Friday, August 31, 2012

The heart-breaking truth

When a person takes on such a serious endeavor as losing weight, especially a significant amount of weight, I feel it is always important to do so with a serious heart and a goal of following the directions.  When I chose to participate in Optifast, I did so because I knew it was medically supervised.  Yet, there are people all the time who try to do it "on their own" because they say the program just costs too much money.  So, let's talk about the true costs and I think you'll soon see why this was something that was not only something I needed to do, but it was necessary. Indulge me for a paragraph or two as I talk about the costs of the program before I go into the most important part of this post.

The figures below are the cost of the Optifast program I do through Kaiser locally in San Diego.  Each clinic is different, just as the program is different in countries outside of the U.S.  Since my insurance is through Kaiser, I have certain benefits available to me that non-members must incur.
  • Before beginning, you have to do lab work and an EKG.  Free for Kaiser members, non-members pay $322.
  • Once cleared, the second thing is participating in a body assessment and paying for program materials, which costs members and non-members $210.
  • A maintenance fee is required that can be paid over time, costing $375 for everyone.
  • Lab work is done every week, free for members, about $20 for non-members.
  • Weekly fees for Optifast products are $125.  This does not include any fiber, soup or extra boxes of products you may buy.
So, if you're tallying up totals so far, Kaiser members have to pay $585 in fees plus approximately $500 per month for the products.  Given I take at least six shakes instead of the normal five (requiring an extra box every other week) because I am diabetic and I buy soup as well as fiber, I probably spend about $600 a month on my "food".

I sat and thought about all those people who say, "Optifast is just way too expensive.  There's no way I can afford it."  I remember saying that, too.  Today, though, as I was going through one of my bank statements, I had a question pop up in my head:  How much was I really spending before on food?  Really??  So, I found myself going back in my statements and calculating exactly how much I spent.  This only takes into account usage of my debit card, not any cash, credit cards or checks I may have used. 

The truth of what I found broke my heart.  In fact, it was so overwhelming when I was working on this post earlier this evening that I had to close my laptop and walk away for a little bit.  Part of the reason for that is that the truth of what I found hurts me to no end.  The other part of that is I knew I was going to post it on my blog for you all to see.  The purpose of this blog is for me to continue growing and working through feelings and emotions that pop up as I go through this journey, as well as to share hope with other people. Sometimes that means I'll tell you funny stories of my pants falling down because they're too big, or perhaps it's to impart joy as I see the pounds melting off my body.  Then there is another component, one in which I tell you the truth of what I did to myself that I've never told anybody.  This part is humiliating and raw and it is as honest as I know how to be. This is the part that made me run my entire life from what I was doing to myself, pretending it wasn't as bad as it was.  The truth sometimes is not very pretty. 

Below is what I spent month by month in the year before starting Optifast on food and drinks.  When I take into account not only what I made at home, the times I would go to restaurants for food or drinks with friends, trips to Starbucks and wherever else, the numbers are astonishing.

January 2011 - $547
February 2011 - $642
March 2011 - $380
April 2011 - $420
May 2011 - $379
June 2011 - $547
July 2011 - $865
August 2011 - $592
September 2011 - $526
October 2011 - $818
November 2011 - $537
December 2011 - $887
January 2012 - $398

Can you see now why I chose Optifast?  I desperately needed help.  Obviously, for some months, I spent less than what I do now on the program.  Yet, in other months, I more than made up for it.  My average over these thirteen months was $580.  When someone at work asked me today what the success rate of this program is after discussing my weight loss with me (and eyeing my body in a judgemental way, I might add), I thought in my head, and excuse my language, but I don't fucking care.  I cannot live like that any longer, I just can't.  No one who really knows me doubts I am fully committed to being successful on this program and afterwards.  And if you don't know me, just ponder those numbers for a little bit.  Laying judgement aside, if you are overweight, ask yourself what your numbers would be.  If you're like me, it will make you stop in your tracks. 

It is no wonder I find myself on my knees every single day thanking God for bringing me to this place of healing.  I don't ever want to live in that sort of pain again.  I hurt for those that aren't ready to get help, yet I know that we all have a journey to getting there.  Some of us "get it" early enough before it gets bad.  Then those are others out there, like me, who had to do more research into the pain obesity brings about.  While I may be struggling in this new body of mine that continues to get smaller day by day, trying to be comfortable accepting where I'm at, it is nowhere near my best day in a 417-pound body.  I pray I never forget what it was like to live in that body.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reaction to being touched

I have been having some back problems for a long time.  Many times in our lives, we hear from doctors some form of the sentence, "If you just lose a little weight, you'll feel better."  My doctor has never had the opportunity to utter that sentence in regards to my back because I never mentioned anything to her.  It wasn't because I thought that she would not be compassionate, but because I was sure in my heart that the back issues were associated with my weight.  Meanwhile, I continued to suffer.  Yet, after losing almost 175 pounds off of my body, the pain is not any better.  If anything, it is worse because I'm much more active.  So, I began physical therapy today.

As I was sitting and talking with the physical therapist about what's going on and getting my medical history, I found myself feeling uncomfortable.  She didn't make me feel that way, not at all.  It was me, just uncomfortable with this body of mine.  I knew she was going to touch me, which is a necessary part of what is needed for physical therapy.  The problem is that I have been feeling very uncomfortable in my skin lately.  I often times will look in the mirror and not even recognize myself.  Yes, my features are familiar like my eyes and my nose, scars from various events in my life and other clear signs that I'm me.  It's just that there has been so much significant change that even I am sometimes shocked when I pass by a mirror or when I put clothes on that are simply gigantic on me.  I just don't know where I fit in lately.  Please don't get me wrong, I am certainly not complaining about the weight loss and feeling healthier.  It is the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life and I am fully committed to continuing on this path.  It's just that it's a very unsafe, uncomfortable place for me to be in.  I have no conception of who I am right now and that's the emotional part of this journey that is so difficult to explain to others, especially those that have never had weight issues.  The fact is that I have never been thin, not ever in my life.  Look back at the pics link at the top of my blog and see the "before" pictures.  Even as a child, I was overweight. 

As the physical therapist started to do her examination of my back, she lifted up my shirt.  I was preparing myself for a reaction of some sort because she was a tiny little woman, but it never came.  We discussed my medical history before starting and she was floored when I told her how much weight I have lost, yet I just was expecting some sort of adverse reaction.  When she touched me, poking and prodding to see where the pain was, it was a sensation I felt of caring hands on me.  I was tense at first until I could just let myself relax a little bit.  Overweight people live in a world where they are judged by others because of their size at practically every turn, so it is strange to not feel that judgement and to just let go. 

During the exam, the physical therapist had me laying on my back, laying on my front, standing up, as well as bending over, to check out the curvature and muscle development in my back.  I was shocked at how flexible my body now is.  Here's an example:  she had me get on my hands and knees on top of the table.  Then I was instructed to slowly lean back on my legs (without straightening them out) so that I was laying close to the table to stretch out my back.  There was no way I would have been able to do such a move before this program.  It would have caused tremendous pain in my legs to lean my body weight fully on them. I was able to do things with that physical therapist today that I literally have not been able to do in years.

The thing with this journey is that it is a true journey.  I can look in the mirror and have no clue who is staring back at the reflection.  I see me at my heaviest most of the time, or at least that's what I want to see.  That girl was safe in a very unhealthy sort of way.  It is a familiar place where I can keep walls up so that I don't feel vulnerable and I don't take risks.  Now when I look in the mirror, I have to find some sort of acceptance with where I am in the present moment.  I have a jawline when I look at my face.  I see a collarbone on my neck.  And I also see a vast amount of loose skin.  In the end, I see a body emerging where there didn't seem to be a clear definition of one before.  So many people say to me that when they look at before pictures of me, they don't see me as that person at all but, rather, the person I am now.  Is this who I was always supposed to be, but just hidden away?  Looking at this image above, I can completely identify with the woman because on the left she sees herself as frumpy, on the right she's vivacious and in the middle she's somewhere in between.  The only question is where does she fit in?  Ultimately, where do I fit in?  I supose that's a question I will need to keep addressing and being honest with myself about.  I am slowly letting go of the girl on the left and I have to be okay with that as I continue to move forward.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The memories continue

I was nervous all day long about going to my class tonight as I blogged about yesterday.  The nervousness was so palpable as I was driving to campus after work that I almost felt sick to my stomach.  What on God's green earth was that about?  I have no clue.  I decided to park far out so that I can get a good walk in to my class and back.  Since I can't really get a good amount of exercise in Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday now that my college is back in session, I thought this was a good way to take care of myself.  So I parked at the far end of a huge lot on campus, walked a good distance, went down four flights of stairs and then reversed the process afterwards to get back to my car.  It felt good. 

When I came to the stairs, I had memories of a time when I first started at the campus.  I was trying to find the bookstore and went up what seemed like a million flights.  I felt incredibly out of breath by the time I had climbed all of them.  Somehow those memories were right with me again today.  I'm not exactly sure why I'm having episodes of remembering the way it was a lot lately, but I'm sure there's a good reason for it. 

There is so much physical pain coming from the world I came from that it's really no surprise that little flashbacks are occurring now.  What's so unusual, though, is that it feels like those memories are of somebody else, completely removed from me.  Does that sound weird?  It's as though I have disconnected from 417-pound Kathy, letting her go more and more each day.  That does not mean I have changed completely.  The soul of who I am is still who everyone knows.  It's just that they get the best parts of me now, along with another part of me that is still learning and wobbling around on new feet.  I feel like a baby giraffe on these legs that are just way too new and I'm looking to my mom to help me learn to walk.  Only she is telling me that I just have to keep trying and eventually I will get the hang of it.  Okay, I promise to keep trying!

The desk situation went fabulous, by the way.  Not only did I fit comfortably in the seat, I actually had plenty of room to spare.  Perhaps you guys didn't doubt it, but I sure did.  When you have lived in that world for so long, it's very hard to just let the thoughts go.  In my mind, I'm still the same size as I was back in January, even if I get shown over and over again that it just ain't true.  If I did fit in a desk like that before, it was just barely and would cut off my circulation because the fit was just way too tight.  I thank God above for continuing to show me in a way I can understand that He has not left me at all through this process and will not do so as long as I continue to turn to Him for guidance through all of this.  Several friends have told me that they see my faith as an integral part of my journey.  I couldn't agree more.  What has happened to me really is a miracle, at least in my eyes.  Why is there peace around me as I go through this?  Why am I not tempted, not even in the slightest, to cheat?  How am I losing this much so fast?  I really do feel God's hand on me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Facing that hill and those desks

Tomorrow I start another semester of school while also working full-time.  This semester shouldn't be too bad since I'm just taking two classes.  The part that I don't look forward to, though, is the fact that on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I leave the house at 6:45 in the morning and don't get home until after 9pm.  That is a bear of a long day, but it is what it is.  On Mondays, I have my Optifast class, so I have no choice but to stay late at the office and then head off to the class since it's all located south of where I live.  But on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I could come home for about twenty minutes, change my clothes, make my Optifast shake and then head off to classes since my college is north of where I live.  That might be a nice way to break up the day.  As I start this new semester, memories flooded my brain of how the last semester began.

During the days when I was waiting to start Optifast, my semester was getting ready to start.  I blogged about how I had a difficult time climbing a particular hill on the campus, which was a major moment for me knowing I made the right decision to do something drastic about my health.  Tomorrow I will be facing that same hill again.  The school that I go to, Cal State San Marcos, is about 10 miles from my house.  That, along with being affordable and having the exact program I wanted, is why I go to that particular campus.  For those that know the school, it's also affectionately known as CSU Stair Master.  Here's an example of why:


Now, the building where I have tomorrow's class is next to a parking structure.  I can walk across the catwalk, but I'm afraid of heights and it makes me feel queasy every time I cross it.  The other option, if I park in the structure, is park at the bottom and go up a massive, windy hill.  If you read back to the post I mentioned above, it was that very hill that winded me and I made the decision to drop the class shortly thereafter.  I can't be in that all or nothing place anymore ... that's no way to live.  There are other ways to get to the building that won't make me feel queasy for the walk across the bridge and will allow me to get some good exercise in at the same time, which is to just park farther away in a lot that is higher up.  Why am I mentioning this all here?  Because this is part of what goes through the mind of a person who was so heavy that a hill would make her drop a college course she needs to receive her degree.  That's what we do to avoid embarrassment and uncomfortability.  I won't let a hill get the best of me any longer.  I refuse to let it do that!

The other issue for me to contend with is the matter of the desks in the classroom.  This particular classroom has individual desks, whereas my class on Wednesday night has tables with several open chairs at each table.  How do I know this?  Because they have pictures of the classrooms on their website.  Here's what I'm dealing with tomorrow night.


Last fall, I had a class in a room similar to this one where the seats were these exact desks.  The table top lifts up, which I thought was pretty cool to help me fit in the seat.  Yet, when I lowered the table top over my lap, it wouldn't go all the way down because I was too big to fit.  I ended up dropping that class, too.  See a pattern here?  I did pick up other classes in place of the two I dropped, but in classrooms that had open seating.  There's a part of me that looks at these desks and wonders if I will fit this time.  I am down almost 175 pounds (pulling back on the exercise really helped!) and I'm wondering if I'll fit in the desks?  Talk about misguided thinking.  When you have lived in a world where you didn't fit into most places, it does affect how you view things.  It still surprises me when my body easily fits into tight spaces or smaller clothes.  Today I saw someone who hasn't seen me for a few weeks and when he saw me, he literally dropped his jaw and said to me, "Girl, you look gooood!"  I think I blushed.  Or a co-worker of mine came up behind me today as I was at a copy machine in the office and she told me she literally did not recognize me from behind because I looked like a different person completely.

These are the very things I mean when I describe being like a foreigner in this new world of mine.  I don't know how to maneuver appropriately.  I don't even know my own body.  Facing these little challenges help me to continue growing and feeling stronger in the body I have now.  This is not the body I will end up with, so baby steps are what is needed, which is frankly all I can handle right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Remembering what it used to be like

I was mentioning to a friend yesterday that I haven't had any dreams about food since I first started Optifast.  Back then, they were vivid and I suppose a part of me was in mourning.  Since I went into ketosis, about two weeks after starting, I pretty much have only had one time where I wanted to have food.  Otherwise, amazingly, I have been fine.  Then, last night, I had a dream that I was eating.  Not only was I eating, but I was bingeing on food.  I can't remember what circumstances led up to my eating in the dream or what exactly I was eating, but I just remember that feeling of not being able to get the food in my mouth fast enough.  The feeling was as if I was leading this secret double life, like a junkie who couldn't inject in her arm fast enough to feel the high as soon as possible.  I woke up out of my dream with a start and quickly sat up in bed.  I looked around my bedroom, trying to figure out if I really was eating or what exactly was going on.  I then realized, with overwhelming relief, that it was just a bad dream.

I remember those days of sneak eating, of having a whole bag, box or carton of something, of hurting myself by eating way too much.  Sometimes it was just in one sitting, but most times it was a constant grazing.  Food was more important than anything else and it gave me a relief from so many things in life, like boredom, stress, feeling alone, anxious and many other things that have nothing to do with food.  It was this secret world I lived in that I didn't talk about with anyone, just put on a good front.  Although, I'm sure people could figure it out because they could see me gaining weight over the years.  But how do you talk about it when there is so much shame and embarrassment around how big you've gotten?  It's very difficult.  As I was realizing this was all a dream this morning, I sat there and wondered why I was having this sort of dream now, after all this time.  Then it hit me:  I threw my scale away yesterday.  I feel like I have no control now around my weight, not that I did by owning that scale.  I wanted to weigh myself this morning and I couldn't.  Not only that, but the old Kathy is being put to rest.  She is being replaced by someone who is healthier, happier and cares about herself a whole lot more.  I don't want to eat the way I did before, not ever again.  I want so much more out of life.  Yet, the process of letting go of the past and embracing what I have now and what I will have in the future is still not an easy process.

I had to shake it off and go about my day.  I had plans this morning to meet Sara for our usual weekend walk.  We have been meeting at 8:30 each Sunday morning to walk around a lake for a couple of miles and hang out for a while afterwards at the attached park if her little boy goes with us.  This week her whole family joined us with husband, son and her two dogs.  On our last lap, her husband took their son up to the park while we continued on with the dogs.  I walked her sweet little 40-pound beagle, Molly, which was a lovely little treat.  That little girl is stronger than she appears!  If other dogs passed us by going the opposite way, she really tested my arm strength to hold her back.  When we finished our walk, we headed up to the park.  The leash slipped out of my hands and I lunged forward to try to grab it before her dog ran away, forgetting how strong little Molly is.   I did manage to grab it, but lost my footing on the grass that was heading up a hill and fell backwards right on my butt.  Plop!!  I was so concerned on the way down of landing on my hands since I have an ongoing injury there from work that I tried to do the best I can to land on other body parts.  I seriously am okay, Sara, no worries ;-)  I do have several cuts on my right arm and am sitting on an ice pack as I type this, but I will survive.   It brought memories to me about times when I have taken a fall for whatever reason at my heavier weight.  Instead of having just a soreness and a few cuts, I would have been in a world of pain for a long time.  Can you imagine what type of beating your body takes when you fall at 417 pounds?  I was grateful that I was much lighter and so really I am able to laugh at this and am not upset in the slightest.  Clumsy me.

It's the memories of what things used to be like that I hope I never forget.  I don't want to ever lose sight of the physical pain that all that extra weight on my body brought me.  And I certainly don't want to ever forget how overeating, especially the unhealthy foods, made me feel.  This is a new world for me, but I can't forget the old one either.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This is not cancer

I recently cut back on the amount I have been exercising because the clinic felt I was doing too much.  It wasn’t just the clinic … the research I had done showed that people on a low calorie program such as Optifast can slow their weight loss way down, or even gain weight, if they exercise too much  while doing the program.  I never realized, until I purposely slowed down my exercise, how much of an important part of my life it had become.  I do look forward to it and my body feels so much better afterwards. 

I started looking through some of my old blog posts, not for anything specific but just to read about where I have been on this journey.  Several new people have contacted me and told me that they found my blog and have read every entry from the very beginning to the present time.  I thought it would be nice for me to do that, too, just to see my growth.  It has been such an insightful experience and I really think that if you have a blog or journal of your own, you should do the same thing.  I could really see how far I’ve come, not only with the tremendous weight loss but the vast changes I’ve been through overall. 
I miss walking three miles every day.  When I looked at my history, I have had times where I had little to no weight loss during the week, although I’ve lost a tremendous amount of inches.  Then there were times were I lost 6, 8, even 9.5 pounds in a week while walking those three miles pretty much every day.  This may be something that I end up going back to because, ultimately, it makes me feel good in so many ways even if it does slow down my weight loss.  I think I will just have to wait and see, pray about it, and I know the answer will come to me.  As I get closer to my goal weight, the rate of loss is going to invariably be less.
The bigger issue here is perspective.  I was most affected during my reading about when I discussed having cancer, melanoma to be specific.  It was just a year ago.  When you are diagnosed with such a condition, the other things in life we worry about seem ridiculous in comparison.  I’m not saying they are, but I have to realize that they might pale in severity and seriousness.  I spent my days battling cancer by putting on a brave front while working and only sharing my inner fears with a few close people.  I would cry in the corner of the shower because I was so scared and didn’t know how to release those feelings.  Yet, I faced those fears.  The surgeries were successful and there’s no sign of cancer in my body today. 
So, I don’t have to worry about the fact that the scale is not showing the weight loss as fast as I would like it to in the past few weeks.  When I think about it, I have lost 169 pounds in the past six months.  Pardon me, but that’s fast!  As I have often said before, this is not a race to the finish line.  If my rate of loss is slowing down, that’s not necessarily a negative thing.  As I get smaller, my rate of loss will be slower.  As I gain muscle, it will be slower.  And, I must remind myself, the amount of inches I’ve lost is totally ridiculous. Every day I am greeted by someone that hasn’t seen me in a long time and they are blown away by the change in me. 
I have just got to relax about that darn scale.  Months ago, I had written a post about the fact that I was weighing myself at home and I had put the scale in my garage so that I wouldn’t weigh on it during the week between sessions at the clinic.  Over time, I brought the scale back into the house and have been weighing myself on it every freaking day.  Now, I really think it is time to let it go.  While the scale may be a tool for some people, right now it is not a safe place for me to be.  I haven’t been living or dying by those numbers necessarily, but right now they seem to be dictating things more than I am comfortable with.  In time, after I go into maintenance, I may get another one or just weigh in on the scale in the health office at work.  But for now, I am committing that as soon as I save this post to my blog, I will go into my bathroom, open the cabinet where the scale is and take it out, unceremoniously, and dump it in the trash.  This is not cancer … it’s just a scale and I think it’s holding too much power over me right now. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"How are you feeling ... hungry?"

Today I saw someone that I haven't seen in quite some time, definitely before I started doing Optifast.  She said to me, "Hi Kathy!  I heard you look different, but wow!  How are you feeling ... hungry?"

Grrrrrrrr.

That is probably the most frequently asked question when people talk to me about my weight loss.  They can't believe I'm not starving all the time.  Thinking about it from their perspective, imagining someone surviving on just drinks all day, I suppose you could go to the place of assuming that doing Optifast leaves you feeling starving.  But think this through people.  Gandhi went once without eating for 21 days and I remember reading about IRA members going on a hunger strike for as long as 73 days.  Seriously, I have been doing this for over six months.  Doesn't it stand to reason that I would be dead by now if I was truly starving? 

Setting the record straight, nope, I'm not hungry.  Most of the time, I make my shakes frothy with lots of ice in a blender so that I'm feeling more satisfied.  It really fills up the tummy, surprisingly enough.  Each shake has a certain amount of nutrients the body needs for the entire day, so if you have the minimum of five shakes that are required while doing Optifast 70, you will meet all of your daily dietary needs.  I do take a Potassium supplement and half a Calcium supplement as well, putting me over the top.  If I didn't make frothy shakes, I don't think I would feel nearly as satisfied.  Regardless, though, I have found the method that works for me.  If I do get hungry, it's just because I've gone too long in between shakes.  Otherwise, I function normally and feel good.  I do have some other physical issues, including a work injury that's been ongoing, back pain and a knee issue, but those are not associated with Optifast.  My overall health leaves me feeling pretty terrific these days, despite the pain of the items above. 

So don't worry, I'm not starving, nor is anybody else who is following the program to the letter.  If you're reading this and considering going on Optifast, but you're a little afraid that you'll feel hungry most of the time, rest assured that you will not be hungry.  You will actually feel fantastic and might even start wondering why it took you so long to embrace this journey.  It really is worth it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Becoming unrecognizable

I have my moments when I look in the mirror and I still see the old 417-pound me staring back.  Then I have other times when I really don't recognize the person looking back at me at all.  That happened to me today.  As people are coming back to work or I'm seeing other people in my life who I have not seen for months, a few have told me that they sincerely did not recognize me.  I would think to myself, "Yeah, right!  They're exaggerating a little bit."  They have said  I look like my younger sister, which is a compliment I like, I won't lie.  Who doesn't like to be told they look younger?  I've even been told that I'm pretty, which is a new thing for me to digest.

What happened today is that I had my school picture taken at work.  That picture is the one that goes in the yearbook and gets put on our staff badge that we wear.  I know I have already posted these pictures on Facebook or shown some people in person so I'm sorry if you've already seen it, but for the benefit of those who don't know me other than this blog, I'll post the pics below.  On the left is the picture on my staff badge from last year at this time.  The picture on the right is on my new staff badge from earlier today.


When they took my picture today and had me look at it to see if it was alright or if I should retake it before it went to print, it was no big deal.  Yeah, looks pretty good, let's go with it.  But it wasn't until I got back to my desk and pulled out my badge from last year that I sat there feeling pretty dumbfounded.  I put the two badges together side by side and then the tears started to fill my eyes.  I could see what some people were talking about when they said I was unrecognizable to them.  I have a jawline, there's an actual collarbone, my hair is shinier, there's a freshness to my skin.  There are even dimples on my face.  I am not having the moment of being so uncomfortable in the heat that I was mentally telling the photographer to hurry up and take the freaking picture because I was feeling sweaty.  I just feel so much healthier and present. 

I couldn't stop looking at the two pictures today as they sat on my desk.  I was super busy and managed to do my work, but thoughts of where I was a year ago stayed in the forefront of my mind.  I was in so much pain and couldn't even recognize how far that went.  The pain I'm referring to isn't even the physical pain, even though that was significant.  I had out of control diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, numerous areas of pain in my hand and back and was recovering from having had cancer removed from my body.  Even more than that, though, was just an inner unhappiness that I never really talked about, let alone owned up to, even to myself.  Sometimes in life we're just going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other and not really acknowledging the fact that we want things to be better.  I so desperately was in that place of wanting something other than what I had. 

Fast forward to a year later and things are significantly different.  There is a huge change in me.  Yes, the most obvious area would be physical changes.  Yet, what I mostly refer to is the change in spirit.  If I couldn't feel it internally, it appears physically in that newer picture.  If you look at me, you simply see a different person.  This process of weight loss is the most challenging and, at the same time, most wonderful event that has happened in my life.  I'm finding myself more and more each day, the part of me that had become lost and was afraid to have a voice.  I think back to the past and it really is no wonder that that part was lost.  I never thought I was a very strong person but the truth is that I am.  I'm braver and more courageous than I ever gave myself credit for.  The fact is that I'm going through such a major life change right now and facing each new day and each new adventure head-on, instead of running away from things that I have feared.  When I had lost a significant amount of weight before and I started getting attention for it, that is the time I started putting the weight back on.  This time I knew that I needed to forge forward.

Sometimes I do feel like a little girl in some respects, manuevering around in a world that is foreign to me.  This is the smallest I have ever been, yet I know I will continue getting smaller throughout this journey.  I can't identify with being the biggest one in the room any longer.  When we were taking a group staff photo on some stairs on our high school campus, I was standing in the back row where I would usually stand, reserved for the taller members of our staff.  It's usually just a sprinkling of women mixed with men in that back row.  I actually felt small standing next to some of them today.  That's a feeling I can't say I've ever had before.  These are the exact moments when I feel like a stranger in my body.  While some people may view me as Kick-Ass Kathy for losing so much weight and seeming to do it with ease, trust me when I tell you that I am going through a very emotional process with a huge amount of vulnerability.  With all of this said, I would rather be nowhere else right now than this exact spot.  I have so much to be grateful for and I don't spend even one minute taking any of this for granted.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Too much of a good thing

Well, as it turns out, I'm exercising too much, at least according to my Optifast clinic.  When I first started the program, I was hardly exercising at all that first month and somehow managed to drop 45 pounds.  Of course, there was water weight to account for and a whole lot of weight to start with.  In the last three weeks, I have lost 1.5 pounds one week, 3.5 pounds the next and then another 1.5 pounds this past week. 

I have not been focusing on the scale because I do realize that the number is only part of the story, the other part is the inches.  I definitely have lost a lot of inches and I'm not discounting that, but the last three weigh-ins have been far below what I have been averaging.  I still have a lot of weight to lose, so I started wondering if there was a physical reason for it.  I was reading in the manual I got from the clinic and it did say we should be exercising 3-5 times per week, about a half an hour each time.  That seemed fine early on, but I've moved way beyond that.  I usually exercise six days a week for about an hour each time.  When I asked the clinic tonight about my exercise, they said I'm doing too much.  What happens when people have few calories and you exercise alot (intensity coupled with duration), your body actually goes into starvation mode and burns muscle instead of fat.  So that's what's happening to me.  Uh oh. 

I started thinking about it and I have definitely increased my exercise over the last several weeks.  I always get the exercise in, but it was much more than normal.  Last week, for example, I walked 22 miles.  Holy smokes, I didn't realize it was that much until I just calculated it.  When I exercise a lot, my bad knee tends to hurt more and I always have a soreness in my thighs that doesn't really go away.  I'm obviously pushing myself too hard. 

What has gone on over the last several weeks for me to increase my exercise level?  Let's see ...
  • Returned to work after the summer off
  • Physical pain in my body, some related to exercise and some unrelated
  • Receiving a lot of attention for the weight loss
Any one of those things could have caused me stress that I needed to relieve through exercise.  Now, I'm not saying the exercise is a bad thing.  Not at all, but it is contributing to a smaller weight loss and, because I'm so competitive and have to prove to myself that I'm able to do it all, it is leaving me in pain.  This is an expensive program and I don't want to be on the fast part longer than I need to, but I also don't want it being all about the numbers.  I do know I need balance, so I am going to take the advice of the clinic and curb my exercise a bit.  I do have exercise balls at home and resistance bands, so I can work on strength training more than always going out and walking on a knee that isn't the healthiest anyway.  I also can work on lessening the intensity of when I am doing cardio. 

The truth is that I don't need to be crazy about this.  That day last week where I walked a mile and a half was really nice because I wasn't in pain, I wasn't winded and I felt good.  Maybe I need to take a cue from that experience.  I guess part of the reason I have been exercising a lot, besides feeling healthier, is that I know I will need to incorporate regular exercise into my life when I am off of the fast and in maintenance.  Yet, I don't need to worry about that right now.  It's months away and I could stand to use some perspective about staying in the day.  The good news is, I'm down 169 pounds.  That really is something to celebrate.  Yay!  The inches I have lost are beyond measure.  I lost one of my rings down the sink in the bathroom because it fell off my finger for being too big.  Those victories are things I need to spend more time celebrating.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Felt smaller today

I went shopping to see if I could pick up a couple of tops, maybe a pair of pants and another belt (on my first two, I have gone from the smallest hole from the buckle to the biggest and am ready for the next size).  I just don't have much to wear these days that actually fits.  I'm either exposing bra straps because the tops are too big or my pants are mostly droopy.  So I went to a local mall that had a Nordstrom's Rack, Ross and Lane Bryant.  Figured there was something there I could get.  Among the things that I tried on were a pair of "skinny" jeans.  I've never worn those before.  It was an amazing experience for me.  I think it was really the first time where I actually felt smaller.  Not convinced myself that I was smaller, but felt smaller.  I took a few pics of me in the dressing room in the jeans. 


I can't believe those are my legs and that there's empty space between my thighs.  Yeah, okay, I have worked hard for them, but still!  This is actually happening, letting go of the weight and embracing a new me.  I didn't buy the jeans ... couldn't justify spending the $75 they wanted when I change sizes every 3-4 weeks or so.  Regardless, it was a fantastic experience for me and I am feeling incredibly grateful.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Of muscles and skin

For the last couple days at work, we have had students go through registration for the upcoming school year that will be starting at our high school next week.  That has given me the opportunity to see quite a few people that I haven't seen over the summer or even longer, among them parents, students and co-workers.  I have had numerous people stop me as I have been helping at registration, as I was walking across campus or doing a double-take as they were talking to me in my office.  Most are incredibly floored at the weight loss they see in me, some commenting that they didn't even recognize me.  It has been wonderful to hear and I am allowing myself to say thank you to them.  I say "allowing myself" because sometimes saying thank you is the hardest thing in the world. 

I have lost 100 pounds before and I remember that I started putting the weight back on when the compliments started coming my way.  This is hard to express in a clear way, but there is safety in hiding behind weight and a body that no one notices for anything positive.  Since I was abused and sexually attacked, it made me feel incredibly vulnerable and all sorts of trust issues reared their ugly heads.  So I slowly, but surely, put the weight back on.  When I embarked on this particular journey I now find myself on, I kept these feelings in the forefront, knowing I would need to deal with them or I would end up in the same exact spot again.  There would be no running away from them this time. 

When I started, my "Pounds to Go" vase had an intimidating
amount of rocks to go.  Now look at the difference!
Amazingly, there's a difference this time.  First of all, I know I am working hard at this.  It's not as if I'm having the literal conversation with myself saying, Girl, you know you're working hard at this, right??  No, it's not like that but I know I bust my butt to not only put in the physical work but also the emotional work as well.  You all know I exercise a lot, usually about six days a week.  Although, it doesn't feel like this concerted point of exercising per se, it's become a love for me of taking care of my body and feeling invigorated at the same time.  Yesterday, for example, I went on a brisk walk and, as I did more laps, I felt more alive.  It wasn't about me needing to rack up the miles in a crazy way but it was more about just doing it because it made me feel good.  And the emotional work comes at every turn as well.  I need to sit in feelings and deal with them, no matter how uncomfortable or wonderful they may be.  As I shed more weight, more of the "protection" that I put around me is gone.  I can embrace that or run.  Running away is not an option, so here I am, embracing it and dealing with it.

One of the things that I am dealing with right now that is pretty difficult is my body.  I have always been overweight, usually the biggest one in the room.  As my body shrinks, I sometimes look in the mirror and have no clue who is looking back at me.  There is absolutely no denying the fact that I do see a difference in my body, which took me a long time to even acknowledge.  Given that I've lost almost 168 pounds, it would be idiotic for me to say that I see no difference and, frankly, far from the truth.  Right now, my body is a mix of these incredible muscles from all my hard work ... and excess skin.  No matter how much water I drink and how much strength training I am able to do, inevitably there was going to be loose skin because of the significant weight loss.  I totally get that.  It's just that my eyes are wide open.  I'm purposely looking in the mirror instead of trying to avoid it, like I have done so brilliantly most of my life.  There are a lot of stretch marks and a lot of emotional pain that I have worn on my body.  They really are scars of a war.  They tell a story of survival and resilience.  I know that skin removal surgery will be a part of my future, and I am perfectly okay with that, but right now I'm just dealing with wondering what became of me as the weight was coming on over the years.  Why was it okay?  Truthfully, it was never okay.  How do you tell a young girl who was being abused and attacked that there is a proper way to deal with the emotions and it's not through food?  You can't.  We all cope in different ways and that was how I survived.  I do need appreciate everything I have gone through and be thankful that I am still here today.  Now I can move on from that place.

This is not a post about being sad, though.  This is about survival and a lot of joy.  There is joy in coming out of the cocoon, finding beauty on the inside and outside of me and spreading that to other people.  I totally get that I am not doing this alone.  I have so many people supporting me and others who quietly look to me for inspiration.  All of a sudden, I have become this spokesperson of sorts for saying, Yes, you can do it!  If someone would have told me six months ago that I would be in the place I am in now, I would have laughed right in their face.  Here I am though, getting stronger each day and getting down on my knees and thanking God for blessing me in a way I never knew was possible.  Can you imagine how I will feel when I get to my goal weight?  I don't think you'll be able to wipe the grin off my face.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Learning to not be all or nothing

I had a very busy, but good, day at work.  I didn't sleep much last night so when I came home and spotted one of my kitties laying on my bed, I decided to lay down next to her for "just a minute".  An hour and a half later, I woke up.  Dang it!  I wanted to exercise so badly, thought about it all day long, but it was too late in the day to go for a three mile (or longer) walk.  If I did, it would be dark by the time I came home and I just don't feel comfortable walking on busy streets in the dark.  Sometimes I wrestle with old Kathy that says if you can't do it perfectly, then don't do it at all.  Then there's the Kick-Ass Kathy that reminds me that it doesn't have to be all or nothing, as if I live in a black or white world.  There are many lovely shades of grey (no ladies, not Fifty Shades!).

So I changed my clothes, laced up my shoes and did a lovely mile and a half walk before it got dark.  During the walk, I thought back to when I first started this journey in February.  I could barely walk a couple of blocks and back home without feeling winded, let alone sweating because of all the excess weight I was carrying.  In comparison, today as I walked, I felt strong and happy.  I felt muscles in my legs that I didn't have before, I wasn't winded at all and I was thrilled to be getting in the exercise.  I can't begin to express to you the physical changes that have come over me.  I don't mean in the sense of the weight loss, which is wonderful, of course.  I mean the sense of empowerment I have, the knowing that I do actually have much more strength and resilience than I ever gave myself credit for.  It's about feeling my body doing the things it was made to do, not living in regret because it hurt too much to move.  I still have physical issues that I deal with, the same as a lot of people I'm sure, but the point is that I can still manage to take good care of this one body that God gave me.  A mile and a half would have been a very long distance for me before and I need to never forget that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A long but good day

So tired, just like me.  Just wanna kiss that tum-tum though.
Mondays are especially long for me.  I leave the house to head off for work by 6:45 a.m., work a full day, go to my Optifast class for two hours and then I usually don't walk in the door until about 9:15 p.m.  Given the fact that I barely got a wink of sleep last night, I was practically dragging my poor bootie in the door tonight. 

I had an interesting class tonight.  I lost 3.5 pounds this week.  I felt pretty good about that.  I'm pretty much losing weight every week, sometimes I lose a lot and sometimes I lose a little.  Point is that I am continuing to lose and seeing that number on my weight loss ticker inching closer and closer towards the end.  When I started out, I needed to lose 257 pounds to get to the target goal set by the clinic.  Now I'm under 90 pounds.  That's a pretty surreal feeling to me, but I am going with it!  I feel pretty fantastic these days and I know it will only continue to get better as the days progress.  We talked about the value of exercise in our class.  It really made me feel good that I've incorporated physical activity into my daily life.  In fact, the clinic is sponsoring two upcoming walking events that I found out about tonight and I'm excited to participate.  They are open to anyone, whether or not they are participating in the program, so maybe I'll see you out there!  Here are details:

Hike Beautiful Torrey Pines State Beach, Saturday, September 8, 8 a.m.
"Join Health 101 for a free session hiking Torrey Pines State Beach.  Health 101:  Health and Wellness organization specializes in hikes and nature walks in San Diego's most beautiful areas.  David and Cynthia Marguez lead outings where you experience the beauty of San Diego while learning about fitness and having fun.  Enjoy the great outdoors, relax, and stay healthy in the process.  Wear comfortable walking/jogging shoes and bring water.  All fitness levels are welcome.  This activity will meet in the upper parking los of Torrey Pines State Beach, N. Torrey Pines Road.  Parking fee is $10."

Hike Mission Trails Regional Park, Saturday, November 3, 8:30 a.m.
"Join Health 101 for a free session hiking Mission Trails.  Wear comfortable walking/jogging shoes and bring water.  All fitness levels welcome.  This activity will meet at Mission Trails in the parking lot across from the Kumeyaay campground on the corner of Father Junipero Serra Trail and Bushy Hill Drive, San Diego, CA  92119"

I'm so grateful to be in this space today, feeling supremely blessed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Right here, right now

I met fellow blogger/new friend, Sara, and her little boy for a walk today.  Well, he was in his stroller, but same diff.  It's always a struggle for me to figure out what I'm going to wear because I have been choosing things that are too big for me or that I think (in my head) don't look good.  When I wear form-fitting leggings, my thighs don't rub together.  I have lost the most weight in that area and the tighter pants just conform to my body more.  I knew it was going to be hot outside, so I certainly didn't want legs rubbing together like a grasshopper so I chose those pants.  Then I thought, to hell with it, I might as well wear a top that fits as well.  When she saw me, she said I looked thinner. The last time she saw me was just last weekend, so it's not as if I lost fifty pounds during the week.  So, we did our walk and then when they left, I walked a couple more miles.  I was self-conscious at first, but let it go.  It's hard for me to expose my body.  Not in that way, silly people, but just in the way of recognizing it as it is right now ... smaller.

Yesterday, a friend had texted me, asking me what size tops I wear because she occasionally keeps an eye out for me since my clothes change so frequently with the weight loss.  And do you know what I told her?  I texted back, "I think I'm in 22/1x but prob more comfy in 24/2x."  What that means is that (a) I can't admit where I actually am and (b) comfy does not help me with acceptance.  First of all, my pant size is an 18.  When I started Optifast, I was in a 34.  Think about that for a minute.  I have always said that I have lost much more on the bottom than I have on the top, but that's just not true.  My actual size on the top is also an 18 or XL, down from the same place as the pant size.  However, I am uncomfortable with my actual size.  I have shirts from work that now fit me just fine that are size XL, when before I couldn't get one arm in the sleeves, let alone actually wear them all the way down my torso.

Why am I telling everyone my size?  Because I need to out myself.  I am having a tough time accepting myself where I am right now.  It's a body I don't recognize, but I don't say that with negativity in my heart.  I am having a great life right now, with so many new experiences everyday, but it's a little bit of a scary place because I don't recognize it.  I have lost about forty percent of my original body weight.  Like it or not, Kathy, that means you're going to be smaller.  I completely need to be present for what's going on with me right now, not some magical day in the future that I am always working towards.  This place is a great place to be right freaking now.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

No intention of being another statistic

I have been thinking a lot in the last couple of days about what will happen when I move from this phase of weight loss into maintenance.  Plenty of people have told me, warned me is more like it, that the real work comes when all the weight is gone and I have to live a normal life.  It does amaze me how so many people have an opinion and feel it necessary to voice it to me.  No disrespect to anyone, but this part of my journey is not exactly a walk in the park.  Unless you have lived in my shoes, you can have empathy but not really know what it is I'm going through.  Sure, I don't have to deal with the choice around what food to eat today because I'm still on the full-fast and so my choices are what to put in my shakes and when I'll have my chicken broth.  Pretty simple, right?  Well, not exactly.  Imagine if you were living in a world where you were practically the only one not eating in most situations involving food.  Sometimes people choose not to include you because it's just easier, sometimes they shoot a poor you look your way and sometimes they are insensitive. 

I am not saying this because there are any issues that have come up, but just as a reminder that life is about perspective.  I have an incredible support system around me and I feel very strong in the decisions I make every day to take care of myself.  This phase of weight loss takes work though.  Just because I don't seem to struggle and have peace about me doesn't mean I don't bust my butt to make it happen.  People in my previous Optifast group (before we switched over to my current one) nick-named me Kick-Ass Kathy.  I kinda like that!  Once I made the decision to put one foot in front of the other and do this, my commitment level has been one hundred percent at every moment.

Perfect storms will do that to you.  When you survive them, you either go about doing what you were doing before or you take the opportunity to grow from them.  For me, it took the occurrence of a perfect storm to get me here and I don't intend to waste the opportunity or be another sad statistic.  That does not mean I walk naively forward saying that this time with the weight loss will be different, that I will be the one person that does not gain the weight back.  What that does mean, however, is I recognize that there are challenges in front of me, that I am committed to continuing to make lifestyle changes and that I must approach things very differently than I did before.  I did not have a bad life before, but I have to make permanent changes so that I can leave the past where it belongs.

In about three months or so, provided I continue losing the weight and progressing towards the goal set with the Optifast clinic, I will be transitioning to food.  It will be a whole new world for me, one that I am completely unfamiliar with.  I have never been at a healthy body weight before.  I never had those "thin" years when I was younger.  I was always pretty much the fattest one in the room.  So, obviously, in addition to incorporating new habits in my life, I also must continue dealing with emotional challenges that come up.  That has already taken place and does not start when I hit that magic number.  I am already at a weight that I have never been at before.  Instead of being overwhelmed by that, though, I am completely in the moment about it.  As I was putting on my capri work-out pants to exercise, I discovered new muscles and bones in my thighs and hips I had never seen before, ever.  I had to sit down on the edge of my bed and process that.  And when I was out doing my power walk, I saw people in their cars looking at me as I crossed in front of them at lights or as I turned a corner.  I don't know what their reasons were for looking - either positive or negative - but I just kept doing my thing.  God has really blessed me with legs that take me far every day, even though I have occasional knee pain and even though I'm not supposed to run on them.  I could never express deeply enough how much I enjoy the exercise now and how much I look forward to continuing that as I move into the next phase.  There definitely has been a shift where that is concerned.

I am making concerted efforts to be the best I can and do the best I can to live life in a healthy way ... emotionally, spiritually and physically.  I am not running away when things become difficult or I encounter challenges.  Instead, I turn to God to help me walk through them.  I write about them, I talk to friends about them, I turn to others who have been on the journey before me and I embrace the things I know nothing about.  I do feel like a child in some respects, encountering a lot of firsts along the way, but I also feel incredibly empowered.  I know that when it is eventually time to go into maintenance, it's not a place I have to fear at all.  My life is so different than it was just six months ago when I started and I know it will be completely different in another six months.  Hopefully you'll continue coming along with me, cheering me on and getting encouragement if you are also on the same path as me.  As the saying goes, it's in the journey, not the destination.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Keep weight loss a secret?

I remember when I made the decision to go on Optifast.  It was an incredibly difficult choice at the time because I had tried so many times to lose weight and things were just not working.  I felt like I was on this downward spiral of deplorable health that was only getting worse, so I was feeling a little hopeless that I would ever be anything other than the weight I was at the time.  In fact, I was pretty sure things were going to get worse.  I prayed that God would show me a way to something better.  Given the level of poor health I was at, looking back now, I realize I had to hit rock bottom before I was desperate enough to do anything that was laid out before me. 

Eventually that led me to Optifast.  I knew going into this that people were going to judge me, I just knew it.  I mean, how ridiculous does it sound that I would lose weight by just drinking liquid and eating no food for months on end, perhaps the better part of a year or more?  Even just typing that out right now makes me chuckle.  Talk about the epitome of hair-brained schemes!  Yet, when you get to a point in your life when it is just you and God, you extend your hand out to keep from drowning.  So, I quietly took action and hardly told anyone outside of a few friends that I trusted. I was sure people were going to judge me, try to convince me that what I was doing was stupid or somehow stand in my way.

As I began Optifast, I soon realized that the best approach for me was to be open and honest.  I didn't need to tell the world, but I did need a support system that would love me through this process.  I can't say strongly enough how important it is to be in the company of people who want to lift you up in their caring for you.  It is never until you are in a storm that you realize how many people you have in your life that have your back, no matter what. 

My process of telling others was starting with a few people at a time until I felt comfortable enough letting others know what I was doing.  I remember in the beginning making my shakes in the staff lounge at work.  People would walk by and ask me what I was putting in my "smoothie" and that would engage us in conversation.  Some people would take that opportunity to give me their full support, while others told me of the way they felt I should lose the weight (meaning, unsolicited advice).  I would smile, say thank you for the information, and then continue blending my shakes.  Over time, I came out of hiding and started posting on Optifast's Facebook page as I was progressing.  It's a public page, so any of my friends could see it.  In time, I met other people who are on the same journey as I was and established an even bigger support system, as well as developed new friendships along the way.  Some of my most trusted friends now are those that I met through Optifast.  I then started posting pictures of my progress and, all of a sudden, I found myself surrounded by smiling people who are my biggest cheerleaders.  I can't emphasize enough how invaluable this has been to me as I have walked through some of the most difficult and joyous days of my life.  If I was keeping this all secret and doing this on my own, I think I would have a much more challenging time being successful on this program, or any other for that matter.

Trust is a difficult thing thing for me.  I would guess it's not easy for anybody, but given the hard things I have been through in my life, it is even more amplified.  I have one hundred percent trust in God, so I had to just walk forward without the benefit of sight, knowing I was going to be taken care of and that I had nothing to fear in this process of letting other people know what I was going through.  Has it been worth it?  Oh my gosh, I can't emphasize enough how wonderful it has been.  Not only do I have great support through my family and friends, but I have also had people who weren't necessarily close with me come to me in support as well.  I am greeted by so many smiles these days and really have been enveloped in love.  Even sharing this blog with people has been an evolution of sorts.  In the beginning, I didn't tell many people in my life about it because it is highly personal.  I mean, I post my weight on it!  To an overweight person, that's like giving out your social security number.  I had so much shame behind that number - 417 pounds - that I could hardly say the number out loud let alone give people access to this blog that prominently displays it.  How could I face them the next time I saw them, knowing they knew a truth I was keeping secret?  That's the thing with secrets though ... they can kill you.  And this secret was definitely killing me.

If you are a person that has been keeping your weight loss journey a secret out of shame or trying to protect yourself from judgements you are sure will come from other people, let me just say to you that you will find most people completely supportive, even if they don't entirely understand your process.  The proof will be in the pudding (okay, I had to use a food reference, but you get my point).  To my friends who read this blog in support of me, let me just say you touch my heart tremendously and I will love you forever for the encouragement you give me everyday.  Thank you for being a person I can trust.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Visual comparison of the last 6 months

Today I was thinking about the journey I have been on for the last six months.  It was February 6, 2012 when I went to my first Optifast group meeting.  I weighed 417 pounds.  I felt the worst I had ever felt in my life during the body assessment session at the clinic the day after my first meeting. I remember thinking, Hurry up and take the damn picture so I can get this part overwith. I didn't ever want to feel like that again.  In the last six months, so much has changed in my life. I am a diabetic who was taking a combo of oral meds and injecting insulin ... now I am able to normalize my blood sugar without those tools. I no longer take any medication that was prescribed prior to beginning Optifast. I feel fantastic and look younger (at least that's what everyone tells me). I have lost the equivalent of several small people or one adult. I am soooo much happier and energized. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I am able to do this program because I take it one day, one shake at a time, led by the grace of God. I don't think about how enormous a feat this has been in terms of the bigger picture because it might scare me a little. However, I want to give you a visual reference. I saved that outfit from the body assessment because I never want to forget where I came from.  Compare and I think you'll get some idea of how life-altering this has been for me.
At the body assessment
Same outfit, 6 months later



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Silence does not mean agreement

I know many people have been following my journey of weight loss and self-discovery that Optifast has provided to me.  It's a very exciting time in my life and I have experienced so many different sorts of emotions along the way.  I am thrilled that I can share all of this not only with friends but also strangers.  I'm glad you've made it to my blog and are reading this post right now.  Sometimes we will agree on certain things and other times we will not.  That is perfectly okay, but it is my hope that we can do so with a level of mutual respect.

In the last day or two, I have been attacked on a personal level by someone that was a fellow member of an Optifast group that I belonged to online and someone that I was friendly with.  I quietly left that group, without discussing it with anyone else, because I needed to take care of myself.  I was not putting judgements on anyone else in terms of what was going on in the group; I just simply made a decision that the group was no longer for me.  I posted a blog entry about why I left.  It had nothing to do with one person in particular but, rather, a series of events that had been concerning me over the course of some time going on in the group.  However, I was attacked for doing so.  Initially, I was not going to respond in any way.  My silence did not mean I agreed, but simply that I chose to not engage in conversation about this.  I was attempting to move forward with dignity regarding this issue, definitely not putting judgements on other people and certainly not believing I am on a high horse. 

Some people who read this blog do not know me in person, which is no problem.  Occasionally people are different than the persona they project behind a computer screen.  Even further, it is difficult to ascertain their true character.  I completely understand that.  I have laid my heart out here in all the postings I have published and in any interaction I have had in Optifast groups.  I come from a very honest place ... I take this process very seriously and am not here to lose just a few pounds but to change my life.

When I voiced concern for people who are doing this program without medical guidance and those who advocate it, it is because I sincerely care.  Serious complications could arise for some individuals who are not properly monitored, such as extremely low blood sugars/pressure, potassium levels leading to gall bladder attacks, adverse medication reaction to the Optifast product, among other things.  This is not to say Optifast is not safe ... it is very safe.  However, we all have different body chemistries.  In my case, had I not had medical professionals telling me to stop taking my diabetes medication gradually over time after I began the program, my blood sugar level may have dropped to levels so low that I could have ended up in the hospital clinging to life.  That is where my concern comes from.  I am not a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination, but I do care tremendously about other people.  For anyone to insinuate that I am anything other than that and cold towards people just does not know me.  It is upsetting that I would be regarded in that way, but I try my best to live my life with good character.

I will continue moving forward in my journey.  I have so much to celebrate every day that I continue taking good care of myself.  I am inspired by so many of the new friends I have found traveling this same road with me and I hope I am able to inspire you in some way, too.  I know that you stand with me in support.  Hugs to each and every one of you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Progress continuing to be made

Tonight was my Optifast class and weigh-in.  I was initially a bit disappointed with my loss of 1.5 pounds this week, but it is that time of the month and so it's not unexpected.  The disappointment only lasted for about a minute because I have lost a lot of weight and an incredible amount of inches, so I am perfectly okay with where I am right now. 

When I do go to the clinic, I buy next week's products, get weighed in, get my vitals checked at the  nurse's station and then meet with the medical staff before then going to my class where we meet for two hours as a group.  I have been suffering from extreme lightheadedness for quite some time.  My water consumption is what they want it to be and I have been doing exercises they have asked me to do, but I'm still having the problem.  I feel like I am going to pass out almost every time I get up from a sitting or standing position.  It lasts for about 10-15 seconds and then goes away.  But, as you can imagine, it's concerning, especially since I feel like I could pass out.  The medical staff decided it was time I got off my blood pressure medication, which they have been weening me off of for a couple of weeks, since my blood pressure is a little bit on the low side coupled with the lightheadedness.  Except for the supplements they have put me on while I am on the Optifast product, I have now been taken off all the medication I was taking prior to starting Optifast.  The amount of medication I was taking, especially for someone so young, was substantial.  So now, to be off of all of it, is an incredible feeling.  Who knows what is going to happen with these medical concerns surrounding the sensation of passing out, but we're continuing to monitor it and I'll be referred back to my primary care physician if it doesn't get better.  This is precisely the reason I chose to do Optifast through my hospital's clinic - the full-circle medical monitoring they have given me during this process has been invaluable to me and I feel very safe under their care.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Probably overdid it

Yesterday I went on a great walk around Lake Miramar here in San Diego County.  It's about 5 miles roundtrip, all surrounding a beautiful (you guessed it) lake.  This trail can be very deceptive because it looks like it's just a little walk around since there are so many twists and turns.  You think you're getting near the end and then, wait a minute, up comes another little turn or another hill.  It does have markers to tell you how far you've gone,  but when it's hot outside, you start to wish it wasn't 5 miles!

Anytime I exercise, my counselor has told me I need to have a shake about 30 minutes before and then have one no more than 30 minutes afterwards since I burn so many calories.  Most of the time when I exercise, I do kick up the intensity, so it's important to follow these guidelines.  I don't go for leisurely strolls unless I'm with someone else, I usually powerwalk it.  He has advised me that if I am doing extended exercise, I should probably have two shakes beforehand.  Man was he right!  I had two shakes before and felt really full, but I knew it was what I needed to do.  I had some water after I got done stretching out and didn't take my water bottle with me because they have several water stations along the way. 

Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am competitive.  I'm not competitive with other people per se, just this thing I do in my head.  It goes back to the days when I was working out in the gym years ago.  I would always challenge myself to see if I could keep up with the person on the treadmill, bike, elliptical or whatever machine next to me, to show them that I might be overweight, but I could keep up with them.  Yet, when I am exercising with other people, that competitiveness does not kick in at all.  Lo and behold, after about a quarter of a mile, when I picked up my pace to power-walk through the course, Kick-Ass Kathy took over.  I would target someone or a group of people walking ahead of me and I would tell myself, Okay, your next goal is to pass that person.  Sometimes it would be people not too far ahead, but as I was zooming past them, I would pick targets a lot farther away.  I was going so fast that my bad leg was starting to hurt.  I would tell myself I needed to slow down, and I would try, but it wouldn't last for very long.  What normally would take me about an hour and a half to finish, took me just one hour and ten minutes yesterday.  Below is a snapshot of the course from a great website I use to track how far I've gone, www.walkjogrun.net.  It tells how many calories were burned, too.  The person that did the course took almost 30 minutes longer than I did so the calories count will be different, but take a look at how much was burned at the bottom right corner:


When I finished exercising, the first thing I wanted was my water bottle in the car because the water stations they had around the course were removed.  That was a serious monkey wrench I was not prepared for - I got thirsty throughout the course with the sun really beating down on me.  I drank my 36 ounces right there in the parking lot.  If you'll notice in the picture above, the person who took longer than me burned almost 944 calories.  I checked the weight they entered and it was at about my same weight.  I did a quick calculation in my head and realized that I only take in about 500 calories a day on Optifast products.  No wonder the counselor told me to take an extra shake because otherwise I would start to feel weak.  He has advised me that when I need extra shakes, I must take them in.

What is it with me and this competitive spirit?  I have nothing to prove.  I have come a very long way in my journey and I am no longer the biggest girl in the room.  It's okay if I'm not the top scorer and I suppose it's my challenge to find that place that is a nice balance, especially if I end up hurting myself in the process.  I will do this course again in the future, though.  I love it so much.  There are always hundreds of people out there running, walking, rollerblading, biking, boating in the lake or even just having a picnic.  It makes me feel a big part of an active lifestyle, which I really enjoy, I'm finding out.  I just need to find some balance because I can't hurt myself every time I do it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Value of Optifast medical pros

Optifast is a wonderful program, I cannot speak highly enough about it.  Yet, it can also be dangerous and unsuccessful if a person attempts to do this program on their own or make up their own rules as they go along.  Why am I saying this?  I was a member of two Optifast private groups on Facebook but made the decision this evening to no longer participate in those particular groups.  I will still be posting on the regular Optifast FB page, still chatting with others privately and, of course, posting on this blog.  Here's why I left those groups (may not be interesting to people who didn't participate):

Some of us have conditions that require medical staff to monitor us during this program.  I, for one, am so grateful I have had the medical team meeting with me every week when I go to the clinic because they have had to remove all the insulin and diabetic medications from my system, as well as other meds.  In addition, we had to add a little potassium and calcium to supplements I take every day while on the full-fast.  I am monitored on a regular basis to ensure my levels do not elevate to dangerous highs or lows.  And if I am having other medical concerns along the way, they are there to give educated advice.  For example, I have been dealing with pretty bad lightheadedness every time I stand from a sitting or lying position, so we're working on that. 

I know there are places online that sell the Optifast products directly to people wanting to buy them, but, according to my clinic, that's not legal.  Just because they're selling them and getting away with it doesn't make it right.  I don't know what conditions are in other countries, but in the U.S., it is not allowed.  Yes, the program is expensive and, yes, it takes a bit of waiting to get approved to get the go-ahead.  There's a reason behind all of that, which is to ensure we are healthy enough to do such a drastic program.  I had to jump through some major hoops before I could start the program, but I'm glad they were thorough in ensuring I would be doing something that was good for me.

When it comes to whether or not we should do the full-fast, partial fast or whatever we may be doing, there still are guidelines for each facet of the program to ensure we are in ketosis.  When a person is in a state of ketosis, they are burning fat and not muscle.  When food is eaten that knocks them out of ketosis (generally items that include carbs), they will always be hungry and find success in the program difficult.  I'm grateful that when it comes time for me to move from the full-fast to transitioning to food that my clinic has a specific plan to get me there.

So, anyway, I left those two groups because I just couldn't be a part of any group that dispenses medical advice or advice on what to eat/not to eat while trying to get down to goal weight (I rely on the clinic or my own doctor to do that) without being qualified to do so.  Since the groups are private, they are not being monitored.  I do have an "about Optifast" page on this blog, but it includes guidelines for doing the Optifast 70 program from my specific clinic so that people know what to expect if they are considering the program and I do caution on there that people should seek medical advice from appropriate professionals.  Having said all of this, I am certainly in no way leaving Optifast, just those particular groups.  And I am also not trying to put judgements on anyone.  I just need to protect myself and my sanity.  I found that I was getting more frustrated than anything else.  I will move on from here and solely focus on continuing with the weight loss and issues that come up along the way.  I am in a really good place with how things are going and I want to keep moving in a positive direction.