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Saturday, August 27, 2005

After six months, much has changed

Originally published Aug. 27, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

My, how time flies. It’s hard for me to believe it’s been six months since I had gastric-bypass surgery. I think I’ve said this before, but bear with me: It feels like another lifetime.Every month, something seems to take me by surprise. This last month, I tried to stay on top of things by keeping a list of new experiences. I didn’t expect the list to be quite as long as it is, especially considering that these are only new experiences that have occurred since July 24, but I think it shows that the body can go through changes even when the scale doesn’t seem to move much.
I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month, which brings my total weight lost to 120 pounds since last year. I’ve lost close to 95 pounds in the past six months. As one coworker frequently points out to me, sometimes my body changes dramatically independent of weight. For instance, he swears I have dimples in my cheeks that have only appeared within the last week or so. In that time, I’ve lost 3 pounds. I doubt 3 pounds would make the difference between having dimples or not, but this coworker assures me they are there when I smile.There are days I wake up to find my pants are too big, when I would swear they were still snug on me the day before. Or somebody will comment that I look a lot “narrower” suddenly, when I know I’ve dropped just a couple of pounds. This isn’t a complaint, just an illustration of how marvelous the body can be. I expected to lose weight at a rapid pace, but I don’t think I fully appreciated all the changes my body would go through.
Speaking of changes, here’s a list of my new experiences in the last month:
Fitting in chairsThroughout the last six months, I’ve discovered my rear end fitting better in certain chairs. First, it was my office chair that was a little roomier. Then I noticed I was able to sit in a movie theater seat without the arm rests cutting into my thighs and hips. Then I noticed patio furniture didn’t feel as if it would break beneath my weight. My recent experience is that of just sitting down in the nearest chair without ever thinking of whether it would support me. Talk about a new freedom.
Towels fit around meI discovered this while staying with a friend one weekend. As per my usual routine, I lugged all of my clothes into the guest bathroom before showering. Bath towels haven’t fit around me since I was in high school, and even the bath sheets at my house stopped fitting around me a couple of years ago. However, when I got out of the shower and was trying to do my hair, I absent-mindedly wrapped the bath towel around myself and knotted it to free my hands. I dropped my hair gel when I looked in the mirror and found the towel covered me. It didn’t overlap much, but I’ll take what I can get.
Wearing my husband’s T-shirtsThis is the most recent discovery. After a long day at work Wednesday, I took a short break to run home and change clothes before heading back to the office. I put on a new pair of red workout pants and was rummaging around for a T-shirt to wear with them. Red is not a color that goes well with most of my T-shirts. My husband pointed to one of his shirts and suggested I try it. I looked at him sideways and asked if he really thought it would fit. After all, he’s a beanpole. He reminded me that it’s a men’s extra large. I tried it on to humor him and about fell over to find that it fit. We were equally shocked. Of course, my husband now regrets his suggestion. Suddenly, he’s afraid I might take a liking to more of his shirts.
Being coldI almost froze my rear end off last week at the Double Funk Crunch concert in Lincoln Park. My wonderful husband ran home to get me a sweatshirt. I used to sweat every moment of every day, whether I was indoors or out. Now it has to be in the 90s or I have to be doing something active to break a sweat. We still keep our place on the cool side, but I’ve started to keep a second blanket on my side of the bed for nighttime.
Running up stairsI caught myself doing this one day at the office when I was in a rush. I surprised myself so much that I stopped halfway up the flight, thinking, “Did I just run up half a flight of stairs? What the heck am I thinking? I could fall.” After my senses took hold, I finished the flight by walking, but just knowing I could run up and down the stairs if I wanted to without suffering chest pains makes me smile — a lot.
Sitting in my husband’s lapSpending much of the last five years being twice the size of my husband, I’ve become quite conscious of my ability to hurt him without realizing it. I wouldn’t usually put any part of my body on him for fear of my weight crushing his legs or something (yes, I realize that sounds ridiculous, but I’m allowed to be silly and insecure if I want). One day, while sitting behind me, my husband decided to pull me into his lap. It was quite a comfortable seat, but then it occurred to me that I might be too heavy. I asked him if I was hurting him, but he said it didn’t. Now I sit there more often.
Hand-me-downs from friendsNever in my life have I been able to share clothes with friends. In the last 10 years, I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend who wore clothes the same size as me or bigger. But just last week, a friend of mine gave me about 10 or 12 shirts that she can’t wear anymore. All of them were misses XLs from ether The Gap or Old Navy. While they don’t exactly “fit” yet, I can wear the button-up shirts open over a camisole. And I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be wearing those same shirts buttoned.
Whew. I think this might be the most eventful month I’ve had thus far on this life-changing journey. There’s not one thing I take for granted. As I read over what I’ve written, I’m yet again amazed by how small my world was when I weighed 315 pounds, and how much it’s grown as my body has gotten smaller. I can’t wait to see what the next month has in store.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Convenience counts when it comes to protein

Originally published Aug. 13, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Open my file drawer at the office, and you’ll find a veritable plethora of protein supplements and convenience foods geared to helping me meet my protein requirements.
The vegetable bin of my refrigerator has also been converted into Protein Central. That’s where I keep all my ready-to-drink protein supplements.
If I seem a bit obsessed with protein, that’s because I am. With protein being the body’s building block, it’s important that I make sure to get enough of it. Protein is the key player in cell development, so not much happens in the human body without it.
I’ve been more focused on protein lately for a couple of reasons. One is the hair loss I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The body needs a sufficient protein supply to build hair and nails, as well as repair tissue. Not getting enough protein could prolong the hair-loss phase, and that’s not OK by me.The second reason protein has taken center stage for me is because I’ve discovered a host of convenient products to help me make sure I meet my daily requirement. Like most people, the easier something is for me to do, the more likely I am to do it.
How much is enough?According to the University of Iowa’s Hospitals and Clinics, we need 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. For me, that equates to 88 grams a day.Some doctors advocate using the formula with your ideal weight as opposed to your current weight. However, in the case of gastric-bypass patients, everything consumed is not necessarily absorbed. My doctors recommend that their surgical weight-loss patients consume at least 80 grams of protein a day in hopes that about 60 grams are absorbed and used by the body.The constraints of a 2- to 4-ounce stomach pouch make getting in 80 grams of protein a challenge, to say the least. Most protein sources — eggs, cheese, poultry, beef, fish, etc. — provide about 8 grams of protein per ounce. I don’t know anyone in the first post-operative year who can eat 4 ounces at every sitting. Most of us eat two very small meals a day and one larger one. For example, I generally can consume 2 ounces at each sitting. But at lunchtime, I’m often able to eat 3 or 4 ounces, especially if I’ve exercised that day. That means I fit in about 8 ounces of food each day. Even if I were to focus strictly on protein-rich foods, I’d be able to get only 60 grams of protein a day. That’s where supplements come in.
Protein supplements may not sound appetizing, but they are a great way to get in 30 or 40 grams in one shot. It seems supplements are getting tastier and healthier all the time.
Zero-Carb IsopureMy newest favorite is Zero-Carb Isopure’s ready-to-drink protein supplement. Similar in appearance and taste to Gatorade or Kool-Aid, Isopure boasts 40 grams of whey protein in each 20-ounce bottle — all for about 160 calories. My favorite flavors so far are alpine punch and mango peach, though apple melon isn’t too bad.Isopure is best when served well-chilled or over ice, and I like it because it’s not thick or milky like most protein drinks. Tracy gets too hot in the summer for me to stomach a thick, creamy shake in the mornings.Isopure’s punch-like consistency makes it something I’m able to drink throughout the day, instead of having to chug down all 20 ounces in one sitting. It’s even great to take to the gym in place of water, though I find it gets too warm too quickly in that environment.
Achiev OneAnother yummy, ready-to-drink supplement is Achiev One’s coffee drinks.The fact that they are made with coffee and contain caffeine makes them unsuitable for most bypass patients, including me. But I have tried a couple of their flavors, and I can attest to their tastiness.For 120 calories, Achiev One offers a fat-free, sugar-free version of the Starbucks Frappucino drinks you can buy in stores. The only difference is that the Achiev One drinks also provide 20 grams of protein. Not a bad way to get your daily coffee fix.
Convenience countsAside from providing a much-needed protein boost, supplements such as the two mentioned above also make getting needed nutrients convenient. When I followed Weight Watchers a few years ago, I discovered that I never had trouble eating healthy foods when I had time to prepare them. It was when I got busy that I’d get myself into trouble. Having gastric-bypass surgery didn’t change that about me. I’m still more apt to shelve good eating and exercise habits in times of stress or when I’m busy.Protein bars and ready-made drinks have become my salvation. If I oversleep, I grab a drink from the fridge to sip when I get to work. If I get too busy to take a lunch break, I reach into my drawer for a protein bar. Having such options helps me make sure my body gets what it needs and keeps me on the path to success.