Friday, November 30, 2007

American Obesity Leveling Off? . . .

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

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

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

The 20 Worst Foods in America . . .

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

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

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

And the clinker . . .

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

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

Father, forgive me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dance, Dance Fever and Fighter Jet Madness . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

So. How was YOUR Thanksgiving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things I am Thankful For . . .

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Wedding Ring No Longer Fits . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dillon's v. Stop and Shop . . .

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Stares, Awkward Looks and Stairs . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Heaviest Day . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My how far I have come in about five years.