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Last fall

Two weeks ago

So it’s been almost five months since I had my gastric bypass. Everything went swimmingly well – no complications, out of the hospital in 36 hours, very little pain, lots of walking right away, etc. I had some issues with protein supplements after the surgery – they caused some pretty nasty gastro upset. I learned how to eat again one teaspoon at a time, first with applesauce, then eggs, then mashed potatoes, then yogurt. I was pretty excited to go back to work again after four weeks.

Man, that was such a mistake. I should have taken another week off. When I went back, I was only eating 330 calories a day. I needed to nap behind my desk twice a day to survive. Luckily, I have an awesome boss, and she let me leave early twice so that I could nap in a bed instead of on a floor. I walked a lot, drank a lot, and the Ottawa nutritionist asked me to start eating peanut butter so I could get my calories up. Instant increase to 500+ calories a day. Slow increases in food density and more snacks got me up to 1200 calories a day about 3 months after my surgery, where I stay today.

Has it been easy? No. Last week I actually cried a little over salted caramel macarons. I bought two while in NYC and was so excited about them. And yet, I took one bite and hated it. Same with pineapple, once one of my favourite foods. There are foods that I used to love that I now despise, like crunchy peanut butter, or peanut butter cups. Regular peanut butter is awesome. Other peanutty goods? No.

Why did I cry? Because over 39 years I developed an emotional relationship with food. Food never let me down, and now it does. I craved a skor blizzard from Dairy Queen all summer. It has been the only food since my surgery to make me vomit. Ask me how upsetting that was! (I was devastated.) On the other hand, regular popsicles have been awesome to me this summer, and that’s something I never thought I’d say.

When I went for my three month checkup, I was right on target for “perfect” weight loss. What does that even mean? They gave me a chart at my one month checkup that said that after three months, they think I should have lost 53 pounds. At 2 months and 2 weeks, I was not there. I was freaking out. I was losing my marbles. I mean, I was close, but not close enough. My Ottawa doc kept trying to get me to think differently. The weight’s going to come off, he said. Let it come off slower and keep it off!

But you know, my body does what it does. On the day of my three month checkup, I had lost 55 pounds. And then, I relaxed. You see, studies demonstrate that long term, my weight will be 70 pounds less than when I had surgery. The surgeon’s office predicts that my end weight will be 76 pounds less than when I had surgery, and that I will get there sometime in April next year. I would like it to be 85 pounds less than when I had surgery and get there around the same time. But, my body is going to do what it does.

Today, I have lost 71 pounds. I have gone from a size 20 clothing to a size 10/12. (For those of you who have never done this, that’s a lot of clothing sizes – 20W, 18W, 16W, 16, 14, 12, 10 – there’s a duplicate size in there when you move from plus to straight sizes.) In fact, I’m wearing the same clothing size (accounting for vanity sizing) that I did when I graduated from “pretty plus” girls clothing at the age of 12. Except now I’m 4 inches taller, which helps.

People tell me that I look great. They say I look younger and taller. I say that’s all optical illusion – I’m less wide, so I look taller. And you can see my eyes better, so you can see my youthful sparkle. Apparently it will take up to two years for me to actually see myself differently, as other people see me now. I’m very lucky – because I didn’t have so much weight to lose, I don’t have a lot of loose skin – some around my neck, a little on my thighs, some on my upper arms. But definitely not enough to be removed, and not enough to cause any kind of health problem.

Some things I’ve learned the hard way: medication doesn’t work like it used to. Controlled release meds don’t work over a long time period because they’re in and out of your stomach right away. My birth control pill doesn’t work anymore (which might be the most irritating thing about this experience, since I really got used to only having a period when it was convenient). My anti-depressant only comes in a controlled release format – if my depression gets worse, I’m going to have to find another one.

Something that frustrates me a lot: it’s absolutely no easier to workout today than it was when I was heavier. I thought I would fly up my first hill when I went hiking. You know what? That didn’t happen. Holy crap, did it ever not happen. I sweated like a beast! And swimming? Also still wicked hard. Lifting weights? Hard. The only thing I do that’s easier? Squash. Oh man, I am a MUCH better squash player. Turns out that running in 3-5 second intervals when you’re 70 pounds lighter is awesome.

I’m pretty active now – it took a few months to get back into it. I walk between 7000 and 10000 steps a day. Saturdays I play squash, Sunday I try to hike, Friday nights I swim (I am truly a weekend warrior), one other night I try to play squash, and starting in two weeks, I have a soccer clinic on Thursdays. I have a hiking trip in Utah planned for late May, and another one in the Canadian Rockies for early August. (I bought hiking pants last week. It was very exciting.)

The most important thing is that I’m happy. In fact, I have never been happier in my life. Last fall, my friend Danielle took the first photo you see on this page. I hated it. It’s a great photo, technically, but I hated who I was in it. I was sad and upset and uncomfortable in my skin. I was bored and uneasy. I wasn’t sure where I fit in the world. (And let’s remember, this was after I had officially climbed out of a terrible bout of depression.)

Two weeks ago, Danielle took the second photo. I’ve lost half my hair, I have no idea how to hold my new body, and I am actually pretty stressed about my dad’s upcoming heart surgery. I’ve got a new job with a great boss and team, and I understand where I fit in my organization. I have a wonderful little dog named Charlie who has become my fur-kid. I fully believe that I have a great life. Look at that photo – I am happy.

Having a gastric bypass isn’t easy. It isn’t fun. You need to be committed to the opportunity to relearn your relationship with food. You need to be okay with intense pain when something you eat doesn’t go down the way you think it should. You need to be ready to grieve your lost food loves and be ready to embrace new ones.

I’m really glad I had this surgery. I’m really glad I got a new job. I’m really glad I got a dog. I’m really glad I’m happy.

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Holly and I have known each other for just under 17 years. She’s going to be 37 this year and I was at her 20th birthday party. It’s been a long time. My favourite part about hanging out with Holly is how she laughs at my jokes. All of them. But, I digress.

Holly has three adorable children.

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And an amazing husband (who laughs at fewer of my jokes, but whose own jokes are way superior to my own).

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Holly and I started talking about taking a trip together, just the two of us, when she got pregnant with her third child. When he was a year old, we booked flights to go to Chicago together for a girls weekend. A LONG girls weekend. Like, five days/four nights kind of long. Did I mention that John’s an amazing husband? And that those kids are 5, 3 and one year old?

About 10 days before we were scheduled to go away, Holly had to have emergency surgery. Before the surgery we talked about cancelling the trip, or my going alone, or her husband maybe coming with me instead. Holly is a pretty determined woman, though, and she grilled her doctor about the trip and if it was possible and lo and behold, we went.

Because I’m super, um, “organized”, I had an itinerary. But because I’m flexible, I can move the things around the itinerary for weather or other reasons. Holly had a couple of restaurants she wanted to eat at, and we melded the two things together into a truly awesome trip.

We went to a Cubs game in the rain. There were some pretty nasty floods after three weeks of rain in Illinois, so not that many people went to the game. In fact, most of Chicago was shut down when we got there on Thursday.

We shopped. Side note: we both bought bras. My Canadian peeps can weep at the following info: four bras, $90. Yeah, I was pretty giddy, too. Holly actually had a tear in her eye when the first Macy’s we went to only had two that she loved in her size, but we found another Macy’s and she bought more.

We did the Art Institute. Sweet Jesus, that place is big. You’d need a few visits to actually see and absorb the whole thing, I think. We spent three hours there and barely scratched the surface.

We went to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park, which was a truly lovely L ride from downtown. Now, I live in an urban neighbourhood where a 2000 square foot house is considered to be huge. The houses in Oak Park are ENORMOUS. Like, their front porches are bigger than the first house I owned.

We did a tour of outdoor public art, and we went up to the Skydeck of the Willis (former Sears) tower.

We ate. My god, we ate. We went to great chain restaurants and celebrity chef places (recommend: Little Goat) and this place for brunch where we ate for 90 straight minutes and couldn’t figure out how they make any money at all. I had two of my top 10 meals ever in Chicago.

The people were lovely. The food was yummy. The sights were great. The shopping was good. (Side note: Best shopping experience ever at Nordstrom. Can’t wait til they come to Ottawa.) It was so cold we needed to buy emergency sweaters. Even the pigeons were hanging out next to an eternal flame.

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Back on the wagon…

Back on track…

Blah, blah, blah. There’s a thousand ways to say it, and no easy way to do it.

I love Kelly from BMI. I do, I love her. She’s the most amazing combination of sweet and tough, and I needed that today. I emailed her yesterday to see if we could have a phone chat (as much as I love BMI, it’s totally nowhere near my office and not that close to my house). She called me today and I told her everything.

She knew I’d hurt my back and that I’d had a run of bad, stupid, trivial but irritating illnesses. Today, I told her everything. I told her that I haven’t journalled in months. I go to the gym and then get sick and don’t go for another 7-10 days. I haven’t run since the end of January. I haven’t swum in over a month. I go to the gym and I walk on the treadmill or bike or do a half-ass attempt at weights. I joined a fancy new gym and my per-visit cost is currently at about $10 (I like it to be more like $4). I regularly check to see what the value of my house is and calculate how long I could live off the proceeds of sale if I got laid off from my job. I eat for no reason. I go to the grocery store (frankly, mostly for medications) and I buy crap to soothe myself because I feel sick and sluggish and tired and can’t physically relieve my stress because I’m sick but I’m gaining weight and I had to buy a new pair of dress pants. I didn’t get them hemmed yet, but everything’s tight and touching my belly and I hate it.

I hate it.

I hate my body.

I hate the way I perceive myself because I gained weight (again). I hate the way I stand there and look at crappy food choices and stay “tomorrow”, or “whatever, you’re already fat” and buy it anyway, even though I know the f’ing impact of eating that food on my body. I hate that I can’t just eat one. I hate that I have to take so many stupid anti-depressants in a day and I wish I could get off them but that way lies dark and twisty and terrible roads.

I don’t really like myself that much right now, which is probably why I’m feeding myself what I know is crap, and which I know causes cholesterol issues and liver issues and heart issues. I’m treating myself the way I feel about myself, which is to say that I really don’t matter.

That triathlon is the living embodiment of what I hate about myself right now. I had plans. I was going to do better this year than last time. I was going to train for that bike and run so that I could do them quicker. But I’m going into the triathlon probably 20 pounds heavier than last time (thank you, depression and lack of impulse control). I had two months of muscle issues or infections/viruses which have lowered my physical fitness level below what I’m comfortable with. I have no motivation to do anything. I paid for a lot of group training that I haven’t participated in, which has not helped with the 20 extra pounds.

Kelly told me that the question is not whether or not I can do the triathlon. I could do it. I could come in last but still finish with no training at all because even my current level of fitness is still pretty strong. But that’s not how I wanted to do it. I wanted to do better. And yes, there will be other triathlons, but where is there a guarantee of that? Where is there a sign saying that I’m going to lose that weight again and my infections will go away and I’ll be able and willing and enthusiastic about training?

I am a perfectionist, and this to me feels like failure. I’ve had to deal with failure a lot over the past few years. Failed relationships. Failed career plans. Failure to manage to get things to go my way. Failed fertility. Failed vacations. It gets harder to remember the things that aren’t failures when you keep chalking up the crap.

I know that this is a symptom of my mental health issues. I do. I can list off the cool shit I’ve done over the past four years: I went through the northwest passage on an icebreaker, I went to India (also a failure, since I hated it), I lived in NYC for a month, I went to Coachella, I’m going to Chicago on Thursday, a Jay-Z concert in July, and a giant music festival in August. I have wonderful friends and great colleagues and lovely employees (though I sincerely wish I never had to have another conversation with any of them ever about job cuts, cause I’m getting a little too good at it).

I need to find my motivation. I need to find a reason to care about me enough to treat my body with more respect. I’m not asking for your ideas because if you tell me to look at a picture of myself that I hate, I’m going to have to hurt you. And I like you too much for that.

I’m going into BMI on Tuesday to see Dr Freedhoff and Mark the Nutritionist and Kelly who told me today to not beat myself up, but to just go to the gym for 20 or 30 minutes every day. No need to get sweaty. Just go into the building and absorb the atmosphere. Sit in the sauna. Hang out in the hot tub. Lift if I want to, walk if that’s what works, but to go.

For Kelly, because she’s so awesome, I’ll go tomorrow. And I’ll walk a lot in Chicago. And hopefully I’ll find some motivation. Motivation that doesn’t revolve around my clothes not fitting, but gives me a reason to do something, to journal what I eat, to make better food choices. A reason.

Are sometimes hard to follow through on.

As predicted, it was a bit chaotic at work this week. I’m out of the office for the next three weeks, and an amazing amount of STUFF happened at the office while I was away and … yeah. Work makes me tired.

So, I went to the gym Monday and Tuesday (squash, ho!), took Wednesday off, went to the pool on Thursday, we had a snow event here yesterday and I was too scared to drive so I consider the battling of the snow piles and the shoveling to be yesterday’s activity and this morning I did not play squash, but instead dug out the end of my driveway from the last remnants (only about 18″ worth) of the snow plow, and cleared my front path.

The food this week didn’t suck. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped for. I made my prepared lunch four days, which is awesome. The fifth day, someone was going to Wendy’s, and even though it was FREEZING, her car was inside and we weren’t even going to have to put on our boots. Hello? Exactly. I think my friend was happier about my fries than I was – she had quite the shiver when she smelled them. I also ate the homemade pizza and salads all week, too. (Still not a fan of salad.)

I’d like some hero points for going to the pool when it was -25C outside, with the wind. First, getting in chilly water when it’s that cold is just shy of inhumane. Second, walking a block to the car after, with damp hair and cracking skin? Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Couple of things went really well this week. First, people loaded me up with protein bars and suggestions for protein bars. This is good, because the more I work out, the hungrier I am, and a protein bar is a pretty decent ward against that. I’m constantly on the lookout for <200 calorie, >12g protein bars that don’t taste like chalk. This week, I got five just dropped off on my desk or hand delivered by friends. Awesome.

Also, I found a regular swim partner. I’m not the best at working out solo, particularly when I’m tired and cranky, but I’m really good at picking people up and going to an activity together. So, now I know I’ll be swimming on Thursday nights. I also really liked the pool at the Y, and am thus thinking about seeing about getting a base level membership.

And, I signed up for the BMI group triathlon training, at least for the bike and swim. Tuesday nights I’ll be swimming after squash, and Sunday mornings I’ll be biking. I think it starts in three weeks, so hopefully I’ll be fit and raring to go for our May 18th triathlon.

For the next three weeks I’ll be studying french, getting ready for my second attempt at the verbal french test. It’s downtown, so I’ll be able to meet friends for lunch. It’s kind of like a vacation where someone looks at you like they have no idea what you’ve just said every few minutes, six hours a day. All is well.

Next week, I will:

  1. Have lasagna for lunches, with veggies and dip
  2. Eat boiled eggs and cheese and crackers for snacks
  3. Have fajitas for dinners.
  4. Run/walk Monday, play squash and/or go to spin class Tuesday, take Wednesday off, swim Thursday, run/walk Friday, play squash Saturday, spin Sunday.

It’s all do-able.

 

Well, I’m a sucky blogger. It’s been almost three months since my last post. In my defence, this is a fitness and health blog, and there wasn’t really a whole lot of that going on. What happened, exactly?

  1. I went to NYC and wore the wrong shoes. Again. This resulted in me walking approximately 10 bazillion kilometres in pain (I hate my plantar fascia). With my Mum, who starts off by walking fast, whereas I warm up really slowly and then gradually speed up. Which ended up triggering more pain.
  2. I got back and decided to spend a few weeks stretching, icing, rolling, and resting. I rolled and rested, but stopped playing squash entirely due to the plantar fascia pain and didn’t replace it with anything but a half assed attempt at lifting.
  3. I ate through my stress and depression. In fact, I ate my stress for six straight months and changed medications, which was a process that really sucked.

The end result is a brutal loss of fitness combined with a sudden weight gain, resulting in Kerry feeling gross, unmotivated and wondering what went so horribly wrong.

Luckily, I have some great friends who reminded me that I actually enjoy being active and that there’s a way back. So, I went back to BMI and talked to them about what to eat when I’m working out. And I did some stuff like the Resolution Run (which I walked), and bike/run/walks at the gym with my best friend. Oh yeah, and I signed up for May’s Try a Tri, which I did two years ago, with the goal of finishing faster than last time.

Last week, I went on vacation and lay next to a pool for several days in a row. I read a book called Triathlon for the Every Woman, by a woman who writes the Swim, Bike, Mom blog. It was recommended by Allyson on the Losing it in Ottawa facebook group, which includes a number of women training for various triathlons this year. It’s a great book for chronicling the challenges involved in going from yo yo dieting and a sedentary lifestyle to completing a half Ironman. Which is insane, but it’s apparently the same price as therapy (note that I didn’t say cheaper – triathlon is freaking expensive).

I really liked the book, with the exception of how the author refers to her body. Instead of referring to it as strong and functional, she’s always calling herself fat. Look at the pictures on her blog. She’s not fat. She’s a size 10-12, and though that may be bigger for competitive triathletes, it’s pretty fricking awesome looking to me. Even at her heaviest (around my weight when she started training), she looked great. What I would give for a pointy chin like that.

Anyway, I came home from Jamaica and … didn’t go to the gym yesterday. I babysat, did groceries, and napped. But today! TODAY! Today I went to an 8:30 spin class. I was the only woman over 150 pounds in that class. And man, was it hard. The highlight was the use of a 6.5 minute long Swedish House Mafia song, until I realized that that meant 6.5 minutes of hill climbs. Also, there was a chafing incident that ensured that I will religiously follow Swim Bike Mom’s advice when it relates to what to wear on the bike.

I came home from the gym and ordered new bike shorts. Enough said about the aforementioned incident.

And I also ordered a Road ID, which is a bracelet that you wear when you’re out running or biking. Mine has my OHIP (health insurance) number on it, because I always feel like I have to have the card with me, and then I’m scared to death of losing it.

And then I went to the Running Room to get an assessment of my running shoes. See, for about 7 years now, I’ve bought shoes based solely on how they fit around my artificial toe joint, with no regard for their actual running function. Why? Because there was never going to be much running. But you know what? It’s hard to run, and I’d actually like to give myself the best measure of success.

So, I have high arches and need lots of cushioning and when I explained why (the artificial joint), the manager looked at the sales guy and said “Brooks. They’ve got that roll bar to assist in the toe off”.

Do you know what a roll bar is? I do, because it’s my favourite shoe invention ever. It’s a piece of something (usually graphite) that sort of sits between your heel and your arch and forces your foot to roll forward. That momentum helps you to toe off better. In combination with lots of toe cushioning, I’m hoping to reduce my dead foot feeling and my plantar fascia issues. We’ll see tommorrow, when I try them at the gym.

Also today, I made a shredded beef in the slow cooker. Well, technically it’s still cooking. Two small onions, 2 pounds of beef, 1/2 cup of bbq sauce. It’s going to be shredded beef sandwiches and salads for lunch this week, and pita pepperoni and pepper pizzas (seriously, I’m in love with that alliteration) with caesar salads for dinner. Snacks this week are boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, and veggies and dip.

My workout plans for this week are:

  1. Monday short walk/run on the treadmill.
  2. Tuesday rest day
  3. Wednesday spin class
  4. Thursday playing in the pool with Donna (who’s training for the triathlon but who hasn’t committed to it yet)
  5. Friday run walk at the gym
  6. Saturday squash
  7. Sunday spin class

I hope that mixing up the activities will prevent injuries. I’m going into one stressful week at work and then three weeks of language training. At the end of that, BMI’s triathlon training starts, and I’ll be into the group training of it all.

Wish me luck. I’m gonna need it  🙂

 

Dr Freedhoff will be so proud. About 8 months ago, we were talking about eggs, which i think are the cheapest, most portable form of protein out there. I like eggs a lot. My favourite breakfast is a toasted english muffin with a fried egg and a slice of fake light cheese on each side.

And yet, I only make it at most once a week. Why? Because I’m intensely lazy and my frying pan doesn’t go in the dishwasher. I use it, put it in the sink with water to soften up the cheese, and forget about it til I do my food prep again on the weekend. I told Dr F about that and he laughed at me. He gave me a really good solution and I sort of scoffed a bit.

Eight months later, I finally followed through.

I now own five frying pans and five egg flippers.

I’m cool like that.

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