Saturday, March 19, 2005

Gaining Weight, Friends, Support

Just weeks ago, I feared going into a weight-loss frenzy and "wasting away" while sick. Ok, next time I say something that stupid, will someone please slap me up side my head.

It's official: I'm gaining weight.

Yes, I went to get my wound vac dressings changed and my doctor's nurse weighed me before I left. After Tuesday's news of an added 2 pounds, I was sure my new aggression would at least put me back at the 70-pounds loss spot. One work-out isn't going to do it, I guess. The scale showed a 1 pound gain.

I don't know if I should panic or just roll with the punches. I've retained some water, I've been sick and my activity level has been really limited (or that's my story and I'm sticking to it). I decided to start looking at what's going in my mouth and I actually did a day of calorie and carb counting (gasp!). That's a desperate step for me because I'm not obsessive "count every bite" type of loser.

The post below this one details a "day in the mouth" of Frances. I think I did OK when I was looking at it and maybe that's the key now that I'm near 70 pounds lost. I'm most surprised that my diet isn't as limiting in carbohydrates as I thought. In recent weeks, I've had a lot more and when cooking for guests, I even had three types of starches in one meal. But I do feel that just looking at it closely will help. If I've really hit a plateau, it will be time to get a fill for my lap band.

The pictures in this post represent my progress at six months and most of those of me were taken by my lap band little sister SueElla. "Lala Ella," as Cece calls her, and I met through Web site. I heard of her struggle on the message board and volunteered to be her "Angel." Angels are post-op patients who help and support pre-op members through the bariatric surgery process. SueElla and I grew up in the same parish so I knew we would have lots in common.

I'm very fortunate to have come in contact with lots of new friends through, but as far as being an angel, I've been more of the supportee from SueElla. Not long after we became friends, I became sick with the "staph thing" and she jumped right in keeping the other members updated on my progress while I was hospitalized and visiting me and my family. She and her husband have stayed with my family a couple of times and we all share a love for down-home chicken dishes and sweet potatoes.

SueElla and I put our husbands and my little power toddler to bed a few nights ago and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning doing "girl stuff." After doing our hair and makeup, we poised for each other and took tons of pictures. She's very photogenic, but I seem to show my awkwardness most in the camera's lens. My attempts to hold the camera in front of the bathroom mirror were particularly "flicted." I just couldn't get it.

I've gained a new family and support system that covers the entire country. This isn't an easy process and while I get plenty of support from family and friends, it's incredibly helpful to be in daily contact with other bariatric surgery patients and people struggling with weight problems. We share challenges and victories while creating a world where we are not "weak and lazy." We lived with all the stereotypes about obese people and in our community, we are just "people."

Every day on, I see people reaching their goals and lending a hand back to those still climbing the ladder of success. Having knowledgeable doctors, surgeons and nutritionists helps in this journey, but the words of someone who once weigh 300, 400, 500+ pounds carries more weight (excuse the pun).

I highly recommend this site for anyone struggling with a weight problem or researching treatment options for obese people.

Thanks for the giggles, little sister!

A Day in The Mouth

I'm trying to look at ways to tighten up my intake. Well, it does seem to be balanced, but I didn't have any "indulgences" today. Many days lately, I have. Any suggestions are appreciated -- please see the comments icon at the end of this post.

Friday, March 18, 2005
Food intake.................Calories .........Fat ........Carbs.....Protein

1/2 cup of Juice...............60.............0 .5.......12...............2

Breakfast -- Juice Plus shake

Lunch -- Veggie Wrap
Wrap ........................200............... 5 ........ 34 ............6
Tomato(½) ................17.................0.............6.......
Avocado.....................300 ...............30* ......30............ 4
Cheese ...................210 ................10......................... 12

1/2 cup of Juice........60.............0 .5.......12...............2

...........................1077............... 20*...... 121..............47

Dinner -- Pasta w/meat sauce
MacNCheese..............280............... 3.......... 35............. 10
Meat Sauce ...............200.............. 12 ............??........... 24
Garden Salad............. 50 .................0..............6...........1
Dressing ....................160................ 17............ ........ 1

subtotals ...................690.............. 32........... 43......... 36

Totals ......................1707............ 52* ............164 .......83

*Plus good fats in avacado
Some figures are estimates

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yippee, I Gained Two Pounds

Before you make reservations for my padded room, let me explain myself. First, it could have been much more and secondly, it marks the fact that my life might be getting back to normal – all's right with the world.

My weight loss surgeon and hernia repair specialist are one in the same, SupaDoc Karl Leblanc. After looking at my open wound site – which is healing at a remarkable rate – he seemed curious to see how the old weight loss was going. I tried to explain that I had just finished my cycle (water retention, eek) and that I was practically a stock holder in Blue Bell Ice Cream, Dr. Leblanc quipped his disapproval, but deep down, I do feel bad about letting him down a little.

True to my predictions, I have edged up two pounds in the last two weeks. So why am I excited about this regressive? Simple – it makes sense. I’ve battled through PMS and the water retention of a monthly cycle after going into surgery twice since the last “visitor.” I threatened to combat my rapid weight loss with ice cream sundae’s, but the first couple of weeks out of the hospital, I still couldn’t stomach them. Well, things got better and I did partake of some Moo-lineum Crunch. I also think I made fried chicken three times (I’m unsure of the exact times because I’m still reviewing the tapes).

Water retention, some hormonal eating = small weight gain. That’s one of the first logical observations in months. I was in extreme pain – it didn’t make sense. I ran a high fever for over a month – it was a mystery. I became critically anemic to the point of transfusions – the reasons were big question marks. I was sick and losing weight at a more than decent pace and I began to fear that I would be one of people who can’t control the weight loss and wastes away. I feared losing control over my own life.

Reality check: THIS WAS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO HAPPENING, but remember “this is Frances’ brain on drugs.”

When I saw those added pounds, there was no mystery. Finally, things make sense and I know I’m in control of both my success and failure. I was pretty excited when I left the doctor’s office and made a short-term goal of nixing those two pounds and a long-term goal of getting back on the losing track. I headed to a gym with my bestest bud, Kay.

If you talk to my doctors, let’s note that I went to “tour” the fitness center – I’m still attached to the wound vac device. I noted that the 4 foot tubing fit very well along side the cardio-fitness station. I didn’t do a lot of bouncing around, but I got a good cardio/fat burning workout and it felt GREAT!

I’ve not been in a regular workout routine since the start of my five pregnancies. I’m in my “baggy” blue jean shorts and huge T-shirt right smack in front of a mirror. Oooooh, I look good. “Go Frances, Go Frances, Go Frances, it’s ya birthday!”

No, I haven’t arrived, but I’m on route and that’s enough for me. All that blood circulation gave me that “workout” high and I was much more focused on my day’s meals. I started with a whey protein drink (whey, yes, whey), had eggs for lunch and ended if all off with a grilled chicken salad. I got a little hungry writing this in the middle of the night and had some sugar-free Nestle's chocolate mixed with milk. The Moo-lineum Crunch is still taking in the freezer, but I don’t speak that language. There are two types of cookies on top of the fridge and I’ll use them as treats for my energy-crazed toddler when she’s been good. (Oh, her teeth are sooo safe.)

So losing a couple of pounds isn’t so bad if you use it to motivate yourself, start afresh and set a path. I know time is precious, but those “slow” two weeks may be the only emotional adjustment I can make through this ordeal. Times are tight, so I guess that makes you all my collective shrink. Thanks for listening – I feel so much better.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I Feel Like a Phony Sometimes

I can not tell a lie -- I tried it once and it came out the truth. That's a bunch of BS, of course, but I'm so overwhelmed by "life" and growing in grace lately that I feel like a phony when dealing with all the kind words and compliments on my weight loss.

It's not that I haven't "lost" weight and overcome some adversity -- I just don't feel comfortable taking credit for being some type of "Joan of Fat" standing alone against a mountain of challenges. I'm far from alone and sometimes, I feel like I'm being carried through the worst of it.

I think when I get behind my typing fingers, everything comes out funny and witty. Truth is, I cry, I complain and I fall down. I would like to dedicate this column to the ugly truth and the people who make it come out beautiful in the wash. They deserve your admiration.

Seventy pounds or so: At a little past six months, I had lost 70 pounds. A week later, I'm sure I've gained 3 or 4 pounds. It was a week of PMS, NowMS and I think I cooked fried chicken three times. I'm notorious for water-weight gain, so I'll have to wait to see how things shape up when the bloating clears.

Emotional giant or mental midget: At times, I've been the biggest baby. I felt sorry for myself and tried to ask my husband for a divorce so I wouldn't "bring him down" financially. Well, he knew the drugs were talking and kinda just ignored me with a giggle. I felt horrible for the amount of time Reality Doc (E. Melancon) and SupaDoc (K. Leblanc) were spending on me and I tried to "fire" myself from both of them. Ya ever feel like a big fat burden? "This is my last visit!" They calmly ignored me and continued to do what was best for me. And finally, for the nurse at Vista Surgical Hospital who heard me say I would "rather not go on"... I doubt if I could really hang myself with all that plastic tubing and IV lines. I WAS JUST BEING A BIG BABY (the tubing package says it has a maximum capacity of 125 pounds, anyway).

Losing the weight: If you've have ever tried losing your extra 20 pounds, you might be impressed by tossing 70 in less than half a year. Truth: When you weigh 350 pounds, the initial loss does come quickly. My last 20 pounds will be like pulling teeth.

Unlike the diets of old, I'm losing weight and eating my own cooking or the cooking of our favorite restaurants (before the bills starting mounting). I've found that a lot of protein supplements can be replaced by "chewable" protein if you have the time to rope it, kill it and cook it. I think I was very blessed by meeting Executive Chef Ed Rhinehart several months ago. He's taught me so much and my entire family has benefited from raw vegan dishes and healthy ways to prepare lean protein. So, I cook, I eat -- I really don't suffer. It does take more time to prepare healthy meals and eat at home, but it's been a learning experience and sometimes a wonderful adventure. NUTS AND LIVE FOODS RULE -- Thanks Ed!

Cheating: That word is not in my vocabulary. Indulgence? Yes, I know this word. I have "planned indulgences." When faced with chemical additives in sugar-free ice cream, I have chosen just old fashioned Blue Bell for my family. I can't afford to double shop for food and I will not feed my toddler something that will give her gas and runny stools. Nope. Instead, I'm trying to practice moderation in my indulgences. Sweets can remain in the house for days without being consumed or I just can skip some of the treats. Moderation doesn't work for everyone and I'm not suggesting that you go out and buy ice cream and cookies if you can't dole them out slowly and responsibly. I feel that WHEN I reach maintenance, there will be no shocks to my system because I feel I can continue balanced, moderated eating habits for the rest of my life. I've only exiled the following foods from my kitchen and plate: sliced bread (wraps rule, though), biscuits (have you ever push the nurse-call button behind a biscuit?), over-cooked chicken, beef (anything), canned vegetables (when I run out of all those given to me at Christmas time) and carbonated drinks.

There was a time when I feared I might start losing weight so quickly I wouldn't be in control of it. Being sick and getting all these comments about "looking great" became a little overwhelming. I may have attempted to sabotage my weight loss just to get some control over my own life. I'm getting better (emotionally also) and I think I can lose more than 100 pounds in my first full year with this lap band.

Growing in grace: The Bible defines grace as unmerited favor -- not earned. I feel like I've received more than my serving of this dish. My weight-loss support system is huge. It started with my family and doctors' practices. When I've been a whinny baby, only my husband, the Vista Hospital staff, the MISI staff and the Associates in Internal Medicine staff have witnessed it and they have all been incredible.

The support system of and its members has always been a constant in this journey. I received pages of email while in the hospital and I've met and spoken to several members who are no longer Internet friends -- they are just good friends.

My pals in journalism became my extended family and did everything from preparing meals, keeping me encouraged and combing my baby's hair. You may think it's a God-less profession, but ... oh yeah, that's right ... it is. (smile)

My favorite flavor of ice cream is still Moo-lineum Crunch. It just lasts a lot longer in the freezer. Ok, I feel less like a weight-loss phony now.

What's next in my journey? I want to play tennis, I want to workout -- I want to do all the things I can't do right now attached to a wound vac. There's a lesson in human nature there. I hope those desires hold when the machine goes.

My open wound is healing at a remarkable speed and I hope to be free of the wound VAC machine within a month. Check back to see if I'm playing tennis then.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Six Months, 70 pounds and lots of prayer

I feel that I'm finally ready to start regular posting once again. I have a ton of things to get "out of my system" and I feel if I wrote everyday I couldn't adequately explain to my village how much I appreciate their support.

Former first lady Hilary Clinton once said it takes a village to raise a child. I need to steal from that concept because I feel it has truly taken a village to keep alive, sane and, finally, smiling and fighting again. People who months ago were perfect strangers, have been touched by our Lord to keep me going even when I felt defeated and ready to give up.

My current struggle is not related to my weight loss surgery, but I have come to realize that it is a part of my journey. I've been faced with a unique struggle and I'm sure it, like life-altering struggles of the past, will shape who I am for the rest of my life.

So, here's the wellness rundown:

Mega-infection at hernia repair site -- I had the strongest IV germ-killers in the hospital and I'm still on a two-month course of antibiotics. I think this puppy is going down for the count.

Open wound -- Still open, but closing remarkably well, I hear. A wound that seemed the size of cereal bowl is now about the size of my cell phone. I was scheduled for surgery on March 9, but prayers, my whining and pleading and a powerful healing "spurt" combined to beat SupaDoc down and he finally agreed that this wound would close soon and not need surgery "at this time."

Wound maintenance -- I'm attached to this wonderful, but annoying machine 24/7. It's called a wound VAC. The older method of changing dressings daily and letting the patient keep an open wound under gauze and bandages really scares me and I'm terribly grateful that I haven't had to endure this process. The VAC provides constant negative pressure on the wound and promotes healing while fighting infection. I have to keep up with about 4 feet of tubing that drains any fluid that the former crater produces. It has made for some interesting conversations with Cecilia, age 2. She now can say and understand "sick tummy" and no matter how many times a day she sees it, she gasps and asks "are you OK?" My props to Cecilia, though, because she's catching on. My sympathies to the woman who loudly asked me in a room full of people "is that urine [in the tubing]?" Come on, do you have to have a M.D. to know that urine doesn't come from one's belly button?

Anemia -- Well, I'm still black and the non-brown parts of me have resumed the appropriate color. It was interesting seeing white people with more color than me, but I can attest to the fact that white hands, eye lids and lips didn't raise my credit score. Now that I'm not a staph colony, my anemia seems to be improving, but I will always have chronic anemia.

Blood pressure, blood sugar, mental stability -- ditto, ditto. It took a couple of weeks, but I'm calming down nicely. I first had the insane fear that this bout with unhealthiness would cost me everything that I had. I accessed everything that I had and decided that few creditors would be coming after those assets with an eye dropper so I actually had little to worry about.

Weight -- why, thank you for asking! One week after having my 6 months banderversary, I have lost 70 pounds. Being the ungrateful snot that I am, I've complained that at least 10 of those pounds might be the easy "sick" pounds that might come from being white as a sheet while skipping in banana shoes over freshly-dug graves. As soon as I could stomach it, I've tried to "slow" things down by eating a few Rocky Road shakes and my favorite Moo-lenium Crunch ice cream. (If you've known me since childhood, yes, there's really an ice cream named "Moo-lenium.")

I'm Ok with the slightly rapid weight loss experienced in February and I'm ready to take those 70 pounds and move forward to my first 100 pounds. I'm less than 15 pounds away from 250 and that will be a full 100 pounds under my highest weight ever of 350. I haven't decided the significance of that.

I'm pretty excited about my 6 months pictures. I broke my glasses in my hospital room and I have a bad case of "dry pillow head." I have new "small, sassy" glasses and I'm working my nerve up to cutting my hair before taking another picture. Well, I have to use some kind of bait to keep you blog readers coming back for more.

Thank you for your support.