Friday, January 28, 2005

I’m Alive!: Sorta

This pass week reminds me of the story of someone facing tremendous danger. They said: "My first fear was that I was going to die. My second and greater fear was that I wasn’t."

It’s been a tough week and not wanting to leave any suspense on the blog, and I been fairly quiet except on A week ago, I had a chest X-ray and it was followed by an upper GI, blood work and abdominal CAT scan. My mysterious pain started right below my chest, spread to my tummy and by last weekend, I had pain from my fingers to my toes and several days of fever.

My week started with SupaDoc and ruling out any problems with my lap band and it ended with Reality Doc finding a path to combat anemia – the only for sure thing ailment presenting itself.

Oh, Reality Doc = Eric Melancon – not melon cone!

SupaDoc = Karl Leblanc - not la blank!

After ruling out just about everything imaginable, we were left with extremely iron-related blood levels. Dang, I thought I was doing so well!

I am using vitamins, nutritional supplements and lots of prayer, but I need more (the prayer too). It’s a case of not holding on to enough and becoming anemic.

Funny, my PCP also says my pain will improve when I lose some weight. I have regained a few pounds lost in some 2-weeks of yo-yoing, but I’m still down at least 51 pounds by his chart and scale. That’s OK, I’ll bite, let’s lose some weight.

Anybody out there got any suggestions on anemia? I’m taking a big huge horse pill twice a day, trying a liquid diabetes medicine and the other stuff I talked about last week.

Oh, all you exercise ‘gym rats’ out there: I do realize the importance of exercise and I do walk and I’m really hoping to move up to health club-like activities when I’m not incapacitated with pain and anemia. It’s been really bad and it’s always lots of fun when someone opts in, "hey, ever thought about exercising?"

It’s a common myth I’m seeing. Most people think that people have weight loss surgery because they are against diet and exercise. Be warned, I’ll have PMS next week and I won’t be responsible for any folks mowed down by a late model red SUV. (If I’m chasing you on foot, you do stand a fighting chance, though.)

Truth be told, weight loss surgery without a lifestyle change in both diet and amount of exercise will probably not be successful. It’s not the easy way out, it’s just the "only" way for many of us.

The pictures through out this entry are from our walking tour of the Baton Rouge zoo. My exercise included pulling Pink Power Girl away from the talking bird exhibit. And yes, I feel as bad as I look, sorry.

I’m beginning to worry about my Valentine’s Day goal of lowering my body fat percentage by five points. My journey to wellness now includes raising my iron count to double digits and getting the minimum levels of hemoglobin.

Well, at least I do a better job with Cecilia.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wellness and goals not defined by a scale

I’m so proud of me. At nearly five months into this weight loss journey, I have a routine!

It’s not the best routine and I’m sure it’s not the most successful one, but I’m about to stick what’s left of my chest out and tell you what I’m doing toward my health and wellness goals. First of all, have you noticed the new fancy term: WELLNESS. Wellness is my new best friend.

I’m not trying to become skinny, shapely or gorgeous, my goal is wellness. I’ve heard about this ‘wellness’ before and I always associated it with psychobabble on the grand and corporate level. Nay, nay, bunny rabbit! With a little hard work and lots of prayer, you too can achieve wellness.

I know now that I can lose weight. The pounds they are a dropping, but wellness will not accompany that Size 9 pair of jeans. Folks can be thin and "unwell." Kinda stinks, but I don’t make the rules; I just write about them.

Truth be told, at almost 60 (unofficial results, keep your Lotto tickets) pounds down the line, I still have diabetes, hypertension, a weird back ‘thang’ and a new weird front ‘thang.’ The thangs are aches and pains which are most likely associated with the colder weather or the fact that there’s a spring loose in my biological clock and someone thinks I’m approaching 40. If I were, per chance, going to be 39 this year, I might be feeling some age and weight-related ailments.

Wellness is not a status on the scale or the number of rings you will find inside my trunk.

Wellness is a way to look at my entire body and striving to achieve that which will make me look, feel and BE healthy. The ‘be’ is the catcher. You may think I look much better, but my blood pressure meter still displays a skull and cross bones when I come near it.

Two weeks ago, I made a vow to concentrate on those things the scale couldn’t bring me. The first addition to my routine was apple cider vinegar. The apple cider vinegar near the salad dressings at your local grocer has long been associated with a wide range of health benefits. If you recall "an apple a day, keeps the doctor away..." Well, don’t fear the doctors, it’s the undertaker who doesn’t dispatch a return ticket.

Way back yonder, before I escaped from Texas, I was in water aerobics class and the guru swore by this apple cider vinegar. Heck, it was cheap, so I tried it. Many of the ladies thought it helped them lose weight, but I soon discovered an undeniable affect, and I quote: "It made ya pee like a hose!"

(Excuse my crudeness)

I’ll add a few links below to debatable cures associated with ACV, but what seems most certain is that it’s a great way to detox and rid your muscles of excess water. I decided to go back to the ACV because of my long-term problems with water retention and high blood pressure. I don’t know if it’s a miracle cure, but it’s helping me with the retention.

I’m trying to use a teaspoon or two before each meal. In the morning, I have a heaping tablespoon in a small, 1/4 cup of warm water. I heard this helps, but if pressed for proof, I will say "DUH?"

Next, I followed up on my plans to reincorporate some type of protein/vitamin drink into my daily routine. Those of you who have followed the blog since its start, know that I swore off the high protein drinks after enduring months of allergy-provoked hives. Not only does most of this stuff taste like nuclear waste, but it was also filling my unwell body with chemicals and strange sweeteners that kept me scratching and calling my poor doctors all hours of the day and night. I sent SuperDoc a long list of resources citing the harmful affects of one particular ingredient. He looked at me, smirked and said "you found all that out...go back and research until you find something that works for you; then tell me about it."

Here’s a man who knows how to deal with a smartbutt with a high-speed connection and too much time on her hands.

And the winner is JUICE PLUS COMPLETE. Ok, I cheated a little. I’ve used Juice Plus before and I already knew a few things about it. First, it tastes wonderful and even my sweet-a-holic husband goes ape for it. Second, it’s not just high protein, it’s high wellness. I researched, read labels and eliminated products and I came back to Juice Plus.

I feel like a tree-hugger, but the big seller for JPC is the fact that it’s natural. No articificial sweeteners, no chemicals from outer space – just powdered real food. Food is good, right?

JPC isn’t super high in protein, 13 grams a scoop, but I gravitated toward it because of its list of vitamins and key nutrients that I would have to get from another set of secret potions or multi-vitamins anyway. With my protein, I get 50 percent of most vitamins I need in a day and 100 percent of the Vitamin C. When I saw it also contain easily digested iron, I was sold. I do need to clarify a few things, though. Unlike many bariatric patients, I’ve been left with no malabsorption issues and I can take all my vitamins and protein by mouth. With the JPC, I get 20 grams of protein (cause I take it with milk) and the rest of my protein comes from, as I like to say, "stuff that used to be kicking" and dried beans and nuts. Vegetarians, please don’t flame me, but meat is good and I do chose to get my 80 grams of protein the old fashioned way. (I hit it on the streets like a good hillbilly.)

Honestly, while on the way to my new house in the sticks, a mama dear and her twins ran in front of the car a few months ago. I’m truly torn because they are cute as buttons, but if someone else dresses them, lean protein is lean protein.

Back to the supplements. Scott and I bought a four-month supply of Dutch chocolate and French vanilla. I don’t think it will last four months because Scott drinks them like dessert. He’s gone all ‘smoothie’ with them and adds bananas and strawberries and crushed ice, etc. (He would make a good bartender – he’s available, by the way.) My shake of choice contains chocolate JPC, milk and instant coffee – ice mocha in the morning, oh yeah!

I think I’ll just scan the label and write another post about it. The highlights are the fact that it contains only natural fructose, no dairy products and has that extra fiber kick that someone’s been missing in her diet. Folks well-versed in wellness protocols will also recognize chromium and acidophilus (aids digestion).

I don’t want the journey to wellness sermon to end without giving a shout-out to BEANS! Yes, beans and I have kissed and made up. Beans are protein-packed and are sooo easy on the old budget. We brought dried red beans for 98 cents and black-eyed peas were four for $1. With protein exceeding 14 grams a serving, it just makes good wellness sense. The only thing better, is both meat and beans or chili. My homemade chili gives me almost half of the 80 grams of protein recommended by my doctor. Now I call it "protein soup."

And how has this search for wellness turned out? Well, only time will truly tell, but I’ve been averaging a 10 pound loss per month. After incorporating these items and doing some upper body exercises, I seem to have doubled my results to a near 10-pound loss in two weeks. This is quite unofficially, however, the real results come on Feb. 14 when we announce a new official weight loss and see if I met the body fat challenge of lowering my percentage by 5 percent. I can’t wait.

For more on wellness and nutrition see:

Friday, January 14, 2005

I'm No Overnight Success

My desire to get me healthy is getting to be part desperate need, part ego at this point. I finally went to see my internist (I call him "Reality Doctor") today and after weeks of denial and avoidance, I had to face the health music.

I found myself just wanting to "the star" shining through with perfect scores in everything: weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, shiny white teeth.

My blood pressure has been going from moderately high to "oh-can-I-dig-the-hole-now?" high for several weeks now and I keep telling myself that it's getting better -- I just check it at the wrong times. Friday afternoon was apparently one of those wrong times. After the first reading of 160/104, I was given a few minutes to breathe deeply and relax. OH, WHAT PRESSURE TO PERFORM!

After my trip to deep breathing land it rose to 170/114. I assured Nurse Shannon that it was only "lab coat hypertension" and I was afraid of her boss, Reality Doctor. Reality Doctor is the coolest dude and when I grow up I want to be just like him, but I do feel the need to be GREAT every time I see him. He seems to lean toward the other weight loss surgery options and I really want to prove to him that the right patient (me) can make this lap band thing work. It's an ego thing.

I've lost 20 pounds since I saw him last and I don't think I'm a weight-loss failure, it just points to the fact, again, that this is no overnight or miracle cure. I was hoping that the rules of life didn't apply to me and I could be drug-free by five months.

I got a new crop of meds and I think it's darn time I stop thinking about that scale and get these numbers down. My blood sugar A1C (index of a long-time range of blood sugar level) has dropped almost an entire point and I'm happy to have that. I'm having some bad back and hip pain that may be siaticia or a recurring back problem. The doctor said since I've lost a lot of weight, there are changes in the way I carry my weight and that might be causing the pain. Hmm, how fair is that: I got back pain because I was too fat and I now got back pain because I'm losing weight?

Reality Doc doesn't make the rules, he just deals the cards and keeps me aware that this is a process. (By the way, the earlier blog entries identified Reality Doc as Eric Melancon -- I really should stop giving out new names, but it amuses me.) If you just read "Me-lan'-cone" you are, no doubt, not from Louisiana.

Mama calls my doctors "Boudreaux and Thibodaux," partially because I talk about them so much and also because they have solid Cajun names: Melancon and Leblanc. All jokes aside, they give South Louisiana medicine a good name.

So I have my marching orders and a new set of goals to squeeze in before we announce on Valentine's Day if I met the body fat challenge. I need to lower my blood pressure (take your medicine, stupid), lower my blood sugar (take our medicine, stupid) and work through the back pain (don't ask to borrow those meds, they are all mine!)

Oh, wow, I'm so proud of myself ... I didn't list "lose some more weight."

Friday, January 07, 2005

A Big Rose and One Hefty Thorn

The Apostle Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians of a "thorn in the flesh." A weakness, a pest -- something that he longed to be removed from his life, but something that he carried to his grave.

Paul (no last name given) spends a great deal of time pondering his pesky pain, his perturbing predicament and even asks three separate times that God perform a bypass, of sorts, on his life and free him from the proverbial thorn.

The Lord sends him an answer and it's a "no." No, he won't remove the thorn, but he will help Paul understand it. "In your weakness, I am strong," God says and Paul begins to realize that the thorn is a good thing. It keeps him humble, keeps him human and, I would like to think, keeps him from getting "the big head." The "getting the big head" translation, of course, comes from the RFV: Revised Frances Version.

There's a serious truth here that I hope I don't miss it with too much smirking. I'm a strong, confident young woman and, despite my extreme weight, I battle an ego just like skinny, rich folk. My biggest (OK, second biggest) fear in this weight-loss journey is losing my thorn.

My weight has always been, well, a weight around my neck. I wasn't the most popular kid or the one voted most likely to succeed because I was the fat kid. Years of teasing later followed by years of health problems made me sensitive, I think, to suffering and darn resilient. Becoming thin is some pretty scary stuff.

Both of these pictures make me cringe. Things are improving, but I've always avoided pictures of myself like the plague. I don't see this person and I guess I don't like this person -- but I love myself.

Hmmm? Yeah, I outta put the pipe down for a second.

I love Frances cause she's fun, witty and she doesn't have any weaknesses -- except she's never completely dealt with who she is; all 300 plus thorns weakening her flesh and shortening her life.

I'm forcing pictures in my journal because the camera doesn't lie (much) and how can I move forward if I don't know where I've been and my current location?

The picture on the left was taken at the beginning of this journey. Even though I can tell you I was sick and had a serious case of "pillow head," I never thought it was going to see the light of day. After 50 pounds, I'm still quite embarrassed. I decided to post them both last night to force myself to see how serious this problem had become and keep me motivated to take a better picture and therefore continue to be healed of a long list of ailments.

I'm ready to give up my thorn, but I think the sting will remain for life. The sting of extreme morbid obesity will keep me working even after I've reached my goal and I truly hope it will keep me reaching a hand backward to people climbing the same ladder.

Food note: Speaking of protein supplements. I recall suffering with the yucky protein drinks that gave me hives months ago and tonight's meal makes me smile. Do you know that one serving of red beans has 19 grams of protein and tons of fiber? If you can't cook dried beans, shoot me an email. Mix in some lean sausage at 8-9 grams per serving and you are packing some pretty potent protein power -- Louisiana style!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

True Confessions: It hurts

I'm not in the P.R. business for the weight-loss industry, but I might as well be. I get so many pats on the back and "atta girls" these days that I struggle with any sign that I might not be basking in Perfectland.

I've been living in the adjoining community of Painville for a couple of days and I'm slightly amused at how difficult it's getting for me to acknowledge that something's wrong. I can write that this surgery isn't an overnight cure, but there's a strong temptation to pretend that it has solved everything from PMS to the cracks in my new driveway.

And I don't think it's all the fault of my delusions and denial. All my life, every ill I had was associated with excess weight. I remember the Jordanian doctor with the heavy accent leaning over my bed when I was in college: "Why you have headache? You think you gain weight and it give you headache?"

And so started a lifetime of weight-related medical questions:

  • With a Southern accent: You got painful cramps, hon? You think your weight gain might have something to do with it?
  • With no accent: You got infertility? You think that extra weight gain coupled with the fact that you are currently not seeing anyone (hence, not having sex) might have something to do with it? Let's concentrate on losing some weight and finding a father, whataya say? (Five pregnancies later, I must say finding a father was a miracle cure for conception woes.)
  • With a jerk's accent: You got degenerative back disease? Well, it's never going to get better until you lose some weight. There's nothing I can do for you. (I later formally requested that this practice "bite me" a little lower than the disc rupture at L3-4.)

Of course some of that stuff has been embellished cause it's 1 a.m., the plain truth is so dull and Lortab seems to bring out my creative side, but it does illustrate that I've been told everything comes back to weight and I've finally had some real success at weight loss. So why do I hurt?

I guess Dr. Leblanc forgot to use his magic wand on August 23 and some things will still have to wait their turn in this progress. It just doesn't happen overnight. Duh, Frances!

Until all becomes perfect in this world, I have to pick up the phone and tell "reality doctor" (PCP, Dr. Melancon) that my lower back pain is nearly unbearable and my blood pressure is a tad "high." Ok, my definition of tad: I woke in the night and took it. The cuff reinflated itself three times before finally popping off my wrist and flying across the room. Tad.

My rationale in this blog entry was to first admit to you (my faithful readers) that I'm not a Perfect 10 and give myself enough grace to admit that I might need some help. Couldn't I just pick up the phone? Your answer to that question will be truly based on how long you have known me. If you've never met me, let's just say I'm a little "ambitious" about everything and my head is "hard like rock."

Pain is a great wake up call. Right now I'm getting the message that 50 pounds is just a start and I still have lots of work to do as I take the proverbial one day at a time.

Later note: Hey, I didn't want to burn another day's entry on this, but I spent most of the day in bed and I feel much better. Good thing, my PCP's office is out until Friday. I think I will live until then. I'll follow the sage advice. Me: "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I over-do it." Doctor: "Don't do it." (and duh!)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Hello 2005 ... Goodbye Pink Lacies!

It's a quiet New Year's Day and both Cecilia (2 years, 2 months) and I (2 many to count) are trying to get over a nasty cold/virus thing. We seems to have the same thing and while I feel like I'm on death's door, Cecilia is bouncing around like a crazed chicken on crack.

A few minutes ago, Cece came out of our office/junk room sporting her pink footed pajamas and my fancy lace unmentionables (but, hey, if I mention them, I guess they need a new name) around her neck like a cape.

"Scott," I cried out, "do you know your daughter is wearing my pink lace drawers?"

Scott's in video game mode, but he offered to retrieve them if I liked. I declined since the lacies (circa size 26/28) don't stay up anymore and it seemed to make her happy for a hot pink second.

Cece flew through the house with the lacies flying in the breeze behind her like the superhero Pink Power Girl.

Next, she let them hang off one shoulder and the lacies became a royal slash. I was so proud to think of my little girl being named the U.N. ambassador to Victoria Secretland.

Soon, she tired of them and left them in the middle of the great room floor. I decided it was time to say goodbye to the wide-and-delicates, but I picked them up and put them away just in case the Jehovah Witnesses (our only holiday guests) came back in the morning.

Yes, this is as deep as my New Year's ponderings have gotten.

I'm excited about this new year's start, but I think it would be very sad if my goals centered around being able to shop for clothes in the "regular size" stores. What I have gained is so much more important than size 9 jeans. Cecilia is my miracle child and giving her an active, healthy mommy is like winning the lottery. I would like to eliminate my need for blood pressure and diabetes medicine and take many long, long walks to the park with Pink Power Girl. Whether I'm wearing my same old clothes held tight by safety pins doesn't factor into my happiness equation.

I plan to concentrate less on the scale and more on my body fat percentage and building some good muscle mass. If I gain some weight in doing so, that's fine with me. I plan to use Juice Plus supplements to aid in my nutritional goals, but I will eat, drink and consume good old fashioned food -- no fasts, no all-liquid regimens, no elimination of one particular food group.

That may come as surprise to many folks unfamiliar with bariatric surgery. It's no "overnight cure." Developing a new lifestyle is crucial to success and survival. One must read labels, plan meals, keep a balanced view of food and still deal with temptation.

So far, we have achieved a few important changes. We lean toward lighter bread alternatives and we are now stocked up on baked crackers, tortillas and flavored wraps. Snacking isn't forbidden in our household, there's just more choice and more protein.

The biggest temptation that I'm finding hard to resist is rushing the weight loss. It seems that most folks interested in weight loss have the one-year limit in their minds -- 100 pounds in one year or 150 pounds in one year. Don't get me wrong, it is quite possible, but I don't want to deny my human nature for one year thinking "in just one year it will all be over!"

I truly believe the gradual changes will eventually be changes for life; a long, long life. My doctor says this is a 2-3 year process and that's not really a long time. I tried to carry a baby to term and was pregnant on-and-off for almost six years. It's amazing how short that times seems now and I really would do it all over again (if I had not had my "get-out-of-pregnancy-alive" card retracted).

As the New Year dawns, I guess my focus is on quality of life and family -- not a year from now, but right now. I didn't make the cabbage, but I have a huge pot of black-eye peas waiting. We will team that up with sauteed veggies and sweet potato casserole from last night. Here's to a fresh, tasty 2005 full of life and good times and no more parachute lacies!

Editor's note: The images in this post were added a week later.