Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gastric Bypass Nightmares 4 - Wasting Away

The first 3 parts can be found here, here and here.

I moved to Ottawa in June of 2005 for a job with a software company. It would be my first real job after graduating college the previous year and I was excited. I didn't know anybody up here so I was literally alone for the first time in my life. The company I work for is pretty cutting edge and the place is filled with geniuses, real hard core computer programmers who know a lot about computers. It was stressful as I realized quickily how much I didn't know and I started to worry that they might decide I simply don't have the smarts to be there. I have to admit my nerves were on edge.

When I went home for Christmas that year, I hadn't noticed anything different in my eating habits but apparently my mother had. She said that she felt I was throwing up more than before. I waved it off as her just being hyper-sensitive to the situation and maybe being concerned for me since I wasn't around much anymore. According to the scale I was around 185-190lbs, about 5 or so more pounds than I was that summer. In January, I did notice that I had had a couple of bouts where I was having troubles ingesting food for a few days on end, but it would clear up and everything seemed fine after. In February I was given a referral to a gastric specialist as I felt this was a bit odd, even for me.

The specialist jammed one of those cameras down my throat to see what was going on in there but he found nothing unusual. So I carried on not giving it much more thought. As the winter turned to spring, I noticed the scale was going down. I was having a few more bouts of this eating problem but since the doctor hadn't found anything wrong, I figured I was just losing weight due to diet and exercise. But I wasn't feeling well. By the summer, I felt weak. Walking around downtown had become cumbersome, I simply didn't have the energy to do much of it. And my weight had dropped to around 165lbs. By now I knew I was throwing up more often, it seemed I couldn't digest anything for days on end. Then suddenly it would clear up and I could eat again. This was constant but I still had what the doctor's findings said in my head: everything looked normal down there.

During a trip home in August for my mother's birthday, everyone noticed my weight loss. My face was thin and greyish, my clothes hanged off of me. I didn't feel great either and felt drained. My grandmother kept looking over at me with a very worried look on her face. My grandfather had died of cancer and she had watched him waste away as he slowly died. Mom told me later that she thought I might have cancer. Mom suggested very strongly that I see a doctor, better yet, our family doctor back home instead of a clinic doctor in Ottawa. I declined to see him as it would require taking a day off to travel and I simply couldn't take the time off. I'd go see a doctor in Ottawa.

I dropped into a clinic in September to discuss what might be happening and the doctor sent me for blood work and an ultrasound. After a couple of weeks, the results came in and it didn't explain anything. Nothing unusual came back from the ultrasound and the blood work showed signs of malnutrition and very low iron. He referred me back to the gastric specialist to further investigate this mysterious illness since it looked to be physical and not from a disease. Of course with referrals, you wait for weeks or months at a time. Because I had seen this guy previously and there appeared to be some urgency, I got in within a couple of weeks.

He decided to send me to see a gastric surgeon who because of his experiences with gastric bypass surgery might be able to shed some light on what was wrong. At the same time, he booked me for a bariatric swallow but the wait was going to be about a month for both. During this time, I continued to lose weight, my clothes long ago too big on me, so I started haunting the second hand stores for pants since I didn't want to spend real money on clothes I was only going to toss later. My eyes had become hollow and black, my cheeks sunken. I had virtually no energy, I just sat at my cube like a zombie. A few people at work noticed and commented on my weight loss with concern since I obviously didn't look healthy. I didn't go out anymore. I had stopped dating in the summer since I looked terrible and nobody would want to date me in that condition. Also, I wasn't in the mood for it. By the time my bariatric swallow came around on October 31, yes Halloween, I was about 140lbs.

A bariatric swallow is not a pleasant thing. You lie on a metal table with an x-ray machine hovering over you. They give you this thick, chalky substance to drink and then they take pictures of your stomach while moving the table up and down, then have you roll over to the side. The purpose is to see the flow through your esophagus and stomach and see where the flow is stopping and if there are any obvious obstructions. Fortunately, I was having a bad week digestive wise so I knew it had to show something. And it did. The substance began pooling at the point of entry to my stomach, right where the surgery had taken place. As they looked at the images, you could see it very slowly flowing into the stomach but it was but a trickle. They said they'd send the results to both the gastric doctor and the gastric surgeon and sent me on my way.

During my meeting with the surgeon afterwards, he informed me that he no longer did gastric bypass surgeries or reversals. He said that he'd have to look into who is doing that type of surgery these days since he said it wasn't that common here anymore. I found that hard to believe since it seems like everybody is getting some form of gastric bypass surgery done these days. He talked about expanding the opening of the stomach using a balloon to allow food to pass or reworking the entire surgery altogether to make it work again. I told him no, that after 17 years of Hell, I had had enough and wanted it reversed. Plus I didn't trust it anymore. If after 17 years, I can suddenly develop some kind of serious issue, then I wasn't going to tempt fate again. He told me his office would contact me with a referral to someone who could help me.

On November 5, I finally collapsed. It was at work and I was feeling pretty dizzy and disoriented. It was like it just hit me suddenly. A cold sweat, chills, feeling like I was going to pass out. I knew I had to get help so I called my boss and told him I have to get to a hospital, then I called my mother. She said she would come right up. Good, I didn't want to be alone. A workmate offered to take me to the hospital so off we went. Due to my obvious distress, I got in pretty much right away. After hearing my story and taking some vitals, they hooked me up to an IV for fluids and started checking me over. To be honest, I was scared to death. I had felt dizzy and weak before, but this was different. It was far worse.

I spent about 10 hours in hospital that day and felt much better after receiving 2 1/2 bags of fluids to rehydrate me. I decided I needed to take a few days of to recuperate since I had no idea how long my hydration would last, so I went home to Kingston. A week later I was back at work and I finally had an appointment with a doctor who could help me. He agreed to reverse the bypass surgery but wouldn't know what to expect until he got in there since we still didn't know what was causing the blockage. He told me they'd call with a date. On December 5, exactly month after my scare, I collapsed again. This time it was morning and I was still at home. I made it to the hospital where the reception nurse recognized me and put me through right away. Again they filled me full of fluids and told me there was nothing else they could do for me until my surgery date was set.

In mid December I got the call. January 12th would be the day. By this time I was unable to eat much at all and had withered away to a pathetic 128lbs. My diet consisted of popsicles which I found easy to eat, the odd slice of toast, and Boost or Ensure which only stayed down some of the time. I looked like one of those Ethopians you see on World Vision, minus the dirt and flies. I continued working, I was all set for sick leave but couldn't afford to stop working until I had to. A couple of days before surgery, I had to go in for a pre-operative assessment. There they performed an electrocardiogram and found a problem with my heart. Seems the malnutrition had caused some electrical problems with it and now they were concerned with putting me under. Great! All this suffering just to find out they may call off the surgery. But it was a catch-22 situation: I needed the surgery to fix my problem so I wouldn't die but putting me under might kill me too. I told them I'd rather die on the table than suffer anymore and die slowly since there was no guarantee I'd ever meet the standard for the anasethetic in my condition.

On January 11, the hospital called and said I had been cancelled due to lack of beds. This has been a huge issue in Canada for a long time and now it was affecting me. They rebooked me for the next week and I tried to wait patiently. The day before the new date, they called again. Same problem. I expressed my disappointment but they said there was nothing they could do since I wasn't an emergency case. HOW THE FUCK AM I NOT AN EMERGENCY CASE!?! I'M DYING HERE!! Again, they rebooked me for the following week and again I was cancelled. By this time, I was so sick and lethargic that I just didn't care anymore. I was told this could go on for months so I began to lose hope for a recovery. I told my family that if I died waiting, I wanted people sued; the health care system, doctors, anybody. They just nodded but I knew they never would.

Finally on February 1, I got the call. A bed had just opened up so be there by 3pm or its gone. It was 1pm. I told the boss I was gone and headed home to pack a bag. A short taxi ride later and I was booked in. Still, I was told, the surgery could be cancelled if something else came up. I resigned myself to my fate. If it happened, it happened. If not, then screw it. Fortunately, it happened. After 17 horrible years, the bypass was reversed, or rather, re-engineerred since they couldn't put me back together as I originally was. But the effect was the same.

The surgeon described the obstruction as "kind of an old ulcer that had scarred up". Ulcer? I have no history of ulcers. Oh wait....maybe all that stress I was under during my first few months at the new job did more damage than I thought. Maybe I had a little ulcer from years of stress and it all finally came to a climax. Who knows? All I knew is that I could suddenly eat again, without tossing up. All the foods I had been forbidden were available again. Upon arriving home in Kingston to convalese, I enjoyed my first pork chop meal in years. It was the best pork chop I had ever had and my moans of ecstacy had my sister laughing hard. The biggest issue would be, of course, would he gain back all the weight?

That's another story.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cruel Summer

I hate summer. I used to love summer but this year just hasn't been fun. The weather's been bad, cloudy just about every day with terrible humidity, rainy, just dreary. I don't really have any plans this summer other than our trip to Niagara Falls in June. Its just a quiet boring summer overall.

But the weather notwithstanding, my biggest peave about this summer is that I can't enjoy all the food summer brings. Summer means chip trucks are open serving delicious hot and crispy hand cut fries and gravy, I love gravy. Summer means margaritas or some other slushie drink thats great on a patio downtown. Summer means visiting the hot dog vendor on the street for tasty dog while you roam around taking in the day. Summer also means ice cream. Big delicious cones served with your favourite flavours and toppings. Mmmmmm! But not for me.

To be honest, I haven't had much of a taste for ice cream this summer. Early on, we went to the local DQ for a blizzard and the cheap metallic taste of the ice cream turned both of us off. In fact, I threw mine up later after getting home, my tummy just couldn't take it. Since then, we haven't really eaten ice cream and that's probably a good thing. But last night we dropped into the drug store during our nightly walk to cash in some scratch tickets and I started rummaging through the ice cream freezer. What I found shocked me.

Drumsticks came in at about 360 calories, the Kingsize ones at 450, Klondike cookie sandwiches were 470, even the basic ice cream bar came in at 250. In retrospect, I guess I wasn't too shocked, maybe my reaction was stronger than it should have been because it was then that I realized I couldn't have ice cream this summer. It just didn't fit into the plan. Just like those crispy hand cut fries didn't fit, or buttery popcorn at the movies.

They say everything in moderation but when you're watching your caloric intake daily, its hard to find a spot for them. My day consists of a couple of apples, a pear sometimes, usually a banana, or two if they are getting too ripe and need to be eaten, and either a salad or soup for lunch. That can work out to anywhere from 600-900 calories just during the day, and that doesn't include supper and any snacks in the evening! Depending on what I eat for supper, I'm pushing 1800-2000 calories by 6pm. And because most of my day has been spent consuming foods that aren't very filling or satisfying, I get hungry. Now fortunately, I have developed a taste for fruit so my snacking would be grapes, watermelon, pineapple or something else, but its very easy to sit and munch on grapes or pineapple and not realize how many you've ingested. And again, they aren't very satisfying so the hunger comes back after a while. What to do?

According to the calorie requirement calculators i've found online, I need about 2900 calories a day to maintain my weight. I'm trying to stay around the 2000 mark give or take. Do you know how easy it is to rack up 2000 calories and still be hungry? I need more substansive foods, things that stick with you and keep you full so you aren't prowling the kitchen. Water isn't filling despite what the experts say and neither is celery. Fruit is, but it passes quickily leaving you wanting more or something else. Even during the day I don't feel like I've really eaten. A couple of apples do nothing, bananas are a bit more filling, salad is a joke and so is soup. And I eat Chunky soup! With crackers! By the time I get home, I'm starving and ready to eat.

Part of my problem is boredom. I eat when I'm bored. I also eat when I'm stressed out but I'm trying to curb that. But sitting on the couch watching TV makes it worse. We go for walks after dinner, sometimes we play video games, but we end up in front of the tube by mid-evening. Its an association I've learned over the years. My family always ate in front of the TV. And we were snackers, so it just became normal for us. To this day I find it difficult to just sit in front of the TV and not munch. Now granted, I'm munching on fruits for the most part but it doesn't take long for fruit to add up. We started buying those All Bran bars and Fibre 1 bars to snack on as we figured the fibre would be a good thing. However, each bar is about 140 calories and lets face it, not very satisfying although they taste great. It would be nothing to mow down on several at once. My inner fat guy would if I let him, and believe me he's almost won a few times.

This is why diets just don't work. You never feel full, or if you do, its only for a short time. Then what? I try to eat better, in fact, I eat better than I ever have and it shows. I am losing my extra weight but at what price? Frustration over not being able to enjoy some basic summer treats? Bitterness that I know this is my life from now on? Resentment that despite my best efforts, I simply can't learn to eat less and like it. I do eat less but I hate it. I hate not being able to wander on down to the DQ on a nice evening for a summer treat without having to cut out a few other things to make up for it. Is that worth it? No. So I suffer. Some people are fine with having just a taste, they find it satisfying and enough to curb them. Me? Not so much. I like to eat and dammit! I'm hungry!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Excuses, excuses

They call it an obesity epidemic. More and more people, both adults and children, are fat. Its hard to argue this, just step outside and take a look around. Seems like every other person has a roll around their waist and a double chin. Its funny because when I was fat, I felt like the odd man out, that one fat guy you'd see in a day. Nowadays, I think I'd fit right in, just another fatty out and about. Its crazy to me, like the universe is switching things up; what's up is down, what's white is black. Being overweight is becoming more the norm than the exception.

There are lots of reasons being suggested for this: too much TV, too much time in front of a computer, drive thru, saturation of fast food marketing, ready to eat dinners for the time constrained, people not cooking at home anymore, etc. I tend to believe all of them. What I don't believe is the bullshit reasons some of these people have for their size.
"I have a thyroid problem."
"I have bad genes."
"I don't have time to exercise."
"I have (fill in the blank) medical problem."

Some people truly do have one or more of these issues that contributes to their size, but most don't. Instead they find an excuse, any excuse to avoid responsibility for themselves. But its easy enough to call them on it; simply open up their fridge and cupboards. I guarantee you you will find more than enough evidence to dispute their excuses and find them personally responsible for their problem.

My mother is like this. She was a thin teenager but started to battle her weight as she entered her twenties and produced 2 children. After my parents divorced, she stopped watching herself and ballooned up to over 200lbs. She managed to lose this weight after joining a now defunct company called the "Weight Loss Clinic", which I too used for a while, but it was only a short respite as she eventually gained back the weight plus more. She's now bigger than ever and despite her claims that her doctor has pronounced her "medically fit", she looks like she could drop dead at any time. She smokes and drinks and gets virtually no cardio exercise. She cooks and claims to not eat much junk or bad foods but yet there she is, horribly obese. The last time I visited her, she said something about not having anything bad in her kitchen so I called her on it. Guess what I found?

Nacho chips and salsa (not bad but chips are bad regardless), snack bags of nuts, buttered microwavable popcorn, candies that she claims she doesn't eat, snacking crackers like Triscuits, Mr. Freezies (although they said sugar free), lots of beer and liquor, and a couple of other items I can't quite recall. Now my mother does cook most of her meals and she does try to be conscious of what goes into them, but she also buys a lot of fast food while at work. She denys this but one look at the floor in the back seat of her car reveals paper bags from Burger King, Harvey's, etc. And its not uncommon for her to hit the pizzeria a few doors down while at work for potato wedges, fries, pizza slice, or whatever else might catch her eye. I won't say this goes on every day, but something must be accounting for her weight. Booze has alot of calories and my mother enjoys her drinks. She works in a paint store so she's strong from carrying around cans of paint but she isn't getting any kind of cardio workout, nothing to get her heart beating so she can burn off more calories. And once she's home, she sits. She doesn't even clean her home, she pays my sister to go in and do it. LAZY!

We have another family friend who is quite obese and always has been. She doesn't work, never has, instead living off the system for most of her adult life until she married a mechanic and didn't qualify anymore. This lady cooked just about everything in the fat that she kept from other foods like bacon and stored in her fridge. How about that for artery clogging, weight packing goodness! Yet she talks about thyoid issues. Ya, right.

I noticed during lunch at the cafeteria in college what people were ordering. The thin or average sized girls were getting salad, fruit, water, fresh made sandwiches. The bigger girls were buying hamburgers, pizza slices, poutine (fries with cheese and gravy), soda, chocolate milk, candy bars and chips. Coincidence? I think not!

I was in a Subway not long ago and the overweight girl ahead of me was having her meat based sub (can't recall what kind it was) dressed. Along with the veggies, she had ordered bacon and "lots of mayo". Now I'm sure this girl is having issues with her weight like the rest of us and she probably would justify her fast food purchase by claiming it was Subway and thus a healthier choice than say pizza or a burger. True, but she blew it by adding the bacon and lots of mayo. Her sub which could have come in around 700 calories had to be at least 1200 or more. Mayo is frighteningly high in calories. Plus she bought the combo so she had a soda and cookies as well. Tack on another 500+ calories. Jared would be rolling over in his grave. Wait....he's alive? Oh...

And there's a movement out there, maybe you've heard of it? Its called fat acceptance. These whiners blog about how awful it is that people don't accept fat people for who they are. They complain about movies like WALL-E where the human race is depicted as fat, lazy, immobile clowns who can't do anything for themselves thus promoting the stereotypes. They tend to be single and bitter. From my perspective, they appear to want the world to cater to them, for members of the opposite sex to find them sexy and attractive or toss aside normal physical attraction and love the person inside because they're so wonderful. If you don't, you're shallow. God forbid they conform to the norm and present themselves better. They're fat and you're gonna like it!

This was prevelant in online dating. The site I subscribed to had forums members could participate in and discuss whatever topics they wished. Often, the topic of being overweight and unable to attract a mate came up. They would whine about how they'd send off an email to someone they liked only to receive no reply back or worse, a reply stating that the object of their affection didn't feel an attraction to them and was not interested. Of course, this meant that person was shallow. How dare they not see my inner beauty and what I can offer them! They only want to date a Barbie doll or supermodel types. Baloney! Attraction is very important to most people when it comes to dating and fat people just aren't that attractive. Most of the people who aren't concerned with looks at all are people who don't have them themselves. Rarely will you find someone who looks like Cameron Diaz in "Something About Mary" who only sees the inner beauty of somebody. Most people prefer to date within their own league or close to it. And another thing that was very interesting about these people? They wouldn't respond to other fatties or unattractive people who emailed them either. Double standard?

I, too, made bad choices not that long ago. I still do. But at least I owned up to them. I did it to myself. Nobody forced me to eat that extra large pizza with extra cheese, or prepare and eat 3 big sandwiches as a snack, or order a couple of Big Macs with super sized fries and pop. Nope. I did it to myself. While my family tends to be on the large side with many family members carrying around plenty of extra weight, I don't blame my problems on genes. It just means I have to work that little bit harder and be more diligent in my food choices. I'm basically lazy but I force myself into the gym first thing in the morning for 50 minutes on an elliptical and another 15-20 on the bike. I had my thyoid checked, you know just to be sure, and its fine. Nope, I love food. Always have, always will. And when I was a big fatty, I knew it was me. I owned my problem as Dr. Phil would say, and I took personal responsibility for it. Too bad so many won't.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gastric Bypass Nightmares - The Third Act

So I arrived home after 11 days in hospital, sore and vey slow moving. You don't realize how much you use your stomach muscles until they've been cut in half and are essentially useless. I had taken leave from work for 6 weeks to recuperate. A long time but necessary for sure. Since I was still only eating pureed foods, my mother decided that it was best to just buy baby food, or rather Junior foods. Made sense since it comes in different entrees and I could get my fruits and veggies too. I'll admit it took a while to get my head wrapped around the fact that I was eating baby food again. I assumed it would taste bland or worse, horrible. But I was assured it was fine and it was much easier than grinding up meals in the blender. Plus, it came in the right size for my newly reduced stomach.

Easter was right around the corner and mom had cooked a nice pot roast. Too bad I was still on Junior foods at the time. Solution? In the blender it went. A small piece of roast beef with gravy, then some carrots, the mashed potatoes were already, well, mashed. But this was where I learned my first lesson about portion control in my new reality. I had probably only eaten half of my dinner when I suddenly became nauseous. Very nauseous. I ran to the bathroom and vomited up my dinner. Now this was scary because the doctor had told me that I had to go easy on the stomach for the next month for fear of popping my staples and dying. Vomited and heaving into the toilet put a lot of strain on my stomach and I feared I was going to kill myself inadvertantly. Mom called the doctor's office in a panic but after things settled down, I was okay. Sore, but okay.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the lesson here wasn't that I had to only watch the amounts I ate but that certain foods were no longer going to be digestable. I learned this lesson again a couple of months later when I went out for a philly cheesesteak. I had only had a couple of bites when the thing came back on me, violently. I still wasn't sure what was happening as I had been told that i couldn't eat more than a cup of food at a time and a couple of bites from a hoagie certainly isn't going to be enough to overfill me. Over time, I figured it out. Foods that were gooey like melted cheese, peanut butter, jams and BBQ sauce gummed up the plumbing down there. Other foods that were chewy like steak, roast beef, pork chops, different types of breads and buns, ribs, etc. were also adept at clogging things up forcing me to expel it. Other more denser foods like potatoes took up too much room in my stomach again forcing me to vomit. For a while it seemed like everything was either too gooey, too chewy or too dense for me to digest. The problem was that the foods were getting to the small dollar sized opening of my new smaller stomach, which had been created for it since the food needed to bypass my normal stomach and was getting stuck. Once that happened, I had to expel it and of course, when you vomit, not only does the obstruction come up but so does the contents of your stomach.

This would explain why after this happened, I would continue eating. I had gotten rid of the food I had previously eaten so I was essentially hungry again. My family never understood this. I tried to keep my vomiting secret but you can only hide something like that for so long before everyone knows. So not only could I no longer eat a normal amount of food like everyone else, I couldn't eat certain foods. I hadn't been told this and I was getting bitter. To solve the pizza problem, I'd let it cool down enough for the cheese to solidify. If it went down as a solid, I would be okay. As for the meats, there was nothing I could do. Steak, ribs, roast beef, pork chops were out. When I was confronted with the situation, say after being invited to dinner somewhere, I would attempt to eat it but ended up in the bathroom puking my guts out...quietly of course. Eventually I gave up and started not accepting dinner invitation unless I had to.

Sure the weight started coming off, it had to. Over the course of a few months, I lost about a hundred pounds. Sure I looked better but I still had another hundred to lose so I was still pretty fat. But this is where my inner fat guy began to sabotage me. Once I hit about 280lbs, I stopped losing. I had found a way around the surgery, a way to eat and satisfy that crazy need to feed my face. The solution? Junk food. Or more specifically, chips and cheezies, especially the latter. Chips were potatoes so they would fill me up faster. But cheezies were like crispy pieces of air. They were light and broke down easily with chewing. I could put away a bag of them no problem. I got used to the vomiting and would order a pizza, a small one mind you, but way more than I should have been able to eat. Sure I'd throw up some of it, but I'd come back and finish it. I don't know how much of the pizza I'd actually keep down, but it must have been enough to stop my weight loss. I did this with everything I ate: burgers, pasta meals, chinese, home made meals, whatever. The only thing I didn't eat were the foods I knew wouldn't go down no matter what like steak. At least with pizza, once the cheese was solid, I could eat it.

Another unfortunate side effect of this surgery and my habits was that all of the vomiting was weakening the enamel on my teeth. When I did go back to the dentist a few years later, I had 14 cavities and a noticeable amount of enamel missing from my teeth. After explaining how this happened, he said that bulimics often suffer from this problem. The stomach acids simply eat away at the enamel leaving your teeth vulnerable.

Another side effect was that I developed gallstones a few months after the surgery. After suffering several gallstone attacks over a couple of months and the doctors not being able to figure it out, I went for an ultrasound and there they found the problem. My surgeon who was going to be taking care of this problem for me, actually laughed when he told me. "What is the big joke?" I thought to myself as he booked me in for the removal of my gall bladder. Turns out, when you lose a large amount of weight quickily, it upsets you body chemistry and gallstones are quite common. On January 2, ten months after my bypass surgery, I had my gall bladder removed.

Now most of this could have been avoided I'm sure with some therapy. Some preparation and education. Maybe a psychological assessment to see if I was going to be able to handle all of these life style changes. I mean, if it was that easy to just eat smaller portions and give up certain foods, I wouldn't have needed the surgery. Some people just aren't good candidates for this type of surgery. You really need to wrap your head around the limitations set by this procedure. Nobody told me about the vomiting, the inability to eat certain foods, the possibility of returning to the hospital within a year to have my gall bladder removed. Not to mention the shame I felt about my vomiting, not feeling comfortable accepting dinner invites and then when I did, having troubles digesting the meal. It made it hard when dating too. I'd go to dinner with someone and it would take a long time to find something on the menu I felt I could digest, then only eating part of it and asking for a doggie bag. More times than not, I had to explain that I only ate small amounts without giving up my secret. People didn't need to know my business and what my life was like. It was hard.

After a few years, I talked to my family doctor and explained how I felt, that I was bitter and felt lied to. That this wasn't what I signed up for. He wouldn't reverse it. He felt I would just blow up again and that I had to learn to eat within my limits and deal. Harsh.

In 2000, the switch finally went on and I went on a diet and exercise program designed to lose that pesky last 100lbs I had been carrying around forever. This story I'll leave for another post, but after having lost it, in 2003 I asked for a tummy tuck. I had a flabby middle that wouldn't shrink, the skin was simply stretched too much. In May, I had the surgery. The surgeon was the only plastic surgeon in the city and he was a few months from retirement. He had a reputation for leaving bad scars and not completely solving issues afterwards. My sister had him for a growth on her leg and her surgery was less than impressive. Same with others I heard, seemed this surgeon wasn't all that great. But he was the only game in town and I wanted it done. As a add on, I asked that he lipo my breasts since I had always had man boobs and they were quite distressing.

Afterwards, I looked like I had a string tied around my hips and pelvic area. It didn't hang as much, in fact it looked like a muffin top. The roll was diminished but it was still there. I expected a flat tummy or at least a flatter one. I still had a soft roll around my waist and my man boobs were still there. Sure he sucked the fat out but they were still sticking out. Time, he said, would solve that. It never did. So in 13 years, I had endured a gastric bypass surgery and all the side effects, removal of my gall bladder, loss of enamel on my teeth resulting in many cavities, shame and embarrassment, and a semi-successful tummy tuck. What else could happen? Oh it gets better.

The conclusion in part 4.....

Monday Blues

So, new week, new goal. I've decided that perhaps weighing myself every Monday and Friday is counterproductive. Here's what I mean: on Friday I weighed myself and was 203.5lbs. I was happy about that. I had a decent weekend, didn't overeat, no junk, ate less than my daily requirement so I should have been the same. But no, I was 204.5lbs. Not a good start to the day.
I figure that since I don't go to the gym on the weekend, that my body isn't working off any calories beyond what's normal in a day. The weekend is also a time when I'd enjoy a beer or three and maybe a snack that doesn't fit into my usual daily routine (read flavoured rice cakes or a couple of pizza slices for dinner). So I'm introducing foods that are higher in fat and whatever other bad things but that are not necessarily high calorie. This means my body is going to react to these foods by retaining water which will increase my weight by a pound or two. Interestingly, I did hop on the scale yesterday morning and was 202.5 so I was really happy Sunday. How else to explain a 2 pound jump overnight?

I think the best time to record my weight is on Friday after a long hard week of going to the gym and being more active. This way I can avoid the stress and bad feelings that emerge when I see a nonsensical gain on Monday. So I'll update the weight this Friday.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Talking to Myself

It's Friday! So I've stopped getting on the scale every day which is something I never used to do anyway but for some reason began doing a couple of weeks ago and I don't recommend it. Too hard on the soul when you think you've had a good day but the scale says you're up 1-2lbs, down 1 the next and then up another 1 the day after that. No thanks. I decided to weigh myself twice a week, once on Monday morning and then again on Friday morning. I could just weigh myself on either Monday or Friday but I'm more on my game during the week with watching what I eat and hitting the gym each day. I'm not too bad anymore on the weekends, but its funny how a few beers on a Saturday night or that slice or two of pizza I treated myself to can really screw me up.

Which brings me to today. Drumroll please........203.5lbs. Now last week about Tuesday or so I was 205.5lbs and I pretty much stayed there despite going up a pound then losing that pound again until this week when I finally dropped to 204.5 mid week and then to 203.5. Overall, I'm satisfied with that. That's a loss of 2lbs over a little more than a week. Good by any measure. But I can't help but feel frustrated because I hit 202lbs just before my holidays in late June so its taken me about a month to burn off the extra weight I gained during that 11 day span. Not to mention the fact that I was 207 just before the Christmas holidays came around and I really blew it there, but I've mentioned that before. So in reality, I've only really lost the weight I managed to gain during Xmas and Easter and vacation when, if I had of been smart and shown some more willpower, I could have been 190-195lbs by now, which is basically my goal.

I've often thought of tracking my weight loss with a graph or spreadsheet just to see how it actually ebbs and flows each week and month. When I started this latest battle in September, I was 226lbs. By the second week of December, I was 207lbs. That's pretty frickin' good! But since then, its been a long slow process thanks to my inner fat guy sabotaging me. There's gotta be some way of dealing with him. I mean its like he's a whole other entity inside of me, with his own mind and will. And he's clever, oh yes he is a clever one. I never named him though maybe I should, but then that might look schizophrenic. But if I had to, I'd probably call him "Jerkass".

Years ago as a teenager, my doctor referred me to a holistic doctor. These doctors practice more natural methods of healing and explore the interconnection of mind, body and spirit. One exercise he had me do was to role play with myself. He'd create a situation, say one where I'm craving or wanting something to eat, then have me have a conversation with myself (including sitting in different chairs to represent the different "personalities" within). The idea was to discover how and what was leading to me giving in to my desires and through that, learn to quash them. It was awkward at first, I mean I talk to myself all the time but I don't answer, and he encouraged me to confront the personality pushing the craving.

Usually I'd end up arguing with myself, which was quite bizarre, and at a certain point he'd ask how I felt and I'd say something to the effect of "I want to hit him" like it was a whole other person. So he'd place a pillow on the other chair and tell me to hit it as hard and as often as I liked. I can't say I felt much better afterward, slightly embarrassed might be more accurate, but it was an approach. I think I saw him a few times, then I just stopped.

I think being a fat person is like being an alcoholic. You will always be a fat person inside just as an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic. You will always have to watch your weight, always have to make sure to stay active somehow to burn off extra calories since your body simply doesn't do enough of a good job, always have the cravings, always fight to stay good because its so easy to fall off the wagon and once you do, its very hard to climb back on. Then there's the guilt; the guilt of indulging in something junky, of eating more than a normal sized serving or having seconds, of missing the gym one day, of sitting on your butt all day, etc. You're always hyper aware of the calories in foods and if you're not sure, you're Googling them to see. Something as simple as enjoying a bag of popcorn and a soda at the movies becomes a source of bitterness and not because of its inflated price. Unless you are one of those rare few who learn to control their cravings and only indulge in a small taste to satisfy your needs, you will spend your days wanting what you cannot have. Or at least in the amounts you want it.

I mean who wants just a bite of a candy bar? Or the serving size of a half cup of ice cream? Or one 3oz. porkchop? Or one cup of spaghetti? That's just silly! I'm still hungry!! No wonder diets fail. But then again, its not a diet we're supposed to be on, its a lifestyle change. What I wouldn't give for a revved up metabolism. I hate thin people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Random Thoughts....

I was at the grocery store the other day when I came upon this young boy who couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old wandering around the fruits and vegetables section. I was struck by how overweight this youngster was. He was huge for a child of his age, round puffy face, big belly, large arms and legs. I don't know children's sizes or normal weights, but this fella had to be carrying an extra 25 or more pounds. He was so big, his arms didn't fall at his sides. Instead they rested on the sides of his tummy sticking out as if he were in a snowsuit. I couldn't help but feel so bad for him, it wasn't his fault.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, his younger sister came waddling around the corner. She was bigger for her size than he was! She was actually bull-legged and looked to be having troubles just staying upright. Red noticed them too and leaned over to me,"That's got to be a form of child abuse." I nodded in agreement. We then saw the mother pushing a cart emerge from behind a display. She wasn't horribly overweight herself but was maybe 30lbs over give or take. She didn't appear to have much in the cart, it looked like she had just arrived moments earlier. I would have been curious to see what she was buying that is causing those kids to be so big.

It always breaks my heart to see young children obese. Usually, one or more of the parents is obese and you can see where it's coming from but this woman wasn't large. Unless both of them have some sort of medical issue, and I seriously doubt it, this woman has condemned her children to a hard life of ridicule, depression, poor physical health, and probably an early death among other things. Children learn what you teach them in those first few years and a healthy diet should be included in that. Children need to learn that they can't have everything they want and it is essential they learn to see food as a fuel source, not a comfort. I pity them.

New York City passed a bylaw stating that all restaurants with 10 or more outlets must display the calorie count of every item on their menu beside the item itself in the same font. When I first read this, I was appalled. More government invasion into our lives, I thought. Then again, I don't trust the government. But still, I could see the other side of it. Perhaps if people could see exactly how many calories were in the foods they eat at these establishments, they might make better choices and thus lose some weight. Understandably, the restaurant association is up in arms saying that adding the calorie numbers to the menus clutters the already busy boards making them hard to read, plus, they say this information is available on a restaurant's website for people who want to know.

First off, I do think some people will reconsider what they order when they see the numbers on the menu board. Those people being the ones who are trying to lose weight or maintain a weight. Then again, if that's the goal of these people, then what are they doing in a fast food restaurant? Secondly, I don't think its going to make much of a difference to most. I've already seen news reports where people have been asked if it would affect their choices and most said no. Bottom line is everybody knows that fast food is not a good choice just like they know that chocolate bars and chips are not good either. But they eat them anyway. It'll be the same thing as putting those graphic images on cigarette packs. Did they make a difference? No. Smokers don't even see them. In fact, I read something the other day that said they were looking to change up that offensive because it was felt people weren't responding to it anymore. Were they ever?

Third, since the bylaw only targets restaurants with 10 or more outlets, it is aimed at fast food establishments, the biggest target of obesity fighters. Now this comes as no surprise as the fast food industry is a billion dollar one with no downturn in sight. People may be taking a healthier approach to their eating but the industry has responded with salads, no trans fats, roasted chicken sandwiches instead of breaded and fried, etc. People are lulled into believing they are making healthier choices but in truth, they aren't. In some cases, the salads cost more in calories than a burger simply because of the extras given with it such as dressing, cheese, meats, croûtons. The no trans fat thing makes me laugh because people think the food is now better for them which it is not. Its still loaded with calories and its still deep fried!

This brings me to these fad diets and ideas people get fed (no pun intended). Things like the no trans fats. A few years ago it was all the rage to eat "no fat" foods. Sure it was comforting to know you weren't ingesting a bunch of unnecessary fats, but the calories were still there. Same thing with the low carbohydrates or low cholesterol BS. You announce something that makes bad foods sound not so bad anymore and people leap. Suddenly they feel they can eat french frys, peanut butter, butter for that matter, salad dressings and whatever else has been labeled with this good news with impunity. You can thank the advertising departments for that. What they neglect to tell you is that its still high in calories and depending which diet fad its following, is still loaded with the other bad stuff. Now its trans fats. Restaurants have been required by law to remove it from their oils and other products it may be present in. All in the name of fighting obesity.

While I agree that obesity is a huge problem destined to become worse, I can't say i agree with governments telling us what we can eat. Nobody is making us buy burgers and fries and pizzas and tacos and whatever else people want. They're doing so of their own volition. Legislating people into eating better by passing bylaws forbidding trans fats, calorie counts on menus, removing certain beverages and foods from our schools and other measures taken isn't going to change anything. People develop their eating habits in their first few years of life. And that is the responsibility of the parents to encourage good habits. You'd think that a parent, especially an overweight parent whose lived the nightmare of obesity, would care enough to teach their kids good eating habits so that they can avoid the emotional and physical issues that arise.

Sadly, from looking around, they do not.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lunch Time Rant

I eat salad just about every day for lunch at work. And I don't just bring a small token salad, I buy those bags of ready to eat tossed salad that are supposed to feed 3-4. Since its basically my entrée, it needs to be big. And besides, salad has virtually no calories, its essentially free. It isn't until you load it up with meats, cheeses and high calories dressings that salad becomes a problem. I will eat a full bag of this stuff at lunch with some low calorie salad dressing (no, I won't eat it with just vinegar and a bit of oil, if I'm going to eat friggin' salad, I need it to taste good). And no, I don't drown it in the dressing, I usually buy the low cal Italian dressing which comes in at about 5 or 10 calories a tsp depending on which brand you buy, and I try to be careful how much I apply. Add a few cherry tomatoes and perhaps some cucumber slices and we're ready to go!

So why is it that when I'm standing in the kitchenette at work pouring the salad into a bowl and preparing it for lunch that at least 2 people insist on saying "That's all your eating?" or "Eating grass for lunch?" or "That's a big salad!" Do I comment on your lunch? In our multi-cultural society, you can expect to find any and all cuisines represented during the lunch hour, all warming in the community microwave ovens creating quite an aroma around the building. So do I walk by you while you're preparing your exotic lunch, take a whiff, and say "Jesus, that smells like something I left in the toilet last night" or any other thing that might come to mind? Why comment on someone's lunch anyhow? I can see it if it smells wonderful and you wish to complement them, but just to question your choices? Why is salad such an odd choice? I thought everyone was eating salad in these health conscious times. Just because I choose to not bring a sandwich or some leftover from dinner the night before or order a bacon cheeseburger from the cafeteria doesn't make me an freak.

I'm trying to eat better. I'm trying to make sure I get my veggies in every day. And not just cooked veggies which are how you are not supposed to eat them, but raw and fresh. Or is it because I'm a guy and guys aren't supposed to eat salad other than as a side plate to their more manly entrée? I'm tring to lose weight! I'm trying to do the right thing and make the right choices! I don't need some bozo making snide comments about my lunch! Yes, I'm eating a salad. Yes, that IS my lunch. Go fuck yourself!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Nemesis

So its Tuesday. The scale reads 205.5. Yesterday it read 207.5. Ya, that same 207 I've come to hate with all my being. I was about 207 around the end of November, before the Xmas season began and all the sins came out almost daily. I was 207 when we went to Vancouver in late April. Now I'm hovering around 207 again. Just when I think I've broken away from it, it pulls me back in.

"Where do you think you're going? 205? 202? Less than 200? I don't think so. I'm a part of you. I own you. You don't have to like it but you better learn to love it."

It took me a while to burn off the sins of Xmas, then the sins of Easter, then the sins of....well you get the point. When I went back to college in my mid 30's, I hovered around 205lbs those 3 years. I had gotten down to a nice 185lbs the summer before school started, but then met a girl and lost my focus. Funny how that goes. I actually went up to 227lbs by November of that year. It was a disaster. It took a few months but I peeled off the weight and remained at 205 for the remainder of my college years. For some reason, after college I dropped to 190lbs then 180lbs. I wasn't doing anything different but I was working in a paint store full time while I waited for a job in my chosen career to emerge. I guess slogging all those 50lb pails of paint along with my gym workout gave me an extra boost. Either way, by the time I left for Ottawa in mid 2005, I was a trim 180lbs. I can't remember the last time I weighed 180lbs; I was probably 14 and in my junior year of high school.

Actually, a "trim" 180lbs wouldn't be totally accurate considering the left over skin hanging off my belly. I'm sure that without it, I'd look pretty sweet naked. But when you've still got a spare tire, albeit a deflated spare tire, hanging around your waist and a pair of man boobs, you are far from sweet. A constant reminder that no matter what I do, how hard I try, the abuse I wrought on myself over the years will always be there and that I'll never look the way I want to.

Maybe your body just settles at a certain weight, like that's the weight it wants you to be at. That no matter how hard you try, in the end you're going to settle at a certain weight unless you're willing to eat like a bird for the rest of your life. And that, to me, is a real bitter pill to swallow. I eat better nowadays than I ever have. My fridge is full of fruit and veggies and I eat plenty of them. I drink zero calorie pop, zero calorie iced tea, 1% milk, light beer (when I decide to partake), and admittedly not enough water, but I've cut out all the juices I used to love, regular pop, Kool-Aid, basically most of the staples you'd find in a normal fridge. You won't find a bag of chips or any other snacking item of its like in my cupboards nor will you find chocolate (at least chocolate that I bought). My snacks are fruit, I don't eat much bread, potato or rice, I eat "good" cereals like Corn Flakes, Special K, All Bran Flakes forsaking my old standards of Fruit Loops, Count Chocula or whatever other junkie cereal I used to love. I buy Splenda instead of sugar. I buy lean cuts of meat and when we cook them, we don't coat them in high calorie sauces. Overall, I'm proud of how I eat and have been doing so for the last 10 months.

I changed up my workout schedule to help ensure I get there. For years, like most people, I went after work. Its not a bad time I suppose, you're still in full working mode so traversing from work to gym is fairly easy providing you don't stop. You may want to go home first, get changed, maybe a bite to eat before heading off but a lot can happen during that period. Some people find it hard to get back up once they've sat down and perhaps had a bite. Your mind realizes you're home and how comfortable you are.

"Surely you don't want to get back up, its so nice here. Let's stay awhile. Maybe you can catch Judge Judy or something on the tube," it might say.

I find the best way is to just go straight away. Bring your gear to work and take off from there. No intermission, no passing GO and collecting $200, no distractions. That's what I used to do. But then my life changed somewhat. Me and Red started living together. Her schedule starts much earlier than mine meaning that she needs to go to bed much earlier. Solution? Get up around the same time and hit the gym first thing in the morning. Shower, shave and off to the salt mines for another day. By 9pm, we're both ready for bed. It takes a bit more effort to get up a couple of hours earlier than I normally would, but at least I'm going 5 days a week. Some weeks I can't make it all 5 days due to an appointment or some other item that has come up but most weeks I do. Yes, I tell myself that I'll make up for it on the weekend by dropping in for an hour on Saturday or Sunday but I know its a lie. Just another one of those lies we tell ourselves to justify the guilt.

And what is it with this guilt? Why do I hate myself for missing the gym one day? Why do I loathe myself when I decide to have that bowl of cereal in the evening instead of another piece of fruit or even a cucumber? Or when I break down and pop some corn or have a couple pieces of Red's chocolate? Is that really such a crime? Do I not deserve to have a taste once in a while? Sometimes I wonder. Seems that everytime I do, I pay a price. I can't have junk around, its an aphrodisiac. It calls to me, lures me in and leaves me feeling horrible like that girlfriend you want so desperately yet you know she'll just break your heart again. And its not like I can just have a taste, it's like a drug, I need more then more. Clearly, portion control isn't part of my lexicon. That's not the way I roll.

Sure, the weight's coming off but its soooo slow. And every indiscretion, every hiccup puts me back a step. When I started getting serious again in September 2007, I was 226lbs. My goal was to be around 190lbs by the summer. That's a loss of 36lbs over 9 months or 4lbs a month. Not a hard goal I think. When I was first dieting and exercising a few years ago and peeling off the weight, I was losing about 10lbs a month. But I was hard core then. Now I'm just soft and fuzzy. Maybe I deserve to be 207lbs.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gastric Bypass Nightmares Part Deux

So I arrived at the hospital for prep the day before my surgery and the staff are doing the usual stuff, questionnaires, basic check of my blood pressure, heart rate, etc., final weigh in. My roomie is a nice guy, probably about my age and we had a chance to chat and have a few laughs. Mom and my aunt are out in the waiting area on the surgical floor having a smoke (yes, this was before the no smoking bans took place everywhere) when this tiny asian woman in nursing duds comes into my room rolling one of those metal stands with a rather large bag of clear fluid hanging off it and a hose.
"Mr. Hayes?"
"I am here to give you an enema."
I have to admit, I was a bit shocked. Nobody had told me I'd be having an enema today. To be honest, I didn't really know what an enema was. I excused myself for a moment and went out to the waiting room.
"They want me to have an enema!" I exclaimed.
My mother, never one to hide how she really feels, exploded in laughter. I turned around and returned to my room.
The asian nursing lady was preparing the enema as I returned.
"So I need you to remove your underwear and lie on your side with your legs bent slightly."
Nervously, I slowly removed my underwear and climbed up into the bed while she pulled the curtain closed.
"Have you ever had an enema?" she asked.
"Well, I'm going to insert this hose into your rectum and then I'm going to fill your bladder with the solution." she explained in her deep asian accent, "This will clean out your bladder for surgery."
Feeling completely vulnerable, I tried to dispel the tension with some humour,"Really? We just met, I don't even know your name."
"Okay," she continued without missing a beat,"I'm going to put some lube on you, it might be a bit cold."
It was.
"Are you ready?" she asked.
Does it matter, I thought, "Yes, I guess so."
She inserted the hose, it wasn't too bad I suppose, she was gentle. After all, it was my first time.
"Now I'm going to turn on the fluid. Let me know if you feel any discomfort or cramping."
Slowly, I could feel something in my bladder. It was a weird feeling like nothing I had experienced before. Then I felt a slight cramp.
"Ahh," I moaned,"that doesn't feel too good."
She said nothing. In fact, I think she opened up the hose a bit more. The cramping grew. My grunts and groans made it obvious I wasn't comfortable. She never said a word.
Ny roomie was having a consult with a doctor during this time and I heard him ask,"I don't have to have one of those, do I?" I could have sworn I heard the doctor chuckle.
After what seemed like an eternity, she pulled out the hose and declared,"Finished."
"Now what?" I asked.
"When you feel some pressure down there, go to the bathroom immediately." she advised.
That feeling took all of 3 seconds to hit. I literally ran to the bathroom, thank God it was free, and my bowels exploded. I can't remember the last time I moved that quick. Never in my entire life had I had such a satisfying shit, I mean it just poured out of me; years and years of waste that must have been building up inside of me fell out of me. I couldn't have stopped it if I wanted to, the beast had been unleashed.
"Dan," I called out to my roomie,"you have to have one of these. I'm going to recommend you have one of these."
Umm, no thanks," was his meek reply.
I must have been sitting for a while because my legs went to sleep. It was hard to get up. Thank God for the handicap rail. Also, I needed a shower, it was a messy one.
My mother was still giggling after I came back. Then she told me she had had one when she was in labour so she knew what it felt like. I still had that deer in the headlights look in my eyes, sometimes medical science is cruel.

So I was awaken early the next morning to be taken into the O/R. Now I was nervous. Mom was there to see me off, she looked worried. The staff took good care of me as they prepped me in the operating room. They must have seen I was nervous as they tried to be as comforting as possible. Soon they had poked me with a needle and off to sleep I went.

Since I had never been under anesthesia before, I had no idea what to expect. Nausea was expected but never came. I was foggy as all Hell though, completely incoherent. There were people in my room, Mom, my sister, her boyfriend, maybe somebody else but I had no idea what was going on. The nurses decided it was time for me to get on my feet and take a pee. This couldn't have been more than a few hours after major stomach surgery! Since I was still out of it, I didn't protest. They grabbed me by the arms and sat me up. I think they actually got me on my feet and placed a bed pan under my gown so I could pee but I really don't remember that well. It was all flashes of memory. They finished up and layed me back down to rest. That's all I remember from that night.

Of course they were checking on me all through the night so after a few more hours, the anesthesia had worn off and I was finally coherent. At some point during the early dawn, a nurse arrived to change my dressing. This was the first time I saw what they had done to me. It was ugly. A long 6" incision down the middle of my abdomen, it was red and puffy with dried blood around it. But it was the steel staples holding the incision together that drew my attention the most. My stomach looked like Frankenstein's forehead. There had to be a dozen or more of them in a row, it was the weirdest thing I had ever seen. And the sting. When she removed the dressing, I felt a painful sting as the blood peeled away from the incision. Not pleasant. She cleaned me up and redressed it and decided I needed to get up as lying in bed wasn't good for recovering surgery patients. I didn't argue, who was I to know any better? Besides, so far I didn't feel too bad at all, a little weak and tired maybe but overall okay. Or so I thought.

She took me by the arm and started to pull me forward. The pain sliced through me like a hot dagger. I actually cried out in agony. Never in my entire life have I felt pain like that. It was intense, it felt like my stomach was on fire. She tried to be gentle but every little movement sent a crippling pain through my abdomen. I wanted to cry. We went slow, first sitting up, then swinging my legs over the side of the bed, then standing. Oh my God, the standing part was the worst. For the first time since surgery, my abdomen was straightened up, I couldn't maintain it, I had to remain hunched over, the pain was unbearable. You don't realize how much you use your abdominal muscles until they've been cut in half and are basically useless to you. Mercifully, she only kept me up for a minute or so then let me lie down again. It was terrible.

This standing up routine went on a few times a day during my stay. Yes, it got better over the 11 days I was in, but it was slow going. My stomach was so big that gravity was pulling it downward causing much pain when I stood. I had to be really careful how I moved, every motion in bed caused horrible pain. I remember lying in bed one night watching America's Funniest Home Videos, which was new at the time, and laughing so hard that I was actually causing myself more pain. My roomie, who was in for gall bladder removal and having a hard time of it himself, was also watching it in his bed. Plus he was eating nuts that had been given as a gift. His nurse was concerned that he hadn't had a bowel movement since his surgery a couple of days before. He couldn't explain it until she noticed the can of nuts sitting on his night stand.
"Are you eating those?" she asked,"You can't have those, they cause constipation!"
We both started laughing, hard. I was literally in tears from the situation and the searing pain I was suffering, I think he was too. It got so bad they had to separate us for a while because they were becoming concerned one or both of us might pop our stitches, or in my case, staples. Despite the pain, that was a fun night and a great memory.

A dietician had been dispatched to go over my new diet and answer any questions. For the first couple of days, I was fed through intravenus. Then I was given a few sips of water. Fluids followed and finally I was allowed solid food, or about as solid as pureed food gets. Mashed up veggies, fruits, some kind of Pablum I think. Since this was all still so new, I hadn't given food much of a thought since the surgery. That would eventually change. After 11 days I was discharged with a prescription for Tylenol 3 and a followup appointment in 6 weeks.

To be continued.....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's Gotta Be The Humidity

It came to my attention the other day that part of my weight gain this week could be due to the terrible humidity that's engulfed the region as of late. Humidity usually triggers some type of reaction from your body besides sweating, it causes you to retain water and bloat. Aside from the minor popcorn infraction Monday night, there was no real reason for me to weigh a pound and a half more on Tuesday morning than I did on Monday considering I ate well that day and hit the gym. Plus, since going on vacation the last week of June, where I did indulge and know I probably put on a couple of pounds, the bloat that is associated with that had melted away fairly quickily upon resuming my normal life. Other than sitting on a patio in the market Sunday afternoon sucking back Stellas (which aren't calorie friendly BTW), I had been good and I figured my true weight was probably 205-206. It was about 202-203 before vacation, when I got on the scale my first day back at work, I was 211. Of course, there's no way I put on 8-9lbs of fat during a week off so I knew about half of it was bloat.

This morning I was back to 207. Maybe this is my true weight currently. Maybe I'm deluded. No, no maybe about it, I am deluded. 207 it is.

Funny thing about vacation time. I tend to let myself take a vacation from the gym and good eating habits too. I don't know why really, its not that hard to eat decently when off from work or even away on a trip. But its something I do every time. I had started really working hard again on losing the extra weight last September and I was doing pretty well. From a start of 226lbs, I was down to about 207lbs by the first of December. Awesome progress I think! But then December hit and Christmas goodies were all about. First at work which was very hard to avoid. Then my sister's Xmas party mid-month where there was a ton of great food including baked goodies which I love. I tried not to overindulge but Hell, it was a Xmas party and you don't see these goodies all year. But every little bit adds up and I knew I had done some damage. Then the actual Xmas holiday began. I was off for the last week of December, a nice gift to the employees my company offers, and we first went home to Kingston for a couple of days then up to Campbells Bay to visit Red's family. There was much food and holiday cheer and both destinations. Add to that I didn't hit the gym during that week and you start to get the picture. After we arrived back home, we still had a couple of days off and we basically threw caution to the wind, which in retrospect was an incredibly dumb thing to do. Poor food choices, no gym and little activity all spelled TROUBLE. No surprise when it was all over I was 217lbs. Super. 2 months of work down the drain.

What was interesting, and frustrating, about this time was that I had been so good before that and suddenly I was having trouble getting back into my routine. I had redeveloped my taste for cookies, chocolate, pizza, and anything else I shouldn't be enjoying regularly. It was very hard resuming my diet and workout routine. I found myself dipping into Red's cookie bag, or the stash of chocolate she keeps in the fridge. I was running out at lunch for a slice or two of pizza instead of just hunkering down with my fruits, salad and soup. It was awful. I felt awful. Still, a few of those pounds came off quick, they were just bloat. But I got stuck at 213lbs. I was getting really frustrated with myself. My mood was getting blacker as my frustration grew.

It wasn't until after Easter that I finally started seeing some progress. Easter was bad, Red had bought a bunch of crap for us and for about a week, I was in chocolate heaven! But after that, I was able to get it together again. I think I lost my taste for it finally. Now I could continue my journey. The weight started to come down again, slowly, until I managed to hit 202. One day I hit 200 but I think I was just dehydrated. So by the end of June I was about 202-203 depending on the day. Six months to fix my Xmas adventure and get to a weight I should have hit in January. Depressing. But at least on the right road again.

Which brings me back to June's vacation. You'd think after all the Hell I'd gone through to fix what I did at Xmas, that I would have been more careful. Well I started out that way. Really I did. We went to Niagara Falls and for the trip, we packed fruits, crackers and Red's cookies. For dinners, there was a Lil Caesars across the street offering a thin $4.99 pizza for takeout so we did that a couple of times, ate at a Ruby Tuesdays once and enjoyed a great pasta meal at some italian restaurant the last day. We did eat breakfast once, at the local Dennys which charged us way more than the usual Dennys would have because it was around the corner from the tourist area at the Falls. (I mean who pays $40 for breakfast for 2??) Besides the beer and wine we drank, we didn't do too badly I thought. Except for the cookies. God I love those things.

So after another somewhat decadent week with no gym activity, I stepped back on the scale to see 211lbs. A couple of days after resuming my diet and workout, I was back to 207lbs. I hate that number. So I gained about 4-5lbs over my vacation. The good news is that I found my resolve again. When I woke up on July 2 to go hit the gym and return to work, I felt motivated. I had no desire for anything unhealthy. My first workout was brisk, I was in the zone. I bounced around work and ate well again. Like I mentioned earlier, aside from my Sunday beerfest in the market and the popcorn incident, I've been good the last week. Weight gain my ass.

Its gotta be the humidity.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gastric Bypass Nighmares Part One

Surgery. The final solution. The last resort when all else has failed. A desperate act taken in desperate times. The ultimate answer to winning The Battle. Or is it?

I had just turned 20 when I paid my family physician a visit for a checkup. It had been a few years since my last real checkup and this visit was precipitated by my mother's alarm at my growing size. My mother had always been concerned about my weight, over the years we had gotten family memberships at the gym, she had encouraged me to visit my doctor for referrals to dieticians, holistic practitioners and one doctor in particular who practised hypnosis (guess she heard about this somewhere and thought it might be worth a try). But like most fat people, nothing stuck and I continued to grow wider and managed to find new ways to get food into the house and eat. (One of my favourites was to pick up a pizza, get it home and place it on top of the shed that stood beneath my bedroom window. Once inside, I would pop the screen and grab it. The perfect crime! Of course she knew something was up because there was a mountain of empty pizza boxes sitting on the floor of my bedroom yet she never saw me bring them in). So I had been living away from home for most of the year and when I returned, she was naturally alarmed at how much bigger I must have appeared to her. I never really thought about it, I hadn't stepped on a scale in ages and wasn't paying much attention at that point. She made an appointment with my GP to figure out how we were going to resolve this growing crisis.

First thing we did was record my weight. I could have sworn the poor scale groaned when I stepped on it and would have waved a tiny white flag if it could have. I have to admit, I almost had a heart attack right then and there when the scale read: 318lbs. He sat me down and did the usual routine of checking the rest of my vitals, then it was time to talk. 318 was too much. Way way way too much. At this rate, I'd be dead by 30. Basically he said "you need to lose about a 125lbs or grow 2 feet." I seriously considered how to go about growing the 2 feet. Then he said "there is another option, but its a last resort. I want you to consider all other options before this and try to make one of them work. However, if it doesn't, we can look into this." Then he said it: stomach stapling.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. Basically creating a small pouch out of your stomach using staples and connecting it directly to the small intestine bypassing the lower part of the stomach. This results in the individual only being able to consume about a cup of food at a time and slows the emptying process of the stomach. Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. This was 1987. Laproscopic surgery hadn't been invented yet. They weren't using lap bands or other less invasive tools and techniques. These guys were doing it the old fashioned way, big cuts that ran from your diaphram to your belly button, big steel staples being clipped into your flesh and then more stitches and staples to close you up again. Not very pretty.

I had never had surgery before and it didn't appeal to me so I said I'd keep it in mind while he hooked me up with yet another dietician. For the next couple of years, I attended a couple of weight loss clinic programs that were being advertised in town, saw dieticians, and basically continued to grow. I had moderate success with the clinic programs but nothing held up. I simply didn't have the will power. Mom had been battling her weight for years too and we did most of it together which was nice. She had much more success than I did with it. Finally in 1990, I had my doctor refer me to the surgeon. Because my weight was a threat to my life, I qualified to have it covered by my provincial health care plan which was fortuitous because it was a pricey procedure and well beyond my means. The surgeon evaluated me, decided I was a good candidate for the procedure and explained the idea behind it. In a nutshell, after showing me a crude drawing of how he planned to mutilate me, he said that I'd only be able to eat about a cup of food and that I will lose weight as a result. Simple eh? Well not exactly.

See, it was what he didn't tell me that was far more important. Now I understand that doctors today offer mental help along with the surgery to help with the huge adjustment this makes in your life. Being able to eat one day and not the next is not something you just accept at face value. For a fat person, its a major lifestyle change that is being forced upon you. Once you go under the knife, that's it. You can't just not "diet" anymore and go back to eating whatever you want whenever you want to. Those days are over. Without some therapy to help you adjust to your new lifestyle, its quite a shock. Plus, when he said I'd only be able to eat a cup of food at a time, he never mentioned not being able to eat certain foods anymore. This is important later on. Essentially, he didn't give me the whole story and not once considered how much of an impact this would have on me psychologically. For that matter, neither did my family doctor.

I was scheduled to go in March 24, 1990. I "celebrated" my impending victory over The Battle with a pizza on March 22 since I had to check into the hospital the next day for prep. I swear it was the best tasting pizza I had ever had. (The Pizza House R.I.P.) On March 23, I was not really nervous as I prepared a bag to take in, I guess the whole thing hadn't hit me yet. Mom and I hopped into the car in the early evening and we headed off to what would become the biggest nightmare I had ever had.

To be continued......

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It was the popcorn!

The Battle, day 15,174
Weight - 208.5lb
Goal - 190lbs
Mood - good

So I get on the scale this morning as first thing in the morning is my usual time to face the music and the scale reads 208.5. Yesterday I was 207. WTF!?!

I had gone over my caloric intake last night taking into account my visit to the gym which was good for burning off about 700 calories. I figure I came in at about 1880 give or take while according to various calorie counters, my body requires anywhere from 2900-3000 per day to maintain my current weight. I came in at a deficit by my calculations. So why is the scale saying I'm a pound and a half heavier???

See, this is why you shouldn't weigh yourself everyday. Your body fluctuates daily, too much salt one day and you're bloated, dehydrated somewhat another day and you're lighter. Have a few beers and BAM! Take a good crap and there could be a couple of pounds lost right there! I've done it! Now normally I don't weigh myself daily, in fact, up until last week I only weighed myself about twice a week. Some medical people who deal in this business suggest throwing your scale away and using your clothes as the determinant of weight or rather size. Others say you should monitor your weight daily to keep a closer eye on it....and in my opinion, reinforce the guilt. The scale is good and bad. It can make you feel so good when you've been working hard and being good but on the flip side, it can be demoralizing causing feelings of despair and a "what's the use?" mentality. Like most, I have a love/hate relationship with my scale.

However, I know what I did yesterday to deserve this. After spending a couple of weeks searching various video stores looking for the first season of OZ (you would not believe how hard it was to find. Only a few stores carried it and the ones that did never had all 3 discs in at the same time. It was maddening), I came across it at the Blockbuster in the mall where my gym is located, go figure. On a lark, and because it was the ony video store in a 10km area we hadn't checked, I wandered in after my workout and voila! There it was. So I picked it up and sat down to enjoy the first episode.

At first, I had grabbed some pineapple, a banana and a pear to munch on but as I sat down, I looked over at Red (*pseudonym) and asked her, "Do you want some popcorn?" Immediately her eyes lit up followed by a very enthusiastic "yes!" See, we used to keep popcorn kernels in the house and once in a while we'd air pop a bowl, throw on some butter for flavour and enjoy. But it had been awhile since we'd done this as we both had lost our taste for it and only recently had we purchased a fresh bag of kernels, at Red's request. I figured since I had been good lately that it wouldn't hurt much. WRONG! After we were done, I was tallying up the calorie count using Google to search the calorie content of butter and air popped popcorn and best we figure it came in at about 1800. Since we both ingested about half the bowl each, there's roughly 900 calories. Sad, very very sad. And most of it was the butter. **Note to self: butter is bad, bad butter, bad!

Anyway, it wasn't the total calories that I think screwed me this morning, it was the butter. Since there's no way I actually gained a pound and a half over one day, I figure the butter caused my body to retain and I'm just bloaty. I'm not too worried about it, I hit the gym first thing this morning and my daily food intake will consist of several pieces of fruit, a salad, a toasted turkey sandwich at lunch, and pork loin with roasted veggies for dinner. I anticipate a change for the better tomorrow morning.

Or a new scale.

Monday, July 7, 2008

In the Beginning....

I was fat. Well maybe not in the beginning beginning but by about the age of 8 or 9 I was starting to get a little rounder every year, you could actually see it in my school pictures. By the time I was 19 I was a good 320lbs. It only got worse from there. By the time I was 24, I was approximately 370lbs, big stomach, no neck, an eating machine and a prime candidate to just drop dead one day. I was one sad puppy.

Since then, I've had gastric bypass surgery, lost about 90lbs, developed gallstones that resulted in the loss of my gall bladder, discovered some will power finally, dieted and joined a gym I attended religiously, lost another 100lbs as a result, had a tummy tuck that didn't turn out how I had hoped, developed an internal issue stemming from my gastric bypass surgery and lost another 55lbs because of it, had the bypass reversed to save my life, gained about 75lbs back alarmingly quick during my recovery period, gained another 25lbs give or take over the next few months, rediscovered my will to diet and exercise and lost 25 of those pounds and now I'm battling to reach my goal of about 190lbs and remain there.

Everything in the above paragraph happened over a period of 17 years. Quite a roller coaster ride if you ask me. I've been obese, just right, too thin, then just right again, then fat, then.....well you get the picture. Am I any different than most people who've been battling their weight all their lives? Nope. Well maybe a bit because of the surgeries and the life threatening emergency, but for the most part, I'm pretty typical; a lover of food, an emotional eater, hater of the gym, possessor of low self esteem and emotional issues, a wisher that medical science will eventually find a cure for this horrible calamity that plagues so many of us.

So I figured I'd journalize what's going on with me during this battle because it is a battle with no end. I've come to realize over the years that the gym will always be a part of my life, that no matter how much I hate that damn elliptical trainer or the thousands of miles I've logged on a stationary bike, it is a constant I cannot escape. That my body hates weight training and will always break down on me just as I'm making progress thereby stopping any notion I had of having nice pecs or bulging biceps despite my understanding of proper posture and movement when lifting. That my caloric intake must always be minded and that for every indiscretion there must be penance. That due to the abuses to my body over the years it will never look the way I wish it to. That despite my very average appearance in clothes, I will always see myself as a fat guy while others will see me as normal looking. It's as much of a mindgame as a physical one. Both go hand in hand, the body struggling to rise above what the mind is telling it.

Of course, I will delve deeper into my history with The Battle as I write as I think my story is important to share and perhaps someone somewhere might find hope, learn something maybe they didn't know or find a comrade in arms so to speak in their own battle. It is with this that I begin......