Saturday, January 14, 2012


The definition of a milestone is, "A significant event or change in life, progress, development, or the like of a person."  This could cover anything from the birth of a child, a wedding or anniversary, getting that new job you have always wanted, or even something more simple, like completing that book you have been reading, receiving a passing grade on a course you have been struggling in, or losing weight.  Milestones offer us not only positive feelings and affirmations, they allow us to prove to ourselves that we really can do anything we put our minds to.  They are positive ways of looking at events or situations in our lives that we previously might have thought would never improve.  It's often a feeling of being able to tell yourself, "I told you so!" since often most humans, being naturally pessimistic at heart, tend to think or expect the worst but still get incredibly excited when the outcome turns out in their favor. 

This past week I hit two very important milestones...well important to me anyway.  The first milestone came when I went for my three month post-op appointment with my surgeon this past Thursday.  It was a bittersweet visit because even though I always look forward to seeing Dr. Buckley and discussing with him my progress and listening to his self-admitted "corny" jokes, I was sad because it was the last visit he and I would have together as he is retiring next month.  I am upset that he's leaving just because I have loved having him as a surgeon and I have actually enjoyed the appointment times spent with him (which is saying a lot considering I have suffered a bit of "white coat phobia" in my life), but I am also incredibly grateful that I had the chance to have him perform my surgery.  So, that's the bitter part of this particular visit.  The sweet part was that not only am I continuing to heal well and able to eat actual food without any real problems, I have also now lost about 60-70 pounds in the three months since my surgery, making my grand total of weight loss 91 pounds!  Talk about a milestone! 

Being heavy my whole life, I have of course tried almost every diet known to man and have had success with some, and none at all with others.  The most success I have had previous to the surgery was when I joined Weight Watchers as a teenager.  My mother and I were doing it together at the same time, which was helpful since every night we would sit down together and track all of our points used up during the day.  Being a teenager, I of course wanted to rebel against anything my parents suggested, especially when it concerned my weight, but I couldn't argue with the results as I noticed the weight start to fall off me.  Within a 6-8 month period I lost just shy of 70 pounds and despite being in a depression at the time, I did have moments of feeling proud of myself and even had more frequent bouts of happiness.  These were all very big deals, especially if you knew me at the time.  But alas, that particular time the weight was not meant to stay off.  I eventually tired of having to track the points of everything I ate, and that combined with the fact that we were moving again, did not make for a good combination.  Over time I regained all of those 70 pounds back, plus some, and was disappointed in myself for allowing that to happen.  I also had trouble dealing with the fact that I knew I had disappointed those around me, particularly family members, who just couldn't seem to comprehend my recent weight re-gain and even said things like, "How did that happen?" or "I just can't believe you gained it all back."  I've always known that these kinds of things are always said out of love and concern for my health, but knowing that doesn't make them any easier to hear either.  That is why this particular milestone is a very big one for me.  Not only is it the most I have ever lost in my life, it is also a feeling of redemption for having lost so much before and then gained it all back.  It's almost like now I'm starting at zero instead of being in the negative numbers, if that makes any sense to you!  My next follow-up appointment with the surgeon won't be for another three months now (my 6 month post-op visit) and even though I have always been a firm believer of having no scale in the house (knowing it could full well result in the loss of my sanity), I think it is time to buy one and be able to keep track of my weight at home too.  Mostly since I don't think I can handle going another three months without knowing my progress, especially while thinking about getting into a wedding dress this October! 

My second milestone of the week occurred just this morning when I took my last ever (hopefully!) Omeprazole pill.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Omeprazole, it is a stomach acid reducer, generic for Prilosec (I'm sure you have all seen the commercials on TV) which I have been taking for the past SIXTEEN years due to having acid reflux.  My father's side of the family all tend to suffer from hyper-acidic stomachs and most of us have had the "pleasure" of dealing with severe heartburn for most of our lives.  I have it, my aunts and uncles have it, even my 82-year-old grandmother still suffers from it, and the most rambunctious food that hits her stomach is peanut butter!  Suffice it to say that although the Omeprazole was the one pill I have come across in my life that actually kept the heartburn at bay (take that you useless Zantac pill!) and actually allowed me to enjoy things like orange juice and Mexican food again,  it's a great feeling to know that I will now be able to enjoy those same things without having to take a daily pill.  It's so freeing!

I have to admit that when I first began researching gastric surgery, it was done so as a means to help me lose weight.  I knew that having the surgery would help me avoid things like diabetes and (hopefully) future heart issues, and maybe even some cancers (since people who are overweight/obese are more prone to specific types of cancer), but it wasn't until I actually met with my surgeon after the initial gastric surgery information session that I learned that one of the side effects of the bypass surgery was that it essentially cures acid reflux disease.  That's a side effect to be happy about!  Because of the way they re-route your system (so to speak) during the surgery, my stomach itself is no longer attached directly to my esophagus, which means that any acid that might still be created there has nowhere to go but down.  I can't tell you how many times I have had that acid come UP my throat, and I'll spare you the details, but just know that it is an incredibly uncomfortable and painful experience and one that I am hoping I will never have to suffer through again.  The reason that today was my final day of taking the pill was because even for people who did not previously suffer from acid reflux, once you have gastric bypass surgery you are required to take Omeprazole for the first three months post-surgery as a helpful tool to aid your stomach during the recovery process.  For some people, it means adding another pill to the onslaught of pills we have to take post-surgery (most of them being vitamin supplements) but for me it was simply continuing with the consumption of a pill that has been part of my daily routine for literally, half my life.  I seriously cannot tell you enough how ecstatic I am to know that that pill will no longer be a requirement.  It's the little things in life that can really get to you!  :)

For some of you, these milestones may not seem like much, but they are big ones for me and ones that I am proud of.  They have also come at a good time as I have been having a particularly hard week thinking about my mom.  Grieving in general, but especially for someone you lost, is an interesting thing in that I don't think ANYONE will ever fully be able to understand it or predict it, despite what the 7 Stages of Grief tell you.  I think about my mom and miss her EVERY DAY, but there are some days when I can do so without feeling overcome by sadness and other days where all I want to do is stay in bed and cry.  And from what I can tell, there aren't always rhyme and reason as to what makes me feel a certain way on any particular day.  Of course there are the big days, like her birthday, Mother's Day, and the "anniversary" of her death when I already know ahead of time that I'm most likely not going to be my usual cheery self, yet there are plenty of other days too where I will be feeling the loss more prominently and have a harder time continuing with my day-to-day routines.  These days are almost harder because they often come out of nowhere and blindside me, so I'm left not only feeling sad and lonely, but overwhelmed as well...and that can be a really hard combination to get past.  Luckily I have an incredibly supportive fiancee who knows just the right things to say and do when I'm feeling down, but he also has the incredible ability of often knowing how I'm feeling before even I do.  There have been plenty of times when I'll just be feeling off, but not really know why.  All Roland has to do is take one look at me and he has the ability to immediately tell that I'm not only feeling down, but that it's connected to my mom.  Even though he has never lost a parent (thank God!) he can sympathize with how I'm feeling and will often get me talking about it, even though I usually don't want to, but have to admit that afterwards it does make me feel much better.  I also have a very close friend who has lost a parent she was very close to, and although I think it downright sucks that this particular area gives us something to commiserate with and bond over, it is also incredibly helpful.  She and I are able to discuss our experiences and feelings while simultaneously knowing exactly what the other person is experiencing and feeling.  Don't get me wrong, I'm GLAD that Roland cannot share these same feelings with me, and I absolutely HATE the fact that my friend is able to share these feelings with me, but in the long run I know that having this kind of experience to discuss with one another, allows my friend and I to not only become closer friends but to also take part in the grieving process in a way that we might not otherwise be able to.  It's another thing that is bittersweet and that also gives greater importance to daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly milestones.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year! And the Holiday Review!

First and foremost, Happy New Year everyone!  It's now officially 2012, can you believe it?!  There are a lot of things that are going to be happening this year, and I for one, am very excited...which I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that I'm GETTING MARRIED this year!  ;)  Of course, this upcoming year will hold plenty of difficult moments too, especially when it comes time for the hardcore wedding planning; I already know that picking out a wedding dress is going to prove to be very difficult without my mom by my side, but she's with me in spirit and I just have to hold on to that knowledge and I'll get through it.  Luckily though, I'm feeling increasingly better each and every day since my surgery and I'm using that positive energy (both physically and emotionally) to plunge ahead into the New Year. 

Speaking of my surgery, I was more than a little curious to see how well I would do throughout the holiday season, in terms of eating, since if your families are anything like mine, the holidays all revolve around food and all the marvelous things you can stuff into your face.  Thanksgiving was the first big hurdle because let's face it, it's a holiday all about food and eating as much as possible.  I mean honestly, who even really remembers what this holiday is really supposed to be about, considering that every portrayal consists of pilgrims and stereotypical "Indians" eating turkey and corn?  But I digress.  I'm happy to report that just shy of two months after my surgery, I was able to eat actual Thanksgiving food on Thanksgiving!  Albeit it wasn't a lot, but it was more than enough and I was incredibly thankful to just be participating and not having to "chow down" on Jell-O while everyone else stuffed themselves with turkey, potatoes, buns, stuffing, and pumpkin pie (all my favorites).  The key was (and always is post-surgery) to just eat slowly and pay attention to feeling full...and then STOP!  On my plate I had turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (only we make it with peas and affectionately call it Pea Goop), and stuffing...and it was all delicious!  I tried to eat more turkey than anything else (proteins are VERY important post-surgery) and even though I wasn't able to have seconds or even clear my plate (something I have never had a problem with in the past), I left the table feeling very, but comfortably full and had little-to-no side effects the rest of the night, even after having a small piece of pumpkin pie.  I call that a success! 

Already having battled Thanksgiving, I figured Christmas would be a breeze, especially since this year we ended up having very similar dishes on both days, the only difference being the locations and the people who actually made the food.  Christmas dinner consisted of turkey and ham (always good options when feeding a large family), mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash, green bean casserole (this time made the traditional way), buns, salad, and I think a few other things (I lost track!).  I stuck with pretty much the same menu as I had on Thanksgiving, with some ham and salad thrown in for good measure, and basically repeated the same process.  I ate slowly and stopped when I started feeling full.  It didn't matter that my eyes are still (and almost physically) bigger than my stomach (lol) and that I didn't (again) even clear my just mattered that I ate what I was comfortable with and paid attention to my body's signals until I reached the level of being comfortably full...and stopped. 

I know I keep making a big point of this, but it's a very important point since anyone who has ever had a weight problem and/or a food addiction (it's amazing how often they go hand in hand!) knows that being able to stop eating when you feel full is a very BIG DEAL.  I have lost count a million times over about how many meals I have walked away from feeling completely bloated and so uncomfortably full that I have vowed to never eat that much again...whether it was during a big holiday meal or just a dinner out on the town at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and yet time and time again it continued to happen. I have always had trouble just saying "No" when it comes to food, and it was nothing for me to eat past my full capacity at every meal.  This is where the emotional aspects come in and where it's time to face the food and addiction demons, especially when trying to find out why I was eating so much so often and basically filling any emotional holes in my life with my main comfort:  food. 

Having an emotionally and physically distant father my whole life left me with quite a few insecurities.  Although I got more than my fair share of love and support from my mother, stepfather, sister and other family members, it's still hard to focus on all the good when there's that one big blemish in your life that gives you so much pain.  I'm not going to sit here and blame my weight and any failures in my life on my father, but I do know for a fact that my relationship (or lack thereof) with him definitely played a key factor in the need for me to seek emotional support from food.  It's a compensation tool that I took way too seriously, and it took me until I became an adult to truly understand what all of this meant.  I was in and out of therapist offices throughout most of my adolescence as I suffered with my weight and a general depression and anxiety disorder.  I was given anti-depressants (turns out Prozac is NOT good for teenagers who might have suicidal thoughts/tendencies!  Who woulda thunk it?!) and one doctor even prescribed me Phen-Phen (remember that lovely little lethal weight loss drug???).  Suffice it to say that at the time, nothing really  helped and even though I gradually came out of my depression some time during high school, my weight still continued to climb as I sought acceptance in any fatty/sugary/comfort food I could get.  Even after I graduated high school and then received my Bachelor's Degree, I was looking forward to becoming an adult but couldn't ditch the main thing holding me back, my food addiction.  I wish I could say there was an easy way out or a great epiphany that helped me...but the truth is, like with any addict, I wasn't able to fix the problem until I could understand it and face it head-on.  It got to the point where I had finally met the man of my dreams (Awwww) and knew that I wanted to marry him, have a family with him, and spend the rest of my life with him...and none of that would really be possible unless I made some serious changes.  I had to take a serious inventory of what was going on in my heart and in my head that was making me think I needed to fill this emotional void with food, and I'll be honest, it took a lot of soul searching.  Things got uncomfortable and I had to have some serious discussions with myself and with my family, friends and my fiance.  I forced myself to talk about my weight and my fears and my struggles, and it wasn't until I started to honestly open up to other people, that I began to honestly open up with myself.  By facing my fears and concerns head-on, I was able to finally see my food addiction for what it was and therefore begin taking the necessary steps to fix it.  For me, one of those necessary steps was gastric bypass surgery, but that doesn't mean that is a fix for everyone.  Each person has their own path and journey.  Despite the fact that I now eat considerably less at each meal than I used to and try to eat more healthily than I used to, it doesn't mean that I can't still have slip-ups or think that I need to eat more than is necessary.  It also doesn't mean that I no longer find comfort in food, as that is all very much still a reality.  What it does mean is that I am more conscious of how I am eating and work hard at each meal to stick to my overall plan.  Like they say, it's one day at a time...and I want there to be many MANY more days in my future!