My 1 Month Surgery Anniversary

Today marks one month since I had my vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) and there hasn’t been a moment that I’ve regretted doing it (ok, maybe one millisecond when my fat brain wanted to eat a whole piece of birthday cake, but I got over that quickly!).

Since having the surgery last month, I have lost 20 pounds! It’s not as much as I would like, but the numbers on the scale are going down and more importantly, I am feeling so much better, physically as well as mentally. The non-scale victories (NSV) don’t stop there, I am losing weight all over, so even though I haven’t dropped a dress size, I can see the weight loss in my face, in my stomach and even in my legs and feet. I know my hips are smaller because when we were at my parent’s house for my daughter’s birthday party a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t feel uncomfortable in their dining room chairs.

That being said, it has definitely required a lot of work and commitment. I have to be very particular about what I eat, I CAN eat anything, but I CHOOSE to eat the best things, lean proteins are my priority right now. I have intentionally stayed away from sweet candy/dessert type protein drinks or bars because I am fighting hard to break my sugar addiction and feel they would become a slider food, making me crave cookies and cakes and ice cream. It is not easy, but I am determined to be healthier and consume foods that are going to give me fuel, rather than make me feel run down.

My daughters and I enjoyed a morning at the beach today. As soon as we got there, I headed out on a 2 mile walk and then spent the next 45 minutes out past the breakers swimming. If you’ve never tried to swim in the ocean, let me tell you, it’s hard as heck! IMG_2018Honestly, it is time to amp up my physical activity, I still walk most days, but I think it’s time to force myself back into the gym. I have the membership, I need to use it.

I go back to work on Monday, and I have to really think about how I am going to prepare for the week so I don’t set myself up for failure. At this point, I could probably just drink a smoothie for breakfast and have a protein bar or almonds for lunch, but in my opinion, that is not the healthy lifestyle I want to live. I ran across one post on Facebook where a woman was doing her meal prep for the week, I’ve always wanted to try that, but I don’t want to be chained to the kitchen all day Sunday just so I can pack a few lunches and snacks — I hate cooking on any regular day, I can’t imagine I’d love spending a whole day doing it.  Do you meal prep? How do you do it without losing an entire day?

I want to thank everyone who comments on my blog, who sends me texts and private messages encouraging me to continue with my blog. I enjoy writing about my journey and appreciate all of your support!

22 Days In

Yesterday marked the beginning of week four post-op for me. Things are progressing a little more slowly than I would like; I still fatigue easily, I still struggle to get in my protein without shakes or powders, I still struggle to get in my fluids and my scale isn’t moving as quickly as I would like. So far I’ve lost 16.5 pounds since surgery. I know, I know, 16.5 pounds in three weeks is awesome, and I actually do prefer to lose slower so that my skin has an opportunity to catch up, but I know women who had surgery the same day as me who have lost 20+ pounds. I try really hard not to compare my weight loss journey with others, I was a slow loser before surgery I can’t really expect to be much different after surgery, but sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what I am doing wrong.

I continue to walk four or five times a week, though some days I only do 1.5 miles instead of 2.5. I don’t know if I will meet my goal of reaching 3 miles before I go back to work, but I will do what I can and focus on the fact that I am getting out and doing something. I am anxious to get back to the gym and plan to go back either late this week or early next week, even if it’s just for a swim or a yoga class.  Up until about two weeks before surgery, I was working out with a trainer at the gym, she was super nice, but when I told her that I was going to have bariatric surgery, and she asked me what that was, I realized that my “beginner gym” (her words, not mine), wasn’t doing me any favors. So, after my husband and I did some research, I cancelled my membership at Planet Fitness and joined the local Jewish Community Alliance (It’s basically a Jewish YMCA). With my membership, I get 4 half-hour sessions with a licensed personal trainer, access to all fitness classes, two pools, a hot tub, sauna and steam room – something I wasn’t getting at Planet Fitness. I am super excited to get going, but I have to remember that I have to start small and it’s going to take some time to build up to hard workouts. Right now, I don’t think it would be smart to take a spin class and burn 600 calories, if I can barely eat 600 calories in a day. But, patience is not my strong suit, especially when it comes to myself.

I have been very fortunate that I’ve not had any food-related issues. My stomach has tolerated everything quite well and aside from over-eating a couple of times or swallowing food that hadn’t been chewed enough, I think I am starting to understand my stomach again.  This weekend, we celebrated my youngest daughters 16th birthday. We went out to Olive Garden and I had my first real restaurant experience since surgery. I passed on the salad and breadsticks, had a few bites of soup and a few bites of my chicken and mashed potatoes. I took 90% of my meal home and ate off of it the following couple of days. Eventually, I might convince one of my family members to share a meal with me, but that might take a while! Later in the weekend, we had a small birthday party with hamburgers, hot dogs and of course, birthday cake. I ate a quarter of a burger, without the bun, a few bites of potato salad and a couple of bites of cake. Earlier in the week I started getting my cravings for sweets back, but just a few bites of cake satisfied me and I’ve been good ever since.

All-in-all, I think I am getting the hang of things, it’s going to take a while to get the calories up and I am going to have to be careful at the gym, but I am confident that I am on the right track. Hubby says he can definitely see the weight loss and even though I haven’t gone down a size, I can comfortably fit in the size I was wearing and I can wear items I haven’t worn in years, and that’s a really great feeling.

It is a Learning Process

Now that I am feeling better, I find myself wanting to get out of the house more often. Obviously this is a good thing for my mental stability, but it also invites fun, new challenges to my new world.

Yesterday morning, I took my walk around the neighborhood, came home and jumped in the shower then got dressed and made my breakfast. I was going to make chorizo and eggs, but by the time I got around to breakfast, I was so hungry I just wanted to make something quick so I poured 8 ounces of Fairlife chocolate milk (140 calories/13g protein and lactose free), 1/2 of a banana, and a scoop of Genepro protein powder (an additional 30g of protein, though there is some controversy over whether those claims are true) into my NutriBullet and made my own “smoothie”. Unfortunately, whenever I’ve blended my milk in a blender or NutriBullet it makes it very frothy, which I do not like, but I drank it anyway because I was hungry and my girls and I were going out to run errands, so I needed to “eat”.

Here’s the thing about having a very small stomach, you cannot eat a lot so you need to eat often, at least five times a day, to get the calories and nutrients that you require. Unfortunately, I did not pack a snack to take with me so by the time we finished our first errand I was hungry again, and even more unfortunate, no-one else was hungry so I decided to wait until we got home to eat again. We had stopped at the grocery store to pick up the fixings for Taco Tuesday and I grabbed a two pack of chicken enchiladas from the deli to eat when I got home. I thought I was being smart in choosing the  chicken enchiladas, because I figured the chicken and beans would be high in protein, plus I knew that I wouldn’t eat both of them and figured my daughter and I could share them, making it a two-for-one kind of thing. We get home, I heat them up and could only manage to eat about 1/4 of one enchilada and my daughter, having not slept well the night before, fell asleep and didn’t eat the other one, so I ended up wasting an entire meal. In hindsight, I guess I could have wrapped up the left overs and had them today, but I didn’t. Later on, I made tacos for dinner and again my head was bigger than my stomach (literally) and I made myself two tacos. I don’t know what I was thinking, there was no way that I was going to eat one taco much less two and unfortunately this time, with the tortilla, beans and beef, I ended up eating just a little too much and getting a terrible case of hiccups (that’s my curse for eating too much or drinking too quickly). I feel this same refrain is a constant loop, playing on repeat, and I hope that sooner rather than later I learn my lesson. Everyday provides a new opportunity to combat my old habits, especially when it comes to fixing my plate in the evening, and I understand that it is going to take a few times to learn the new rules, to get into a new mindset where food is fuel and not comfort, some of it I feel I am doing very well with, yet there are other things, like allowing myself to get too hungry, I need to work on. The good thing is, I have time, I don’t need to have all the answers right now. I have a great support system, my husband and kids keep me honest and my friends are constant cheerleaders, sending regular messages of encouragement. I am very lucky to have all of you in my corner — thanks for giving me so much strength!

It’s Been Two Weeks

It’s been two weeks since my surgery and not only can I tell I’ve lost weight by looking at the scale, I’ve lost 14 pounds, but I can also fit more comfortably in some shirts and pants  that have been hanging out in my dresser.

My diet has progressed as well. My doctor allowed me to introduce “soft” foods into my diet starting last Thursday and as excited as I was, I now know how truly difficult this journey is going to be. I’ve learned that It is challenging getting the appropriate amount of the protein rich foods that my body requires without depending on protein shakes or powders, in fact, it’s pretty impossible at this stage considering I can only handle about 700 calories a day.  Last Friday morning, I completed a 2+ mile walk and then decided to scramble myself an egg for breakfast, I knew that the egg wouldn’t have the same amount of protein that I usually get from a shake, so I decided to add some unflavored protein powder to it as well as a glass of chocolate milk.Unfortunately, the consistency of my egg was heavier with the protein powder added to it and I did not give myself sufficient time between eating the egg and drinking the milk and I became over-full and immediately didn’t feel well. I actually had to go lie down for about a half hour just to feel better. I would like to say that I learned my lesson with that one mis-step, but unfortunately,  I still either eat too fast or too slow; I haven’t been able to find that perfect balance. Not only that, there have been times when I have taken one or two too many bites, causing me to feel ill. I knew it was going to be difficult, and I am lucky because my stomach has been able to handle everything that I’ve tried, but learning to eat normal again is more difficult than I thought. Luckily, I have the next two weeks off of work to get adjusted to eating and understanding how my body is going to react to foods now.  IMG_1892

One thing that I know I need to change is my schedule; currently I haven’t one and that is preventing me from getting in enough calories as well. I usually wake up around 8 am and then head straight out for my walk, by the time I get back and make breakfast is close to 9:30 and I am hungry and already a meal behind in getting protein in. Going forward, I think it would behoove me to wake up closer to 6:30am, get the walk in then I’m home making my breakfast by 8 am. I know many of you are probably saying that I should eat before walking, and you are right, but I have never been one to eat and then workout, it makes me sick to my stomach and since I have to take medicine when I first wake up and can’t eat for an hour after taking it, doing that and walking after seems the only reasonable way for me to make it work. Of course, it will not matter at all once I go back to work, since I work from 7-3:30, there won’t be any time to walk before getting ready for work, unless I plan to get up at 4:30 every morning and walking in the dark — I just don’t see that happening. So I suppose my new routine will be for naught once I go back to work, but it will make me feel better anyway.

Luckily, I know that these are all milestones to learning new and healthier eating habits, but I can’t help but hope I catch on quickly.

 

1st Follow-up

Today was my first appointment with my surgeon since surgery on the 26th and he was very pleased with my progress so far.  He looked at my incisions, and was very happy at how well they are healing, he even told me that I can go swimming now — unfortunately I don’t have a pool.

He was pleased with my protein and fluid intake and said that I can proceed to soft foods, like eggs and salmon. I still need to make sure that I am getting in my required amount of protein daily, but thankfully I no longer have to depend on these horrid shakes!

He was also happy with my exercise, I’ve been walking 1-1.5 miles 2 times a day since last week. He did say though that he wanted me to increase the cardio, so that means either I increase the mileage, or head back to the gym so I can workout in the middle of the day, because it’s just too darn hot here in Florida to be out walking mid-day! He also wants me to pay attention to my body and in the near future start working with a trainer and doing some light weights, my goal is to start including light weights back into my routine the beginning of August.

All-in-all it was a good appointment. I have lost a total of 21 pounds since my first appointment with him back in January, hopefully I will surpass that when see him in October, which is when my next appointment is, when he will review blood work and assumingely approve or disapprove of my progress.

Though I haven’t lost as much as I would like by now, I have noticed a little weight loss in my face. Below is a side-by-side of me on June 13th (left) and today, July 6th (right). My cheeks are a little less “fluffy”.  It’s a good start!!

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My Progress – Week 1

It has been one week since my surgery and I am happy to report that I am doing much better than I expected. I have only had to take three doses of my liquid pain medication; two on Tuesday and one Wednesday evening before bed to help me sleep. I have not experienced any real episodes of nausea, I felt a little light headed after I over exerted myself on Thursday, but other than that, it’s been remarkably pain free — other than the gas. They say that you spend the first week just trying to pass all of the gas that they fill you with during surgery and let me tell you, that is no joke! I spent the better part of four days doing whatever I could to get the gas bubbles out; what’s the best thing to alleviate gas you ask?  Walking, lots and lots of it. The hospital staff actually have you walking right after surgery for this very reason, in fact, I had to walk from my gurney to the chair in my room as soon as they wheeled me in. They didn’t want me lying in my bed, if the sun was up, I was to be in my fancy-dandy recliner. I actually slept in the recliner anyway, since they never brought my daughter her roll-away bed and she slept in the hospital bed. I say slept, but considering someone was coming in just about every hour to do breathing treatments, take vitals, take blood samples, make sure I was drinking, etc. there wasn’t much sleep to be had.

There are certain milestones that you have to reach before they allow you to come home from this particular hospital after bariatric surgery. Four hours after surgery, the nurse (my nurse was Colleen and she was the absolute best!) gives you small amounts of water to ensure that you are able to swallow and keep liquids down.  They start with one ounce every hour for four hours, then they increase it to two ounces every hour for four hours. If you can master that, they then allow you broth and popsicles. My schedule was a little off, because we started a little late and I am a bit of a rebel and actually slept when none of the hospital staff were in there poking and prodding me. I got it all in though and around 3am, they finally brought me the beef broth I had been asking for — for the record, I didn’t even drink it, because I slept and it tasted THAT bad.

My surgeon did his rounds early and came to see me around 7am, He told me how the surgery went, he went over a sheet of things I could and couldn’t have and a list of things I could and couldn’t do and he then told me I was able to go home — as soon as the dietician and pharmacist came by with more guidelines and an overview of my meds. Shortly after he left, Colleen came in and released me from the hell-storm of wires that had been connected to me since the surgery, leaving only the IV, and allowed me to get dressed in my personal clothes; and then I waited, and waited and waited. My oldest daughter had escaped once her dad and sister got there but the rest of us sat in complete boredom, well I walked the halls a few thousand times to pass the time, by the time I saw the pharmacist and dietician and was able to go home, it was after 2pm.

When I got home late Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good, but I was afraid to do anything more than sip water. That had been all I had tackled in the hospital and I was fearful that anything thicker would be painful to swallow, or worse, make me feel sick. Everyone told me to only focus on getting in liquids, staying hydrated is the most important thing during these first few week (and even after) but by Wednesday, I started worrying about protein and caloric intake anyway, but I was honestly afraid to even attempt swallowing thick liquids and foods such as protein drinks or yogurt because I am a baby when it comes to vomiting, and I was going to do everything I could to avoid that nasty problem. By Thursday, my husband, concerned that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients pretty much told me to buck-up and start drinking more than just water, and being the good wife that I am 😉 I complied. I sipped my first protein drink very slowly (as I am supposed to) and was very happy to discover that my stomach was able to tolerate the thicker fluids without incident. By the end of the day, I had had two protein drinks and a 6 ounce cup of yogurt, and didn’t have to make any emergency trips to the restroom; I was a happy camper.

The days since have progressed at what I feel is a pretty normal rate. I am supposed to get in 1.5 – 2 liters of fluids and 50 – 60 ounces of protein each day. Luckily, my protein drinks count as a liquid so I have been able to reach those goals the past couple of days.  However, if I never see another protein shake again, I will be a very happy girl. I’ve never been a fan of thick liquid drinks, so making them my primary source of caloric intake the past two weeks has been challenging.

I have my follow-up appointment with my surgeon on Thursday afternoon and I am hopeful (very, very hopeful) that he will promote me to the stage three diet which includes soft foods – such as eggs, chicken, deli meat and cooked vegetables. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

 

How I Got Here

I have struggled with my weight my entire life, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t “obese” in school, but I was always bigger than the majority of girls I knew, by a lot. Once I was out of school, my weight continually increased and the dress sizes just kept getting bigger and bigger. The weight yo-yo’d as relationships came and went, until finally physical injuries, marriage, babies, thyroid issues, and ultimately another physical injury caused getting to a healthy weight to become like some crazy golden ring that I could envision, but I could never fully reach.

Back in the early 2000’s, my husband left on his first long deployment since our marriage and, like so many other Navy spouses, I was determined to use that time to focus on my health and finally lose the weight. I joined Weight Watchers and during the nine months that he was gone, I lost about 60 pounds, and I continued to lose another 20 pounds after he came home. Not only was I eating “better” (I may have been eating diet ice cream sandwiches for dinner, but I was staying within my points) but I was also very active, I was walking/jogging miles at a time on a regular basis, plus I had joined a dojo and was practicing kick-boxing at least once a week, but then I developed bursitis in my left hip which gave me continual sharp, shooting pains that would get worse as I exercised, disrupting my sleep and my daily mobility.  I went to the doctor, who referred me to a specialist at a large, well respected hospital in the local area in which we lived, and he told me that the only way to get rid of it was to lose weight — oh and to also stop my current exercise routine and start jogging in a pool instead — I was deflated. I had worked so hard, yet it wasn’t good enough. I tried to continue working out, adding in some stretches that my primary physician and given me, but the pain was becoming intolerable. Eventually, I completely slacked off, I stopped walking, I quit the dojo and finally, as the weight started rising again, I quit Weight Watchers. I’ve re-joined Weight Watchers about three more times since then, with little to no success, I’ve tried to push through the pain of my hip and continue to exercise, but I find that the next few days, I pay for it greatly.

I am lucky though, unlike some of my new friends, other than a thyroid issue and my bursitis, I do not have any co-morbidities, all-in-all I am pretty healthy. However, I was starting to see signs of bad things coming — my blood pressure was slowly rising, I was achey all the time, I was getting winded more easily, and I couldn’t fully enjoy getting out and doing things I loved, like photography, without encountering physical barriers.

I am 46 and I am on the cusp of a drastic decline in my quality of life if I don’t do something now. I started my journey last November, my endocrinologist and I not only focused on my thyroid levels, we focused on my weight, we worked on my nutrition, we even tried diet pills but they only made me sick. Finally, she asked me if I had ever considered bariatric surgery and after a lengthy conversation about options, she suggested I see a surgeon and discuss the possibility of getting the vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), aka “The Sleeve”.

I started all the paperwork in January, and since I work full-time and started graduate school in January, I knew I had to have the surgery in the spring/summer or I’d have to wait until Christmas. Had it not been for the insurance company initially denying me in March due to the fact that they didn’t approve of my doctor’s notes, I would have had the surgery in May, but instead, we pushed through and I was “sleeved” last Monday, 6/26.

I know that not everyone supports or agrees with weight loss surgery. Many people feel it’s the easy way out and those who lose that way don’t deserve to be proud of themselves. I will be honest, I was once a nay-sayer about WLS, I didn’t want my body permanently altered, I didn’t want a piece of plastic/metal in my body controlling the amount of food that I could intake and most arrogant of all, I wanted to do it without the help of surgery. Fast forward 6+ years, and here I am . I realized that there were other options besides bypass and lapband, I liked how the sleeve surgery removes your excess and makes your stomach the size it’s supposed to be. I have also learned that it’s not “the easy way out” you still have to watch what you eat, you still have to exercise and you still have to take all things in moderation. The surgery doesn’t fix your relationship with food, it just gives you a tool so that you are better armed to make smart decisions.

That being said, I have had moments during the pre-op stage of nothing but liquids when my family is eating tacos (which I ) and I am sipping on yet another protein shake, that I playfully curse my surgery, but since June 19th, I have lost a total of 16 pounds, and I know this is just the beginning. I don’t have a final weight goal in mind, my goal is to be healthier, more active and to go out and do things, like the photography that I love, without getting winded – oh and to not feel achey all freaking day because of the extra weight and stress being put on my joints. I am more focused on how I feel vice what number is on the scale.

Surgery was Monday, June 26, 2017, and so far, I have had a great experience — no nausea, no vomiting, no dizziness, but I am trying to be super careful because I am a big baby and hate throwing up more than anything else. I have tolerated everything that I’ve tried, yogurt, applesauce, the cream from Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup (OMG, so good!) and even though I am frightened, I really look forward to starting to get my protein from foods again, vice shakes, powders, and drinks. I give my surgeon all the credit, he did a fabulous job. I also had a large Hiatal Hernia (which is common and I assume was the reason I would get heartburn occasionally) which he repaired while he was in there.

I was only going to share my journey with those closest to me, but that goes against my nature, I am a sharer (possibly a borderline over-sharer) and I have to stay true to myself. I am also a writer at heart and have a strong desire to journal my experiences, if for no-one else but me. If you disagree with my decision, that’s fine, but it’s my decision, ultimately I made the choice to go this route for me and me alone, and I am excited to see where I go from here!