Monday, October 31, 2005

I Can Do This!

Last week I decided to go to the doctor, face the weight gain music and move onward as aggressively as possible. I went to see SupaDoc, weighed and got a much-awaited fill. The news: I gained nearly 10 pounds since mid-August.


Before you send for the goofy wagon, please let me explain. Everything but the scale shows the signs of victory and this is what we term an NSV or ‘non-scale victory.’ My body composition analysis shows that I have picked up 8-10 pounds, but reduced my body fat by nearly 20 percent. My body fat percentage is down to under 34 percent after remaining at 50-51 percent since I’ve been trying to lose weight with my lap band (Adjustable Gastric Banding).

If you get a second, you might check out how the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer works. This machine has never been my friend before. It gives a weight and then estimates what percentage of ones total weight is fat, muscle and water. There are about 3-4 ways to compute these figures. The most accurate is the use of a chamber which requires getting weighed under water. Many gyms use skin fold calibers that look like plastic fat pinchers. I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons of the methods, but I do feel Tanita gives me a decent point of reference to at least compare how my weight composition has changed over the last 14 months.

According to the device, my fat weighed more than 140 pounds on last analysis. Last week’s figures showed my 34 percent fat total weighed 99 pounds. That’s a reduction of 40 pounds of fat. Muscle mass and water are both heavier than fat, so the end result is that I’ve lost fat, gained muscle and I’m heavier. My goal of being under 30 percent body fat is well within my reach.

One might debate the benefit of this NSV. Before you challenge me to a battle, please remember that it means I may or may not be swifter in catching you, but once I do, the 280+ pounds feels the same sitting on you despite its exact composition.

So, how did I celebrate my new-found good news/bad news?

First, I made a commitment to experimenting with new types of fresh vegetable dishes. We’ve had spaghetti squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, bell peppers, spinach and mushrooms, just to name a few.

I’m increasing my water goals to 80-100 ounces per day. That’s not too hard, but I think this will help as it gets colder because I usually dry out in fall/winter.

I’m still attempting 80 grams of protein or more per day. Drinking lots of milk and my Oatmeal-Yogurt Crunch for breakfast makes this figure easy to reach and surpass each day. Our other protein sources include Juice Plus Complete, cheese, peanut butter and some fun grilling experiments. I can eat freshly grilled steak with no problems. I can also eat MY OWN fried chicken, and this is more a stipulation of my marriage contract than an unbearable craving. Fried chicken purchased outside the home will just not do for either of us.

I’ve re-incorporated sliced bread. My baby’s entering a peanut butter and jelly phase so I started looking for some ‘family friendly’ bread that everyone could be happy with. Nature’s Own Light Honey Wheat won out because it’s tasty with 80 calories for two slices with 5 grams of protein. See how those 80 grams of protein can be easy to attain?

I’ve demoted my milk choice from lowfat/fat free Organic Valley to Carb Down fat-free milk beverage. This was a tough choice. SupaDoc once asked why I still drank milk with fat and I said I needed to buy one milk choice for my entire family. Well, since both Cecilia and I can go through 1-2 half gallons a week, this excuse just wasn’t holding up. I’m buying one of each instead of buying two of the same kind. (Shhh… don’t tell SupaDoc he was right). Carb Down milk contains no fat and much less sugar, carbohydrates and milk sugars than even fat-free milk. A serving of Carb Down milk contains 45 calories and 8 grams of protein. Duh, Frances …Just drink the milk!

I have plans to start a test-kitchen series on my blog really soon showing the steps to create some of these healthy dishes. I have pictures and recipes ready to go. Most of them are vegetables because I’m craving fresh vegetable dishes right now (yes, Toto, we are NOT in Kansas any more).

Finally, a few days after my 39th birthday and the day after my second fill, (I have 1 cc in my 4 cc band), we purchased a family fitness tool. Scott and I have been riding separately, but rarely together because we have a 3-year-old hitchhiker. We now have a two-seater child trailer attached to my bicycle. I can now ride my bike up and down hills pulling trailer and 40 pound preschooler. (Ouch, was that my back?).

Yes, it hurt a lot at first, but I don’t need a babysitter or nursery to get my exercise. Where I go, she goes and she adds some extra resistance to my cycling workouts. SupaDoc’s nurse Shari deserves the praise for making that wonderful suggestion. I guess I can hand it down to her when she gets married and has two or three kids. (Shh … don’t tell [single, very thin] Shari about these plans)

Cece thinks the cycling is really fun, so we have a win-win situation here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bikes, birthdays and bands

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m strange. If my last name was Normal, my first name would be Abby. (Abby Normal…lol – my favorite line from Young Frankenstein)

I get real reflective around my birthday and low and behold, there’s one breathing down my neck. Cecilia Grace, my miracle baby, just turned 3. I’ve heard much about the limited “unprompted” vocabulary of 3-year-olds. Less than an hour ago, I was reviewing an old weight loss surgery newsletter and Cecilia ran over to my laptop: “That’s Docta De Blan. Look Docta De Blan!”

Ok, I’m saying my preschooler, unsolicited, identifies bariatric surgeons. Is this normal?

About this time last October, I got my first lap band fill. ‘Docta De Blan ( SupaDoc Karl LeBlanc to most adults) and my family kept in close contact after that point for numerous health crisis including five surgeries between November and May. So, your child talks about Santa and the Easter Bunny; my child talks about bariatric surgeons.

Since it’s better late than never, I’m trying to incorporate more exercise in my routine. Well, that’s only partially true. After more than a month with our car in the shop, my husband and I blew the dust off our bicycles and I’ve been taking regular spins around my subdivision. I’m taking it real slow, but it’s great to be on a bike weighing less than 300 pounds and not recovery from surgery. Even before the bike rides, I was starting to make some weight loss progress again. I’ve dropped about 6 pounds since the end of the Hurricane Rita Saga. Weight, fat, water – I wouldn’t care if it were whipped cream – the scale is moving.

I’m so ready for good things to happen, that I made an appointment for a fill. If you’re counting, I’ve had one ½ cc fill, one complete unfill and a return to the ½ cc in the last 14 months since my weight loss surgery. It’s not normal, but it’s what I’ve had to do because of my hernia repairs, staph infection and open wound issues. I’m not going to be greedy; another ½ cc will be fine with me. Just a dab will do me, but of course that’s up to Docta De Blan.

I know my capacity varies, but most of the time, it’s more than I should consume. I have made great strides, though, on not drinking during meals. My solid capacity varies. After a slow and well-chewed burger tonight, I still felt hungry. I’m sure this was just exhaustion and stress, but it seemed like something was missing. I had a piping hot bowl of sautéed spinach and Portobello mushrooms. No, this also isn’t normal, but please refer to the beginning of this post.

Abby Normal is getting old.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Victory: Water, weight and waiting

I admitted defeat a few days ago without even realizing it. I said I could never follow all the water rules without a 12-step program. After one of my surgeries this year, swallowing and swelling were dual conflicts for me. I started regular “sipping” with meals to keep food from getting stuck and later it turned into fairly heavy drinking with meals; especially when eating out.

I never went back to the “no drinking with meals” rule and I could no longer justify all my reasons to ignore the instructions. Dr. Mark Hausmann once explained that drinking with meals leads to more overeating because the water helps to wash food out of the stomach at a faster rate and results in a delay in that “full feeling.” I have a lot of trust in Dr. Hausmann, but I always thought my swelling and wound issues made me unique and maybe a little liquid would keep me from getting sick while eating. Well, I still get sick sipping water at times so I decided to score this debate: Hausmann – 1; Spencer – 0.

I decided to follow Nike’s advice and “just do it.” Instead of sipping water with my meals for the last two days, I’ve concentrated on thorough chewing and smaller bites. Results: No productive burps or pain from stuck food. Even my pork chops went down with comfort – slow, but comfortable. I’ve also waited an hour or more after the meal to drink my tiny 24 oz. glass of water.

Instead of 8 glasses of water, I’ve turned my water consumption up to 80 - 100 ounces a day. Considering the fact that most super-size drinks are at least 32 oz. it doesn’t seem to be a lot to exceed 64 ounces which is the recommendation for someone at a normal weight.

I’m starting my day with 30+ grams of protein and trying to get another 40-50 between the next two meals. Milk, yogurt and cheese make this easy without adding too many carbs.

My restart efforts have been rewarded – THE SCALE MOVED!!

As of this morning, I seem to have lost about half of my hurricane weight gain. My goal is to have the excess gone before I get fill in about two weeks. I think by simply revisiting the weight loss surgery basics I can be back on the band wagon. Now that’s something I’ll (in an hour and a half) drink to!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scorecard on My Restart Efforts

Rome wasn’t built in a day and my empire is no exception to the ‘time and patience’ rule. I hit the restart button on my weight loss efforts and the last couple of days have been a combination of tries and trial-and-error.

Nothing I ate yesterday stayed down. Oh, well. I will call that day errors. Mild cheddar over garlic triscuit crackers – yacked. Too much fiber consumed too fast. Fresh-herb baked chicken breast with stuffed portabellos – half yacked. I learned. I’m eating the right things, but not concentrating on chewing slowly and big chunks become, well, blown chunks. (Excuse the graphic nature of this post) After things settled down, I returned to my cold chicken and spinach-stuffed portabello. It wasn’t too bad chewed to death.

Rule No. 1 – Eat protein first and eat slowly and carefully. Funny thing is that only goes for healthy food. I could eat Orioles and Rocky Road ice cream at the speed of light. Yes, that’s weird. I don’t make the rules; I just break them and later beg mercy from the lap band gods.

Today, I started my day with my weight loss special breakfast – Oatmeal Yogurt Crunch. Ok, that’s a long, corny name. The night before, I mixed 2 cups of plain, fat free yogurt with 1 cup of plain rolled oats. To that mixture, I fold a can each of pineapples and mandarin oranges. After the oatmeal softens, I mix in a half cup of slivered almonds. I add a scoop of vanilla flavored protein powder to each serving. I estimate that it has about 230 calories and more than 20 grams of protein. Quite filling and it gives me a good head start to getting 60-80 grams.

Rule No. 2 – Limit carbohydrates within a high-protein diet. I try to get my protein from solid protein instead of shakes, but I still use Juice Plus as a vitamin and protein supplement.

I got some exercise. I walked two miles to a convenience store to get milk for my little girl and myself. Not impressed? I left at 2:30 p.m. (in Louisiana!) pulling my nearly-40 pound toddler in her Little Tykes wagon built for two. Ya gotta see this thing. It’s got a door, two seats and cup holders. On the trip back with a bag of groceries, I drank half the water and splashed the rest on our faces. “Mommy, my face is crying,” she complained. I guess the ungrateful little tot would prefer spontaneous combustion.

Rule No. 3 – Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. I dragged my earthly remains home at 4 p.m.

I’m a heavy drinker (of water), so this routine didn’t change much for me. It’s very hard for me to drink less than 16 ounces at a time. It truly is hard for me not to drink with meals and I do think this is a big part of weight loss surgery success or failure. I’ve gotten it down to only sipping with meals and when I do abstain from water with meals, I never can wait an hour before having a large glass of water. Shame shame.

Rule No. 4 – Drink at least eight glasses of water a day with no drinking during meals and ‘something’ about an hour before meals and ‘something else’ about an hour and a half afterwards. I drank 80 ounces of water today and I will aim for 100 ounces. The rest of the water rules will not be achieved without a 12-step program.

My day ended with a horrible headache from the hot walk. Dinner was shrimp Alfredo over Dreamfields low-carb pasta and leftover spinach-stuffed portabello. This low carb pasta is out of sight and it has 7 grams of protein per serving with only 5 net carbs. I estimate the pasta, shrimp and mushroom dinner had more than 40 grams of protein. I think there was about three different types of cheese in those ingredients and cheese=protein!

I have the end-of-the-night-munchies. Watching my toddler and husband snack on about 5 different things hasn’t been easy, but only because I have to fetch snacks and clean up the messes that they leave. I’m thinking of ending my day with a large cup of sugar-free Nestle’s Quick with milk. 10 grams of protein, here we come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Time to Hit the Restart Button

It’s early October 2005 and it’s time to hit the old “restart button.” I’m really kinda calm at this moment and I don’t know if I don’t care about my weight gain or I’m just so numb from weeks of living in South Louisiana. I put the scale in a corner the week before Hurricane Katrina hit and took it out after my family left to return to my hometown that was “ripped a new one” by Hurricane Rita. I call this period of my life LaKarita!

During LaKarita, I gained around 10 pounds. I’ve taken no vitamins. I’ve mixed no shakes. My exercise included walking down a dark highway with my baby in a wagon to find a way out of my energy-starved subdivision the night after Katrina hit. I also pushed my car a lot. It started dying Katrina morn and has been in a shop through the end of the Rita evacuation.

I didn’t cook much during Hurricane Katrina, but for the two weeks of mandatory evacuation of my hometown, we were nine deep in my house. Yes, nine people, two cats and a dog for more than two weeks. Ya know, I think it was fun. We had to shop for groceries everyday and I think we have stock in Wal-Mart now.

Cooking for nine people can be fun, but the challenge to find what would make the “majority” happy got difficult. To add to the challenge, five of the nine were diabetics. Not five old people either. Our diabetics ranged 17, 35, 38, 67 and 69. My 17-year-old niece and I have been insulin dependent and the other three are and will always be daily insulin takers.

The weight loss efforts felt victim to the following:

  • Bread and starches – we stopped eating bread in my house, but daily bread and rice is the Louisiana way of life.
  • Sugar – I fought the soda every step of the way, but I treated the gang to bakery cakes and a big Baskin Robbins run just to keep morale up and tensions down. I also learned that teens and snacks go hand in hand.
  • Stress – Ok, I may act like Wonder Woman, but this stuff got difficult. I got new meds post-Katrina and I think it helped me stay calm with nine people in my house (2 cats and a dog). I don’t think I’m an emotional eater because some yummy comfort food just made me sicker. My stress hives make me look like I’ve taken a lashing with a bull whip.
  • Exercise – Hmm, what is this exercise? I guess marathons of the Weather Channel don’t count.

Some great things happened while I gained those 10 pounds:

  • Grilling – I have some new grilling secrets. Who needs electricity if you have a BBQ pit? Will grilled everything short of the (2 cats and a dog) and that practice will serve us well. After the lights came back on we kept grilling because it helped cool the house.
  • I cook therefore I am – There’s no place to easily take nine people out to dinner. We had to cook, plan meals and cook.
  • Peace of mind – I never wondered where my sick and elderly family members were. We were together. Being the youngest of the family, it felt good to know that I could step up and be everything to my parents. LaKarita taught us a lot.

So, I’m hitting the restart button. Eight or more glasses of water, limit sugar and carbohydrates, 60-80 grams of protein a day and EXERCISE WILL YA!

The lap band surgery is adjustable and I’m sure I need an adjustment called a fill. My first 13 months, I’ve had only one ½ cc fill. I’m afraid of getting too much restriction because I get nervous, eat fast and get “sick.” I’ll have to concentrate and take it slow.

It’s been a little over a year and I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight. I know it could be a lot more, but considering the year it’s been, I chose to give myself some grace instead of lamenting. I still weigh less than 300 pounds and I believe with time and hard work, I can weigh less than 200 pounds.

Mark your calendars, it all starts NOW!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I've Been Living in LaKarita

After two months in Hurricane Hell, I'm looking for what 'normal' used to mean before Katrina and Rita ... I call this period LaKarita!

I'm in between eastern Louisiana (Katrina) and western Louisiana (Rita). Katrina was closer, but my hometown is one of the most severly hit by Rita -- Lake Charles. My parents and my brother's family have been with us since the day before Rita hit and my new normal life involves nine people, two cats and a dog. Cooking for "many" including five diabetics and teen-agers proved to be a challenge.

During Katrina, I saw the horrors of sick and elderly waiting in long lines for food and medicine. It hurts to watch and the best I could do was vow that my elderly parents would never make the news waiting for a MRE and bottled water. Three weeks later, I got to put my money where my mouth was.

I stuck to my bander's shopping and cooking routines, but each day more white bread, white sugar, pop tarts and "gosh" carbonated drinks made their way into my kitchen.

Other than treating the gang to Baskin Robins one night, food hasn't provided much of an alluring comfort to me.

I'm starting to wonder where I stand, scale-wise. I've been off of the anti-depressants that started at the same time I stopped losing well. I see the scale from time to time, but I've not stopped enough to care about it.

I'm only working with a 1/2 cc fill, so if I've gained 10 pounds, I shouldn't be surprised or disappointed. I lost my safety pin in my favorite blue jean shorts. Nothing keeps them up any more and I'm quite sure my Size 26-28 days are long gone. A loose 22-24 is more like it with lots of annoying, hanging skin in my arms and tummy.

When I'm down to one household in my house instead of three, I might get a new "loser's fever" or not. I'm sure I can at least invest in another 1/2 cc fill and step on the scale and see where that takes me.

My hurricane survival tips include "grill everything." We started grilling when the power was out and continued cause it was just darn fun. Chicken, pork, beef, veggies, pineapples -- everything.

I tossed thinly sliced pototoes with red and orange peppers, onions and herbs and olive oil. After separating them into single serving foil pouches, we grilled those puppies.

Last night's shrimp fettuccini was topped with a dish consisting of sauteed portabellos, crispy onions and baby spinach. This gave me an opportunity to try Dreamfields "extremely low net carb" line of pasta. I highly recommend this stuff!

No, we haven't exactly suffered much, but when one stands in the Red Cross line with armed soldiers for four hours in the Louisiana heat, using the money for lunch meat and potato chips is just not appealing.

SueElla's hometown took a beating and she may have a couple of weeks left sharing a camp with relatives. All her animals survived the waters and that was a big relief for her. I've not spoken to Gemma in a couple of weeks, but she was doing much better and gaining strength when we did speak.

That's me folks! I'll be back and I'm sure I'll see some SV and NSV in my future.