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Monday, December 31, 2007

New beginnings for a new year


As 2007 winds to a close, I’m looking ahead. This past year was a busy one for me. I started it off with a bowel obstruction that almost missed getting diagnosed, leading to emergency abdominal surgery and a long, arduous recovery. My husband and I separated in June; a very dear childhood friend and her unborn daughter were killed in July; I switched careers in September; and I moved 75 miles southeast of Tracy in October to be closer to my new job.

There is not one event that has occurred over the past year that I would change if given the chance, not even the death of my friend. After all, it was her death that led me reexamine my priorities in life and make the changes required to be where I’m at now.

However, during the course of it all, I’ve succumbed to some old habits that I need to relinquish yet again. In times of stress, I think it’s normal to revert back to old coping mechanisms. My most comfortable coping mechanism has always been eating. More accurately, it’s been the abuse of food or using food to feed my emotions rather than hunger. Feeding has always been easier than feeling for me.

Luckily for me, weight gain hasn’t been an issue. I dropped enough weight while sick from January through March that the weight I’ve put on makes me look healthy not out of control. But for a food addict, “out of control” can be just one bite away. And that’s not a place I want to visit, much less stay. So I will take advantage of the new beginnings associated with a new year and get myself back on track before I veer too far off my desired path.

Getting back on track won’t be easy, but the gift of gastric-bypass surgery and the tool it provides still make it easier for me to adopt healthy habits once again than if I didn’t have surgery at all. The key for me will be to draw some very deep lines in the sand and not let anyone or anything cross them.

Here are my top 5 rules for 2008 that will help me make sure my health goes back to being my top priority:

My house is a junk-free zone
No, I will not become a better housekeeper. Ha! That’ll have to wait until 2010 to make the resolution list, if ever. Instead, I’m referring to junk food. “Junk food” is different for everyone. For a gastric-bypass patient, simple carbohydrates and sugar are our main enemies but junk food can be any trigger food, even ones considered “healthy” (like sugar-free desserts).
I used to believe I had to have these things for those who didn’t have the dietary restrictions I did. Now I realize that as a single woman, there is no reason to have stuff in the house that I should not be eating. I've tossed out all the crackers, rice, pasta and chips that have wormed their way into my pantry, in addition to the sugar and baking ingredients I collected to make holiday treats. I don’t need the temptation. I’ve baked a few things for my end-of-the-year church potluck, and the rest will go out with the trash. Better that it fill the trash bin than my backside.

I will respect my pouch
One of the greatest gifts bariatric surgery offers is the ability to control the amount of food one needs to eat to feel full and/or satisfied. That gift can be abused by non-compliance. Non-compliance comes in a variety of forms but the most common are overfilling the pouch at meal times, grazing throughout the day and consuming liquids with meals. Rather than eat until I’m full, I will focus on eating until I’m no longer hungry. Though it sounds like a minor difference, the difference can add up to quite a few hundred calories by the end of a day. Hypoglycemia requires that I eat more often than most bariatric patients, but I don’t have to eat huge amounts at each sitting.

I will not drink my calories
This one will be tough. I really love mochas and caramel macchiatos from Starbucks and the Acai Super-Antioxidant from Jamba Juice. Even with two scoops of protein powder, Jamba Juice smoothies aren’t good choices for bariatric patients. The sugar content in them outweighs any benefits of the protein. Alcohol also fits into this category. I love a good vodka martini, but calories add up. I spent my first two post-op years drinking nothing more than water and unsweetened tea. I was quite content and am confident I can be equally content doing so yet again.

I will exercise five times a week
I have to stop kidding myself. Parking a half-mile from the office is a nice way to incorporate more movement into my daily routine, but it does not replace the need for honest exercise. Like all gastric-bypass patients, I have the metabolism of a sea cow. Our drastically reduced intake, coupled with nutritional malabsorption, puts our bodies into starvation mode. The only way to kick start the metabolic standstill is by incorporating vigorous exercise each day.

I will say no to sabotage
This one is easier said than done, but it’s high time I put my foot down. I’m tired of well-meaning people encouraging me to “treat” myself and assuring me that “a little bite” or “sip” won’t hurt, as if they had any clue what it’s like to walk in my shoes. The fact is that for some of us, there is really no such thing as “just one bite,” and I’m tired of pretending it’s not an issue. So rather than give in to temptation in a misguided attempt at politeness, I will offer a firm rejection and not lose sleep over potential hurt feelings. After all, I’m the only one who has to live with the consequences of eating foods my body doesn’t tolerate well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

I'm not sure I'll ever stop being amazed at how much more I enjoy holidays now that I'm no longer a slave to food.

Today was such a great day. Woke up early, had some chicken and veggies for breakfast, a couple of homemade mochas and gallons of iced tea. Lunch was turkey, a bit of ham, cranberry sauce, some potato and corn. Dinner will likely just be turkey, cranberry and veggies. Oh, I did splurge on a slice of cherry pie, but just a slice -- not the whole pie, nor a slice of every pie and cake available.

We watched a movie, we hung out, we relaxed. It was amazing. No uncomfortable over-stuffed feeling, no wanting to puke, no food coma. Who would have thought a holiday could be so pleasant?