Thursday, September 30, 2004

Big Challenges Make Big Trophies

First, I don't get hunting, but like playing poker, I see some inspiring similarities with my weight-loss goals.

Hunters not only like to kill things, but they love to showcase the spoils of the hunt. Whether it be a giant stag above the bar or a huge bear skin sprawled across the floor, there's such great satisfaction in saying "It nearly killed me, but I killed IT!"

I've been away from my journal for quite a while. My challenges are mounting and like the Great Brown Hunter, I'm making space on the walls between running for cover and tending my wounds.

I marked my fifth week with little hoopla. I didn't gain a bunch of weight, but in the same vein, I didn't lose a lot of weight. My five-week weight loss stands at about 36 pounds. I only succeeded in losing the PMS gains.

I should be starting an exercise plan, but I'm only 'getting physical' at my soon-to-be complete house. I'm painting and hauling construction debris instead of pumping iron and walking miles. I should post a picture of the house because it has managed to take center stage.

I desperately need to get back into the bariatric-weight-loss swing of it, but I must confess I'm not the model patient. Lately, I skip meals trying to keep up with the new job in New Orleans and the new home project which seems to have been going on for years (only six months, but IT SEEMS LIKE FOREVER!!!)

When I skip the little meals along the way, I'm famished when I do get to eat. My capacity, at times, is approaching that of a normal adult. I'm scheduled to get a "fill" on Monday at my six weeks appointment with MISI.

When I called about the appointment and concerns, my doctor's nurse reassured me that it was just time for a fill. (Thanks, Kristi, no Grrrr, at all)

They will take a needle and add fluid to my Lap Band creating a greater restriction and once again, limiting the capacity of my stomach. These adjustments are expected in the adjustable lap band and it should help me fight off the really hungry feelings. I will be sure to write more about these adjustments and get some pictures if I can.

As difficult as some of the recent weeks have been, it's help bring out the best of old friends, new friends and perfect strangers. I have a wonderful support group and team of cheerleaders and I don't feel like I could make it without their encouragement.

I wish I could make this seem like an incredible piece of cake. It has coincided with come with some of the greatest challenges of my personal and professional life, but big challenges make big trophies and I have just the freshly-painted wall for it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Let's Talk About the "P" Word

A journal is personal and I should have known that sooner or later this one would also get embarrassing. I haven't posted an entry in a few days and it's about time to just jump right into the touchy subject: PMS.

I've made it to the four-week point on yesterday and I'm hovering 3-5 pounds above my previous loss of 35 pounds. I would have liked to have been at 40 pounds, but I know the 35 mark will probably hold pretty well after the effects of PMS have gone.

First of all, my apologies to anyone I might offend, but this is a part of the process.

My guess is that I've put on a little water weight, but the big concern to me yesterday was that I was hungry enough to eat a horse. I didn't eat a horse, of course, but there might be a missing pony or two in East Baton Rouge Parish.

I think my dinner last night was "normal." That scared my husband to death after weeks of tiny miniature meals. We ate out and I had grilled fish (all of it) and bits of a salad and a tiny amount of rice. Scott thought the band was about to burst or cause damage. Truthfully, I think I was just starved after a day of too much traffic and too little food. I considered calling my doctors office today to say: "I had an entire grilled fish filet -- how long do I have to live?" but somehow my pending demise wasn't enough to make me forget just how silly that sounded.

I think that internal stress and PMS might be a good test for the Lap Band because it opens the door to new doors of logic for eating. Eating can also become soothing and I find myself wanting to avoid the need for comfort food. Instead, this week, I've had very little food while on the run between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I'm sure that's also not good.

The Hurricane scare of 2004 is over, but I'm still battling a killer commute and a hive storm.

Later this week, I'll write about Pilates class and I'll share my protein-packed quesadilia recipe.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

No Tricks of The Trade

When my little daughter -- Seed of Godzilla -- started eating solid food, our pediatrician urged us to not make separate meals for her. "Feed her what and when you eat," Dr. Elofson said.

A year later, I find myself following the doctor's orders for my own meals. I have an allergy to certain high protein drinks and an ever hungry toddler, so I find that Cecilia and I are eating pretty much the same thing. Her portions of our meals have more carbs -- she gets more pasta -- and I get whatever lean protein I've cooked in it.

Nearly four weeks after Lap Band surgery, I have few tricks of the trade, just survival. I'm using "Natural Whey" protein powder, but most of my protein is coming from lean meats and cheese. Fish, cheese, eggs (limited) and chicken. Then chicken, eggs (limited), cheese and fish. I'm limiting eggs right now because they've made me sick a couple of times.

My family has always been big milk drinkers and we are still buy whole organic for Cecilia and organic skim for us. I have tried the Carb Down 'milk beverage' and found it to be an excellent way to get 12 grams of protein per cup.

I guess I should explain the obsession with protein. Bariatric surgery patients are losing weight at a sometimes fast rate. Good protein intake helps maintain muscle mass while, hopefully, the body is burning fat stores. Muscle weights more than fat, but muscle burns fat while operating. Yes, as I understand, it's a massive conspiracy against fat, the enemy.

I can't afford to cook twice, but I'm hoping my routine will help retrain my body to accept smaller portions and limited carbohydrates. My aim also is to promote healthy eating for Scott and Cecilia. We differ in two ways -- Cecilia has toddler snacks like cereal bars and fruit and Scott can still support fast food America outside of the house.

It's always been my plan to invest in more portions, diet aids and drinks after the house is finished, but until then a more low-tech following of the rules seems to work just fine. (I hope to be near 40 pounds at the four-week mark.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Three Weeks, 30 Pounds And One Huge Storm

The world doesn't stop for gastric surgery patients. If anything, I can truly say that the last three weeks have been filled with six weeks of living. We are in the final stages of building a house, I'm trying to start working outside the city and trying my hand at motherhood again -- all while wondering if New Orleans will be submerged by Hurricane Ivan.

One might think that a stressful plate of life might have little to do with Lap Band surgery, but the reality is that a change in life must take place while "life" continues to spin 90-to-nothing.

If you were Oprah Winfrey, each alteration of life would be orchestrated by a personal trainer, a chef, a dietician and a slew of personal assistants. I'm not saying her life and dieting efforts aren't hard...hmm, well, yes I am.

In the real world a toddler's mother might feed the screaming tot twice before getting a protein-packed meal. The whole world says I can't care for Cecilia well if I don't put my own health first. Cecilia says: I'm up 20 minutes and what, no breakfast? (And boy, did that banana nut bread oatmeal smell good!)

Who knows, maybe the Lap Band surgery will be more effective in the long run because I was dealing with life full throttle while dealing with food in moderation.

I may have edged up a couple of pounds, but here are the three-week counts:
  • 30 pounds in three weeks

  • Very little pain until I get tired

  • Lots of pain when pounced on by wonder tot who's home again

  • Still lowering the meds

  • Tired, like, stupid tired, about once or twice a day

  • That with sprinkles of depression, anxiety and (Scott says)temporary insanity

On a totally shallow note: I'm not dreaming of my first shopping spree. Instead, I'm having a ball shopping in my own closet. I have new clothes, old clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes and even a leotard from step aerobics class cira 1991. I'm just fine with those clothes. I'm just fine with clothes that are a little loose. I'm just fine putting in new seams when the clothes start falling off. I'm just cheap. (enough said)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Losing Weight, Gaining Hives

I know I shouldn't peek mid-week or weigh everyday, but I was afraid that new scale wouldn't move at all. OK, I knew the scale would work, but I've been hearing stories about people hitting early plateaus and I got a little worried.

I last weighed Wednesday and I've lost seven pounds since then. (Sigh of relief)

If anyone is counting, other than me, that puts my loss at 32 pounds a few days before my third-week mark. There's a lot going on in my personal life and I'm at least very glad that it's not affecting my health goals -- other than the hives which seem to have switch to stress-induced hives since being sparked by my allergy to certain high protein drinks. The calm, often smirking look on my face is often masking the star of Driving Miss Crazy.

It's kinda interesting to watch. Since I have to eat so incredibly slow, I have lots of time to watch the hives emerge and spread across my arms like a scene from that freaky Alien movie. My next blog could be a horror flick -- Hives: The Horror Within!

I think we are on schedule and I'm taking as good care of that Lap Band as it's taking of me.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Now Hitting The Wall Makes Sense

Last night I was frustrated because I felt so tired and, well, frustrated. Can one be frustrated because they feel frustrated? I choose to play the mental health card again and say that makes sense.

I got a reply to an email from Holli Paline at Vista Surgical Hospital. Holli is a registered nurse who works with gastric surgery patients both at Vista and MISI, my doctor's practice. Holli has the smile and spirit of an angel, but she got to the point in few words (I could learn a lot from Holli).

She picked up on what I said in the earlier email about being tired and unmotivated to eat or do anything right now. She reminded me that she told me earlier to expected a "tired, rundown feeling" around the third week. I'm not quite sure why, but I've simply hit the "rundown wall."

Knowing what my body is doing doesn't give me a sudden burst of energy, but I feel much less frustrated. Now I'm just TIRED AS HELL.

My advice: Go with it and when this phase is over, all will be better.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hitting A (freshly built) Wall

It's not a set back, it's just reality. I go, I go, I go, I smack.

Today was a pretty good day. I guess it was just too much day to be excited about this journey.

My days have been beginning consumed with getting my house finished. We've run into every delay imagined and the week after surgery I earned the Driving Miss Crazy handle. I'll admit it: I found myself in a slightly psychotic state of mind and decided it was a perfect time to make some phone calls. I might have found a new use for bariatric surgery.

I made my second commute to New Orleans and I love the environment. I learned my lessons two days ago and I felt much better at lunch time.

On the way back home, I thought about how great it would be to have Cecilia at home waiting for me. Instead, an inspection of our closets and interior doorways waited for me.

At the end of it all, I didn't feel like "getting in the protein," measuring the portions or building the muscles. I just didn't feel.

The best note of the days is that I've stepped down my blood pressure meds twice since surgery and it's still normal. That's going to have to be good enough for today.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Salute: Support Can Be Beautiful

This blog and my life both can be thankful for this day -- My Scott's birthday.

My teddy bear and the father of my children became a little older today and it seems his only gift was more driving Miss Crazy and his self-professed 'combat' duty.

Scott and I have not shared many birthdays, but I've termed our time together as "intense." We have experienced both intense joy and pain. The same Divine Guide who brought 'online buddies' together kept us close through bigger clothes -- there's nothing like my gumbo in D.C. and tiny caskets -- we whispered goodbye to four of his beautiful babies before holding a Spencer miracle baby two years ago.

Scott helped me to see the beauty in me and I was thoroughly amused to be with a man who I couldn't be 'big enough' for. I felt it was cruel to change the rules and try to shed more than 150 pounds of the me that he loved like no other could.

I made the choice, but the journey is for two.

Happy Birthday, Scott, and keep ducking!

Medical Progress and 25 Pounds

My internal medicine progress is being monitored by an ultra-cool doc dude who I never wanted to see in the first place. I've never been so happy to be so wrong about a situation. I love this practice and have we discussed that I don't impress easily?

My internist's office scale showed a 22 pound loss, but I remembered if was about six or seven pounds off from the surgeon's office. I settled on 25 pounds for my amount lost by my second week. I'll start using my scale at home as the standard as my doctor's appointments become more spaced.

My blood pressure is starting to improve even as my medication is being slowly decreased. Twenty plus pounds is good, but improved BP is huge. I'm monitoring it at home and I've even gotten some "normal" readings lately. Trust me, being 37 with a blood pressure reading of 180/110 makes you a little 'uneasy' to say the least.

I discussed energy levels and iron. These days I have two levels -- Flying high and hitting the wall. The doctor gave me a reassured 'duh!' "You were anemic, you had surgery and then lost 22 pounds in 14 days," he said, "you're going to be tired." Yup, makes perfect sense and if I wasn't so amused by his smirks I would feel silly for asking. He's certain my multivitamins with iron will make short work of the tired feeling.

I got a cautious "ok" for starting a Pilates class, but he told Scott I shouldn't do any sit ups or ab work for another six weeks. Scott seems unusually interested in my new activities because they will become his new activities. So this is for Scott: NO "AB ROLLER" (as seen on TV) FOR ME, BUCKO! I'm starting to like seeing it under my antique dining table -- feel the burn, hahaha.

Today's lesson: There are thousands of tomorrows in the path of recovery, but if I learned to tackle the only "today" first, I'm sure I will be the wiser, the thinner and more healthy.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

New Job Brings New Lessons

I will be the first to admit that I was really pumped about my new job. I don't get rattled about new jobs and challenges any more, but I was unsure how this period of recovery would affect my new journey.

It's about skills and talent, not about food right?

Not quite.

I'm going to be brief. (Yeah, it's possible.) I'll just say I learned some lessons about my new life:

  • Rush-hour traffic, a quick breakfast in the car -- NO.

  • Working lunch in a great, but crowded Cuban restaurant -- NO.

  • Doggie bag bites at your desk since you're famished-- NO.

  • That's a container of container orange juice, not water -- NO.

  • Plan the meals and take your time; this is for life -- YES.

I've started and finished lots of jobs/projects before. I've never factored eating, meal planning or food period in my career moves. I guess I have a lot to learn.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Two Weeks Under My Belt

I have survived and Scott has survived...woohoo!

Today is Labor Day and I would have to say it is a fitting moment also to celebrate the end of the second full week after my Lap Band surgery. For those of you just joining the blog, I'm Reinventing Fran, Fabulous Franny, Full-figured Frances, Fat-Fighting Frances Y. and soon to be Fit Frances. Two weeks ago, I underwent bariatric surgery and a banded device was placed around my stomach.

Hopefully, my stomach's new "hourglass" figure will spark a similar adjustment all over. I haven't stepped on a scale yet, but I'm sure I'm at least down 25 pounds. I was down 18.5 pounds this time last week. I started at 342 pounds. It's not the way I see myself, but I hear the scales don't lie. (Well, I'm sure they have stretched the truth a time or two). Because I've been told I might suffer from Health Denial, I started taking pictures of myself last week. (Just my luck, cameras also don't lie.) I figured if I post some visual honesty (look two post down) every now and then, I might stay motivated, or thoroughly depressed.

It hasn't been all roses and Champagne, but there's some definite progress. I'm almost free of pain meds. I stopped regularly taking "the good stuff" about four days ago. The pain is quite manageable until I get tired and I'm fairly comfortable until I go to bed. I haven't found the key to laying on my two still-sore sides. Even a shapely Weather Girl like myself can't produce a third side to retreat to when I lay down.

Some victories:

I'm eating solid food. The liquid protein and I are not "making it." I'm still looking for something that taste ok and stays put without giving me hives. Good old-fashioned lean protein has come to my aid. I'm keeping count and getting a fairly decent amount of protein in milk, chicken, fish, turkey and cheese. I've had a couple of protein bars that aren't half bad too. My hat's off to the new Carb Down 'milk beverage.' Yeah, sounds funny, but this stuff is fat free and packs 75 percent less carb calories than regular milk and has 12 grams of protein in a cup!

I've eaten out. In both cases, Scott and I split grilled fish entrees. I had my ounce or two of fish and he had everything else, well, I think I've had a couple of token veggies bites here and there. How hard is it to go into a restaurant and eat two ounces of food? Hmmm, and the alternative would be????? It's easy. The old rule of "if it don't fit, don't force it," gives way to "if it don't fit, it's not leaving with you anyway." I like the path of least resistance.

I've been to many (many) fast food restaurants. I'm not forcing Scott to change his nutritional habits and we went through a drive through Mickey Ds on the way home after being discharged from the hospital. In fact, we spent a couple of hours in McDonald's yesterday. This one has a sports bar and Internet cafe. A McDonald's with wide screen football, kid's toys PLUS wi-fi is the Spencer Family paradise. Everyone was happy and we only had to leave because it was time to eat.

I've held my baby. Ok, we rigged it. Yesterday in church, I held Cecilia while my sister supported the baby by her feet. No pain, no pain and sometimes nothing can substitute for being held by one's own mommy. I will have to go another week without her and that will continue to be the hardest part of this.

I'm ready to try something new. The week before surgery I interviewed for a part-time Web position at I start tomorrow and while I might need some help commuting to New Orleans at first, I'm so ready for a new adventure. I haven't quite figured out where I'll stash those tiny little protein meals, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

NooMee and a night on the town

NooMee was not what I expected and I'm sure that's good thing. It's not heavy on the "chubby pity party theme," but it is so incredibly cheesy that I found it amusing and Scott had a wonderful time.

I came to realize that both Scott and I have some things to come to grips with before I can be successful. The NooMee approach of support, information and cheesy fun may be the thing that wins Scott over to a new way of thinking and living.

I don't need a boost or a group hug, but I was very excited by the guest speakers who talked about cooking, nutrition and exercise. I got some tools -- some bullets for my gun. I could tell that I would get some great advantages to reaching my personal goals.

A chef from the Louisiana Culinary Institute gave a great talk on practical cooking solutions and ways to get the most nutritional value from foods that don't have negative counter points. The next speaker talked about nutrition and health changes. The last encouraged finding one's fitness level and the most advantageous exercise program. There's a Pilates class planned in a couple of weeks and I think Scott's just excited about that as I am.

You folks who know me best, know that I'm not shy or inhabited. Part of it is my family's way and the other part of that may be from years in journalism and communications -- I've always thought I was great. Becoming a "NooMee" will mean I will have to see the part of myself I've always avoided without doing any damage to all the wonderful things I really do like about myself.

After the support group, we had a nice dinner out. I felt it was kinda like Scott's reward for being so good and supportive. It was a good learning experience for both of us.

The chef warned at the beginning of his talk that portions in most restaurants were outrageously large. So we ordered one entree at Ruby Tuesdays. Scott had the nice huge salad and I slowly munched on a bell pepper ring. When the meal came, I took an ounce of grilled fish and one shrimp. I paced myself and really enjoyed it. The rice that came with the meal was horrible and neither of us missed anything leaving it on the plate. (Note to Ruby Tuesdays: There's no cheese sauce in rice pilaf.)

It will take some time getting used to the stares collected when you eat less than 2 ounces of food in a restaurant, but I really like what the checks look like.

I will not be defeated

Every now and then I have to kick myself or apply a not so gentle push. Most really kind people say "don't push yourself too hard," but they might not understand just how much mediocrity and failure scare me.

I rested and I moped. Then I got myself ready, washed my hair and started trying on clothes that only a few days ago had been too tight.

With or without Scott, I'm going to that support group meeting. He says he's coming and I keep struggling to put my best face forward.

I've never liked the idea of support groups. Just the thought of them reminds me of a taping of Oprah or Dr. Phil. I don't like public displays of pity and if I get any more aggressively confident the world might not survive it.

But I see this support group, NooMee , as a tool of survival. On the way out, I told Scott this surgery puts you at a point where success doesn't mean just losing weight -- It means you live -- and I can't afford even a moment of failure. I'm going to afford myself every single tool available.

I gave Scott the camera on my way out the door. Time to kick butt, take names.

Twinkles and Yaks

This has been an early day and quite a long one already. I was writing a post to a local list-serve for overweight people (fat acceptance group) to try to bring my story to anyone considering weight loss surgery. I'm no poster-child for the industry, I'm just trying to detail it "as real as possible."

While writing it, I became so violently ill that I figured eggs had souls and the one I ate for breakfast was a poltergeist. My husband brought me a Wendy's Biggie cup and suggested I walk it off. When I returned to my computer, the following email was waiting for me from my Uncle Everette. I'll bow the rest of this post to it:

Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE."

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part.

Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.

The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Perhaps that's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful. The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.

Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the 'called.' Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the things you acquire.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Counting the Costs of the Loss

I spent this entire day avoiding the blog because I was truly afraid of what I would write. It's not all high-fives and victory dances. Behind closed doors, it doesn't seem like a victory at all. Tallying the costs of a new start and this life revolution is a painful process.

The role I play in my family doesn't include holidays and vacations. Not being 100 percent for a few weeks will bring some things to the surface that we will deal with for a long time. My life has changed and I don't know if I can, in all fairness, expect anyone else to feel the same changes. My husband has, more than once, offered to get me burgers and fries when I express the need to get a meal out of the way.

Being offered 'a burger' when you are yaking on jello does tend to bring the homicidal maniac to the surface, but one has to remain open to the fact that his cries of "I keep forgetting," might be his way to remind me that he didn't sign up for this war and he shouldn't be drafted for any of the special missions. Fair? I'm working on it while sharpening all the household knives.

I was terribly disappointed to find that the 'average' recover time included me. I wasn't able to rebound one week post-op to write a sparking and brilliant business plan. I dropped out and the competition will roll on without me. But, of course, there's always next year.

My baby is singing with her cousins in the church choir and having a ball without her mommy. The only fun I considered today would have been to call the INS on the two 'visitors' hired to hang sheetrock at my new house. I really didn't, but where's the fun in that.

Coming back down to the 'average human' role once again left me extremely unmotivated to sip and snip at protein all day. I sipped a nap and snipped at benedryl. I got a call in the middle of my hate fest from my doctor's office. (It was really, really nice of them to care too -- grrr!) According to my stats, I needed 1900 calories a day and more than 80 grams of protein. Hmm, I wondered how my cup (huge, cup) of sugar-free hot chocolate skim milk fit into that picture. Even after snipping at some grilled chicken, I'm sure I'll be short today. But I'll end the day thinking ...

The .....protein will come out TOMORROW! Bet ya bottom dollar that TOMORROW, I'll eat some.