Wrapping up 2018 & a year of enormous transformation

Hey, all! Hope you are having a fulfilling holiday season. As 2018 wraps up, I thought I’d do the same with a reflective piece, then I’m spending the rest of the day working on my newest teen novel, a contemporary (realistic) fiction story.

2018: The Physical/Emotional/Mental Stuff–and isn’t it all that, pretty much???

My physical/mental/emotional transformation actually began before 2018 started, and if I had to trace a seed that was planted, it was when I co-wrote a book called Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD. The book came out on 12/14/2018, but I began writing it with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko in summer of 2016. One of the storylines in it is of a woman named Felicia, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse/sexual assault, who has coped with her pain through Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I’ll let you read the book to get Felicia’s full story, but suffice it to say that I came to realize how much I’d relapsed as I wrote Felicia’s experience of BED, her trepidation about being honest about it: her revelation–real, honest, authentic exposure of how she was using food as a drug, and experience of Dr. Matt (the character based on Dr. Jaremko) recommending Leora Fulvio’s book, Reclaiming Youself From Binge Eating Disorder, (which I read along with Felicia), I had to face harsh truths that I’d been lying to myself again, because it felt so awful and shameful to admit it: I had slipped, fallen, slid, and now actively wallowed in a puddle of my binge foods on my back, like a tortoise trying to right itself on its shell.
I have body dysmorphia, so what I see in the mirror is not necessarily reflective of reality, so I didn’t realize how big I had gotten until I saw pics of myself.

When I was in eating disorder relapse, what I saw in the mirror depended on how much shame I was feeling about how I ate the day before. (I know, I know…. they call it mental illness for a reason, mmkay? That’s one area of my life I am no more ashamed of than if I had some other disease like epilepsy or something like that. Nothing to be ashamed of.)
I won’t rewrite my entire post, When I Made Up My Mind, that started this journey, but you can go read it if you want.

I had gastric sleeve surgery on my 52nd birthday in early March, but I began in October 2017 to eat the way I learned I would need to eat after I had the sleeve, which is an emphasis on “protein & produce.” The 2 “P’s.” That’s the key. Other “keys” I learned in the education program prior to having the surgery included:  10 & 10– which means– at every meal, try to get at least 10 grams of protein and LESS than 10 grams of sugar. Other “number-y” tools include: 30 & 30: don’t drink anything 30 minutes prior to or after eating (although I’m not a really good adherent on this one–but I try, I try!), and:

64: minimum # ounces of fluid intake per day ( I usually get much more than that; more like 140 or so).

80: minimum # of protein grams per day (I usually get over 100, which is good, because it helps with not losing as much hair as one otherwise might. Rapid weight loss means you lose strands of hair at a greater rate than you normally would. I have really fine hair anyway but I think the hair loss is slowing to normal now. For awhile it was, “Holy cow!”–but still nothing like other people have had. Plus I take a biotin supplement every day.)

Some surgeons recommend a certain # of carbs per day, but mine does not.

Which brings us to another slew of numbers– what I take every day so I do not become malnourished:
3:   Three calcium supplements per day (chewable, with Vitamin D)….
2: Two chewable multivitamins per day….
1: One meltable B12 supplement per day
1: One meltable Biotin.

I’m always asked how many calories I eat per day. At the beginning, most people can’t get in more than 400 calories a day, then it’s about 700, and now I take in between 1000-1200 calories a day. From what I understand, the very low count at the start is in part due to the swelling of the stomach, which is only 15% of what it once was. It’s now the shape of a skinny banana. Some people fear “stretching their pouch” and I’ve read conflicting things about this– but if one follows the rules and pays attention to “full signals,” it’s supposed to keep its small size. (No carbonation allowed– I actually gave up Diet Coke, y’all! My last Diet Coke was 12/23/2017– and I was so addicted to it that I guess I remember that date like an alcoholic remembers giving up booze… I also have not had caffeine since January 2018. Giving up tea was NOT easy but I drink a lot of Crystal Light Green Tea which is caffeine free.)
On a day where I eat more, it might be like 1280 calories a day–and that would be a day when I work out plus clean my whole house or do a lot of other physical stuff.  The breakdown between protein/carbs/fat percentages usually works out to about 40 protein/30 carbs/30 fat, but it can vary and some days the carb intake is a little higher, but that’s unusual.

I track my daily food, liquid, & exercise on an app called Baritastic. I don’t worry about liquid intake tracking being precise like I did at the start, though, because I drink water throughout the day and am careful to stay hydrated.

I work out 6 days a week, starting out with 15-17 minutes on an elliptical (I try to go up on the resistance by 1 point per week, because I am working on strengthening my hip muscles to help support a partially torn tendon I have–the pain from that was also a motivator for losing weight because I realized I was in so much pain when I walked that I was waddling). Then I move to the stationery recumbent bike for 45 minutes (that’s my writing time, too– I have a “surf shelf” that attaches to the dashboard of the bike that I strap my laptop onto.) I take Sundays off, usually don’t get out of my pajamas, and write all day as much as possible, anything I want to write (including blog posts like this one), but usually I work on my current manuscript. I LOVE SUNDAYS!!!

When I’m working (I am a teacher), I get up to work out at 4 A.M. Mon-Fri. so I have time to feed our menagerie & give them their medications, drink a protein shake (I take all my meds/vitamins with it, because I take meds for stuff unrelated to being a bariatric patient), and generally wake up enough to get started on the elliptical no later than 5:10 A.M.
There are days I do not want to exercise, but usually I wake up looking forward to the “me” time–the “writing time”–because it touches a part of my soul that nothing else does. It’s very, very satisfying to know that I’ve made progress on my manuscript + done something positive for my hip recovery + started out my day by activating endorphins that help me cope with a stressful job.

All this work–this tracking, exercising, food choices, mindfulness, and perseverance are paying off.  I’ve lost 92 pounds at this writing, gone from a size 18 to a 5, gone down one shoe size, and I no longer limp/waddle, I don’t have sleep apnea anymore, I work out daily (well…6 days a week)  to become stronger and stronger, and, most important of all–even more than all those other things: when I wake up in the morning, I don’t immediately feel self-hatred because of the way I treated myself the day before. For me, being free of self-loathing is worth maintaining eating disorder recovery, and it is a daily–sometimes by the hour or minute–deliberate choice of being sane, rather than falling into the pit of relapse.

2018: A hella-rough year, especially the fall months

If I was still using food as a drug, Fall 2018 would have made me gain an enormous amount of weight. I’m so glad I had a lot of practice at learning to cope with my feelings without “eating over them,” prior to the crap I had to deal with in recent months. I won’t go into it more than that, mostly because the people responsible for it are unworthy of space on my page.
Instead of retreating into food, however, I chose other ways to cope like working on my manuscript, beginning to formulate post-teaching-career plans as a developmental and copy editor for authors and publishing companies (I am already signed up for editorial freelancing classes through the end of the school year), and also laying the groundwork for beginning a tutoring/test prep business, including beginning to plan for a place to do it by having an office in my husband’s shop. So, I guess I have coped by maintaining recovery from my eating disorder and being productive and proactive with life choices.

BUT: 2018: A hella-cool year, especially the fall months

My most recent published book, co-written with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko, Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD, released in December 2018, and the reviews for it are nothing short of gratifying. Matt has done a great job in interviews on top-10 podcasts; the professional endorsements we’ve received are strongly positive, and readers are receiving the message(s) we meant to convey when we wrote the book. SO. COOL!!!!

2018: More deeply in love with my husband than ever

My husband is an immeasurable blessing, my best friend, fountain of unconditional love and support, and amazing partner and father to our children. We’ve been together for 38 years and he is my soulmate.

2018: Ch-ch-changes and growing and evolving children–and always, always, ALWAYS, fierce love for each other

This year saw one daughter meeting her love, another daughter beginning the process of figuring out who she is and what she wants for herself and in a love, and another daughter seeking adventure through travel for her job.

As I write this, one daughter and her love are rising from a night of sleep after driving from our house in Texas to Ohio, as they head to her love’s family’s holiday gathering; another daughter hit the road 4 hours ago, to head back to North Carolina, and another daughter in Colorado but due home to Texas for a late Christmas with us in 11 days (I’m counting….) before she heads off to Reno for the next assignment.

But no matter how far apart we are, we have a connection of unconditional love and support  that time and space cannot weaken. We have each other’s backs fiercely, and that means when someone treats one of us badly, that person done effed up with all of us.
Example: I am incredibly thankful that I can send my husband & kids a group text about one of the craptastic things that happened to me the past few months, and I get answers that include, “I’m so sorry you have to deal with that…” to “OMG! That is such a violation of [censored so as to not reveal details]!” to “I wish I was closer ’cause I’d key [redacted]’s car….”  to “What a —-.” (Censored).
At the same time, we tell each other the truth and address problems when they come up. I value that authenticity so much.

2018 and beyond: A note for Americans

Our country needs every citizen to take note of what’s going on and fight for what America  is meant to be: a democracy, not an autocracy, with results of an election determined by the voters, not a foreign country.
Please be informed and aware of what’s going on in America. Please go beyond partisan news sources to learn more about what you’re reading on Facebook, seeing on cable news channels, and hearing from family and friends. Verify stuff before you share it on Facebook. If you google something you read and you cannot find it on scholarly/non-partisan news sites in addition to the site it came from, please think twice before sharing it. Here’s a resource that you could find helpful. 



Avoiding the Slippery Slope While Up to my Elbows in Butter (RECIPES INCLUDED!)

It’s been a long time between posts–I had gotten to where I felt like, “I’ve got this now; I live my life with my new routine and I don’t need a blog to stay on the straight and narrow any more”–and I’ve (more than once) considered deleting this site all together– but this past week reminded me that I want and need to have this accountability, even if it’s just waiting in the wings and even if I’m the only one who reads it. I had to push myself to write today, even, although “blog post” has been on my To-Do list since writing through stuff is how I process it. I am committed to honesty and authenticity because that’s the only way I stay as steady and grounded as I am able to be as long as I do what I think of as my “basics”: eating in a way that manages my eating disorder, working out, writing daily, and keeping my priorities straight. I don’t blog daily; I am at work on my sixth book, a YA contemporary (realistic fiction) novel.

Eating disorders are diseases and of course they’re a mental thing, right? Well, the struggle between what my ED was telling me to do over the past few days and what my mind knows I HAVE to do to maintain what could be considered “sobriety” or “abstinence” has been Herculean in nature. It’s been a challenge to keep my feet on the ground instead of climbing that ladder to hurl headfirst onto the Slippery Slope into relapse. Holidays are hard for people without EDs to manage their lives in a steady way–overindulgence seems to be a foundation of celebrating, right?– but the struggle for me was REAL over the past week of Thanksgiving prep, Thanksgiving itself, and the continued presence of such yummy fare in my house. I probably seemed weird to my family: “Are you gonna eat more of those or should I freeze them for when the other kids come home at Christmas?” And, one of my “to-do” items for today is to figure out meals for this coming week. I have to have a plan or I get wobbly. (I say “wobbly” to mean, feeling shaky about being able to maintain healthy eating patterns, instead of feeling grounded and okay.)

It’s so weird– I stopped eating my binge foods (sugary sweets, breads, cereal, pasta, butter, etc.) a year ago in October when I began prep for sleeve surgery– and I don’t remember for sure, but I’m nearly positive I didn’t indulge in any of those things in Nov/Dec of 2017, but this year, Thanksgiving was challenging. Maybe last year, everything was so new and my resolve was SO POWERFUL that I wasn’t tempted. That, plus I knew that I couldn’t regain even ONE OUNCE from the day of my weigh in, Mid-October 2017, or my insurance would not cover the surgery.

That easy resolve was absent this year. Honey, I was tempted. But I didn’t trip, slip, slide, or plunge headfirst into a vat of gravy (even though the gravy was really good… I’m told.)

Below, I’m sharing the bariatric-friendly recipes I used this year–all except one were well-received and complimented on by my family (and I didn’t like the one that was judged “yuck,” either…) If you want to see the recipes, scroll to the purple section of this post and I’ll give you the links. These foods were prepped in addition to the non-bariatric recipes (see next section) I made for my family. I did not feel deprived at all.

If you WANT to see the non-bariatric-friendly recipes I prepared for my family, click this link to go to this (hidden) page. The password is “cook”– just the 4 letters, non-capitalized, no quotation marks. I’m sharing it this way to avoid triggering anybody who might be wobbly right now. If you’re not so wobbly at this time AND you, like me, are the chief cook and bottle-washer for your family at the holidays regardless of how you might need to eat for ED recovery, these recipes all received resounding approval from my family. Unlike me, my family does not have a hard time walking away from holiday foods like these, no matter how good they taste. Dare to dream, right? LOL.

I know from being a member of a few bariatric surgery support groups on Facebook that a lot of people who are sleeved still have a spoonful of each delectable dish. (Hell, y’all, there’s people on there a week out of surgery asking on the forum how soon they can have a chicken nugget! I always think, “You had 85% of your stomach removed and you still want to eat that shit?” But I digress…)
I saw many pics of dinner plates that resembled the numbers on a clock, (sweet potatoes at 3 o’clock, mashed ‘taters at 6, etc.)–but I knew–that is, I KNOW–I can’t be one of those one “spoonful people.” I’ve done that countless times throughout my life, the most significant being the loss of 100 pounds around 2004-2005, and the steady regain of most of it because I told myself I can eat like other people do–and I used a utensil more like a shovel than a standard silverware spoon, mmkay?  I lie to myself, and down I go on the Slope. The damned thing must be really long because last time I fell down it, I was sliding for like… seven YEARS????
Remember how the name of this website is “The Biggest Liar”? That’s the voice in my head that says things like, “Just eat in moderation…You can eat like other people…Do you want to be deprived?…Your head hurts, honey. Eat & you’ll feel SO MUCH BETTER.”

The gastric sleeve–which is usually referred to as a “tool” by people who prep patients for bariatric surgery and by patients themselves–does not permit me to do that kind of pig-out eating any more (Pause here to praise Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, and Dr. Preeti Malladi, my surgeon…) That’s the “tool” part of it. The surgeon leaves a skinny-banana shaped stomach that holds about 3-4 ounces at a time. Besides the mechanical aspects of the “tool,” people who have not eaten sugar & fat in great quantities for a long time are liable to experience “dumping syndrome.” I used to experience mild “dumping” when I binge-ate, even before I was sleeved, so I have no doubt I’d experience it again, on a much more severe scale now. I once fainted in a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant after having nothing but glazed donuts for breakfast. Hit my head on a planter on the way down. I was a teen at the time.

Throughout my life, holidays were studies in conflict: anticipation of treats associated with my mom decorating our house for Christmas–like, coming home from school, and our house was magical. Same thing with my grandmother’s house, on an even larger scale. Every room, even the bathrooms, were decorated. I do something like that myself; in fact, my youngest daughter and I decorated for Christmas on Friday. I love doing this and creating that “specialness” for my family.
When I was a child, the longing I felt for the time of year when our house became magical was so strong it was sometimes painful… and so much of it was wrapped up in food, which I gorged myself on so that it was painful or sickening. SO. WEIRD. I can remember going to my grandmother’s extra bedroom, undoing my pants, and laying on my side on the bed and just waiting for the food to go down enough that I could breathe deeply–only to return to the exact same food (I’m thinking an overflowing Thanksgiving plate here)–and repeat the whole cycle again and again.

When I grew up and had my own home, I did the same thing, but not just on holidays. I once burped peanut butter for days and days and days because I kept eating these these brownie-type foods that were made with peanut butter. My stomach was on fire but I kept eating them. They were a type of cookie my mom made all the time when I was quite young.
When I was a stay-at-home mom and we had one income for our family, we frequently scraped to get by and when we had more month than money left, I often made the heaviest, richest, most sugar-laden stuff: scads and scads of cookies, of which I would eat the majority of–and my kids would eat alongside me. I’d make it then immediately need it to be GONE, because I couldn’t stop eating it when it was there, and, I’ll be honest, it’s a little like that for me and the types of Thanksgiving food that’s here right now. I make it because it is a tradition and I love providing for my family. I don’t mind doing it, and I think it’s fine to celebrate and have meals that are festive. I just have a mental disorder that makes me see this stuff as something other than the ingredients it’s made of, and I know I’m not alone in that. After all, the sense of smell is the strongest associated with memory, right?
As a young wife & mom, I’d panic feeling that I needed to provide for my kids– “Okay, we don’t have enough money right now but we have all THIS. I can make cookies out of this and this and this–” and no matter if they were good or not, I ate them anyway, and, as a consequence, I also taught my children how to numb themselves with food. I modeled disordered eating for them, to my great shame. I try not to beat myself up, but it’s awfl when I see my child struggling and I know she learned it from me. When I modeled those behaviors, I was still “broken” myself at the time–I hadn’t entered recovery for CSA–and I constantly soothed myself with the kinds of foods I ate in my house growing up. It is one of my greatest regrets as a parent: saddling my children with disordered eating by modeling it–as well as constant dieting and an obsession with losing weight, because I would binge-starve-binge-starve-binge-starve… put notes on the refrigerator and images of what I wanted to look like, hoping I could reach some unrealistic ideal, and setting my kids up with a fucked-up image of what it is to be a healthy person. God, I regret that so much. If you’re doing that to your kids, PLEASE. STOP. NOW. Get some counseling NOW. Please. Don’t wait until you have a melt down like I did.

The whole thing with the way I binge on holiday foods (if I climb those stairs to the slope and plunge headfirst down it) is soooo connected to that being a happy time when I was a child. I know it’s that way. I felt close to my mom when we were baking together and making fudge and… I’ll put it this way: I used to decorate my dollhouse for Christmas when things were especially awful at my house. I craved that “light”, secure feeling of knowing what to expect every year. The sounds, smells, traditions–including food–that are part of the holidays (to me) were like white noise that drowned out the other stuff in my head, like waiting for better days to get here. I’d play Christmas music in July or August (it drove my stepfather absolutely up the wall, ha ha ha.)

So I have this history with disordered eating that always looked(s)/(will look) like a version of this: “I’m not going to eat any more because all that butter and sugar made me absolutely ill, but damned if I won’t go right back to the same foods the next time I felt the tiniest hunger pang. ‘Wheeeeee! I get to eat again!'”

When I was at a family gathering a couple weeks ago, I tried to explain why I refused the offer of tasting some kind of sugarplum-type dessert as, “I haven’t had sugar like that in over a year, and I don’t want to start now…it’s a Slippery Slope.” And I don’t know if the people at the table got it–they’re “normal”, you know the type, LOL–they can eat that stuff without it carrying all kinds of memories and baggage and cravings–(don’t those types make you sick? LOL)–but it doesn’t matter if they get it or not.

Thanksgiving afternoon, I sighed heavily, slid onto a chair at our kitchen table, and told my daughters something like, “This is hard, and…it’s not…it’s not BAD; it’s just DIFFERENT and Thanksgiving feels different to me because I’m not reaching for that roll or planning to eat those tarts, and it’s like my mind doesn’t GET it.”

So instead of focusing on that, I focused on eating the way I know I have to eat to stay “okay,” and we hung out and played cards. I even learned a new game!

Bariatric-Friendly Stuff I Cooked for Thanksgiving:

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast-This recipe calls for 2 turkey breast halves, but I got one full breast & cooked it in a Reynold’s Oven Bag. I also salted/oiled the breast the day before I roasted it, then put on the herb rub while the oven preheated. It was so moist & delicious! We didn’t cook a whole turkey and the amount of meat we had was perfect for us. My daughter made a Waldorf-type salad with it on Friday, too. (It was about a 9 pound breast–poor turkey, walking around with THAT on her front! LOL Tell y’all what: the turkey breast is the only way I’m cooking the bird from now on, even if I have a bigger crowd & need 2 of them. So little waste!)

Roasted Cauliflower–this was a hit with everybody.

Roasted Mixed Vegetables (I used a Hidden Valley Italian Seasoning packet in place of using the various herbs the recipe calls for.) –also highly complimented.

Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash (my daughter used sugar-free pancake syrup in place of the maple syrup)–my kids liked this, too.

Artichoke Parmesan Spread (this was the YUCK item. Y’all, even the raccoons wouldn’t touch it. The recipe must be wrong or something–too much lemon!!! I get that the artichokes make it tangy as well as the plain Greek yogurt, but the lemon was overpowering and it was NASTY.

Note: for those of you who feel it’s not the holidays without a dessert of some kind, there are lots of recipes like “Pumpkin Fluff” and some people recommend making a pumpkin pie (leaving the crust out of the recipe), but I’ve binged on Pumpkin Fluff in the past as well as pumpkin pie and the Weight Watchers recipe I used to make with just canned pumpkin and cake mix (yes, that’s a thing)– I mean, I ate the whole 13 x 9 cake over a matter of hours, so I was pretty sure I would be triggered by that behavior of eating it, sleeve-be-damned.
Remember the Slippery Slope: I’m avoiding that thing like it’s covered in razor wire. So, I had my standard dessert instead: 1/2 cup of Light & Fit Vanilla Greek Yogurt + 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. I sprinkle it with Truvia and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Sometimes that’s still too much for me to eat, though. One of my daughters thought it seemed gross and asked me where I came up with it. I have no idea. It’s something I ate when on the soft food part of the WLS recovery but I know I used to eat it back in Ye Olde Dieting Days, too. I think it’s pretty good and it’s healthy, too.

ALSO: here’s the link to a free PDF of a book, The Ultimate WLS Thanksgiving: Bariatric Surgery. Check it out!

Last but not least… I’m adjusting to being “tiny.”

Last time I weighed any where near 120 pounds was when I was in 6th grade, and we had to go in to the nurse’s office to have our height & weight checked. I’ll never forget it because I was in shock. I was 5’3″ tall– at that time, I towered over other girls, but that’s the last year I grew vertically– and I weighed 116 pounds. Nobody else was in the triple digits and I remember feeling shame when the girls were comparing their weights. I felt like Shrek.
Man, I wish I could go back to that girl–that “me”–and wrap my arm around her. I’d say, “Honey, YOU are not your weight. YOU are amazing and strong and beautiful as you are, right now. You are going through so much and the fact you don’t curl up in a corner and just rock back and forth is astounding.” If that girl were one of my children, I’d move Heaven and Earth to help her.
But nobody like that was around back then–or if they were, I wasn’t talking– so instead I felt awkward and anxious and self-conscious. I had so much horrible stuff going on at home at night that I couldn’t tell a soul about and it just…it was EVERYTHING. Colored everything about my perception of myself. I have compared the shame one feels at being sexually abused to being like if someone dumped a 5 gallon bucket of paint labeled “Shame” over a victim day after day, hour after hour. It never went away. If I started to feel “normal” for even a second, I’d just have to remember what was true and what was happening.
What does this have to do with being tiny?
I’m a little self-conscious. When I went through prep classes for sleeve surgery, we were told that one could expect to lose 40-70% of the excess weight. I remember thinking, “Screw that; if I’m going to go through this, I’m going to meet my goal and lose ALL OF IT.”
Last time I weighed, I was 121 pounds. I’ve lost 84 pounds now. I’m wearing small tops & size 5 pants–and even those are loose in the legs. I’m not whining or complaining–I promise, I’m not. I’ve worked really, really hard to be successful with this surgery, and I’m stubborn and determined enough that when I make up my mind to do something–and if it’s something that I have control over it being achievable or not; I’m not at the mercy of other people’s whims or anything–it’s pretty much a given that I can do it. I earned a 4 year college degree in 3 years, graduated with a 4.0 when I got my M.Ed.; and I’ve been successful with breaking into publishing and having stuff I’ve written published. Now, that’s at people’s whims, but finishing a book? That’s all Beth-powered. So I know I can do what I need to do when I want something, and I want(ed) to be as healthy as I can and be as strong as possible so I can overcome an injury I sustained in a fall that did some serious damage that I’m still dealing with on a daily basis. That’s what part of my workout is: strength building with weight-bearing exercises.
I track what I eat faithfully– the food log helps me make sure I’m meeting my needs AND reassures me that I’ve eaten enough on days the “head hunger” is strong (like on Thanksgiving)– and I am also working out an hour a day, six days a week. This isn’t happening by magic, and I like what I see, pretty much–and I love having more energy and becoming stronger every day. I just get a lot of comments from people who don’t see me every day, and sometimes it’s kind of startling because what I do is just my life at this point and most days (except unusual days like Thanksgiving), I don’t think about losing weight any more. I think my body will find a natural place and stop at it based on the number of calories I consistently take in and put out.
When I feel ready, I will put a side-by-side comparison for you (and me) to see. This is so much not about looks, though–it’s about being in ED recovery for me–that I’m not ready to make it about comparisons.
Later, y’all!


A year later…

I met the goal I set for myself when I began this journey about a year ago: I lost the 75 # I had regained after once having lost 100#, and I’m more physically fit than I’ve been in years.
Those successes, however, pale in comparison to another, and it centers on the name of this website: The Biggest Liar. I’ve said before that I relapsed into my eating disorder because I listened to the voice in my head that said I needed food to cope with my feelings. Until the past 2 1/2 weeks, however, I had not faced a true test of healing and recovery from my eating disorder.

I experienced workplace incidents that triggered the PTSD I have as a result of childhood trauma, specifically Childhood Sexual Abuse. Moving past this has been especially difficult in light of the fact that I cannot merely avoid returning to the place where I was triggered; I obviously have to go to work every day. The fallout of being triggered was experiencing  symptoms that I have not experienced in years, most powerfully that of dissociation and confusion. I didn’t “eat over it.”

Last week, two of five kittens that a stray pregnant cat gave birth were slaughtered in the most horrendous way by some neighbor dogs. I was able to place the surviving three with a local humane society and they went into foster homes–as in–INSIDE foster homes. I was unable to bring the kittens, who will be six weeks old tomorrow,  inside our house, and my efforts to keep them safe failed. I am hoping that time will make what I saw not so vivid in my head. It was awful. Again, this would have been something I numbed myself over, but I didn’t.

I first began eating a lot of sweets as a child–but it really took hold and became extreme binge eating when I as a teenager, after I told my mom what had been happening to me at my stepdad’s hands and nothing was done to help me.

I had fleeting thoughts of pigging out as a result of the traumatic events of the past weeks, but the thoughts passed relatively quickly, I believe, in part because I cannot physically DO THAT any more. I could make unhealthy choices, and I caught myself starting to automatically choose protein bars over “real food”, but I am staying mindful.

In truth, in the worst of the past weeks, I actually went the other extreme, finding it nearly impossible to eat. At the end of one day, I updated my food tracker and realized I had only consumed 245 calories. The tracker enables me to pay attention to my protein intake as well as calories, carbs, & fluids, so I forced myself to consume some food. When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I used to alternately binge-starve-binge-starve–but I don’t think that is what was going on so much as just being so anxious that I didn’t have an appetite at all.

I feel like I’m coming out of the fog, and I made it through without, for example, going to Sonic and getting a milkshake. I haven’t had any sugar like that in over a year, and there’s this thing called Dumping Syndrome which is supposed to be awful, and it happens when sugar/high fat are consumed after so long NOT eating it. Besides, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made.

I’ve never given weight numbers all along, but now I will. At my heaviest, before 2004, I weighed 225 pounds. I had gotten back up to 205. I now weigh 130. For most of my high school years, I was between 135-140, and, Lord, did I think I was huge. My biggest dream was losing 20 pounds so I could be stick-thin like the cheerleader types. Sadly, big round butts were not “in” when I was in high school, or I would have been the envy of all (LOL).

Last time I saw my primary care doctor, he was enthusiastically talking about how, after I lost all my weight, I could have plastic surgery and have my loose tummy skin tucked and my boobs lifted and my arms tightened. Aside from not having a money tree in my backyard, I intend to have none of that stuff done. My body is my body. We have been through a lot together, and we have the scars to prove it. I am not judging others who have such procedures done, but I have no desire to undergo cutting and pain and the risks inherent in such major surgery, besides that I swore I will NEVER undergo surgery again unless NOT having surgery will allow me to die.

Nope. I’ll take my skin, all of it, and continue to work daily to eat healthy, work out to the best of my ability, and enjoy the benefits of not carrying around the equivalent of 2 huge bags of dog kibble on my body.

Right now, I’m one-day-at-a-timing it, taking baby steps to get through the dregs of being triggered, and looking forward to finding my long-lasting “Steady On.”



I’m melting, I’m melting!

In just 4 days, I will hit the 6th month since my sleeve surgery on March 8, my 52nd birthday.
In those six months, my life has done a 180 in terms of physical health and quality of life:

I’ve lost just over 70 pounds. I am now a size 8–I had started this journey at size 18–and I weigh what I weighed in high school.

I sought help for my hip pain, was diagnosed with a partial tendon tear and bursitis that happened as a result of a fall I took, and I completed physical therapy. I still have to be careful, do stretches, and work at building strength by doing weight bearing exercises (it’s the elliptical for me) plus I work out with a recumbent bike, 6 out of 7 days a week.  I no longer limp and I am in better and better condition.

I have not binged since early October, 2017, and I do not have the urge to binge eat at all.

I’m happier overall. I do still have a dysmorphic way of seeing myself, I’m unable to look at clothes and see them as possibly fitting because I mentally still feel larger than I am, so I just go by my clothes getting loose to try on a smaller size. Fortunately, I never gave up on the idea of getting smaller again, so I still have clothes as small as size 4-5. I have no idea if I will get to that point because of the extra skin I have, but the relief I feel at not feeling electrically charged to stuff myself makes me really not care how much smaller I get. Sometimes people comment, “Don’t lose too much weight!”–but my body will just stop where it decides to. Anyway, I’m only 5’3″, so I have a way to go before I’d be considered underweight.

Getting the surgery was a super positive decision for me. I again started to consider deleting this site, but it’s my accountability. I have gone through this journey (so far) very publicly, and I did so for accountability. I am working hard to make this smaller stomach tool work.

This whole “health” thing requires mindfulness/deliberate choices, but I’m coming through for myself, and I’m proud of that.




“You weren’t that big to start with”/”You took the easy way out”/and just plain “Hard work.”

Nearly 5 months out from surgery as of August 8th, and I’m writing an update a little early because I’m having a rest-and-write day.
Some people say to avoid Bariatric Surgery forums, but others recommend them for support. I generally find them supportive, and I find the photos people show of their progress to be inspiring.
But lately, there’s this vibe on the forums where people who have a hundred or more pounds to lose are coming across as demanding justification for having the surgery from those who had less than a 100 pounds to lose. It’s almost like, “What are you doing in this group? You weren’t that big to start with.”

Prior to my surgery, I told a few trusted colleagues that I was having gastric sleeve, and after I had the surgery, I was open with those I trusted about what I’d had done. I do not consider it a shameful thing, so why keep it a secret? The downside to being open about something like gastric sleeve surgery, however, is becoming an object of discussion: “We were talking about you and we don’t think you were that big to start with…”–which is like a veiled way of saying, “Why did you have surgery? You didn’t need it.”

Here’s the thing: I needed to lose 75 pounds to get to a healthy weight. I’m not there yet: I still have about 12 pounds to go, but I also don’t know where my body will stop. 75 pounds was a number I chose because that would get me back to where I was when I lost 100 pounds, long ago. I may not lose another pound. I’m okay with that. It won’t change the way I’m keepin’ on keepin’ on.

I’m only 5’3″ tall, and I have a small bone structure, so carrying extra weight, even though it was not hundreds of pounds, affected me adversely.  The weight I am right now is one of my “set point” weights that I often settled at in the past.

When I regained 75 of a 100 pound weight loss from the early 2000s, sleep apnea returned, and that is what qualified me for surgery because it is a  “co-morbidity,” meaning that in addition to having the disease of obesity, which can cause early death, I had another disease present in my body that could also cause death. My surgeon approved me; the psychologist approved me; the fitness people approved me; the insurance company approved me. I jumped through hoops for 4 months. I spent thousands of dollars because I have a ridiculously high deductible. I underwent an endoscopy. I had 12 vials of blood drawn in one sitting to check various things in my blood. I took time off from work to go to nutritionist appointments, which ended up costing me because I “ran out of days off” and I got docked.

As I stated in the post, “When I Made Up My Mind,” which is the home page for this site, the moment I decided to pursue this surgery was when I was walking through the airport and I realized I was waddling because it hurt so much to walk. Now: I know that part of the reason I had that pain was that I have a partially torn tendon where it attaches to my hip bone, but I’ve been told by the orthopedic doctor and the physical therapist that losing weight has helped this condition not be as painful.

I’ve gotten to where I’m not limping any more and I’m doing physical therapy for the torn tendon. (That’s part of my rest-and-write day now; I spent last week helping my daughter move from one house to another, and I was not quite as careful as I was supposed to be in going up and down stairs, which is the worst thing I can do with the problems I’m having. So, it’s ice & rest & physical therapy for a few days…and possibly another cortisone shot…)

Having sleeve surgery also has given me an extra tool for managing the eating disorder I have. I track everything I eat to check my protein and fluid intake–and keeping a food log like I do helps me with my ED. I work out 6 of 7 days a week on a recumbent bike because it helps loosen up my hips and I walk with less pain. And, yes, the exercise helps weight loss and toning, too.

BUT: One side effect of rapid weight loss is skin that just sort of…drapes. Given the just-right position, a glance in the mirror is an exercise in choosing the mindset to have about this. It’s either, “Oh, my god, parts of me are flat, parts of me look like I’m filled with cottage cheese, and….that part appears to be risen bread dough that was just punched down….” OR “Hm. Yep, that’s my body. Now, what is it that I need to do today?”

Here’s what I’ve decided about the parts of my body that make me uncomfortable to look at: it’s karma. Here’s why: over the years, if I noticed, for example, some woman in a sleeveless shirt and the skin hanging off her triceps brought to mind bat wings, I was judgy about them. My judgment was this, in my head: “Yuck. Oh, my god, I’m so glad my arms don’t look like that.” (I suppose I preferred my seat-cushion-like upper arms to be filled with Vanilla Oreos and Cookies and Cream ice cream…)

ALSO, as long as I’m revealing what a terrible person I am… you know the actress who plays Claire on House of Cards? I was always judgy about her neck–like, her neck looks like she’s had a tracheotomy…. well, guess what, guys? My neck doesn’t have extra skin hanging off it; instead, every tendon is visible and I have the crater at the base of my neck like she does. (Now if you see me all you’ll focus on is that crater, right? LOL LOL LOL).

I’m no longer a church going person, but I can still throw Scripture at the wall and see if it sticks: “You reap what you sow.”  I totally consider the stuff on my body that is cringe-worthy to be karmaic justice.

There are surgeries available to remove excess skin, after a person is about 18 months out from their bariatric surgery. However, I will not be one of those people. The nausea, vomiting, failures of my I.V. that necessitated 2 more I.V.s than I should have had, and general unpleasantries I went through because I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia, all kept me in the hospital an extra day. I will not be having surgery again unless I am dying. Plus, I’m fortunate in that I did not have more than 100 pounds to lose, so I don’t have the amount of extra skin that others have. I hope those who want the surgery can have it done. But I’m not going to pursue that.

I go back to work next week; school is starting again, and I am aware that I have a drastic change to my outer appearance. I expect comments and questions about how I lost as much weight as I’ve lost, how much I’ve lost, etc., and I don’t mind curiosity–to a point. But I’m not going to tell people all the stuff I wrote above in terms of what feels like justifying my decision to have 85% of my stomach removed and commit myself to lifestyle changes that are permanent, as well as following rules so that I don’t regain lost weight.

Instead, I’m going to borrow a line from an author friend of mine who lost a lot of weight and when I asked her how she did it, she said, “Hard work.”
This is hard work. Weight loss is hard work, no matter how it happens. I’m not just sitting around doing nothing while weight falls off. I’m doing what I need to do to stay healthy while it’s happening and to make it happen, and I’m choosing behaviors that are in sync with weight loss. There are people who have this surgery and end up in the hospital because they are dehydrated, or they don’t eat enough protein and/or they don’t take their vitamins and become malnourished. The first few times I went to my bariatric surgeon after the procedure, the first question I was asked was, “Have you had to go to the E.R.?”

I suppose there are people who choose to do as little as possible and sabotage themselves by gaming the system, testing the boundaries of what is recommended in order to make best use of the “tool” of a smaller stomach. In the first orientation meeting I went to, there was a woman who was literally WEEPING because she would have to give up Dr. Pepper. At that time, I thought, “Woman, no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to have this surgery, so if that’s something you don’t think you can change, don’t do it to yourself.”

The skinny banana-sized stomach left after surgery is not a panacea. It’s a tool, and tools can be misused. If I want to drink chocolate-peanut butter milkshakes all day, I could, but I won’t feel good, and I’ll gain weight, my hip pain will increase, I’ll be sleeping with a CPAP mask on again, and I guess I’ll be naked because I’ve been giving my too-big clothes to Goodwill and women’s shelters as I’ve gotten smaller.

I don’t know if my friend (who said “hard work” was the way she lost weight) had surgery or not, and it does not matter. What does matter, in as much as it comes across as patronizing, is the statement/belief that bariatric surgery is the easy way out. If you really think about it, that’s a shitty thing to say. It’s making assumptions that the person saying it is utterly unqualified to make, and it also implies that because the person is overweight, they are “less than.” Or that they should continue struggling against something that has not worked for them on their own.

Sometimes people cannot wait to share horror stories about people who did not do well following the procedure–which is also another thing that pops up on the forums–or I get tales of people who went back to their old eating patterns and regained weight.
What, exactly, are people who have not had problems with the surgery supposed to say to those, other than, “I’m so sorry”? What is the motivation for telling people about that?

I made a choice that affects me for the rest of my life. It is hard work to make the “tool” of a smaller stomach work.  Plus–and this is one of those times when a curse can be a blessing– I am obsessive-compulsive, I crave order and patterns of “being” since I had no order or established routines when I was a child, and I’m a teacher. I’m a rule-follower. I’m also stubborn as shit when I make up my mind. Once that switch flips and I choose to stay aware of what I’m doing instead of going on auto-pilot like I did when I relapsed, I’m where I need to be to reach my goals–and that’s any goal I set for myself, from following sleeve rules to writing a book.

Here’s some examples of how I live my life differently now– and this is not a list of “woe is me” at all; rather, it is evidence that this is not the “easy way out.” It is a choice to make changes and follow “rules”:

1. I take vitamins and supplements twice a day to keep from being malnourished.
2. Along with everything I eat, I also track my fluid consumption- I have to have at least 64 oz. of water/liquids a day.
3. I track my protein consumption- I have to have at least 60-80 grams of protein a day.
4. I eat no more than 1/2 cup of food at a time, and I always eat protein first then see if I have room for other food. (But after I’ve met my protein intake, I do eat stuff like salad, cooked vegetables, & fruit, too, between meals, etc.) I also have learned to wait while eating so that my food has a chance to go down before adding more.
5. I plan out what I am going to eat in advance–this was something I did when I lost weight before. And I don’t mean that I figure out everything I’m going to eat from moment to moment; I cook ahead and plan so that I am assured I have food available that is what I can eat. I put it in small containers so that it is already in the amount I can eat, too. I eat between 900-1000 calories a day.
6. I am religious about exercise in the way I was when I lost weight before. It makes me feel better, I write while I’m on the recumbent bike, and I love feeling my muscles.

So: I’m taking my vitamins, tracking what I eat, eating less, providing myself with healthy options, and exercising more, which is the “formula” for weight loss. How is what I do the “easy way out”? It’s not. It’s hard work.


4 month update! Questions? Comments? Concerns? Quandaries?

Hey-o, I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m doing great. I’ll warn y’all now: this post is chatty as can be, so if you’re not in a chatty mood, move on by.

I had my 2nd post-op follow up this past week, and the surgeon was very pleased with my progress. I’ve lost almost 60 pounds from my highest weight, I’m working out 6 days a week, and the hip pain I had before is better in that my left hip no longer hurts. My right hip still does, but I found out it’s not weight-related.  When I fell in a restaurant in May 2017, it was a really violent blow to what the physical therapist scientifically (LOL) called “the butt bone.” NOT my tailbone, but the bottom edge of my pelvis.
My husband stayed on my butt (no pun intended) about getting an MRI to find out what’s wrong, and the MRI showed that I have a partially torn tendon (gluteus minimus) where it connects to the hip bone (trochantor), and bursitis, which is inflammation of the cushion between the bones (I think…).
I just started physical therapy this last week, and– this is an indication of my seriousness about getting my life back to where I’m not dealing with this pain any more– I am going for a cortisone shot on Tuesday. I am a complete wuss about stuff like this, but I am reasoning that since I hurt like a M-F when I walk too long, I can’t lay on my right side without pain, and I also can’t use stairs, kneel, or squat (the last 2 mean I can’t work in my garden, which pisses me off), it’s stupid to allow my fear to keep me from getting a treatment that could allow me to have my full life. I mean, seriously, y’all: I get 21 Botox shots in my head every 12 weeks for my migraines, and I fought the doctor for a year, avoiding getting the shots, because of my fear. Are the shots pleasant? NO. But they’re not as bad as one would think, and within a couple of weeks, the Botox sets in and I’m able to have a normal life, where before I was very limited by chronic pain. (That’s part of the reason I fell into relapse, turning to my drug of choice: food, to soothe myself.) So if Botox shots help so much AND if I’m tough enough to handle those shots, I can certainly handle ONE shot in my hip.
After I get the shot and it does its thing, it’s possible that the inflammation will go down and NOT come back. At any rate, I’ll be able to make progress to weight-bearing exercises, which will strengthen my hip muscles– and I am determined to make great progress before I have to go back to work! Since I do a recumbent bike 45 minutes 6 days a week at varying resistances, I have more strength in my right leg than the physical therapist expected.
I’m going to be flying out of state soon, and I’m hoping after I get the shot, it will mean I am not lurching like Quasimodo as I trek to my gate. So weird: that’s how this whole adventure started: when my hips hurt so badly and I couldn’t walk without basically waddling that I got to my gate and immediately called Methodist Weight Loss Institute in Dallas. (That’s the bariatric surgery program they have at Methodist Hospital.)

October 2017

On the very first post I made, I included a photo of myself at a book festival event. Here’s one where I was signing books & cards for students.

This surgery has been the best decision for me to manage not just my weight, but my eating disorder issues, as well. I have adjusted very well to the restrictions and taking vitamins and other meds.

June 2018, with my daughter who inspired me to have this surgery because of her success.

I already take meds 3 times a day anyway, so I didn’t have to learn a new habit. I have not had the urge to binge, and when I was in full blown relapse, I was having food issues nearly every day (again.) Do I have little blips go through my mind sometimes? Yes. But I don’t act on them and I don’t feel “electrified” with the compulsion to eat. I’m happy.

If you are considering having this surgery, just know that it requires rule-following and for you to have a mental outlook that sees the sleeve as a tool, not as a way to feel left out of what others are eating, and not as a way to eat a bunch of crap and get away with it.  I could eat nearly anything I want at this point, but I choose to stick to protein and produce. So many of the foods that are on the “avoid” list are also my binge foods, so it doesn’t hurt my feelings to not eat them, especially since when it comes to stuff like cookies, ice cream, bread, etc., NO AMOUNT COULD EVER BE ENOUGH. When I eat that stuff, I’m thinking about where I can get more, before I’m even finished chewing the first mouthful.

I am feeling so much better, y’all, and it’s not about appearance for me. It’s not even about being able to wear clothes I used to be able to wear before I gained weight. I just feel FREE of the urge to stuff myself until I can’t move.

I don’t know how much more weight I’ll lose. I am getting around 1,000 calories a day now, so I guess my body will stop losing weight when it’s reached a natural set point. My goal when I started out is about 15 pounds from where I am now, but I’m not worrying about it. I have a big box of clothes the next size down that I need to switch out with the stuff that’s too big now, and then another set below that. All these are clothes I used to be able to wear before I relapsed over a period of several years. Another good thing: I haven’t had to buy one stitch of clothing. When I end up with clothes that are too big, I’ve been bagging them up and taking them to Goodwill.

If you are contemplating this surgery yourself, I want to warn you that there will be people who discourage you from having it done or who had it done and regained the weight (it IS possible–completely as possible–to regain weight as it would be if you did not have a stomach the size of a skinny banana and unable to hold more than 4 oz. of food at a time. There’s plenty of stuff to eat that would fit in there. Milkshakes, anyone? Hmm?) You will also read things about marriage/divorce and some of the unpleasant side-effects of the surgery, i.e. loose skin from losing so fast, etc. I am a member of some private Facebook support groups for people who have had this surgery.
Some of the concerns/kvetching I see posted there include the following. (Please don’t take me as being judgy about these. I’m going to write (in parentheses) what I would do to make sure my needs are met in these circumstances, because that’s a way I take care of myself. I think this is from my childhood, but not having my needs met–or the perception of same–is a trigger for me in the realm eating disorder and anxiety disorder.)
The following is inspired by info I’ve read on forums I follow:

1. “I went to [insert special event here] and couldn’t eat what everyone else was eating, and I cried.” (I’d bring something I know I can eat in the event that all there is in the way of “special event” food is lard sandwiches and sticks of butter or something equally unfriendly to my goals. Again: I COULD eat just about anything if I wanted to, but I did not have 85% of my stomach removed and experience everything I went through to get to the surgery, PLUS the yicky experience I had with the anesthesia, to throw it all away. I’ve been healthier before and I fell into relapse. I do NOT want to be in that place again.)

2. “My husband said [insert ugly thing here about the person’s appearance before AND/OR after weight loss.]” (Well, first of all, my comment on things like that is, “Invite him to go f–k himself as the earliest possibility.” I don’t know if I’m just lucky or what, but my husband has loved me at my highest and lowest weight, and he does not make comments on the way my body looks no matter what I weigh. He’ll tell me I look nice and all that, but he doesn’t verbally dissect my body to note the changes in it. The ONLY time he’s said anything about me needing to lose weight was when I developed sleep apnea again and he said, “If you ever lose weight again, I’ll bet the sleep apnea will go away.” And he was right, it did. But I didn’t do this just because he made that comment.)

3. “I can’t survive on the liquid diet.” (Yes, you can. Plus, following the rules on the liquid diet prior to surgery means your liver is shrunk up to make the surgery easy to perform. My liver was so tiny that the doctor only had to do 3 incisions instead of 4-5. Chicken broth (I added pepper to mine), vegetable broth, beef broth, sugar free popsicles, protein shakes (including ready made like Premier brand and ones you make yourself, like Muscle Milk…there’s lots of ways to cope. And pee. You will have to pee like crazy.)

4. “I can’t survive on the soft diet.” (Yes, you can. Plus, the reason for the soft diet for the first 4-6 weeks after the surgery is because 85% of your stomach was removed, and they stapled the sleeve along the edge. Do you seriously want to “cheat” on this part and risk blowing out part of your new tiny tummy? PLUS, I still eat a lot of soft foods now because I find them easier to go down.)

5. “I heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce after one of the spouses has this surgery.” (Well, I’ve heard that 50% of all marriages end in divorce regardless of whether one spouse has bariatric surgery. I’ve read posts from spouses who feel so much better about themselves after they lose weight that they choose to dump the partner who acts like the one I reference in item 2. I’ve also read posts about people who divorce because the partner is so insecure that he or she assumes that since their spouse lost weight, that means they are going to cheat. Another common thread is that the husband/family did not want the woman to get the surgery so he/they is/are punishing her now for getting it by providing her no support or assistance when she’s tuckered out from having major surgery…. like I said, I must be really lucky, because none of those issues are present in my marriage/family. ALSO, I think the above issues for these people were probably there in some way before weight loss happened. I would NOT allow these fears to keep me from getting healthy.)

6. Another one: “My spouse, “X”, does not like my body because I have loose skin.” (Hm. Reminds me of this Dr. Phil episode. The woman had a male friend and they wanted to take their relationship to the next level but he couldn’t stand to see her body in a swimsuit (or, I’m assuming, without the swimsuit.)  This is all kinda weird to me–that they were like this–and the lady wanted to have surgery to remove the extra skin because THEN this guy– who, honestly, was NOT anything to write home about–would love her. He was going to loan her the money for the surgery, but he wasn’t sure if his “investment” would “pay off.”
How freaky is that, y’all? I told my husband this morning that if certain parts of my body get any lower, I’ll be able to tuck them into my waistband, mmkay? I’m not thrilled about the situation where I have loose skin or “flat” body parts, but rapid weight loss causes that, and it’s not like we don’t know that ahead of time. Within 18 months, anything that’s gonna tighten up will do it… and things that won’t tighten, I suppose, can always be rolled up. (HA ha ha.) ALSO, there’s a lot of talk about skin-tightening cream on the forums I follow. I  kind of doubt that any skin-tightening cream will work, but I’m sure the loose skin will be nice and moisturized.)
Here’s what I’ve learned about plastic surgery after bariatric surgery, based on what I’ve heard from other people who have pursued having loose skin removed:  insurance won’t pay for it unless the extra skin is also a medical issue, like it has rashes or it gets in the way of being able to do basic self-care. AND, here’s what I’ve learned about myself: there is no friggin’ way I’m going through surgery again unless I’m dying. Besides that, even if I had tens of thousands of dollars to have some doctor cut and tighten, I can think of better ways to spend the money. I’m not judging anyone else who has it done–and there are some people who medically need it in order to be healthy, but it’s not for me.
OH and by the way? Paul, the guy on the Dr. Phil show, said that Dawn’s stomach looks like a pork rind. I would have to do it, y’all: I would HAVE to invite him to f–k off at his earliest opportunity. What a douchecanoe.)

7.  “You mean I can’t drink [insert name of soda here] any more? I hate my life!” (I saw a former teaching partner yesterday and told her that I no longer drink Diet Coke. She was surprised, because I was a Diet Coke addict. I used to bring my own case (it’d last me a week) and kept it in my classroom fridge. I started the day with a Diet Coke and was rarely without one all day long. I had begun to lose my taste for it over the past year or so, but when I knew that this was something I had to give up, I did it. December 23, 2017, was the date of my last Diet Coke. It is not lost on me that I sound like someone who gave up drinking or drugs on a certain day. I was heavily addicted to caffeine.
Anyway: YES you can give up soft drinks. Compare your love for that soda to your future as a healthier person. I order water with a slice of lemon when I go out; I drink a lot of Crystal Light, although some of them are too acidic and bother my stomach, and I’m experimenting with that. Crystal Light Peach Mango Green Tea is one I can handle. Plus, I drink a ton of water. I could also drink decaf tea if I wanted. Caffeine is also a no-no because of stomach irritation.

The program I went through, Methodist Weight Loss Institute, did a great job of prepping me for what to expect, and meeting with the nutritionist for 4 months prior to surgery helped me because I was accountable in terms of a weigh in– couldn’t gain an ounce!, and in setting goals for what I would work on. I think the key is accountability, which is why I have this website. I thought about deleting it since I rarely write on it, but I want to keep it up because it provides me with accountability, whether or not anyone but me reads it.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Quandaries? Hmm? (That’s what I ask my students after I explain something.)
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. They are moderated and you will not see it appear until I approve it, but ask away if you want.


On being human, “being bad about,” and being a person who can cope without binge eating

So I came home from work feeling just really anxious and wired and down–all at once. My day ended badly and I know part of my anxiety has to do with that–even though I already talked to my principal about it–fronted myself out and apologized. And I know it’s not a huge deal and it’ll be okay. (So, you are wondering what happened, right? Well, I lost my patience, thus proving I’m human…although I have a hard time allowing myself to BE human in circumstances like that.)

And I keep thinking about something a therapist told me a LONG time ago–LONG before I worked with the therapist who helped me get through recovery–this was another guy, and he pointed out that every time I started a sentence, I said, “I’m bad about (x, y, z)… I’m bad about…” and he said I must have been indoctrinated with the message that I’m bad, and I needed to stop saying that about myself. He also pointed out that somewhere, sometime, somebody taught me that if I make a mistake, I have to feel REEEEEAAAAAAALLLLLLY awful about it and not give myself a chance to move on.

And I was remembering that on the way home, and since I got home, and it’s on my mind now, because, as noted, even though the mistake I made isn’t a catastrophe, it’s in my mind and just staying there. Matt, the therapist who helped me get through recovery when I stuck with therapy and walked through Hell, had another approach to this unforgiving, go-nowhere thinking of mine: he’d slap his desk or kick the underside of it to startle me–he called it “mental floss”–to break the pattern of thinking I was “spinning” in. All of this is to say, as much therapy as I had, one would think that I’d be better at letting things slide off my back.

The reason I’m even sharing the above stuff with you is that after I got home and I was able to relax just a little–while still feeling anxious and fearful–I realized that I was being overwhelmed with the kinds of feelings that, when I was in eating disorder relapse, sent me running for sweets and breads–the drugs of choice for me, back in the day. And back-in-the-day was NOT all that long ago. I was in relapse as late as early fall 2017.

I was telling my eldest daughter (who had gastric sleeve done 2 years ago and is like my go-to-person for information and support) about this, and she said, “Feeling all the feelings suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.”

I agree. It does.

So what am I doing with this? Well, I realized I needed to write it out, which is what I’m doing here. I also realized I hadn’t logged my food & water & exercise on my Baritastic app–I’m usually pretty religious about doing it–I definitely make sure I post it all daily, to be accountable, sure, but also to make sure I’m hitting my protein and water intake requirements. So I did that. After I ate dinner, I got a shower & retired to the bedroom where I could have as much quiet as I want, AND have the added bonus of not having to fight a large dog (or 3) for space on the furniture in the living room. I made my grocery list for after work tomorrow, and I’m about to get back to novel writing.

I think that recognizing the emotions and giving myself permission to be human are positive moves, as well as recognizing that the depressed “wired” feeling was something that, when I was still in relapse, would have been dispatched immediately by eating unhealthy stuff–then feeling like shit about myself for doing that– then feeling bad about THAT. Ya know, the whole “I’m bad about…” stuff. Oh-oh, let’s not forget that even hours later–maybe even the next day?–I would wake with the belief that I reaaaaaaally effed up the day before, and it would also influence how I SEE myself in the mirror.
What is it Jack Nicholson says in As Good as It Gets?

Photo by Marc Sendra martorell on Unsplash

On a positive note, I received a message from a former student who read my book, Courage in Patience, and told me that she felt so much comfort from it because she was sexually abused as a child, and she only recently told another person about it. AND, today I had the opportunity to advocate for one of my students who is pretty emotionally fragile, and I did so in order to protect her. I have to point these things out to myself to remind myself that even if I lose my patience with a kid who is not being careful with his words or actions, I still did something good today. And that would be true even if I had come home and eaten my feelings.
I’m grateful for awareness and the gift of being able to recognize growth and that I don’t have to binge eat in order to cope with my feelings.



Update: nearly 2 months out from surgery

Hey, ho. I’ve considered deleting this website since I feel like I’m just living my life now, no longer in the high anxiety place of hoping and wondering if my insurance will clear me for the surgery. I’ve adjusted to this new life. I really don’t even think about the weight coming off. I like the “tool” I have–the sleeve–it helps a lot. I still have an eating disordered brain and I’ve been aware of its dysfunction long enough to know that it’s something that will never go away. I still have automatic thoughts of pigging out when I feel stressed, but I’m not acting on them.

I’m sad to report that my daily migraines have returned in spite of taking Gabapentin and having Botox shots. I keep hoping the Botox will “kick in,” because last time I had it done, I was practically headache free within a couple of weeks. I had my Botox treatment around March 19 and I am still getting headaches. I’m working out in spite of getting them and just taking my rescue meds daily. Still quite disappointing. I really liked being headache free for a while.

The other day a coworker told me that I wasn’t that big to begin with. It’s a common thing I’ve heard since I began this, even though I had sleep apnea (I don’t anymore!) and the hip pain I have was worse than it is now. AND, my BMI is no longer in the “obese” category. Now I suppose I’ve gone down to “fluffy.” My clothes are looser in places.

I’m glad I don’t feel like a different person with respect to being obsessed with what I look like or the scale. I weigh every few weeks instead of daily because I refuse to have a metal device that reports my gravitational pull on the earth as the determining factor of what I think of myself today. Or tomorrow.

A lot of people think that when they lose weight, their entire life will be different. Having been through a major weight loss before, I already know that being lighter doesn’t make everything perfect. That’s why it’s not a good idea to live one’s entire life thinking “…and when I get thin, ________, __________, and _________ will be perfect.”

Because it won’t.


The book I co-wrote that nudged me toward exiting relapse AND ch-ch-ch-changes goin’ on here…

How co-writing my latest book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, nudged me toward overcoming eating disorder relapse
Every significant change in my life since the early 2000s has been documented in published form through characters: I wrote Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience,  and Truth in Patiencea teen girl’s story of recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse, as I went through the same journey. I was able to be much more understanding and empathetic to the main character, Ashley Nicole Asher, than I was to myself at the time. Stepping outside of myself to see the process through her eyes allowed me to let go of a lot of shame.

After finishing therapy–I lost a great deal of weight while in recovery–I subsequently regained a chunk of that weight because I listened to The Biggest Liar–which is that voice in my head that insists I can eat like other people do, AND that food is the ticket to feeling emotionally better when I experience sadness or anger–so I wrote Big Fat Disaster. It’s the story of a girl who is Odd Girl Out in her family. Mom & sisters are Barbie look-alikes and Colby has her dad’s former UT linebacker body type as well as the Binge Eating Disorder he suffers from. They bond through baking cakes, making icing, and eating a lot, and in large part because of that, when her family splits up, cake icing is her go-to drug. She eats to soothe herself as her life is crumbling around her. I sought to tell what it’s REALLY LIKE to be in that mind-space of feeling electrically charged to numb out with food–it’s an impulse that is hard to describe, but I tried–while at the same time, she runs her hands over her stomach at night and prays that some miracle will occur and she’ll wake up and they’ll be gone. I know very much what that’s like as well. I have an advanced degree is self-loathing.

The spark for that story came from me being in a place of practically “popping” awake one day–as if I’d been in this years-long daze–and having the realization of, “Oh, shit, I’m fat again,” and those self-hating thoughts that I’d suffered with my entire life and done battle with in therapy and seemed to have conquered–were back with the same tsunami-force waves of shame that they’d had back in the dark days before therapy. And I realized that I had to question that–really challenge that–because I AM different than I was before I got well. I am fundamentally DIFFERENT, and I fought like hell to learn to love myself, so WHY IN THE HELL WAS IT OKAY FOR ME TO HATE MYSELF AGAIN, JUST BECAUSE I REGAINED SOME WEIGHT?
And I decided that it WASN’T okay to do that. I sought to explore that by writing Big Fat Disaster (the title is in reference to the main character, Colby, overhearing her mom telling her sister, “Colby’s a big fat disaster, eating everything in sight…”)
Spoiler alert: writing the book did not make me buckle down and deal with my shit. Not really. I was roller-coastery about it until this past fall when, as I wrote in When I Made Up My Mind, on the home page of this site, I found myself waddling through the airport, my hips grinding with every step and the realization that the reason bigger people waddle is from pain. That’s when I settled into my gate area, popped open my laptop, and googled “bariatric surgeons” associated with the hospital where my daughter is a nurse.
I’ve never looked back.

But before that momentous day last fall, I co-wrote a book for victims of PTSD (and the people who love them and those in the mental health professions), called Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt.
My co-author is Matt E. Jaremko, and he is also the person who led me through recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse and my eating disorder, as well as a litany of other issues.  The impact he had on my life is immeasurable. He taught me that behavior comes before feelings, and that I need to question my thinking, i.e. separate facts from crap. The thing is, I had allowed myself to become complacent. I was at the mercy of The Biggest Liar.

Many years after I completed therapy, Matt and I decided to write a book that would give insight into the recovery process from the therapist’s point of view through the character of Dr. Matt, who is also in my Patience books and Big Fat Disaster, and through the patients’ points of view, through the members of a therapy group who are all scarred by PTSD and seeking to rebuild their lives. Ashley from The Patience Books (AKA my alter-ego) is in the book, too, aged up to 19 and about to go off to college.

Colby from Big Fat Disaster is not in the book, but an adult named Felicia is, and it was in writing her story that I felt myself moving toward once again taking on The Biggest Liar instead of allowing it to keep running my life. The most consistent trait throughout my battle with an eating disorder is that how I feel about myself–and how I look to myself (I have body dysmorphia, too: it’s just another of my charming features) from my first thought as I rose out of bed in the morning–is how I ate the day before influences what The Biggest Liar says to me.  (Note: lest you think I hear this as an actual voice: NO I DO NOT. “The Biggest Liar” is a metaphor for eating-disordered-thinking. Glad we got that out of the way.)
So: will they be self-hating thoughts or will I kinda like myself today? This past October, when I seriously pursued eating disorder recovery from my long-ass relapse, I automatically had those thoughts and I had to remind myself that I didn’t binge the day before, so can it, TBL. 
I am grateful to tell you that when I speak of this morning ritual of will-she-or-won’t-she-hate-herself-this-morning that it is mostly “in remission” at this point.

I’m telling you all this because I am committed to be honest, and, given what I’ve always heard from other people in reaction to the books I write, I am NOT alone in this kind of disordered thinking. And even though I wrote a book (Big Fat Disaster) intended to pull myself out of that shit, and in many ways I did, some stuff is/was just so fucking automatic that it takes/took daily challenging it to make it stop. And, changing the behavior (by not bingeing) that kept triggering the shameful thoughts was part of the way The Biggest Liar calmed the eff down and was less of my morning greeting. True story, though, y’all: I dreamed, and STILL dream sometimes, of eating massive quantities of sweets, and I wake up with those self-hating bullshit thoughts again, and I have to, once again, question my thinking and challenge its veracity.

Anyway, in Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, Felicia is 34 years old, and she experienced sexual trauma throughout her formative years. She began eating to soothe herself and became trapped in that cycle. When she begins to address the trauma she suffered, she decides she wants to also address the binge-shame-binge-shame cycle she’s stuck in. I know so well what it’s like to be stuck in that place that, even though I felt self-conscious sometimes about pulling back the curtain on an actual binge cycle, I committed to doing it so that others can know they are not alone, AND that there is HOPE. When Matt and I wrote the therapy sessions between Felicia and Dr. Matt, I was influenced by the therapy Felicia was getting, and it nudged me toward the same book Dr. Matt recommends to Felicia, Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating by Leora Fulvio.

Writing Felicia’s responses to Dr. Matt’s gentle guidance–her shame that if she told him everything, he would judge her; her absolute fear that this person she had come to trust with her secrets of being sexually abused would find what she was telling him about the way she eats in secret to be a bridge too far, and her fear that he’d stop being a reliable person for her; her doubt, her fear that this would be just another diet, and diets make her binge (like they make me binge), and so on–made me think about the fact that I KNOW there is power in changing my behavior–I’d done it before–I knew I could get to the place again where behavior, not feelings, were running the show. Did you notice how many times “fear” is mentioned in my description of Felicia’s feelings? Fear is a mind-fuck, y’all. It just is.

Even though not everyone who has PTSD has an eating disorder like Felicia has (and not everyone with an eating disorder has PTSD), when I wrote the Prologue for Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, I was thinking both of how I felt before my first appointment with real-life-Matt, and it is how I think Felicia would have felt, too. If you want to read it, check it out here.  You can find out more about the book here: check out the drop-down menu under “About This Book.”

I always learn so much when I write the truth through characters. And, as I always tell people when they ask where I get my ideas, “If I ever get totally healthy, I won’t have anything to write about…” (ha ha attempt at humor ha ha.)


Tomorrow, my surgery is a month old. In keeping with my approach to talking about this stuff, I’m not going to discuss specific weight or “poundage”–because, in keeping with the way it’s always been since infinity, the struggles I’ve had throughout my life with “The Biggest Liar” are not about the number on the scale. It’s about behavior. And this new phase of my journey is no different. For example, some new behaviors are:

Learning a different way of taking daily medications, being mindful of taking calcium/vitamin D supplements 3 times a day and multi-vitamins 2 times a day. I have to take the calcium and multivitamins (which include iron) at least 2 hours apart so that they are absorbed correctly. And, the multivitamins have to be taken with food. I also take a B12 supplement daily that melts on my tongue. It’s hardest to take all the meds I have to take in the morning, including this one medication I have to mix into 1/4 cup of applesauce. I’ve learned the order to take the meds and how to best get them down so I am not nauseated and/or get really, really hot. When I first started taking them, I had to get up super early for work so that I could lay back down for a while because I felt so yicky. But I was just taking them in the wrong order; too much was hitting my empty stomach. I also changed one of my anti-depressants (Welbutrin) from taking extended release to a non-extended release form, and when I stopped taking the ext-release, the nausea & getting hot subsided a lot. I knew I was supposed to change from Ext-Release, but my prescribing doctor told me I could try them to see if they are a problem, since that type of medication is supposed to dissolve in the small intestine, not the stomach.

Another change in behavior is paying attention to making sure I take in at least 64 ounces of liquid each day, and I’m not drinking with meals or 30 minutes before/after meals. Confession: I’m better at not-drinking-after-meals than not drinking before.

I quit caffeine and Diet Coke right before Christmas, so I’m not missing that, but avoiding caffeine like picking up an iced tea when I’m out is a new thing. I just take a Yeti with Crystal Light in it everywhere I go, and I drink it throughout the day at work.

I’ve finally gotten better at eating–and I know that sounds weird, given that The Biggest Liar is a huge fan of out-of-control eating (LOL), but (on the recommendation of my daughter, a successful gastric sleeve patient), I bought some baby spoons for eating, and that helped me take smaller bites. I’m also learning to recognize when my body is telling me to wait before taking another bite–the discomfort when I eat too fast is sooooo unpleasant. Envisioning the food going down helps, too. I can feel now as the food proceeds into the sleeve.

I measure out everything I eat to make sure I’m able to track it efficiently, as well as be able to make sure my eyes are not bigger than my stomach. That was an issue at first; I thought I could make the same size protein shakes I was making before surgery, but I can’t.

I use this app called Baritastic to track everything, including exercise. I can download reports for when I go to the doctor or I’m just curious as to how I’m doing. It breaks down by meal and by day the nutrition I’m getting.

It took me about three weeks to get “regular” about exercise again–and I’ll admit, it’s a challenge right now. I tire easily and it’s very challenging to go as fast as I did before, even though I’m doing the same workout I have for a long time: 45 minutes on my recumbent bike, with varying resistances set by a program. I’m supposed to go at least 11 mph nearly all the time, and most of the time I’m pushing to get to 10 mph. When resistance goes up to 13–the highest this program goes–it’s hard for me to get past 9 mph. My daughter reminds me that I had major abdominal surgery and general anesthesia, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s because my average daily calorie intake at this point is about 800 calories a day. The program I went through does not set a daily calorie goal; they just emphasize 60-80 grams of protein a day (at least) and 64 oz of fluid a day. I’m still in the soft food stage: my stomach is still healing. From what I read on various forums and from doing a little research, it’s normal to not be able to consume much at this point.

I consciously am not putting “progress” pictures on here. There is a pic of me at my heaviest (this go-round, that is), on the “When I Made Up My Mind” page, but you won’t find images of me in a leotard taking a selfie in the bathroom mirror. I’m just not doing it. Not criticizing people who do, but I’m not one to do that. I kind of think it’s from having my body scrutinized and stared at so much when I was growing up. I have no interest in making my body’s appearance the focus of this website. Besides, I’m actually a pretty shy person, but nobody believes me when I say that. My focus is more on getting really healthy and achieving simple things, like hopefully getting to a point my hips no longer grind when I walk or hurt when I sleep on my side. Daily exercise really helps loosen ’em up-that’s for sure.

Oh, hey, one more thing–and this is exciting! I’ve lost enough weight that I no longer have sleep apnea! I put my CPAP machine in the closet today. I’ve stopped snoring and I also don’t stop breathing in my sleep anymore. Whoohoo! Very happy about this sign of progress and getting healthy.

And one no-so-great-thing…but I’m not freaking out, because I know it’s normal and expected and it’ll stop–but my hair is falling out faster than normal. It’s apparently from the shock to the system including hormones and calorie reduction and the surgery and anesthesia, etc. But, seriously, y’all: my bathroom counter looks like Cousin It from The Addams Family shook his head like a model doing a photo shoot. My hair is a few inches below my shoulders. My hairstylist told me I wouldn’t need to get it cut short when this inevitable falling-out happens: it’ll come back. It just may take 6 months. This hair loss thing usually starts at the 3-4 month mark post-surgery, but it can also start at the 1 month mark. At least my hair’s not coming out in chunks or anything…

That’s the latest & greatest, y’all. I began writing these posts just for myself, but I know people are reading this: I can see traffic on this site through my analytics program. So, welcome. I hope that, if you’re on the same journey I am, you have awesome support and people who have your back. I read stories on some Facebook groups I’m in where people are going through this change without the support of their family and friends, and I feel both sorry for them and angry on their behalf. I’m blessed beyond measure to have a rock-solid support system. They were with me on my journey through recovery from CSA, and they, in addition to my friends, are with me now.
You are welcome here.


Three weeks out from surgery: update

Tomorrow marks 3 weeks since my surgery. I’m doing great overall: getting in enough protein & fluids each day. I’m still learning how to eat with my tiny stomach–I find out real quick if I’m eating too fast, because it feels like I can’t breathe in deeply. I also have to be really careful about what I eat–to eat protein first, then produce–because once I start getting full, even one bite over can cause unpleasantness Something that’s been helpful that I learned on a bariatric surgery support group is to think of the opening to the stomach as being a funnel, so when there’s too much to go in at once, it gets backed up. I am working at waiting like 3-4 minutes between bites so that it has time to go down before the next one. I’m also getting my morning medication routine down, figuring out the order to take the meds & vitamins so I don’t get nauseated. That was a significant issue until this week.

Otherwise, my energy is coming back. Last week was our first week back from Spring Break and my surgery was two weeks old at the end of the week–and it was rough. I came home every night and pretty much collapsed. But I was able to clean my whole house in one day last Saturday, and I didn’t have to take many breaks.

Body-shape wise, XL clothes are getting too big for me. People are starting to notice the change in my face & neck, which are becoming kind of gaunt (but not in a bad way.) I can see other changes too. I only weigh about once a week, but I’ve lost a total of 31 pounds now–that’s about 11 pounds post surgery, and 20 before I had it. I was kind of startled to look down and see how bony my wrists are. They were like that when I was much smaller before, and they’re back to being really small.

I have Friday off for Good Friday, and I’m going to start exercising again. I’ve been holding off so I could have enough energy for school, plus I just had my every-12-weeks-Botox-for-Migraines-treatment yesterday, so if I give it a couple of days to kick in, I should be able to work out without an exertion migraine.

I’m still committed to NOT having surgery this summer, even though the stuff I was going to have fixed could still use it. Nope: no surgery for me! I’m going to go see my daughter in Ohio after I get out for the summer, and then I’m taking my other 2 daughters to the beach at Galveston.

I haven’t had any binge-issues or wanting to binge, even when I’ve felt stressful. I’m feeling good! Even though the hospitalization was rough, and I still swear I’ll not willfully endure anesthesia’s aftereffects again–I am really pleased with the way this “tool”–my sleeve–is working.

Later, ya’ll!