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Friday, July 05, 2013

Checking in and Progress Pix

When I decided to get stronger in January, I did not plan to lose weight. I just wanted to feel better. Years of battling anemia and other nutritional deficiencies left me feeling frail and I had enough. After six months of focused exercise, plant-based eating, daily green smoothies and fresh juices, I feel better than I have in years.

Along the way, I've dropped a little over 20 pounds and have reshaped my body in ways I didn't think were possible for me without cosmetic surgery. I feel blessed. Few people can say they feel their best ever eight years after WLS. Many gain back the weight they've lost before their fifth post-op year. I'm thrilled to be at a point where my concerns are related to performance and body shape.

Here are my stats compared to where I was in April of this year, when I started tracking my measurements:

Weight: April -- 174.6; Today -- 164.6
BMI: April -- 30.9 (obese); 29.2 (overweight)
Bust: April -- 38.5; Today -- 37
Waist at belly button: 37; Today -- 34.5
Waist above belly button: 36; Today -- 35
Hips: April -- 44; Today -- 41.5
Thigh: April -- 25.5; Today -- 23.5
Upper Arm: April -- 14; Today -- 13.5
Total Inches Lost: 10

The last time I documented myself at this weight was when I celebrated my first WLS anniversary back in 2006. I'm a little lighter now that I was then and all of my measurements are smaller, except for my waist and hips, which both 1 inch bigger right now. I assume I can credit my pregnancy three years ago to that extra inch in the waist and hips.

I've spent a lot of time over the last month thinking about the importance of my body mass index (BMI). I'd have to lose 25 pounds more before I'd get out of the "overweight" category. And though I know I should care about such things, I really don't. I am much more concerned about the function of my body than a label based on an arbitrary formula.

My goal for the next three months is to continue gaining strength by lifting heavier weights more often. I don't worry about the archaic myth of "bulky up." What I do worry about is my bone density and posture, both of which are improved by regular bouts of weight-bearing exercises. And as much as I dislike cardio, I'd like to increase my stamina. Though that's hard to measure, I think running a mile without stopping would be a good gauge of progress for me.

As far as eating goes, I'm content with my progress in that area. I'm doing a small amount of protein supplementation by adding vegan protein powder to my green smoothies. But in general, my focus is on eating whole, plant-based foods. I avoid processed foods, dairy, animal protein, coffee, sugar and alcohol. My meals are filled with an array of fresh vegetables, some fruits, lots of beans/legumes and a smattering of nuts, seeds and fruits for variety.

I can't wait to see the changes that become evident over the next three months. Part of the fun of this journey is the element of surprise -- whether it's finding out I'm capable of physical feats I previously thought were impossible or just observing the evolution of my body shape. It's a fun ride.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Body Fat Update: 22%

In the past eight weeks, I've dropped a little over 4 pounds of fat. I had hoped to drop twice that in this time frame but with the water I'm retaining, I'm not sure how reliable the metrics are. I'll just have to keep my eye on the goal of getting stronger and stay committed to measuring my progress along the way.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Welcome to the Gun Show

I've been busting my backside at the gym since January. I'm up to 4-5 days a week of intense exercise and though I get compliments, I have to say it's hard to see much of a difference. That is until I started doing some side-by-side comparison of progress photos.

My arms are the source of my deepest insecurity, so seeing the photos above have really made an impact on how I see myself. The photos speak for themselves but I have to admit, that picture on the right looks foreign to me. It's not what I see when I look at my arms in the mirror. I suppose I can't trust my own eyes. I need to focus on solid metrics and progress photos for reality checks.

Scale weight is another misleading marker for me right now. I have been fighting some serious water-retention. It's not uncommon for me to gain 8 to 10 pounds in water over the course of a couple of days but clean eating and exercise have helped mitigate that until recently. I've put on 9 pounds over the last week. My legs are so swollen that there is no taper to my legs at all. I have Shrek-size feet. Thank God for flip-flops or I wouldn't be able to wear shoes at all.

I know the water weight will go away at some point. I just wish it would leave sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I'm sucking down a gallon of water with infused with lemon and cucumber in addition to my green juices and smoothies. Something has to give, right?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Clothes Make the Woman

When it comes to exercise, it's crucial to have the right equipment -- right down to what you do and don't wear.

I've learned this firsthand. Shoes that are too wide or too long rub blisters on your feet and can cause ingrown toenails. The only thing worse than shoes that are too big, in my opinion, is clothes that are too big.

Let me explain. When you're sporting a less-than-perfect physique, it's only natural to want to hide that in baggy sweats and shirts at the gym. However, those fabrics aren't usually breathable and all the loose fabric can impede your mobility.

On a WLS post-op, however, loose fabrics can even be dangerous. Unless you've had reconstructive surgery, there is a fair amount of extra skin with which you need to contend. Depending on your rate of loss, starting weight and body type, your excess skin can be concentrated in one area or spread all over. Regardless, you're either going to have loose, floppy skin around the abdomen, thighs, upper arms, buttocks, or back -- or a combination of some or all of those areas.

Loose clothing combined with intense exercises and explosive moves (e.g. jump rope, burpees, etc.) can cause heat rashes, skin tears and even blistering. There is nothing worse than finding yourself increasing in physical stamina only to be hamstrung by a skin injury that sidelines you for a few days.

With that in mind, it's wise to invest in quality workout apparel, particularly compression clothing. Under Armour is known as offering the best compression around. I picked up a pair of the Women's UA Authentic 17" Capris at Sports Authority over the weekend. At first, I wasn't impressed. They don't feel any tighter than the pants I was wearing before. But after one workout, the difference was impossible to ignore. First of all, there was no pain at any point of my workout from skin pulling or tearing. Second, I don't even feel like I've broken a sweat. When I got home to change, my entire lower  body was dry -- that's how good the fabric is at wicking away moisture.

I think UA is a fairly affordable brand and worth the money (my capris were about $38) spent, especially if it's going to save me from visits to the doctor and prescription ointments.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Body Fat Benchmark: 24.2%

I had my body fat measured a couple of weeks ago as a benchmark. It's 24.2 percent. Up until now, I have told two people. Funny thing has been their reaction: "Are we happy or sad about that?"

I just laugh. Given where I've been, I find it amusing that anyone would think I could be emotionally tied to any number. The scale doesn't upset me. Why would I give that control to a skinfold caliper?

I get it. Most women live and die by some number. It may be a number on the scale or even a clothing size. Whatever it is, these numbers tend to hold a lot of power over women. A small number can send a woman jumping for joy, while a large number can be depressing.

Fortunately, I am not one of those women. I use the scale, my clothes and even this most recent skinfold test as nothing more than metrics to help me track my progress. I have to know where I'm at if I'm going to track where I'm going. That's what my numbers are about. To make them mean anything more or less steals my attention from what's truly important, which is my goal.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Upping the Ante Yet Again

I've progressed to four days of weekly exercise and this week, I hope to take it to five. If all goes according to plan, my week will look like this:

  • Monday -- Cycle & Strength
  • Tuesday -- Bootcamp
  • Wednesday -- Interval Training
  • Thursday -- OFF
  • Friday -- Pilates
  • Saturday -- Ultimate Conditioning
  • Sunday -- OFF

I'm working out hard enough to be sore every day, some days I'm even hurting in places I didn't know I had. But the results are worth the pain. I am definitely stronger. Lily is easier to lift and carry, especially upstairs. I have more stamina, and I'm sleeping better at night.

None of this is easy, but it becoming more fun.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Worked Out

I added a third day of intense exercise this week, and I am feeling every bit of it. My core muscles are so sore that it hurts to laugh. That's a good thing, right?

I started my week with a combo of cycling and heavy lifting on Monday, then did interval training on Wednesday and a combo of cycling and rowing yesterday. Tomorrow, I'm picking up a yoga class to see how that goes. Hard to believe that six months ago, I had no clue what kettlebells, TRX, burpees, tabata sets or mountain climbers were. Now, I'm doing each of those 2-3 times a week and living to tell the tale.

I don't like exercise, but I like seeing the results of exercise. I like noticing that I did better with jumps on the stationary bike yesterday than I did last week -- and even better than when I first started in January. I also like sleeping through the night -- a lifelong challenge for me. My progress is my motivation, and I need a big motivator to keep getting up at 4:30 a.m.

But again, it's worth it. The best part isn't even how my body is changing, it's who is watching. When I come home from the studio in the morning, my sleepy-eyed daughter gets wide-eyed and animated. She wants to know all about Mommy's exercises and then she wants me to watch her exercise. Her "exercises" are doing jumps and flips on my bed, but it's still cute and it's proof that what I am doing right now is making an impression on her and who she is becoming.

That makes everything I am doing right now worthwhile -- the early mornings, the sore muscles, the failed attempts at advanced exercises. And it's why I look forward to doing it all over again next week.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Anyone experienced with Realize Band?

Though readership of this blog has dwindled over the years due to my lack of activity in keeping it updated, I'm hoping there is someone out there who can help with a reader request.

"A" had a Realize gastric band implanted on March 1. Since then she's lost nine pounds and is increasingly frustrated. She's tracking her eating and consuming about 700 calories a day, which fits her doc's recommendation. Her protein is low -- usually in the mid-50s -- but that is normal for anyone in the early stages of recovery.

We all know weight loss is a staircase, not an elevator. But if you've had gastric banding, what were your results? How fast did you lose weight and how much did you lose at the beginning? Any words of encouragement or advice?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ready for a New Phase

Tipping the scales over 300 lbs. in 2004. 
Today, at 175 lbs.
after two months of
focused exercise.
It's hard to believe that it's been eight years since I had gastric-bypass surgery. It feels like a lifetime ago when a diagnosis of obesity-related infertility sent me into an emotional tailspin that ended with me tipping the scales at 350 pounds. It was then that the idea of never having children became scarier than the idea of controlling my weight once and for all. I tried losing weight "the old fashioned way" with exercise and a tightly controlled diet, but results just didn't come fast enough to make much of a difference.

That's the short story of what led me to have gastric bypass. It wasn't an easy decision but it was the right one for me. And though I've had my share of ups and downs over the past eight years, I've never once regretted my decision.

Since getting remarried in 2009, I've effortlessly maintained my weight around 180 pounds. By BMI standards, I'm still considered obese, but at least I'm not morbidly obese.

After my bowel obstruction, my weighed dipped in the low 100s. I looked and felt like death warmed over. My skin was so thin that my veins were visible everywhere, giving me a blue hue, especially in photos. My head was bigger than my body, making me look like a bobble head. As I worked to gain my weight back in a healthy way, I chose 180 as my goal. I felt that I needed to have that extra weight as a cushion in case I were to fall ill again. I never wanted to feel weak and emaciated again. It's been a comfortable weight for me -- emotionally and physically -- and one my doctors have all supported.

But now I'm ready for a change. I'm ready to push past that fear and drop a few more pounds. It's not that I think I "need" it. I don't need to be thinner than I am. I am quite content wearing size 14 jeans and medium-size shirts. But I am ready to lead a more active lifestyle, which will naturally lead to a bit of weight loss. It's taken a few years, but I am ready to let my body set itself at a lower point.

So what am I doing? My primary focus is exercise, which is always a challenge for me. I'm working out twice a week at a functional fitness studio, adding a day each month until I'm at 4-5 intense workouts per week. As far as diet, I'm more mindful of what I put in my mouth and pay closer attention to the foods my body doesn't tolerate well. For me, that means minimal animal protein and more raw veggies and fruits in the form of smoothies and fresh juices. I've even started a new blog about it for those who want to follow me as I continue this journey.

As I reflect on the past eight years, I realize I have not yet arrived. There is always another step that can be taken in the pursuit of health and fitness. Success, for me, isn't about numbers on the scale or the clothes rack. It's about feeling my best, and my best is yet to come.