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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Trying to heal the inner child

Originally published Oct. 29, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

It’s official. I now weigh less than I did when I was 10 years old. Click for stats.The first day that I weighed in below 199 pounds, I was in shock. After a week, I was excited.But once the excitement wore off, I discovered a new emotion: anger.
My husband would say that my anger is nothing new. He thinks I’ve been angry quite awhile. It has something to do with no longer being able to squelch my feelings with food. But this new anger is different. It’s immature and unreasonable.

Angry little kid
Every time I look in the mirror, I become a mad 10-year-old. I’m angry with adults in my life who looked at me and didn’t see anything wrong. I’m angry with my pediatrician for not telling my mother that having such an obese child was a problem. My bariatric doctors warned me before I had this surgery that as the weight dropped, emotional issues would surface.

Though I worked hard to prepare for what might arise, this is one issue that I never saw coming. I thought I had made peace with the events of my childhood. The adult in me says that my mom did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time. My doctor was no miracle worker. When he looked at me, he probably saw a kid with the deck stacked against her. He knew there was a family history of obesity, and he probably knew that lecturing my mother wouldn’t do any good. I presume he gave the best advice he could in such circumstances. I remember him telling my mom that it wasn’t such a bad thing, but it might be a good idea to have me try not to gain any more weight. I was in the fifth grade then, but I remember it all clearly. I also remember crying myself to sleep after the first day of eighth grade when I weighed in at 203. I had maintained my weight for three years, but somehow over the summer, it crept up on me. That’s when I began dieting in earnest.

As an adult, I think I should probably thank that doctor for saving me from the yo-yo diet routine for three years. After all, if he had done what I wish he had — required my mom to help me lose weight — it probably would only have served to start me on that path so much sooner. That should count for something. But the sullen 10-year-old rants. All she can remember are the taunts and teasing that made walking to and from school seem unbearable. She remembers having to wear ill-fitting clothing because manufacturers at the time weren’t in the business of creating stylish outfits for plus-sized children.

Going back in time
I’d love to go back in time and have a talk with the 10-year-old me. I’d tell her that she might feel powerless, but as an adult, she’d be in control of her own destiny. I’d tell her about the power of making good choices. I’d talk to that girl’s mom and tell her how her daughter’s size was a prison, and that she should do something about it. I’d encourage her to take daily walks with her daughter and develop an active lifestyle. I’d visit the doctor and tell him his complacent attitude wasn’t helping anyone. I’d encourage him to be more proactive when dealing with overweight patients and their parents.

Of course, going back in time is impossible. All I can do is acknowledge that it’s normal for me feel this way. When the angry 10-year-old makes an appearance, I try my best to listen to her. Maybe through this process, the little girl inside of me will heal her heart.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Keeping an eye on the goal

Originally published Oct. 8, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

When I first decided to have gastric-bypass surgery, I set a modest goal for myself. I decided that I wanted to weigh 200 pounds after one year.I picked that goal because it’s the average of what I weighed from the age of 10 to 18. I figured if I could maintain that weight for eight years before, it would be realistic goal to maintain for the rest of my life.The only problem is that when I weighed 335 pounds, it never occurred to me I could be in the ballpark of 200 pounds seven months after surgery. And when that happened, I realized it was time to revisit my goal weight.
Obviously, my body is capable of being thinner, and I have 12 months left of the “honeymoon” period to lose more weight. All gastric-bypass patients have an 18- month honeymoon period to lose as much excess weight as possible before their bodies get wise and figure out a way to consume more food and absorb more nutrients from the food ingested.My new goal weight needs to be low enough that it accounts for regaining 10 or 20 pounds (common after two years) without significantly hurting my health. After much thought, I’ve settled on a goal weight of 160 pounds.At 5-foot, 3-inches tall, weighing 160 pounds puts my body mass index at 26.9, still considered overweight. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.95. However, it’ll be the closest to normal I’ve ever been.This goal may end up being temporary. I’m about 40 pounds away from my goal at the moment. Twenty pounds from now, I plan to revisit this goal. I may decide that I want to try for a more normal weight. If I do, then I’ll change my goal again at that time.One thing I’ve learned since surgery is the importance of being flexible with my goals and expectations because one never knows what will occur.As I often say, every day brings a new challenge and a new reward. I’m just enjoying the journey for what it’s worth.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Is that what I really look like?

Originally published Oct. 1, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

As the excess weight melts from my body, I’m surprised by the form that has begun to emerge. One coworker said the other day, “Who knew you had such a little person hiding in there?”I sure didn’t, and I’m glad I’m not the only one in shock.Before surgery, I resembled Humpty Dumpty in my roundness. I looked broad. I was almost as wide as I was tall. I credited my Azorean heritage for my “big bones.” Well, I may have inherited a lot of traits from my Portuguese parents, but it seems big bones weren'tamong them.My shoulders have narrowed, my waist and hips have slimmed down, and as I’ve written in the past, bones seem to be poking out all over.
Stepping into the GapI even went shopping at the Gap outlet store here in Tracy for the first time ever over the weekend. I wasn’t there to buy anything, but I wanted to gauge what my size would be in a “normal” store. I took a variety of items into the dressing room, mainly XL tops and size 18 bottoms.The tops were fitted but looked good to me. The pants, on the other hand, did not. I had no trouble getting them on, but they weren’t as attractive as I had hoped. I spent a good 10 minutes examining the softest pair of jeans ever to cover my behind. I thought the mirror or my eyes might be playing tricks on me.My shopping companion said she thought they looked good. When I told her I didn’t like them because they made my thighs look wider than my hips, her response floored me.“Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Besides, that’s how your body is shaped.”Excuse me?! Since when?I don’t recall ever having that body shape. My hips have always been the widest part of my body, though at my heaviest, my stomach was quickly catching up.I put the pants back and left the store without buying anything.
'Measurements don't lie'The next day, I decided to take my measurements to see if my friend was right or if the jeans were just evil.Measurements don’t lie. In fact, many weight-loss professionals recommend using measurements over body weight to monitor weight loss/muscle gain because they are more reliable.I wish I didn’t know that.At my heaviest, my hips were 64 inches around — yes, that means my hips were about 5 feet 3 inches, and that’s equal to my height.Imagine how excited I was to measure them now at 48 inches. A loss of 14 inches in seven months is pretty exciting, even if it was helped along by gastric-bypass surgery. Then I measured my thighs. The left one is 27 inches around, and the right one is 26½, down a bit from 33 and 32½, respectively.So, the combined measurement is 53½ inches, and that means my hips are now about five inches smaller than my thighs. If only I could blame the jeans.
A plan of actionThough my findings are shocking to me, I’m not losing sleep over this. Getting worked up over one’s body shape is akin to fighting the color of the sky — not worth the effort. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to work hard to see if this new body shape might be temporary.To achieve that goal, I’ve increased my cardio to 35 minutes four days a week. I’ve also switched from using the elliptical cross-trainer to the treadmill, just to see if that might make a difference. But I’ve been careful to keep my intensity high to ensure I’m getting the same level of workout as before.I know some women fear weight training bulks up the body, but I know better. Building muscle burns fat, and I want to burn all I can. And that means I’m lifting weights five days as week as well, but I’m making sure to give each muscle group 48 hours to rest before working it again.
Not aloneAs I work with this new challenge, I must say I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone.Reader Pat King, a 59-yearold Patterson woman who works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has also noticed unexpected changes since having gastric bypass about 6½ months ago.Earlier this week, she e-mailed to tell me about the thrill of receiving a bag full of cute career clothes from a daughter who just had a baby.“Now I just have to sit down and shorten all of them, because not only has my weight gone down, but I’ve also shrunk a couple of inches in the past two years thanks to osteoporosis,” she wrote.Though I’m sure Pat would love to have those two inches in height back if possible, I like her attitude. I’m going to make sure I keep the same frame of mind as I go through my own changes.