Saturday, April 27, 2013

I'm still here!

Hi everyone.  Sorry I haven't posted in a bit.  I have been trying to focus on my last few weeks of school and not procrastinating on getting done what I need to do.  With my commencement ceremony coming up in a few weeks, I've realized time has really been flying for me. 

Let's see, on the whole I'm doing pretty well.  I had some side affects with medication, so we've had to do some adjustments.  Including all the supplements I take, I've got a pretty significant pile of pills I'm taking every day.  However, at least I have the option of taking those medications.  Some people are not so fortunate and I do get that.  I still do have lots of pain, but I am learning to work with the pain and know that I'm doing the absolute best I can to take care of myself.  I started seeing a new physical therapist yesterday, so I'm hoping that process will help with pain management.

One thing that was a little difficult for me was I was scrolling through some of my pictures on my phone and caught some that were taken several months ago when I was dealing with major hair loss while I was on Optifast.  I could see the difference in my weight from that time until now and I started to focus on that.  This weight gain has been difficult on a level I can't adequately describe and it's been so hard to not have the constant reminders of where I am right now.  Oh how I miss the days when I was smaller.  It's funny ... when I was at that smaller size, I remember thinking that I had sooo much weight left to lose.  Now I would give almost anything to be back there.  Perspective is everything, isn't it?  I am working very hard to be in the moment and to know that if I'm doing what I need to do, the weight will continue to be released at whatever pace is right and healthy for me.  Nothing will be like the experience I had on Optifast and that has to be okay.  People lose weight in many different ways and we all have unique journeys as part of the process.

I am making a promise that I won't stay away so long next time.  And if I do, please, send me an e-mail or post a message saying it's been too long.  This is where I need to be to talk about the things that have led me to eating - good, bad or indifferent.  It's very easy to be quiet, even when it's not for negative reasons.  I've seen plenty of people really active on their blogs and then just disappear into cyberspace.  That's not my intention at all.  I've got my finals next week and then two research papers due the week after that.  Then I'll be putting on my cap and gown.  That will be an incredibly emotional day for me, especially given the adventure ride I've been on to get there.  But I'll be there with my family cheering me on and then having a fun celebration afterwards.  I'll definitely post pictures so everybody can see.  They're even streaming it live online.  The technology cracks me up ... I can't even pick my nose without the world seeing it.  Ha ha!  Okay, so I wouldn't pick my nose, just sayin ;-)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Can't sleep, boo!

Don't you hate it when you just can't sleep?  That's me right now.  It's almost 4:00 in the morning and I'm freaking wide awake.  I'm sure it's going to hit me about mid-way through my day, just like it did yesterday when I was up at the same time.  So here I am.  It always helps me to get my thoughts out of my head and write about them.  It may not make me go back to sleep, but at least it will let me get to the heart of whatever is swimming around in my brain.

Yesterday at work, I was mentioning to a few friends about how my college graduation ceremony is coming up on May 18th, just about a month away from now.  They were super excited and told me how happy they were for me.  It got me to thinking how long my road has been to get to this point.  When I was growing up, I was made to feel as though I wasn't smart enough to do much of anything.  Part of that were messages that came to me in my household and part of it were my own insecurities.  I have always had a problem with weight and, at least internally, it made me feel as "less than" other people around me.  I mean, what smart person puts on the sort of weight I did if they were intelligent?  Don't you know that it's simple math - calories in, calories out?  I bought in to those rationalizations, never accounting for the fact that perhaps something else was going on. 

After graduation from high school, I did start going to a community college off and on, when I could fit it into my schedule.  For a while, I just didn't know what I wanted to do.  Then, when I seriously wanted to get that degree, a had a boss at the time who prevented me from taking classes.  Literally, I was taking one or two classes each semester.  If you go at that pace, just imagine how long it takes!  It wasn't until I moved to my current high school that I was really supported.  Once I transferred to the university, I starting whipping classes out and now here I am.  I will need to take two classes in the summer to finish out my degree, but I get to walk in this graduation.

It's funny, every time I would walk in the processional at the high school where I work with a cap and gown on, I would get that rush of adrenaline inside when Pomp and Circumstance was played.  Staff members sit in the graduation if they so choose to support our kids and hug them after they receive their diploma.  I would always be so thrilled for them, but it would also cause me to reflect on my own journey.  I never walked in my graduation from high school.  There was just too much bad going on in my home at the time and being in a graduation ceremony was not something that was important to me.  Now, when I hear that familiar tune played in my own college graduation next month, you had better believe I am going to be incredibly emotional.  I will be a college graduate and that is a HUGE deal to me.  Some people take that for granted, especially those that go straight to college and finish in four years right out of high school.  Sometimes they just don't get the pure sacrifice it takes because perhaps their parents are paying for it or maybe they are just going through the motions because they think it's something they are supposed to do.  Don't get me wrong, not everybody treats it that way, but I just know that, for me, I appreciate the journey so much.

In that crowd at graduation will be my parents.  My dad and stepmother will be coming in from Utah and my mother will be there as well.  They are all so thrilled for me and have let me know how proud they are.  Things have changed so much in all of our relationships.  My mother was abusive and she no longer is that person, not at all.  The fact that they can come together to help celebrate this special achievement with me is no small feat.  They fought a lot when they were married and the divorce was not pleasant.  There were years of animosity between them, with me and my brother in the middle.  Now that so much time has passed, they are actually pleasant with one another.  I know I will be able to look out in the crowd as I'm walking into the graduation and see happy parents.  And afterwards, we will be having a celebration with my family and friends.  In fact, on Saturday, I'm getting together with my friend who will be hosting the party and giving her a list of people to invite so that she can connect with them.  I told her I didn't want it to be too big and she said to me, "Kathy, this is a big deal!  Invite as many people as you want."  I just didn't want her house to be overrun with people.  But, she's right, it's a big deal.  A huge deal, in fact.  In the fall, I will be pursuing graduate school, so there's a lot of good stuff to look forward to.

Anyway, that's what's in my head early in the morning.  It's all happy stuff, though.  Very happy stuff.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I can help

With the tragedy that happened in Boston yesterday, part of me feels like posting about my little world - about weight loss, pain in my body and even the good - seems a bit trite.  I then realized that the best thing that I can do is pray, be in the present moment and do the best I can to take really good care of myself.  Of course that is easier said than done sometimes, I realize that all too well.  When I am at work, I do receive e-mail blasts from a local news station when there is ever breaking news.  Often times it will be about a pileup on the freeway or something on that scale.  But yesterday, when I received a message about what happened at the marathon, I clicked on the live feed and just was horrified to see what I did.  Working in a high school, often what affects the nation also affects our kids.  And as one of the adults who interacts with them during the day, I realize how I handle a situation and the discussions I may have with them can make a big impact.  I did my best to be open to their needs as a few of them talked with me about it yesterday, especially with one of our kids running in that very marathon.  Thank God above that he finished before the blasts hit and he was safe, but the same could not be said for others.

So, even though I have an aching heart this morning, I know that what I do with myself is of vital importance if I dare put any of this into its proper perspective.  It is a reminder to me that life is very short and fleeting.  What am I doing with my life that can make a difference?  Well one thing is for sure ... I can treat myself with the loving care that I treat others in my life.  That means that I don't need to take out emotions through another substance, like food.  Overeating to take away pain, discomfort or just uneasiness is no solution and, in fact, only can hurt me, taking me away from those that love and care for me.  I can start my day with a healthy breakfast and look forward to the sun shining on my face, the grace that God gives me and a spirit that gives me the ability to do much more than I often think is possible.  I have a busy day ahead of me, but there's something I need to do first - pray.  Have a blessed day everyone.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The effect of weight

I have been in physical pain the last couple of days.  I pulled some muscles in my upper back at work several days ago.  I actually stayed at home one day this week because the pain was too great.  It's left me struggling with sleep this week so I'm especially glad to see that Friday is here.  I need to get back to regular life.  I haven't exercised since Sunday when I went walking with Sara and I really miss the benefits that it gives my body.

Before I got on here to put up a post, I was reading back on some of my previous entries.  If you have your own blog or journal, have you ever done that?  It's very enlightening, in so many different ways.  Sometimes I reflect back on the last year or two and think that I've been through a lot and then, in the next breath, I think it was no big deal.  Then, reading my writing and seeing what was going on, I really realize that I have been through a lot.  What I was just looking back on was the time period about five months ago when I was having extremely low blood sugar readings when I was at a lower weight.  I wasn't on medication to keep my blood sugar low because it was doing just fine on it's own.  In fact, I actually had to eat more carbs to stay in a normal range.  At a higher weight, it takes medication to keep me in a normal blood sugar range and I have to watch my carb intake much more strictly.

All of that got me to thinking about the effects of either excess weight or lower weight on my body.  It is such a battle that I fight with the food.  I've said many times that I'm emotional eater.  If things bother me, if I'm bored or whatever emotion I'm feeling, I express it through food.  Sometimes it's a lack of consciousness of what I'm doing if I'm constantly snacking and at other times it's a very concerted effort.  I often wonder at what moment in my life did the switch happen where I ate food for normal reasons (fuel for the body) to becoming an emotional eater and a compulsive overeater.  Was I born with this or did a life event cause this to occur?  And, will there be a moment where it switches to being normal or will this always be a struggle for me?  The good thing, though, is that I'm not just sitting here pondering these questions.  I've done the brave thing for myself and decided to discover answers and change through therapy, I can journal and write my way through the challenges and I definitely can continue putting one foot in front of the other. 

This certainly isn't easy.  While most of the people reading these very words don't really know me, in so many ways you do know me.  The depth of my soul is on this blog.  I can tell you that being heavier bothers me and you understand all too well what I'm talking about.  Life was definitely much easier to maneuver in a smaller body.  The ironic thing was that, at my smallest weight, I was still weighed more than some people at their highest weight.  Perspective is everything, isn't it?  Reading those older posts really helped me see, more than ever, that this is something I just have to take a day at a time, a moment at a time if necessary.  Now that my upper back is a little better, I can move around much better and I can look forward to doing some walking this weekend.  As I continue putting one foot in front of the other, things will continue to get easier and better.  That's how I started when I began Optifast at 417 pounds.  I remember then that I could hardly walk a couple of blocks without getting winded.  And while I live with chronic pain these days with the pain in my legs, arms and lower back, I know that I can go much farther than those couple of blocks.  And as long as I keep taking steps forward, I will get to where I'm supposed to be. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Surprising results

It's been a few days since I've posted.  I've been in a procrastination mode and I'm not exactly sure why.  Last week I had no school because it was Spring Break for my college and the week before that it was Spring Break for the school district I work in.  I'm always bouncing around like a pinball from here to there with so much going on that I guess a little leeway was before me and I took a mile.  We all need to take it easy sometimes, though.  Given how crazy, stressful and other lovely adjectives the last couple of years have been, it's not surprising that sometimes all I want to do is veg out.  Now I have to bust it to get some reading done for my classes this week.  And when I mean reading, I mean an entire novel and several textbook chapters.  Bleh. 

Oh well ;-)  On to my surprising results.  With the weight gain that had come on, I have had to adjust to changes that occur when that happens, just like I did when I had lost so much weight so fast.  I am on a steady downward trend with my weight, which I'm super thrilled with, but it's a much different experience than it was on Optifast.  Duh to that!  Everything is a much different experience given I was dropping weight in crazy amounts.  45 pounds down the first month will never happen again, I'm sure.  Now I'm focusing on a very healthy weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week, although I actually am losing more than that but my expectation is not 10 pounds a week any longer.  One of the things that happened when I was on Optifast was that my type 2 diabetes seemed to go into remission.  My blood sugar numbers were always fabulous and even dipped too low.  But being at a heavier weight has meant that I have had to add a little bit of medication back into my system to help keep the numbers normal.  I accepted that, although begrudgingly.  With the help of that medication, my numbers are normal. 

So anyway, it was time for me to refill my prescription.  I was supposed to pick up this medication, along with another one, this past Friday.  But when I went to the pharmacy, they only had one ready and it was not the one to help with the blood sugar.  They made a mistake and said it would be available today or tomorrow.  I was understanding, mistakes happen sometimes, but I went into a little bit of fear because I thought to myself, "Oh no, what do I do now?  It's not like I can just buy a pill at Walmart."  I just reminded myself, though, that I can do what I have been doing - weighing and measuring my portions, writing everything down that I eat and continuing to be honest.  Even when I don't want to be because perhaps I didn't make the best decision, I still would diligently track everything.  It's amazing, actually, how much freedom there is in that in a weird way.  Actually, three ounces of protein is a lot when you really have balanced meals.  Since I'm doing Weight Watchers now, I'm not being crazy with counting calories.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying counting calories is crazy.  It's just that, for me, that sort of action makes me feel so anxious, like I'm the food police or something.  With WW, there's just points.  I still measure out or weigh what I'm eating, but it's just much more breathable for me.  So I spent the weekend paying more attention than ever to planning out my meals really well, always aware of what I was choosing to see how it would affect my blood sugar.  I still had fantastic and delicious meals, but they were portioned out.

What was absolutely amazing to me was that, every time I checked my blood sugar, it was normal.  It's not as if I didn't have any carbs with my meals because I'm forbidden by my dietitian to go low-carb.  As a diabetic, I need a certain amount of carbs for energy since that fuels my body but it's the right kind of carbs that makes the difference.  Now, my numbers were on the higher side of normal, but make no mistake, they were normal.  My numbers should be somewhere between 80-120 if I haven't eaten anything in four hours and they were always in the range.  I almost didn't know what to make of it, until I started looking at my log where I write down my numbers.  With the medication, my blood sugar is on the low end of normal or just below normal.  Without it, it's on the upper end of normal.  What that has shown me over time is that weight does make a difference.  I know we all know this ... doctors have been telling me this all my life, of course.  But I could definitely see something tangible in my own body.  With continued weight loss, I can see that my need for the medication will be reduced, if not eliminated, just as it eventually was when I was doing Optifast.  When I started, it took a while for my diabetes medication to be eliminated, but it eventually was. 

This is really encouraging to me and maybe to other people as well.  My weight loss has been a hard-fought battle that I have won sometimes, lost sometimes but that I have not given up on.  It's been hard because people definitely regard me differently at a higher weight than my lowest when I was on Optifast.  My struggles with medications causing weight gain coupled with the frustration of that and chronic pain brought back some struggles I have had with emotional eating.  Yet, I'm not letting it be the victor, I promise that.  Yes, I have gained back some of the weight I worked so hard to lose.  That has been humiliating, painful and has made me feel very sad.  When I have talked about how I really feel about it, down deep inside, I am left with a lot of tears.  Those that have been obese, morbidly obese or some other label of overweight know the pain I'm talking about.  You know all too well.  But, like all scrappy fighters, I have gotten up and refused to wave the white flag.  I am reminded of Sylvester Stalone as Rocky when I think of my fight.  I have these images of him in the ring, just jacked up from the other opponent pummeling him but, dang it, he is still in there fighting.  I am not where I used to be and I can honestly say there's more to that than just the words.  It's a different world for me now.  I may be in pain, but I fight through it to get my exercise in.  I can see the benefits of being careful of what I'm eating.  And, as much as I'm working on the outside, I'm focusing on the inside, too.  That place is just as important.  If the inside gets healed, so does the outside.  One foot in front of the other is how I'll get there, especially with the amount of support I have from those that have loved me no matter what. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hooray, my hair is coming back

A few months ago, I posted about hair loss as a result of being on Optifast.  I know it's not something I was alone in when participating in a program with rapid weight loss. My dietitian told me that not only do people who have participated in liquid programs go through that, but so have some bypass patients and others on different programs.  I knew this could be a possibility going into it, but I just couldn't imagine that I'd face the day that my hair was actually falling out in clumps.  When I had cancer, my hair didn't fall out like it was when I did Optifast.  If you're reading this and considering doing such a program, just be prepared for the very real possibility that it will happen to you, too.  Not everybody has that experience, but I did as well as others I know.  I not only lost my hair, but my naturally curly hair somehow lost the curl.  It's funny ... I always wanted thick, straight hair not these ringlets of endless curls. 

So, anyway, I chopped my hair off since I was losing so much of it anyway and figured it would eventually grow back.  The clinic promised me that all patients get it back that lose it while on the products.  That's good because I seriously looked like I was going to go bald any second!  Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a wee bit, but people who know me in real time saw it happen.  Lately, though,
I've had a lot of people comment that it's coming back.  What am I doing to make it happen?  Well, time has been a big factor.  Getting off the products and adding in food stopped the loss.  I also tried a myriad of hair products that were supposed to help.  Let's see ... I tried Ovation Cell Therapy and other hair products in their line.  That didn't work.  I tried Nioxin shampoo, conditioner and their product that is supposed to stimulate growth.  They didn't work either.  I even tried Rogaine for Women.  Nope, that wasn't successful either.  Don't get me wrong - my hair was silky smooth but my head was not full of new hair.  Instead, what has been working for me has been taking supplements in addition to making sure I'm getting plenty of fruits and veggies in my diet.  I take a multi-vitamin supplement and 5,000 mcg's of Biotin.  Some people take a lot less of the Biotin but my clinic has told me that taking up to 5,000 in a day is perfectly fine.  They even sell capsules in that quantity at Target and Costco.  Before I knew it, hair was coming back.  Yippee!

I know that sometimes we tend to not talk about these embarrassing things like hair loss when doing a weight loss program like Optifast.  And while I'm no longer on Optifast, I have absolutely no problem talking about it.  Who knows, maybe someone out there in Cyberland will benefit from my experience.  I know people are very interested because it's one of the most read posts on my blog.  It's the things that sometimes we're embarrassed about that we definitely need to talk about.  I'd rather do that than eat over something like less hair on my head!  Besides, you guys probably know way too much about me already that the simple topic of my hair is nothing in comparison.  Maybe I'll even get my curls back as my hair grows longer and I promise, cross my heart, that I will never complain about my curls ever again.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Staying in the moment

Sometimes the most difficult thing for me to do is to stay in the moment.  That could be in both positive and negative situations.  What I do is either project into the future or play the "what if" game with events that have already happened.  Here's a case in point to illustrate what I mean.

Two years ago, I was having lunch off-campus from the high school where I work.  Sometimes I do leave campus for lunch, which I am absolutely permitted to do, either to just have some alone time or to go grab something to eat.  A job at a high school is definitely a stressful one, no matter what your role, and there are times when you just need some quiet time even if you love what you do.  Trust me, it's generally not a job for someone that needs to be in a quiet space all the time.  On a particular day two years ago, that's just want I needed.  I went out to have some lunch and ate it in my car while I listened to NPR to find out what was happening out in the world.  When I was done, I put the lunch in a bag, put on
my seat belt and proceeded to start the car.  The only problem was that it wouldn't start when I attempted to turn the key.  I suspected it was a bad battery.  I tried to find people to jump my car, but no one had cables and all I got when I tried to call people was their voicemail.  I ended up having to call a tow truck so that I could get a jump and then take the car to have it looked at.  In my mind, I was thinking about all the things I was missing at work and about what I did to make this happen in the first place.  Surely it had to be my fault, I thought.  Never mind the fact that I had no idea how old the battery was when I bought this used car.  No, rational thinking was not part of my head conversation in that moment.  And all I wanted to do was eat, even though I had just finished having lunch.  It was just very uncomfortable sitting there, trying to stay in the moment.  In fact, I sort of hated it. I eventually got everything taken care of and, yes, it was the battery.

Now, have I learned anything facing that sort of situation in these two years?  Let's see ... I started out my morning feeling really great with glorious sleep.  I had a nice breakfast and was ready to start my day.  Even the new medication I've been taking has really been helping with no side effects and the added benefit of helping with my leg pain.  While it's still with me, it's much more manageable.  So I practically skipped out to my car (okay, I didn't really skip but didn't the image just pop in your head??).  I went to get it started and, boom, it wouldn't turn over.  The same exact thing happened that I faced two years ago.  I tried for a few minutes but nothing was working.  Thankfully I was at home, so I wasn't stranded anywhere.  I was grateful for that!  I went in the house and calmly tried to remember who lives near me that is up at that time of day that could possibly give me a jump.  I was able to find someone who sent her husband over with his jumper cables and working battery.  While I was waiting for him, I calmly watched Good Morning America, my kitties purred next to me and I just sat in peace.  I wasn't happy about this development, but what could I do?  I didn't go to the thought that I did something wrong and I didn't worry about things out of my control.  I sent an e-mail on my iPhone to my office to let them know what was going on.  In no time, my friend's husband came, I was able to drive over to the place where I had the battery changed and it was still under warranty, so that means it was free to me.  They did have to test it to make sure it wasn't the alternator but I was out of there in about an hour and headed off to work.

This was a big lesson for me in remembering that I don't have to react in an extreme manner and that I actually can sit in the moment.  I wasn't rifling around in the kitchen looking for food to soothe an anxiousness I may have been feeling.  I was as calm as a cucumber.  This doesn't mean I always react so sedately to situations.  It's still very difficult for me to not want to munch on excess food in the evenings.  It's my worst time of day in terms of the food calling me.  In those moments, I need to remember that if I just put one foot in front of the other, I can get through it.  Habits took time to develop, so they will take time to change, too.  I pray that the more times I can get through those dicey moments without succumbing to the enticement of the food, the easier it will become.  Who knows, maybe it will always be a struggle for me, as it is for many people.  I just want to have tools at my disposal to help me get through those moments.  Having the battery die on the car is not the worst thing in the world by far, but it can be anything that sends a person to eat if that's how they've learned to be in the moment.  There could be a really good reason to eat or just out of sheer boredom.  Therein lies the mystery of the call of the food.  As they say in 12-step programs, "It's cunning, baffling and powerful."