An Epic-Sized Update (w/ Pics): Wedding Weekend, Flying Experience, NSVs, Attention, Yikes!!

I’ve been a little absent for awhile – where do I even begin? I’m warning you now, if you don’t like long updates and stories… you’ll want to move right past this post! :)

For probably the last 10-12 months, I have been looking forward to attending my cousin’s wedding in Jacksonville, FL and that event happened this past weekend. I flew down to Jacksonville on Thursday and arrived home on Monday. I have a lot of weight loss and non-weight loss feelings/experiences that I thought I would share – I will do my best to break it up and break it down!

Flying Post Weight Loss

My only experience with flying in the past was 2 1/2 years ago at my heaviest, 444 lbs. To say that the experience was terrible is an understatement. There is the embarrassment of having to buy a seat belt extender and two seats, as well as the “walk of shame” back to your seat – you know what I mean… the sideways walk you do down the aisle because you can’t walk like a normal person. In addition to the sideways waddle, you have to look at alllll of the people sitting in fear that your seat is next to theirs and the visible relief they feel when they realize you’re going to walk past them! Then there was the experience of me not drinking ANYTHING for a long time prior to my flights because I was worried about having to use the bathroom – not an easy thing to do at that weight!

I was really anxious about my flight and I wasn’t sure why. I know logically that I would fit into the seat and not need an extender, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous. I think it’s because when I actually imagined flying again, it immediately brought up my anxious/ashamed/embarrassed feelings I had the last time I flew – the memories were causing the anxiety, not truly thinking I would experience these things again. I needed to have a flying experience where I didn’t have those feelings, so that I knew for sure that as long as I keep working hard and taking care of myself… I will never have to experience flying as a super morbidly obese person ever again.

I’m happy to report that I did NOT need to turn sideways to walk down the aisle… I did NOT need a seatbelt extender, and I did NOT need a second seat. Flying couldn’t have been more comfortable – I even had my legs crossed… at one point I put the tray table down with plenty of room. I didn’t use the bathroom, but I’m sure my saggy butt would’ve fit in it just fine! :) Here is a pic of the extra seatbelt slack!!

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Extra space in the seat belt on the plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Attention

Anybody that has followed my posts knows what I don’t really care for all the attention that I get now that I’ve lost weight. Don’t get me wrong, it makes me happy to know that people think I look good and that they notice the difference; however, it’s the attention I get from people where they go on and on and on and on about my weight loss and how I look that makes me uncomfortable. There was a combination of good attention and bad attention on this trip.

First, I’m happy to say that my family actually noticed I lost weight this time when they saw me. If you’ve been a long-time reader of my posts, then you may remember last June I went to a family get together on my Dad’s side and despite losing 130 lbs at that point… nobody noticed. This was definitely not the case this time.

There were a lot of “you look amazing!” or “you look incredible!” comments. One of my uncles asked me if I was sick… I chuckled and said, “Nooooo, this was intentional” (don’t you just love that question?) A few people didn’t even recognize me (and told me so) and a lot of people commented on how beautiful and happy I looked. The fact is… they were right, I felt beautiful and I felt happy and their compliments were appreciated.

There was also a lot of attention in the area of, “How did you do it??” This is a dreaded question for people that choose to keep the fact that they’ve had weight loss surgery to themselves. I told them that I had been doing a lot of different things and while my diet was pretty strict for awhile, it wasn’t really as strict anymore. I told a couple of people about getting into therapy – because I really do credit therapy for helping me get THIS far…. but I did not tell any new people about surgery. I did not want it to be the topic of conversation and to be honest, I’m not close enough with any of them to confide something so personal to them. I’m not sorry that I kept it to myself, but I will admit that when my aunts say to me, “You’re such a success story!” and “You’re such an inspiration to me!” I wonder if they would feel the same way if they knew? Fortunately, this is my life and I can live it the way I want… so I don’t have to worry about it too much! :)

Oh, once last note on the attention. I can no longer say that I’ve never been hit on… it happened this past weekend. As I approached him, a very kind homeless man on the beach said, “You are a beautiful woman!! I saw you coming and I thought, WOAH!” hahahahahaha… so there’s that! :) I have to admit that I did feel confident and sexy in the dress I was wearing on the beach that day – here is a pic!

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Dress I bought to wear around the condo/beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wedding

The wedding was a lot of fun. It was the first time I’ve been to a wedding where I felt like I could be like every other woman…. dressed up in a nice dress, looking fancy! Every wedding I have been to as an adult (and really even a kid), I’ve had to just wear my works clothes (plain shirt and black dress pants) because I wasn’t comfortable or couldn’t find nice wedding attire to wear.

In addition to feeling good and looking good, I wasn’t afraid to let loose and have fun. It has been probably a decade since I’ve been on a dance floor – because I was too clumsy to move my big body and too self-conscious to be seen by so many people. I danced A LOT at this wedding, all smiles, and super happy!! I received many compliments – even from the groom who said, “Who ARE you??!” and then told me I looked “incredible and sexy!” (in a totally appropriate, non-creepy way… trust me… his new wife (my cousin) was right there!)

Here are a couple of pics!

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My Dad and I waiting for the ceremony to begin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cousins and I

The Not So Good Stuff

Even though I did have fun and experienced life during this trip instead of watching it pass me by, the experience wasn’t completely great. I shared a condo with a lot of other family members and that isn’t something I’ll be doing again any time soon. I learned that I am a person that needs personal space and I just don’t want to deal with the drinking, crankiness, and arguing – which is exactly what happened for most of the trip. I don’t take many days off of work and when I do, I want the time to be spent doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, and NOT listening to others fight. Lesson learned.

I ate a lot. I drank some alcohol too. I knew that I was going to and I’m ok with it. BUT, what I will say is that I did have some sad feelings that I am not at goal at this point. If I had stayed on track and weren’t going up and down so much the past 3 months, I could be at my goal. I’m not unhappy where I am or anything… but getting to about 170-175 lbs by the time this wedding came around was always where I wanted to be. I am ok with the now slow losses and the weight gain I experienced from doing what I wanted on this vacation – but now I also have to be ok with knowing that I now need to buckle down and get serious in order to bring the weight back down to the lowest I’ve been, around 196.4 lbs. There is no secret to success – if I want to lose weight, I have to make good choices. I didn’t make good choices and like I said, I’m ok with that… but I had to mentally prepare myself for what was on the scale and I have to be responsible for getting back on track now. There is nothing more frustrating to me to read people post about how they keep gaining weight and they don’t know why – yet they aren’t tracking their food, weighing/measuring what they eat, and have admitted to letting carbs/sugar back into their lives!

The final down side of this trip? My connecting flight from Philadelphia to the town where I live was cancelled. US Airways sucks! Screw them! They did NOTHING to try and accommodate the full flight of people stranded in Philadelphia other than to say they could book them on a flight 8 hours later. No offer to pay for rental cars, no other connecting flight options, no vouchers for our inconvenience. What a crappy airline! So, what happened? I ended up riding 3 1/2 hours back home with 3 strangers – what a trip! I was ready to have a vacation from my vacation by the time I got back on Monday night.

If you’ve hung in there for the entire story – thanks! I am beyond happy that I’ve made so many positive changes in my life. The way I was able to experience life and the compliments I received on this vacation made me want to stay motivated to keep working towards my goal weight and continue to work hard. It was a good reminder of why I did all of this and why I need to stay focused for the long haul! :)

Dealing with completely irrational feelings…

Today I find myself feeling incredibly anxious. Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving for Jacksonville, FL to attend my cousin’s wedding. I’m flying out at 5:45 a.m. – yikes!

I find myself dealing with some completely irrational feelings today. I am not an experienced flyer – the first time I flew was 2 1/2 years ago at my heaviest weight, 444 lbs. Of course, I had to use a seatbelt extender and buy a second plane ticket. So, today I find myself having these weird fears/worries that I’m 1) Going to need a seatbelt extender and 2) Going to crowd the person next to me.

In reality, I know this is silly. I might not be a stick figure… but I wear a size 12 pants and I think I look like any other normal person. Yet, I’m still sitting here worrying a little bit about these things. I’m wondering if it’s just one of those situations where I won’t believe I can fit into the plane seat until I actually see it happen and experience it firsthand?

It’s interesting how our brains still immediately worry about these things, even though I’m not that severely, morbidly obese person anymore. It’s the same kind of feeling I have when I pick up an article of my clothing and wonder how in the hell I actually fit into it!

Things were really put into perspective on Monday when I had a follow-up appointment with the PA at my weight management clinic’s office. They took my waist measurement, which is something I remember them doing during my first consult on November 20th, 2012. I never asked what my starting measurement was at that time and so I did on Monday.

62 inches….. that’s right…. 62 inches…. my waist was 62 inches! What was it on Monday?

36 inches…. that’s right…. 36 inches…. LOL

I guess I’m also a little anxious about seeing a lot of my family members again. I haven’t seen most of these family members since my wedding, where I was ALSO at my heaviest of 440+ lbs. They are in for quite a shock! Then again, this is the side of the family that didn’t notice my weight loss last June, when I was down 130 lbs… so who knows.. maybe they STILL won’t notice!! (and yes, I am sure they just didn’t notice and it wasn’t a situation where they noticed and didn’t want to say anything – trust me)

Autism Speaks 5K – So Close!!

So, today marked my first attempt at running an entire 5k! I’m happy to report that I did really well… I finished with a time of 34:02 and I ran for 98% of it. I didn’t know what to expect because I wasn’t sure what the running route was and WOW was it full of hills. I had serious doubts about me making it very far at all…. especially in the 37 degree weather we’re experiencing in Central PA this morning. Despite being able to run a complete 5K on a treadmill at the gym, I knew I was in for a rough time this week when I tried running outside twice this week when it was 55-60 degrees and my chest felt like it was on fire!

I’m really disappointed that I walked for part of the race. I made it SO close to the end… but unfortunately the race ended with the biggest hill of the entire thing and I walked up probably 2/3rds of it and then ran the remainder of the way. I still think I did really well though…. but I am NOT yet going to cross running a 5K off of my “30 by 30″ list yet because I’m going to do more and I’m going to run the. entire. thing.

Speaking of the 30 by 30 list… I never quite got 30 things put on it LOL – does anybody have any suggestions?

Here is a pic of my hot-messness after the race! I’m also excited to report that the t-shirt is a large… and I had no trouble putting it on over under-armor, a t-shirt, and then a hooded sweatshirt! It’s insane that less than 18 months ago I was wearing a 4XL!

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An awkward story about not telling people you’ve had surgery…

So, I have been incredibly private about surgery, which is interesting considering I write a very personal blog and post a lot of support forums, Facebook groups, etc. I’ve never felt comfortable telling just anyone and everyone about surgery because I didn’t want to deal with negativity, judgment, and I didn’t want the attention that comes with all of the nosy questions. So, although I would tell someone that could potentially benefit from surgery all about it no matter how well I know them – I’ve only told those people closest to me that I knew would be supportive.

Keeping the fact that you’ve had surgery on the down low can create some issues. First, the people that do know may feel as though they have to lie for you if asked directly by others, “Did so and so have surgery???” Also, they may fear it’ll somehow slip and they will be the cause of your secret “getting out.” Then there is the awkward moment when someone asks YOU directly if you’ve had surgery. This is one that I haven’t had experience with yet; however, someone DID ask me if I did it “without gimmicks” – I didn’t ask her to clarify what that meant.

Then there are the people, like the woman I talked to yesterday at a work function, that assumes just because you didn’t tell them you had surgery, that you didn’t have it.

Let me know back up for a minute. This woman I am referring to is what I call a “work acquaintance” meaning we’ve met at work and we have friendly conversations probably every 4-7 months when we actually see each other. I work on a large University campus, so if I’m not working directly with a person, it’s possible I’ll run into them at a function, but completely possible that I won’t see them for awhile. Last Fall when I was parking pretty far away from my office in order to get in a 25 minute walk to and from my building everyday, I would run into her when she would be walking to her car as well. At the time, she noticed I had lost a lot of weight and told me that I looked great. She was surprised to see that I was parking so far from my building and I had said I was parking further away intentionally in order to get in some physical activity during the day. We also commiserated on a couple different occasions about how difficult it is to lose weight. Nothing too interesting.

Cut back to yesterday when we were having a conversation, she told me I looked great, and then proceeded to tell me that she has told my story to her sisters on several occasions about how I lost all this weight and I didn’t even need surgery to do it. She then proceeded to talk about how I was “more likely to keep the weight off because I lost it the right way” and mentioned a few times that she knows people that had the “band surgery” and didn’t do well at all. She’s a nice person and her tone wasn’t judgmental; however, it was clear that she is misinformed about surgery and somehow my weight loss is superior for not having had it.

I was a bit shocked honestly when she said it. Not once did she ever ask me if I had surgery… she’s simply making the assumption based on the fact that she has seen me make efforts to get in more physical activity – so I must be doing it on my own in her mind? Or maybe she’s assuming that since I didn’t just tell her during our 5 minute conversations every few months that I had surgery, that I didn’t have it??

In hindsight… I do believe it would’ve been a good idea to correct her (in a perfect world I would have) … but imagine what kind of situation I was in yesterday. Am I really going to stop her in the middle of a work function with tons of people around, AFTER she has clued me in to her opinions on surgery, when I don’t even know her that well and say, “Actually, I did have weight loss surgery?” Like I said, in a perfect world I would’ve done it… and I would’ve tried to educate her a bit on the process. But, like I said… I’ve been private (which I think is my right), I wasn’t comfortable, and I was taken aback by the conversation.

Here’s my trouble now. This conversation has really painted me into a corner… because if for some reason she finds out that I’ve had surgery – which is a real possibility in a small town, and considering we have a mutual friend that DOES know I had surgery – I look like the jerk…. I look like the liar…. I look dishonest… when honestly, I’m just trying to live my life and be private. It’s completely my right not to share surgery with people that I don’t want to share it with… but THIS…. THIS is where it gets awkward and complicated. THIS is a situation I wouldn’t have to worry about if I were open about having surgery. So, if you’re pre-op… beware of this kind of situation, but in the end you have the right to do whatever you feel is best for you. If you choose to be private; however, things can get tricky…

What has two thumbs and an excellent lipid panel?

THIS CHICK!!!

You know your life has done a 180 degree turn when a fantastic lipid panel can get you excited and pumped for the day LOL.

I’ve never had high cholesterol, but it’s never been super great either. I was actually getting worried in October when, despite being 200 lbs down from my heaviest, my LDL numbers were getting higher and my HDL numbers weren’t really increasing!

I credit the change in the last 5 months to my hitting the gym! Up until about 4 1/2 months ago, I was walking but not really exercising too much. Now, I do some light weight lifting and running. At that time, I started to eat more veggies rather than eating straight protein all day.

So, here are my numbers:

Triglycerides: 56
HDL: 61
LDL: 91

BOOM!

So…. I may be the “jerk” of my support group!

Ok… so maybe “jerk” isn’t the right word, maybe I’m more like the “Debbie Downer” of the support group?

I say this because I’ve noticed in the last couple of support group meetings I’ve attended there have been a couple of patients about 4 months out that have talked a lot about how their “relationship with food is completely different” and that they see bad food “all the time” and they “pass on the bad food all the time and it doesn’t even bother them – they don’t even think twice about it!” These people have literally used the word “easy” when making these statements - and of course, it is at this point that I see the eyes of the pre-op patients light up. 

This makes me uncomfortable because I too felt this way for a long time. I felt this way during the six month supervised diet (with a full stomach) and I felt this way for probably 7 months after surgery as well. But, it doesn’t last. I don’t know that I’ve come across a single vet on any of the forums I frequent say that this kind of feeling lasts – really it’s all a part of the “honeymoon period” people talk about – you know, the period of time after surgery where not only it is easiest to physically lose weight, but it is also the easiest time to exercise willpower. (Side note: this is exactly why it is so alarming to see people talk about going off their plans within the first few weeks or months.)

So, anyway…what have I done during the last couple of support group meetings when this happens? I instantly jump in after these statements and tell everyone how it does get more difficult and the ease of resisting temptation doesn’t last forever. I say things like, “Well, I felt that way too… but being a bit further out, I can tell you that it changes” and things of that nature.

I feel like it could come off as me just trying to contradict the newest post-op patients when I do this, but I think it’s REALLY important for people to understand that it’s not a permanent state of being for most, if not all people. I want these pre-op patients to know that it’s hard work and these feelings don’t last forever. At the same time, I don’t want to seem like a “Debbie Downer” or jerk. I certainly don’t want to come off as unsupportive either. However, I think support is letting these people know the good and the bad of this whole process – and most newly post-op people seem to only be highlighting the good points.

I think I would rather be the “jerk” of the support group and be “real” with them, than painting a picture in their minds that somehow our relationship with food has magically changed forever. I think the newly post-op patients are going to see (very soon) this picture is just a mirage – and unfortunately they probably won’t come to support group anymore. Just to give you an idea of the support group participation – I’m 10 months post-op and the 2nd furthest out “regular” attendee. Scary!

Changing up my routine

I just passed the 10 month post-op mark. Woohoo! There isn’t much to report for this month, as I’ve had a not-so-staggering weight loss of exactly 1 lb! Yikes! In that time, I did go down to a lower pant size; however, I know the fluctuations in my weight have been from a lack of tracking (when I go off-track) and not staying on course as far as eating goes. Tracking (which means weighing and measuring food too) = success for me without.a.doubt.

I’ve decided to change my eating plan to increase my calories. NO, NO, NO I am NOT increasing my calories because I think it will “break a stall” – I’m not in a stall. Overall, I have been consuming almost a maintenance level of calories because I’ve been trying to go “hardcore” and eat low calories – but I feel miserable and hungry on those days… and it leads me to an unhealthy behavior of going (what I like to call) “off the rails” and eating wayyyyy too much in a day. Just how much, I do not know… because I don’t track when I go off the rails (bad Nikke!!); however, the scale doesn’t lie and it’s enough to impede weight loss. I may be “hardcore” for 3-4 days in the week, but eat so much the other 3-4 days that it ruins the work I’m doing.

So again, I am stopping my weight loss, I am not in a stall. I think it’s really important to point this out, because I think sometimes people say they are in a “3 month long stall” and I don’t know that I believe stalls of that length really exist. I think at some point, you’re not stalling – you’re maintaining. But, I’m no expert or vet, so what do I know (seriously) lol

So, I’ve upped my calories and decided that weight loss will come when it comes. While I’m still very dedicated to losing weight, improving fitness, and getting to a goal (even though I’m not sure what that should be anymore), I am not as dedicated to getting to that place as fast as humanly possible. I have to face the fact that at least at this point in time, I do not have the same willpower I had in the past to lose at a super fast rate.

Upping my calories, at least for the last week, has led to more consistency for me and the consumption of less calories over the entire week (because the off the rails days have stopped). Surprise, surprise… I am 4.2 lbs less than I was one week ago (but, that was after my weight jumped up 2 lbs from 2 days of poor eating lol). Mentally, I’m much happier now because I’m not often hungry and I’m still losing. Win-win.

On a much more fun note, I’ve signed up for the local Autism Speaks 5K on April 5th. This is my 2nd 5K (walked the Color Run in September) and my 1st attempt at running. I really hope I can do it!! Getting nervous!! It’s crazy to think that 18 months ago I could barely get out of bed in the morning and stand for 5 minutes without pain… and yesterday I ran 3.1 miles on the treadmill at the gym. I’m SO grateful everyday for the gift of good health!