouri. Keep your chin up, Gary and THANK GOD that I can only imagine what you are going through right now - I would not want to know for sure.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wanna' Play Soccer, Uncle Sean? . . .

We spent last weekend in Wichita with my wife's family. I have one niece in this world, Lexy (sometimes she prefers to be called Alexis (she'll be eight in November so . . . )). She's a real sweety and I adore her but - up until recently - there was one "problem" - she loves sports.

Now my parents raised me to be my own person - do what I wanted to do - find my own path. I chose a path alright, and it walked far away from any sports or athletics. NO disrespect to the athletic set BUT I have never been very good at ANY sport (save for bocce and mini-golf) and I have never had any interest in any sports. It could be chicken-and-the-egg type logic if I don't like sports because I was always fat or if I was always fat because I didn't like/participate in sports. Regardless, I am just not a sports "person."

So, when we are in Wichita, we typically spend as much family time as we can INCLUDING going to Lexy's sports games. Basketball, softball, football and soccer . . . among others.
This weekend, not only did I attend Lexy's soccer game but she and I PLAYED soccer after her game. That's right. I ran, and kicked, and chased and PLAYED for the first time since probably my junior year of high school (15 years ago already).
I've got to say, it felt GREAT. NOT that I will now become a huge soccer fanatic or that I'm going to quit my day job in hopes of going pro BUT it is good to know that I CAN get out and play soccer with Lexy. That I can run again. That I can kick without fear of my legs snapping under all my weight being put on just one of them at a time, that my heart won't explode and the sweat won't soak my clothes and that . . . GOD help me if this really happens but that - should she decide she wants to be a sports "person" when she is old enough to make these sorts of decisions - I will be able to play with my little Gracie-girl, Ava.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Unbuckled Excitement . . .

Dear Reader -

Let me introduce myself. I am Sean's Airline Seatbelt Extender. Sean asked a flight attendant for me in December 0f 1998 on his flight home to spend Christmas with his family. At the end of the flight, having been embarassed to have asked to "borrow" me in the first place - Sean decided it would be best to just steal/keep/adopt me and have me for future use.

Oh, the fun we've had in the last nine years. We've been to Los Angeles three or four times, Seattle, Portland (Oregon AND Maine), Boston, Dallas, New Orleans (a few times) and, of course, Ustate, New York and Wichita. Many, many times each.
Almost every flight over that time, Sean has let me know, little by little, inch by inch. In May of 2003, Sean strained to lock his belt on even with my help. I have never felt more needed and he had never felt more fat.

I am writing you today though with some sad news. Sean no longer needs me.

It seems that Sean, feeling good about the way his butt looked in his new khakis (perhaps he's down 14" by now v. 12"?) on Friday decided to just try to buckle the airplane seatbelt without me on he and Ava's flight to Wichita.

"Why not, right?," he thought. "Just see how long it might be before I don't need an extender?," And, low and behold - CLICK. It fit. With SPARE belt. Low and tight around the hips. Perfect.

I'm still in Sean's carry on bag. He wants to leave me on his next flight v. just throw me away (pay the karma back and let me at least try to find a new and loving home) but, he's all too happy that he no longer needs me as his air travel companion.

We both cried a few tears on Friday - only Sean's seemed to be more from excitement and pride than from sadness.

If you know of anyone that would like to adopt me for their personal use until they lose their weight - just let Sean know. You can e-mail him at

Bon Voyage, Sean.

- Seatbelt Extender