Nearing a Year Post-Op

It’s only early June, so it is not quite 11 months since my gastric bypass. It’s been a hard year, but it has also been a good year. The hard part is the ongoing battle against deeply ingrained habits related to food. They’re much harder to change than I’d ever imagined. It’s a daily struggle to not eat too fast or too much, and it’s a struggle I fail many times. Those failures typically result in my feeling nauseated – which is a powerful motivator to change. I’m slowly VERY SLOWLY making progress.

My fear is that I will stretch out my stomach. I never want to regain the weight I’ve lost and have to deal with all those health problems again. It feels good to feel good!

The “good” part is that this morning I weighed 143.6 – a new low. I think the last time I weighed that low was sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Even when I lost a lot of weight taking Phen-Fen in the mid-1990s, I only got to the upper 150s.

I’m enjoying doing Pilates on M-W-F when I’m at home. It’s good for me, and I don’t dread it like I used to when I’d work out at a gym. I like that it doesn’t make me hot and sweaty – and yet it’s a good workout. I can see more definition in my muscles.

One thing that has surprised me is the loose skin. I was under the mistaken impression that I was not so overweight that my skin wouldn’t bounce back. Nope. My arms, stomach, butt, and thighs have loose skin that bothers me – especially sitting on my butt – it’s like the skin folds in on itself and is uncomfortable. My arms and legs just have that flabby old-lady look. I’m sure if I’d had gastric bypass 10-15 years ago my skin would have bounced back better.

However, I will take all that any day over the excess weight and health issues I had before. I am happy with my weight now, and am perfectly satisfied to stay right at this weight the rest of my life.

We are at the lake right now, and most days here I hike up and down the driveway – about 1.34 miles – without having to slow down and without getting out of breath. All three dogs usually go with me, and they love it. And I’m loving wearing smaller size clothes, too.

I’m glad I had the surgery, but it is MUCH harder than I ever imagined it would be. It’s funny but the nausea I experience when I eat too much or too fast doesn’t even bother me as much as I thought it would because it is over fairly quickly. And, if I remember to eat very slowly and chew my food very thoroughly, there is no nausea. Like I wrote earlier, though, eating fast is a very hard habit to break. My body reminds me frequently to be a deliberate and mindful eater.

Some good news is that I had elevated bilirubin and liver enzyme numbers, but they’re going down. I will have a liver scan in a couple weeks. However the doctor thinks the elevated numbers are likely related to my surgery and that it will all even out soon. My liver panel blood test last week showed improvement. So hopefully he is right.

The Highs and Lows of Losing Weight

I’ve had a lot of highs and lows in the past six months. I’ve lost a little over 57 pounds, which is incredible! With the weight loss, I’ve gone down several sizes in my clothes. I have gotten rid of most of my clothes and replaced them with smaller sizes. I wore a size 10 pair of jeans today, and they were a little baggy. So I’ve got several size 8 jeans ready to go.

I’m able to do more without getting out of breath. When I go walking, I don’t have to stop to catch my breath. I can walk as much as I want. I need to do more of it, though. Along those general lines, I will be doing Pilates starting tomorrow – one on one with an instructor that Larisa, Lily, and Sophie use. I’m looking forward to starting that because the weight loss has left behind some flabby skin. I need to build muscle and tone, flexibility and stamina.

I still have significant restriction in how much I can eat. However, if I stretch a meal out to 30-40 minutes, I can eat a fairly regular (but smaller) portioned meal. Ron bought a single filet mignon steak the other day. We always cut a filet into two pieces crossways with the thinner portion for me since I like mine not quite as rare as Ron likes his. I assumed I wouldn’t be able to eat my entire portion, but I did. It was probably only 3-4 ounces at most, but that’s good because I’m able to get more protein in.

The lows are mostly fears of returning to previous bad habits. Over the past month I’ve seen how some bad habits and cravings are rearing their ugly heads again. Thus I am working to stick with my healthier and smaller-portioned food choices. I’m still drinking my homemade protein shake every morning for breakfast. Nothing else sits well with me. Eggs make me sick. I have a slice of bacon most mornings because Ron makes bacon and sausage most mornings and always adds a slice for me. So I get about 40 grams of protein each morning for breakfast.

Another improvement is my daily pill intake. Only four pills a day – my big multivitamin with iron, my blood pressure med, my cholesterol med, and my anti-depressant. Since Vandy monitors my vitamin levels, I’ve learned I don’t need all the supplements I was taking. That has cut down on my daily pill intake tremendously.

Updated Reality

Here it is December 2022. So much has changed since I last posted in Living Real With Carol. First, in August 2021, my mother died as I held her hand. In August 2022, my sister Beth died. Both of them died as a result of strokes. My life has changed forever. Beth was my youngest sister, and I still can’t comprehend that she is truly gone.

2022 was a year of major surgeries for me. In January I had total knee replacement in my right knee. The recovery was fairly easy. That’s in retrospect. At the time it was rough. I had to sleep in a recliner for several weeks because my knee was too sensitive to sleep in bed. I did all the physical therapy required, and although there is still some tenderness and numbness in my knee, I can walk all I want with no problem at all. I am so grateful for the surgery since my activity was so limited before surgery.

In July – just a couple of weeks before Beth died (which is why I couldn’t travel to be with her after her stroke), I had gastric bypass and hiatal hernia repair. Recovery from that surgery is STILL ongoing – although the first two months were particularly difficult. It was much MUCH harder to recover from than the knee replacement. When Beth had her first few small strokes and then her major one, I wanted so much to go be with her, but I couldn’t. And the doctors were right because it was such a difficult recuperation. However I did attend her funeral and even spoke at it three weeks after surgery – which took all I had at the time. The night before her funeral, I was so sick in the hotel room, but was okay by morning.

There is a story behind getting gastric bypass surgery. Last year I decided to look into bariatric surgery because I’d been through so many diets starting from when I was a teenager – Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Phen-Fen, Phentermine by itself, low-fat, Atkins, Keto, counting macros, fasting, and so on. Except for the Phen-Fen and Phentermine, I was not able to lose enough or maintain weight loss. And the drugs had horrible side effects which made me unwilling to continue them long term. I didn’t really plan to get surgery, I was just curious to see if I could qualify for it.

Most importantly, by last year I was battling so many health issues – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, fatty liver, mild sleep apnea, IBS, frequent diverticulitis, and horrible GERD. I had to take Nexium (proton pump inhibitor) every day and still sometimes the reflux was bad.

So I went to the Vanderbilt weight loss clinic since they were the only ones who would consider surgery on someone over 70 years old. That’s a good thing because Vandy is a “Center of Excellence” for bariatric surgery. I talked to the surgeon and he felt I would qualify for surgery. There was a long list of requirements from my insurance, and one of those was an endoscopy. I’m so thankful for that requirement because when I saw the photos of my stomach taken during the endoscopy, I was horrified. My stomach was basically wall to wall polyps – small, medium, and large. Dozens and dozens of them.

What is associated with the development of stomach polyps? Proton pump inhibitors like Nexium. I had taken Nexium every day for probably twenty years. I never even thought about possible side effects. it kept me from having heartburn and so I took it every single day.

I immediately went from casually considering bariatric surgery to being absolutely certain that I needed it asap because one thing gastric bypass does in almost 100% of cases is end acid reflux immediately. And with no acid reflux I could stop taking Nexium. I felt an urgency to get the surgery as soon as possible. With all my digestive issues, I felt that those polyps were at least part of it all.

I barely qualified for the surgery based on my BMI – and was told to definitely NOT lose weight before insurance approval. With my BMI I also had to have at least one serious weight-related condition to qualify. I had several. So I fulfilled all the requirements – psychological testing, nutritional counseling, support groups, a second endoscopy to “de-bulk” my stomach polyps (they removed about 40 polyps). On July 21st I had gastric bypass and hiatal hernia repair at Vanderbilt.

I’m almost five months post-op now. I’m ahead of my weight loss goals. I had hoped to be down 50 lbs by Christmas. I made that by Thanksgiving. I’m now about 54 lbs. down. Weight loss has slowed, but that’s fine. I’m content to lose a pound or so each week. At the beginning I was losing about five pounds a week. Then it gradually slowed down – which is exactly what is expected.

Most importantly, a week after surgery I stopped taking Nexium and haven’t had heartburn at all since then. I’ve cut my blood pressure meds in half. I’ve stopped taking daily gout meds and IBS meds. Since the Vandy weight loss clinic monitors my vitamin levels carefully, I’ve got those in balance now.

However, since my mother’s and Beth’s stroke – plus another sister, Joan, had a stroke in her eye last spring that left her blind in one eye, my pcp and I both agree that I don’t want to stop taking my cholesterol med since that’s my best defense against strokes. So Lipitor will likely be a part of life from now on.

The only negative is that one of my liver enzyme level and my bilirubin level are elevated. So I’m going in tomorrow for a ultrasound to make sure my liver and gall bladder are okay. I sure hope I don’t have to have gall bladder surgery.

2022 was a challenging year – so sad with Beth’s death, and so hard with my surgeries and recuperations. But also encouraging in other ways.

Seven-Month Assessment

When I made a pledge last July that I was committed to doing this for the rest of my life, I think God decided to test my determination. Despite logging every bite and staying within my calories and points the majority of days, I have gone up and down the same 2-3 pounds for FOUR months! I’ve also gotten into walking more regularly.

I’m to the point of wondering how few calories per day my body needs!

So now I’ve been going over my intake and seeing where I may be under-logging what I eat.

First, I was counting my daily coffee as two points. When I actually measured everything to be certain I found it was 4 points instead of two.

Second, I have not been counting my daily gummies – Goli Apple Cider Vinegar gummies and Elderberry gummies. I then measured/counted those, and they’re FIVE points a day.

Thus I was under-logging 7 points a day. A good example of the need to be meticulous in counting points.

My goal now is find Elderberry and ACV in capsule form in order to save those points. I’ve already cut the creamer and sweetener for my coffee in half – and I’m actually still enjoying it not quite as sweet and creamy.

My other concern is to decide if I want to continue with Weight Watchers or with Noom. They both have their pluses and minuses. I lean towards Noom because it counts calories which is a little more realistic, in some ways, than Weight Watchers. Sometimes the number of points that WW assigns to treats seems punitive. For example, when I had a couple scoops of ice cream with my mother a few months ago, it was 40-something points. Even using weekly points, that was a treat that blew a whole week’s worth of work, points-wise, out of the water. There’s something to be said for not assigning “good” or “bad” to specific foods. Calorie counting seems to be a less judgmental way to eat.

So I will discontinue either WW or Zoom when my initial subscriptions end.

2020 Progress Report

2020 is at an end, and for me (physically speaking), it has been pretty good.

15.8 pounds lost in 2020

I am actually looking forward to what 2021’s final graphic (like the one above) will be.

Pluses for the year: weight loss, walking 2+ miles regularly, ups and downs for emotional health because of Covid, but overall, I’m in a better place both physically and emotionally.

I have established some healthy routines during 2020. I eat a mostly healthy diet without totally foregoing treats. I have a bedtime routine that helps me sleep better – I drink a cup of herbal tea late in the evening and go to bed earlier than before (still late, though). I’ve stuck with a skin care routine for several months now. In the past I’ve taken my good skin inheritance for granted. However, at 71, even great genes can’t keep away the wrinkles and dark spots forever.

I read something (don’t know where or what) about putting oneself first, which is hard for me. I’m accustomed to taking care of chores and responsibilities before doing what I know is healthy for me – like walking at the park. Now I do my walking first. Then I handle other responsibilities. That’s a definite plus. It’s important to making self-care a priority.

I also talked with my doctor in April and got a prescription for an anti-depressant. I had taken one years ago and saw no difference at all. So I stopped taking it, and I saw no difference when then either. I went about 15 years without anything. However, I now realize that I probably would have been helped if I’d requested a different anti-depressant all those years ago because I can feel a change with this one. Nothing major because I don’t need anything major. However I’m able to function in a better state of mind as opposed to a stressed state of mind.

So here’s to 2021 – may we see Covid become no big deal (ha ha!), the USA be led by the person who legitimately won (whoever that might be), may travel be safe and easily accomplished again, and may we all be healthy and grateful for our innumerable blessings.

Natural and Whole foods – Looking ahead to lifelong habits

One of my challenges in losing weight is battling my tendencies to get more food for each point in the Weight Watchers food plan. Those zero-point foods become more attractive, and that’s the way WW intended it to be. If we focus on lean proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables, we will become healthier and lose weight.

However, a problem arises when we start manipulating foods with artificial flavorings and sweeteners in order to stretch out those WW points. When we start doing that, we aren’t learning to be satisfied with smaller portions, and we aren’t learning to rely on whole, natural foods.

17 Best images about Fresh & Healthy Food on Pinterest ...

A few days ago I bought a diet lemonade (sweetened with Splenda) from Chick Fil A. Within a little while I had a headache. I’ve noticed that several times recently – a headache and usually stomach upset not long after drinking or eating something with artificial sweeteners. Yesterday I made a dozen muffins using a sugar-free cake mix as the base. “Sugar-free” typically means “sweetened with artificial sweetener,” and that was the case with these muffins. I ate one of the muffins for lunch, and all afternoon I’ve had digestive issues as a result. The rest of the muffins are going in the trash.

When I consider the fact that I started this WW health, fitness, and mindfulness journey in order to become healthier, then I don’t want to eat or drink anything that doesn’t foster that. Every now and then, I will still enjoy a Diet Coke. However, rather than a multiple-times-a-day thing, it is now something I consume maybe two or three times a month.  And that is okay for now. I may cut them out entirely at some point.

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My mother is 97 years old, and one of the reasons (I believe) that she has led such a long and mostly healthy life is that she sticks to healthy food: lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grain bread. She almost never eats pork, and she has lots of meatless meals.

No major insight for this post – just a reminder to myself of the importance of natural, whole foods. That will continue to be one of my focuses for my daily life.

Weekly Weigh-In – 11/13/2020

It’s Friday which means it is weigh-in day. When I suddenly gained approximately 5 pounds a little under two weeks ago, I assumed (incorrectly) that it was just a temporary water gain. However, I still have another pound to lose to get to my low weight of exactly two weeks ago.

However, I am committed to sticking with WW for life. So this is just a little bump on the road. When I started this journey in July, I would have been thrilled to weigh what I do right now.

Short term goal is to get to -15 lbs. Then it will be 5-pound increments for my goals. I’m particularly excited to reach -25 because that will be the lowest I’ve been since around 2005.

Review: Lakanto Drinking Chocolate

I saw an ad online for Lakanto Drinking Chocolate. Since I like the Lakanto Monkfruit sweetener, I decided to give it a try. I found it on Amazon and ordered a package. It was delivered this morning. Instead of brewing a cup of herbal tea, I decided to try the drinking chocolate. I made it using boiling water. Made with water, it is 0 points (WW Blue). It is sweet and chocolatey. Too sweet, actually. So I poured it out and decided to try it with unsweetened almond milk instead.

I heated a cup of unsweetened almond milk (1 point per cup – WW Blue) and it was much better. Still super-sweet, though.

I give Lakanto Drinking Chocolate 6 out of 10 stars. It’s good – a little too sweet for me, though. However, for those times I want something chocolatey and sweet, it might just hit the spot.

Now I’m trying to decide if I want to finish my cup of drinking chocolate made with almond milk or brew a cup of herbal tea.