Chew, chew, chew – My life on the (lite) gravy train

It has been a month since I decided to get rid of a small bit of stomach for a bigger portion of good health. All in all, it’s been a really good month – the feedback from my friends and colleagues has been positive and it’s looking like this was the absolute right choice for me.

While some may think this was an easy way out, it’s quite the contrary. They tried to warn us about how much detail there is to eating after the surgery. Portions are small and divided between proteins and vegetables/fruits (the only carbs I’m willing to eat) and have to be consumed three times a day. (Meaning I have to stick to something of a schedule)

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Two iron, two multis, six calcium, two gummies a day, B-12 once a week. Oh, and at all different times in the day. Welcome to my nightmare

Vitamins, once a “leave the bottle next to your toothbrush and take one a day if you remember” ritual, are now essential because I’m not eating as much, and they have to be taken in certain amounts at certain times because of their individual absorption rate. Contrary to what you may have learned on Schoolhouse Rock, all vitamins don’t get along and some are the bullies of the supplement world.

You would think a writer/consultant like me who works out of a home office most of the time would find it easy to remember to take the right pills at the right time, especially those which are taken with meals. Not a chance. Just because they fixed my tummy doesn’t mean they patched together the scattered parts of my brain.

So I have a little note on my office bulletin board – not that it helps. I spend a good amount of time saying “Oh crap, I forgot to take my calcium” or “That feels like too much iron” and swearing about having to chew every pill into powder (digesting pills is something a stomach sleeve has trouble with for the first few months). And chugging water doesn’t happen anymore, either. Sip, sip, sip. Wait a half-hour, then chew, chew, chew, chew – up to 20 times per mouthful. I’m convinced I have jaws of steel now with those workouts, but it’s for a reason. I also realize what meats have gristle in them (had a hamburger pattie and it was a real chore to eat), that make me happy that I’m trying to stick to just poultry and fish from now on.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 12.47.35If I take that “one more bite,” or take in too much liquid at once, it feels like a gremlin living in the center of my chest is kicking and stretching. Members of my support group told me I would know if I’d taken too many bites and they are absolutely right. It’s not like being Thanksgiving full, it’s more like “ow, ow, OW!” and the only thing that will make it better is letting nature take its course. That and sip-sip-sipping water to help things move along.

That said, I have been able to work normal food back into my menu, so long as it doesn’t have skin or casing on it (my grapes must be peeled, which I think is long overdue). It’s something of a challenge when we’re out; last weekend we ventured to two movies and when we arrived at the second theater, we got there just as the previews started to play. Try and find something that’s full of protein at your local cinema. A hot dog – with mustard and relish, but no bun – was the only thing I could find, and yes, the gremlin was busy that night because I didn’t consider the casing….

I even went to Disneyland last week, vowing to find something edible wherever we went in the park. The turkey sandwich at Jolly Holiday – sans bread, lettuce (hard to digest) and mushy tomato – was delicious. Washed that down with an iced tea, but since I can’t drink at the same time as I eat (again, a space issue in the sleeve), it took me about an hour to drink the small cup’s worth. Later on, ice cream sounded good, so I suggested that my ice-cream loving friend stop into the Golden Horseshoe and get a sundae. I was able to eat three bites of ice cream and was completely satisfied. I’ve become the perfect mooch.

Met the kids and my motivation, Sadie, for a visit to the Carthay Circle lounge for an adult beverage – except my beverage was a Two Bill – their name for an alcohol-free iced tea-lemonade combo. A few hours later, for dinner at Café Orleans, I ordered a cup of French Onion soup.

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Cafe Orleans Pomme Frites. One of my former loves, now not so much.

My son-in-love ordered a basket of Pomme Frites for the table, those delicious thin French fries coated with garlic and Parmesan cheese, which I first said I wouldn’t have, but fell victim to temptation and grabbed one – and it tasted awful! They told me my tastes would change and boy, they were right on this one! I guess if I have to lose a craving for something, this one is OK. Now if only the popcorn at the park didn’t smell so delicious.

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C’mon Grammy, let’s go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railway!

One of the best things about Disneyland was that I logged 3.7 miles walking between parks and from ride to ride – a short distance from what I hear from other people, but I’m still proud. I’ve been logging at least a mile a day (with housework activity on the weekend) on trails with my friends – even got to walk 1.37 miles along the beach in Santa Monica with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Turns out she had some questions about my surgery, which is why I’m including it in my blog subjects (don’t worry, I’m getting ready to jump into the political/election fray soon enough), and you know I’m more than willing to share my experience. I do have more energy and know that moving is critical to my success. I actually think about getting in a walk or some sort of continual movement each night when I plan the following day’s schedule. That’s something I never did before.

A side effect of the surgery, and maybe the weight loss (I am talking to my regular doctor about it today) is that I have developed my own weather system that flips quicker than the heartbeat of a speed freak. One moment I’m fine, then I’m grabbing a sweatshirt (I never used to layer, but now I’m an expert), then I’m stripping off what I can to accommodate a hot flash. Happens 24/7. Chilled to the bone in the middle of the night, huddling close to the pitties for warmth, then throwing off the covers. I may have suppressed the hormone that causes me to be hungry, but I think I accidentally kicked into high gear the hormones I thought I left behind after my hysterectomy six years ago….

And my wardrobe is changing, little by little. I’m wearing my 2- and 3X T-shirts for walking and housework and digging out the smaller shirts from the bottom of the drawer to wear out. Since I have several sizes of pants in the closet, I’ve moved from the biggest to the comfortable ones a size or two down. It’s strange that some of my favorite items now hang or bag a little, at first I was confused, but then I was thrilled! My husband frequently tells me how much difference he’s seeing and that definitely helps me along.

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One step at a time. I can do this.

So the bottom line is that I feel terrific. I have learned a lot about myself, I’m still learning how to live with limitations and I am flabbergasted at how much food is still in the refrigerator (I have to get my hubby to eat more fresh fruit!) because I’m not eating more than a few bites. I learned how to think about what’s on the plate, now I need to learn how to shop for just one and a half people. Either that or invite friends over for my leftovers….thanks all for your support, in person and online.

Now let’s talk about something else that’s eating at me….this upcoming election and what we’re teaching our children…..coming soon!

Toss the salad, gimme the scrambled eggs

Twelve days. Nearly two weeks. Still taking baby steps, but teetering oh-so-close to that edge of just leaping off into a pile of scrambled eggs…..

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This has been my fantasy for the last four weeks. I know. Weird….

Thanks for all the comments and concerns about my health. This adventure comes with some aches and pains, but with more growth (well, mentally. Physically, it’s shrinkage) and changes that will be lifelong.

You’ve asked how I’m feeling. OK. My stomach looks like a drive-by shooting happened in the OR, with four bullet holes in a line just above my belly button. (For the laparoscopic surgery, they put four trocars into your belly, blow your abdomen up with gas and then go to work with a camera and stapler and a hose to get rid of that pesky stomach tissue. You come out of the anesthesia with a drain and three big bandages. I prefer to think of it a crime scene. The “bullet holes” are healing, but underneath, apparently I’m developing scar tissue, because I get a really sharp pain to the left of the navel when I stand up, or when I curl up in the fetal position while I sleep.

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That flapping sound you hear is just my Batman impression. Do not be alarmed.

They told me there would be loose skin. I’m already starting to see that on my tummy, and now, I noticed my upper arms, formerly referred to as my “flying squirrel” arms, have now shriveled a bit and are beginning to resemble bat wings. While I believe in the dictum “Always be Batman,” I don’t think this is what they meant.

The muscle aches I used to get are going away, even though my weight loss is just beginning (although from my heaviest weight to today, I’m down 44 pounds). This is good because I have to walk or exercise (Aquatic Center lifeguards be warned: I’m coming back for that aerobics class!) and it’s a little easier. That was the point.

My knees, however, have not completely bought in to the program and we may have to have a talk soon. Of all the things that this surgery is supposed to eliminate or soothe, arthritis is not on the list.

Early last week, I thought I’d look on YouTube for a video of my surgery. I watched it and was fascinated! It made so much sense to do the liquid diet before (to shrink the liver) and watching the technique, I was in awe. I got a great mental picture of what I look like inside and it made the baby steps I’m taking now much more clear. If you’re thinking of having the surgery, or if you’ve had it already, I recommend watching the video. I learned so much!

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Iron Horse Trailhead. An old railroad bridge from the 1880s. Perfect place to change my own history.

I wear my Fitbit every day and was thrilled to see it logged nearly a mile on my walk today at the Iron Horse Trailhead. For 20 years, I have covered ribbon cuttings at these things, but never set foot on any path. Santa Clarita deserves kudos for the massive amount of trails criss-crossing the city and the scenery along today’s walk was amazing.

I had my follow-up appointment with my surgeon this week and had to wait nearly 45 minutes in the exam room for what I knew was going to be a five-minute visit. When he walked into the room, I told him I didn’t appreciate the waiting, only to have my concerns blown off. He looked at the drive-by site, said the bullet holes were healing and that the stitch of pain on my side was probably scar tissue, and if I moved more, it wouldn’t hurt. I explained to him that I was having trouble with walking by myself – I am much more comfortable sitting at my desk, writing and keeping in touch with the outside world from a keyboard, and am loathe to haul my lazy butt out of the chair to walk around the block. Plus it’s boring. So I have set up walking dates with friends who will make the steps melt away with their companionship. I shared this with the surgeon, and his remark was that I was going to fail if I didn’t exercise. I know this. I was explaining my coping mechanism and he was dismissing me. Again.

It was everything I could do to not use some colorful language and tell him that a good doctor would encourage my “date making” efforts at exercise and tell me to continue. Instead, he made it a negative experience. Really negative. When I began this process, I was warned that he had no bedside manner. I think it’s more than that. He thinks he’s a god. I think he’s a plumber (with apologies to my real plumber, who I love). But this guy goes in, fixes the pipes, then kicks the dog on the way out of the house.

One tip for people considering the surgery who are married or have a partner living with them. Revert back to your college days of marking, hiding or locking up your food. I drove home the other night thinking about the cup of tomato soup I had in the fridge, dreaming about warming it up and dropping in a scant spoonful of cheese and spices, only to open the refrigerator door and see a blank spot where the soup used to be. Apparently my sweetheart had a grilled cheese sandwich that needed company.

Ninety percent of the food in the fridge is out of my league and he takes my favorite part of the 10 percent! He was apologetic, but take this as a warning: Be prepared to defend your soup, yogurt, pudding and juices against predators.

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Sip-sip-sipping away. All damn day…

Having this surgery didn’t take me out of the social circles. Last week, I went to a reunion with a friend from Florida, where delicious and desirable plates were passed before me. I sipped…and when I say sipped, I mean slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-owly…an iced tea. Took me all night. Needless to say, I’ll be the cheapest date in town from here on out, since I will only be able to consume a few bites. I promise to tip generously, even if I order the child’s plate. And my newest constant companion is my water bottle. Sip-sip-sipping is my new habit.

And the mental games continue. Sometimes I wake up thinking I can walk into the kitchen and make a platter of bacon and cheesy eggs with toast. Then I really wake up and realize that I will be able to have one egg, scrambled (can’t WAIT, that happens Saturday), hold the toast and bacon, and substitute a little fruit and thinly sliced ham. It’s the next step in the new me. In the meantime, it’s time for a new ’do. This redhead is picking up speed and it’s time to sass again.

 

Special thanks to the people on the Facebook Bariatric Sleeve support page. The questions and answers are invaluable. I’ve never felt so much support from a group before and I appreciate each and every one of you.

 

Questions? Comments? Leave me a note, I love to hear from my readers!

81 at 60 and it feels so good…

Every now and then, especially once you pass the age of 60, you challenge yourself to do something you did in your carefree youth, just to see if you still can and if the deed lives up to the memory.

Some things are best left to the scrapbooks and fireside tales, like my sweetheart taking up pole vaulting again, which he tried after many years out of practice. All I have to do is remind him of the difficulty of fitting his tuxedo pants over the ankle cast and he’s good to stand on the sidelines and coach.

When we were dating, our home base was San Jose. One or both of us used to drive back and forth to Newhall every so often to visit his mom and sister or go to Disneyland. We got familiar with the stops (or lack of, back in those days) on the 5 and often discussed the pros and cons of taking the 101 instead, sometimes opting for a scenic route that was a little bit longer. Once we married and kids came along, the trips became less frequent; we settled in SoCal and my parents lived in the Bay Area. Trips were confined to the occasional holiday. As kids grew up and relatives passed on or moved away, schedules precluded any spontaneous five-hour drives.

My last trip north a few years ago, on a journey to research an art festival in Sausalito, my beloved Saturn Vue nearly blew up, ending our road trip with a humbling and expensive flight home.

So when I set out last week to drive to Sacramento to visit my oldest daughter, 40 years after it had been my habit to just jump in the car and take off, I think I was looking to prove something to myself. Could I still do it without complaining and would it be as fun?

I hit the drive-thru at Starbucks at 6:15 a.m. for a cup of iced coffee (the day was already warm), took the cross-valley connector and jumped on the freeway with no problem.

While I didn’t hit much traffic at all (keeping a watchful eye out for the CHP), the early spring and bright sunshine did facilitate a lot of company in that thousands of bugs felt compelled to hurl themselves against my windshield in a statewide suicide pact. I swear I saw a few panicked faces (dare I say they were “bug-eyed?”) before impact. A stop at Harris Ranch for breakfast included some scrubbing of the glass so I could see the road and a second stop was necessary before I reached Stockton for the same reason. This was worse than any trip I could recollect.

My cousin, who also lives near Sacramento, keeps bees and does her best to educate the rest of us about their plight and challenges. When I saw two honeybees were impaled on my windshield wipers, it became a priority to get rid of the evidence, lest I hurt her feelings. And I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d done in some distant relative…

Radio is as messed up as ever in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, I came out of a hill to a mix of Motley Crue and Jason Aldean, prompting me to pull over and find Pandora on my phone. It was interesting on the way back to listen to morning deejays in Sacramento, but once again, hitting the farmlands along the freeway, it was time to Pandora my Miranda Lambert station.

The solitude of the road is something I have missed and one of the reasons I don’t embrace public transportation. When you’re in your car alone, there is time to think, time to wonder and sing off-key with no fear of the car next to you listening in. I enjoyed being able to look at roadside signs and toy with the idea of stopping at some tantalizing restaurant or gift shop (I do Yelp about one, www.mamarock.yelp.com) without taking a vote or settling for fast food. And it’s always interesting to see what cargo is sharing the road with me, although the current port strike must have had some effect on my road companions, as they were few. I found it ironic during a drive some time ago in which I found myself traveling with several semis loaded down with garlic – all headed for the famous stinking rose festival. Doesn’t it actually grow in Gilroy?

Driving up, I was buoyed by the excitement of seeing my daughter and cousin and I made good time (my daughter’s comment: “Holy cow, Mom, you drive like m… uh, I drive like you! Not that we ever speed, on the record…) The visit was great; we saw historic sites, beautiful scenery, ate delicious food, laughed and caught up on each others’ lives and as many relatives as we could remember before getting sleepy.

Heading home, I grabbed the obligatory Starbucks and breakfast sandwich and joined pre-rush hour Capitol drivers. The skies were overcast and grey for nearly the entire drive, making the cheap sunglasses I purchased unnecessary. Along the road, I saw the signs denouncing Congress’s “dust bowl” and reminders that our water shortage is something we need to take seriously. Sadly, some of those signs are showing their age, another reminder that water wars have been part of our state’s history for some time. No mention of the possible high-speed rail proposed to cut a swath from south to north and take traffic off the highway.

Don’t know that I’d take a train anyway. I like my solitude and sanctuary too much. And I get a senior discount along the road.

Where are we going next?