Category Archives: Surgery

Proof in Pictures

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Hi.  My name is Annie and I am a compulsive overeater.

I’d like to show you a couple of pictures today.  As you may remember (and as it has been oh so long since I have written anything here, I fully understand if you don’t remember), I had weight loss surgery on May 23, 2011.  My weight before surgery was 455 pounds.  The expectation was that I would lose 60% of my excess body weight, or a total of 253 pounds, in the first year after surgery.  Of course, we didn’t expect that I would have a herniated disc in need of repair during that first year.  Yeah, that has hampered my weight loss.  It is a part of the reason that I haven’t kept up this blog as I intended.  To say I have battled depression issues since the problems with my back developed would be an understatement.  But the back and depression are only a part of why I haven’t kept up with this blog.

The other part is my laziness.  That is one of those character defects that I have to face when I work on Step Four—and in all honesty, is one of the reasons that I have avoided that Step.

Anyway….  I wanted to share with you a picture of me before my surgery.  As you can see, I look like a whale.  I even wore black that day, knowing that I was going to have my picture taken.  Black is supposed to be slimming, right?  Well, if this outfit made me look any slimmer, I would honestly HATE to see what I looked like in a color that wasn’t black.

Before surgery picture. Weight 455 pounds. YUCK

I went yesterday for my one year checkup.  It’s been more than a year, I know, but the back issues messed up my schedule a bit.  When I stepped on the scale and say my weight at 359 pounds, I wanted to cry.  I was so mad at myself!!  That weight is actually 9 pounds heavier than I was at my 6 month postop checkup.  I swore going into this that it wouldn’t matter how much or how little weight I lost, once the weight was gone it was not going to come back.  And I had allowed 9 pounds to sneak back onto my frame.  Now, that I didn’t lose more, that I have no problem “blaming” on the back issues.  It’s kind of hard to exercise with the balance issues I’ve been dealing with.  But regaining 9 pounds?  I can’t blame that on anything other than the bad choices that I have made.  I’ve not been paying close attention to my food choices.  The number on the scale showed it.  I left the office feeling really down on myself.  Sure, the dietitian had given me a diet to follow for a few weeks, something to help kick start my metabolism and help me get back into losing.  She also gave me some exercise ideas that will help and shouldn’t hurt my back much.  But all I had in my head right then was that number.  I was mad at myself about the whole thing and felt like a failure because I hadn’t done more.

Just before I settled in to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony last night (hey, just because I don’t like to compete in any sport, doesn’t mean I don’t like watching the world celebrate sport!), I opened an email from the dietitian.  She had taken my picture again and had sent me copies.  My jaw about hit the floor when I looked at them!

Fourteen months after surgery. Weight 359 pounds. Loss of 96 pounds.

Can you see the differences?  I actually have a SHAPE now, a shape that is not just blob-shaped.  Sure, I still have a ways to go to get where I want to be, but now I can actually see the difference.  I can see that I am losing weight.  No, I don’t feel wonderful about it, but I feel much better than I did when all I knew was the number.

Now to get myself back on track and really working to get the weight off.

Cravings

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My name is Annie and I am a compulsive overeater.

I was told that dealing with food would be easy right after surgery. The doctors, dietitian and other patients that I spoke with said in the first few weeks after surgery, I wouldn’t even want to eat. That was tru for the first week. Now, though, I am finding the cravings coming back. Part of it I think has to do with the surgery. Maybe not the surgery exactly, but the post-op diet. I started on a pre-op liquid only diet on May 9. I am on that liquid only diet until June 7. Three more days. I keep telling myself that. It’s only three more days. And I have lost 31 pounds in the time I’ve been on liquids only. Still, I am finding myself thinking of the other foods that are in the kitchen. The family had Hamburger Helper last night for dinner. I keep thinking that the noodles are probably real soft. If I cut them into smaller pieces and make sure the meat is chopped up really well, I could eat a little bit. What could it hurt? I put a cup of it in the freezer, thinking that it would make a nice lunch next week when I am moved to pureed foods. Eveything is soft enough hat it should puree nicely. But that hasn’t helped much. There is this voice in my head saying, “But that is next week. Why should I have to wait until next week when there is some in the fridge NOW?”

I know that is my disease talking. Knowing that, though, isn’t helping me to not think about the food.

You know those little surveys that go through email every now and again, the ones where you fill in your favorite things so that your friends and family can learn more about you? I remember one about a year ago that I got back from a friend who had gastric bypass a few years back. On the question, “What is your favorite food?” she responded, “Food is not longer a favorite thing of mine.”

Oh, how I envy that statement!

I want to get to that place. I want food to not be that important to me. Right now, I am not hungry. Thirsty. Very, very thirsty. But I am not hungry. Still, I am thinking about the leftover food. I’m not hungry, but I want to eat. Even knowing that if I do eat, it’s going to leave me in incredible pain (think childbirth but in the chest) isn’t enough to keep me from thinking about eating. The other day, I decided to try a stick of string cheese. I ate about half of it before my chest started burning. I had it happen one other time, when I drank my protein shake too fast. That sure taught me about eating slowly. It SHOULD have been enough to keep me from trying foods that are not on my diet. But it didn’t. I still tried that cheese. And I know that if I give into this craving for solid food, I am going to be in that kind of pain again. Yet I am still thinking about it! My tummy is so full of protein shake that I feel like another sip will make it explode, and I am still thinking about real food. I so hope that it will be easier after I am on pureed foods. At least the food won’t be quite as bland as the liquids are.

To try to combat these cravings, I decided that I would write this blog post and pull out my OA 12 & 12. I am reading Step Three now, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This should be easy for me. I mean, for years I have worked to put God first in my life. I know what I want for my life, but I am willing to give up all of my dreams in order to be the woman He created me to be. If I can give over all of my dreams for my life, present and future, it should not be difficult to give Him control over my food and eating habits.

It shouldn’t be hard. So why do I have this feeling that it is not going to be easy, either?

Food Labels and Thoughts

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My name is Annie and I am a compulsive overeater.

Yesterday was my first day out of the house after my surgery. I felt good to be out of the house. Not that I really did much. Every place I went I spent my time sitting so I wouldn’t hurt my incisions or my staples. Still, I was pretty worn out by the time I got home.

One of the things I did was attend a family reunion at my parents’ house. Two of my older sisters were there, the two who have had their own bariatric procedures. It was good to be able to talk to them. I spent more time talking with the sister who had her surgery three years ago. That was an interesting conversation.

In the three years since she had her Lap-Band, my sister has lost 120 pounds. She hasn’t kept it all off, though. She had pneumonia this winter, and complications from that caused her doctors to need to completely deflate the band. While the band was deflated, she found that she was able to eat anything that she wanted. And that is exactly what she did. She was able to eat and so she did, gaining back a good amount of the weight she had lost. I don’t know exactly how much she gained back. I am not sure that she told me a number. What I remember is thinking, “That’s why she doesn’t look so small.” She went on to ask me about my food restrictions after my stomach has healed. When I told her that there are really not any, other than eating smaller portions, she said that’s what everything was like for her, too. She said it was easy at first, until the irritation of having the band cleared up, but that it got harder to stick with the smaller portions once she was able to eat more.

Somehow, we got into a discussion about reading labels on food. I said that I am careful about sugar, calories, fat and protein content. I want the highest protein I can get with the lowest sugar, fat, and calories. She said that all she worries about is high protein, low calorie. That seemed a bit odd to me. I mean, isn’t it the fat, sugar, and calories combined that have led me to this out of control weight?

Right now, everything I have is low-sugar or sugar-free. At first, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I was afraid that sugar-substitutes would not be sweet enough for my taste buds. And I really was not happy about going low-fat! No more fried foods, no more extra cheesy potatoes. Oh, how was I supposed to live? But I have lived, and while I still think a bite or two of some of those fried, fatty, and sugary things would be wonderful, I am not willing to take that bite. I haven’t gone through all of this pain, all of this change to my anatomy just to fall back into old habits. Seems to me that even smaller portions of unhealthy foods are going to hinder my weight loss.

Talking to her really brought home one thing—I can’t do this alone. I need God on my side. And I need the support of my surgeons, the clinic dietician, and Overeaters Anonymous. If I turn away from any one of those things, I fear that I will compromise my health too much. I am NOT going to go back to the high fat diet and sedentary lifestyle that I “enjoyed” before the sugery!!

Sleeved and Sore

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My name is Annie and I am a compulsive overeater.

And I have taken the first step toward having a healthier me! On Monday, I had a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. I wish I could say that I feel great and that I have absolutely no regrets. But, OA only works when you are completely honest. And in all honesty, I’ve been wondering a lot about my decision this week. Not that there is anything I can do about it. What’s done is done, and this surgery cannot be reversed.

First, let my share my pre-surgery stats. My weight as of Thursday, May 19 was 425 pounds. Yes, I know that is a rather larger number, but I feel good about it. Why? Because on the day I started my liquid-only diet, my weight was 445. A twenty pound loss in 10 days—without feeling like I was depriving myself—is pretty awesome! And when I think that it was May 19 when I started on a food plan and I have not deviated from that plan—WOW! Sixteen days of abstinence feels pretty good!

My body measurements as of Saturday, May 21, 2011:

  • Neck 16.5 inches
  • Bicep 21.25 inches
  • Bust 60.25 inches
  • Waist 61.5 inches
  • Hips 73.5 inches
  • Thigh 34 inches

I was a little bummed that I didn’t get weighed at all while I was in the hospital. I have to see my PCP next week, and I will get a weight then. It is gonna drive me halfway insane not knowing my weight until then!

The surgery went well. I was a little scared at first. There are risks with any surgery. A part of me was concerned that I might not survive the surgery. But I told my husband on the way to Ann Arbor, “I am going to die if I don’t do something. At least if I go on the table, it will be because I was trying to make my life healthier.” I have purple marks on my belly where the doctors could have made incisions—six different places. But one of those places wasn’t needed. The incision areas are itchy now. They were just glued shut, no stitches or anything. As they heal and the glue dries more and more, it itches more and more. But I am being good and not picking at it or anything.

The problem happened Tuesday morning. A nurse came into my room to check my vital signs around 5:30 or so. My blood pressure was high (not a big surprise as it has run high for a while now—and is one of the reasons I wanted the surgery) so she returned with a syringe of something to help bring that down. Almost as soon as that medication went into my IV, I felt odd. I was hot all over, sweating when I’d been comfy before, and my heart was racing. I felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. I told my husband who told the nurse who told the team of doctors…. An EKG was ordered immediately and I was moved from the general surgical floor to a room in the cardiac unit where my heart could be monitored more closely. They told me my heart had gone into a fib—arterial fibrillation. The way I understand it, part of my heart was beating too fast and the other part was not beating fast enough. There was concern that possibly my sleeve was leaking (that was ruled out with the swallow study, which showed everything inside was just as it should be.) The doctors insisted it had nothing at all to do with the medication that I’d been given for my blood pressure. Still not sure if I believe that, but OK. I was told that this is a normal complication of surgery near the heart muscle, but that they were rather surprised to see it in a woman my age. Even though I’d been prepared to walk within hours of the end of my surgery, I was not allowed out of bed. The doctors wanted me to get into a normal heart rhythm before I moved much.

I was put on medications right away to bring my heart back into a normal sinus rhythm. It didn’t work as quickly as hoped. Actually, I think it was the third type of medication they tried that actually worked. Because it took so long to get it under control, I expected at least one extra day in the hospital.

Imagine my surprise when the surgical intern asked me Wednesday morning if I’d like to go home that afternoon! Once my heart rate was under control, I was able to get up and walk around without problems. After I passed the swallow study, I was put on clear liquids and I tolerated that rather well. The intern wanted to advance me to full liquids and said if my tummy tolerated that OK, I could leave Wednesday afternoon. It went well and I was home with my husband and sons by 5:00.

I did have one other problem while in the hospital. All of my medications need to be either crushed or in liquid form for 2 months, standard procedure for bariatric surgeries. They ordered a liquid version of my anti-depression medication. The problem is that it was flavored with peppermint, and I am allergic to peppermint. Knowing that most liquid medications have a nasty taste, I just took this in one swallow. So I didn’t notice the peppermint taste until after the entire dose was down. Not that it stayed down. The nurse stood beside me, rubbing my back as it all came back up. She felt so horrible because she knew I was allergic to peppermint, but had no idea the medication was flavored with it. The next morning, we tried opening the capsule and sprinkling it on my food. That has such a disgusting taste that I can barely get it down. So now I am waiting for my psychiatrist to call and let me know what to do. I’d love to go without the pills until my tummy heals enough to be able to tolerate taking pills, but I am not sure that is a very good idea. Maybe I can mix it with sugar-free chocolate pudding. Everything tastes better with chocolate, right?

Surgical Fears

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My name is Annie and I am a compulsive overeater.

As you know, I’ve been looking into bariatric surgery to help control my weight. Well, I’ve done more than look into it. I’ve scheduled it. On Monday, May 23, I will go to the University of Michigan Hospital for a sleeve gastrectomy. Basically, my surgeon will remove a portion of my stomach, leaving behind a section of stomach that will resemble a shirt sleeve or a banana. It’s a permanent thing, not something that can be reversed later on. I’m not concerned about that. I know this is a drastic step, but I need drastic right about now. The things I’ve been doing aren’t helping. Well, OA is. Following the Program has kept me from gaining. I have high hopes that the surgery and the Program together will cause major changes not only in my appearance but in my life as well.

I’ll be honest, though, and admit to a certain level of fear. I am not worried about the surgery itself. I have a skilled surgeon. He’s performed more surgeries than he can even count, I’m sure, including my best friend’s bariatric surgery four years ago. What I am scared of is that I won’t be able to handle the food restrictions.

Right now, I am not doing so bad with it. I’ve been on a liquid diet for 8 days. Sure, I am hungry and I’ve had moments when the food in the refrigerator seems to scream out “I’m here, eat me, you know you want to!” I’ve been able to ignore it so far, though. Even when my “loving” family ate McDonald’s right here in front of me and when my husband asked me to call and order from our favorite Chinese restaurant, I resisted the cravings. I’ve even lost ten pounds since starting this liquid diet.

Still, I am scared. The cravings are getting stronger and stronger each day. Sometimes, I don’t know how much longer I can ignore them. I’m told that it will be easier in the weeks following surgery—my tummy will still be too tender and I won’t want to eat real food. But I’ve also recently met a woman who had this same surgery a year ago. She is struggling now because her tummy has healed enough and she can have basically any food that she wants. I’m nervous that I will get to that point and not be able to silence the cravings in me.

I know, I know. One day at a time. And that is what I am trying to do. That fear is in the back of my head, but I am trying hard to not dwell on it. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, though.

Garbage Disposals and Cheerleaders

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My name is Annie and I am a compulsive overeater.

And I am not a human garbage disposal.

That is what I read in The Emotional Eater’s Book of Inspiration today. It might sound funny—and I’ll admit that I did giggle when I first read it. But there is a lot of truth in that sentence. And sadly, I can think of a lot of times when I have acted like a human garbage disposal. One of my sons will decide he is full and I will empty his plate for him. I rationalize that even if those few bites go straight to my hips, it’s better than putting the food in the trash. Anything is better than adding something to the trash.

Funny how if it is a vegetable the kids don’t want I have no problem throwing that away. If I throw out the veggie but eat the meat and carbs, it must be something other than not wanting to add to the trash that makes me want to eat it.

This morning, I started my liquid only diet in preparation for surgery. My surgery is scheduled for May 23. For the next two weeks, I get nothing but non-alcoholic, non-carbonated, non-caffeinated beverages, Jell-O, pudding, yogurt, and runny mashed potatoes. Let me tell you, this is not going to be easy! It is worth it, though. My ten-year-old is already teasing me when he eats, making exaggerated noises, telling me what he ate for lunch, and reminding me about the left over birthday goodies in the fridge and freezer. My almost-four-year-old is worry that I am not eating anything and keeps offering to share his meals with me. It’s nice to know that I have at least one compassionate child!

When I posted on Facebook that I was started the liquids only today, I was touched by all of the support and well-wishes I received. One message really surprised me, though. It came from a woman named Jaye who I have known since middle school. Jaye was smart, pretty and popular. In high school, she was a varsity cheerleader (and yes, I used the words “smart” and “cheerleader” to describe the same person!) Today, she sent me a little note of support and said that she understood what it was like to have a weight problem. After high school, her weight climbed up to 250 pounds. She said she was so embarrassed and ashamed of her weight that wouldn’t leave the house. I have to say, Jaye is one of the last people I would ever expect to hear something like that from. I do appreciate, though, that she felt comfortable enough to share that with me.

Happy, Serene, and Sane

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I’m Annie and I’m a compulsive overeater.

There is a small group within the OA group I belong to (is that the right term for it?) that is working on a study of the book Drop The Rock.  This is not specifically an OA book, but it is an in-depth look at steps 6 and 7 in the 12-step program. The section we read last night was on step seven.  One thing that really popped out at me was the author saying something about needing to act as if he wants to be happy, serene, and sane.  He didn’t say that he needs to act as if he already is happy, serene, and sane, but that he has to act as if he wants to be happy, serene, and sane.

That just really stuck in my head.  This whole acting “as if” thing is odd to me.  I’ve been real good at acting “as if” nothing is wrong and hiding my feelings behind food.  So I am not totally convinced that acting “as if” is the right thing to do.  But what really got to me about this issue was the idea of acting as if happiness, serenity, and sanity are things that I want in my life.  Don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need to act like I want that stuff.  I KNOW that I want it!  It’s the getting it that I am having problems with.

Food certainly hasn’t been the answer.  I might feel happy and serene at the moment I am taking a bite of something.  But as soon as I put down the fork, the feeling I am left with is anything other than sane.  And the surgery that I am planning isn’t going to bring happiness.  Health, now that is what I am shooting for there.  And I suppose I am hoping that being healthy will lead to a happier me.  But I am not expecting surgery to bring the happiness I want.

So I suppose knowing that I want to be happy, I might as well “act as if” I am already happy.  I don’t see that it will hurt.  In a way, it seems like a lie, though, to pretend something I don’t feel.  But if acting happy can “trick” my mind into believing I am happy, I might as well give it a shot.