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!


“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.


The Easy Part is Over

DISCLAIMER: My post-op experience is unlikely to be your experience, with respect to the complications I’ve been dealing with. I am saying this because I see so many people go on bariatric support group forums and tell horror stories about their surgery. It doesn’t do anyone any good who is coming to the page looking for support to read a bunch of scary shit, right? But this is not a support forum. It’s my private(?? LOL) diary of what started my journey from being so heavy and having such hip pain that I was waddling through the airport–to now. So I’m cautioning you now: stop reading if you don’t want to read about what was a fairly awful experience for me. (Of course I also have nothing to compare it to, so….)

When rule-following is a bad idea…
Two days before my gastric sleeve surgery last week (on Thurs. 3/8, my birthday), my husband and I were discussing the perception that some people believe that gastric sleeve is the easy way to lose weight.
Having been hospitalized about 36 hours longer than I was supposed to be, allow me to divest the “You’re taking the lazy way out” folks of their belief. Or not. I don’t really care, and here’s why: I’m so relieved to no longer be throwing up that the complete sigh of relief you imagine you hear is actually every cell in my body relaxing.

I’m a rule-follower. I’m a teacher in my day-job. I’m an over-achiever, and let me tell you, it’s a double-edged sword, my friends.
The post-surgical instructions are to work up to 64 oz of liquid per day. In the hospital, the goal is 2-4 ounces every hour/1 oz every 15 minutes. So, Thursday night when I was good and awake, I started trying to comply with this requirement. That triggered intermittent vomiting for the next 30 hours. I had a severe reaction to the anesthesia. My doctor told me that I was one of a handful of patients she has who go through what I experienced. I cycled through 3 different anti-nausea medications; when I threw up even though I was on one medication, the nurse put another one into my I.V.: Zofran, Reglan, and Phenergan. The Phenergan made me fall asleep, but I never slept for longer than 90 minutes at a time. The most relaxed I got at the hospital yesterday was a nap from 3:00-5:00, but I was still constantly aware of my arm hurting.
Oh, and spppppppeeeeeeeeaaaaaking of I.V., because of my completely crappy veins, I had to have 3 different I.V.s put in, the last one being done by an ICU nurse friend of my daughter’s. Even though I wasn’t in ICU, I was fortunate enough to be on a floor where an ICU nurse (and person with a connection to us) was “floating.” She used a sonogram to find a suitable vein, and I won’t go into more explanation of what happened after that, because thinking about the process makes me queasy.
Almost forgot about this: at one point, a nurse crushed medications, had me dump them on my tongue, and try to wash them down with liquid Gabapentin. Any guesses as to what happened next, y’all? Hmmm? Any at all?

I didn’t realize how hard it would be to “get in” enough fluids. I’ve been such an all-star on every. Single. Requirement. Leading up to this procedure, and I haven’t found it all that hard to comply, because I had this goal in mind: to get to March 8 and have my surgery. It’s like at this point, an announcer should come in and exclaim, “But, wait! There’s more!”

The #1 reason patients end up being readmitted following surgery is dehydration. This was something that made my doctor keep me over an extra day. At one point, I was told to leave a 15 minute gap between tiny sips of fluids. Therefore, I thought that even when my nausea began to fade away, I was still supposed to be taking in only 1/4 of the required liquid per hour. Credit me being drugged when the doctor spoke to me Friday night, but I didn’t pick up on the fact that that was a temporary amount to go for. My daughter told me about it when she came back to the hospital. When I was able, I began taking in a one ounce cup (30 ml) per 15 minutes, as regularly as I could. I also got my ass out of bed as often as possible and walked the halls. I had already been more than willing to walk, but wanting to go home was a major incentive for me.  I was feeling so crappy as I dragged the hallway, looped the nurse’s station a couple times, and headed back to my room, that my give-a-damn was broken when it came to whether or not my underwear was visible. Did. Not. Care. One. Bit. It was hard to re-tie my hospital gown because of my fucked up wrists/arms from the IV and/or pain from having had the IV go wrong, and worrying

This pic is not mine- it belongs to the Doubletree Hotel site, but it is indicative of how stunning Dallas at night is.

about people getting a glimpse of my colorful Granny Panties didn’t matter to me. Besides, at 3:45 in the morning, the main folks I ran into were nurses, one whom was kind enough to offer to help tighten up the back of my gown. AND, I will pause to add here that I wish I’d had my phone with me to take a picture of the Dallas Skyline at night from 8 floors up, because it was magical-looking. So beautiful. The hospital I was at was in this perfect position that showed off this beautiful white bridge called the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

The main drinkable fluid they gave me in the hospital was called Isopure, but I also had clear broth. You know those little medicine cups that come with liquid medications like cough syrup? Those are currently my best friend. And if I go too fast “sipping,” I become nauseated. I’m also taking Gas-X. The surgery is done through laparoscopy, so the abdominal wall is distended from the stomach. (MUST BRAG–because, hey, let’s be positive, shall we?–I followed the presurgical directions so well that my liver shrunk up a lot and I “saved myself 2 incisions” because the doctor did not have to use the tool (the name escapes me) to retract my liver to get it out of her way…(I’ll bet it’s called a retractor, but what do I know?)

I was finally released last night around 6 P.M., and we arrived home just before 9:00. I always love being home more than anywhere else in the world, but it was especially wonderful last night…until I went to the bathroom and there was blood. I called my surgeon and she was baffled as to how that happened, since I was not catheterized, and the test strip I did last night was negative but a new one was positive this morning. I was sooooo dismayed, because I honestly do not think I can cope with being stuck with needles any more than I have been in the past few days. Just. Can’t. Luckily, I was able to confer with my primary care doc via phone this morning; he called in an antibiotic, but between that phone call and the soonest I can take it–this evening–the blood has stopped,

I was SO GRATEFUL to have my daughter Kristen with me. She even assisted her friend in putting in a new I.V. I love that she is so knowledgeable and such an advocate for others.

as has the shooting pain. So I think it was a side effect of dehydration and blood thinner shots I got daily in my stomach. Oh, and here’s a brave new world problem: the tablet is huge and had to be cut into smaller pieces. I am going to hold off on starting it. My nurse daughter suggested that I do that, and I’m all for it. Plus, one of the few antibiotics I can take is Cipro, which annihilates germs. It’s the go-to drug for people who were exposed to Anthrax, and it is soooo hard on the system.

Lovely, lovely flowers sent to me from my daughter and daughter-in-law in North Carolina. Such a treat to come home to, as well.

So, I woke this morning, burning up (sweating heavily) & weepy, as well as catastrophyzing my situation, and I remembered, “Hey! I have not had my HRT or my antidepressants since Wednesday!”–so I started back on those. Plus, I am able to rationalize enough to know that since Thursday morning, I was in a high stress state. I could not relax because the I.V.s hurt nearly all the time. Even the one started by the ICU nurse began hurting. As I type this, my left wrist and forearm are still very sore from having catheters in them. I’m lucky enough to have my husband home with me today and he has been taking care of everything we need. He hung out with me all day at the hospital yesterday, too; he brought his iPad so I could watch TV that does not suck, because most of the channel choices at the hospital were bleh. I’ve been able to rest.

So now what?
First of all, the advice I have heard from a lot of people, including my fellow English teacher who had the sleeve surgery 4 years ago, is that the first 3 months, I will be convinced that this is the worst thing I have ever done in my entire life. Another teaching colleague whose husband had the surgery said that after the 4th day, he began feeling better and able to meet his liquid requirement. Once that’s going better, this whole endeavor is supposed to suck a lot less than it currently does.
My eldest daughter–her weight loss inspired me to go for this– has also assured me that this fresh hell of attempting to get enough liquids in will not last forever. At this point, it seems my entire being is focused on consuming liquids in tiny amounts, resetting my timer for every 15 minutes, and trying to consume more when the timer goes off. I’m working on a 3 oz tub of sugar free Jello for the past hour, and it’s only half gone.

This was me before the pre-op stuff started. I was freshly changed out of my clothes and thinking this was going to go smoothly, or at least having no idea of how badly it would go…

Second, I know that every single day, this is going to get easier. My newly-made stomach is quite swollen, and the swelling has to go down in order for me to be able to take in more liquid more quickly. I have to believe that if I keep doing what I’m supposed to do, it’ll all work out, but also remind myself that trying to jump in with both feet from the start is what made me have to stay in the hospital a day and a half longer. I’m supposed to start my multivitamins up again as well as my B12 supplement, but I’m not rushing it.

Third, I am working at walking to the end of my driveway and back to my house–supposed to walk to get rid of gas pains and to prevent blood clots, as well as continuing to use this instrument of torture: Incentive Spirometer. It involves breathing in deeply and trying to keep this little piece jumping up and down between 2 arrows. It’s supposed to prevent pneumonia. In the hospital, using it kept triggering my gag reflex and set off dry heaves. I’m trying to use it as often as I remember now that I’m home. Supposed to do it every hour… [insert look that says “Oh, for sure I am…trying…”] But I really hate it because it puts air into my stomach which is no bueno.
Fourth, guess what: I’m off Gabapentin completely and my migraines have not returned. I have no intention of going back on it unless absolutely necessary. I can tell you this much: if I DO go back on it, I will be swallowing the little capsules, NOT opening it up on my TONGUE.

Oh, one more thing?
I thought I had it figured out: I had made up my mind to have some pelvic repairs done this summer. But after this? Oh, hellllllll, no. My situation is going to have to be a helluva lot more than “optional/elective” before I ever consent to have surgical anesthesia again. NO. NO. NO. You can say this will fade, but just you watch. There is no way it’ll happen again unless I will absolutely die without it.
I have always had some nausea following surgery, but in the past, it has been prevented to the point that I do not feel traumatized from it. But this was the worst possible scenario, anesthesia reaction-wise. I did not expect it in any way, shape, or form. I had the patch behind my ear that people wear for seasickness, and it didn’t matter. I had powerful anti-nausea meds overlapping with each other, and it didn’t matter. NOPE.
On that note? I’m going to trek down my driveway and back…

I promise…
Next you hear from me here, I will be positive and hopeful again. Today is just not that kind of day. It’s not easy any more. Nobody said it would be, and things that “count” never are, but I committed myself to honesty here, so that’s what ya got.

I just can’t leave it like that…so here’s a gem for you that my daughter overheard while in the surgery waiting room:

“Remember when he put his adult diaper in my toilet? Golly that thing was stopped up! Had to go buy a snake to get that shit out of there!”

Note to self: