Coming in July 2018: Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, “The Sleeve”

I’m getting weight loss surgery.

It feels freeing to type those words. It feels freeing to have a rapidly approaching helping hand, a tool in my toolbox to help me get to a healthier weight. It feels freeing to say, “I have done the research.” It feels freeing to know that this minimally-invasive surgery is safer than staying morbidly obese. It feels freeing to know that this body of mine, the body I have fought and broken and challenged for so many years will finally have a chance to be what I want it to be.

This decision has not come lightly. It has been the result of painful moments, of deep disappointment, of medical hurdles , of serious reflection and work. A few years back, surgery didn’t feel right for me. I was also about 50 pounds lighter back then. But babies and life and habits and hormones have taken their toll on this body and metabolism, and I find myself the heaviest I’ve ever been, ready to get to a point where I feel like ME in my skin, not a stranger in a heavy, stiff suit. For years I have tried to live between the dueling worlds of loving myself completely but being so uncomfortable in this skin. Now, I’m giving myself an exit strategy. It’s not the easy way out. In fact, I think making this decision to have an elective surgery that will seriously change my eating habits and life is pretty damn brave. But something needs to happen, and I’m ready. Let’s do this.

Am I scared? Of course. There are unknowns. There are possible side effects. Nothing is perfect, after all. But I am ready — and I’m ready to write the happy ending of the Double Chin Diary, the one where I walk happily into the sunset in a tankini, not self conscious about my stomach rolls, but instead, strutting with the positive satisfaction of a life well-lived and a body and mind that feel good. There will be bumps in this road, but it’s a road I’m excited to travel. My stomach will be reduced in size by about 80%, and the hormonal components that make weight loss very difficult for me will dissipate over time as my body produces less of the hunger hormone. I have an excellent support team — friends near and far that have had success with this same procedure, a loving husband and family. I’m ready.

For the next six months I’ll be working on changing my eating habits and getting back into fitness. Insurance requires that you diet for six months to prove that you’re serious about making this commitment. I have done the hard work of learning to love myself despite my weight. I live a happy life as a plus-sized woman. I honor my body, beautiful in its imperfection, amazing in its creation of two beautiful daughters, two legs that walk, two eyes that see, two hands that feel, a heart that beats that I wear on my sleeve. But, I want more. I want to shop in the women’s department, not the plus section. I want to sit on an airplane feeling less like a sardine. I want to hike the hills, to climb the mountains, to surf the waves, to hide and seek with toddlers, to fully live my life and come alive with physical energy and zeal. For somebody who’s fought this battle for 20 years, it feels good to know that the reinforcements are coming. It’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be worth it — and as usual, I’ll be right here, telling you all about it.

Thanks for reading <3

Weightless

Oh, Weight Watchers. If we were in a relationship, our Facebook status would be “It’s complicated.” But you lured me in with the offer of two months free if I lost 10 pounds in the first two months, so here I am. We’ve had a tumultuous start, you and I. The first few days I was in denial that we were back together, and ignored the illuminated WW tile on my phone. Even though I was paying good money on the plan, I was putting off tracking… putting off the idea, the concept, the fact that my free for all with food was over. I made fun of you and Oprah, wondering why the richest lady on earth needed to futz with smart points and meetings. If I was a billionaire, could I abandon my worries about my weight and health and just be? The answer of course, is no, because the human brain doesn’t work like that. Nothing is ever enough, nothing is ever done.

Once I got my game face on (encouraged by the weekly weigh in I keep with two of my Fitbloggin’ friends), we got along better. I started swapping my 2% Chobani mango for 0% plain with a sprinkle of powdered peanut butter. I ordered salad on the side, hold the dressing. I took the baby for a walk and diligently counted out 14 rice crackers. I tracked every BLT I ate… not bacon, lettuce, tomato, mind you, but bites, licks, and tastes. We were jiving, you and I, like two old high school friends who ran into each other at Dairy Queen. Then came time for weigh in. I stood on my own scale, hopeful, like I had been so many times before. The number surprised me, and it slapped me in the face with its usual sting of hurt. Up 3.7 pounds. I stepped off the scale, sad, but familiar with the disappointment. My body, doing what it wants. It wants to be fat. It wants to hold on to this layer of fleshy skin, to be held by sloping hills grown from years of rewards, of angst and joy, and more recently, the cozy home of a child.

I brushed off the rejection of the scale and went to my meeting anyways. I didn’t want to. It was 7 p.m. and I could think of every excuse why I shouldn’t. The husband didn’t get home until 6:45. The baby was sweetly cooing. I had been eating all day and it’s best to weigh in in the morning. I was tired. My back hurt. I didn’t shower. I could go tomorrow. But I went. I put the feet in the shoes and the body in the seat and the key in the engine and off I went. As I stood on the scale, the receptionist leaned towards me. A smile played at the corner of her lips. Was this a shared sadness, a “sorry, you didn’t lose this week” or a hint at celebration? She hugged me. “You’re down 3.7 pounds,” she said.

I sat in the chair at the meeting. I thought, and analyzed, and contemplated the strangeness of this journey. I felt motivated and encouraged, ready to defeat the demon in the scale, in me, in my appetite. I courageously tracked every morsel I consumed. Then the weekend came, and I got sick. I drank Dayquil instead of my morning tea. I ate a Cup O’ Noodles instead of a salad. I wanted comfort, and warmth, my bed, a lack of responsibilities. I let it go for just three days, and then those three days caught up with me. I skipped a meeting. I ate pizza for dinner. I mindlessly plucked hard-shelled Cadbury Eggs out of the candy dish when a spreadsheet at work was getting the best of me. How quickly it all changes and how quickly it all begins.

I don’t want to fight with me anymore. Eating healthy is not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s not the saucy gossip you whisper scandalously to the neighbors while the curtains are drawn. It’s boring, predictable, routine, and good. It is not naughty. It is a mindset, and as much as I hate the term, it is a life style. I need to stop looking at food like my vice and sin. It is fuel and nourishment, and sometimes, celebrations. And that’s okay.

I forgive you, self. I forgive you, friend. I will whisper to you quietly, “It’s okay”, until you realize the berating of your choices will get you nowhere. Instead of the disappointment and frustration, I say, be like the Phoenix and rise up. Leave the Cadbury and the skipped meeting, the tight jeans and the pizza in the ashes. You will rise, and you will fly. You may fly the wrong direction, but eventually turn around. You will reach your destination, and you will look down, and the old you will be there, as you always were.  And you will know that the work, the effort, the struggle, the disappointment, the eventual success was worth it all. You will have risen in the light, a lighter you. Weightless.

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I suck at losing weight, but I kick ass at gaining it.

It’s become crystal clear to me that I can’t succeed at everything, and apparently losing weight is just one of those things. But you know what I do succeed at? Gaining weight. I’m so damn good at gaining it, I felt like it was time to write a blog post in my honor.

So you can fit into your jeans from high school? So what, I can fit into my earrings from junior high.

Nobody Cares

You crossfit, you box, you yoga, you run, you swim. I creak.

Sloth

 

You made Paleo pecan crusted salmon for dinner with a side of lemon scented broccolini and washed it all down with cucumber verbena spa water. I mashed my finger into the corner of a chip bag and licked off the salt.

You’re so full you couldn’t possibly eat dessert. I ate all of mine… and the rest of yours, too.

You cried at your Weight Watchers check in when the scale was two pounds higher than usual because you were bloated. I thought, “Oh good, now I won’t really have to lose weight for next week.”

You beamed when you went from a size 14 to an 8. I beamed when my leggings with the threadbare thighs made it another day.

Cheese Fries

You were inspired when Oprah decided to rep Weight Watchers. I wanted her to stay fat.

You were repulsed by the Double Down. I wanted to try it.

You get your dressing on the side. I get my salad as a side.

Pizza

“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change,” you say. Nope, it’s a diet.

Bullshit

 

You have extra belt to spare when you buckle up. I suck it in and pray it clasps.

Have you checked your Vitamin D levels? Your B12? Your thyroid? All of those are fine, but apparently I’m super deficient in this thing called willpower.Food Delicious

You forgot to eat lunch today? I base my whole day around eating.

You can whistle with two fingers and your mouth? Well, I can do this.11808462_1464347487228092_159316067_n

You love it when your friends bring you wine. I love it when they bring me cupcakes.

Eats

 

Sure, a party sounds fun. *Heads right to the food table*

 

You’re in shape. I’m in shape, too. Round.

 

You breeze through turnstiles at the subway station. I do the hula.

 

So there you have it. You may rock at losing weight, but I’m awesome at gaining it.

 

April’s bikini day at the beach

I did it.

I finally wore a bikini at the beach.

I had done it before as a child, I’m sure.

But as an adult, my stomach had never once felt the cool sea air upon it.

bikinibeachI’ve always wanted to try wearing a bikini. If I just didn’t have that horrible fear of what everyone there would think, I bet I would have done it a lot sooner. However on this day, once my friend and I had successfully walked the farthest away we could from people, I decided to strip down just to the bikini I had worn there with fearful anticipation of actually showing it. My friend easily sensed my embarrassment as I peered around to see just how far away everyone was, standing with my hands in my shirt ready for lift off. Luckily, as the awesome guy my friend is, he knew to say all the right things to make me feel better. Compliments about me being hot and “no one caring” eased my anxieties enough to get me to take off my top and plop down with my hands/arms hiding my stomach. With a few more self-esteem boosting words, I let go of my stomach and realized I badly needed to just get over this deep-rooted fear I have about wearing a bikini.

Why is that I could go to Burning Man and walk around with no  top? Or go to an Oregon hot springs and do the same? Why didn’t I feel horrible shame there the way I do at the beach?

A suggested answer came from one of my close girl friends. She pointed out that at Burning Man and hot springs, so many people are naked and “letting it all hang out” that the societal pressure to look a certain way just isn’t there. Though at the beach and other public swimming places, it is almost expected that the only women you will see wearing bikinis are thin. I am grateful that these times are changing and more and more women are feeling more secure about rocking whatever they want to at the beach. Sadly, I still haven’t been able to JUST GET OVER IT. I think I’m getting better since I’m even willing to give it a try, but I hate knowing that the #1 reason I won’t wear a bikini to the beach is because of my fear of what complete strangers think of my body.

How freaking lame is that?

So, blog readers, does the fear of what other people think of your body ever hinder what you like to wear?  If it doesn’t, how did you get to that awesome place of complete self-security? I’d love to hear it!

Oh, and by the way, I’m totally down 20 pounds officially from the start of this year. YAY. Thank you 3-day training and food allergies! WOOO!

 

Lots of love,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

bikiki

Proof (at a safe distance for my insecurities).

Fat Girl Fear Debunked: Being Naked at Korean Spa

As I thought about this post, I thought, “How do I write a post title that isn’t like, all about being naked at a Korean Spa, because it’s about so much more than being naked?” But then, let’s face it; the notable thing I want to tell you guys about IS being naked at a Korean Spa, cuz’ this blog explores the adventures of an adventurous plus-sized gal and her quest to live a full-life as a full-figured lady. My journey to health the past few years has gleefully invited pampering into my life. Massages? Love them. Acupuncture? Bring it on. Hot Springs? I’m there. Pedicures? Every month and a half. My paychecks may dwindle, but while I can get away with this pampering and relaxation, I fully intend to reward my hard-working self with non-food items. My awesome acupuncturist has been recommending that I visit a Korean Spa for several months, but I always had the same reaction “Don’t you have to be NAKED?”. My acupuncturist, who has the cool and calm European attitude about nudity that people should (i.e., it’s no big deal, there’s nothing sexual about a spa!), would shrug and casually say that’s not what it’s about. I mulled this around in my head for a while before ultimately deciding, that nope, while learning to navigate a newfound confidence with my body, going au naturale in front of others (willingly) just wasn’t for me.

…Until, I saw an awesome deal on a Groupon for a Women Only Korean Spa, and my friend Jenny mentioned it to me, wooing me by the description of bath tubs filled with tiny, heated, clay balls that you submerge yourself under. Bathtubs with hot clay balls? Steamy rooms filled with aromatic herbs? An oxygen room, rumored to be the cure for insomnia? An ICE room, like a walk in refrigerator, when it’s been 102 degrees? The heated Himalayan Salt room with burlap sacks sent me over the edge, and like that, my groupon was purchased, my anxiety was amping up, and I had a date for a Friday night Korean Spa adventure with Jenny. We discussed this very bold transition in our friendship; after all, few friends have seen my shockingly white birthday suit. Luckily, we laughed about it, decided our eyes would stay up, and chose to adopt the aforementioned European attitude. She soothed some of my fat girl fears like only a friend can; with rationale: Would I be the only overweight person at the spa? Probably not. Would somebody say something to me, like they had in Thailand, and make my self-confidence disappear? Probably not, and if they did, I could smack them with my towel. Would my body be pointed at and ridiculed? See #2.

Once we arrived at the spa, in true Alyssa fashion, I blurted out my insecurities to the woman at the front desk. She laughed, assured me I was not the only person nervous about being naked, and told me I would feel great. With a deep breath, we walked into the locker room, stripped down to our fashionable pink robe, and headed to the shower room, the place where the nakedness would go down. (At Korean Spas, the principal is that you need to be clean and free from chemicals that may be lurking in your swimsuit from pool chemicals or laundry detergents.) It was a large room, with multiple showers along each wall, a narrow bathtub with buckets for rinsing your feet, and a heated Himalayan salt tub. Upon first inspection I saw: butt cheeks. All of the naked women stood with their fronts facing the wall. I can handle some butts, I thought, after all, while varying in size, all butts look the same, pretty much. As I rinsed myself, I made a decision. I could either be coy and ashamed of my body, trying to hide it, or I could embrace this opportunity and own my body like an Amazonian queen. I chose the latter, got myself nice and clean, and moved into the wonderfully relaxing salt tub. The longer I sat naked, the more I saw, but here’s the thing. As is with most matters in the world, nobody is ever as focused on YOU as you are with you. The things we worry about, stress about, freak out about; these personal insecurities and vulnerabilities are personal in the sense that nobody is really giving it the mental real estate you might think it would occupy. I couldn’t care less about the bodies I saw, and did I pass judgement? No. There were bodies of all shapes and sizes, all colors and textures, but I wasn’t there to observe. I was there to relax.

After my hot tub dip, I put the robe back on, because all of the sauna rooms actually require you to be dressed so that you don’t flash your bits and shock someone out of a steam-induced zen. Once I was back into the false sense of security that clothing promises, my vulnerability was hidden again, tucked safely out of sight. Something strange happened then: I realized with the heat swirling around me, the steam gently clinging to my body, that being naked would make more sense. It wasn’t a sexual experience, it wasn’t about vanity. It was about relaxation and healing, free from the hindrance (and very real practicalities, like sweat), that clothes can provoke. I relaxed, took a few deep breaths, and was reminded in a very subtle way of the same lesson my body has been telling me for years: that this body of mine, while big, is perfect because it is strong. It is capable. It is mine.

Why liking your doctor makes a huge difference.

When I think about the past two years in terms of doctors, I have a veritable cast of characters that come to mind. Getting married, becoming unemployed, going on my husband’s insurance meant switching from Kaiser, where all of everything was neatly contained in one HMO system, to the wild west (but totally awesome) land of PPO. I didn’t need referrals to see specialists for all that ailed me; and for once, my histamine-hating body rejoiced at the fact that I could pick my allergist based on reviews, proximity, and office hours of convenience. Granted, there were some trials as I adjusted to the PPO plan, like the fact that I needed several different docs — an allergist, a primary care doc, a dermatologist, a lady doc, and an endocrinologist (apparently I’m high maintenance). I hit gold with my allergist, but didn’t so much love my primary care doc. Instead of a doctor who actually listened to my complaints about my weight, I got the old “You’re not trying hard enough. Exercise more, eat less.” Now. Surely there’s some truth to that. But had this doctor taken the time to *really* investigate my claims, they’d find that blood tests don’t lie, and neither was I. So I dumped him, and moved on to the next. I bumbled around with a few different doctors, and now, a year later, I feel that I finally have my medical dream team assembled.

Curvaceous and Stunning Vaudeville Star Lillian Russel

Yesterday I had a two month follow up with my endocrinologist. I like this guy, because not only does he have a great sense of humor (reminding me that I was born in the wrong era, because my weight back then would have been highly desired — even mentioning the curvy old film star Lillian Russel, see below!), he TAKES TIME TO EXPLAIN THINGS. As in, he actually busts out his doctor pen, and starts to draw diagrams on the paper sheet on the exam table. Yesterday, he drew a diagram of the kidney’s role in weight loss, and why a long-term low carb diet can be challenging on the kidneys. (We’re trying a 1,300 calorie  day diet now, with moderate “good” carbs.) I had some very pointed questions about some of the hormone issues I’ve been having, and he gave me very direct, yet polite, responses. There’s a bedside manner that’s needed anytime you’re working with the public, especially when it’s sensitive stuff. I don’t need to be coddled, but if I ask a direct question, I want a direct answer, but delivered softly. This guy has it mastered — even making jokes about Dexter while taking blood. Schwing! I have what’s called “white coat hypertension”. I’m usually nervous at doctor’s appointments, so yesterday, my first blood pressure reading was sky high (156/92. YIKES!). I now know to ask the doctors to re-check mid-way through the appointment. I’ve known this for years, yet Kaiser wouldn’t retest me, and I ended up having to visit a hypertension clinic where, no surprise, my repeat blood pressure readings were great. The doc yesterday got me laughing, took my blood pressure a second time while cracking jokes about my Metformin induced nausea, and lo and behold, my blood pressure was a relatively healthy 126/79. That? Is a good doctor. One who listens, takes note, suggests helpful modifications, and cares.

So who cares if I like my doctor, right? I care. You have to decide to take action after leaving your doctor’s office, to try and manage the things YOU can control. Some things you can’t control, but some you can. I left my appointment feeling encouraged, positive, and motivated to keep working on my weight loss. And that’s why I realize it’s important to like the person who’s helping to take care of and treat YOU. Because YOU matter at the end of the day, and to keep yourself in tip-top shape, “liking” the person who’s giving you the orders is super important. Have you found a doctor you like?