Monday, March 31, 2008

Wichita Wingnuts in the Final Four . . .

Our beloved Kansas Jayhawks made the NCAA Final Four yesterday and our even-more beloved Wichita Wingnuts are in their Final Four match up today. PLEASE click here and vote for the Wingnuts. WHEN we win this game (positive thinking), we will be in the championship game tomorrow. THANKS for your support.

Guest/Chef Blogger . . . Trishia's Pureed Cheeseburger . . .

Trishia - thanks for the great e-mail. I'm going to write a response to you later today (I hope). Your story is inspiring too and I wish you continued success as you get back up to the daily challenges life post-GB is full of.

For the rest of you . . . here's Trishia's Pureed Cheeseburger recipe . . .

- 3oz. lean hamburger
- 1 slice fat free cheese
- 2 tbsp. warm beef broth
- 1/2 hamburger bun

Cook beef and drain fat.

Add all ingredients except beef broth to blender and puree on high. Gradually add beef broth to desired consistency.

Yield: 1 serving
Calories 309
Protein: 27

Guest Chef/Blogger - Jen's Favorite Foods . . .

I'm getting some recipe and food ideas back from folks. Here are three from Jen who's enjoying life after surgery (I'm waiting for her approval to share three highlights (they are pretty funny and very exciting, no doubt). Enjoy these foods and please feel free to share in the "comments" section below or e-mail me your food ideas too ( . . .

Kraft makes string cheese that is half mozzarella and half cheddar that is 60 calories with 6 (6!) grams of protein per stick.

You can puree white beans for protein and add some to flavored hummus (I like roasted red pepper hummus) to make a healthy snack.

While chicken salad has too many chunks for me, I buy deli chicken, have it shaved and chop it fine and turn that into chicken salad and it sits much better in my pouch.

And . . . drum roll please . . . my FAVORITE snack is one Reduced Fat Triscuit with a small piece of tomato and eggplant (from a trader joes "marinated vegetables" jar) with a small piece of Laughing Cow garlic cheese on it. Toasted. Heavenly. Makes me drool just thinking about it. Granted, I can eat just one, but it is healthy and quite tasty!

Thanks, Jen. Sounds yuhmay!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Shame On YOU, Henry County, Georgia . . .

Just when I started to think "Hey, It's Friday - it HAS to be a good day!" one of my co-workers sent me this article that got my blood boiling.

It seems that the public bus system in Henry County has banned an obese man who is confined to a wheelchair because of an infection that followed knee surgery. The 65-year-old man, Henry Washington, has been using the bus for FIVE years and was recently taken, by bus, to the Henry County Recycling Center where his bus was weighed first with him and then without him.

A few days later Washington, who has NO other way to get around (he can't drive) was told he could no longer use the bus because his weight and wheelchair were too much of a strain on the hydraulic systems on the bus. The hyraulic lift system, by the way, is tested for up to 750 pounds and Washington and his chair weigh only 680 (I know 680 is not an "only" type of figure but it IS 70 pounds less than the limit of the lift).

So here is the thing that has me upset about this. It is a PUBLIC SERVICE to take the bus and the guy is NOT over the weight limit and I seriously doubt that if eight one hundred pound people got on the bus lift (I know eight people don't use a lift at the same time but hear my out), they would kick one of them off to get it under the 750 pound limit NOR do I think that, during peak hours of use, the bus drivers every pay attention to the weight of every person on the bus.

Nope - I'm SURE that it is because Washington is large and in a wheelchair (two reasons for the average person to stop and stare, I guess) that he was targeted and kicked off the bus.

I obviously would like to see Washington lose some weight (for his own health) and I don't ever want to see any one in a wheelchair for any reason but I think, in the meantime, to further limit his life and his ability to get around is just plain wrong. What message does it send to Washington and how CLEAR is it to the rest of the world that sizeism is alive and "well" - at least in Henry County, Georgia.

If you need a lift to get your errands run and to get your life moving, Mr. Washington, let me know. I'll help you figure out a way to get around. In the meantime, shame on you, Henry County.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Biggest Loser . . .

I am still faithfully watching the Biggest Loser and I still love it (it is really heating up) but I've refrained from posting the last two weeks because I don't have a lot of positive stuff to say about the people who went home. I think, for Brittany and for Dan, they both (perhaps because of their youth) were unable to handle losing weight. They both got big heads (or at least the editing of the show suggested as much) and they both seemed to show obvious signs that maybe they were not making the changes that were truly needed for a life long commitment to keeping the weight off (Brittany was just way too angry and Dan was way too careless (eating during the challenge, etc.)). ANYWHO - only five people left. Should be an outstanding conclusion. Mad props to Kelly and Ali for giving the Blue Team something to think about and to Kelly for FINALLY acting like she can do this and that she can lose weight and like herself and believe for ONCE.

Food and Recipe Advice . . .

Got a great comment on the blog from Trisha in regards to eating after surgery . . . and it got me thinking. Does anyone have some outstanding food ideas or suggestions for foods to run from? Recipes? Personal tricks to hit your protein targets? PLEASE post them here as comments or e-mail them to me at and I'll share them.

Looking forward to that pureed cheeseburger recipe, Trisha. Sounds scary and yuhmay at the same time . . .

Help The Wingnuts Again, Please?! . . .

Another totally unrelated plea to the masses.

Please click here to vote for the Wichita Wingnuts.

We need every vote we can get.

THANK YOU, in advance, for your support!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Some Cooking Advice . . .

One other thing for today . . . some ideas for people just getting back in to the kitchen (and some great gift ideas for people looking to support a loved one) following surgery.

1 - Get a good food scale. I got a digital one. $30. Worth every penny. I measured every little thing for the first couple of months. I was stunned at just how little food I got for the weight some days and how much other days. Don't guestimate following surgery. You should also pick up the Magic Bullet or an immersion blender too. SO much easier to puree, blend and prep foods than a "regular" blender.

2 - Get Rubbermaid containers, tiny ones. Rubbermaid makes containers with locking lids that are as small as two-ounces. Get them. Love them. I used to pour four ounces of protein shake in a container and just take my time with it. I could watch the clock and say "okay, half way down this hour and I'll be good." I would take stuff with me too - hummus in a movie? DELICIOUS.

3 - Get some little tiny glasses, plates and utensils. Go to the kid's dish section of Target (or have a baby). Get a four ounce cup. A baby plate. Baby fork and baby spoon. It won't seem like a tiny meal if you eat it with tiny dishes. I went through the four ounce glasses and then eight ounce and then twelve ounces and then sixteen ounces. Now I'm back to the 22 ounce tumblers of water I used to love - I just don't chug any more.

4 - Get some new cookbooks. Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery is my favorite (I still cook out of it). It gives you 140+ recipes and different ways to prepare each depending on what stage you are in (NOTE - their stages don't perfectly align with Danbury Hospital's, check with your nutritionist on some of them accordingly). You can also find some cookbooks on and you can but the South Beach cookbooks (you can't eat all of the stuff but some of the recipes are really useful). Just don't try to cook for you out of Nigella Lawson's books (as yummy as she AND her food is). It won't work. Trust me.

5 - Get a food journal and keep it. I just scratched my food and beveage consumption in a pocket-sized notebook but it was very, very helpful for the first three months or so after surgery. There are websites where you can track calories too but if you aren't at a computer all day . . . they aren't all that useful.

6 - Get some new sneakers. Research suggests that you will walk and work-out more if you have new footwear (the excitement and the guilt mix in your mind to form a "must walk" cocktail).

Blending Up Something Delicious . . .

It was just about a year ago today that I looked at Joy, sullen, and declared to her that if I had to drink one more Carnation, No Sugar Added, Instant Breakfast - I was going to die. Likely from suspicious causes that involved a rope, a thick knot and a rafter in the garage.

NOT that the Carnation Instant Breakfast is not delicious (it is - I still drink one every now and again to remind myself of how far my iddy-biddy pouch has come in the last year) but it just gets soooooooooooo boring after three or four straight days of sipping the cursed stuff . . . forget WEEKS of it.

Anywho, I was thinking about my early post-surgery eating "habits" and some very nice e-mails from Jen and Jess (two recent GBers from Danbury Hospital) asking me to share my early eating experiences prompted me to revisit my old food logs and to try to share some surgery experiences I had long before this blog became my outlet.

First, let me be honest, while it seems like a LIFETIME ago that I was on a liquid-and-puree-only diet (I don't miss it), I remember it being a very important stage/phase for me post surgery. I also had the rare treat of having a baby at the time of my surgery who had one tooth and a very small appetite so I didn't so much feel "alone" in drinking all my meals and/or wondering how they got a solid food to be so gross in liquid form. Yet, I digress.

The point . . . as I've said many times in the past - if we were GOOD about eating, we would have never gotten to the weight we were at to need the surgery so a medical team telling us to put down the fork, paper drive-thru bag and ice cream sandwich for a few weeks is probably necessary and, like with Ava, we all have to LEARN to eat (again) with our new hardware (teeth for her, pouch for me). That being said, I thought an ABC-inspired primer about eating after surgery would be entertaining. Let's see how that plays out . . .

A - ALWAYS get your protein and fluids. 30, then 45, then 60 grams of protein. Ramp it up. Make it a priority. Make it happen. You can get protein from a ton of sources following surgery but I suggest ordering a variety pack of protein shakes/suppliments (I love for ordering stuff and I miss trips to Choose2Lose for shopping in person) and trying them all out. Some will tickle your fancy, others will taste like they were actually taken from a septic tank BUT having a variety of tastes and protein concentrations (there is one that comes in a test-tube that has like 6,000,000 grams of power and actually tastes pretty good) is a good thing. IF you are prepping for surgery, order one now (or if you know someone who's about to have it - they variety kits make great gifts (I'm not kidding) and if you've just had surgery, get online and order one up.

B - BE DELICATE with your consumption. Just taste stuff. A little here. A little there. Don't sit down and say "okay, I'm going to drink four ounces of this right now and not worry about f0od for a few hours." INSTEAD - think, okay, if I have to get 60 grams of protein today and I'm going to be sleeping for eight hours tonight, that leaves 16 hours to get my protein . . . about four grams an hour. If you don't try to put pressure on yourself, you will have a better shot at getting through the shake/puree phase.

C - CREATIVITY is not all that it is cracked up to be. Let's just cut to the chase. Mary Lou (God love her) will tell you that you can throw a steak in the blender and drink it up. She'll tell you that you can blend together a chicken breast, a tomato and some low-fat mayo for a delicious treat. She'll tell you to check out baby food for delicious, pre-pureed fun. She's not lying. You CAN do all that stuff but you don't want to. TRUST me on this. Just get three or four things that you can eat and that you want to eat. You have the rest of your life to be brave and have fun with foods again. Now is not the time. You have to focus. I suggest protein shakes, fat-free milk, low-fat mozerella cheese sticks (not the deep-fried kind (to be clear)) and Stew Leonar's Chicken Chili. Sound boring? Yep. It was. And I loved it.

D - DECIDE that you are in charge now. You've struggled with food for your whole life (likely) and now you have had this surgery. Struggle no longer, my brothers and sisters. If you don't want to throw Chinese food in the blender (and why WOULD you), don't. If you want to not eat bread even though you CAN eat it now, don't. I, for the record, went six months without a single bite of actual BREAD following my surgery (low fat Triscuits, whole-wheat wraps and no-sugar-added Thomas, multi-grain English Muffins (1/2 of one muffin a day) are not actually "bread." If you want to take advantage of this new life to eat Sushi or switch to tofu as new forms of getting your nutrtiotion, go for it.

E - EAT for you. Let your family work around it. It is sooooooo much fun to be the circus-freak following surgery. "Can you eat THIS?," they ask. "Are you full yet?," they inquire. "What does it feel like?," they wonder. "What's for dinner?," they whine. Let's be blunt again. Your family and friends - for all the love they have for you - have not ever really, as a whole, been good for your diet. If you are the "provider" in your house (I do almost all of the grocery shopping and cooking in our home, for in stance) than you should just sit your family down NOW and tell them that they are on their own for food for a while. They can drink a protein shake or eat a pureed chicken breast or they can just mind their business and take over cooking duties until you are ready to be around food again. I remember in one of my support group meetings last spring there was a woman who had lap-band surgery and she was eating some CRAP because her family liked it and she needed to still cook for them and their tastes . . . what the hell sort of logic is THAT? Make them come to YOU or make them make their own dinner. NOW - in our house - I will make variations on the same dish for Joy and I. Last night, for instance, Joy had a chicken sandwich with two slices of cheese, some lettuce and some sauce on a wheat bun. I had chicken with one slice of cheese and mustard on a wrap. We had very different plates with the same basic meal. For now though . . . take care of you. They won't starve to death while you try to establish good eating habits for the rest of your life.

F - FORGET about "just a taste." Don't rush yourself through the stages of eating. Only your medical pros can tell you if you are ready for the next step and for the next food challenges. More over, don't think that if you just have a "bite" of something that you know you should not have that you aren't playing with fire. We go to Red Robin every now and again with the Terry family. We go to Sonic for lunch when we're running errands. Ava loves gummy worms. I'm not even sampling the goods because, frankly, I don't like to screw around with food anymore. I waited to advance the stages (I still remember that first BITE of food after my surgery) and I am glad I did. 53 weeks later - I try to avoid any and all temptation and or indulgence. It's not worth it. Sugar free pudding with reduced sugar Cool Whip is my vice now. 85 calories. As close to the fire as I'm willing to get.

G - GIVE yourself a chance. It is HARD to go back to eating. It sucks, frankly. Nothing really tastes good. Your pouch feels tight with every bite. You feel like you are under these very tight controls on what you can eat and what you HAVE to eat. You feel like everyone is watching you. Just relax. Take it one day and one bite at a time. I would take FIVE or SIX different things to eat with me to work every day my first month or so back from surgery. Some hummus. Some cheese. Some turkey. Some reduced fat Triscuits. Some yogurt. Some milke. I would pick at the stuff throughout the day (mindful of calories and protein) and I wouldn't ever think twice about taking a morning with no food or nibbling for an hour straight in the afternoon.

H - HAVE fun. I never used to like red meat. Ground beef. That was it. I eat steak now. I LOVE steak. I eat Lamb (fatty little bastard meat that it is). I eat pork now. I ate Sushi . . . twice. It is a whole new chance for me to reconnect with food. I always used to like to cook . . . now I LOVE it. I made a six-course dinner for Joy, Ava, my parents and Joy's parents on Christmas day. I could eat next to none of it. It felt WONDERFUL to see them ohing and ahing over the courses and the tastes and to know that I did that for them while taking care of me. It was FUN to cook and FUN to sit at the table with smaller, altered versions of what they were eating. FUN. FUN. FUN. FUN!

Anywho, that is enough of this for now. I have NO idea what I would use for the letter I so I'll bail out. Tomorrow I'll share some of the foods that I really did enjoy after surgery and some tricks I learned on how to prepare stuff and have it be delicious and "unique" while it was still the same old stuff on a different day.

Hope I've helped a little with my ABCs and I hope the advice is helpful to those, like Jen and Jess, who are just starting out!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Are You Going to Do Next? . . .

Like any Super Bowl MVP, a first-time Oscar winner or John Rambo at the end of Rambo II, First Blood, many people have been asking me in the last week what I'm going to do next.

First, let's get the obvious of the way . . . I'm NOT going to Disney World. Next, let's get the acceptance speech out of the way . . . I'm NOT going to thank God, my mother or my fifth grade teacher (although Mrs. Satterly is, no doubt, one of the most influental people that ever touched my life).

Sadly (and frankly), John Rambo might have put it best at the end of his second turn as the shirtless, headbanded right-fighter. After killing dozens-upon-dozens of people and freeing hundreds more (it has been twenty years since I watched a Rambo movie, cut me some slack), Rambo faces his superior officer who asks a simple question. "What are you going to do next, John, how will you live?" Stallone, cool as the other side of the pillow, wipes some brain matter and blood and sweat off his face, and simply replies "Day by day."

That is sort of where I'm at now. I'm living day by day. I've got another few weight loss goals/benchmarks on the calendar (I'd like to be 250 by my birthday in mid-June, for instance) but, for the most part, I'm no longer chasing life by the ounce or the pound That is what I'm doing next . . . moving past my surgery being the lead of the story.

We went out to lunch on Saturday. We went to Pizza Hut Italian Bistro. I kid you not. Joy was craving some greasy pizza and Ava just wanted out of the car so we pulled in to the parking lot at one of my least favorite restaurants in the world. Have you ever tried to find a healthy meal at Pizza Hut? Seriously?! Oh my GOD! NOTE - Pizza Hut was founded here in Wichita by two students at Wichita State University. It grew from there. You're welcome, world!

I ordered, after six reads of the menu, a turkey sandwich and asked them to hold the special sauces, half the cheese and the other toppings. What I got turned out to be literally THREE slices of deli turkey (maybe two total ounces of protein) on a white roll and some curly fries (Ava loves the "ench-ries"). What I REALLY got though was getting to watch Joy and Ava eat a lunch, for once, that was on their terms versus my comfort zone. The turkey itself was delicious though - once I peeled it off the bread.

I realized as we drove around looking for a kid-friendly, cheap and easy lunch spot that, for the last year, we've always eaten out on my terms or for my comfort. I challenged Joy to challenge me and to live my life day by day instead of as a post-surgery eater.

It was the first in what I hope are thousands and thousands of examples of where we will try to de-emphasize my surgery and emphasize the life that we can now have because of my surgery.

That doesn't mean I won't still talk about my surgery. Quite the opposite, I'm currently going back through my old food logs to see what it was like to try to eat right after surgery. I got a great e-mail looking for advice last week and I realized that I, having not started my blog until I was six months post surgery, I have plenty of stories to tell from the early days of last spring.

A Little Help, Please . . .

This has nothing to do with surgery but, if you really support me in my journey (ahem) - you'll do this for me . . . would you please click HERE and vote for the Wichita Wingnuts logo between now and 9:00 AM ET on Wednesday?

The Wingnuts are our local baseball team. My agency designed the logo for the team and we've done some PR support for them as well. We really, really want to win this contest (it hinges on obsession, to be honest). THANK YOU!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Before and After Pictures . . .

And here are some shots from THIS Easter. Had a great time with the Terry family but missed the Amore family.

The Easter Bunny (aka Grandma and Grandpa Terry) gave Ava a Cadillac Escalade/Barbie Power Wheels for Easter/her birthday. Dad Terry and I put it together on Saturday (notice who gets trusted with the bigger, more powerful tools). No, to answer your questions, neither of us has any true affiliation with either Ivy League school . . . I just like that I can finally wear a size XL Brown sweatshirt while putting my father-in-law in an oversized Cornell swearshirt (it was very big on him, for the record).

Anywho, Ava LOVED the thing. She seemed truly surprised and scared that her foot was making her move foward in it but she enjoyed just sitting in the thing and mugging for the camera.

We took another family picture . . . why is it so impossible to have a picture where all three of us are a) looking presentable and b) looking at the camera? Oh well.

THANK YOU, by the way, for the bike, Easter Bunny/Grandma and Grandpa Terry.

I promise to ride it as often as possible and not to loose any teeth in the process (ahem).

Before and After Pictures . . .

We had an amazing Easter weekend (details to come) and I was uploading the 100+ pictures we took of Ava (yes, it is a SICKNESS) to the computer yesterday and I stumbled upon these two shots.

These are last pictures of me before my surgery. Joy took them off me the evening before (we think).

I was having major surgery the next morning, I weighed 483 pounds and yet - in my vanity of vanities - I felt the need to shave my nose and ear hairs to look more presentable on the operating table (notice the fresh hair cut (and neck/head fat ripples) too). Anywho, Joy felt the need to document the experience and don't I just look SOOOOO happy to be alive and having my picture taken?

Thank GOD I got a chance to take some better pictures for the ol' scrapbook-of-life.

Happy belated Easter to all.

I'm working on a real post that I'll try to get up later today or tomorrow.

Sorry I've been MIA for four whole days (I got your angry note, Ms. Impatient (smile)).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Surgaversary To Me . . .

This will sound weird for a guy who has been typing long, typo-ridden, rambling open notes to the world at large for the last seven months but . . . somehow . . . I am sort of at a loss of words this morning as I ponder the fact that one year ago today . . . 366 days (leap year) ago . . . 8,784 hours ago . . . 527,040 minutes ago . . . I was lying flat on my back, sedated, with a catheter in me, a surgery team standing over me and little laser beam cutting my pouch away from my over-stretched stomach.

I'm sort of focused in on all the things that have happened in the last year but FOCUSED on nothing at the same time. Joy sort of touched on it a little bit and I guess, rereading some of my old posts, I've always sort of refered to it but this last year has not, for a single moment, been ABOUT weight loss. It hasn't been about how many pounds I could lose (although I did set some pretty high goals and I worked my butt off (insert pun-indicated elbow nudge here) to fall just nine pounds short of that goal). It has been about taking back my life. It has been about what I CAN do with a minute, day, week, month or year versus what I had been doing with that time.

It makes me think of Rent and my favorite song from the musical . . . 525,600 Minutes. Then I remember that to compare my life to a broadway-musical-turned-movie is as absurd as I've probably ever been. That includes the 14-year-old tall-tale that has been told thousands of times about "the time" I relieved myself on the feet of an overly zealous roasted chestnut vendor on the streets of New York City (if you've heard and feel for that story and today is the first you've found out it was all an elabroate and FUNNY lie . . . welcome to the light).

Anywho, the point is that I've been trying to figure out, for the last 24 hours, if I have done enough to measure this year a success. I think, risking sounding overly proud of myself . . . that I have.

I also look at my relationship with Joy and how much it has changed and evolved over the last year. I've never made any bones about my love for Joy but, truth be told, my love for Joy may not have always been that obvious to her. As I got heavier and heavier and more and more frustrated with myself, she was the natural and obvious target for my frustrations and anger. I've never intended to harm her but my words and self-doubt have, none the less, caused her a lot of heart ache over the years.

The last 366 days are, sadly, the first 366 days in our shared life that I can honestly say that I have been even half as kind and loving as I could be. As I should be.

The reality is that, without Joy, I would not be here today. That isn't drama or me blowing smoke up my wife's butt. I would not be here. I would have died from my own excessive eating, depression and general self-loathing. Joy changed that. In an instant. I saw her and I feel in love with her and I NEEDED to live and I needed to live a life with her. Now, that being said, it was not easy for me to abandon everything I ever assumed about love and marriage and family (or even dating and owning a car (for that matter)) to get to where we are today but - with her help - I made it. I figured it out. I overcame.

I can think of a handful of moments that define who Joy and I are and, frankly, there are more hard times that we've endured together than there are sunsets-on-the-beach moments. We've struggled a plenty in our blessed life together but, through our love, we've always come out ahead.

We've taken the lumps and the knocks and we've grown and evolved from them. This year has just been different. It has been more good times than average or poor times. We moved. We found a new job. We went back to school. We lost 200+ pounds. We have seen our daughter take her first steps and speak her first words. We've been to the opera. We've been to the ballet. We went to the zoo. We went to the movies and SHARED an arm rest. How do you measure these things? How do you determine what is important or why it is important?

How about how much more honest and communicative we are today than we ever were in the past? How important is that? How much value do you put on the amount of trust and faith that Joy has placed in me as she starts to open up about her life and her hopes and dreams more than she ever felt she could in the past? Does it matter that I don't feel stress or anger nearly as often today as I did a month ago, or the month before that or the month before that OR that I don't even think of food any more when I get stressed and/or angry? How do you value or weigh these moments and happenings against each other?

I don't try. I just remember that Joy and I (and Ava too) are living, day to day, a life that neither of us had ever been bold enough to imagine. Not until one year ago today - when I finally woke up from my surgery and heard Joy at my side. I held her hand and I said "We made it. It's over. Welcome to the first day of the rest of our life." Now, I'm sure that - in the druggy haze what I really said was "LKalkdflkja. LKjalkjdffiejfewo. Jlflkak." but she smiled at me, knowingly, none the less. We started, in that moment, to think and dream bigger than we ever had before. Because we finally knew we could.

I sit here wondering what the next year will bring. I will lose the last 75+ pounds to get to my goal weight, this I know. Ava will start speaking in complete sentences and will continue to amaze us. Joy will finish a few more semesters of school and continue to open up and explore herself and who she is and will continue to amaze me. These are all big things but - in the next year - I assume that I'll hopefully get my pile of "must read" books cleared out. We'll probably see a dozen or so movies. I'll probably spend way too much time watching television I don't really care about. It will probably be filled with a bunch of mundane moments. Little accomplishments. Small happenings. I don't think the next year could possibly compete with the year we've just lived through so, by default, I assume it will be less fantastic but - that's the thing about the life Joy, Ava and I are building . . . you just can't ever assume anything. It WILL surprise you. It WILL exceed expectations. It WILL inspire us if not onlookers too.

I am so very, very thankful of all that I have been through in the last year. I'm thankful for the love and support that I've gotten from my friends and family and, for that matter, the complete strangers that read this blog day after day and send me e-mails to thank me or to ask me for my advice. I'm deeply appreciative for the support of medical professionals like Techia Palmer and Dr. Zuccala and Mary Lou who have gotten from where I was to where I am today. I'm excited for the chance to reconnect with old friends and for the peace of mind to be honest and direct (but not angry or vengeful) with people who I have long wanted to speak my peaceful mind to. I'm glad that I have Tricia across town for a little bit of high school meets a little bit of Wichita (everyone lip synch together . . . "Just look over your SHOULdah, baby"). I'm excited that spring is here and we have a park near by for lots of afternoons outside. I'm truly looking forward to our trip back east later this year so we can see and reconnect with old friends and I'm hopeful that my brothers will come visit us to behold the beauty of the Wichi-Wichi too.
So, today, I say goodbye and thanks to the best half-million-plus-consecutive-minutes my life has ever dreamed of having and I say "Hello" to the next half-million-plus-consecutive-minutes that will improve on the last.
And to all of you who are sharing my journey with me I look at you, smiling, and I say - "We made it. It's over. Welcome to the first day of the rest of our life."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Guest Blogger - Wifey . . .

Well, we've gotten a few friends and my brother Ryan and my in-laws and my parents out of the way. Now, let's make way for wifey. Any one who reads this blog or who has even met me in the last four and a half years knows that my sun rises and sets on Joy. She is, truly, the most wonderful and beautiful person I've ever met. Inside, outside, etc. I don't mean that in the trite "she's more beautiful inside than out" way either . . . I mean that in the literal way.

She is the most wonderful person I've ever met. Let's just be honest. She saw a 500+ pound man across a restaurant and CHOSE to love him. That doesn't make her a saint - superficial people piss me off (he he he) but that makes her a wonderful person. The months and years that have chased each other since we first met and that have gotten us to this point have seen her standing by me in plenty of times. Good. Bad. Ugly. Beautiful. She's been right there. Holding my hand. Holding me up. Urging me to move forward. Willing me to be a better man. Willing me to be the man that she saw across a restaurant, looked in to and fell in love with.

I'm not there. I have plenty of distance to go and plenty of work still to do but, if there is one thing this wonderful woman has proven . . . I won't go it alone. I won't have to feel alone and I will have a wonderful reason to do the work.

Joy has not just given me a new lease on life . . . she's given me my life. I'll get in to it more on my surgaversary post tomorrow but, for now, just know that I love you, Pop Tart, more than you will ever know and you will never be alone as long as I am alive and - thanks to this surgery - that should be much, much longer than it might have once seemed. You and me kid, until the end. Come what may. Good. Bad. Ugly. Beautiful.

I love you. Thank you for sharing your life with me and for guiding me on my journey.

In all honesty, I can’t believe today day has come so quickly.

I can’t describe the difference this year, and not just Sean’s weight loss, has made in our lives. I can’t do the experience justice. All I can say is thank you, my love, for adding years to our life together and for making the last year of our life such a quality experience. Thank you for taking care of you so that you can be around for more time with us – as a family.

I remember one year ago tonight like it was yesterday. Ava was about to turn eight-months-old. We had been in Connecticut less than a year and Sean was just beginning his career at IBM. So many changes and so many beginnings and yet, here we were, just a few hours away from embarking on another new life.

As excited as I was for Sean and for us as a family, I couldn’t help but feel scared.

Eighteen months earlier, in Baltimore, Sean had come very close to having this surgery. We went through an extensive prep program together and I had learned all sorts of sobering statistics. I knew, from that experience that, at Sean’s weight, the surgery itself was very dangerous. People his weight can develop gangrene or suffer fatal blood clots just laying still on the operating table (the chances are very, very rare but the heavier the patient the higher the likelihood). I learned that Sean’s weight might require an open v. laser surgery and that would open the door for more complications. His own apnea could further raise concerns. As important as the surgery was to our life and as safe as the surgery was versus doing nothing – there were risks with the operation.

I tried to be strong. I tried to focus on the positive. I tried to just be supportive and let Sean feel what he needed to feel without worrying about me but, deep down, I was petrified that he was going to leave us. Every time I’d look at Ava in the days before Sean’s surgery, especially the night before when he had gone to pick my mother up at the airport, I would pray “Dear God, if you’re there, please don’t let her grow up without knowing her wonderful father and please don’t take this man from me. We need him.” I offered Sean words of encouragement but, inside, I was begging for his body to let him get through the operation.

I don’t think either of us slept at all a year ago tonight. My mind raced and I could feel Sean tossing and turning too. I focused on happy thoughts. I pictured the nurse coming toward me in the waiting room to tell me that my husband was out of surgery and waiting for me. I pictured us on our wedding anniversary and at Ava’s high school graduation and Sean and Ava dancing at her wedding. I kept repeating my new mantra “My husband will be the poster boy for gastric bypass surgery.” I focused on just the positive but my mind raced.

I replayed the special moments in our life that had defined us and that we had gotten through together over and over in my head. I also thought about moments before that night when I wished I would have said something more or done something different to help Sean. I thought about what I could have done that might have prevented this situation all together. I realized, at about 3:30 AM that I had done all I could. I had loved and supported and encouraged Sean to be himself and to be responsible for himself.

Then I seethed over the few people in Sean’s life (and our life) that seemed to not support Sean in his weight loss efforts or in his struggles and, instead, chose to just sit back and wait for Sean to fail – like there was nothing more to do than assume the worst and wait to be proved right. People who never said anything to him but would make their feelings and doubts known to me. In my head I went back to those people and moments when I wish I had said something but didn’t and told them all what I believe about my husband. The simplest truth I know about the man. He might not always get things right the first time, but he never gives up, he never breaks a promise, he never fails those he’s pledged his success to and he will try and try again until he gets it right. “He’ll prove you wrong,” I thought. Then I cried over all the good friends, loved ones and supporters that have always cheered for and cherished him and that understand the amazing man he is and the potential that he carries in his hands, head and heart. As I said, it was a long night.

When the alarm went off the next morning, we looked at each other but, trapped in our own minds, we just got out of bed. We didn’t speak as we readied for the day, kissed Ava, handed her over to my mother and drove to the hospital. A rare moment in our life . . . we were silent. We spoke, instead, in looks, hand squeezes, neck rubs and hair tussles.

We checked in, walked that long hall to surgery prep and, in what was a quick-blur, Sean was taken back, prepped, IVed and readied for surgery. We were given just a few minutes alone before he was taken from me. Sean had been given something to calm him and he seemed confident and ready. I, on the other hand, held back my anxiety as tears welled in my eyes and my emotions leaked onto my cheek. Sean kissed away my tear, handed me his wedding ring and assured me “I’m not going anywhere but down the hall.”

I don’t remember anything about the surgery or the length of the wait. As the nurse I had pictured the night before approached me, I got excited but, when she told me – emotionless – that Sean’s surgeon would like to speak to me, I held my breathe until my lungs hurt and I could feel my heart pounding. I walked back to see Dr. Zuccala uttering “He’s fine. Poster Boy. He’s FINE!” And then I got the news Sean believed I would and that, in my heart, I knew I would too . . . Sean’s surgery went “perfectly.”

I thanked the doctor and ran outside and wept for my doubts and then I celebrated the life that was ahead of us.

I immediately called our families and the friends Sean had asked me to contact. I relayed the good news to everyone. Almost all of them breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated with me - except those few nay-sayers who plagued me the night before and have so many times. They spoke in half-hearted congratulations and understated caution.

Well . . . it’s a year later. All of my concerns were for nothing and the simple truth I always knew about my husband has proven itself again. Sean has followed through. He’s made good on his promise. He’s put in the effort. He’s succeeded and exceeded his supporter’s expectations and defied and shamed his doubter’s.

Make no mistake. He’s still the same man. He is the same courageous, generous, loving, inspiring man I’ve always known. Just with a few softer edges and a much, MUCH smaller body.

For those that have always cheered for him and for us, I thank you. You can take pride and a small part of the credit for him rediscovering himself and for him reclaiming his life. For those that have sat back, waited and perhaps even continued to assume the worst, I apologize. You’re missing out on an amazing transformation in his life and you are holding on to a man, and his shortcomings, that left us a year ago tomorrow.

I love you Sean and, while I’ve always been proud of you, I am truly proud of the man you are today. You never cease to amaze me.

Some Quick Figures . . .

I've been logging changes to my body for the past year in a very handy-dandy Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (insert laughing, finger-pointing and "nerd" shouting here).

I update the chart above about once a month and, to be honest, I have yet to update the chart when I can't change at least three or four of the figures and stats on the chart. Some months I've had to change every figure.

Anywho, I was reviewing the chart and all the old figures (and the graphs that go along with them (smile)) this morning and decided to share these figures with the masses.

Not a bad year! Not bad at all!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Guest Blogger - My Dear, Sweet Muddah . . .

My mother weighs in on my anniversary (could not leave mother out of the mix on this occassion). Something most people won't know about my mother and I . . . we didn't get along at ALL for about five years (late-junior year of high school through the end of my junior year of college). I'm not proud of that. I'm embarassed, frankly, but part of what I love about my mother is that she taught me a very simple rule (and she walked the walk on this rule) . . . I might not always like you - but I will ALWAYS love you.

I think my mother and I went through a phase because I was very anxious to be my own person but, damned if every turn I made I wasn't just like her or my father (or both). If I had to choose one or the other . . . it was going to be my dad just because, before that phase, he and I were far closer. I regret that now. I will never know how much I missed out on during my snit and I will never know how much I hurt her or let her down as I went through my emotions BUT I know that I'm very glad that we've kissed and made up along the way and, today, we are closer than I ever thought we could be while 1,500 miles apart. I love you, Mom. Thanks for always loving me and liking me as often as you could too!

March 20th marks the one year anniversary of your gastric bypass surgery. I remember the fears, concerns, doubts and apprehension that you experienced while trying to make a decision about this life changing surgery. There were positives to be regarded, like living a longer, healthier life and being able to easily "move" through daily tasks. In time you would experience less fatigue, be able to participate in activities that your weight now prohibited and just enjoy a higher quality of life. All of these positives would come at a price. You would need to watch your daily diet very closely for the rest of your life -and longevity prevails on your mother's side of the family! You were cautioned about the many health hazards that could result if you strayed from the set diet or if your system took an adversity to the surgery. You carefully weighted the pros and cons and made a life changing decision for yourself.

You have met with such great success with past year. The other day I was looking at your blog site. As I quickly scrolled past some of your most recent pictures I realized that I might not recognize you in a photo if it was out of context or laid out with various other photos. How sad that a mother might not recognize her own son, but there was also a rush of pride that my son could change himself so positively in 12 months time. Bravo!

An anniversary is the marking of a date on the calendar. Most often it is a time of celebration. Always an anniversary marks events that have happened - the joy and the tears - but we find ourselves changed. We are no longer the person we were one year ago. This anniversary in your life has seen you have many changes; job, home and geographic culture, but the most drastic being a positive physical metamorphism. The butterfly is now free. Love, Mom

Guest Blogger - My Dear, Old Dad . . .

We've heard from the in-laws so - let's hear from the "real" parents too. First up, my dear Father. My dad was always, to be honest, my best friend when I was a kid. My dad has struggled with his weight and his self esteem throughout his life and I think he saw himself in me and he always wanted me to just be "better" than he was (I guess all parents want that for their kids).

Three memories stick out for me when I think of my father.

One - When I was in junior high school he and I had an argument about something stupid (as teenagers and their parents often do) and he said some stuff that hurt me. We talked about it later and he explained why he had said what he said and he explained that he had a terrible high school experience because of his weight and his personality (both of which I got in the womb) and he wanted me to not make some of the mistakes he made. He wanted me to have a better experience than he had. He wanted me to have a better life than he had. He wanted me to be better than he was.

Two - He once drove all the way to Quinnipiac on a Friday night to see this TERRIBLE play I was in - even though I BEGGED him not to come and then he took me out to dinner (we usually took me and ALL my friends but, since it was a surprise visit, my friends were all too drunk to go to dinner that night) and then he took me to the grocery story, dropped me at my dorm and got back in the car and drove the six hours back to Groton. His father wasn't much of a dad to him. Didn't love or support him. He wanted to be a better father than the one he had and he wanted me to know that he would do anything for his children. He wanted me, of course, to carry that lesson in to my own life and to - eventually - be as good or better of a father than he was.

Three - My father had a mini-stroke in October, 2001 and the next few weeks changed all of our lives forever in many, many ways. I learned more about my father in that time than I ever thought I would. I saw more fear, courage, confusion and confidence than I've ever seen from my father during that period. He shared all those emotions and his struggles with me. He wanted me to know the importance of being who you are but how hard it can be to be that person somtimes. He wanted me to know how important my mother and his sons are to him and how wonderful he wanted our lives to be and how much he would do to give us that chance. He wanted me to be have a better and more open life than him. He wanted me to be better than him.

Those three memories, to be blunt, influence me every single day as I view myself as a professional, a friend, a husband and a father. I hold those memories and those times very near and dear to my heart and I'll tell you right now . . . Ava will be better than me because my father insisted that I have every opportunity to be better than him. I love you and I thank you, Dad, for everything.

It has been a year since Sean's gastric by pass and what a change!

Not only is 210+ pounds gone but Sean is a new man. His outlook on life is better and nicer. A lovely wife and "funtastic" daughter has greatly added to his wanting to change his living and more importantly eating habits. It amazes me when we have been together how he sticks to the routine of what is allowed and not. His intake is only what it should be and that is it. A personal trainer has facilitated his dieting and exercising regimen for continual weight loss.

I have seen much more ease with which he handles situations that could possibly be explosive for the pre surgery Sean. There still is stress in his life and job as most of us have but it is handled easier now than back in Washington/Baltimore days.

It is a joy to spend time on the phone with Sean speaking about what is going on in his life and hearing him talk about it in calmer terms. There still are times when he is upset with things but not to the degree that he once was.

We miss tremendously spending time with him and his family in person but do spend time each week on the phone which helps some with the distance. He shows great concern for us by calling often and verbally reinforcing his love for us.

His work is a challenge which is good with feeling success. He seems to be meeting the challenges of the job as well as his coworkers which is a positive thing, further attesting to his happiness with his new life post surgery.

I have always loved my son, (whom we affectionately called "Tons of Fun" when he was a toddler), but it is much more rewarding to see and experience this new man and son since his surgery. We know and can see the outward manifestation of a person who made a decision, acted and has followed through for a year now attaining great success.

I am certain that he has added years to his life with Joy and Ava Grace because of his decision March 20, 2007 and the conscientious work subsequently.

I am very proud of you Sean and happy that you are so successful in your life. Keep up the wonderful work. Much love today and Always, Dad

Monday, March 17, 2008

Doctor . . .

I just got back from the doctor.

My allergies are KILLING me here in the Wichi-Wichi and I've been having some issues with my C-PAP and some other medical "stuff" going on.

I realized, as I sat across the desk from my doctor, that it is the first time I've EVER gone to the doctor PROACTIVELY. It is the first time in many years that I've gone to see a doctor to look at or to discuss something OTHER than my weight (or the impact my weight has on me and my body).

I am going to get my sleep apnea re-accessed and I'll likely get a new, less powerful C-PAP. I am HOPING that I can get rid of it completely but I have ALWAYS snored so I don't know if I'll be that lucky. I was given a medication for my allergies. I was given a few referrals for the other stuff I was concerned with AND I got some other very encouraging news that I'll save for another post - let's just say that I will not hit my self-set goal of losing 225 pounds in one year BUT I will come very, very close.

What a year it has been. What hope I have for the year ahead!

Guest Blogger - My BGBFF Kate . . .

I've talked pretty openly about my BGBFF (Best Gastric Bypass Friend Forever) in the past and the importance she has had on my success since my surgery. When I first posted about her and her significance in my life - I think I might have upset Joy that I didn't feel like Joy "understood" or that I could not lean on her. As I explained to Joy at the time - it is just different when you have someone who truly has "been there" to talk with.

Kate is doing really, really well since surgery. She's an inspiration to me. She's lost more weight than most women will lose in the few months since her surgery and she's got a spirit about her life (before and after surgery) that inspires every one who meets her at support group - and I'm sure she has the same effect on people she meets casually and professionally as well.

Kate, like Ryan, is a teacher. That, to me, is all you need to know. She's given her life to bettering others. In my case, she's taught me that it is not impossible to go through this surgery without changing for the worse and she has bettered me by letting me share her journey with her . . . and by sharing my journey with me.

Thanks for the kind words and for the support in the last year, Kate. You truly are the BGBFF a guy could ever have (smile). Love you! Congrats on YOUR success since surgery too. Much more to come!!!!!

Greetings from Connecticut! Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face then talking with or about my BGBFF (Best Gastric Bypass Friend Forever)! Sean Amore is truly an angel walking here on earth! He possesses a kind and giving spirit! He makes the world a better place!

Let me tell you why . . .The evening I met Sean, at the John C. Creasy Auditorium at Danbury Hospital, was the night that my life changed forever! Whether it was chance or divine intervention (let it be known that I do believe in destiny)! It was a moment I’ll never forget! Attending my first support group meeting made me a bit apprehensive. The room was packed and of course my mind was racing! I never had any doubt about having gastric bypass, but I did have a lot of questions! It was then that I glanced over and saw Sean. What was he doing you might ask? He was whispering under his breath and commenting about the good, the bad, and the ugly of what was being shared at the meeting. I had to chuckle!

I, also a woman of many words (or so I’ve been told) was immediately drawn to him. That night, he shared openly about his weight loss journey. I was intrigued by his newly acquired sense of freedom and transformation. Fortunate for me, the support group offers the opportunity to “break out” and talk to others who have “walked the road.” Sean was just a few weeks post surgery. He had just transitioned to purees. Talking to him that night was a crucial moment in my weight loss journey.

My surgery occurred approximately three months after that night. The night of my surgery, coming in and out of consciousness, I remember “seeing” Sean. It wasn’t until Day 2 in the hospital that I realized he really did come to visit to make sure I was alright. Glancing over and seeing the HUGE pink, smiling flower balloon tied to my IV pole made me realize that yes, he really had been there. Those next few days walking the halls of the hospital, with that balloon, I felt him “walking the road” beside me. I feel fortunate to declare that he never left my side. Even today, far away in Kansas, I still feel him walking by my side.

Sean and I have had the opportunity to “look at a lot of stuff.” Walking the road to weight loss surgery and the “afterlife” is a slippery slope. I have learned that there is nothing like talking with someone that has also had a lifetime of obesity, proceeded with the surgery, and is now living in the glory of the afterlife. A BGBFF is like NO other friend! Yes, Sean that is TRUE! With Sean I am able to be open and honest and never fear being judged. Yes, his humor always comes into play! That’s one of the character traits I love the most about him! His quick wit and remarkable sense of humor can light up any room and lighten up any tough situation! He always knows how to put a smile on my face!

In the short year that I have had the pleasure of calling Sean my BGBFF, I’ve watched him change! Not merely in physical size, although HOLY COW, I believe, he has broken all records in Danbury Hospital’s weight loss program and his legend continues to live on! Yes, Sean, they do still talk about you!

I’ve watched him change in his handlings with family and friends, both old and new. He truly has become a new man. He is a gifted writer, being prolific and descriptive in his blogs. I’ve enjoyed the serious side of him, discussing redemption and restoration! He has inspired me with his “personal project about his life.” His desire and drive to go back and make good, heal, gain understanding and acceptance, forgive, and be forgiven is simply astounding!

This year has been one of enlightenment, for me, too! You have had a remarkable impact on my life in more ways than you’ll ever know! Witnessing the transformation in you, and walking with such a remarkable man at my side, I can only say thank you! Thank you for wanting to be a better man! There is NO doubt that you have become a better husband, father, son, brother, professional, individual, and FRIEND!

“Anywho” . . .You always remain in my heart and mind! I miss you my dear friend! Keep up the amazing journey! May your road continue to be paved with sweetness, blessings, and happiness of every kind! You continue to awe and inspire me every day! Congrats on your remarkable year! I’m SO proud of YOU!

Happy Surgaversary!

Love Always,

PostSecret Post . . .

I've mentioned this site many times in the past and I obsess over it every Monday morning (can't WAIT to read the weekly posts). This one from today's batch hit home for me and made me realize that I was not alone with my own marriage secret - for probably the first time ever.

Guest Blogger - My Father-in-Law . . .

I wanted to welcome my father-in-law, Ken, to the blog. I asked Dad (I'm old-fashioned, I call my in-laws Mom and Dad and I called and asked their permission to propose to their daughter too) to post something for my blog knowing that he was one of a handful of folks (with opinions I do value) who were not crazy about my decision to have gastic bypass surgery. He was positive and supportive but I knew he was not sure of it.

Here's the thing about Dad (Terry) that I love. He's taught me stuff like how to install an electical outlet, how to sheetrock, how to hang a storm door, how to swap out plumbing (pictured here) and how to rip up a floor and a sub-floor and then lay a new sub-floor.

While my father has taught me millions of things in this life (and I don't mean to imply that Dad Terry has ONLY taught me the Bob-Villa-Essentials), he never had the capabilities to teach me handy stuff. No one ever taught him. So, in a way, Dad Terry has taught me things from his experiences in life. His perspectives. His talents and skills. I hope I've done the same for him, in the last year. I thank him and appreciate the gift of his teachings very much. I also appreciate him taking a few minutes to help me celebrate my one-year anniversary.

Thanks, Dad. I love you. Now get on over to the house - we need to get the sprinklers turned back on for Spring (smile) . . .

We are all so very proud of Sean.

I remember when he first started talking about the surgery. I was dead set against it because of the dangers that I had heard about. We loved him no matter what and couldn’t imagine taking any chances (no matter how small the odds) of losing him. I kept this to myself as Sean worked through whether he was going to proceed or not. I kept getting the feedback that he was going to have the surgery and I worried more and more about it. I am the designated worrier in the family. Finally, after many conversations with myself, I decided that he probably was not going to be happy if he didn’t do it.

After the surgery, we noticed almost immediate results in Sean’s attitude. He has always been a cheerful person but now there was a bounce in his step as the weight started to melt away.

With every week, came a weight reduction and an added helping of pride and accomplishment. I watched with tears of happiness welling up inside as he was able to buy a suit off the rack. It was such a momentous day for all of us.

Just knowing that he is so much happier with himself and getting healthier on a daily basis is all we need to see to know he made the right decision.

Now, close to a year later, we can honestly say he is “half the person” he used to be and we love him for it.

I couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us all.

Keep going Sean. You are such an inspiration for so many.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Guest Blogger - My Mother-In-Law . . .

I would be loathe to not make sure to invite my mother-in-law to share her thoughts about my surgery with the world. My dear, sweet Other-Mother has been very, very kind to me over the years. She's counseled me on how to "handle" Joy when things got sticky and she's given me the "you're full of crap" look when I've tried to sneak one by her. Perhaps as importantly, Anita was kind enough to fly all the way to Connecticut for my surgery a year ago.

NOT that my parents (who lived "just up the road") were not willing to be there (they were BEGGING to be there) but I knew that Nana Terry would be a much more calming influence on Joy and Ava while I was in the hosptial and would be the right sort of "support" for me once I got home.

She's a wonderful woman and I love her and I appreciate all that she's done for Joy and myself and Ava too. I believer her when she says (as she will below) that she's never seen me for my size of my body - but rather the size of my character.

Thanks for your support and your kind words, Mom. I won't even tell you that I think you're full of crap . . . I'll just give you that "look" next time I see you. TOTALLY KIDDING!

Who would have believed that Sean would be half the man he was a year ago? No! No! I mean ½ the size he was a year ago. Whoops! I almost got myself in trouble. What an accomplishment. You talk about shaking things off. Here are some of the comments that family and friends have said.

"Wow! Sean you are melting away."

"I always knew Sean was a handsome man but, wow, he looks good."

"Sean has so much energy, does he ever slow down?"

"How can Sean make food that is nutritious and still taste good?"

I am extremely proud of Sean for endless reasons but I would like to mention a few.

- He has reached all his goals (to this point) ahead of schedule.
- He has taken responsibility for his weight loss without complaints.
- He continues to share and support others in a very professional and caring way.
- He has become a much healthier and energized man for himself (first) and his family.
- He has become more confident. It was never an issue, but you should see him strut his stuff.

We are trying to put together some family vacations. It is very exciting because Ava's Grandpa is ready to go to Disney World and the only thing slowing us down now is Ava being a little young to enjoy. We don't have any health issues to be concerned about. Aren't we one lucky family?

As I look back and remember the first time we met Sean I didn't ever see his size. I saw the way he looked at my daughter and held her hand so lovingly. I saw the beautiful warm smile that light up the whole airport. When I looked at my daughter I hardly recognized her. She had a look of total complete happiness. This is something I haven't seen on her for a very long time. Yes, we are very proud and lucky to have Sean as a Son.

Sean would do almost anything for family, friends, or co-workers. He has so much love, knowledge, experience, and generosity to give that it is a wonder there is anything left for himself. You know his size was never noticed in my eyes, until there was talk of health issues and physical limitations. I am telling you this so that everyone will understand the type of person he is. Anyone and everyone can feel comfortable reaping the benefits by corresponding and reading his blog.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Guest Blogger - My Younger Brother, Ro-Ro . . .

My favorite younger brother (there is only one entrant to the competition but Ryan does NOT win by default), Ryan is one of my favorite people in the whole, wide world.

People used to think we looked a little alike (and my parents claim that, since my surgery, the confusion has started to return). I wish, in some ways, I was more like my brother. He took the "road less traveled" by taking the same profession my parents chose to give their lives to (public education . . . big challenges, little tiny paychecks) and he has become the glue for the three children my parents raised. We do have our sensitivity, our concern for others, our "heart on our sleeves" sensibilities and our never-ending love for The Big Lebowski in common but - we are not "twins."

Ryan is smart, funny, charming and single (hey LADIES) and, if I had to choose a partner for any trivia or drinking game, Ryan would be the first person I would call. His heart is as big as could be (sometimes to his own peril) and I appreciate, greatly, that he's always stood by me as a brother and a friend. Thanks for being a supporter and for your kind words, Ryan. I love you very much!

Overall, Sean has a always been a big brother, a counselor, a knowledge giver, a source of debate and a friend. The Sean I always remember was a very moody. Somedays he would laugh with you and make your cry you were laughing so hard. Other days it was best to just stay out of the house and hope that you could avoid annoying him any further. However, Sean has a had some major changes in the past 3-4 years of his life. He has fallen in-love, gotten married, become a dad - making me the uncle of the cutest girl ever, and of course undergone a major surgery - one I would not have the courage to do. All of which should have set off "moody Sean," and sometimes did.

In prepping for his surgery, Sean hit many complications and insurance road blocks, but he never gave up. As he was awaiting to go in for the surgery, I can remember several times talking to him about his feelings, and to my surprise, he always seemed optomistic and knew he had to do this for him and to secure his health for his family for years to come. Though the path was rough from start to finish, and I can imagine still is rough from time to time, Sean has done an exceptional job at steering the right course.

Since his surgery, Sean has dropped an enormous amount of weight. Not just that, he has seemed to gain a new perspective on life. Though I reside in Maryland and he in Kansas, I do frequent his web-site and am amazed to see the progress he has made by looking over pictures of my big brother. Beyond the pictures, talking to Sean I have seen a dramatic change in his attitude. "Moody Sean" has seemed to move out and there are times I, being the youngest brother, I still cannot bring that out of him. I guess what I am trying to say is that Sean has become a new person in my eyes.

No longer can I call him my "big" brother, but my older brother.

He remains to be my counselor, knowledge giver, sometimes source of debate and alway friend. I love you, Sean and I cannot tell you how proud I am of you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Biggest Loser's Bernie . . .

My friend Brandi interviewed Bernie for her blog and the interview has been posted. If you like Bernie as much as we do, it is a must read.

Nice work, Brandi!

Guest Blogger - The One and Only Carrie Clancy . . .

I asked family and friends to put some thoughts together for my surgaversary. My good friend Carrie was very kind to oblige my request.

Carrie and I, as she will clarify, became friends through the "it is a small world after all" theory and I can honestly tell you, for a good stretch, Carrie was my number-one-go-to-friend for all sorts of foolishness.

I have had so much fun with Carrie and I had all that fun during an era in my life when I wasn't having a lot of fun or enjoying very many people. I never once said "no" when Carrie asked me to lace up my yellow sneakers and hit the streets of DC with her and I'm really, really glad I never said no!

I miss Carrie all the time and I'm happy to report to you all that Carrie seems, like me, to be the happiest now that she has been in the time we've been friends. Thanks for your friendship and your kind words, Carrie. I love ya'!

PS - Apologies on the photo. I don't have a single picture of Carrie and when I googled her, this boat came up as the first photo that matched her name so - I went with it. Somehow, I just figured she would get a giggle out that. I did.

Sean Amore was a character, just a name really, I'd known of only vaguely since my youth. He was a dear childhood friend of my cousins and important enough to have been mentioned repeatedly over the years. We eventually made acquaintance several years ago at the Vermont wedding of one of those same cousins.

I'd arrived dateless, having broken up with my longtime live-in boyfriend only days before. Nobody really asked me about it, and rightfully so, because who wants to talk heartbreak at a wedding celebration?! Well... Sean did. He sat himself down in my Gramma's living room that weekend and started asking away. It was completely cool, though. We talked about breaking up and, once we discovered we were neighbors, we talked about DC. OK, everything's relative. When you're sitting on top of a mountain in Vermont, Washington DC really is "just down the street" from Fairfax VA.

On the actual wedding day, Sean was dressed in one of the handsomest and most impeccably tailored suits I'd ever seen. I caught a glimpse of him resting out on my Grampa's "sitting stone" and it made me smile. The men I know don't tailor their suits, so I took Sean for a first class fella and made up my mind that he must do something important downtown.

It wasn't long before Sean and I started hanging out back in DC: movies, lunches, dinners, happy hours, parties, museums and brunches. We invented "day of fun," an afternoon of traipsing around the city with a loose agenda that involved museuming and lunching and anything in between. Nearly every adventure we had, we experienced on foot.

We quickly became true friends. I opened up to him about and trusted him with every detail of my nutty life. I got invited to Easter Pie with his brothers and I went along on his first date with Joy.

I haven't seen Sean in almost 2 years, and we don't confide in one another these days, but I read his blog daily. It's comforting to have the link to an old friend, but more surprisingly, I've begun to learn so much more about him. About the guy who I would have called my "best friend" for a couple years there, and I realize that I didn't truly know him as well as I thought.

Learning this certainly does not diminish the friendship we had -- Sean was an amazing friend to me. I have just discovered that there was a whole other layer to my friend that has only been exposed to me in his therapeutic post-surgery revelations.

Now I know that the suit was expensive-looking and tailored because it had to be. Now I know that Sean was hiding his misery when I dragged him around the sidewalks of DC, even on the days he wore his funky yellow sneakers. Now I know that when we parted ways after a fabulous meal at Jaleo, he probably went straight to McDonald's anyway.

But back then I was oblivious to that dark side. Here's what I knew about Sean: he was a great listener, a reliable companion, a hilarious and clever conversationalist, an intelligent and connected businessperson, a magnetic social presence, and a curious learner. A man with offbeat cultural taste, artistic talent, family values, community roots, high education, an affinity for using parentheses in emails, and a love of "good times." I'd never have described Sean as my obese friend or my drinking friend or my insecure friend. There are so many other things that come to mind first.

So when Sean wrote just this week that "my insecurities about that phase in my life might not really equal everyone else's insecurities about me," I wanted to speak up. He's made references to, and I am paraphrasing here, being ashamed by certain behavior and how that might look to his friends or acquaintances. If there is one thing I wish for Sean during his "bariatric journey," it would be that he make peace with those feelings.

Sean, give your friends the benefit of the doubt. The people that love you remember the things about you that are, well, "lovable," (see my short list, above) before they remember you for the mistakes you made. I know you do the same when the tables are turned, pal. Set yourself free.
I don't wonder if we'd be friends if we knew each other today. Well, we ARE friends, but I am confident that we'd be good friends in a new way, because I am sure all the qualities I listed above are still what make you special, along with your new roles as husband, father, and obesity-issues-evangelist. We probably just wouldn't make a date of Restaurant Week to have our fun, right?

I am so proud of you. Happy 1 year!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Top Five Concerns I Have One Year After Surgery . . .

I vowed when I started this blog to always be honest and open about my experiences before, during and after my gastric bypass surgery. I've been true to that promise and don't plan to start sugar coating or "PR-ing" stuff. With that in mind, here is some of the bad news!

As I inch closer-and-closer to my one-year anniversary since my surgery, I have five real "fears" that plague me somewhere in the deep, deep vaults of my shallow, shallow mind (Well, I have six fears, technically - I sill have to go for my one-year bloodwork and official weigh-in at the doctor's office but that fear is temporary, it will be over soon).

Those fears (presented here with Roman Numerals to show respect), in no particular cold-sweat-inducing order are . . .

I - Gaining It ALL Back (or even 11% of it) - Let's be honest here, statistically, I'm going to gain back about 10% of the total weight that I lose in the first 18 months following surgery. My goal is to lose 283 pounds. That means that I will eventually gain back 30. That won't all come back in one day . . . it will take years, I suppose/hope. I am not willing to just accept that though. I hope to never gain any weight back. IF I gain back any though . . . please GOD let it be the statistical average (or less) and let me never, ever, ever know my surgery-day 483 pounds or my all-time-high 530 pounds again. Please?!
II - Dumping Syndrome - Knock on wood, salt over the left shoulder, four-leaf clover in my pocket and horeshoe hung upside down . . . I pray to GOD that I never know the misery, pain and torture that is dumping syndrome. I actually read on a blog a few months ago (might have even mentioned it here) that dumping is the "urban myth" of GB-life but, just as I don't openly question the Holy Trinity, I'm not taking any chances! When I was supposed to have surgery in Baltimore, there was a woman who worked in the surgeon's office that was post-GB. She ate M&Ms. Very slowly. I was in support group with a woman who eats Snickers bars. One bite/hour. I staged an intervention for a good friend who sipped Gatorade post surgery. Let's not take any chances, people. Projectile diarreah hasn't been funny since the third grade and projectile vomiting has never been funny (save for The Excorcist). I may not know much but I know I will never eat sugary foods again. Buhleeeeedat!
III - Plateauing - This is where MANY people who have had gastric bypass surgery are going to roll their eyes and mumble under their breathe in my general-direction. I have yet to even plateau in my weight loss since surgery. That is right. For the last 356 days, I have been losing weight. I have slowed way, way down . . . I lost almost 40 pounds in my first three weeks alone and 100 pounds in the first three months. In between the last two times I weighed myself (a three week span) I had lost only 8 pounds. I say "only" like it was one pound BUT - I do have a skewed perspective of what weight loss is. I am positive that I will plateau very soon. It is a right-of-passage for post-surgery life. I just hope that it is quick, painless and leads to another sharp drop when I do start to drop again. I've got about 70 more pounds to go. I've got no time to sit around while chasing that goal.
IV - Hillary Clinton NOT Being Our Next President - This is only relevant to my post-surgery life because, since 1992, I have been in love with the Clintons. Yep. All three of them. I've had the pleasure of meeting both President and Senator Clinton and, next to the Cuomos, the Clintons are MY idealistic-political-Kennedyesque-family. Hillary, for me, is promise. She's the hope that Ava will grow up knowing that a woman can do anything in this country. She's the hope that Joy will not have gotten behind a politician for the first time in her life for nothing. She's the hope that we can have eight more years of GLORIOUS Clintonian America. She's the hope that substance beats pretty speeches and 71-year-old Curmudgeons every time.
V - Not Continuing to Evolve - I've changed, a LOT, since surgery. My physical size, my mentalities, my behaviors and my self-understanding. I have a long way to go but, frankly, I'm starting to settle in to "me" and I have a lot of other things I want to do besides just focus on myself in any given day. I know that the first step in a long journey to self-destruction would be to NOT focus on myself (ask any 12-stepper for confirmation) but it is tempting. I just hope that I can continue to evolve without it being the "work" I have made it as of late.

Now, I don't think I'm alone in my fears. I would assume that most of them (at least four of the five (smile)) are fairly common for people that have gone through this surgery and who live life, day by day, praying the other shoe won't drop.

I remain steadfastly confident that, while I might stumble in my weight battle, I will not fall without getting right back up.

The love and support of the people who will be "guest blogging" for me in the next couple of weeks(ish) are very important to me in that confidence. Keep me honest, all!

The Biggest Loser . . .

First of all, don't you EVER do this to me again, NBC. NO elimination ceremony? NO voting? NO ONE gets sent home but, instead, TWO people get added back in to the fold? CRAP. Pure crap.

Here's the long and short of it . . . the 14 people that were voted out off the ranch all came back for a weigh-in to see which woman and which man would come back to join the competition again. MAD props to just about all of you (except you, NEILL, you putz) for doing the work and losing the weight and so on. Ali (formerly of Ali and Bettie-Sue fame) looked amazing and rejoined the fold and Mahhhk, the only contestant in the history of the show that actually has a chance to win that I am actively routing AGAINST, is back too. Cue the crying over his younger brother, the lame machismo-bonding and the annyoing "Pride on Three" chants.

The MORE interesting part of the show last night was how everyone on the black team - INCLUDING Jillian - seems to be unraveling. Brittany had about four nervous breakdows (she is on the block this week, her journey might be over) and Kelly slipped further and further in to "self doubt" land (while looking just plain awkward in her super-bright red lipstick during the awkward product placement for PAM spray). Jillian, as always, had her team's back though and went right at Sami during the elimination ceremony when Alison Sweeney challenged Brittany on her defeatest attitude. I'm not totally sure what Jillian said because this is what America heard . . .

"Could you please have a BLEEPing heart this week and give this BLEEPing girl a BLEEPing break, JeBLEEPus BLEEPing BLEEP. BLEEP. BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP."
You could tell Sami was scared she was going to get the worst beatdown she's taken since Marlena was possessed by the devil in 1995!
Anywho, NEXT week we'll see an elimination ceremony unlike any other (or something like that). I'm sure it will be drama with Brittany being close to going home only to barely survive or something and Ali's vote will no doubt play a role in that drama. Did any one but me notice that the elimination ceremony looked to be taking place during the daytime for the first time ever?
Hmmmmmmmm. Oh yeah - quote of the night last night. Chastity says "Yeah, me and Bob tossed some salads . . . " (Insert gut-busting laughter here)!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Top Ten Foods I DO Miss Following Gastric Bypass Surgery . . .

A lot of people ask me about how life, post-surgery, has changed and I almost always tell them that every thing I used to eat is no longer on the menu and I don't miss them at all (or something to that effect). The reality is that there are, of course, parts of me that miss foods that I used to enjoy. Ten foods I once-loved (as recently as a year ago) BUT I hope I will never be tempted to eat again include . . .

10 - Barbecue Sauce - Be it the times I went to Old Glory during my early DC days, the lakes of the stuff I put on everything from chicken breasts to french fries or my own, special salad dressing that combined BBQ sauce and numerous other condiments and spices . . . BBQ sauce has been a good friend and a back-stabbing sugar-loaded foe at the same time. I tried sugar-free BBQ sauce once after surgery. ONCE. Farewell, sweet, spicy goodness.

9 - Dunkin Donuts - Me, I celebrate the entire menu of this little haven of hoggish treats. I really fell "in love" with Dunkin Donuts during our time in Connecticut (I swear to God, there were four Dunkin Dounuts between any point a and any point b in the entire state of Connecticut). The last food I ate, frankly, before my surgery was a Dunkin Donuts Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookie. Okay, it was TWO of them but I technically at the last one as my last food. Joy and Ava have had donuts a few times since my surgery. It is weird how even the smell of donuts has a different effect on me than it once did.

8 - McDonald's Double Cheeseburgers - Now we're talking, now we're talking. I would eat two or three double cheeseburgers on my drive home from work . . . and on my way to dinner. I had a serious problem with the double cheeseburger once I got my car. Just 99 cents each? Don't you love yourself more than that price, my bunned friend? Either way . . . I'll take two . . . or maybe three. I got physically ill about a week before my surgery as I ate what I vowed would be my last double cheeseburger ever. It was the right way to say good bye to a food I loved way too much for how little it loved itself.

7 - Tortellini with Pesto - Possibly one of the only foods on my list that is not a given "bad" food but when you boil up a pound of tortellini and squeeze half a package of pesto over it while you boil your second pound of pasta . . . it is time to say good bye to "dinner." I've had a few tries at wheat pasta since surgery (disclaimer - I loved and prefered wheat pasta before my surgery too) and I just can't enjoy it. It tastes slimy and gross and my little pouch doesn't like it very well either. Farewell, pasta-pal.

6 - The 2/3 pound, Fuddruckers Triple Cheese Burger - AH, Fudds. My DC "crew" and I would go to Fudd's once every blue moon before they opened the Chinatown location. Then it just got out of control. Lunch during the work day. On my way home from work. When out drinking. On a Saturday afternoon. Before a concert. Before a game. Fudds, fudds, fudds. Fudd you, Fuddruckers. I'm going to stick to 3 ounces of ground turkey with ONE type of reduced fat cheese on a pita from here on out. I loved you though . . . and your killer french fries!

5 - Cinnabon - If I was flying, I was buying. I would pick up a six pack of Cinnabons when I landed at National or BWI and be done with at least one of them before my luggage even showed up. I used to take the Metro out to the airport just to buy a cinammon roll. What the hell was wrong with me? Now I think of Cinnabon like I think of Auntie Anne's and her stupid little pretzels . . . if only moderation was a word I understood - we could still be together (smile). Be kind to the rest of the weary world travelers. You were always kind to me.

4 - DOTS - Take one box of DOTS. Rip the top off (forget the little punch hole they put on the box) and pour a handful (if they don't pour out right (not too quickly, not needing spasmic shaking) - they are either too fresh (yep, it is possible) or already "stale" . . . try another box). Repeat until box is empty. Grab another box. I used to eat DOTS as a bed time snack. No kidding. And Joy wondered why I sleep more restfully now than I did before my surgery. When we moved out of our house in Connecticut, I found a partial box of DOTS in the back of my nightstand. I thought about eating just one but - they shook out too easily and they had to go to the trash. Thank GOD for my strict DOTS standards.

3 - P.F. Chang's "Philip's Better Lemon Chicken" with Brown Rice - I love P.F. Chang's. We still go there every couple of months (at least). I eat the tuna appetizer now and maybe the soy cucumbers too when I go. Once upon a time, I would eat the Better Lemon Chicken which might TASTE better than your average Chinese chicken but it ain't much better for you. I used to love the rice too. I haven't had a single fork of rice since my surgery. I don't miss it. It just doesn't have the same appeal without lemon sauce (or sweet and sour sauce or ____ sauce) poured over the top of it.

2 - Fat Free Chocolate NesQuik - I had a nutrtionist that actually endorsed me drinking this stuff. She felt that it had less fat and less calories and more protien, vitamins and minerals than my normal desserts and snacks. That woman should lose her license. I read the back of a bottle of NesQuik shortly after my surgery (grocery shopping used to be a two hour adventure of mind-blowing insight to how bad the foods I used to eat were for me). Dear Lord. How do they put that much sugar in such a little bottle . . . and then have only 1/2 of the bottle count as a "serving." Delicious, creamy and dead to me. Peace out, Quik Rabbit!

1 - Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls - Ah, now this one . . . this one still gets to me some days. If I could go back for one hour to having a normal stomach, I would spend the first ten minutes of that hour eating a box of Swiss Cake Rolls. I kid you not. I've been petitioning Debbie and her food researchers to come up with a high-protein, low-fat, sugar-free version of her Cake Rolls (they don't have to be "Swiss") but, so far, they are not returning my calls. It is probably for the better.

One important note about these foods that I technically miss . . . I could eat almost every single one of them (or at least a version of them) following surgery but I made a vow to eat and be better following surgery and going back to my old foods is a slippery slope I'm just not willing to chance my "footing" on. R.I.P., former-food-favorites. We had a great run and I'll always remember you but, I don't need you any more.