Sunday, October 3, 2010

Another job

Right now, I am working full time, going to school, and swimming laps three times a week. It feels like there is a lot on my plate. School seems really intense because the classes tend to meet only 2-5 times, but for 3-8 hours each time and sometimes after I've already worked a full day. I have had to get up at the crack of dawn every weekend day to get a good lap swim time. (I'm resisting the 5 AM swims on weekdays, but I might have to try those out, too, just to see what works best with everything else I have scheduled.) I'm trying out different Y facilities and different times to see what works the best with my other obligations, but those super-early weekend mornings have been the times when I could have my own lane and of course, those are the best swims. I had a great swim today--a lane all to myself for fifty full minutes. I can't do a flip turn, but starting today, I decided to never let my feet touch the bottom of the pool and at least grab the side and push off and keep going at the end of every lap. It definitely kicked the workout up a notch. Thus far, I remain the fattest person in the pool every time and I watch many wheels turn when I can swim faster or longer than many others who are present--and frankly, I'm starting to get a kick out of it, unless it's one of those jerks that look at me like I smell bad (and funny thing, those jerks are never the ones who drag their happy asses out of bed for the early-morning sessions). The staffer who opened the facility door this morning said, "Good morning, folks! I see all the SERIOUS people are here." It was just a joke, but one that made me feel really good.

What seems to be helping me stick to my routine isn't only the financial consideration of the Y dues being auto-deducted as I wrote about last time, but the fact that I think of this as another job--something I have to schedule in three times every week, no matter where I have to drive or what time I have to go.

My weight is changing in fractions of pounds, but not by much at all. I am trying not to focus on this, and I am still in the frustrating stage where my skin is getting looser and the skin on my stomach is preventing me from wearing smaller pants. The loose-skin-creeping-down-the-thighs thing is still happening too and really sticks in my craw. Swimming is great because of the toning aspect, so I'm glad it's my exercise of choice, but having ugly loose skin where I didn't even seem to have excess fat before is *really* damn annoying. I think about plastic surgery all the time and then I feel shallow for thinking about it all the time. I even think about having it on my eye bags and then I feel incredibly shallow and vain for thinking about it. I was telling a friend of mine about this the other day and I said, "I don't know why I keep harping on it. It isn't going to make me young."

"Is it really about being young?" he asked.

"No," I responded, "it's about me not feeling repulsive." The depth of honesty in that response surprised even me. (And that's what it IS about.) This amazing discussion followed about how I had always felt like people only tolerated the way I looked because I was a good person (and then I don't feel like a good person some of the time, either). I own just how incredibly screwed up that sounds--because it is. (It's not fun to feel it, either, believe me.) I have hunches where it all originated--I've read things, I've had therapy. One of my friends is convinced I have body dysmorphic disorder, but it goes far beyond body image and weight--when I feel sick/vulnerable, I feel ugly. I blogged about it at some length in "Compliments" (September 2009). It would be nice not to care about all that or have it be a factor or even a passing thought, but I do and it is. All I can do is keep going and, I guess, cut myself slack for unnecessary mental gymnastics. If only they burned calories.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have discovered something about myself: when YMCA dues are auto-deducted from my checking account, I am much more driven to go to the pool regularly. I'm paying either way, right? Today I felt a little queasy and was really close to bagging it, and then I thought: "Stop it, it's an excuse. If you still don't feel well, you can stop swimming and leave." I have this tool (the surgery), which I am damn lucky to have; I have a limited window of time for initial weight loss following it; and the best part of all--when I swim, I feel amazing.

I'm feeling this determination that shocks even me, but I'm not sure why; I've always known how to work and been tenacious. (There is a reason I adore bulldogs!) The fact is, I'm there to do a job and it gets done: I swim for fifty minutes. Sometimes there is a kids' swim team or a family with masks and fins who can barely dog paddle or someone who can do impressive flip turns even though they appear to be in their fifties. Sometimes it's early in the morning and I crash Mr. Salted's car into the cement post next to the gas pump before I even get to the pool (yes, this really happened two weeks ago). I just share the lane and keep going. I look at the clock a lot. Fifty minutes. It's a long time. I don't start getting tired until about forty minutes.

Every time I go, it gets easier to move, to breathe. As I glide through the water, loose skin doesn't matter, fat rolls don't matter, middle age doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that I've never been to Europe, that I'll never be a rock star or a grandmother, that I'm still trying to pay off my student loans at almost 42 years old. No matter how I look in my bathing suit out of the pool, in it I feel weightless and graceful.

To date, I have always been the largest person there. I'm not thrilled about the way I look, but I accept it. I know I look the best I can at this point in time, and I look better than I have in many years, mostly because I'm happier. I care much more about how I feel.

In the locker room today, I felt like I could see the struggles of every woman there. I was the heaviest, but some were older, some looked exhausted or tentative, and one beautiful young lady was weighing herself wearing only a towel and glaring at the number on the scale like it was her worst enemy. I thought: I have been every one of you and felt full again, this time with compassion. We all have our obstacles and our journeys. The only person I have never been is the friendly elderly woman who loves to swim and is smiling simply because she woke up today, but becoming her is another goal I can set for the future.

Words to live by

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday Stealing: The Majorly Personal Meme, Part One

1. Are you happier now than you were five months ago?


2. Have you ever slept in the same bed with anyone that you shouldn't have?

Haven't we all? :)

3. Can you sleep in total darkness?

Not really.

4. Your phone is ringing. It’s the person you fell hardest for, the one who got away, what do you say?

There is no such person, and even if there was--I screen my calls. ;)

5. What do you think about the weather this summer?

A lot of people have complained about it, but I'm not fond of hot weather, so I'm good with it.

6. How many people do you trust with everything?

Truthfully? Zero.

7. What was the last thing you drank?

Diet Snapple Trop-A-Rocka--I am totally addicted to it and really hope they make it a permanent flavor.

8. Is there anyone you want to come see you?

I'd rather go see them--there are several!

9. Name one thing you love about winter?

Being under many blankets, with or without Mr. Salted and a cat or two.

10. Have you ever dated a Goth?

No, but I've been one.

11. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Getting a Jamba Juice in the morning.

12. Name something you dislike about the day you’re having?

The fact that I don't have more energy.

13. What's the longest that you have committed to one person and one person only?

Five years. I am hoping to improve on that!

14. What’s the first thing you did when you opened your eyes today?

Got up and took a Claritin.

15. Has anyone ever told you they never want to ever lose you?


16. Is there anybody that you wish you could fix your relationship with?

Not really. I'm at a place of acceptance with who that person is.

17. Could you go out in public, looking like you do now?

Yeah. My motto is "if you don't like it, don't look".

18. Do you think things will change in the next 3 months? How?

I'm just going to keep losing weight and feeling better :)

19. Do you believe that you never know what you got until you lose it?

At times, though I think that is more a symptom of being young (or just immature, or at the very least, untested). I think you can figure it out if you pay attention along the way, but ultimately, a great deal of life is about dealing with loss and learning from it. I think it was Dr. Seuss who said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Whoever said it, they are wise words.

20. Do you have a friend of the opposite sex you can talk to?


Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's been a year since surgery.

As the tumbleweeds continue to dance through this blog, I knew it had been a while but I didn't realize I hadn't posted at all in the month of August--and it is September in a couple of days. This summer got away from me in a big way. I finally got off swing shift about a month ago, and that helped everything immensely. I learned not to take two classes simultaneously and work full-time, because I wasn't effective anywhere. Mr. Salted and I both got sick and couldn't get over it--we are both still hacking a bit, weeks later--and I had a couple of migraines to boot. It's been the longest period of Just Getting Through the Day that I've had in many years, and I can't say that I care for it too much. But things are on the definite upswing.

As the year anniversary of the surgery approached, I was starting to shut down. With everything else going on in my life, it definitely wasn't my primary focus as it had been, though I was still following the basic rules. I got incredibly anxious when it came time for the follow-up appointments, since my weight hadn't changed between the 9- and 12-month mark. In fact, it went up a pound or two. On swing shift, I went up eight pounds almost overnight; when I went back on day shift, I immediately lost five or six of it without any behavior change, lending credibility to all those studies out there now that inadequate and poor quality sleep causes weight gain. Before my appointments, I couldn't sleep for days, thinking the nutritionist and doctors were going to yell at me and feeling like a failure because of that one or two pounds. I also still hadn't found time to start working out.

The appointments all went incredibly well, so I worried for nothing. My bloodwork is stupendously healthy. The Simcor (20 mg simvastatin, 500 mg niacin) lowered my cholesterol considerably. I have lost 80 pounds since surgery, 100 pounds since my highest weight. My surgeon could not have been kinder or more encouraging. Sitting and talking with him, I was again reminded by his passion for what he does, and moved by it as well. He was training a physician's assistant I had not previously met who is an absolute doll--she made me feel better before he even got there.

My weight hovers around the 205-210 range, and my 18-month surgery anniversary is in February. The surgeon wants me to try to lose 20-25 pounds by then and to ultimately shoot for 180 pounds. (That is what I weighed when I graduated high school. It's funny how I remember what weights I've been by the age or period of my life I was in at the time.) He said how much I lose will depend on how hard I work (duh) but both of us agree I probably cannot get much below 180 pounds without cosmetic surgery to at least remove the excess skin. While this may sound discouraging to some, I really appreciated the realistic approach. He talked about the absurdity of the old weight charts--how they would have just looked at my height and determine I should weigh between 120 and 140. (I joked that my skeleton weighs more than that, and he laughed like he had never heard that before.) Basically, he reiterated that I am doing what I am supposed to be, I am about where he would want me to be, and reinforced the message that the first year had been a complete success. I thought the fact that I was not working out yet would be the biggest bugaboo, but he even managed to turn that into a positive. "This is the perfect time to start," he said. "You aren't going to lose any more weight unless you do. It's a great motivator."

Yes. Yes, it is.

A few days later, I joined the YMCA. I paid slightly more for a membership that allows me to use any Y in three adjacent counties. I have been swimming three times a week, and it feels great. I hadn't swam since before I had lasik in 2007, and it's great to both see what I'm doing and feel how much more easily I move through the water. The first couple of times I swam for 40 straight minutes, but within a week I was shooting for 50. I don't try to go super fast the whole time, only to keep going. Breaststroke is the easiest for me, and I concentrate on a gentle, strong, consistent movement. (I discovered that flutter kick still hurts my ankle a little.) The first couple of times I went, I felt like the lifeguard was looking at me like I was about to stroke out. Other people remain the most annoying part of any workout for me--particularly people that act like the pool is their own personal possession and are visibly annoyed that someone new is there. Of course, I encountered the most obnoxious person to date on my first time going. In the past, that might have driven me out of that pool. Now I say to myself: "My money is worth just as much as yours, I paid just like you to be here, and you're not going to get in the way of my goals". I just keep swimming.

(My grandmother turned 90 recently and I asked her if she thought she would make it to 90. "I never gave it much thought," she said. "You just kept going?" I asked. "Yeah," she replied. "Just kept going.")

My weight still hasn't changed since I started swimming; I was warned that loss happens much more slowly now. Stuff is still shifting around, though, so I know muscle is being built. I went down another cup size, and some of my jeans are 16s now--a size I haven't worn since high school! The hardest part of it all is my skin getting looser. I can fit everything but my stomach into a lot smaller clothes, and if that apron (that's what I call it) wasn't there, I could wear very different clothes, too. I try not to focus on that, but sometimes it gets to me. I am going to want it surgically corrected ASAP.

I am still not small by any means, but I definitely feel that the world perceives me differently. I am sure some of this is because I am projecting more confidence and positivity, but the world remains unabashedly shallow. Men, in particular, are a damn sight nicer. I get a lot more smiles, doors opened, and conversation in general; sometimes (more often than I can even believe) I even get checked out. While I enjoy that (I cannot tell a lie!), it also sticks in my craw a little. I am the same person I always was--kind, funny and smart, no matter what I weighed. The idea that a person, particularly a female person, has to fall within the parameters of looking a certain way in order to receive basic acknowledgment as a human being will never be okay with me. 100 pounds lighter, I am still too large for many to acknowledge. I find myself caring a lot more about my appearance, dressing better--I even started bleaching my teeth (something I've wanted to do for years, and I finally found a dentist with a reasonably priced option for doing it).

I resolve to keep fighting the good fight, and I resolve to post more often! I am leaving for the pool in about half an hour.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Conscious eating

I have been doggedly trying to practice this the past few days. Drinking more liquids rather than eating every time I get the notion. Asking myself, "Are you REALLY hungry or would drinking something fill you up?" (Sometimes, drinking something IS enough--I just have to be aware.) This morning I danced around for fifteen minutes while I watched TV to get my heart beating. I'm also trying to think more positive thoughts--how much I've lost already, how much better I feel.

My shift is supposed to change to days next week, and I really hope it does. I'm averaging maybe four hours of sleep a night. I've been researching pools and health clubs where I might be able to go, and have found a couple of options.

I've discovered that I really love Bret Michaels' diet Snapple flavor that he created on "Celebrity Apprentice"--it's called Bret's Blend Tea, Trop-A-Rocka. Goofy as that name is, I hope they keep making it; I usually don't like the tea flavors, and it's hard to find diet Snapple in anything else.

I also discovered my stomach is happier when I have Jamba Juice swap out the juice and completely substitute it with the Splenda low-cal dairy base so that all my drinks are made of is that and fruit. Pomegranate and mango combos seem to be the mildest.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

If only bad habits could be edited

I'm taking a professional editing class--it's part of the Technical Writing Certificate I'm working toward in my spare (cough) time. The final project assignment is to edit a piece of writing that's 5-10 pages long, using the different levels of editing we're learning about, etc., etc. It's hard to find pieces of writing on the web that it's okay (read: legal) to edit, so we were steered toward Wikipedia for sources.

I looked up some random stuff I thought I might be able to write about, like 'shabby chic', and there wasn't enough text (or enough interest on my part to make it a final project). Then, a light bulb went on (must have been the Rockstar I just finished--wink wink) and I thought, "I'll look up 'gastric bypass surgery'!" I cut and pasted the whole kit and caboodle into Word and it came up as 17 pages, so even with the random white space where the graphics would have gone, it should be plenty long enough when all is said and done. I emailed my instructor with a couple of questions and now await his reply. Some stuff in the article jumped out at me.

"The long-term mortality rate of gastric bypass patients has been shown to be reduced by up to 40%;however, complications are common and surgery-related death occurs within one month in 2% of patients."

I knew this; in fact, I actually thought the surgery-related death statistic was higher. I think it may have gone down in the 12 or so years I've been reading about it; initially I had the impression that 1 in 4 patients died pretty quickly following surgery, which was one of the reasons I initially refused to get it. I tell people they should know the worst-case scenario(s) and be able to accept them before they undergo bariatric surgery.

"The Consensus Panel of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended the following criteria for consideration of bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass procedures:
1. People who have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher. Or,
2. People with a BMI of 35 or higher with one or more related comorbid conditions.
The Consensus Panel also emphasized the necessity of multidisciplinary care of the bariatric surgical patient, by a team of physicians and therapists, to manage associated co-morbidities, nutrition, physical activity, behavior and psychological needs. The surgical procedure is best regarded as a tool which enables the patient to alter lifestyle and eating habits, and to achieve effective and permanent management of their obesity and eating behavior."

That's what they've been telling me. Tool. It's easier said than done sometimes, but it's the most useful way to think of the surgery.

"In 2004, a Consensus Conference was sponsored by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS), which updated the evidence and the conclusions of the NIH panel. This Conference, composed of physicians and scientists of many disciplines, both surgical and non-surgical, reached several conclusions, amongst which were:
• Bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for morbid obesity
• Gastric bypass is one of four types of operations for morbid obesity.
• Laparoscopic surgery is equally effective and as safe as open surgery.
• Patients should undergo comprehensive pre-operative evaluation, and have multi-disciplinary support, for optimum outcome."

Okay. I agree with this, and it's what I'm getting.

"The gastric bypass, in its various forms, accounts for a large majority of the bariatric surgical procedures performed. It is estimated that 200,000 such operations were performed in the United States in 2008. An increasing number of these operations are now performed by limited access techniques, termed "laparoscopy".

Laparoscopic surgery is performed using several small incisions, or ports, one of which conveys a surgical telescope connected to a video camera, and others permit access of specialized operating instruments. The surgeon actually views his operation on a video screen. The method is also called limited access surgery, reflecting both the limitation on handling and feeling tissues, and also the limited resolution and two-dimensionality of the video image. With experience, a skilled laparoscopic surgeon can perform most procedures as expeditiously as with an open incision—with the option of using an incision should the need arise."

My surgery was laproscopic. I had that unusually thick abdominal wall problem, but my incision scars are almost invisible already, not even a year out.

"The gastric bypass procedure consists in essence of: creation of a small, (15–30 mL/1–2 tbsp) thumb-sized pouch from the upper stomach, accompanied by bypass of the remaining stomach (about 400 mL and variable)."

Wow, that's tiny.

"The gastric bypass reduces the size of the stomach by well over 90%. A normal stomach can stretch, sometimes to over 1000 ml, while the pouch of the gastric bypass may be 15 ml in size. The Gastric Bypass pouch is usually formed from the part of the stomach which is least susceptible to stretching. That, and its small original size, prevents any significant long-term change in pouch volume. What does change, over time, is the size of the connection between stomach and bowel, and the ability of the small bowel to hold a greater volume of food. Over time, the functional capacity of the pouch increases; by that time, weight loss has occurred, and the increased capacity serves to allow maintenance of a lower body weight.
When the patient ingests just a small amount of food, the first response is a stretching of the wall of the stomach pouch, stimulating nerves which tell the brain that the stomach is full."

What I heard was that a 'normal' stomach can stretch to the size of a football. (An example like that is easier for me to visualize.)

"In almost every case where weight gain occurs late after surgery, capacity for a meal has not greatly increased. The cause of regaining weight is eating between meals, usually high-caloric snack foods. There is no known operation which can completely counteract the adverse effects of destructive eating behavior."

This is the part that hit me where I lived, particularly the last sentence--because I know how very true it is and live it every day, sometimes much to my own chagrin. It's just another way to say, "This surgery isn't a magic wand"--which is, of course, what I've been saying (and learning, literally) all along.

There were more interesting little factoids on Wikipedia's gastric bypass surgery page, such as that post-surgical folk absorb alcohol faster and take longer to get sober (which would seem logical). The statistics were also kind of fun:

-65-80% of excess body weight is typically lost post-op;
-High cholesterol is corrected over 70% of the time (I'm in the remaining 30%, lucky me);
-Type II diabetes is resolved in over 90% of cases, sometimes within days of surgery (this did happen, yay);
-Sleep apnea is often cured, though no statistic is given;
-acid reflux and joint pain are often gone quickly, although no statistic is given.

The article does stress the importance of having a support system in place due to the psychological ramifications of this surgery. I would definitely, definitely concur.

Energy drinks: pro or con?

Almost every time I am drinking an energy drink, or talk about drinking an energy drink, someone says, "Oh, they're so bad for you." Well, everything is bad for you, isn't it? (she groused with no attempt to hide her irritability) I mean, life is going to kill us all at some point. In all seriousness, though, I haven't researched them except in terms of deciding which ones I like the taste of--and I only drink sugar-free, of course. I also have never drunk more than one in a day, nor would I--especially not prior to a workout.

I'm not particularly fond of Red Bull, though it is okay as a drink mixer and most places seem to have some sugar-free behind the bar. NOS has been my favorite thus far in terms of taste (despite the fact that it is the official energy drink of NASCAR, which did give me pause)--it's more citrus-y than the others--but I have had a hard time finding it in sugar-free, or at all. I heard that Wal-Mart recently pulled NOS from store shelves for causing heart palpitations in someone somewhere, but I would also be willing to bet that the person/those people pounded several of them beforehand, and that it may or may not have been the same person who sued McDonald's because they spilled some coffee on themselves and found out (shock! horror! disbelief!) that it was hot.

My happy medium for energy drinks seems to be Rockstar, which can be acquired by the case at Costco for the cheapest price I've seen, and can be found in sugar-free just about everywhere.

Yes, it has a lot of caffeine--80 mg in a 16-oz. can--but want/need for caffeine is usually why one drinks one of these, isn't it? There are 0 carbs and 20 calories in said can, which also contains 200% of the RDA for Vitamin B2, 100% of the RDA for Vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12, as well as taurine, ginseng, guarana, ginkgo, L-carnitine, and a few other things of that ilk that are said to be beneficial to one's overall health.

If dairy and/or coffee are hard on one's stomach, I guess I don't see the harm in energy drinks. They are "lightly carbonated" as opposed to the full carbonation of soda, which is preferable for post-WLS folk. There is no aspartame (at least not in the sugar-free Rockstar can I have next to me as I type this). I'm going to have to talk to my nutritionist next time around and see what the big deal is.

Saturday 9: Go Your Own Way

1. When was the last time you were told to go your own way?

I always go my own way. I've been doing it for so long I don't remember.

2. What one experience has strengthened your character the most so far?

My divorce and its surrounding circumstances.

3. What's your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

Read under the covers, perhaps with a cat or two nearby.

4. How long can you go without your cell phone?

Forever. I really only have it for emergencies on road trips and the like.

5. Do you wish you were somewhere else right now?

Yes. Always. I'd love to be on the Oregon coast or on a cruise ship with Mr. Salted.

6. Of all the people you've ever known, who have you most feared?

In the end--myself.

7. Do people tell you that you look your age?

I got carded for alcohol until I turned 41. Now I feel like I'm aging at warp speed.

8. Your ex shows up randomly at your house, what do you say?

Did your car break down?

9. Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?

Not everyone. As the Shinedown song says, "Sometimes goodbye is a second chance."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sugar's revenge

I am feeling somewhat the worse for wear this evening/really early morning (swing shift and all). The temperatures were in the low 90s here today, and I'm not sure I believe in hell--but if there is one, I know why it's purported to be hot. High temperatures are nowhere near as miserable as they were 91-give-or-take pounds ago, but summer will never, ever be my favorite season. I'm as pale as it gets, generally light-sensitive, and far too much shaving of the body is required for everyday societal acceptance. A season where you can drink hot tea and put more clothes on, with overcast skies that never exacerbate a headache--that's a season I can get behind. But I digress.

As I've noted here before--somewhat ruefully--I have had much more adverse reactions to fried and fatty foods since surgery than I have to foods containing sugar, and the latter foods are much more my bugaboo. ("I can take or leave sweets," some people say. I don't envy many people, but I envy those people. A lot.)

I believe the culprit for tonight's stomachache was, ironically, sugarless gummy bears--I must have eaten too many of them. I believe they are sweetened with maltitol and most anyone who's ever eaten sugar free candy knows better than to overindulge, weight-loss surgery folks or otherwise, because the end result is unpleasant. (It could have also been the fact that there was some sugar in my Jamba Juice, some in my protein bar, some in my protein shake, and it all swirled together to become a miniature cyclone of gastrointestinal discomfort.)

As the kids say, I've been schooled.

In about a month, I will be a year out and I'm feeling somewhat discouraged. My weight has been in the 208-210 range lately and that number is going the wrong way. Clothes are still getting smaller, so maybe the weight is still being redistributed, but I've got to get out of this rut.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I am not intentionally ignoring the blog...I have had nothing to say lately. Full-time swing shift has me much more sleep-deprived than usual, and I can't seem to acclimate even though it's been a month--and allegedly, we will be going on day shift in less time than that. (I can hardly wait.) The sleep I do get is sporadic and not of good quality, so I am feeling barely taped together. I feel out of sync with the rest of the world, almost exclusively communicating with Mr. Salted via notes and text messages. Since we actually like each other, this sucks. I miss him. I am relying on caffeine a lot more than I'm comfortable with, and I had a screamer migraine a week ago that forced me to leave work halfway through my shift. I was down with said migraine all last weekend.

My weight isn't doing anything in particular. I am trying not to succumb to temptation and succeeding probably 2/3 of the time. I guess I am discouraged to some extent, but mostly, I am just tired.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Berkeley HeartLab results

My Berkeley HeartLab test results came back and I met with the ARNP to go over them. Basically, the conclusion was that my high cholesterol is likely genetic, and that I fall into the group of people whose cholesterol can be lowered by statin drugs. This group of people is at higher risk for heart disease and heart attack, but the other group--the group whose cholesterol doesn't respond to statin drugs--while at much lower risk for heart issues, can have them develop or happen out of nowhere. Another issue (only identifiable with a test like the Berkeley) has to do with the size of the blood particles the body produces to fight the bad cholesterol. I happen to be a person who produces smaller particles than usual, so that is something else that will have to be factored into my diet and treatment regimen.

Niacin on its own has failed to improve my numbers, but it tends to increase the particle size, so the ARNP and I struck a compromise: I am now taking a drug called Simcor--500 mg niacin, 20mg simvastatin, which is the lowest dose available. (Prior to surgery, I was on 80mg simvastatin.) We will do bloodwork in three months, tweak it as needed, blah blah blah.

I am still having a hard time with the sleep schedule, though I am loving the job. I also registered for two summer quarter classes. I haven't been working out, and my weight is in a holding pattern--I may even be up a pound or two. I am cutting back on diet soda and trying to avoid the bulk candy at work, sticking to the Zone Perfect bars and only one of those per shift. I'm having a hard time with the company-provided meals, too. They offer a lot of vegetarian things, which would be great except they are awfully heavy-handed with the pepper and spices. They have great pizza and rolls, two things I should not be eating--too many carbs, plus they stick in the pouch. I've been eating some of the things that aren't so great for me, and I often don't feel too hot as a result--so the past few days, I am drinking a lot more water than anything else and sticking to my protein drinks and 'safe' foods for meals. I eat lots of plain Cheerios, and I love my Jamba Juice lunches. Sugar-free energy drinks are less fattening and easier to digest than coffee, so I usually do one of those a day. I'm trying to make better choices, and every day is a new one--that's how I try to look at it when I get discouraged.

Saturday 9: Jumping Someone Else's Train

1. When was your last train ride?

When I was a kid, we took the train to Montana every summer to visit family. I haven't ridden the train since then, but my favorite bed and breakfast is made up of refurbished cabooses and we go there once or twice a year--I don't think it counts though! I have really fond memories of riding the train as a kid. The people were always very kind.

2. How many foreign countries have you visited? Tell us about one.

Only Canada and Mexico. Mexico was really hot and beautiful. I was struck by the poverty, though--and I know I only saw the areas that had been spruced up.

3. What do you always take with you on vacation?

Books, camera, and iPod.

4. Tell us about something you've lost recently.
Just weight!

5. Do you prefer action packed vacations or relaxing ones?


6. How long will you wait in a checkout line before abandoning your purchases?

I've never abandoned my purchases.

7. How old do you wish you were?
Sometimes I wish I could be about ten years younger, but I like the age I am now.

8. Do you consider yourself kind?
Yes. I don't take any crap or suffer fools gladly, so I can sometimes be perceived as otherwise, but I have had more than one person I was close to say I was the kindest person they had ever met. I consider that the highest compliment anyone could pay.

9. Tell us about your tattoos. Or if you had to get a tattoo, where and what would it be?

I don't have any, but I am definitely considering it, probably on my calf, my upper arm or my back. I think about a lotus, because a dear friend told me I was just like one, that I had become a beautiful person though I had come from shit--a really powerful statement. I think about one of my paintings, an important word (maybe courage). Who knows?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dressing room

One of my friends and I like to go to Old Navy periodically, and we did last night. There were a lot of cute things on sale and clearance, and it's fun to dig through them. We usually share a dressing room, and I always take back about 7 items to try on for every one item I end up buying. I am slowly fitting into smaller sizes, which is cool because I am finally at the point where I can buy in the actual bricks-and-mortar store and not have to order from the online-only plus section. I can get into a 16 in their pants, but an 18 is still more comfortable and looks better. I seem to be perpetually in between one size or another, no matter the store or brand.

My friend has also lost a significant amount of weight in recent years. I have never gained weight in my legs, yet that's where the loosest of my skin seems to be, at least as of yet. It was that way for my friend as well--it made me feel a little better, because she wears a 10 or 12 now and looks great in clothes. I think it was the most fun I've had in a dressing room--they have not always been places I wanted to be by any means! Clothes were piled from floor to ceiling, and were laughing ruefully while comparing loose skin, concluding it was the result of aging as well as weight loss. Gravity happens!

Saturday 9: Goodbye to You

1. Have you had to say goodbye to a good friend or lover because they were moving?

Many times, and sometimes the person moving was me.

2. Have you ever wanted to use personal information about someone to sort of "blackmail" them? If yes, tell us about it.

No, that's below the belt. I'm too much of a believer in karma for that! Things like that cross my mind, I have an evil chuckle, then I get over it and wait for karma to get them if they have it coming--and it always, always does.

3. What two things influenced the choice of your present job or to stay at home?

Money and money.

4. Do you like warm weather? How warm does it get where you live? What is the best way to spend a hot, summer day?

About 65-70 is ideal weather for me--I'm not a fan of super hot weather. It can get into the 80s and even 90s for a few days each summer here, but for the most part it is in the 60s-70s range at its warmest and that's good for me! The best way to spend a hot summer day? Inside with the A/C on. :) If I have to be outside, I need a lot of hydration, sunscreen and an umbrella.

5. What do you find "hot" in a man/woman? What is the first thing you notice about someone who is hot? Do you ever think of yourself as hot?

What I think is hot/what I notice: humor, kindness, a nice smile, nice eyes, someone who makes you feel comfortable. Do I ever think of myself as hot? No. Average.

6. Are you quick to anger? How do you react when you are angry or frustrated? What do you do to cool down?

I can definitely get angry quickly--I tend to vent and be done with it for the little things and stew for a long time on the big things. To cool down, I just feel what I'm feeling, knowing it will pass. If it's not passing, I ride it out and work to use the energy motivate me to persevere.

7. In your family, who is the least like the rest of you?

I'm the least like the rest of them.

8. What are a few great books that you've taken along to the beach or on vacation in years past?

I always have a book or a stack of books. There are too many to list!

9. Do you like going outside during a thunderstorm and watching the lightning?

I like watching it out the window.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oh yeah, the weight loss thing...

There's not much of note to report on that front. I have continued to eat well and religiously take my vitamins and supplements. I keep my portions small, paying close attention to how full I feel--occasionally I worry about that because I am able to eat more now. Last night, I determined that I have to be wary of the bulk candy at work--they have M&M's and Jelly Bellys in big jars that we can help ourselves to. (I've still never full-on dumped from sugar, but if I eat too much of it, I definitely don't feel too hot--it can result in an unpleasant headache and things have the potential to get stinky--both good deterrents!) They also have protein bars sometimes, which makes me very happy, and we are provided lunch or dinner every day as well. The food is above-average quality, healthy and good for you; it isn't all stuff I can eat, but there is always salad available and at least one type of cooked veggie if I can't tolerate the meat entree (I couldn't last night, for example--it was some kind of Thai pork in peanut sauce and way too spicy for me). I haven't gained any weight, which is all I hope for at this point because I haven't been working out. I feel like things are in a holding pattern because of the swing shift schedule. I don't sleep all in one block of time; I often wake up relatively early and then doze on and off through the morning, setting my alarm clock for noon so I don't oversleep. I know that's not a great way to function, but we only have one bedroom and Mr. Salted is on day shift so it's hard to avoid. The swing shift thing is only going to last another month, so it won't be like this forever. Since I know where I'm going to be working, I can at least find a conveniently located pool I want to use. I'm also not sure about classes this quarter--there is one on two Saturdays that I could do, and two that are online I could possibly do; I need to call the instructors to be sure.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My new job

This week, I started a job at one of the most famous Internet companies in the world. I am absolutely thrilled to be working there (and to be off unemployment!), even though the position is a contract job through a staffing agency--the assignment is supposed to last a year, possibly two. It just so happens that I have submitted resumes to this company directly several times over the past few years, so I am hoping this will be a foot in the door. If not, it will look good on a resume. It all happened somewhat by accident--I answered a blind ad on Craigslist that didn't specify the company that was hiring because the position sounded ideal for me. I was later informed this method of advertising the job was done purposefully so that they were not flooded with resumes from people that were in no way qualified but would nonetheless want to work for the company.

The whole experience has been a total trip. I had to have a background check and agree to (but have not been asked to actually take) a drug test. They checked references, and I had to sign a 12-page NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Security is extremely tight at this company. I have to have a badge not only to get in and out of the building, but to get in and out certain doors of the building during my shifts, even to go to the bathroom and back. When we went in the first day to get badge ID photos taken, we were given very specific rules about choosing a password--it had to have a number, a letter, a symbol, upper and lowercase, it couldn't be a pet's name, it couldn't be this or the time I got to the guy that was putting me in the system, my brain was completely fried. I was having a hard time inputting my password multiple times in the exact same configuration--and he wouldn't let me write it on a Post-It! "I can't do that unless I can shred it or set fire to it afterward," he said. I looked at him and said, "I will EAT it after I write it! That's how I remember things! Give me a break, I'm older than most of these people!" He at least chuckled at that, but still wouldn't budge--and there were more passwords to come. I had to choose another unique password for separate internal usage, and we were each issued a special device that would generate random unique one-time passwords for other special occasions. It's wild!

I am on swing shift for a few weeks, which is messing with me a bit (as I mentioned previously). This first week was spent in training learning their software tools and some policies. I'm not supposed to say much to anyone about where or when or what--it's very "if I told you, I'd have to kill you". I really like the job thus far and am really hoping it turns into something I can stay with. Not working with the public ROCKS!


So, I finally got to see Vegas. It's a very interesting place and can be fun--I took 800 pictures--but not anywhere you'd go to relax! (I took the above photo of the fountains at the Bellagio, and I love it because you can see the smoke--I was thinking of entering it in a photo contest. Unfortunately, they were playing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" during this particular display, which served to make me realize that even though the movie "Titanic" came out more than ten years ago, I still would rather not ever hear that song again.)

My friend and I stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel--which had great restaurants in it and music memorabilia and decor that was very cool, but it was also chock-a-block full of Aspiring Beautiful People, most of whom were young enough to be my kid. (Needless to say, I didn't bother going down to the pool.) My traveling companion smokes--she had a guy offer her "a bump for a smoke" while we were waiting for the airport shuttle. (I had to tell her that meant cocaine. It was kind of cute.)

Cher was great--she looks and sounds phenomenal. There were a lot of costume changes and acrobatic Cirque De Soleil stuff going on behind her. She did not sing "Love is a Battlefield", but oddly enough, she did cover Bob Seger's "Fire Down Below" (and well!).

On topic--I got all dressed up when we went to see Cher and wore something sleeveless in public for the first time since I was twelve years old (not counting bathing suits, but I've always worn T-shirts over those whenever possible). For me, that was a big deal. Once we got onto the Vegas strip, there were people of all shapes, ages and sizes letting it all hang out. My arms were exposed to the world for the evening--and, lo and behold, it did not explode. I posted pictures on Facebook and my friends and family all told me how great I looked. I cringe to myself when I see certain pictures, but Rome was not built in a day.

Temperatures were in the 90s while we were there, but physically I was surprisingly comfortable. About a week after I got home, Mr. Salted and I went to a big local festival with some friends, where we walked around all day--and I didn't get winded or tired and I wasn't in pain the next day. It was MIRACULOUS!

Saturday 9: If I Had a Hammer

1. Are you handy with tools?

Not at all. I am the sort of person people take hammers and kitchen utensils away from.

2. What was the best thing that happened to you this week?

I started my new job. :)

3. What was the worst thing that happened to you this week?

Having to have a fasting blood draw while on swing shift.

4. Do you think you act your age?

Yes, except I say "dude" and don't really dress like a grownup if I can avoid it.

5. Describe an item of clothing that has definitely seen better days but that you refuse to dispose of and still wear. Why won't you toss it?

A pair of Converse slides I have that hasn't been manufactured since the mid-90s. They are SO comfortable...

6. What is your favorite summertime beverage?

Plain old cold water.

7. Have you ever lied about your age?
No. People routinely think I am younger and I am good with that. :o)

8. What was the most memorable birthday party you've attended?
I'm going to say a few years ago when I went out with some girlfriends to see a bunch of AC/DC cover bands. It was a riot.

9. What is something that really frightens you, and can you trace it back to an event in your life?

I have PTSD, and yes. That's all I'm going to say.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jamba Juice!

Things have been crazy busy--I went to Vegas, came back, got sick, got well, started a new job, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I went and had my blood drawn for the Berkeley Heart Labs this morning--no mean feat when you have to fast and you're on swing shift. I have a lot to blog about, but will have to catch up later.

Yesterday, I went to Jamba Juice to get one of their "light" smoothies, and I have to say, I like them a lot better than Coldstone's! My favorite is Mango Mantra. They're not cheap, but they taste good, are refreshing and serve as a meal (or two). I think the largest size is somewhere in the 300s in terms of calories, and there are boosts that can be added to them, too. So hooray for Jamba Juice!

When I parked my car, I saw this stop sign and it made my whole day. Glad my phone has a camera!

Friday, May 14, 2010

In brief

Primary-care doc thinks Berkeley Heart Labs is a good idea. I'll be doing them next week. She thinks if I was going to lose my hair like my uncle did, it would have happened immediately, and she lectured me about the positives of the statin drugs, but conceded that having these tests done and assessed by the specialist would be a good choice before resuming them. So I'm off the hook for a few weeks.

I got a start date for my job today: June 1.

Now I'm off to Vegas for several days, and I've never been. I don't gamble, but I AM going to see Cher! I heard she does "Love is a Battlefield" in this show--will it top Mr. Garrison's version on "South Park"? Stay tuned....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

9-month post-op with nutritionist

I saw my nutritionist today, which was interesting. I weighed 204 in their office, which was the lowest weight I've posted thus far. Our conversation was mostly the same stuff; we went over my bloodwork, and her response to my "elevated" folate and B-12 was to say, "That just shows me you're taking your vitamins like you should! That doesn't cause any adverse effects to you at all."

We discussed my still-high cholesterol; the center has an ARNP on staff that specializes in metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, and she can do a workup called the Berkeley HeartLab Cardiovascular Tests. They draw your blood (which has to be frozen and shipped to Berkeley, CA, hence the name) and do genetic testing to determine exactly how your cholesterol is high and specific treatment your body will respond to. It also makes it possible to determine how to tailor your eating habits to your genotype for the healthiest dietary choices you can possibly make for yourself. This is their website:

Their phone number is (800) 432-7889. They have a special kit to take to the lab where the blood is drawn that includes their specific vials and such. Usually detailed bloodwork of this nature is extremely costly, but apparently it is their policy that even if it is not covered by insurance, it will not cost any more than $150.00 out of pocket. It does have to be done through a participating physician from the looks of the website.

I am going to discuss it with my primary-care doctor tomorrow, but I think it would be $150.00 well spent in my case--especially since I just found out from one of my uncles that statin drugs exacerbated his alopecia areata to the point that he lost every hair on his head (including eyebrows and eyelashes) as well as much of his body hair, even leg and arm hair. He joked that it made him look like he had mange! I really,really don't want that to happen to me! Apparently, cholesterol and hair are intrinsically linked in general. I had no idea--and his doctor prescribed Lipitor and didn't bother to share that particular side effect, if she even knew about it herself!

The one thing that made me nuts today at the nutritionist was the calorie-counting conversation we had. In yesterday's vent on this blog, I said I would have to eat 1500 calories a day for the rest of my life. When I said something to her about it, she told me she actually recommends that people try to stay between 800 and 1000 calories during the first two years after surgery and between 1200 and 1500 calories per day thereafter for maintenance. I politely blew my stack. 800 CALORIES A DAY? What is that, like four protein drinks and half a banana? I've been on as low as 1000/day and that urged me to kill (of course, I was a teenager and living mostly on SlimFast, but still). I told her I'd shoot for the 1200 but that was the best I could do, as I have to live in the actual world. She said something along the lines of, "Well, if you get dizzy or anything, you should eat more." I (barely) refrained from spouting, "DUH!" I just reminded her that as a former eating-disorder sufferer, I knew all too well about how it physically feels to starve myself. Sheesh!

Since my weight is still going down, we basically concluded that all is well. That was basically it. My next appointment with both her and the surgeon is my year surgery anniversary.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Easy way out, my dimpled badonkadonk!"

I had a good workout this morning and I feel fantastic! I keep trying other DVDs but so far, end up going back to Mr. Simmons--glitter, 'fro, and all. Goofy as he is, I can keep up with him, I usually like the music, and the workouts are fun.

I usually don't play favorites in any arena, but I have to say that my favorite blogger is Lyn, whose blog is Escape from Obesity and I recommend it highly:

She blogged the other day about people talking about weight-loss surgery as the easy way out. I've said many of these things I'm about to say previously on this blog, but I am going to repost a paraphrased version of my comments to her simply because I get so very tired of hearing this crap--which, in my experience, 95% of the time from people who have never struggled with their weight (and the other 5% just have Issues).

I tried EVERYTHING to lose weight. All my life. From "healthy" doctor-supervised diet and exercise programs to having a full-blown eating disorder (and I exercised then, too). I have the most success (by and thus far) with my gastric bypass at 9 months out (also including healthy diet and exercise), but the true test will be when I am two years out, five years out, and so forth. The adjustments I have made to better my lifestyle cannot end or my progress will stop or even reverse itself, and I am getting older and my metabolism is slowing down just like every other human life form on Earth.

I used to be TOTALLY anti-bariatric surgery when it came to me. I researched it and struggled with the decision to have it for ten years. It was not something I undertook lightly, in large part because I wanted to make sure I was not doing it because I hated myself or thought I needed anyone's approval.

My lab work and other vitals have to be monitored frequently, I have to exercise regularly, and it is my understanding that I have to eat and drink no more than approximately 1500 calories a day for the rest of my life--and that's 1500 calories of the limited foods my body can comfortably digest now, which leaves out anything breaded, bread itself, meat that isn't ground, anything fried, the majority of dairy, pizza, the majority of alcoholic beverages, etc. etc. etc. As of today, the majority of my food intake is protein shakes and South Beach protein bars. And you know what? I'm happy to make these choices and would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Do I think weight-loss surgery is the ONLY way? Absolutely NOT. I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who are able to lose weight with diet and exercise alone. It is DAMN HARD. I tried it many times, and I was never able to get below 250 pounds. (I have genetic predisposition, hormonal wackness, and I am over 40; perhaps that is why. Who KNOWS why? It just didn't work for me.)

Do some people use weight-loss surgery for the wrong reasons? ABSOLUTELY--and it blows up in their faces when they do. I have met many wonderful, noble folks who have been there, people who are still struggling valiantly to make their lives healthier and better--just as I am, just as the people who go to groups are, just as the people who are doing meal plans are, just as people who are doing diet and exercise alone are.

What deserves admiration and respect is still being in the fight. Still trying. Still learning. Still going back to the healthy stuff after a setback. Examining your own darkness and leaning toward the light. Acknowledging the experiences of others as valid even though they may be worlds apart from your own. We're not so very different after all; we all have our rocks to keep rolling up that hill in this life.

There is no easy way out of ANYTHING, ever. The only way out is through.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

9 months post-op with bariatric surgeon

In summary: he concluded that I have lost 71 pounds total (still 91 since my highest weight--that's the number I tell people, with that caveat), seven pounds since the last visit three months ago, so I'm still about where I should be. If I want to lose it faster, I have to exercise more often. (I've been managing once or twice a week.) My cholesterol is still high, and since I can no longer ingest any food that would cause it to be that way--and haven't been able to for months--so it has to be genetic. I'm taking chromium and niacin as well. It IS lower than it was when I went on cholesterol meds lo those many years ago, but it's still really high. (276, I think he said. My primary care physician is going to ream me and make me go back on the freakin' statins. Sigh.)

Usually, I am a big fan of nurses in general (especially Nurse Jackie!) but the one today annoyed the bejesus out of me, clucking over my lab results because my "folate and vitamin B-12 are ELEVATED". Riddle me this, Nurse Never-Seen-You-Before-In-My-Life, what dire consequences could such elevation bring forth? (I see the nutritionist Thursday, I'm sure SHE'LL tell me...) If it means I have to buy a reduced quantity of expensive bariatric vitamins, I shall dance a joyous jiggly-jig with unchecked abandon. Sometimes I think these people grasp for clucking material so they don't have to connect with you on any level beyond the blood-pressure cuff, or maybe they feel like they haven't justified your co-pay unless you get some kind of feedback (where most doctors seem as though they could care less, but that's another issue altogether).

Well, hmpf. I didn't sleep well last night, and from the sounds of it, it would appear that I am a touch grumpy. :)

So, I will conclude with good and positive things: beautiful sunny day, I loved my Visio class and taking classes again PERIOD, and I bought something to wear at Costco the other day and I didn't have to buy the biggest size they had for the first time since high school!!! I was scanning some old pictures last night and couldn't help but notice how much better I look now than I did even for most of my 20s. I look healthier and happier (probably because I am definitively both of these). I cannot retrieve my less-weathered skin from days of yore, but it IS clearer now; I've had lasik so no more Coke-bottle specs; and best of all, I found my Mr. Salted. I'm not fatter, but I'm definitely sassier. ;)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Recent stuff

Yeah, yeah, it's Mother's Day. Not my favorite. My blog about it last year says all I have to say on that subject. I should be doing something productive today, but I got sick this week and have taken it easy all weekend. Mr. Salted and I watched "Whip It" last night and enjoyed it, which surprised me; I wasn't all that enamored of the book, but the movie had a great cast. We were in the mood for something fairly light, and it sufficed. It was fun to see Betty White on Saturday Night Live last night, too. Mr. Salted's mother has Alzheimer's disease and lives in a facility out of state, so this isn't his favorite day, either. I called my grandmother and sent her a card. She is doing as well as can be expected, and my uncles are taking care of her, which has been such a load off my shoulders. I call her about once a week, and send her a lot of little cards that don't say much.

I got a job with a very well-regarded Internet company. It starts in the next few weeks--I've accepted the position and done the paperwork with the staffing agency, but it was a mass hire (400+ people) and something like 80 of them will start each week, so I haven't gotten my firm start date as of yet. It's just a contract job for a minimum of one year (maximum of two) but it's also a foot in the door and I'm really happy to have it. I really enjoyed working in the tech industry in the past and that's where I'd like the rest of my career to be.

On that note, I took my first continuing-ed class on the way to a Technical Writing Certificate Wednesday. It was a level 2 Microsoft Word 2007 class, and a good way to dip my foot back in the educational pool. I'm a fairly adept Word user, but got to learn about all kinds of cool stuff the software can do now. It's come a long way since 1995, when the kids at my university were teaching it to me in the computer lab--I was six to eight years older than they were, and at times like that I felt as though they thought of me as a pet ("look at the old person learning computers!"). I still had an electric typewriter, and it was 1996. Ah, good times.

So the Word 2007 class was cool--I think there were eight people in it. I was neither the oldest nor the youngest there, and it was fun talking to the other people there about how they used Word and what they did for a living. I like continuing ed--it's geared toward working people (read: grounded in reality). The classes are small and the atmosphere is very laid-back. I take a Visio class this coming week. That one meets twice for four hours, which will be a lot easier than meeting once for eight--that was a bit of a marathon, and I think that's how I ended up sick. I think it was just that and the finally getting a job and my body just said, Okay, you're down now, REST.

My weight hasn't really changed much. I stay between 205 and 208. I think I worked out once this week, and my eating is fine, nothing out of the ordinary. I went through my clothes today and things are still shifting around, albeit slowly. I have a couple of things that fit with no X in the size, which is nothing short of amazing! Most of my stuff is 18s but some of the 16s fit or nearly fit. My stomach remains my biggest (literally and figuratively) nemesis. I can literally get all of me except my stomach into a pair of size 14 jeans. I want to know why they can't just do a tummy tuck NOW. Hmpf.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Life's blood

I earmarked last Monday for my latest fasting blood draw, as I have two nine-month post-op appointments coming up. When I'm due for a fasting blood draw, I try to have a snack at late as I'm allowed (usually 10 PM) so I'm not gnawing my arm (or anyone else's) off by the time the blood is taken. I also try to sleep soundly (not that I can dictate that per se, but an Advil PM or Benadryl can add a protective layer to my prescription sleep aids) so that I don't wake up and want food during the night. I managed all of the above and showed up at the lab, but couldn't find the orders from the bariatric surgeon. (I had the orders from my primary care doctor, but she tracks some additional levels above and beyond what the bariatric surgeon tracks.) I begged the tech to take an extra vial or two and told her I would get in touch with the surgeon for the levels they needed. She said she would need actual paper orders from the bariatric surgeon, and I said that was fine, I would go and get them, but it would be nice to be able to eat before I (a) passed out behind the wheel or (b) killed something, because it would take an hour or two to get there and back. She took some extra blood, I went on my merry way, and came back with the necessary paperwork. Of course, one of the vials from the morning draw should have been protected from light and hadn't been, so I had to offer up the other arm for a second draw. The first one hadn't hurt; the second one was painful. A total of eight vials were drawn. I was exhausted, but knew I still had to go to the store.

The last stretch of road to the store is on a two-lane highway. It was almost noon by then, sunny and lovely. I was out of it from blood-giving, drinking a protein drink, trying to stay awake, grumbling internally to myself as I tend to do at such times, when I saw two sets of flashing lights on the shoulder to my right. One set was on an ordinary-looking truck, the other on an average sedan, neither of which I would have ever earmarked as any kind of official vehicle. Two men stood between the vehicles talking above a dead boy on the pavement.

The kid appeared to be in his teens or early 20s. There was no blood or anything--he just looked asleep, but extremely asleep, very still. He was wearing a hoodie, jeans and sneakers, and the men standing beside him weren't making any effort to administer to him at all. I was surprised they hadn't covered at least his face; it seemed obscene somehow that he was just lying there exposed like that. My guess is that they were waiting for paramedics and/or police.

Seeing that jolted me out of myself immediately. I'm not a follower of any particular faith, but I said something like a prayer, hoping someone was listening: that he would get where he was going on his next journey safely. I wondered if he had a family, and I thought about them, about how we all started out with a family, at least in theory--how everyone was once somebody's child. I wondered why it was his time, and not mine.

I've wondered that many times in my life: why was it my mother, my best friend, someone else's treasured parent or child, my child. Why I remain.

Several years ago when I was in the throes of rather severe depression, I witnessed a similar incident while driving--similar in the thoughts it inspired me to think, anyway. I was driving down a highway--another rural highway, though not the same one--and the car immediately parallel to me (or a little ahead of me) in the lane to my right swerved off the road suddenly without slowing down at all. Most of this particular highway was bordered by grassy hillside, but this car managed to run smack into a concrete underpass at what looked like full speed. Pieces of the car flew everywhere; one hit my front bumper and left a mark that remains to this day. I looked in my rear-view mirror, contemplating going back, but people had already pulled over to help. I was late for an appointment, and I just kept going, as if in a daze. (I was in a daze; I was in a daze for three or four years, and this happened during that time.) I read a couple of days later in the paper that the driver had died on impact, and that he was younger than I.

It literally felt like a hand had come out of the sky and plucked that person from the Earth, close enough for me to see it happen. I wondered then, as now, why it was him and not me, and it shook me up, but in a positive way--it made me realize how very much I still want to live, and to be grateful that I still had the chance.

Lack of sleep linked to early death: study (reposted from Yahoo)

Wed May 5, 9:44 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – People who get less than six hours sleep per night have an increased risk of dying prematurely, researchers said on Wednesday.

Those who slumbered for less than that amount of time were 12 percent more likely to die early, though researchers also found a link between sleeping more than nine hours and premature death.

"If you sleep little, you can develop diabetes, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol," Francesco Cappuccio, who led research on the subject at Britain's University of Warwick, told AFP.

The study, conducted with the Federico II University in Naples, Italy, aggregated decade-long studies from around the world involving more than 1.3 million people and found "unequivocal evidence of the direct link" between lack of sleep and premature death.

"We think that the relation between little sleep and illness is due to a series of hormonal and metabolical mechanisms," Cappuccio said.

The findings of the study were published in the Sleep journal.

Cappuccio believes the duration of sleep is a public health issue and should be considered as a behavioral risk factor by doctors.

"Society pushes us to sleep less and less," Cappuccio said, adding that about 20 percent of the population in the United States and Britain sleeps less than five hours.

Sleeping less than six hours is "more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift work"

The study also found a link between sleeping more than nine hours per night and premature death, but Cappuccio said oversleeping is more likely to be an effect of illness, rather than a cause.

"Doctors never ask how much one sleeps, but that could be an indicator that something is wrong," said Cappuccio, who heads the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the University of Warwick.

Research showed no adverse effects for those sleeping between six and eight hours per day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bullies Target Obese Kids (reposted from Yahoo)

By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, May 3, 2010 (HealthDay News)

For kids, a few extra pounds may invite trouble from the schoolyard bully.

New research suggests that just being overweight increases the risk of being bullied. And factors that usually play a role in the risk of being bullied, such as gender, race and family income levels, don't seem to matter if you're overweight -- being overweight or obese trumps all those other factors when it comes to aggressive behavior from other children.

The study found that being overweight increased the risk of being the target of bullying by 63 percent.

"One of the reasons we started this study is that obesity is so much more common today. Now that about half of kids are overweight or obese, it doesn't make you such an outlier anymore, so we thought maybe kids wouldn't be bullied for being overweight anymore," said study author Dr. Julie Lumeng, an assistant research scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She added that the researchers also hoped they might be able to find some protective factors against being bullied, such as doing well in school.

"What we found, much to our dismay, was that nothing seemed to matter. If you were obese, you were more likely to be bullied, no matter what," she said.

Results of the study will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics, but were released online May 3.

The study included 821 boys and girls from a nationally representative sample of children selected from 10 sites around the United States. Bullying behaviors were assessed in third, fifth and sixth grades. The youngsters were mostly white, half of them were male and 15 percent were overweight in the third grade.

By sixth grade, teachers reported that 34 percent of the study children had been bullied, and mothers reported that 45 percent of the children had been bullied, while 25 percent of the children themselves said they had been bullied.

Previous research has shown that boys, minorities and children from low-income groups are more likely to be bullied, so the researchers took these factors into account to see if they made a difference. The study authors also considered a child's social skills and academic achievement in their analysis.

"No matter how much we retested, the findings were very robust. Obese kids are more likely to be bullied," said Lumeng.

She said that one of the reasons she believes the findings were so consistent is that prejudice against overweight or obese people is "so pervasive that it's acceptable." But, she added, "Obesity is really complex. It's not all about willpower. It's a brain-based disorder, and I hope that message becomes clearer."

Dana Rofey, an assistant professor with the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said she wasn't surprised by the findings. "Bullying is the most common psychosocial complaint that our patients present with," she said.

"For parents and pediatricians, one of the issues our study raises is that if you're caring for a child who's overweight, you need to be alert to this and you might want to gently bring it up with the child. Ask, 'How are things at school going?' or 'Does anyone ever say something that makes you feel bad?' because this may be an issue that's difficult for kids to bring up," said Lumeng.

If your child lets you know that he or she is being bullied, Lumeng said your first response should be to validate your child's feelings and let them know that it's not OK for someone to treat them like that.

What to do next can be tricky, agreed both experts.

"Be supportive, and let your child know that you'll help them. Consult with your child and ask how he or she would like you to get involved," advised Rofey. Many youngsters may ask their parents to take a hands-off approach, she said. But she recommends setting some guidelines. "Say something like, 'It seems you have this under control right now, but let's keep talking and checking in about it.'"

Rofey also recommends teaching your child how to avoid situations that might lead to teasing or bullying, and talking with your child about how to reach out to adults if they need to. Depending on the situation, she said that parents may need to step in and advocate for their children at the school. But, she advised always letting your children know what steps you'll be taking.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I have decided that modern-day shapewear is nothing short of magical.

Most of my adult life, I would do anything to avoid wearing nylons or tights--and they're pretty hard to find in a bricks-and-mortar store when you are size 3X or higher. Now I can buy them anywhere (sometimes with coupons!), and while I'm always glad to get out of them, they don't bother me nearly as much as they once did.

I have never liked clothing that was tight, fitted, or even semi-fitted. As I lose weight, I am becoming more comfortable with wearing clothes that actually fit--yet I still can't escape the recovering-bulimic voice in my head that says, "You need a bigger size. Hide. Hide. HIDE!!!! A tent with a hole for your head, that's what you need! You can't wear that in public! People will be able to make out the cellulite in your abdomen through the shirt!" and so forth. Sometimes she calls me the Baroness of Back Fat or some other sweet nothing. (I just now realized that the recovering-bulimic voice is a total bitch who just needs to chug a huge cup of shut the hell up.)

As time goes on, my skin is getting looser--the fat that remains is kind of moving around in there with room to spare. (I had to stop one of my cats from kneading my stomach the other day--apparently he found it of a pleasing consistency for that particular activity. Needless to say, I Was Not Amused.)

My grandmother made me try to wear an actual girdle once, sometime in my early to middle teens. I struggled into it, immediately unable to breathe. It was hot, it itched like hell, and it contained actual rubber , which ensured the garment provided the maximum amount of chafing per centimeter. (No wonder I rejected nylons, tights, and even slips the second I got a chance!) The whole "beauty is pain" mantra was never one I could embrace--my bullshit detector goes up to eleven. I knew the truth immediately: donning that slimming straitjacket didn't bring me one bit closer to beautiful, only a hell of a lot crankier--and every bit as lumpy--as before.

I tried wearing Spanx for my wedding to Mr. Salted three years ago--I was at my highest weight at the time. I was horribly self-conscious and uncomfortable all day. I was in a beautiful, simple dress, my hair and nails done, several people I loved dearly present. It should have been the happiest day of my life, and I was happy and very emotional, but my physical discomfort never completely left my mind the entire day. The Spanx didn't keep me from looking, or being, huge. (You can also see the line from them across my abdomen in the wedding pictures. Petty and vain as that is, it bothered me.) So wearing Spanx accomplished exactly nothing--but they aren't a magic wand, and I probably bought them too large to begin with. We should have just worn t-shirts and jeans and gone to the courthouse, but I wanted to show Mr. S I loved him by getting all dressed up for him (since I rarely ever do), and he looked very dapper in a suit. Unfortunately, all that my attempts at being a girly bride accomplished was to cause him to worry about my discomfort all day, too. Sigh.

Right now, I have a lot of clothes that technically FIT but I didn't like the way I looked in them, so I wouldn't wear them (visible cellulite, Baroness of Back Fat, etc.). So, I decided to give shapewear another try, 2010-style. I found a Maidenform "tummy-toning tank" at Costco (the package actually reads, "Fat Free Dressing"--aren't those marketing people witty?). Remarkably, I can honestly say that I LOVE THIS THING. It's comfortable, doesn't itch, it smooths everything down and keeps it in place so that I can wear clothes that fit--and they actually look decent. Yes, I am still fluffy/lumpy/grumpy, but at least I appear smooth and solid, with the possibility of a waist lurking somewhere under the surface.

13 Things That Weight-Loss Surgery Has Made Possible (inspired by Thursday Thirteen)

1. Fitting into restaurant booths and chairs.

2. Being able to clean my house without getting as tired.

3. Walking further, dancing longer.

4. (Sadly) strangers are friendlier to me. I'm not hearing comments or noticing people sizing up my shopping cart.

5. Finding clothes at regular stores for cheap prices! I wore a dress to a job interview the other day that I got on the clearance rack at Target for $7 and it looked great. When I was heavier, the same dress probably would have cost $60--minimum.

6. I have more energy.

7. I smile more. I honestly feel happier.

8. I sleep better.

9. I'm more confident. Job interviews have definitely been easier.

10. My body doesn't feel like the enemy to the extent it once did. I still don't like it, and I still feel somewhat dissociated from it, but I feel so much better already. Which leads me to--

11. I'm physically more comfortable. Summer might not be as hellish as usual this year.

12. I wear clothes that fit and not clothes that are three sizes too big.

13. My feet got smaller.

Saturday 9: Changes

1. Tell us about one thing that you'd change about yourself if you could.

My body.

2. Mattel decides to make a Barbie-like (or Ken-like) doll of you -- what would be the most important accessory or accessories they would absolutely have to package you with in order to portray your lifestyle?


3. Hey, do you like surprises? If yes, what kinds?

I HATE surprises!

4. What was the last snail mail that you received that was significant?

A friend sent me a lovely, encouraging card.

5. If you could pick out a brand new nickname for yourself, what would you choose and why?

The nicknames I have are just fine. Pzuzu is my favorite.

6. John Edward's mistress was on Oprah this past Thursday. She stated that no third person can break up a marriage, so it had to be broken before the two started doing the nasty. Do you buy that?

Actually, I do, not that it excuses anyone's behavior in that situation. I think infidelity is a symptom of underlying issues that aren't being addressed. Sleeping with someone else's spouse invites karma to bite you in the keester.

7. Do you think it is okay to keep secrets from your s/o?

Yes, sometimes, particularly if they are about the distant past.

8. Have you ever played Truth or Dare? If yes, what's the weirdest dare that you did?

Urinated on a church lawn at night.

9. What, in hindsight, the stupidest thing that you have ever done?

See #8--and I moved cross-country for a man once. I was young and stupid.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WLS Lifestyles Magazine

When I first saw a blurb about this magazine on the website, I thought the WLS in the title was the acronym for Weight-Loss Surgery, as it often seems to be, and thought, "Wow, there's a whole magazine devoted to bariatric surgery patients?" However, it stands for Weight-Loss SUCCESS Lifestyles!

This is a quarterly magazine geared toward anyone trying to lose weight and live a healthier life, whatever the method. While weight-loss surgery and its concerns are a healthy portion (har) of the magazine, there are all kinds of other subjects addressed within as well. Looking at the two issues I've received for fall 2009 and winter 2010, there are articles on corporate weight-loss strategies at work, the Mediterranean path to wellness, the relationship between physical pain and diet, how to make weight loss last, heart healthy foods and more. There are a lot of positive articles on how to take care of the inside of a person as well as the outside and features on actual doctors and medical facilities that are making strides to address obesity. The advertisements are good for post-WLS people, as they show products that address the specific nutritional needs of bariatric patients.

A friend who specifically wanted to do something for me to support the choice I'd made gave me the subscription as a gift, which I thought was extremely thoughtful--and it's actually something I can use. Things like post-WLS regain and other common concerns seem to be touched on at least once in every issue, and I can just flip through it at my leisure or go back to it when needed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rick Astley

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. I have fond memories of this song, many involving a lovely boy who was a sweet soul--sadly, long since passed away--but who adored it and sang it often back then, beaming his beautiful smile.

Apparently the pie chart is part of a phenomena I didn't know existed, but a friend I emailed it to schooled me:

The '80s never really die...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday 9: I Want to Hold Your Hand

1. What do you notice about other people's hands?

Everything--I love hands. I love the dimpled softness of a child's hands; I love seeing rough hands or beautifully manicured hands. Older hands are amazing. I have taken some great hand photos, and my favorite photo from my wedding is probably the one of our rings and the bouquet. I love graceful hands.

2. If someone was nosing around your house, what would you hope they wouldn't see?

How much cat hair and dust there is.

3. Do you think that the more stuff you own enhances your life or adds to your burden?

Adds to the burden.

4. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?

"Alice in Wonderland", which was just okay. I'm one of the only people in America who isn't enamored of 3-D. It actually annoys me and makes me nauseous.

5. What do you have under your bed?

Dust, a backscratcher, and some Rubbermaid totes full of sweaters and purses.

6. What do you think your s/o or best friend would say about what makes you unique?

Mr. Salted says I'm the nicest person he's ever met. I've also been told that I was a better friend than most--both the best compliments I can imagine.

7. What's your current favorite TV commercial?

It sounds weird, but I like the PSA types that pack a punch. The one that comes to mind is a progression of mug shots of a young woman who uses meth that shows how much she deteriorates physically in a short period of time. The music in the background is "lullaby and good night" and it sounds like it's being played on a child's mobile. There is no voice-over, just the anti-drug message at the end on a black screen with white letters. It's very powerful.

Traditional advertising tends to be so manipulative as to make me want to scream, especially if you watch it with the sound off. I'm not saying the PSA isn't manipulative too, but at least its message is valuable and not just "buy more stuff and you'll be a better/prettier/skinnier/younger/more sexually desirable/wealthier/cooler person".

8. Who do you owe a phone call to?

My former in-laws. I need to call them TODAY!

Cardio happens!

I bought a new workout DVD on Friday. (I have a bathing suit that fits now, but since I don't know where I'll be working in relation to where classes are geographically speaking, I hesitate to join a gym or pool yet--and walking just plain hurts too much. I haven't found any affordable membership that isn't specific to the workout facility where one joins.) The DVD I got is a Dancing With the Stars thing called "Retro and Latin Mix". (I don't watch the show, but it sounded fun.) There is a lot of hip action with any Latin dancing, and I have bursitis in mine, so it's a challenge--but I really like this workout (despite the perky thin people on it--I've learned to accept that I am of a different species, besides being middle-aged, so who cares?). I did the Latin/Retro warm-up part and the Retro/Disco part and worked up a good sweat--I feel great and so far, my ankle doesn't hurt. (We'll see how it feels tonight! Maybe a carpeted floor makes all the difference.) I've always wanted to learn to salsa dance and really want to try it someday when I lose more weight. (I'm only waiting to lose more weight before I try it because it moves quickly and I'm still not as light on my feet as I'd like to be, even while doing this workout. Besides, I can fit into slinkier dresses if I wait a bit, but I'm still and always wearing flats. The athletes and acrobats can have the heels.)

This is how I feel: if I keep moving, cardio happens. I currently have two complementary mottos: "At least I'm doing something" and "Doing something is better than doing nothing." I think of it as the Good Enough For Me Method of Living a Healthier Life.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

down in the dumps

I applied for five jobs today. Today, I also found out my unemployment went through--a huge relief. I have to go to a mandatory job-search workshop next week that I'm sure will be simply delightful. I fully expect to have a headache afterward. Speaking of which...

I've been fighting a migraine this week and have just been down in the dumps. (I'm not sure why, I had a really nice weekend getaway with Mr. Salted.) All day yesterday, I couldn't make myself do anything but stare at TV I didn't care about in a dark room and eat too much (a relative amount, considering I can't eat all that much, but it still concerns me). Today, I'm trying to drink tea instead.

I have to start keeping chocolate completely out of my house. I knew this in my logical mind, but old habits die hard. It's one of my tests--I thought this surgery would just make me get sick when I ate any, but it doesn't. I can feel a little ooky, maybe get a little headache, but I rarely eat enough for that to happen. I live and die by the serving size.

My ankle is hurting a lot (the weather keeps changing) and I haven't felt like exercising this week. Last night, I took two Advil PM just so I would sleep through the night and not have the ankle wake me up as it has been every night about 2-3 AM. I made it to 5 AM.

A couple of days ago, I went to the closest Y, found out it was $100 to join and $55 a month, which I would call steep, especially since I just wanted to use the pool--and because I have a sneaking suspicion the $100 gets coughed up again if the monthly dues should lapse. It's $10 per use if you just pay as you go, which is just plain crazy. I need to check around some more. I finally got a bathing suit that works, which is good. I've thought about checking into gyms, but the smug, healthy people who frequent them tend to induce (my) vomiting. The Y has Silver Sneakers programs for seniors--they need to have WOG (Women of Girth, a term we coined in my support group) programs. (MOGs also welcome.) I've also heard us called "men/women of size", which seems goofy--everyone is of one size or another.

I have my advising appointment at the college tomorrow, and I'm hoping that gets me fired up again.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Career laxative

I may have found an effective one--the informational seminar last night was great! After my initial fubar (driving down 405 in rush hour traffic, skipping an entire Mapquest step, realizing I was in the wrong city, turning back around and just barely making it on time), I felt really good being there, maybe even like I belonged there and this all might be happening for a reason. The material was interesting--from the nuts and bolts of their specific program to the history of the field to the occupational outlook to where the field might go in the future. I sat there and thought, "I think I could do this--I could be good at it and actually do this for a living for the rest of my working life." I've never thought that before, not once--not in any class, not in any interview or seminar or training I've attended. It made me--dare I say--hopeful. I was neither the oldest nor the youngest person there, and there were several people present who appeared to be more lost than I. I really liked the advisor, who was the main speaker, and I scheduled an appointment with her for next week. She helps the student plan the program and signs off on the completed certificate when the time comes to do so. The certificate can be done in a couple of quarters if you push it, but I'm going to try to do it in three or four. You don't get graded--you get evaluated, and much of the coursework involves building a portfolio so you go out into the workforce with that ready to go as your calling card. I'm excited--I want to start summer quarter if I can, and I see no reason why I can't. It will be tough on us because I won't have an income, but it seems like a really good investment. The projected job growth in the field is 18% between 2008 and 2018.

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This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other
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