Monday, December 28, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part V

Bless me Blogger for I have sinned, it's been 3 weeks since my last post...

[Dear readers, my apologies for not staying on schedule with this series. I do not receive any compensation for my writing other than your love, kindness and interest. As such, my family and personal life will occasionally become a higher priority than my writing. I beg your forgiveness, thank you for your patience and will now commence the 5th installment of this series.]

At the end of the last post, I had met the preliminary requirements for a referral to a bariatric surgeon and was awaiting approval from my HMO. I received my approval in September 2005, and was informed by my primary care physician that I needed to attend an informational seminar held once each month by the surgeon. It was too late to attend the September seminar, so I called and was scheduled to attend the October seminar.

The day of the seminar, I was filled with various emotions. I was excited and curious, nervous, had some low-level fear, and even a sense of marking a milestone. I attended the seminar held in a medical building near the hospital where my surgery would be performed. I took a seat in the back so that I could watch not only the presentation but the other attendees. I noticed that I was one of the smallest attendees in a group of very morbidly obese people. This gave me momentary pause to question whether or not I belonged there or was I giving up my conventional battle too soon? I then reminded myself that I had arrived at my decision soundly and logically and had the support of all who were involved.

The surgeon and her team gave a wonderful presentation. She shared her statistics both good and bad and spoke about the comprehensive end to end programs provided by her office. I learned that most of her patients participate in a study of bariatric patients that is managed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This appealed to me for two reasons. I believe in studies that support ongoing education and provide data to determine best practices; especially in medicine. I also have a fondness for the NIH because I took some courses there back before I abandoned my plan to get my masters degree. I made a decision right then to participate in the study if I was eligible.

Another important fact that I learned at the seminar was that my surgeon's medical practice was one of two Centers of Excellence in bariatric surgery in the Sacramento area. At the time, there were four healthcare systems offering bariatric surgery. Having a surgeon who was recognized by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery made me feel more confident about my surgeon and her practice.

The seminar consisted of the surgeon and her staff speaking and showing power point slides and a former patient who recounted his personal experience with bariatric surgery. An information packet was handed out to all the attendees. The staff also shared that they held monthly support groups for patients. The two types of surgery offered, Roux En Y and Lap Band, were discussed in detail. This helped to solidify the Roux En Y procedure as the one I believed was best for me.

At the end of the seminar, the staff answered questions. The presentation was so thorough that there were only a few questions. I left the seminar feeling satisfied with what I had learned and confident in my decision to proceed with the surgery. The next morning, I called and scheduled my first appointment with the surgeon.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part IV

[This is the fourth part of a series on weight-loss; In this installment, I mention the South Beach Diet.  I am a biologist and not a nutritionist.  The information provided here is informational only and should not be considered advice.  I am not receiving compensation in any form for mentioning the South Beach Diet]

At the end of the last post, I was ready to pursue bariatric surgery for weight-loss.  I began to let family and friends know of my intentions and received a lot of support from them.  I made an appointment with my primary care physician for a full physical and consult for referral to a surgeon.

The physical and and laboratory tests were an obvious necessity.  I had to be in good enough health to survive the surgery and the stringent weight-loss regimen afterwards.  My appointment was in June and I learned that my weight was at an all time high- 253 lbs.  I was now more than 100 lbs overweight.  At the time of my research, the basic criteria for surgical candidates was at least 100 lbs overweight or 75 lbs overweight plus at least one weight-related health problem.  My weight-related health problems consisted of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, borderline level of glucose for diabetes, and chronic muscle and joint pain and fatigue.  I was physically a candidate.  Next, my doctor had to determine if I was mentally a candidate.

I was told that one measure of success following surgery was to lose 10% of my body weight while under physician supervision.  I would have to lose 25 lbs before I could move on to the next step in the approval process.   I was also required to meet with a dietitian, fill out a lifestyle questionnaire, and a mental health questionnaire.  The questionnaires were extensive, about 18 pages in all.  If the mental health questionnaire revealed any issues then I would have to meet with a psychologist.  Once those processes were completed then I would be re-evaluated by my primary care physican and a referral request for a bariatric surgery consult would be submitted to my HMO.

I began those processes fully committed.  I understood that surgery was not a cure, but a tool to help me manage my weight in a healthy way for me.  I began the weight-loss process and chose to use the South Beach Diet and exercise.  I chose the South Beach Diet because it is based on the glycemic index and everything I understood about nutrition indicated that it was a very healthy diet.  I also believed that it was a diet that I could use post-surgery to manage my eating.  It took me three months to lose the 25 lbs.

I met with a nutritionist who reviewed my nutrition questionnaire with me.  The meeting lasted approximately one hour and I was told that my understanding of nutrition was sufficient to be approved for the surgery.  My psychological questionnaire and lifestyle questionnaire did not indicate that I needed a face to face meeting with a psychologist. 

Once those preliminary items were completed, I returned to my primary care physician.  He reviewed the check list and submitted the request  for the surgical referral. 

to be continued...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - Let It Snow


The Un Mom is sippin on (no not gin and juice) hot chocolate and peppermint schnappes.  It makes for some "spirited" randomness.

I've beeen writing a series of daily (M-F) posts about my weight loss experience, but today I'm taking a little break for RTT.  I will resume the weight loss posts tomorrow.  In the mean time, if you want to get caught up, you can read I II and III.

It actually snowed at my house on Monday morning.  This was the first time it snowed since I moved here.  Granted, it was only a dusting but still, I found myself in awe.  We prefer to visit the snow and usually have to go a half hour or an hour up the hill to visit it.  But it finally visited us.

Saturday, my baby turned 14 (sniff, sniff).  She had a sleepover with a handful of friends.  All of the girls (including mine) had sweet and innocent personas that they projected until they decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. Then they came screaming and laughing into the house because they had placed two of the neighbor's Christmas reindeer in the humping position.  Ah youth--I gave them a gentle lecture about "other people's property" but couldn't help laughing because my sense of humor is so low brow.

My son started college this week (Yay Bubba!).  He and his wife HA and my granddaughter Miss Honey Bee, are now 1253 miles closer to me but they are still 1771.59 miles away (according to Mapquest).  Like his mother, Bubba got the baby, marriage, college process in reverse order, but hey look how great I turned out (insert your own personal snark here). He did choose wisely though, I adore my DIL and my granddaughter is adorable and sweet.

My oldest daughter HNH is getting her own preview of parenthood.  She adopted a Pomeranian puppy named Tobias and I understand he is keeping her up nights.

My grandmother had her toe amputated last week.  She is a diabetic and 85 years old.  There was concern at one point that she might need to have her leg removed below the knee.  Luckily, it was just the toe.

As I sit here at the desk, typing, away, I'm waiting on the FedEx man to deliver  a new lamp for our big screen TV.  I'm the only one in the house who hasn't missed the big TV.  Surprisingly though, the kids haven't commandeered the other TV, so maybe I'm not the only one not missing it.  My husband, however, is wringing his hands.  He also has a crazy look in his eye and talks about going bowling (who knew that TV withdrawal could lead to a bowling obsession).  If you were going to suggest that I try distracting him with sex, I've already tried that.  If he would pass out like most men do afterward, it would work.  I happen to have married a man who immediately following sex, is always energized and wants to go to Vegas.  You heard me correctly, LAS VEGAS NEVADA.  It's only an 8 hour drive.  Sex doesn't make him beat on his chest and proclaim that he is "the man".  For some reason, it makes him want to gamble.  I have yet to figure it all out.  He has yet to actually ever get up and drive to Vegas after sex, but we have hopped in the car and drove to Reno (only a two hour drive) occasionally.  I don't ask, I just enjoy the "ride" ( I can hear you groaning)

My Christmas tree is nine feet tall and artificial.  Two of my children are allergic to evergreen trees ( a real bummer) and so we've had artificial trees for many years.  I miss the scent of a fresh tree and pine scented candles just smell too much like Pine Sol to me.  

Random schmandom, I've got stuff to do.  See ya later.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part III

[This is the third part of a series on weight-loss]

So at the end of the last post I wondered if I would have the courage to actually have bariatric surgery.  I spent a significant amount of time thoroughly researching the surgical procedure and the studies and statistics for the post-surgical outcome.  I actively learned as much as I could about bariatric surgery until I started the new job.  I was not quite ready, however, to actually have the surgery. 

The new job was a completely new type of position for me.  It was a newly created position at a small company.  My background from previous careers made it a great fit.  I had told my then sweetheart (now Hubby) that I wouldn't even consider marriage until I had a job and could stand on my own two feet.  I think I had the job about a week before he proposed.  This job was quick-paced and required long hours.  I often went to work at 7:00 am and left the office at 10:00pm.  It was very sedentary and so the battle of the bulge ensued and I was losing the battle significantly. 

We married in December, right before Christmas.  Our families had already planned a family gathering in Las Vegas, so we decided to add a surprise wedding to the mix.  Our families were thrilled and we had a wonderful wedding.

Back at work after the holidays, my long days resumed.  I tried to compensate for my lack of movement by eating as healthy as possible.  It was a huge struggle and without any real exercise, it became apparent that all I was managing to accomplish was to not gain at a rapid pace.  However, I did still gain.

In March, I attended a meeting at work and the CEO shared the financial reports with us.  The red ink was a big, blaring sign of things to come.  Being the newest employee in a newly created position, the writing was on the wall and by the end of March, I was once again unemployed (so much for standing on my own two feet).

One thing had become very clear during my research.  Surgical intervention was highly controversial and significantly frowned upon by many, including some high-profile personalities. It was a common topic on talk shows, and each one that I watched made it very clear that most people considered weight-loss surgery to be cheating.  It was a judgment that I found unjustified.   My research proved to me that with the right perspective, commitment and expectations, it was a good and life-saving option.  There was one final piece of information that solidified my decision to have the surgery.  It was a story of bariatric surgery performed for a different health problem other than weight-loss.

I read a story ( I wish I could remember now which publication) in a magazine about a family who had a genetic pre-disposition for stomach cancer.  Several family members had elected to have gastrectomies to lessen the potential for cancer.  They had chosen to do this because they believed it would save their lives.  Their decisions could not be reversed, much like  the Roux-En-Y procedure I was contemplating.  This story made me realize that the stigma associated with weight-loss surgery was something that could not stand in the way of my decision.  It made me see that if I felt I was at risk for death because of my weight, then I was fully justified in pursuing the best option (for me) to manage and reduce or eliminate that risk.

I told my husband that I believed I was ready to pursue the surgical option for weight-loss.  He knew that I had been researching bariatric surgery and he fully supported my pursuit; not because he didn't like the way I looked, but because he completely understood how much I struggled and how worried I was that I wouldn't live to see my grandchildren.  I told him that while I didn't plan to stop looking for a job, I would use the time off to see if I qualified for the surgery and if so, plan to have the surgery and recovery while I wasn't working.  Our insurance was an HMO plan, so I knew I had a long road of approval processes ahead of me.  It turned out that it was a much longer process than I anticipated.

I made an appointment with my primary care physician to start the ball rolling.

to be continued...

Friday, December 4, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part II

[This is the second part of a series on weight-loss]

When last I left you I had reconnected with my childhood sweetheart and after spending a fun-filled week in Vegas with him, we decided to try to make a relationship happen.  And happen it did!  I was still living in DC and he was living in sunny northern California.  He is a government wank with a pension to beat most and wasn't about to relocate under any circumstances.  I worked for a global company, who's headquarters just happened to sit in the Bay area with satellite offices in the same town as my sweetheart(by the way, he is now my husband and that is another sordid tale I will tell in its entirety in a future post or two).  So after our week in Vegas, we returned to our respective corners of the continent and tried to figure it all out.  Then I got a promotion, almost randomly, that required that I move to California.

In the mean time, I began to struggle up and down with the weight again.  The job change and the move across country brought new stressors to my life.  The changes were positive, but they were still changes.  My eating was good then bad then good again and continued in this vicious cycle.  Exercise was spotty at best.  Six months later I had regained the 30 lbs.  Luckily, my size did not change how my future hubby felt about me.  After the move, I continued to struggle with eating and exercising.  Sometimes, I would be completely diligent and committed.  Other times I ate and sat on my butt with wild abandon.  Stress was still high; the new job began to crush me with tasks about a year after I accepted it.  The company was struggling financially (most were at the time) and even though I wasn't at risk for a layoff, I was required to pick up additional duties as the company "downsized".

I began to struggle not only with my weight but my mental health as well.  I began taking Paxil and Ambien to deal with the stress--two drugs that have potential weight gain as side effects.   It seems that medical professionals might think twice about that when they hand them over to obese patients, but you and I know otherwise.  I also began to take blood pressure medication and it should be noted that I had been using an inhaler for exercise-induced asthma for several years.

My mother bought me a lifetime gym membership for Christmas, and I was thrilled to have it!  I began earnestly exercising and following the diet plan laid out by a professional trainer.  I began to lose weight very slowly.   The job stress escalated to the point that I knew my health was in jeopardy because of it.  So I quit the job.  I whole-heartedly believed in my ability to get another job right away, so I did not line up a second job beforehand.  It took nine months to find another job.

In the mean time, depression and stress from not having a job replaced the job stress.  But, while I was twiddling my thumbs in between job applications and interviews, I began to research weight-loss options in earnest.  Back in the nineties, I barely missed being part of the Phen-fen tragedies--thankfully.  Soon after that, I heard about new procedures for weight-loss surgery.  I remembered back in the seventies, stomach stapling was popular for a while but then it seemed to die out.  I started reading articles and watching news stories and documentaries on the new bariatric procedures.

I wondered if I would have the courage to actually have that type of surgery.  At the time, I wasn't ready to throw in the towel on conventional weight-loss, but I kept the idea in my head and learned as much as I could.  Being a biologist and having worked in the medical field, I knew where to find unbiased information and studies.  I actively learned as much as I could about bariatric surgery until I started the new job.  I was not quite ready, however, to actually have the surgery. 

to be continued...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I've Lost, but Look What I've Gained! Part I

 [This is part one of a multiple installment series]

My weight issues have been almost lifelong.  From a pre-pubescent naturally thin to a post-pubescent ongoing battle with weight gain.  I was an average size baby - 8 lbs (3.6 kg).  From ages 2-12, my mother had great difficulty finding clothes that fit my body both in length and width because I had long legs and a very thin (but still healthy) frame.  Then puberty took over and that was the end of my skinniness for a while.  My mother(who was overweight as a teen) panicked.  She began "helping" me "diet".  This was the good old 70s when fad dieting was really popular.  I tried the "seven foods in seven days" diet, the Atkins diet, a powdered drink/soup mix diet.  No matter what I tried, I'd lose the extra 10-20 lbs, then regain it almost immediately.  This went on throughout my teen years.  Eventually, I became more desperate.  I tried the cabbage soup diet, and eventually, I began fasting. 

The fasting did not lead to anorexia, but it did lead to bulimia.  I would binge, then fast (purging never worked for me, but starving did).  What was really bewildering about my weight struggle was that I wasn't sedentary.  During my early teens, I was involved in sports.  The weight changes took a toll on my knee joints so I gave up sports, but then I joined marching band and danced in school musicals.  We lived out in the country on a farm and I walked or rode my bicycle and helped with farm work--taking care of animals, bailing hay, stacking wood, etc.  Still, I was very fond of just lying on my bed reading or listening to music, and I spent way too much time in front of the television.  All of these things took a toll on my metabolism.  I can only guess that my moderate level of activity kept me from being morbidly obese. 

Following high school, I delayed college for a year and worked as a waitress.  I was bored with school and wanted a break.  At first, the free food that comes with working for a restaurant was a problem.  Being on my feet for my whole shift and staying busy helped a little.  I started noticing when people would order large amounts of food and then consumed all of it.    Observing this behavior started to change my attitude about food and my own eating habits.  I decided to eat healthier and  smaller portions.  Finally, I was eating an appropriate amount of food that balanced with my activity level.  I began taking an aerobics class and soon I lost all of the extra weight and managed to keep it off.  I wasn't thin, I was just no longer overweight. 

I went to college then I quit college, got pregnant and got married.  I gained 40 lbs with my pregnancy but took it all off.  I gained 28 lbs with my second pregnancy but took it all off.  I gained 55 lbs with my third pregnancy, on top of the 10 lbs I gained trying to get pregnant.  I did not take it all off and thus, my struggle with weight began anew.  I tried low fat diets, a physician managed calorie counting diet, and a physician managed liquid diet.  I started college again.  I got pregnant again.  This time, I gained 35 lbs and did not take it all off, so I added more post baby pounds to the ones I was already carrying.  I divorced my husband.  Then my dad (who was my biggest cheerleader) was killed by a drunk driver.  All of this happened while I was trying to go to college full-time, work part-time, and take care of three young children (if you done the math, I had four pregnancies, but my second child did not survive; that story can be found here).  As a typical mom with too much on her plate (no pun intended) something had to give and as is typical of most mothers, my own physical well-being took a backseat to everything else. 

I then got engaged, had another baby and got unengaged.  I only gained 18 lbs with the last baby, but by this point I was obese and 60 lbs overweight.  In 1998, I moved with my children to the Washington DC area to get the best possible job I could find.  Luckily, I began working for a company that had a cafeteria that served healthy food and had a gym on site.  I began eating healthy and exercising.  I decided I wanted to run a 5K race and began training for that goal.  I ate healthy and exercised every day.  The weight came off very slowly.  But if I slipped up at all--with eating or exercising--I started to regain immediately.  This was especially frustrating because I was eating healthy, exercising and drinking lots of water.  It was as if I had no physical ability to just maintain my weight.  I had to be extremely diligent which was really difficult.  I met my goal and ran two 5K races.  I was still 30 lbs overweight, but I felt good and continued to be motivated.  Then my company reorganized some of its departments, including mine.  My job changed significantly.  My good eating habits and exercise fell by the wayside.  Over the next few years, I received two promotions.  My professional life became consuming and between my job and being a single mother of four, once again my body was my last priority.  Actually, it was not even a priority.  My weight soared.

In 2001, I reconnected with my childhood sweetheart. We had not had contact for over 20 years and we decided to meet in Las Vegas to spend a few days together.  I immediately began the Atkins diet (again) and joined a gym.  I DID NOT want him to see me all big and fat. I managed to lose 30 lbs between August and Thanksgiving.  When we met, I was still 30 lbs overweight, but I felt much better about seeing him.  What happened next was almost unthinkable.  We realized that we still loved each other!  But...he lived in California and I lived in DC.  What to do?  Then something amazing happened!  I got a promotion at work that required me to relocate to California.  

to be continued...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - It's beginning to look a lot like random


Be sure and visit Keely, she has the gift that keeps on giving.

So...where the hell have I been?  None of your business Just really busy with wrapping up the fall band season and Thanksgiving.  The band championships were held on Saturday night before Thanksgiving and our band won second, but our colorguard won first!  A testament to the fascism teaching skills of me the staff; it's been a wild, chaotic ride this year.  It was followed by Senior circle where all the band seniors watch the band perform the show one last time - except without them.  It's always a tear-jerker, then they eat cake.  So a few weeks off for me then winterguard starts up right after New Year.

Last week, my daughter had her senior pictures taken and took her saxophone along for some shots.  Her quirky wonderful photographer became obsessed with (no, not my daughter) THE SAXOPHONE!  He actually took "extra" pictures of the saxophone!  I wasn't charged for the extra poses of the saxophone, so I didn't roll my eyes all the way back in my head complain. 

On Thanksgiving Eve (yes, it's okay to call it that) our family all got new cell phones and new cell phone service!  Yay!  We are now a Verizon Wireless family.  I do have to say that if you live anywhere near Sacramento, the Natomas Verizon Store has the ultimate in customer service.  Our CSR, Freddie P, was a pure delight and a consummate professional.  After four years with the previous company, we now actually have service inside our house.  It got pretty cold standing on the back patio in my underwear in the dead of winter just so I could have enough signal to actually call someone and have a conversation (nah, I would never do that would I?  I'd at least put on socks).

I have the new Blackberry Curve 8530 in smoky violet (doesn't that sound sexy?)  and Hubby has it in black.  The girls all have the LG enV Touch. I am not being compensated for mentioning any of this; we are just really happy with the service and products.  Customer service ain't what it used ta be, and so I feel compelled to affirm it when it is good.

Thanksgiving Eve night, we went to see the Sacramento Kings play at Arco Arena.  They've had a good season so far and we always enjoy the games.

Me and Hubby at the Kings game - Go Kings!

On Thanksgiving morning, for the second year in a row, my youngest daughter CL, her bff, and I ran  the Sacramento Run To Feed The Hungry 5K.  My goal this year was to improve my time from last year, which was so lame that I should have been able to crawl and beat it.  If you want to read about my experience last year, it can be found here.  The unofficial race results are posted online here.  I was in the female 40-44 age bracket.  Here are my stats:

Bib No
Chip Time
Gun Time

NeCole Scott
Antelope CA

The day of the race, I was listed 92nd and the only thing I can figure out is that two ladies who didn't want to give their ages initially, decided to go to the officials and give their ages so that they could be included in the appropriate group.  SEE, sometimes it's okay to give your real age or you might miss out on something good. 

This year, we arrived early enough to enjoy some of the pre-race festivities.  We met up with a reinllamadeer.

Me and the reinllamadeer

I had my picture taken with the KCRA morning anchor team Deirdre Fitzpatrick and Chris Riva.

Deirdre, me and Chris - Chris let me hold his microphone!

And of course, here I am with my two faithful race buddies (who promptly ditched me after this picture was taken.).

CL's BFF, me, CL - they only look sweet and innocent, ha! 

The race sponsors again provided free drinks and snacks after the race. I love the combination of getting my charitableness on, running (exercise) and hanging out with my kid.  I hope to make this a long-term tradition.  After the race, we went home and cooked a small simple Thanksgiving dinner and watched football.  My husband didn't cook this year, but he did do the dishes (which was even better).

The rest of the week and weekend was low key, I am not a Black Friday adventurer. We did put up the Christmas tree - it's nine freakin feet tall!

So I'll try to be better committed with posting, BTW, thanks to all of you who are reading and commenting.  It's been very encouraging for me and I really appreciate your support and kind words.  That's all of my random for now.  Catch you on the flip-flop.