Sunday, April 12, 2015

End of my week off

Hi everyone.  This past week has been pretty awesome.  I got to have Spring Break from both my job and grad school, so it was truly a vacation.  I spent a week having lunch with friends, doing things around the county, and just getting in some sleep. Speaking of sleep, I got the results of my sleep study in earlier during the week.  If you'll recall, I participated in another sleep study at the end of last week to determine if I still have sleep apnea after having the gastric bypass. I just was struggling with sleeping on the CPAP and I always have so my sleep doctor recommended that we do another study.  I am beyond thrilled to let you all know that the results of the sleep study showed, drumroll please, I NO LONGER HAVE SLEEP APNEA!  You read that right, it's gone.  Sorry for the shouty capital letters but I think it was appropriate. The only way possible to reverse sleep apnea, and this doesn't happen all the time, is by weight loss.  I went from being classified as having severe sleep apnea to no obstruction at all.  Talk about wanting to do a jig after I found out. 

Sometimes I really do struggle emotionally with my feelings after having had weight loss surgery. Difficult emotions rise up and you're forced to deal with them otherwise you return to old patterns. I didn't sacrifice everything I did to have this life-altering surgery just to throw it down the drain.  So I have to walk through tough feelings, like not being able to eat most meat without wanting to throw up, some hair loss (although not nearly as bad as others) or the excess skin that is here with all of the weight loss.  However, I have an amazing support system in my life that lets me know I'm not alone and that I'm very much loved. That means so much to me.  I'm continuing to do good things for myself, like having great workouts at the gym.  The surgery was a tool but I still have work to do.  I wish I could explain that in a way people can truly understand.  It's not the easy way out.  Honestly, it's much more difficult.  My anatomy is different now and it always will be.  I'm not complaining, just expressing this wasn't an easy decision but one that has literally saved my life.  I'm really grateful.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

End of a quarter, sleep study and finding my size

Hi everyone. I've had a lot going on since my last post.  I finished another quarter of grad school, which was a horrible bear at the end.  I had five papers and a PowerPoint presentation that I had to submit, all within a few days of each other.  There's a point, when you're writing so many papers, that you just can't think any more.  I wondered how good my work really was going to be after it was all said and done.  I haven't gotten grades back from one of my classes yet, but I ended up getting an A in my other class.  Woo hoo!  I've got a 4.0 GPA since I started grad school and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself for that.  Nine week sessions go by so fast, especially when it's advanced work and I'm driving a long distance each time to make it happen.  I love my program, though.  It feels exactly like what I should be doing.  I'm now on Spring Break from that and then start my next round of classes a week from Monday.  I'm also off of work at the same time for our Spring Break at school, so I get to truly relax.  I have a lot of get-togethers planned with friends and not thinking about working or studying.

A couple of days ago, I participated in another sleep study.  This one is to determine if the sleep apnea I have been diagnosed with is now gone since I've lost so much weight since the gastric bypass was done.  I dreaded doing the sleep study because I could not sleep to save my life with all the things they have you hooked up to.  Just imagine what I had to sleep with ... you have a lanyard you're supposed to put over your neck and then tighten.  Attached to it is a device about the length of an iPhone 6+ or Galaxy and the width is probably about five inches or so.  That lays on the middle of your chest plate.  Attached to it are five chords.  Two get hooked in to a belt you have strapped across your chest, two get hooked in to a belt strapped around your waist and the last one leads to a device you have to insert into your nostrils.  For that part of it, you have to take four Band-Aids and stick them to the chord and your face so it doesn't move around in the middle of the night.  Then you also have another chord that leads to a device that straps around one of your fingers.  The machine then tells you if everything is hooked up correctly.  If it is, you may go to sleep and have a restful night of dreaming.  Oh, and if you're a tummy sleeper like me, you have to slide everything around to your back without unhooking any of the chords or belts.  Sure, restful night of sleep my ass!!  I'll find out next week what the verdict is.  I cannot sleep with the CPAP machine ever since I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, so I really pray I no longer have it.

The other day, after I went to the Sleep Clinic to get the device for the sleep study, I went over to Lane Bryant in hopes of getting some t-shirts that I can work out in.  Everything I wear to the gym is just way too big on me.  I'm forever exposing my sports bra because my shirts keep sliding off my shoulder. So when I went in there, I grabbed some shirts and went to try them on.  When I had my gastric bypass, I was wearing a 30/32 size.  I know I'm smaller now, but my head still is not in the game.  The pants I fit into now are an 18/20 but I still choose to wear the 22/24's.  On the top, I'm bigger.  So, when I went into the dressing room, I grabbed 26/28's, figuring that is smaller than I used to be.  When I tried them on, they were waaaay too big.  I'm down more than 100 pounds since the surgery ... of course they're going to be too big!  So I ended up buying 22/24's.  Honestly, those are still too big because when I put the tops on at home, I was still swimming in them.  This surgery is more than just losing the weight, there's an emotional component to it as well.  The surgeon didn't fit what's going on inside my head around all of this.  That part is going to take just as much work to conquer as workouts do at the gym.  I know I'll get there but there are growing pains along the way.  The flip side of this, though, is I'd rather have the problem of dealing with a shrinking body than a growing one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday was a great day

What, two posts from me in a week? Something must be in the water.  I had a really good day.  It was a busy one for me at work, but in the middle of it, I asked my friend to snap a full-length photo of me because I haven't taken one in a while.  Here's a comparison pic. The purple is me about a year ago and the black is me today.

I am working hard at staying in positive light and moving forward with taking good care of myself, not only physically but emotionally, too.  Sometimes that's not the easiest thing in the world, but seeing where I've come from, like in the pic, gives me great perspective.  I tend to focus on the work I have yet to do.  However, when I do that, I forget how absolutely far I have come.  And it has been really far.  Light years.  That doesn't mean I'm completely not the girl in the purple shirt, just a happier, more confident version.  When I was at the gym tonight, that place was absolutely hopping.  My shirt was completely drenched in sweat because I was working hard and instead of feeling like I didn't belong there, I knew in my soul there was a place for me there just like everyone else.  I was actually chuckling to myself because some guy was blatently checking me out while I was working on one of the bars in the stretching area.  I was doing this exercise where you hold onto the bar (looks like a silver ballet bar attached to the wall) with one hand, then kick as high as you can forward with the other leg and then land your foot behind you in a pivoting motion, only to repeat the process again.  I was doing a couple of sets of 15 on each leg and this guy was near me working on an arm machine.  Except he wasn't working, he was watching my long legs do their thing.  More like staring really.  I felt like saying something smart to him, but I refrained.  Oh, I just remembered something more than awesome that happened this morning that completely slipped my mind until just now.  This girl, who used to weigh 420 pounds, can now use a regular-sized towel to dry off when taking a shower.  I always had the bigger bath towels that were more like beach towels because regular ones wouldn't wrap around me.  I was still using them, assuming I was too big for the other ones, but they were in the dryer so I was forced to try to use a regular one and that bad boy wrapped around my smaller body with no problem.  How crazy is that?  Those out there reading this who have been forced to use bigger towels can especially appreciate how amazing this is.  I'm grateful for the good day I had.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New beginnings

Hi everyone!  I didn't realize it had actually been a month since I posted, but an anonymous person left me a message asking where I was.  Thank you, friend.  I seriously didn't realize it had been that long.  I haven't meant to not give my blog that much time in the last few months.  It has been a very important part of my journey, a place where I can be honest about feelings and emotions as I go through my weight loss and life.  Perhaps that's why I haven't been writing, because it's the very thing that helps me search my soul.  That's something I seriously need to think about.  I promise myself, and you, that I'm not abandoning my blog.  In fact, I need to kick up posting here routinely again.  I know, I've said this before but honestly the benefits are so substantial that I need to do it.  After I'm done posting this, I'll put a calendar reminder on my phone.  Maybe that will help me get my butt in gear.

Today is officially seven months since I got the gastric bypass done.  In so many ways, the time has flown by.  In other ways, it has been creeping by.  Things are so much different for me now since the surgery.  It not only rearranged my insides and helped me lose 100 pounds since the surgery (yahoo!), but it has really affected my outlook on life.  Don't worry though, they have been positive things for me.  I am a much stronger person who goes after things that I might have been too shy or afraid to do before.  Sometimes that hasn't always worked out, but life is all about taking risks to get rewards.  Putting your neck out there isn't the easiest thing.  One thing, for example, has been dating.  What a scary thing to do for a lot of people, but even more so for a person who has always had a weight problem, feeling insecure about her looks and attractiveness to men, and losing weight at the same time.  I've met some men who I have dated, others who are examples of the negative side of online dating and everything in between.  I was recently dating someone who got very intense very fast with me and ended up asking me for money while professing love.  No, I didn't give him money (I'm a smarter girl than that) and, yes, I ended our relationship.  It wasn't easy because I had feelings for him, but it's what I knew was the right thing to do for myself.  So, I'm single ... again.  I'm taking a little break from dating for a bit after that one.  When I think about it, though, my ability to have so many men interested must mean I'm not as ugly as my fat-girl head wants me to believe I am.  Sure, some may have had ulterior motives, but I'm still attractive enough to get attention from interested people. 

Yesterday I went and got another tattoo.  I'm 43 years old and always wanted tattoos, but I suppose I never had the courage to go after them because of the pain I imagined in my mind, the fact that they are permanent and I also probably cared way too much about what my parents think.  They are both very conservative and have voiced negative opinions about them in the past so I knew they wouldn't be supportive.  But, like I mentioned above, the surgery changed so much in me and I have come to realize this life is way too short.  The last tattoo I got was the butterfly on my back flying away from my surgery date.  I always get compliments on that one when people see it.  Obviously I love it.  The one I got yesterday is a cherry blossom on my leg.  Cherry blossoms are delicate and cherished for their beauty.  Think about when cherry blossoms bloom on the east coast and how much they are adored.  They signify new beginnings, new life, strength and beauty.  That's what I'm all about these days.  I'm going to post some pics below so that you can see the process I went through to get the tat.  It took four hours, but I had the banter of two special friends, as well as the tattoo artist, so the time flew by.  Yes, it was painful.  My leg even had involuntary reflexes when he inked certain parts but I managed just fine. It actually wasn't bad overall, just some parts, particularly when he was doing the outlining and the fact that it was near or on top of big bones.  I'm absolutely thrilled with the outcome.  Maybe next time I'll make it to more than three months before I get my next tat.  No guarantees, though :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Working it

Things have been going well.  Both my father and brother are out of the hospital, thank you, God.  My father now has about two months of recovery at home before they re-do the hip replacement.  He is in very good spirits and has such a positive attitude.  I respect him so much for having the strength to get through everything he has been dealing with without breaking down.  He had a hip replacement that got infected, had the hip replacement removed, a spacer inserted, has been in the hospital six separate times, rehab for the last six weeks or so and then has to have the hip replacement redone.  My brother has been put on new medication and they are hoping this will work instead of having a new heart transplant done.  If not, he will go back on the list in a few months.  I continue to pray daily for my family.

I started working with my personal trainer.  She is just so awesome and it was such a great decision on my part.  I'll be working with her for three months.  We will be checking my weight and measurements every three weeks.  I shared with her my experience of having weight loss surgery and my attempts of weight loss.  She was in awe of me and actually told me that I was an inspiration to her.  Wow, I had to pick my jaw off the floor.  I started a separate page on here for all of my strength training workouts if you'd like to follow along or at least get the benefit of a personal trainer without having to pay for it.  There's a link for it at the top of the page.  I'm doing things with her that has taken every ounce of courage to do in the middle of the gym.  When people work with personal trainers, others in the gym watch.  It's a very big gym so this isn't easy.  One time I was doing cardio while she was training someone else and I swear every pair of eyes was looking in the corner where she was doing the training and watching.  Yet, I don't let that stop me.  I've even done weight lifting in the section where all the men with muscles do the majority of their work.  What's been interesting for me is that they are not looking at me and mocking me for being the fat lady trying to work out (which is what I had envisioned in my mind).  Instead, they are looking at me and smiling, even checking out my legs when I stand in front of the mirror focusing on my form.  It's been so weird!  I almost feel, dare I say, normal.

I also have seen the dietician at Kaiser's Positive Choice center, which is part of a service I can employ after surgery for help with my nutritional needs.  I just have been feeling weak and lightheaded.  I wanted to make sure that I was doing the right things for my body with the increased exercise.  When I work out, I'm burning about 900-1100 calories a day with just exercise.  Given I was eating 800 calories a day, it makes so much sense that I was feeling the way I was.  The dietician told me that 800 calories a day is just not enough for a person that exercises as vigorously as I am.  He did a mathematical calculation based on how many calories are in protein and what I was taking in each day.  He told me to increase my calories to 1200 per day instead of the 800 my bariatric surgeon recommended.  He understands where the doctor was coming from, but we do need to take into account how much I'm burning during workouts.  When I asked him how I should increase the calories, he said it is as simple as making sure I'm getting enough healthy fats in my diet such as coconut oil or almond butter.  He also told me I need to take in 100 grams of protein per day now with the increased calories and to ensure I am hydrating enough.  He stated that I should try to get in as many fluids as possible earlier in the day but to shoot for at least eight cups.  He also agreed that the strength training I'm getting with my trainer is especially valuable in dealing with excess skin and having a toned body because we can lose a lot of muscle mass with significant weight loss if we are not also incorporating strength training.

So, my friends, I'm working it and taking good care of myself.  It's a long time coming, that's for sure.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A little too much going on

This last week has been a terribly difficult one, I have to be honest.  Eleven years ago, my brother had a heart transplant. When he was born, there was a leak in his heart and the left and right parts were doing the opposite of what they were designed to do.  We always knew that one day he would need a heart transplant. In fact, the doctors told our family he would not live past the age of five without the transplant. When he did eventually have the transplant, he was 33 years old.  Fast forward to this past Thanksgiving when my mother and I went out to Las Vegas to visit my brother and sister-in-law. When we were there, my mother noticed my brother had gained a lot of weight in his tummy, as if he was about 13 months pregnant.  That's not my brother. He is a very active and fit guy so it did not make sense. After a slew of tests at the Stanford, the hospital where he originally got the transplant, the cardiologist told him that his heart was being rejected by his body and he would need a new heart.  When I got the news, I was just shellshocked. I sat on my bed in stunned silence, not sure what to do with this information.  My poor mother, who was the one that told me the news, was taking it incredibly badly, of course.  No matter how old her children are, that's her baby.  He was admitted into the hospital and will be staying there until at least Wednesday.

I decided to call my dad and tell him what is going on with my brother.  My dad has been in and out of the hospital for the last three months.  He had a hip replacement surgery that caused a horrible infection.  They had to rush him in for emergency surgery after five hospital stays.  They removed the new hip, put in a spacer and were giving him antibiotics around the clock.  When I called to tell him about my brother, he told me he would have to stay in the hospital a couple more weeks himself.  Then he can go home and prepare for the redoing of the hip replacement surgery.  

Between both events, I just felt like I couldn't breathe. It took me a couple of days but the tears eventually came.  My heart was broken for them.  At the same time, I knew going to food for comfort and solice just was not the answer.  It doesn't make anything better.  If anything, food makes it worse.  

You guys would be very proud of me, though.  I've made some progress on the weight machine issue at the gym.  I decided enough was enough and the next time I was going to go to the gym, I would request to sign up for personal training sessions. With lots of resolve in my head, I walked up to the gym and got intercepted at the door by this really cute, hot guy who held it open for me and said in a bright voice, "After you!" Haha, that totally threw me off so I did not ask about the personal trainer at the desk. He made me lose focus.  I just logged in and went about my workout. I told myself that I would not be leaving the gym without talking to someone at the front desk about getting a personal trainer.  So, after I finished my workout, I went to the locker room to grab my jacket and then bee-lined it for the front desk.  Behind the counter where these two cute, hot guys as well.  Frig, what is it about these men that make me lose my focus so much?  To be fair, they were beautiful with lovely muscles peeking through their shirts.  But, with a purpose-driven heart, I walked straight up to the counter and said, "I would like to sign up for a personal trainer please."  The two guys greeted me with the most dazzling white smiles and beamed at me with pride.  I made an appointment to see a trainer the next night.

I met with her and she was so sweet. It was absolutely no pressure at all but she really commended me for how far I've come and how motivated I am.  So, I will be working out with her each week and then she'll give me assignments in between. She does want me to cut back on the amount of cardio I'm doing.  If I'm  still walking at work, that's fine but then she doesn't want me doing more than 30-45 minutes of cardio at the gym in the evenings.  At a certain point, the body just can't use everything that I put into cardio.  However, she said the focus will now need to shift to strength training,not only for fat loss but also to tone up loose skin.  So I will be limited to 4-5 days of cardio per week at the gym and we will do strength training twice a week to start, eventually moving up to three times a week.  I start training on Wednesday.  I'm so excited that she will be there to guide me and tell me what to do.  That's what I need.  I then went for a workout and, when I left, one of the hotties was behind the desk and said, "Have a good night, Kathy :)" He learned my name and said it again when he saw me today.  Uh oh, I'm in trouble with that one!

Finally, I'm nearing the end of my updates. In terms of school, I found out that I got A's in both my classes for my first quarter. Yay me!  I start my next quarter tomorrow.  My classes will be out of the area, so I'll have to drive a pretty far distance but it's only two days so it's manageable.  It does require I go into work earlier those two days, so I need to somehow manage the change.  With everything going on, I'm absolutely reminded to take everything one day at a time.  That's all I can do.

Monday, January 26, 2015

First quarter done, making tough decisions

I've been sick the last several days.  It came on like a ton of bricks on Wednesday night.  I don't know what happened, but I found myself as sick as a dog and ended up staying home from work on Thursday and Friday. My first quarter of graduate school ended this past week, but I pretty much killed myself trying to finish writing two research papers while being sick.  I have a week and then I will be starting the new quarter of classes.

I find myself having to make a very difficult decision about my internship for the grad program.  If I choose to do my internship in my district, I will either have to go from working 40 hours a week to 16 and lose my benefits at the same time or take a leave of absence from work. If I go outside the district, I'm facing similar circumstances.  Either way, it is going to be a huge financial sacrifice for me.  Not only that, I will lose my medical benefits during the time when I am working part-time or on the leave of absence.  I was talking to a few people at work today about this and we started looking at whether taking a leave of absence is the best choice for me given that if I work 16 hours a week, I will lose so much and it will take longer to finish my internship hours. With the leave of absence I can get it done over the course of the semester. If I choose to work part time, it would take one semester and an additional quarter.  Now, if I can go on Cobra for the four months, I can keep my medical benefits but it does require that I pay roughly $500 per month for the privilege.  So, crunching numbers based on not working and taking a leave of absence, it will cost me approximately $10,000 for a semester factoring in all of my expenses and the additional Cobra costs to pay for my medical benefits.  If I work those 16 hours a week, it will actually be more expensive because I'd still lose my benefits, I'd be living on a reduced paycheck and then paying an additional $2,000 to extend my school year.  Crunching preliminary numbers, it looks like $10,000 is what I'm dealing with.  That causes me to feel stressed. I do have the money in the form of student loans, but it's still not an easy decision at all.

I find myself still dealing with being in a stall weight-wise. I'm exercising a lot.  For those that are curious, I still haven't gotten on the weight machines.  But I did see a sign at the gym that I am entitled to four personal training sessions for free as part of my membership dues. So, I am really thinking about pursuing that so that I can get a personal trainer and have him show me how to use the machines and what specifically I should focus on when exercising.