The Long Haul

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Day by day…taking each day one at a time…new day, new start.

These are all phrases I hear or say when weight loss becomes a life style. As you age, metabolism shifts, and weight comes off slowly. I’m in for the long haul. When I hear (young) people say they are going on a diet to lose weight and then they’ll be done, I almost laugh inside. Yo-Yo is the term used to describe those big losses, followed in a few years by big gains, only to begin the big loss again. For some of us, that is our life. So, I’ve taken on the attitude that I’m in for the long haul.

Today, I will watch, track and monitor what I eat, the choices I make, get exercise and increase the amount of water I drink. When it comes down to it, that is all I really can control — today. What about tomorrow? Those who binge eat, or decide to have that pizza or ice cream, often regret doing so. It tasted good, but what was the cost? Loss of momentum, weight gain, even depression for some. Many dieting sites talk about making a total life change. Decide to never have certain foods again. Never? That sounds harsh.

I think when my attitude is on the long haul to a healthy weight and healthy body, where I day by day simply make good choices, an occasional blip won’t derail my momentum. I did have a piece of chocolate cake on my birthday. I will have an occasional latte. I will buy one vegan chocolate chip cookie. My current attitude is that I don’t see a major change in my eating habits EVER. Because of choices I have made for years to have foods I want when I want them, I now have to watch my weight and food habits the rest of my life. I created this, by my own choices over the years.

Too much of our social and work interactions involve food. Calories. Fat. Salt. Go to a work meeting and there will be a large pile of doughnuts. Go out for lunch with a friend and a menu of bad choices faces you. So is it all about discipline alone? Self discipline to say NO to food, when everyone around you is stuffing their face? I think it has to be more than that. Saying NO forever is, well, impossible. We will all have moments of weakness. We give in to peer pressure. We will want a doughnut because it’s all we can see while listening to boring work discussions. We let others choose the restaurant out of courtesy.

Long haul means changing things in your life so that each day, you can make the best choices. It doesn’t mean perfection. With a Lap-Band, I took care of some choices. No bread. No pasta. No rice. No 10 course meals. Ever. That helps, gives me some boundaries. It makes it easy to say, “without bread please.” But I have already learned the hard way that the Lap-Band is not the total cure. I gained weight with a Lap-Band because of the choices I made. 300+ calories for a simple latte, 7 times a week, is a lot of extra calories! And candy does not get controlled by the Lap-Band.

The long haul does mean I need to track my food in a food diary. I use the pro version of MyNetDiary on my iPad. I know about how many calories I ate yesterday and the macronutrients. I am very honest in my food diary. I’ve learned the hard way that eating and not recording only hurts me. I don’t tend toward perfection of weighing and measuring everything I eat. I am just honest about portion size and snacks. Because I’m being honest with myself. Because it’s just me, myself and I that read my food diary. I sort of treat it like a blood pressure reading. It’s numbers, facts, that in total, describe my choices. The long haul also means that I can accept days where I go over my calorie target, and days that I go under. The long haul says that I don’t reward myself with more food if I come in under my calorie target. It’s a target. Not an absolute.

I’m not saying this is easy. It isn’t. But by having a long haul attitude, I can accept the days when I mess up, make a bad choice, lose my self discipline for a moment. Because tomorrow is a new day, new choices. So how can we help ourselves on this journey? For me. I don’t buy foods I shouldn’t eat and have them sitting in the house. No chips. No candy. No ice cream. If it’s not in the house, I can’t use some rationalization that I can eat it. If something is in the house, my subconscious knows, remembers and even obsesses about it until I give in and eat it. So, not in the house. Instead, I do buy good snacks, or packaged portions of snacks. (Yes. In my weakness, I can rationalize that three bags is what I should have.) My second way to manage for the long haul is to exert some control over restaurant choices. “Where should we stop for lunch?” I offer suggestions where I know I will have choices that are more healthy. Or I limit frequency, like “it seems we just ate there.” I have to use self control when looking over the menu. It has really helped to have some restaurants now listing nutritional data on the menu or website. So I look for that. Or I ask for modifications like no gravy, or steamed veggies instead of French fries. The long haul is all about choices. I no longer work and have those work meetings with piles of doughnuts, but what I did at the time was ask the secretary if she could order a tray of fresh fruits as well as a tray of doughnuts. Then I could choose fruit. Or I brought my own snacks to the meeting.

Peer pressure – “a little dessert won’t hurt” or “ here, have a taste” or “come on, what’s your problem” or my favorite, “it will make the cook sad if you don’t take some.” We’ve all heard the phrases. We all have had people think it is their job to make you indulge. I don’t know where this comes from. Maybe their own guilt at indulging, like misery loves company? Maybe they’ve never been obese and they don’t understand why you choose not to indulge. Maybe it’s a form of hospitality, making sure everyone has what they want. For whatever reason, peer pressure is the hardest for me. I don’t want others unhappy with me. I don’t want to make a scene.So I try to have a list of responses ready, like “I just ate, maybe later” or “I’m sorry but that upsets my stomach” or “I think I have a touch of the flu” — anything to dissuade them from pushing food into my mouth. But I never say “I’m on a diet” because that is an invitation to many, a challenge to test my self control. Mostly, I do things to avoid peer pressure. I invite friends along who know my battle, who know I’m in for the long haul. I also talk to a counselor, who can remind me of ways I can make good choices or handle certain situations better.

One of my main defense with others, with peer pressure, is the fact that I can tolerate NO dairy products. Physically, I am in pain and spend far too much time in the bathroom if I have any dairy. I’m not making this up, or lying, when I say I can’t have dairy. I miss dairy products. It’s not something I would want another to deal with. But it does make it very easy to say, “hold the cheese” or “are they made with butter?” No cook wants to make you sick. But also, left to my own devices, the thought of indulging in a scoop of ice cream never enters my mind. But there are more and more non-dairy choices today. Some are healthy. Many are not. So don’t think I have an easy out. The long haul still has to be my goal, my desire, that influences my choices every day.

I actually think I have a better attitude now than before I decided that watching my food intake is never going to end. There is no, “I’ve made my goal weight now I can eat what I want” point in my future. And I accept it is because of bad choices I’ve made throughout my life. Does it get tiring? Yes. There are days when I just want to go back and eat whatever I want. So, how can I keep this motivation pure? How can I stay with a focus on the long haul? Good questions! I’m learning and I don’t have all the answers, but I have hints. Like my annual physical, when the doctor says my blood tests are great and he’s happy my cholesterol is so low, and “look at that a1c!” That felt good. Another is all these Zoom meetings where I have to look at myself as if having a mirror always with me. I see the weight, or the loss of weight constantly. Right now, I’m liking how I look on Zoom. Who would have thought COVID-19 would have this benefit? I’m constantly seeing myself in a mirror. And you know that those of us who deal with weight don’t spend a lot of time in front of mirrors! I also have many friends to whom I’ve been honest about my struggles. They can be my advocates in social situations, or someone to talk to when I’m struggling. So I can’t do the long haul by myself. I talk honestly with my counselor about my struggles. I also have my faith, so a common prayer I send up is “help me, Lord!” And he does! I now know that I have used food as a substitute for dealing with my emotions, as a way to hide from peer pressure, as a reward, as a right, as a need. I don’t ever “need” a second helping or dessert. I don’t need to use food as my reward for not getting mad and losing it with my boss. I don’t need to rationalize that food is the only way to deal with a problem. I do need a healthy relationship with food. I do need to know what my body does need in protein, carbs and fat. I do need to know substitutes that are healthy choices. And I do need my goal for weight to be focused on the long haul, like forever. I’m in for the long haul!

Intermittent Fasting

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INTERMITTENT FASTING: It’s a new thing. The argument is that if you go with out food for 12 hours, your body begins burning fat. Go 16 hours and there is another jump in fat burning. You still eat three meals, but during a smaller window of time (feeding window). 

For me, I finish dinner by 7pm and if I have no evening snacks, my “fast” starts then. In the morning, my lap band seldom lets me eat before 9am. Right there I have a 14 hour fast.  If I delay breakfast until 11am I get to that 16 hour fast window. That would be a 16-8 fast, no food for 16 hours and eating in an 8 hour window for the nutrition and energy your body needs. 

For me it means breakfast at 11am, lunch around 2pm and dinner at 6:30pm. My target is about 1,100-1,200 calories, focused on protein, low fat and healthy carbs with low sugar.

There are a lot of “rules” you will hear about what breaks a fast (sugar in my morning tea), what foods you can and can’t have, going to “one meal a day” or OMAD, extending fasts for multiple days, and so many more. I ignore most of the rules. 

For me, I have stevia Sweet Drops in my morning tea. I use Bellway fiber to give me fullness to last until 11am. I have a varied menu of breakfast and lunch choices. My husband cooks delicious dinners that are low sodium, high on veggies and low on starches and good, lean proteins. Self-discipline is needed to stop eating after dinner. That is the hardest part of my day. Especially if my husband is munching on things or having ice cream! 

Intermittent Fasting is not a daily practice for me. My goal is 2-3 days a week for a 16-8 Intermittent Fast. But, to help me on those days, I need to use that self discipline and not eat after dinner, always.

I am back on the medication my doctor prescribed to curb my appetite. I can only be on it for a few weeks at a time, and I treat it as a jump start. All of this has to be along with exercise, good food choices, and lots of water!

Restart, Yet Again

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I lost my “COVID” weight of 25 pounds! I now weigh less than last October. I am encouraged, motivated and have a plan…then got derailed in September with heart rate issues (new med) and gained a few pounds. Then in November, I had gum graft surgery (I’d had 4 before with no problem.) and got a bad infection. Soft foods. Antibiotics and those side effects. Many appointments and painful treatments. That ice cream felt so good on my gums! I only gained a few pounds. Now I have a jaw sprain that creates those “TMJ” like headaches.

It felt overwhelming to restart all my weight loss good habits: food diary, snack control, time tracker, weigh ins, water intake, monthly measurements, sleep monitoring, steps and more activity monitoring, exercise, planner for more productivity, medication to curb appetite, intermittent fasting. TOO MUCH!

Enter my counselor, who has been helping me understand and be more aware my destructive eating habits. We listed all of the behaviors I need to restart, developed a plan and schedule and I’m on track. Down 2 pounds this week. Food diary and journaling really helps me keep myself accountable. (I use MyNet Diary Pro.) Keeping track of my water intake again and I am weighing myself daily. I restarted my Time Tracker, which for me is just an Excel sheet that lets me record some daily stats and activities. I record hours of sleep, activities every half hour with a star on those that are “productivity” or To Do List work, exercise (steps, stairs, active, and purposeful exercise), a prescription med to curb appetite, and because my doctor has approved, I’m trying Intermittent Fasting. (Next Blog post will discuss this topic.)

Onward and Downward!
Making progress and shedding those pounds!

It’s Been 4 Years…

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It has been 4 years since my last post. What was so important, always on the top of my mind, my first priority, to get to a size 12, disappeared from my life. A brief recap:

  • 2016 — Breast Cancer DX, surgery and radiation
  • 2017 — Bad knee pain, arthroscopy on right knee for torn meniscus, flu season led to multiple bronchitis infections over a six month period
  • 2018 — A trip to Italy, Mom passed away, life disrupted, right knee injured and much worse
  • 2019 — Knee replacement surgery and PT
  • 2020 — COVID Stay at Home, 25+ pounds of “COVID” weight, too many carbs, too much snacking, not enough exercise

All of the health issues reduced my exercise, interrupted my food diary and broke all of my good habits. These are the reasons. I did lose my focus on health and weight loss.

So, I called my doctor last week. I was so mad at myself for gaining weight! I weighed more three weeks ago than I did before the lap band surgery. How could this happen? So I’m trying an appetite suppressant to get a weight loss boost, keeping a food diary, wearing my FitBit and recording exercise, steps, stairs and active minutes daily, and loosing weight!

This week I will add 30 minutes of “fat burn” exercise three times a week.

How do I not make the same mistake again? What will keep me motivated for the long haul?

The band still works but I haven’t been working with it. The knee pain, the series of flus and colds, breast cancer all interrupted my exercise behaviors. I grew fond of lattes and ice cream and sweets. I let food once again become my emotional support.

So, the journey to a size 12 begins again.

Walk of Shame

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It has been over 18 months since my last post. That is a confession in itself! Life has thrown a number of stumbling blocks my way and like a fool, I let them distract me from discipline.

Last month, I went back to my Bariatric Doctor with my tail between my legs, embarrassed and feeling like a failure. I had reached a weight I said I’d never go back to, ever. And yet there I was, 25 pounds more than my last visit, losing meals regularly and finding foods high in carbs that stayed down. My evening snacking behavior had returned, mostly because I had lost my dinner and was hungry at 8:30pm. The fact that my husband seemed to be able to have evening snacks, including ice cream, made me feel like I deserved it as well.

I had 6 months in PT for severe tendonitis in my right foot. For most of that time I was limited to 10-15 minutes of walking. A far stretch from what I had been doing the year before. I gained 20 of those pounds during that time.

I had a series of viruses, colds, allergic reactions, new diagnoses like Menieres that mean treadmills and ellipticals are forever banned. My Pilates routine was disrupted by the business moving further away and focusing more on meditation and yoga, in which I have no interest. My running is derailed for a while until my foot has fully healed.

Excuses? Well, all these things led to excuses. I’m too tired. There is no exercise I can do. I deserve a break today. And sometime during that pity-party time, I stopped stepping on the scale. Because I cried every time I did.

We had a major remodel of our kitchen in 2015, so food preparation was limited. I started choosing foods that were higher in carbs and lower in protein. Someplace in that time, I decided my tea wasn’t sweet enough and had increased my raw sugar intake as well.

i was not happy with myself. I had failed, when I said I wouldn’t let that happen! What do you do then? How do you motivate yourself to get out of the bad habits? I guess the same way as before the lap-band. You just decide you don’t like the added weight. Your body reminds you of issues like arthritis that you hadn’t suffered for a while. You look in the mirror and shudder. You try very hard to do a selfie without a double chin. You struggle with buying new clothes, and being comfortable.

Sometime last month, things clicked in me and I just couldn’t take the gain anymore. I did go back with my tail between my legs, got some fluid removed so meals could stay down, listened to the nutritionist remind me of good eating habits, and started journaling my food again. What a difference that alone makes! If I’m honest, and journal everything that goes in my mouth, and let my FitBit tell me if I was active enough, my head seems to follow. I’m eating much less. I cut out the carbs of potatoes, most grains and convenience foods. Up with the protein, fruits and vegetables! I’m losing weight again.

Did you hear that? I’m going down again! I’m down 12 pounds since last January! That’s a healthy rate, by the way. A few snug clothes are a bit more comfortable. The arthritis pain is already gone. And that encourages me to move more.

Then life throws in a few changes. Very high heat index. Upcoming surgery. Visits and traveling. How can I stay motivated? How can I keep from being distracted by these changes? How can I increase exercise? Will I ever be able to run again?

I’m not sure I have the answers. I need support from others in the same position. I need to keep my expectations realistic. I need to turn quickly away from a bad habit returning. I need to step on the scale and let it give me the feedback I need.

A healthy, active lifestyle is what I need, with no more than 1200 calories a day. I hope my next blog entry is not so far away, with more admissions of failure. I want to stay accountable, even if no one reads this except me.

So, about 20 pounds to get to where I was, and then another 20 pounds to get where my doctor wants me. At 2 pounds a month, that is 20 months. I need to be in this for the long haul, that’s for sure!

Slow Recovery

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My last post talked about a 15 pound gain after a summer-long illness.  Once the meds left my system, I lost half the weight gain.  But I’m struggling with water gains and losses in the last two months.  I assume I need to be much more diligent about salt intake.

Meanwhile, I have tried to get more active, only to be thwarted by the high pollen counts in the Midwest this year.  So I’ve had successes, but also setbacks. Allergy congestion means drainage which seems to tighten the band and cause distress a couple of times a week.  So I’ve been on ground meats and stayed away from vegetables that can cause me problems.
I’ve given up the desire to run 5Ks until next year. I’ve been trying to increase my walking, but I fall very short of my exercise patterns of last spring.
So 2014 will not be the year I get the last 15 pounds off.  I’m hoping for a hard freeze soon and then maybe an Indian Summer before the cold winter begins.  A bit more aggressive walking would be good if allergies can be minimized.
I’m reluctant to go in for a band adjustment.  Looser would not be good and tightening would likely make more days on liquids and soft foods.  So I’m likely in the “sweet spot” with my band.  

Set Backs

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I haven’t posted in a while.  Things have been going OK.  I hadn’t been losing more weight- the last 15-20 pounds- but I wasn’t gaining.  My exercise plan was working- Pilates, walk/run, walking several times a week, and more.  Eating had been under control and the Band was working.  I went to China of for two weeks and came back from vacation feeling great with no weight gain.

Then came the summer cold to end all colds.   A month of inactivity, lack of sleep because of meds, restricted breathing that makes even a climb upstairs leaving me tired, and then…a gain of 15 pounds!
I can’t do much yet other than start logging my food and watching how much I’m eating.  But it will take jump-starting m y exercise plan to begin losing the weight.
I’m beside myself.  Pollen counts are very high and going outside triggers the restricted breathing.  So I have to wait..recover..do the best I can to not gain anymore weight. And. Not. Give. Up!!

Looking back, before/after and moving forward

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It usually starts with, “how many pounds have you lost?!” but the story of my journey is so much more than pounds.  I am no longer diabetic.  My arthritis does not bother me anymore. My blood pressure is almost always in the normal or low range.  I can climb, hike, run, jump and not have aching bones, or muscles that are weak. And while my aging body has generated a few new illnesses, they are much more manageable with a lower weight.  So what is the whole story, the bigger picture of being a Banded Becky?

It started with me collecting photos I’d taken or had taken during my Lab-Band Journey.  Then I had to print them.  Then I wondered what the charts would say about weight and BMI. Someone suggested that I take body measurements during my journey, but I had never looked at the story the data told.

The photos:
The camera doesn’t lie- unless you get carried away with Photoshop!  I did two galleries.  The first is as series of full body photos and the second is just my face.  The thing is, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see or remember the changes.  The photo series blew my mind.
The numbers:
Then I looked at the charts of my weight and BMI:

Again, looking back over my journey, I knew I had lost weight.  I knew I was wearing a LOT smaller sized wardrobe.  But the charts seem to exaggerate the loss over the last thee years.

I’ve been keeping certain measurements- hip, waist, chest, thigh, calf, bicep, neck, and bra size.  How does a total of minus 29 inches sound?  Pretty amazing!  It does explain why I’ve had to get rid of multiple wardrobes!
Going forward, I still have weight to lose.  In the BMI chart I added a projected weight in the future where I would be considered at a “healthy” weight.  Time is not reflected in the graph!  Pounds are harder to lose now, 2.5 years out from surgery.  Another 15 pounds off my bones would be great!
The title of my blog talks about my journey to a size 12.  It seemed an impossible goal five years ago, yet here I am! I have lost about 65 pounds since April 2011, which was six months before my surgery.
But Lap Bands are forever!  I will continue to work to get these last pounds off.  But I’ll tell you a secret- I can fit into most size 12 clothes!  Sometimes a size 14, sometimes a Medium.  But I am almost there!

Health and the Holidays

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I’m in a holding pattern these days.  I’ve had to reduce exercise for what has been diagnosed as Meniere’s Disease, a problem with the inner ear that causes dizziness, nausea and vertigo.  It sort of stopped my exercise cold, kept me home for days because I didn’t feel like I could drive safely, and in general, messed up my life for a few weeks.  The medications are helping, so I hope after the New Year, I can find some exercise that doesn’t require a great deal of balance or twisting motion!

I’ve not have a big appetite during the holidays – now that is something that is good!  And it has been a bit easier for me to control over eating simply because most everything people bring to gatherings has dairy – which I can’t eat anymore. (This is NOT related to the Band.) It is a bit easier to say no when you think of the consequences of being sick the next day.  I’ve had my moments, but on the whole, I’m within my calorie and quantity goals weekly.

All that to say, the holding pattern is in effect, meaning, I’m not losing those last 20 pounds!  My journey to a size 12 is a little stalled at the size 14, with some size 12s fitting.  So I’m close!  I’m certainly healthier.  Emotions have not caused me to overeat like they would have in the past.  I’m more mindful of what I eat.  I eat more slowly than ever before.  I still have foods that I cannot eat.

So, it has been 27 months since surgery, and at least that long since bread, pasta or rice.  Unbelievable!  That is what I would have told you three years ago!  But you adjust, and the importance of things change when your priorities change.  I do get full with less food.  I do have to watch what I eat, how well I chew, how fast I eat a meal.  This will always be with me.  Fast food is not an option for me unless it is a protein bar and fruit, or Wendy’s chili and a side salad.

Now ask me if it’s worth it.

Absolutely YES!!  I can move, run, jump, climb, walk up stairs, bend, and so much more.  I don’t have hip or knee pain, or arthritis, no more blood sugar and diabetes, my blood pressure is under control, my cholesterol is managed, and the list goes on.  My quality of life is so much improved, that these little inconveniences are just that, little. And I would do it all over again, except I wouldn’t wait as long!

My goal right now is to NOT gain those 15 pounds during the winter like I did last year.  I am just less active in the cold weather. So January, if the dizziness is under control, I need to find ways to move that burn calories and don’t mess up my inner ear.

Allergy Season is limiting my exercise!

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It’s hard to believe, but its been over a year since I posted.  So much has happened, I can’t possibly catch up! A brief overview:  I stayed at a plateau for over six months.  Then in the winter, I gained 15 pounds.  Argh!  I need a plan for this winter to keep up the exercise routine.  I’ve also had a few non-weight loss health issues that have changed which exercises I can do.  I did run a 5K 4th of July and once again participated in the Mayor’s Fitness Challenge of posting minutes of activity each day for 8 weeks.  I did loose the 15 pounds and my doctor wants me to loose the last 20 that would take me to the top of the range for my height.

My current drama is an ear infection that makes me dizzy.  A minor set back to my exercise plan!  Being outside during Chicagoland’s high allergy season is keeping me inside. My lungs do not like the pollen!  So what is a bander to do? Pilates, mall walking, and I’m open to other choices!  I haven’t been willing to try exercise classes at the Park District because I didn’t know if I could keep up, but I may have to to get some calories burned!  I have continued to do my run/walks.  As soon as the first freeze, I’ll start again.

Exercise continues to be my challenge.  I get busy, find excuses and get bored.  I feel great after, can do so much more, like run, hike up mountains, run up stairs, but yet I fall into old habits.  When I get myself focused and develop a plan, I get sick or have a family emergency and have trouble kick-starting the exercise.  Any ideas out there?