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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Old habits die hard

Originally published Nov. 12, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Whenever I think my old life is behind me, something comes up to remind me that I’m still at the very beginning stages of an amazing life change. Sometimes I worry that no matter how hard I work, I’ll never overcome the habits that led to my morbid obesity. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and all, but it would be nice to just rest on my laurels every now and then.

Stress is my downfall
Before having bariatric surgery in February, my biggest issue was stress. Actually, stress wasn’t the issue so much as my reaction to it. In times of stress or heavy burden, the first thing to go for me would be diligence in taking care of myself.

Exercise has always been the first thing to go. I would skip workouts, thinking that the time I generally spend in the gym would be better spent on commitments at work or home. But it was rarely the case that it would be enough. Sooner or later, I’d find myself skipping meals or grabbing a 99-cent heart attack on the run, all the while telling myself there was no time to fuel my body properly. After a couple weeks of that behavior — along with not sleeping enough — my energy would be zapped and I’d start frequenting caf├ęs for blended triple-shot espresso drinks. Between the sugar and the caffeine, I’d be jolted into semiconsciousness for at least half a day. I’ve known this type of behavior is self-defeating for some time, but I could never figure out how to curb it. I just hoped that having my digestive system rerouted would make such behavior impossible. Boy was I wrong.

Still a struggle
It’s been almost eight months since my surgery, and for the most part, I’ve stayed on the narrow path. I skipped the gym for the better part of a month or so, but that was it. My tender tummy (or pouch, which is what it really is now) wouldn’t allow me to scarf anything, much less gulp a caffeinated drink or eat a Big Mac. Besides that, I didn’t suffer from head hunger yet and I had no trouble sticking with only eating three meals a day. Sometimes, it was even a struggle to eat more than two in a day. But over the last month, I’ve noticed the capacity of my pouch has increased. This is nothing to be worried about. It’s common for the tissue to relax around this time and start accommodating more food.T hat’s not a problem, so long as I stay on program and use that extra room to fit in more healthy protein, vegetables and some fruit. The problem is that staying on program is really hard for me when I’m frazzled.

Mindless eating
At first I noticed my hands reaching for crackers when I was confronted with problems at work. If I didn’t stop myself fast enough, I’d know the error of my ways within an hour when a killer stomachache would set in. The too-full feeling is miserable after gastric-bypass surgery. There is abdominal cramping, accompanied by the feeling of having a stitch in your side as well as chest pain. The worst part of it all is that nothing can be done to alleviate the problem; you just have to wait it out.

Every time this would happen, I would chastise myself and vow to be more mindful.

Of course, if I could be mindful all the time, this wouldn’t be a problem. Now, I’m aware that this problem of mine still exists, but I still have no solution. At least I don’t skip workouts as much anymore. I have my workout partner to thank for that. She is ever diligent about picking me up four days a week, and she doesn’t let me slack off one bit at the gym.

As for my eating habits, they are a work in progress. I used to keep on-program foods at the office in case I was too buried with work to leave for lunch, but then I found myself mindlessly munching on those items between meals. I know from experience there is such thing as too much of something good. But now that my office is devoid of snackables, I run the risk of skipping meals, which is bad for me on many levels.

Lack of protein still makes me weak, and my blood sugar is prone to getting too low. Though I don’t have the answers to this problem, I’m working on it. I know there’s a solution, and it’s important to me to find it. I don’t want to wake up five years from now at the same weight I was eight months ago. That would make having surgery irrelevant, and I worked too hard for that.

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