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Faster. Stronger. Higher. Farther. NOT.

This article was originally published on Gastric Bypass Barbie in August 2009, but I reread it and noticed that…I’m still the same girl: Not the front of the pack; not the back of the pack…just right 😉 Feel free to read, enjoy and comment!

Exercise in the Bariatric After Life™
Celebrating My Limitations

I’ve discovered something fascinating about myself:  When it comes to physical exertion — I’m not speedy, I don’t have a lot of endurance, and I’m pretty much just middle of the road.

  • If you’re looking for explosive bursts of speed, or incredible bouts of endurance: I’m NOT your girl.
  • If you don’t need the greatest strength or the most sweat: I AM your girl.
  • If you want me to show up with a smile on my face, give it my best effort, and promise me I won’t die trying: I’m your girl.
  • If it’s going to hurt a little: I AM your girl.
  • If it’s going to hurt a LOT: I’m probably NOT your girl.

On the plus side, I am persistent, fairly consistent, and learning to be less resistant.

So why am I sharing all of this? Well, I had this epiphany about my “limitations” (or shall I say “realities?”) while I was riding my bike with hubby the other morning before work. We rode 15 miles in an hour, which means that we weren’t breaking any land speed records, and I wasn’t “leaving it all on the trail” either. I guess I was moving along and a consistently decent and fairly quick clip, but didn’t kill myself doing it.

So, is that good or bad? Is it good that I don’t like to push myself too hard? Am I letting myself off easy, or just making sure I don’t overdo it (and wind up quitting, because it’s too hard or I end up hurting myself?)

Like the other night: MexiKen and I were out for an evening walk and, as usual, we weren’t speed walking (or running), and I wasn’t swinging my arms wildly. We were just walking –  faster than a crawl, but slower than a sprint.

I commented that:

  1. I should never walk if I’m in a hurry to actually “get” anywhere.
  2. I should not expect the scenery to change quickly.
  3. I should focus on the WALK and not the WALKING.
  4. I probably won’t be breaking any “distance” records any time soon because I get bored quite easily.

So, what do I do with this knowledge? Well, as I continue to transform myself in this Bariatric After Life — mentally, physically and emotionally — I think it’s important to regularly self-assess; to take stock in how I think and feel about exercise, especially since I never exercised before. I think this keeps me grounded and on track, but also gives me room for growth. It’s the same as introspection and reflection on emotional stuff — I need to know what makes me tick so I can exploit my strengths and not be hamstrung by my weaknesses.

In the past, I spent a great deal of time and mental energy comparing myself to others. Typically, I didn’t measure up and fell short because they were prettier, skinnier, richer, healthier, happier, smarter — whatever-er.

As I lost weight after my WLS, I kept comparing myself, but now I began to see that I was “as thin as…,” or “as pretty as…” or “as worthwhile as…” — but I still struggled with being “as fit as…” or as “physically talented as…” — Instead of running my own race (literally and figuratively), I was measuring my own accomplishments against others’ and coming to the conclusion that I was falling short and not keeping up with them! If someone else was doing more RPMs on the elliptical machine, I was not worthy; if someone else was able to kick higher at power tae, I was not worthy; if someone else could run a marathon (and I couldn’t run for 1 minute), I was not worthy; if someone else was able to ride farther on their bike, I was not worthy. It didn’t matter that I was doing 45 minutes of good, hard work on the elliptical, or riding 30 miles on my bike, or walking 5 miles, or kicking as high as I could for an hour at power tae.  In my estimation, I was “less than…” (again.)

I invalidated everything I was accomplishing if it didn’t measure up to what others were accomplishing. Fortunately, I realized that this was destructive and counterproductive and, with this latest epiphany, I have begun to right some debilitating and crippling wrongs.

Here’s what I know:

  • I am who I am.
  • I am good, and getting better.
  • I have limitations; some are permanent, others can be corrected with time and effort.
  • Life is not a race, and I’m not in competition with anyone else.
  • As long as I work hard at improving my abilities, whenever and wherever possible, then I’m making progress.
  • If I never run a 5K or swim a mile, I’m okay.*
*I have walked a 5K and I’m a reasonably good dog-paddeler.

 

At the end of the day, I’m happy with my second chance at living, and have learned to spend my days dreaming of new and wonderful ways to use my improved body.

Just this weekend, MexiKen and I went to REI and bought some hiking boots and a book with 100’s of California Hiking trails. There are details about the trails, difficulty, distance and length of time required to complete the hikes. We cannot WAIT to get out there and explore our Golden State. Oh, and if I DON’T finish the hike in the time mentioned in the book, that’s okay! I’m going at my own pace 🙂

Life is good, and getting better;  and, it’s okay that I probably won’t be crossing the finish line first…because, hey, I probably won’t be crossing it LAST, either!

Does all of this mean that I will live my life settling for mediocrity? Nope. It means that, now that I know who I am:

  • I  celebrate my success.
  • I strive for greater success — at my own speed.
  • I do not compare my success to others.

Are you fully celebrating your limitations? Why not shoot me a comment and let me know how “limited” you are? LOL.

June 25, 2012   1 Comment

A Reason to Quit

This was originally posted on Gastric Bypass Barbie “way back” in August 2009. I thought it was quite apropos. Especially for today…when I see people flirting with disaster…making unwise choices…quitting…giving up on their weight loss goals…quitting the journey. May you choose to ignore all of your own reasons to quit, and cling to the one reason to keep going: Y-O-U. ~ Me

A Reason to Quit

 

Today, I was making the rounds on my new favorite blogs, when I came across an article that hit me straight between the eyes. The site is refusetoregain.com, and, while it’s not bariatric-centric, it IS relevant, as anyone who has lost a ton of weight needs help to keep it off.

“Refusing Under Stress,” is written by Dr. Barbara Berkeley, a board certified internist who specializes in the care of overweight and obese patients, and is one of two doctors who operate the site. In this particular article, she discusses the rationale of using “stress” as an excuse to practice “food soothing” (the fine art of making yourself feel better by eating things like cake, cookies, ice cream sundaes, and other garbage.) She includes a short list that mentions everything from worrying about money, to having trouble with a child, being sick, being busy, or even worrying about a doctor or dentist appointment. In other words, there isn’t a single day in anyone’s life where there isn’t a “qualifying stressor” that could trigger the “right” to participate in “food soothing.”

Ouch.

She agrees that the list could go on for pages, but her point was that anyone who plays the “just this once” card to deal with stress is more likely to do it daily, rather than “once in a great while.” Clearly, this is a habit that leads to weight regain.

But, how do we deal with stress? We’ve all heard that one solution is to distract ourselves with another thought or activity, which in her case, revolves around running. When she first began this form of exercise, she bought a book by an Olympic runner that explained how to build up to long distance running.

It turns out that distance runners are a lot like weight maintainers, in that they struggle to continue DESPITE DISCOMFORT. Hmmm…

In other words, even though I, as a gastric surgery after lifer experience hunger throughout the day, I am training myself to distinguish the type of hunger, address it properly and administer the appropriate fix! But what is the exact “thing” that I’m trying to “fix” when I feel hungry? Turns out, it’s DISCOMFORT. I don’t LIKE being hungry.

And this general disdain for discomfort doesn’t limit itself to food. No, as it turns out, it extends to my workout regimen — just as the distance runners say. The more I think about it, the more I realize I am guilty of not pushing myself because I don’t like the way it feels! Here are some of the things I say while I’m in my 2nd half hour on the elliptical at the gym or trying to do my 90th consecutive jumping jack at power tae aerobics:

  • I can’t go on.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I hurt.
  • I’m tired.
  • I’m bored.
  • I can only do so much.
  • I am doing better than yesterday.
  • I should’nt overdo it.
  • I need to build up to it.
  • What if I hurt myself?
  • She’s been doing it longer.
  • I’m blood type A. I’m not as strong as the type O’s.
  • I’m taller.
  • I have bad knees.

This is what the marathon runner in the book calls “messaging” and it’s a very powerful force!

The Mind is Divided: “The power of the mind to push the body to its potential is limited by an internal conflict. The logical side (left brain) does not communicate with the creative side (right brain). A primary mission of the analytical side is to steer you into comfort and away from stress. The more stress you generate from running and other areas, the more negative messages: “slow down,” “stop,” or what is even worse, “why am I doing this?” If you don’t have a mental strategy for dealing with this barrage of negativity, you’ll start losing confidence in your ability to achieve your potential…”

Source: http://refusetoregain.com/my_weblog/2009/08/refusing-under-stress.html

Now, if we can participate in negative messaging, and we can participate in POSITIVE messaging, do we have a third option? YES! We can IGNORE THE MESSAGES. That’s right! We do not have to address the message. As Dr. Berkeley says, we can acknowledge it as if it is a helium filled balloon just “floating by.” It’s like saying, “Hey, that’s a balloon,” but doing nothing about it and returning to the task at hand.

I’m taking this concept of messaging to heart and will be employing my new technique at tae tonight. I will NOT give myself a free pass to slack off just because I’m tired or it gets tough. I will not say that I have a week core, so I can’t do all of the leg lifts. I will not push myself to the point of unreasonable pain, but I will push beyond the manageable sort, because it will help me to build strength.

I guess another old adage proves itself to be true: That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!

June 24, 2012   4 Comments

An Update on My Friend

It’s been one week since I learned about my friend’s condition and shared it with you here on my blog, so I felt it was time for an update. I would love to tell you that she is doing well and has “turned the corner.” But…you don’t turn a corner with liver failure…not a “good” one, anyway.

They have sent her home to…I suppose…wait for a donor, a limbo I know all to well, as my own family lived there for 3 years while my brother waited for a kidney to save his life. As you can imagine, it was a horrible time waiting and worrying that his dialysis would stop working before a match could be found. But fortunately, about 15 years ago, they DID find a kidney for him — and a great one, at that…”Sydney” has been performing like a champ ever since.

“Our” story turned out well. But…we must wait to learn how the next chapter will be written for my friend. No matter how it unfolds, her journey will not be an easy one to read. That’s because there’s a bitter irony to her survival; she’ll need a new liver to live, but someone will have to die first.

Such is the beauty and horror of organ donation.

The horror is the death. But the beauty is the life that’s given. You see, organ donors are the most special of angels; they give the greatest gift without ever knowing they gave it, and those who receive it get a gift they will never forget.

* * *

But, back to the situation at hand: I’ve been pondering my friend’s circumstances, wondering if there were warning signs that she simply didn’t recognize…wondering if some doctor, somewhere, with some blood test could have called attention to this before it got this bad; wondering WHY it got this bad…? Of course, all of this is like yearning for yesterday, but it still makes me wish for a “Wayback Machine” so I could send her back in time to face this monster before it got its hold on her.

As I write this, she has still not been able to eliminate the 30 pounds of toxins that her body has decided to hold onto, so she is feeling understandably miserable. Also, she has been banned from ever consuming sushi or shellfish again. Ever. These are things she adored for as long as I’ve known her, and I promise you, she is mourning the loss. When I asked her why the doctor said not to eat them, she simply said, “I was told to eat like a pregnant woman for the rest of my life.” And that means, no alcohol, either…

When I told her I had shared her story with all of you. she was momentarily heartened because she knew some good would come of her bad. She knew her suffering could save someone else’s life, or keep them from suffering quite as much. I’m sure she never imagined she’d become an advocate for this cause, but she has assumed that role as gracefully as one can expect, and promises me that she will avail herself to any support groups in the area who want to meet her and ask her questions about her life since weight loss surgery — especially the tough stuff about the booze.

So, where am I in all of this today? Well, for the last week I’ve been, for lack of a better word, “managing” an unbelievable volume of feedback and discussion on the subject of alcohol consumption after weight loss surgery.

I’ve witnessed an avalanche of outpouring for my friend’s condition, and I am eternally grateful for the love, support and prayers going her way; thank you all for that.

I have also felt the undeniable burn of fear and frustration as the subject of my blog spread like wildfire through our community.

I have heard a chorus of confusion, anger and denial from those who simply want to know how this could have happened.

I have fielded more than a few private messages from people who see themselves in my friend’s story, and are terrified that they will end up like her.

I’ve heard from multitudes who simply didn’t know this was a possibility after surgery, and feel betrayed that they were never warned.

I’ve met precious people who shared with me how terrified they are to be at a point where they’re so far out of control with their own alcohol consumption they wonder if they’ll ever find their way home. They worry that it’s too late, and fear that all hope is lost, but mostly, they want to know if they really are addicts.

Well…addiction is a scary word and sometimes, it keeps people from getting the help they need. So…why use it? It’s not necessary to identify yourself as an addict to seek recovery — you only have to know you have a problem and need help. It sounds trite, but it’s true, and I tell everyone the same thing: Recovery is not easy, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it; it simply means we shouldn’t give up when it gets hard.

I am passionate about this subject. I am convinced to my core that we must open the lines of communication and talk about this very real, very deadly problem. And we must start now.

  • We must talk about the things that scare us.
  • We must be bold in the face of criticism.
  • We must not fear judgment more than we crave recovery.
  • We must take a stand and tell others what so many doctors neglected to tell us: Alcohol consumption after surgery is not healthy, not necessary, and non-negotiable.

We lost weight to gain our health; why would we throw it away on something as meaningless as a drink? Clearly, we didn’t see it that way, for if we had, we might have thought a bit longer before we poured that first glass.

If I could speak to doctors, here’s what I’d tell them:

  • You MUST talk to your patients about the very real dangers of alcohol consumption after weight loss surgery.
  • You MUST educate them on how their new bodies will process the toxins in alcohol.
  • You MUST let them know that therapy is okay.
  • You MUST let them know about the potential for cross-transfer addictions. And finally,
  • You MUST let them know it again, and again, and again.

You know my position on this:

  • We must stand together as a community and support our brothers and sisters who are struggling with addiction (or whatever you want to want to call it) after WLS.
  • We must bring a united message of hope — not judgment or condemnation — to those who would confide in us about their private battles with food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc..
  • We must not fear the truth, for those who follow in our footsteps will demand better of us.

I am on the front lines…ready to do what it takes to shine a light upon the dark secret that is not-so-silently killing people in our community. I hope you will join me.

I will keep you posted on my friend’s condition. In the meantime, thanks for your support and prayers. We ALL need and appreciate them.

 

RECOVERY FROM OBESITY: Learn About the 12-Steps

June 17, 2012   7 Comments

REALITY CHECK: Yes, it does happen.

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Reality: It Does Happen.

Today’s posting is going to be pretty raw, but then…the content is pretty raw. This is serious business and, well, there really is no good way to say it. Some of you will reject what I’m saying with a “It can’t happen to me,” reaction; others of you will say, “There she goes again. Overreacting.” I can’t change that. But, I can hope to reach those of you who are willing to set aside your feelings about the subject long enough to hear the truth.

Let me begin by saying, those of you who know me well, know how passionate I am about people having the information they need to make wise and healthy choices. I am rabid about doctors telling patients what they need to know to live healthy, balanced lives after weight loss surgery. I am fervent that, while I am not responsible for the behavior of others, I am responsible for:

1) Informing them if their behavior is dangerous, and
2) Not reinforcing the behavior by turning a blind eye.

Many people are afraid to say something if they know they can or will be judged negatively for saying it. Fortunately, I am not one of those people, because what I am about to say is coming to you from a place of utmost love, concern, compassion, reality, and yes…distress. It would be easy to feel helpless, but I refuse to do that, because I know my words have the power to help.

So, here goes:

Yesterday, I received a text from a woman I’ve known for many years. We worked together about 12 years ago, but have stayed in touch (albeit sporadically) since then. She has always lived her life unapologetically, boldly , fearlessly and without excuse. Though we didn’t always share the same perspectives on things, we didn’t have to justify our choices. We just knew who we were. She is one of the most talented, expressive and “larger-than-life” people I have ever known, and have always felt that my own daughter is cut from the same cloth. She is Bohemian, eclectic, edgy, ferocious, feisty, in-your-face, over-the-top, brash…and yes, even crass. And you know what? It’s always fit her.

Eight years ago, my friend had weight loss surgery (RNY) and shed nearly half of her body weight. I heard through the professional grapevine that she looked incredible, and…I’ll be honest: I was envious. Fast forward about 2-1/2 years, and I contacted her to ask her about her experience as a post-op. She said, “Rather than telling you on the phone, let’s get together and I’ll give you the unvarnished truth. I’ll tell you stuff you won’t hear anywhere else.” She was right. She was honest, forthright, and again — unapologetic. She said it was the best decision she’d ever made, though the life was no picnic.

That was the last time I saw her (in person).

And then, yesterday morning, at 6:30 a.m., I received a text message asking me if I wanted to drop by for a visit. (???) She said she was at a local hospital (had been for a week) and was a “captive audience.” She then said something very mysterious. She said, “I want to share something with you so you can bring it to your ‘students.’ It’s important and it has to do with WLS…it’s a direct outcome that no one ever talks about.”

My mind raced. “What could it be?” I wondered…I gently asked, “Is it…emotional stuff?” “No,” she laughed. “I’m not in the psych ward!” I was relieved and thought, “How bad could it be, then…?”  I pondered…

And I went to therapy. Thankfully, I went to therapy BEFORE I went to see my friend.

I stopped by Home Depot on the way because I thought I shouldn’t go empty-handed. No matter what she was in for, she’d enjoy some flowers.

I arrived at the hospital and, with only a tiny amount of trepidation, headed to her room. Which, it turned out, was in CCU. That’s right: Critical Care Unit. Now, I have had a LOT of experience with this floor. My dad died there 3 years ago. My brother nearly died there several times. My dear friend (one of my first loves) nearly died of cancer there.

The instant the elevator doors opened, I was filled with that familiar dread. You don’t get good news on this floor. But — I soldiered on because I knew I had to be there for her. There was a profound reason she had called me.

As I made my way past the secured doors….all the way to the end of the hall, I remember thinking, “Wow! Corner room. It can’t be *that* bad…” Don’t ask me why I drew this conclusion. I don’t know.

I walked in and spotted a woman sitting in a chair. I was relieved because, I thought that was my friend, and she looked great. Ahh, but it wasn’t my friend; it was her cousin. I had only to divert my gaze to the form in a reclining chair to see the woman I hadn’t laid eyes on in 5 years. If I hadn’t known who I was going to see, I might not have recognized her, because the person in front of me was completely foreign. Her hair was matted and thin; she looked gaunt and pale; she had black and blue marks beneath her eyes and on her arms, and she had the proverbial wires and tubes protruding from beneath tape on her hands and chest.

This was not what I was expecting.

On any level.

She greeted me in her usual way: “Welcome to the penthouse! Sorry I can’t get up, but I’m in liver and kidney failure.”

As I type that, my heart leaps to my throat again, and I am fighting back tears. These are stinging tears of anger and injustice. “Why was this happening?” I demanded in a brain that couldn’t began to wrap its arms around the situation that presented itself.

She said, “Sit down. I’ve got a story for you. It’s something you need to share with your people. You need to get the word out there because doctors aren’t saying it.”

She has cirrhosis of the liver and it is bad. My friend needs a liver transplant or she will die.

Why did this happen? Easy. Because no one told her that 1-2 glasses of wine would kill her. Before surgery, she enjoyed drinking. She’ll tell you — she loved mixing exotic drinks, living high and celebrating with her friends. After surgery, she did what she was told: She cut back on her food and drank IN MODERATION. After all, there is nothing wrong with a little wine. It’s harmless and sophisticated. Besides, if someone tells you you CAN’T DRINK, then it becomes “forbidden fruit…” and we can’t have that. We can’t turn something “acceptable” into a tabu. Once we do that, we start to label people and say that they are “bad and wrong.” And — If we’re not careful — we begin to call them addicts, which only means they are “lazy,” and “out of control.” So, best to just avoid that slippery slope by telling people that alcohol is okay after weight loss surgery: IN MODERATION (naturally).

Makes sense. After all, I was the modicum of moderation at 320 pounds. I had no problem with the “less is more,” concept.

Hmmmm….

BUT, not everyone is like me. And, that is why I was told (quite sternly, I might add) that, after surgery, I would no longer be able to…

CHEW GUM.
DRINK FROM A STRAW.
EAT & DRINK AT THE SAME TIME.
DRINK CARBONATED BEVERAGES.

That’s right. These behaviors would…Well…I think the concept is that these behaviors would…Oh yeah, I remember: Make me hungry, possibly create an obstruction AND potentially stretch my pouch. We couldn’t have that, because then it would defeat the purpose of the surgery and I would regain my weight.

As opposed to drinking *a little* alcohol which — if I was told NOT to drink it — could: KILL. ME. Did you follow that logic? I was NOT told NOT to drink alcohol, even though it could kill me, but I was told told NOT to chew gum because it could get stuck, allow more air into my pouch, or — God forbid — make me hungry.

Do I sound angry? I hope so, because I am. I am angry by the cavalier attitude of many doctors who are afraid to draw a line in the sand about alcohol consumption, but have no compunction putting the fear of God into me about gum, straws and soda.

But, should I blame the doctors? Is it their fault? They play a large role in the problem for shirking their responsibility to educate patients about things that can and will kill them, but what happens after that?

I blame a community that reinforces and CELEBRATES the “freedom,” “joy,” “sophistication,” “gleeful abandon,” “merriment,” “enlightenment,”….”fun” of — not just drinking, but drinking to the point of sickness. Why doesn’t the community say something? Because (I am told), you “can’t tell someone what they should and shouldn’t do.”

Oh, really? How come you’re telling me that, as a post-op, I need to take vitamins, monitor protein, and steer clear of processed foods that are high in sugar and fat content? How come you can tell me that I must exercise — and then exercise more? Why is that acceptable?

Oh…perhaps it is because we cannot expect OTHERS to do what we ourselves are not wiling to do? Sure, that’s it. I can’t tell you not to drink because I have an occasional glass of wine and — (this is rich) — we’re all adults here.

Well, I have a strong opinion about that. We may be adults chronologically, but many, many — okay — most of us are damaged children. I’ve said it before, I didn’t become obese because I was emotionally stable. Abuse. Neglect. Addiction. Horrible things. Traumatic things that we tried to eat away because it was all we could do to survive.

What is alcohol, then? Why is it something to turn to when we are “on vacation,” or “celebrating a holiday” or having a “special occasion”…?

Short answer? IT’S. NOT. OKAY. It’s a drug. Plain and simple. And I am not judging anyone who uses it. I am warning you. It kills. If you have had weight loss surgery, and haven’t had a drink — “YET” — don’t start. If you’ve experimented — STOP. If you’re doing it regularly – GET HELP.

That’s it. Nothing more. If you don’t like what I’m saying, I understand. I don’t make the rules, and there is a lot of conflicting OPINION out there. But this is fact: After weight loss surgery — particularly after gastric bypass — we are rewired..bypassed…altered. Where do you think that alcohol goes when you get that immediate “high”…followed by an “all-too-fast” low?

Hey, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give you the specifics in medical terms. But, my friend can. She can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about organ failure. She can tell you in great detail how it feels to have a body that will not process toxins, so it holds onto them..in her legs…around her abdomen…She’ll tell you how she gained 30 pounds of poison in 1 week. And then she’ll tell you about all of the inconclusive tests that were run, how her veins collapse from all of the poking around and dehydration. She will tell you how the first doctor who came to visit her called her a drug addict and alcoholic. She will tell you how they can’t seem to get her meals right, so instead of cottage cheese, fruit, peanut butter and celery (which is what she requested,) she gets spaghetti and meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a burrito. Oh, plus “diet pudding,” that she has decided is really just lemon flavored petroleum jelly.

Then, she will tell you that she can’t tell her boyfriend the truth of her circumstances. Because it would be too painful. FOR HIM.

Think I’m judging you for drinking? Okay. If you must.
Think I’m judging HER for drinking? That’s a little harder to justify. Don’t you think?

Here’s the bottom line: My friend called me because she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else in our community. Yes, she feels betrayed by doctors — but more importantly, she can’t understand why this community celebrates alcohol consumption. She knows that I am vocal advocate for living a healthy and long Bariatric After Life™ — and she is right. So she asked me to carry her message forward.

If this post stops even ONE PERSON from drinking. If this post encourages even ONE DOCTOR to speak to a patient about alcohol after WLS. Then, the potential backlash will all be worth it. Heck, even if that doesn’t happen, I will not stop speaking this truth because the guilt of knowing that I COULD have done something, but didn’t would be too much to bear.

Thank you for reading and I sincerely hope you choose life over that next drink.

God bless.

June 10, 2012   60 Comments

Vignettes From the Bariatric After Life™

I call today’s posting Vignettes from the Bariatric After Life™ but really, they are just scenes from life. Ready to watch?

SET-UP: You are a pre-op, a new post-op, or someone who is overweight. This could be the “before” you or the “now” you.

SCENE 1: Try-On Room at the Clothing Store.
You’re in your room, checking with the mirror to see how your butt looks in your jeans. Suddenly, a woman in the hall exclaims: “Darnit! These are too tight. I look so FAT in this!” Of course you want to see what she’s talking about, so you peek out from behind the curtain and notice she is evaluating herself in the 3-way mirror. You estimate that she is about a size 4 and respond:

“You? FAT? Are you kidding me? You could never look fat! I wish I was that fat…”

Alternate: You see a woman who is obviously too big for what she’s wearing, look appreciably in the mirror and say, “I love how this looks on me. Don’t I look thin?”

You shake your head and think, “Doesn’t she see how she looks? That is NOT flattering on her! It’s too small, shows all of her rolls and makes her look bigger than she is. If I were here, I’d never dress like that.”

Cut.

SCENE 2: Weigh-in at a Weight Watchers Meeting
You’re next in line to be “judged” by the scale. The lady in front of you removes her shoes, puts her purse down, holds her breath and steps onto the scale, where she laments, “What? How could I have gained a pound this week? Why is it so hard to lose those 10 pounds?!”

You roll your eyes and say to yourself, “She’s complaining about losing 10 pounds and she gained 1 pound this week??? Are you KIDDING ME? I could lose 10 pounds by skipping breakfast and if I ONLY gained a pound, I’d be thrilled!”

Alternate: A woman who wears about a size 8-10 is standing in line with you. You think: “Why is she even HERE? If I weighed what she weighs, I’d never complain and would always be happy.”

Cut.

SCENE 3: All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet
You watch as very large man piles fried chicken, french fries, potato salad, steak potatoes, buffalo wings, and baked beans onto his second plate and think: “If I weighed that much, I’d never do that. Doesn’t he see that’s he’s making himself fat? That’s just wrong.”

Alternate: You overhear someone at a nearby table loudly whisper, “Are you looking at this guy? Can you SEE how much food he has on his plate? No WONDER he’s fat! That’s his second plate, and I’m sure it’s not his last. Watch what he eats for dessert. Pig.” (You silently agree.)

Alternate: You see a thin person selecting small portions of fresh veggies, fruit, salad with lo-fat dressing and some grilled chicken and say, “Why did they even COME to this place if they’re going to eat so little of that rabbit food?”

Alternate: After about 10 bites and 10 minutes, you watch as the person pushes the plate away, pats their belly and sighs, “I am stuffed! I can’t eat another bite! I’m stopping there…no room for dessert.”

You mutter, “I wish I could get full on so little food. I’d never complain. What would it feel like NOT to want dessert…?”

SCENE 4: You are on Facebook and you see a picture of someone who has just finished a half-marathon. The caption reads: “Just ran 13 miles. Really slow for me, and it’s not a full-marathon, but it’s better than nothing….”

You think, “ONLY 13 miles? In the same day? And you’re unhappy because it wasn’t a Marathon? I can’t even walk around the block, so if I could do that, I’d be the happiest person in the world.”

Cut.

What do all of these little scenes have to do with you (and me)? Each of them involves active ‘marginalizing, mitigating and minimizing.’ In each scenario, we have a person who as accomplished something. To you, it is big; to them, it is either unacceptable, or not worth mentioning. Before we get too much further, let’s define each of those terms (so we’re all on the same page. After all, I’d hate to think you were marginalizing, minimizing or mitigating the value of this posting because of different meanings.)

MARGINALIZETreat someone or something as insignificant or peripheral.
MINIMIZEReduce something to the smallest possible amount or degree. Represent or estimate as less than the true value or importance.
MITIGATEMake less severe, serious or painful; lessen the gravity of.

NOW…back to the scenarios. Let’s review:

  • Thin woman says she’s fat. You mitigate her feelings about her weight because you weigh more. Basically, you write her and her feelings off and decide she is making something out of nothing. You conclude that she probably has an eating disorder, because that is the only way anyone could look and think like that.
  • Alternately, you see a big woman doing what you, yourself might actually do (or did), except that she “actually, really looks bad.”
  • People you don’t think belong at a Weight Watchers meeting complain about their failures. You minimize their struggles because they do not look like you. You determine that it is ridiculous to obsess over 1 pound…or 10 pounds when your problems are so much bigger.
  • You observe big and small people at a buffet and have completely different interpretations of their actions. You decide that the “big man” is bad, and the “small person” is bad – but with a good excuse. You are quite certain you would never act like either one of them.
  • Your Facebook friend is dissatisfied with an achievement you say you’d be overjoyed to accomplish. You marginalize their beliefs as being extreme and surmise that they are probably just fishing for compliments.

Time for some unexpected juxtaposition! Let’s reset our vignettes.

SET UP: You have lost 130 pounds.

SCENE 1: You are trying on a pair of size 4 jeans and they are tight.

You exclaim, “I look so fat in these jeans!”

  • You mitigate the fact that you used to wear a size 24 and ignore the fact that a woman who had on the same pants thought she looked fat, too.

SCENE 2:You get on the scale and see that you have gained a pound. You sputter, “I am such a failure! I gained an entire pound!”

  • You minimize the fact that you have not regained 129 pounds.

Alternate: You have lost 120 pounds, but your “GOAL” is 130 pounds. You say, “I will never reach goal. There is no way I can ever lose 10 more pounds. It might as well be 100.”

  • You marginalize your ability to lose weight and inflate the magnitude of the small number of pounds you say you still want to lose.

SCENE 3: You put small portions of healthy foods on your plate and include several desserts. You do not finish all of the healthy foods on your plate, but force yourself to consume almost all of the desserts.
You say, “Just about everything I ate was healthy for me. I don’t always eat desserts. Only on special occasions…or when I come to buffets.”

  • You minimize the behavior of making unhealthy choices, but criticize another person for doing the same thing.

SCENE 4: You complete your first 10K and post a picture on Facebook that says, “I didn’t run the whole way, but at least I finished.”

  • You marginalize the significance of completing ANY race because you did not do it the same way (or speed) as someone else. You reduce the accomplishment to something just short of total failure, but condemn someone else for doing the same thing.

In each of these instances, you are doing the same thing as someone you criticize, but have convinced yourself that you’re not doing it! Which is it? Or…is it only true when it’s about Y-O-U?
Since the common denominator is YOU,the conclusions are not surprising, but they are revealing. What we think and say about others says a lot about what we think and say about ourselves. And we are pros at defending our positions, even if we argue from both sides! So, which is it?

  • Is the person — any person — who wears a size 4 fat or thin?
  • has the person who loses 130 pounds accomplished an incredible achievement, or not?
  • Is the person who makes wise food choices most of the time healthier, or not?
  • Is the person who runs a half-marathon better than the person who completes the 10K? How about a 5K?  How about 10 minutes on the treadmill?
  • Does it matter?

In my book, you can be healthy, successful and accomplished no matter what size you wear, how many pounds you shed, how many healthy things you put on your plate at a buffet, or how fast you run a race – as long as you choose to see it that way.

As usual, there is a *subtle* duality to my message today:

  • Don’t judge others’ accomplishments against your own (unless you are in the Olympics), but judge your own accomplishments as you would judge others.
  • Don’t project your feelings onto someone else, but be willing to examine those  feelings for yourself.
  • Don’t diminish the feelings of others or magnify your own.
  • Don’t presume to know what someone is thinking or feeling by interpreting their actions, and don’t let their actions interpret your thoughts and feelings about yourself.
  • Don’t do to others what you are unwilling to do yourself, but be willing to do for yourself what you claim others are unwilling to do at all.

Can you see yourself in any of these vignettes? I am interested to hear how you have minimized, marginalized and mitigated situations, achievements, and realities in your OWN LIFE.

May 31, 2012   6 Comments

RINSE. LATHER. REPEAT.

 

Ever read the directions on the shampoo bottle?

  1. Rinse.
  2. Lather.
  3. Repeat.

Seems reasonable enough…until you think about it for a bit longer than one hair washing, because those directions are not for your benefit; they’re written so you’ll use more shampoo! Besides, they don’t tell you how many times are you supposed to “repeat” – which is kinda important.  We “assume” once, but then again…maybe not?

Now matter what your interpretation of the instructions on the shampoo bottle, I think that ‘repeating’ something is not always necessary or helpful. As a matter of fact, it could be harmful. I mean, when you think about it, repeat soapings on your hair will result in cleaner hair, but it might also result in your hair being stripped of its natural oils…or falling out and running down the drain. (And, what’s so great about a bald, dry head?)

BUT…you know this blog posting isn’t about shampoo…

As always, it’s about Life in Recovery.

So, let’s get started! Yesterday, I posted something on Facebook and it ended up receiving so many comments, I decided the subject might be the basis of a blog!

Here’s what it said:

* * *

YOUR STORY

  • Don’t Nurse It.
  • Don’t Curse It.
  • Don’t REHEARSE It.
  • REVERSE IT.

Many times, we keep ourselves “sick” – which is to say “unhealthy” (emotionally, spiritually, physically) – because it’s what we know. We’re good at being obese, or good at being indulgent, angry, sad, judgmental, defensive, wounded, whatever. SO…we marinate in it — which means we “nurse” it.

Other times, we complain about our circumstances…but do nothing to change them (Curse it.)

Each of those behaviors does nothing to help us heal, especially not RELISHING it. How exactly does one relish a negative thought/feeling/circumstnce/behavior?

By retelling the story.

“This is how I have failed.”
“This is what always happens to me.”
“I am no good at ______”
“No one supports me.”
“I hate my body because _____.

Each time you speak the negative — each time you retell your story — you give it renewed energy. Each time you replay that tape about how disappointed you are in this or that (person, behavior, event), you give it new life, new purpose, new meaning. But, you know what? If you just leave it unsaid and move forward, the story fades away in significance, power and meaning. Amazing.

So: What’s the best way to start healing?

STOP: Nursing, Cursing & Rehearsuing your problem (unhappiness/shame/guilt/failure) and START Reversing It.

PROCESS:
Stop telling your story.
Stop complaining about your past (or present).
Stop believing it’s the way it must be.
START being the change you want to see and be.

* * *

So, that’s what it said. Evidently, this subject struck a chord with a number of people, which led me to come up with the following analogy (that I think deserves further explanation):

Retelling your story over and over is a lot like watching TITANIC and hoping it will have a different ending! Ever caught yourself saying, “Watch out for that iceberg! Slow down! Get more lifeboats! There’s room for both of you on that headboard!” [Okay, maybe you don’t say that last part, but I do.]

The point is, we all know the story of Titanic. It hit an iceberg. It didn’t have enough lifeboats. They lowered half-empty lifeboats. They locked poor people behind gates. Jack drowned and Rose threw her jewel into the sea. [Again, that last part probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things…] or maybe it does. After all, it’s a little detail that’s added to the story to give it new life; new dimension. It’s a great detail that makes people think, “Oh my gosh! Why did she do that? Do you think the jewel is still there? Do you think they found it with their underwater rovers? How much would it be worth today? Would I let someone draw a charcoal drawing of me naked…?”

Anyway, the point is, each new detail forms the basis for MORE DISCUSSION. It feeds the flames…fuels the fire…keeps the story alive for another telling.

Which is exactly what happens in our lives. We become experts at telling our stories.

I had surgery 512 days ago. I lost 122.5 pounds, but I lost 21 of those before surgery, and I regained 4.7 since my lowest, but I’ve been in maintenance for 347 days and I wear a junior size 9!”

Okay. When we lose weight and gain health, it feels really good, but so often, we are compelled to fill in the blanks with numbers and statistics and specifics, as if the basic story isn’t compelling enough. Why aren’t we content to say:

“I lost weight, I feel great, I’m living and loving life.”

Well, I have a theory: I think we do it because it feeds a need for validation and justification (or even vindication) really. We need people to tell us we look good. We need people to tell us we “didn’t cheat” with surgery. We need people to tell us we are successful. We need people to forgive us (?!) for regaining 4.7 pounds. Mostly…we need to believe these things about ourselves, but since we don’t believe it ourselves, we seek the approval and agreement of others.

Here’s my next theory: I think this behavior is an addiction. I say this because I am an addict, and I know how easy it is to become addicted to the feeling you get when people praise you, or when people condemn others who dare to disagree with you. I believe it’s an addiction because, I am never content to stop telling the story to just ONE PERSON. Oh, sure…I might start with my best friend, but once I curry her agreement (and know she’s on my team, of course), I have to go collect OTHERS, or I might stop believing my story. Of course, I’ll have to embellish my story a little to get others to agree with me. I might have to make it sound more dire, or harrowing, or riveting. And, with each telling, the story will become more powerful, more believable, and more tellable.

Given that, how can I NOT share a riveting, powerful, extraordinary, unbelievable story with EVERYBODY. EVERYWHERE???

It’s a regular feeling-feeding frenzy. And it sounds like Addiction to me.

I. Must. Have. More.

I need more and more and more and more people to hear my story. I am addicted to their support, their sympathy, their agreement.

I believe that the more we focus on the past…our unhappiness, discontentment, rage, disappointments, hurt, pain – even successes – the less we  live in the present. If I’m busy complaining about my siblings, or how I was passed over for a promotion when I was obese; if I’m busy complaining that I had a horrible time in high school, or even something as mundane as getting a traffic ticket…then I’m ignoring the here and now!

C’mon, you know you’ve done it. You’ve told and retold your story about how you got a ticket, but you didn’t deserve it, and the cop was a jerk, and it was a trap, and the guy ahead of you was really speeding, and the guy behind you made you run the redlight…You know you have. But…guess what? You still got the ticket. The guy in front of you didn’t get caught (then). The guy behind you still ran the redlight, and the cop may or may not have been a jerk. The point is, no matter how many times you told the story – even though you might have embellished, made it more dramatic, added qualifying factors and scintillating details….you still got the ticket.

…And the Titanic still sank.

  • What would happen if you stopped telling your story?
  • What would happen if you stopped saying where you’ve been and focused on where you ARE?
  • What would happen if you lived in the now, rather than in the past?

Still not sure there’s anything wrong with retelling your story? That’s fine. As long as you’re okay to keep re-living, rather than living.

* Recovery Moment *

Just for today, think of a story you’ve told. A lot. Then, decide NOT to tell it again. Will it hurt? Will it help? Will it matter? You decide. Then get a new bottle of shampoo that says:

  1. Rinse.
  2. Rinse.
  3. Rinse.

 

May 30, 2012   11 Comments

Ampersands & Addiction

Call it cleansing, or organizing, or restructuring — call it whatever you want, but since we moved (for the first time in 18 years), I’ve been in something of a reminiscent sorta-mood. So much so that I decided to go back into the Barbie Archives and pull out some of my favorite blogs. This one never got much “airplay” because I didn’t have much of a readership then, so I’m hoping it will find new legs with my Facebook Friends! Enjoy what I originally wrote in 2009…It’s still good. I mean it! – Cari

This & That: Nearly Derailed By An Ampersand*

 

*An “ampersand” is the proper name of the symbol you use between two, separate items, to make them one, compound item:  “Salt & Pepper,” “Bert & Ernie,” and “Tea & Crumpetts”

“University study finds ampersands leading cause of obesity in US;

poor use of punctuation mark linked to high BMIs.”

 

Can you imagine surfing the web one day and seeing that headline on a major news site like Foxnews.com or CNN.com?


Okay, I know that headline sounds silly, but here’s where I’m going with it: Yesterday I caught myself musing that I should be eating a donut with my decaf coffee!While I did not act on this impulse, it did get me thinking: What caused me to make the gigantic leap from “coffee” to “donuts” so quickly? I thought I was cured of those temptations. Maybe I’d forgotten about that neatly paved, well-marked, 5-lane wide, permanent “coffee & donuts”  neuro-pathway in my brain. Whatever the case, as it turns out, the ampersand problem was much bigger than donuts.

The longer I thought about it, the more I realized this innocent little punctuation mark could actually mean the difference between success and sabotage in my weight loss After Life!  I mean, it’s not like overusing a comma, or something, where someone just has pause a little longer! This deceptively simple little squiggly mark (just above the number “7” on your keyboard) has the power to permanently combine two, separate things, and turn them into one, potentially dangerous combination!

If that sounds melodramatic, think about this: We are conditioned from the moment we are born to experience food in “twos” (applesauce & bananas, strained turkey & peas, lamb & rice). This concept continues to be reinforced as we mature: Macaroni & Cheese; Hamburgers & French Fries, Ice Cream & Apple Pie. Eventually, we are convinced that we cannot have one thing without the other: Steak & Lobster, Champagne & Strawberries, Bagels & Cream Cheese.

It gets to the point where we are unable to watch a movie without eating popcorn (& butter), have a campfire without making s’mores (& hot chocolate), get through Halloween without eating chocolate (& candy corn), or celebrate Christmas without baking cookies (& fudge)! Events become inexorably linked to the combination of foods we consume until eventually the memories are defined by the combination of food & event.

Morning = Coffee & Donuts. Lunch = Hamburger & French Fries. Dinner = Meat & Potatoes.

The better the combination, the better the memory. “Oh my gosh, I can’t remember a Thanskgiving where I had a yummier pumpkin pie & Cool Whip!!” “Can you remember a better Sourdough Bread Bowl & Chili than the one we at at that little restaurant in San Francisco?” “Those BBQ ribs at the company picnic would have been tasteless without those bake beans!” And on it goes….

Armed with this revelation, I decided to make a quick list of common food pairings,  just so I could see how pervasive the ampersand problem was. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Lime & Tequila
  • Bacon & Eggs
  • Beer & Pretzels
  • Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Hamburgers & French Fries
  • Nachos & Salsa
  • Coffee & Donuts
  • Coke & A Smile <– that’s only 1/2 bad
  • FIsh & Chips
  • Cake & Ice Cream
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Bagels & Cream Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
  • Turkey & Stuffing
  • Pork Chops & Applesauce (any Peter Brady fans out there?)
  • Curds & Whey <– Hey, that’s a good one!
  • Peas & Carrots <– healthy!
  • Popcorn & Movies
  • Chips and Dip
  • Corned Beef & Cabbage
  • Mom & Apple Pie <– Again, 1/2 of this is okay
  • Buffalo Wings & Ranch Dressing
  • Latte & Biscotti
  • Champagne & Strawberries
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • Pancakes & Sausage
  • Green Eggs & Ham <– Dr. Seuss fans?
  • Vanilla Ice Cream & Hersheys Syrup
  • Dinner & Dessert

 

Did any of those resonate with you? I’m guessing you can come up with about a hundred more “combos”, but here’s what I want you to do: Take a moment to think about how often that little ampersand has threatened to undermined your post weight loss success.  Did the necessity of unhealthful food combos nearly derail your family gathering or holiday experience?

  • When you planned your 4th of July event, did you automatically include hot dogs & buns?
  • Last Thanksgiving, did you insist on eating turkey & stuffing (because you deserved it)?
  • Did your Super Bowl party experience include buffalo chicken wings & ranch dressing?

Now that you know about this little ampersand, how will it shape your future? Here’s what I think: To be successful in this WLS After Life, we have to begin recognizing, accepting and breaking those old habits that revolve around things we THOUGHT were eating imperatives. Old habits die hard, so this will take some brain power; but like mindful eating, we must learn to identify those ampersands before they sabotage our success!

I say we kick that ampersand to the curb and replace it with an EXCLAMATION POINT!!!! What do you think?

May 29, 2012   4 Comments

Addiction After WLS: In the Crosshairs of Cross Addiction

Obesity is a Gun
Pointed at Your Head  


Don’t like guns? Don’t like that imagery? Good. You’re not supposed to – because there is nothing safe or pretty about obesity. It kills.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is going to be a very serious, but very necessary post. You see, I’m a straight shooter and I’m pretty fired up about a few things that I’m witnessing in the bariatric community. But don’t think that I’m taking aim at anyone in particular, because I’m not. I am simply calling the shots as I see them, and I absolutely know that anyone who ignores the truth will eventually have to face the charges.

Ready…Aim…Fire 

If obesity is a loaded gun, then the caliber of the round in your gun is relative to the caliber of your obesity. Thus, if you are super-morbidly obese, you are looking down the metaphorical barrel of a .50 caliber, semi-automatic machine gun.

But it doesn’t end there. In addition to the “obesity” round loaded in the chamber, you might also have other rounds of ammunition – one for each co-morbidity. In other words, one bullet for diabetes, another for high blood pressure, another for physical limitations, and so on. Over time, some obese people will end up with a round in every available chamber, while others will end up with a single open chamber. Either way, the odds aren’t good because whatever that pre-op (or pre-weight loss) gun looks like, it’s pointed directly at your head.

I don’t know about you, but I spent my obese life hoping and praying that the gun “wouldn’t go off.” Every morning I squeezed the trigger and prayed for a misfire.

Am I on target with my description so far?

Finding Yourself in the Crosshairs

I know what you’re saying – what does this have to do with me? Well, keep your eye on the target because I’m going to make my point right now:

After gastric bypass surgery, I got to swap my high-caliber firearm for a smaller (less deadly) weapon…but I was forced to keep a single shot for obesity loaded in the chamber. In other words, though the odds of “survival” are much higher for me now, I (like every other post-op) will always be at risk for relapse. Which would be bad enough, except that…for many post-ops, the remaining chambers of the gun won’t stay empty; they will be reloaded with bullets like alcohol, smoking, promiscuity, gambling, or eating disorders; instead of someone else holding the gun, they’ll hold it to their own heads and bet they won’t pull the trigger. They’ll play the ultimate game of Russian roulette.

In other words, if you’re a post-op who drinks alcohol, makes poor food choices, indulges in unhealthy foods, doesn’t exercise, or generally ignores the program, then you’re fighting a duel between you and yourself – and that, my friend, is a duel to the death. Don’t tell me that alcohol isn’t a danger, because it is – especially for an altered body and an unaltered mind.

Knowing this, why would anyone rearm themselves with a loaded gun? I mean, knowing that we are truly given a second chance at life why would we be willing to throw it all away for a “good time”? It just blows me away to think about it.

Still confused?

If you’re wondering why I wrote about this today, I’ll tell you: This past weekend in Las Vegas, I saw a lot of post-ops with guns blazing. I saw people hoping they could keep dodging bullets – even as they squeezed the trigger on excess and addiction – and I saw new or insecure post-ops getting caught in the crossfire. There was a lot of drinking, gambling and overeating.

It was a bloodbath and there were casualties…which breaks my heart.

You see, I’m not bullet proof, and neither are you. Ironically, I will catch a lot of flak for daring to discuss a loaded subject like this, but I’d rather speak my peace and lose the battle, than be quiet and lose the war on obesity.

I had surgery to save my life; I didn’t have it so I could get drunk faster, or take a vacation from healthy eating, or pretend that good health will just happen. Unhealthy behaviors are unhealthy and trying to convince myself that “I’m entitled” or “I deserve it” or “I should and ought to” or that no one can tell me how to live”…are loaded ideas that will backfire on me. Every time.

Dodging that Bullet

If you have placed yourself squarely in the crosshairs by drinking, smoking, making poor food choices, hanging out with negative influences or pretending you’re wearing a bullet proof vest – it’s not too late to “unchamber” that round.

You and I bear the wounds of a common enemy. Obesity found its mark over and over in my life and I refuse to get picked off again. I hope you’ll join me and holster your gun.

Hitting the Mark

Not sure how? Stop shooting, take cover, and stop reloading your gun. If you are taking on shrapnel with cross addiction, depression, or even disillusionment, and can’t seem to hit that healthy target, please seek help from a professional, therapist/counselor, clergyman, family member or trusted friend. Stop self-inflicting your wounds.

We don’t need more casualties in the war on obesity. What we need is people on the front lines who aren’t afraid to stand their ground, so that those who fall in behind us will find shelter of their own.

Pulling the trigger

It’s your gun. Are you going to reload, retreat or recommit? That’s entirely up to you.

 

May 25, 2012   15 Comments

We See What We Choose to See.

Where is your focus?

 

Which way is she spinning?

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Now, as a rule, I’m not really a “holiday sorta girl.” I’m just. Not. It’s not that I don’t love my mom, and it’s not that I don’t feel loved as a mom, but, I dunno, I sorta feel like there’s a great deal of pressure to show and receive affection in a particular way on a particular day, when it’s better to show and receive affection that way – every day.

So, there’s that.

But, there’s also the very real fact that I don’t like to be disappointed, and I hate not having my expectations met. “If I can’t have it my way, I don’t want it any way.” (Really attractive quality, isn’t it?) Now, truth be told, I’m recovering from this “all or nothing” way of thinking, but it’s still ingrained, and it still rears its ugly head sometimes. Especially on: HOLIDAYS.

Fortunately, in my house, we never really make a big deal of Mother’s Day, which means I don’t have to be disappointed.

Well…*suspicious* emotions and motivations aside, THIS particular Mother’s Day was different. It was truly different.

For starters, my 21-Year Old daughter (Hannah) BOUGHT ME A MOTHER’S DAY CARD (yes, with her own money) – several days BEFORE MOTHER’S DAY. It is an adorable card; so her; so me. I love it. She also handmade me a super-cute “CERTIFICATE OF AWARD” which entitles the bearer (me) to – wait for it – 1 FREE HAIRCUT!!

Heck, yes, I’ll be using that.

Ahh, but it didn’t stop there. MexiKen bought me a super cute card that is completely contrary to those typical, sappy Mother’s Day Cards (did I mention I don’t like sappy Mother’s Day cards?) Anyway, he got it for me because the cartoon on the front of the card has a woman in these cute pumps with sparkly stones on the toes. He said it reminded him of me. (Love that).

To top it all off, we took a lovely 18+ mile bike ride up the canal and back, then dropped by the grocery store to pick-up some salad fixins’ before heading home. It was a delightful afternoon.

And that was the good stuff. Got it? Cards. Certificate. Bike Ride. All good.

BUT…what I didn’t mention is, before the cards, certificate and bike ride, we (Hannah, MexiKen and I) went out for breakfast to a place I had hoped wouldn’t be crowded (I was mostly right): Panera. Now, Panera is pretty much ALL BREAD; ALL THE TIME – something I don’t do. BUT, they do have a Mediterranean egg white thing (which I order sans ciabatta bread), and they also have a soufflé (which I can eat about half of) – so, that’s what I typically do.

Except for yesterday.

Yesterday, they were sold out. That’s right, they were sold out of everything my pouch could tolerate. So I had: NOTHING. My family ate (because I wisely had them order first), but I had…crappy coffee. (I don’t like Panera’s coffee, but I didn’t want to just have a glass of water…I don’t know why not.) At some point, I decided that maybe I could try some black bean soup. (For Mother’s Day breakfast….right) but, I really was not in the mood for black bean soup…so I hated it.

And then we headed home.

I was deflated, to say the least. I felt cranky and cheated and disappointed. It wasn’t “fair” I thought. Why couldn’t I eat the way everyone else does? Of course, I already answered my own question, (Because I chose to have bariatric surgery as a tool to combat precisely that sort of unhealthy behavior – at least eating like that every day) – But..that didn’t make me feel any better. Sometimes…like on holidays…I really resent my Bariatric After Life™.  Sometimes, I just want to be: NORMAL.

Fortunately, that’s what pity parties are for. So I had one. For an hour. I frowned and groused and just felt pitiful. It was delightfully self-indulgent.

And counterproductive.

So, I decided I’d had enough of that, and changed my attitude. Yup.I pretty much started over and changed the way I looked at my day.

Okay, so I didn’t find anything that would work for me at the restaurant. Big deal. I had a protein shake when I got home. And then I ambled back to my computer, where I began to create a wonderful video for Las Vegas (which felt pretty good). And then…well, THEN, I decided to DO SOMETHING that I really wanted to do. Something I NEVER would have done in my “Before” life: I decided then and there that we should go for a bike ride, and that is precisely what we did.

Guess what? We had an incredible time.

So, how did I go from pity to party in 10 seconds flat? I changed my attitude….my outlook…my perspective. I changed the way I looked at my day, my options…my life.

Here’s what I’ve learned: There are many different ways you can look at a situation. You can focus on the negative, or you can focus on the positive. You can see only what you can’t do, or you can look for the things you CAN do. You can step away from the situation and look from a different angle or, you can get closer. Whatever you do, in those times when life looks dreary or down, the best thing to do is find the UP.

And that’s why I put that picture of the pirouetting girl at the top of this posting. Because there are always different ways to see things – and, while one is not necessarily “wrong,” sometimes, there are better ways.

Which way is she spinning?

This Mother’s Day, I chose to focus on what made me happy, rather than what made me sad. (And, yes, I called my mama, sent her a card, texted her, post on her Facebook wall – and sent her a Facebook message. I covered all of my bases, and we are going to celebrate together over Memorial Day weekend.)

Now that I’ve told you about my day and my struggles, I want to know what you do when you’re feeling down and all you can see around you is failure or roadblocks? How do you deal with disappointment? Do you get resentful? Do you give into it, or do you change your point of view and enjoy the life you’re given?

I know why I chose bariatric surgery: To live.

How about you?

May 14, 2012   3 Comments

I Was Never A Girl Scout

FROM THE BARBIE ARCHIVES…Originally published August 17, 2009 on Gastric Bypass Barbie. 

Maybe There’s a Reason I Stopped at “Brownie”?


©Smithsonian Institution Press

I was a Brownie, but quit before I became a Girl Scout (always a bridesmaid, never a bride?). At the time, I said it was because I was too shy to participate, but I remember that I was always confused by all of the rules and regulations for “earning badges.” Okay, in my defense, I was only about 6, but even then, I struggled to be prepared — and find knee socks that actually fit all the way to my knees! (Yes, even THEN I was cursed with Kankles.)

In retrospect, I can see the beginnings of a bunch of really bad habits:

  1. Feeling inadequate in the face of new ideas and tasks
  2. Disliking the need for preparedness
  3. Being worried about the future, and whether or not I would succeed.
  4. Hating the idea of merit badges. (Okay, I’m not sure how bad that one turned out to be in my real life, but seriously, that one always bugged me. Especially when my MOM had to stitch them to my sash. C’mon! Wasn’t there a “sewing” badge???)

The reason I bring this up is, I got to thinking (worrying?) about the future, and I realized that there are lots of different ways to entertain these thoughts. There are healthy ways (preparation, anticipation) and unhealthy ways (vexation, hesitation), and which ways I choose will determine my success in the gastric bypass after life.

Here are some phrases that came to mind when I started thinking about the future:

  • Anticipation
  • Hesitation
  • Preparation
  • Trepidation
  • Vexation
  • Exhilaration
  • Procrastination
  • Celebration

Interesting mix of ideas, don’t you agree? Not surprisingly, many post-ops (myself included) worry that we will “regain all of our weight” and that somehow we will “fail” after bariatric surgery. How is it that *some* people DO regain their weight, and *some* do NOT? I’m thinking that it has to do with the way in which we view the future. Do we view it with trepidation (fear, anxiety, worry), or with preparation (planned success)? It’s kind of weird, when you think about it. I mean, surgery gave us a second chance at life. In many cases, it eliminated serious, debilitating, even life-threatening conditions. So, why should our vision of the future be one of angst, turmoil and unhappiness? Shouldn’t we embrace the future with dreams, goals, and visions of sweet success?

Ahh, if only it were that easy.

So, how do we go from FEAR to ANTICIPATION? Here is my thinking on the matter:

I say the first step is PLANNING: If we PLAN to succeed, then we will do what it takes to make it happen. We have to visualize ourselves living a successful and healthy After Life before we can achieve it.

Next is PREPARATION: Once we’ve PLANNED to succeed, it’s time to lay the groundwork, build the foundation for success through careful PREPARATION. This takes the form of pre-measuring our foods, creating menus, bringing protein and fluid with us when we run errands, and even scheduling exercise.

Next is ANTICIPATION: Shouldn’t we be excited about our plans and preparation? We should awaken each day with verve, vigor and enthusiasm for the coming day. We should know that we are READY for whatever the day will bring, and will succeed because we have PLANNED and PREPARED — even for the unexpected!

Finally, is CELEBRATION: We have to ACKNOWLEDGE our successes and celebrate the victories (small, big, scale and non-scale). Life is about living. It’s about experiencing joy (along with suffering). I think a big part of success in the After lIfe is being aware enough to notice when great things are happening in our lives.

Unfortunately, being the flawed humans that we are, life is not all happiness and joy; it throws us curve balls and unexpected drama. Anyone can succeed in calm seas; it’s what happens when the tide is high, winds are strong, and waves are crashing all around us that determines our grit. How do we deal with the inevitable vexation, trepidation, hesitation and procrastination? I guess if I had the answer to that, I’d be a millionaire, but I do have a few thoughts:

1) Marinating in my woes only serves to make them stronger (just like it does when we marinate a steak!) So, like I learned when my Dad passed away, it’s okay to be sad for a time, but when one sad thought begets another…and another, it’s time to stop being sad. In other words, it’s time to stop marinating in worry, and move on to more productive things (like remembering successes — or good times, as in the case of my pop.)

2) Worry doesn’t solve anything (and makes your face wrinkly!) I’m working on “letting stuff go” rather than laying awake at night worrying about what “could” or “might” happen. When the worry sets in, I try to focus on things that give me joy — like hiking with my hubby, wearing really cute (tiny) clothing, feeling healthy, and being able to get up EARLY!

3) Put more energy into planning and less into procrastinating. Now, I’ll admit, being a world-class procrastinator is NOT an easy thing to overcome, so it’s something I struggle with just about every day. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I just keep plugging along, hoping for the best (but bracing for the worst!)

4) Living in the moment (the here and now) is way more fun than the uncertainty of what was or might be. I must remember to taste each bite, breathe through each high kick in aerobics, feel the breeze in my face while I’m strolling with Juan, and soak up the sun when I’m out on my bike. That is exhilaration. That is the goal of an Gastric Bypass After Life worth living.

So, where does that leave me now — today? I guess you could say I’m: Planning, Preparing, and Anticipating Happiness, while Exhilarating and Celebrating Every Day Life and banishing any hint of Vexing, Hesitation, Trepidation, or desire for Procrastination.

That’s a tall order, and sadly, there’s no such thing as a “Bariatric Badge” — but maybe there should be!

How about these?

  • Protein Patch (for meeting daily protein intake goals)
  • Salad Badge (for making amazing salads — why not?)
  • Carb Badge (for recognizing good carbs from bad carbs)
  • Timed Bites Patch (for waiting 5-10 minutes between bites — can you lose this badge or earn demerits???)
  • Hydration Patch (for getting your fluids in — but not at the same time as you eat!)
  • Vitamin Patch (for taking supplements every day, even when the chewable vitamins taste yucky and the iron stops you up!)
  • Exercise Badge (for living an active lifestyle — every day!)

Can you think of anymore Bariatric Badges for my sash? Let me know; I’d love to hear!

March 24, 2012   4 Comments