Tuesday, August 7, 2018

salmon with lemon and fresh dill

I've been wanting to try my hand at cooking salmon for several years, but never quite gathered enough courage (or motivation, really) to do it. Until recently.

I planted a raised-bed garden this year, which is entirely herbs. (The other bed is tomatoes and green beans.) I decided I would plant dill this year, since it's something I like, but wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to buy fresh at the store. Last year I was able to buy it from a little farm market my neighbor runs out of his garage, which was really convenient. I figured it would be even more convenient if I grew it myself. Great idea, but I neglected to look to see how tall this plant grows--it's about 5 1/2 feet tall right now! Not only that, but it grew VERY quickly.  So, that means I have A LOT of dill. And a little dill goes a very long way, which means I need to find a way to use this stuff.  I also have a parsley plant I wanted to start using.

See my pretty tomatoes and beans!? Also a jalapeno, which I'm growing in a pot this year.

One day I got brave and bought a package of individually frozen salmon fillets. (I didn't want to shell out a bunch of money on fresh and then ruin it.) They were the perfect size:  4 ounces cooked.  I also grabbed some lemons, since I know that lemon, dill and parsley go well together.

All I needed now was a (easy) recipe.  I found many that called for making a cream sauce. I wouldn't mind that, as it looked pretty easy, but I didn't want to have to buy more ingredients, like heavy cream.  I found one that called for lemon slices, fresh dill and parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Basically, you just put it all on the fillet and then bake it, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until it's done. That's it!

I made the recipe as-is, which called for putting the lemon slices on top of the salmon, then adding all the other ingredients. It seemed strange to me that the flavorings, other than the lemon, wouldn't touch the fish, but I made the recipe anyway. It was good, but I was right in thinking the order of ingredients strange. I didn't taste anything other than lemon and the olive oil. Next time I make this I will add all the flavorings and then add the lemon as the last item.

I have to say, I really loved the fact that the fillet was exactly the right portion size. Not a bit of it went to waste or got packed as leftovers. (As a matter of fact, there was only a bite or two left, which was awarded to Leia, my ginger girl.) I feel like I never finish a meal due to the weight loss surgery, which means I always bring food home from the restaurant, have a bunch of leftovers at home, or it just goes to waste because it's something my husband won't eat. And if I do finish, it's because I've cooked myself about a half of a portion, or I got soup or an appetizer only when eating out. This is something that is still hard for me as a post-op, but that's life now.

Monday, July 23, 2018

taste test: Swell Ice Cream

I've tried some of the other high protein, low sugar ice creams, like Halo Top and Enlightened, and wasn't all that impressed. I posted about it last year. 

Recently I found out about Swell. It used to be ProYo, but it has been rebranded to Swell.

I tried three flavors:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Mint Chip, and Dark Chocolate Toffee. No, I didn't need to buy three pints of ice cream, but someone had to.

Each ice cream averages about 120 calories per half cup serving, 1-2 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, and about 19-20 grams of carbs. They also contain sugar alcohols. If anyone is sensitive to that, make sure you take a test bite or two before diving in. Xylitol and cane sugar look to be the sweeteners of choice. 

Here are my thoughts about each flavor.

Mint Chip:  This was my favorite, probably because mint chocolate chip was my favorite flavor for most of my life. Again, good texture and taste. Very minty and there were a good amount of mini chocolate chips that were REAL. 

Dark Chocolate Toffee: I liked this one and would buy it again. It actually tastes like chocolate. There are small bits of toffee, but they're fairly few and far between. I'd like to see more, but I guess if more were added, the calories and sugar content wouldn't be quite as low. Update:  I was enjoying some of this right from the container while writing this and I found a BIG chunk of crunchy, gooey toffee towards the bottom. YUM! It was the only one that wasn't tiny.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip:  I liked this one, too, and would buy it again. I liked the bits of peanut butter. They're very small, but I can actually see them rather than just taste a hint of peanut butter like some of the other brands. Texture is good, too.

Just like the other ice creams I tasted previously, this melts quickly, but I don't care since I'm eating it from a dish and not a cone.  But if you're craving a cone, eat that thing fast. Be warned!

I mentioned sugar alcohols earlier. For some reason, this ice cream doesn't bother me the way the other brands did. I found I was able to eat the serving size and I felt OK.

Just like all the other high protein ice creams--actually most premium ice creams, now that I think about it--it's not cheap. Normal price in my store is $4.99 per pint; however, it happened to be on sale when I bought it so I got it for $3.50. And since this will last me quite awhile, I don't think that's a bad price. I'm no longer sitting down to eat a whole pint at once like I did pre-surgery. (Gotta admit, I really miss that sometimes. I don't miss the 130+ extra pounds on me, though.) One thing I want to mention in regards to keeping it in the freezer for awhile:  I feel like this type of ice cream forms freezer burn faster than regular ice cream, so you might want to lay a piece of plastic wrap over the ice cream (so it's touching the ice cream) after you scoop in order to block the air, and then put the lid on.

Something I like about this ice cream, other than the truer flavor and better texture, is the fact that most if not all of the ingredients are recognizable. For example, the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip contains:  skim milk, whey protein concentrate, xylitol, cane sugar, inulin (not sure what this is), semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter), peanut butter (roasted peanuts, sugar, peanut oil, salt), natural flavors, and salt.

As a whole, I enjoy this product more than Halo Top and Enlightened. It just more like real ice cream to me. I mean, sure, it's not Ben & Jerry's or Haagen-Dazs, but it's good for what it is. I mentioned this previously when I posted about Halo and Enlightened, but it bears repeating:  this is not Ben & Jerry's. The reason I'm mentioning it again is because there's always that one person who will say, "This doesn't taste like Ben & Jerry's. :( "  No shit, Sherlock! That's because it's not. It's high protein ice cream with a lower fat content, somewhat different ingredients, and a lot less calories.

Anyway, I'll be sure to post if I try any other flavors.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

a night with my favorite authors

Several weeks ago I met my favorite authors:  Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I've been waiting so long to meet them, and the stars finally aligned to make it happen!

They were doing a book signing and a short Q&A at the Mark Twain House, which is only 30 minutes away. I've been waiting for what feels like forever to be able to attend one of their signings. Every time they had a book tour, the nearest stop was usually in New York and I couldn't get the time off from work to go, or it was in Connecticut and I was either out of town, had to work, or just couldn't go for whatever reason. Finally the stars aligned this year and I was able to go. The ticket was $25.00 and that included a hardcover copy of their new book, The Pharoah Key, which they would sign after the Q&A session. I saw the event pop up on my Facebook feed, and I immediately bought two tickets, not even knowing who would go with me yet. As it turned out, I had to go alone. My husband ended up having to work and my friend was sick. I still had a good time, though. I ended up selling the extra book to someone on Facebook who couldn't make it.

These guys write thrillers and often write as a team, although they do write solo novels, as well. My brother turned me onto them years ago when I was looking for some book suggestions--I could always count on him for good book recommendations. I've read pretty much every book they've written with the exception of their non-fiction books and one of their series.

My favorite books are from the Pendergast series. The first book I read from these authors, part of the Pendergast series, was Still Life With Crows. This was my first introduction to FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast.  He's an agent like no other:  not only is he an FBI agent that mostly takes only the cases that interest him--for the annual salary of $1.00--, he's former U.S. Special Forces; comes from old New Orleans money; splits his time in New York City between his dark mansion and his apartment; is chauffeured about town in a 1959 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith; has mastered multiple languages, martial arts, and combat techniques; is a Doctor of Philosophy; and is almost albino in color and dresses like an undertaker--always a black suit. Also, he can get himself out of any situation imaginable. I found this neat little website that talks about Pendergast, his interests, family history, etc. While reading this book I remember being amused at how fussy and particular this guy was:  he had all of his favorite foods and drinks (caviar; absinthe, which he drinks the French way), books and furnishings shipped to the town in which he was staying while working on the case. I remember  thinking, "Who the hell is this guy??" Anyway, I've read every book in the Pendergast series, and they just can't publish them fast enough for me! I just finished City of Endless Night, which I enjoyed. I now have to wait all the way until November until the next one...

Preston and Child have another series, the Gideon Crew series, which I haven't read yet. The Pharoah Key is the last book in this series, and is the one they gave us at the book signing. I'm thinking this series is next on my list while await another Pendergast book. Actually, I did read one book in the series, Beyond the Ice Limit, mainly because it was the sequel to another book of theirs, The Ice Limit, that didn't feature Gideon Crew. (I have to say, the "creature" in Beyond the Ice Limit really freaked me the hell out. Deep water scares me to begin with--I actually have a physical reaction--but imaging this thing in my head was too much at times. Basically it's this thing, but underwater and...living...OK onto something else!)

The Q&A was interesting. They talked about the idea for The Pharaoh Key, which actually came about around 20 years ago while Douglas Preston was at an archaeological dig in Egypt. They talked about adventures in writing as a team and how they accomplish that, where the ideas for characters come from, etc. I enjoyed it. They're very funny, down to earth guys. 

Once it was over the assistants  had us line up in the lobby to have our book signed. They gave us a sticky note, on which we had to write our name and/or desired inscription, and then place it on the title page. It took maybe 20 minutes to get through the line, which wasn't bad at all. A couple people asked to take a picture with them and they obliged (wish I'd done that!). A couple others brought a few other books to be signed and they were OK with that. While I was waiting in line I was planning what to say and how to say it; I didn't want to be a star-struck babbling idiot. I ended up thanking them for coming to CT, and telling them how much I love their books and that they just can't publish them fast enough or make them long enough for me. I told them 1,200 pages would be just about right. Lincoln winked at me and said I'd be waiting about three years for every book if they did that. I also told them that it was all my brother's fault that I started reading their books, because he's the one that turned me onto them and it's him I have to thank. They said to tell my brother that he has impeccable taste in books and to thank him for making the recommendation all those years ago. I didn't have the heart to tell them he passed away last year, so I just smiled and said I would make sure to tell him. I imagine he was there with me, so he knows.

And that's it. It was over just like that. Less than two hours. But it was SO worth it to finally meet the guys that keep the Kindle app fired up and the pages turning.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

life lately

Figured it's time for an update-type post, since it's been a while. (Actually it's been awhile since my last post, in general.)


I had a different post planned for this; however, I'm writing it up separately, as it's turning out to be much longer than I had originally planned. Here's the teaser:  I recently met my favorite authors!

What I'll write here instead is that I've recently discovered Good Reads. Yes, I know, it's been around for a long time, but I just recently discovered the value in it:  I can actually keep track of the books I've read. I know, that's not exactly groundbreaking, but it's so useful!  I've read so many books over the years that I'm at a point where I can't remember if I've read a book or not. Quite often lately I've downloaded a book, only to discover I've already read it (my memory sucks, so I don't always realize I've read something just by the synopsis).

I use several methods for getting books: 

  • Kindle app for Android:  I've abandoned hard-copy books forever, and I read exclusively on my phone. This is my app of choice for reading. Although I buy books from Amazon sometimes, I always check the library and Kindle Unlimited first; books aren't cheap! 
  • Kindle Unlimited:  It's $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you like. I'll admit this isn't my favorite option since most of the authors I like don't have titles here; however, I've found that it's a great way to discover new authors and it only costs me the monthly fee. If I decide I don't like a book I've downloaded, I just "return" it and find something else.
  • Overdrive:  This is an app for my phone, which allows me to borrow ebooks from any libraries for which I have a library card. I can usually find a lot of the books I want to read, but it's definitely hit or miss, just like Kindle Unlimited.

I'd joined Good Reads a couple years ago, but really didn't do anything with it. I'd added some friends and see emails coming in from time to time, telling me that Jane recommended I read this book, or John has finished reading that book. I just took a quick glance at the emails and deleted them. Recently, however, I discovered that I could mark all the books I've read as "read," tag books I want to read, and keep track of my reading progress on current books. What's nice, too, are the book recommendation from friends--I've found a few gems this way.

Over the last several weeks I've made an effort to add all the books I've read, which wasn't easy since some I'd read through Overdrive, some through the Kindle app, and some in hard-copy format (I was the geek that carried around The Stand by Stephen King, which was 1,200+ pages and hardcover, during my junior year of high school...in addition to all my books and notebooks). The ones on Kindle were easy, since I could check my order history, or they'd somehow been linked to Good Reads--not sure what magic made that possible. Overdrive wasn't that difficult, either, since I could check my history there, too. But remembering all the hard-copies I've read was tough. In the end my list of "read" books is at 109 right now, but I'm sure I missed some.

Here's a screen shot of my "read" page.

As for what I'm reading, I'm currently reading The Fallen by David Baldacci. It's part of the Memory Man series. The protagonist is a man, Amos Decker, who played pro football, but took a major hit to the head during his first pro game. It resulted in two conditions:  Synesthesia (linking objects with sensory perception, such as seeing the number 4 as the color brown) and hypertymesia (basically, a perfect autobiographical memory). I'm about halfway through and I'm enjoying it. (This author was a recommendation from my late brother--he had great taste in books!)

I've also a number of books to my "want to read" list. Thanks to some suggestions from a blog I read, the list is growing. I've added a bunch of pandemic/apocalypse-type books, which is my current obsession. I also like genres like thriller, murder mystery, horror (along the lines of Stephen King), suspense, books with a small sci-fi or paranormal element (although not full-on sci-fi or paranormal), FBI/CIA/Secret Service thrillers, and other similar genres. I like the classics, too. I'm not really a fan of non-fiction, as I really like to just get lost in a book:  I don't analyze it--I just read it. Romance, fantasy and sci-fi aren't much to my taste, either.

If anyone has recommendations for me, please comment below. (Bonus points for books that take place in the 1800s or earlier! Extra bonus points if there are more than 800 pages--I love a huge book!)

Here's a shot of my "want to read" list.


Four of my kitties are at the vet today for their annual checkup and vaccinations. Lucky for me it's the youngest ones (Marty, Leia, Arlo and Emily), which means the bill shouldn't be big due to unexpected issues. Most of my cats are older, so more often than not I'm told that something is off in their blood work, or someone is losing weight, or has some other issue. Dental issues are the most common, and those can be really expensive. I'm hoping this visit will be relatively inexpensive and uneventful. I'm bringing all four of them at once and "parking" them for the day. My vet calls it "cat parking" and that just means I drop them in the morning and they get seen at some point during the day, then I pick them up at night. Luckily it's been uneventful this year with the cats.



As you can see. Emily and Arlo are siblings and look like twins. The only way to tell them apart is Arlo has some white on his belly and Emily's tail is bent at the tip--not really something you can tell when they're running around, so I often confuse them.

Back Pain

Well, it is what it is. I had my last round of cortisone injections a couple months ago and it took about three weeks for them to wear off. I have the option of going towards the end of summer, but I'm going to wait and see how I feel. For the amount of money it costs (after insurance) and the amount of time they last, it's not worth it right now. I'm managing, just like I have been for almost a year now. I take a half a Percocet at night when I really need something more than acetaminophen. I feel the worst when I'm sitting, but I just try to get up more often. I feel best when I'm working out, which is a good thing. If I couldn't work out I'd likely regain a lot of weight. There are some exercises I can't/shouldn't do, but I still get a really good workout.

Nutrition and Working Out

I'm doing...OK...with my nutrition. I wish I was doing better, but I'm trying. I've started logging my food again, which is really important. I will show it to my trainer each week, which will make me stay on track. I really don't want to show him a journal that lists a bunch of junk food!

My trainer seems to be upping my workouts lately. The last two weeks he's introduced new exercises, which has made my workouts more tiring. But that's a good thing! He added some squats with a dumbbell press (two 10lb dumbbells), lunging while holding a 10lb dumbbell over my head (that was a load of fun...), and a couple other things. I like it, though, because it reinvigorates me--I get tired of the same routine.


UGH. I wish I had something good to say here. Actually, I wish I wasn't even including it here, but it's part of "life lately." I found out recently that my company is being acquired, and I'm not happy about it at all. I've been there for almost four years and I'm happy there.  The culture is great:  fairly relaxed (for a bank), business casual dress, no slackers, great work/life balance, and lots of extracurricular activities. My boss leaves me alone to do my work and treats me like an adult. I can pretty much come and go as I please, and have the option to work from home if I need to for whatever reason. Benefits are great. I have an awesome team that just magically does what they're supposed to do and does it right. We also have a gym, which is only two doors down from my office. This is what I'll probably miss the most, actually. I typically get to work by 7:30 am, I eat my lunch at my desk, disappear into the gym around 4 pm, and then go home when I'm done. I find that having the gym right there is what keeps me consistently working out. It's really going to be tough losing that.

That week was tough and sad. I was thrown into a state of uncertainty, which I really have a hard time with. I actually like a lot of change, as that's what keeps things fresh and challenging, and it's how you grow and learn. What I don't like is not knowing what's going to happen next. Everything is up in the air at the moment. I have no idea yet as to whether I'll get a job offer from the new bank. If I do, it's very likely that job will be almost an hour away since that's where their operations center is.  I've done that commute and I truly don't want to do it again. It's very possible I won't get an offer, though, which means another job search. If I don't get an offer, will I get a good severance package? I'll also need to figure out what I want to do. Do I want to go for the same job I have now? Something similar, but somewhat different? What are my deal-breakers and must-haves? I'm hoping we know something soon, as being in limbo really sucks.

Well, there you have it. This is what's been going on lately. Happy 4th of July, everyone!

This is not one of my cats. I found this online at

Saturday, June 16, 2018

the post-op life: things i wish i knew beforehand, continued

Grand Canyon, taken in 2008

Just like when I go to the grocery store and realize that I bought wraps, but no lunch meat or lettuce to put in the wrap, I posted about the things I wish I knew before weight loss surgery and forgot several things. Such is life.

Here are a few more I thought of after I posted last time.  Again, these are things that I either didn't know, or my doctor didn't tell me and I had to figure it out myself through experience or online forums, or that he told me without going into depth.

Pain medications may not work as well after surgery.

(Note:  I don't know if this applies to all weight loss surgery, or just gastric bypass (which is what I had), so this may not apply to some people.)

This is a tough one. I definitely didn't know this ahead of time, and no one told me.  I was, however,  told I couldn't take NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, anymore, because they weaken the stomach's ability to make acid, which can lead to ulcers.  I figured I'd just be taking acetaminophen instead. No big deal. I took that before surgery with no issues and it worked for me. And anytime I need a pain reliever these days, that's what I take. I find, however, that it isn't as effective as it used to be. It kicks in fast, but it doesn't work nearly as long as it used to, which usually leads to me having to take more. I worry about liver damage, so most of the time I try to just ride out whatever is bothering me, such as a minor headache. Sometimes, though, I really need something more. I'll either take three acetaminophen (I know, I know--I'm not supposed to take more than the dosage), or I'll throw caution to the wind and take two ibuprofen. I try not to take them, since  but sometimes I need to. I try to limit to no more than once a month or so, and only when I really need it. My orthopedic doctor prescribed Celebrex for my back problems, which is supposed to be taken daily; however, for a long time I took it for a few days, skipped a few days, and then started again. I was worried about ulcers. My new bariatric doctor told me to take Protonix (it reduces the production of stomach acid) each day I take a Celebrex and I should have no issues, so that's what I'm doing now.

Also, if you've had gastric bypass, prescription pain meds, like Vicodin or Percocet, can hit you much harder than before surgery. I found this out the hard way when I took liquid Roxicet for some pain I was having. I wasn't far out from gastric bypass surgery (maybe a few months?) and I still had the Roxicet that was prescribed to me, which I never used, so I decided to use it. (I think I was having back pain at the time.) Knowing that the pain meds could hit me harder now, I took half the recommended dose (2 tsp. was the prescribed dose and I took 1 tsp.). Well, that was too much--about twice what I could handle. Basically, I was really worried that I'd die in my sleep because of how it made me feel--stabbing stomach pains, very lethargic, blurred vision, dizziness, slowed heartbeat and breathing), and my husband was asking if he should call 911; I'm pretty sure he watched me for awhile before going back to sleep. I was fine after about a half hour, but it was very scary.

Now, anytime I have to take a narcotic, or anything else that's prescribed, I start with about 1/4 of the recommended dose until I know how it affects me. I've learned that half of a 5/325 Percocet is just right. Anything more and it completely knocks me out, but not before giving me an awful stomach ache. The one GOOD thing about this?  A prescription for 20 Percocet pills lasts me more than a month, assuming I take half each night. And since I only take it when I truly need it--because Tylenol isn't working--it lasts me way longer than that.

If you want to move to a different bariatric surgeon's office after surgery, it's going to be very difficult.

I found this one out the hard way, too, and it's something that never would have crossed my mind to ask. Although people may switch primary care doctors, eye doctors, dentists, etc., most people don't switch bariatric surgeons after surgery.

A little less than a year after my weight loss surgery, I decided to move to a different part of the state. I stayed with my surgeon, though, because I was happy with him and had no reason to switch. Sure, it was a pain in the ass having to drive almost an hour to his office, but I was OK with it since it was only going to be once per year. I went to my one year follow-up about six months after I moved and noticed that every single employee in the office, except the doctor, was new. I thought that was a little strange. It seemed as though he did a complete house cleaning, but I didn't ask.  Not my business. A few months later I went for my annual blood work, and never heard another word. I was annoyed, but figured the results showed no issues and that's why they didn't call me to discuss. Then another few months go by and I get a letter in the mail that the practice had been sold to a surgical franchise and my doctor moved to Texas to teach...two months prior! It was frustrating to not know ahead of time, but I rolled with it. When it was time for another annual checkup I started looking into the new practice and, surprisingly, it isn't focused on bariatric patients. They do some bariatric surgery, but it seems that facial plastic surgery--cosmetic stuff--is their main focus. I decided I really didn't want to go there, and the drive was a PITA anyway, so I started looking for a surgeon in my area. 

Finding a surgeon that would take a post-op patient was extremely frustrating and near-impossible. It took me over a year to find someone that would take me. To be fair, I started and stopped looking several times because of the frustration, or just because I didn't want to deal with it and I didn't have any issues I needed to follow up on. I was told by everyone that they're accepting only pre-ops--people who are looking to get weight loss surgery. I got the impression that they really aren't interested in post-ops. I got serious last year and finally found someone that would review my file and possibly take me. I emailed back and forth with the surgical program (not the doctor's office directly) and they had me get my files sent to them from the old doctor. I sent my files over and then...nothing. For months. I followed up earlier this year and it turns out the person I sent my files to left shortly thereafter and my files never made it to the doctor. They went searching and found them. I was told to give them a couple weeks to have the doctor review them and they would call me to schedule an appointment. They didn't call, of course.  I had to call them. (But that's always the way with doctors' offices so it didn't really bother me.) I called and they said they'll take me, and I scheduled an appointment.

I went for that appointment a few weeks ago and I really like the new doctor. He spent at least 30 minutes with me (almost unheard of with any doctor nowadays!) and went over my file, my current health, etc. Asked lots of questions, and gave me time to ask my own questions, which was nice. He explained anything that needed explaining. He ordered bariatric blood work, which is way more detailed than standard blood work. (As opposed to the lab drawing one or two vials of blood, bariatric blood work requires usually seven to nine vials.) During the visit I thanked him for taking me on as a new patient and explained the difficulty I had in finding someone who would take me. He confirmed my suspicions and told me that the money isn't in the post-op care, it's in the surgery itself, and lots of doctors don't want to bother with a post-op patient. He said he's probably giving me too much information, but wanted to explain. I wasn't surprised and I was happy he told me that.

I now know that if I ever move again, I am probably going to have a really tough time finding another bariatric doctor. But I don't plan on moving, so hopefully that will never come up.

I feel like I could talk forever about the reality of the post-op life, but I think this will do it for now.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

the post-op life: things i wish i knew beforehand

This is going to be another long one.

What I'm talking about today are the things I wish I knew, or knew more about, before I had weight loss surgery. I don't mean that I regret having done it--I think it's one of the best things I've ever done for myself.  What is mean is that there are things I didn't know ahead of time that I had to figure out all on my own, either because I didn't think to ask the doctor or it just wasn't part of my pre-op program (every weight loss surgery program is different, which is pretty frustrating and confusing sometimes), or I knew and didn't think it would be a big deal. So, I've thought about it and here's my list of things I wish I knew (or knew more about):

Physical complications are drastically different from person to person, and are sometimes non-existent.

Physical complications or issues can cover a large range of things, such as:  getting certain foods stuck, either because they're dry (like chicken or turkey), or you took too big of a bite, or didn't chew well enough; being unable to eat certain foods because they get stuck, don't digest well, upset the new stomach, or cause reactive hypoglycemia or dumping syndrome; anemia; vitamin deficiencies; excessive hair loss; excessive weight loss (meaning a person is underweight); strictures; ulcers; and other complications.

I'd heard horror stories, both in person and in online forums, from a lot of people about how they can't eat certain foods anymore, like raw veggies, or most meats, or they throw up after every meal. I was nervous going into surgery and truly worried I'd never be able to have steak again. While that can be true for a lot of people, I am one of the lucky ones in that I have virtually no physical/food issues. I've never had food get stuck, there are no foods that upset my stomach, and I don't have any ulcers. I'm sensitive to sugar, just like other gastric bypass patients, but I manage it and am careful to check labels. I don't count that as a "complication," as it's something that is universal for people that have had gastric bypass. Also, I've finally figured out, after almost five years, that I get blood sugar drops when I eat carbs like crackers, Chex Mix, chips, and things like that without eating some protein along side of it. The simple solution is that I either avoid those foods, or I add some protein if I do have them. They're really not foods I need to be eating anyway so I try to limit them, but I've said before that I choose to eat whatever I want as long as it's in moderation. I don't tell myself that I'm "not allowed" to have something, because that just makes me want it more. (The one thing I avoid, though, is soda. I don't ever want to get back into the habit of drinking six cans of diet soda per day.) Sometimes I get acid reflux, but I've figured out that as long as I don't eat close to bedtime, and I limit spicy foods, I don't get it. Again, I don't consider this a "complication," since most people who get reflux, regardless of whether they've had weight loss surgery, have to manage it.

The psychological part is usually much more difficult than any physical complication. 

This was especially true for me. When it comes to the physical part, I feel it was a breeze for me, and it still is. The psychological part, though, is so hard, even after almost five years. Its much better now that it was the first year, but I still struggle with the disappointment of not being able to finish my meal (that sounds ridiculous now that I see it in writing), as I'm someone who lives to eat, rather than eats to live. I wish that changed after surgery, but it didn't.

Although doctors talk about this and how WLS patients need to learn to cope with their emotions without food, learn new habits, think about food differently, etc., I don't feel that doctors do nearly enough to truly help someone to prepare for the reality. Yes, it's on the patient to actually do these things and take the initiative, but part of that is just knowing that these things need to be dealt with. I think more counseling beforehand, and required counseling after surgery, is needed. Obviously I can only speak to the program I went through since every doctor is different, but I can definitely say that I was nowhere near prepared for the psychological part of WLS. I was required to go to only three counseling appointments before surgery, and nothing afterwards. Also, support groups are sometimes lacking. The hospital had a regular support group, but the discussion was dominated by the same two people every month, so I stopped going; I really didn't get anything out of it. My doctor's office had a support group when they felt like it, which I liked, but it wasn't held with any regularity. And those same two people were patients of my doctor. so they went to this same group and again dominated the discussions.

Also, eating will be different. Very different. 

I'm not talking about portions, really, but the psychological aspect of it. Before surgery, eating and food was: a job to be completed ("I bought this package of cookies and my job is to eat them all until they're gone"), comfort, happiness, reward, something to do and a fun activity, love, or companionship. After surgery, it's supposed to be a source of survival and we're supposed to find all those things, like comfort, reward, etc. from other things. Often, though, it's just not that simple. For some it is, but not for me. I spent many, many years seeing food as all those things I mentioned. It wasn't easy to have to look at it as simply a means for survival and nourishment. It was so, so hard in the very beginning to take some food and be full after three bites. Eventually I could eat more--I can now finish half a hamburger and a couple fries, or eat about five ounces of meat--but even after all this time, the act of eating still feels incomplete. The only time I don't feel that way is when I'm actually able to finish my portion, and that only happens when I have a yogurt, or onion soup, and things like that. It's so frustrating and disappointing--STILL, after almost five years!--to sit down to a meal, start to really enjoy it, and then BOOM I'm full. I can slow down, of course, but years of scarfing my food down are hard to undo. This is something I wish someone told me. I wouldn't have decided against surgery, but I would have started BEFORE surgery trying to get comfort or reward in other ways so it wouldn't be so damn hard afterwards.

Once you lose the weight, you'll need to work just as hard as everyone else to maintain it, if not harder.

OK, this one I pretty assumed, but I didn't realize how much harder it would be that what I originally though--and this really applies to anyone losing weight, regardless of the method.  Also, I'm including it because I've come across many people who don't realize this when they start talking about having weight loss surgery.  They think it's a magic wand that solves all their eating and weight issues, that they'll never have to work again at losing weight and that the weight will just magically stay off. I've overhead people say, "I'll just get my weight loss surgery. It's so much easier and I won't have to work so hard."  Oh, and that they'll get to their goal with no effort. Not true. Well, let's restate that:  it's not true once you're out of the "honeymoon phase." The honeymoon phase is that fabulous first six months (could be longer, but usually about six months) where the weight just melts off with seemingly no effort on your part. You don't exercise? No problem, the weight still comes off. You have a binge day (considerably different than pre-WLS!)? You'll probably still lose a pound or two that week. It's fabulous; you can do no wrong...and that lulls you into a false sense of security and makes you think you'll never have to truly work at it. And then when you truly DO have to work at it, it makes it that much harder to change your mindset.So, losing it is hard, but keeping it off is so much harder.

Having weight loss surgery isn't going to magically turn you into a workout maniac or give you an endless supply of energy.

Yes, lots of people who lose weight, through any means, turn into people who just LOVE to workout and are always going going going; those people really annoy me. Deeply. But if varies from person to person.

So, energy. If you were naturally a low-energy person before weight loss, chances are you'll continue to be a low-energy person afterwards. I would say I had a lot of energy the first year and maybe the second year, too. I think it was because I felt a lot lighter and no longer had to carry around 130 extra pounds. After that, though, I slowed down closer to what I was before surgery. While I no longer feel lethargic and unmotivated--a total slug--like I did before I lost the weight, it does take an effort for me to get myself going sometimes.

In terms of working out, I did not become someone who loves working out and finds every opportunity to do so. It took me until March of 2016, so about 2.5 years, to finally seriously think about exercise.  For 2.5 years it was something that I knew I should do, but I'd lost the weight, so why did I need to do it? I was looking at exercise as a means for further weight loss, not what it actually is:  a means to a healthier, stronger body. Part of what got me seriously thinking about it is that I'd regained about 29 pounds. The other part is that I wanted to get the excess skin removed, which meant I needed to be at my lowest weight possible. I tried a few times to start on my own; however, the only thing that finally got me doing it was to go to a personal trainer. Yes, it's expensive, but there was a Groupon offered for the studio, which gave me five sessions for $100.00, which is insanely cheap. I then signed up to go twice a week (working out three days on my own), and then eventually cut down to once a week (working out four days on my own) once the trainer felt I'd be able to stick with it. It took me two years, but I'm finally at the point where I never miss working out unless I'm sick, in pain, or on vacation (and even then I try to work out at the hotel or wherever I am). That's partially because it's a waste of money to pay a trainer and not work out on my own the other days of the week; you're not going to get very far if you workout once a week. Plus I feel guilty if I skip for no good reason, and I typically don't do that. Also, my trainer knows if I haven't been working out as much as I should. He can tell what I'm doing at home, and how often, based on how I do when he sees me each week. He notices when I'm struggling, or when the things he has me do seem easy for me. Without that accountability, I wouldn't stick with it. I posted  a lot more about it a couple weeks ago. So, yeah, even though I've lost 130+ pounds and have been working out five days a week for two years, I totally have to drag my ass into the gym most days.

Just because you have a tiny stomach after surgery, it doesn't mean you can't gain the weight back.

I kind of knew this one, too, and it was only from reading WLS forums online, but maybe not to the extent I should have known.  The doctor mentioned being careful about weight gain, but never said, "Hey, you can eat six slices of pizza as long as you space them out."

I've heard from lots of people, both people who are considering WLS and those who are simply talking with me about my own surgery. So many people think that tiny stomach=no possible way to overeat. That's true--partially. It's true that it's difficult to overeat in one sitting in a way that you would start to regain the weight. BUT--and it's a big one--all that means is your physical capacity to overeat is limited in ONE sitting. If you order a cheeseburger and eat half now, you'll very likely be able to finish that cheeseburger an hour or two later (timing varies a lot from person to person), then go back in another hour and eat something else, and so on. That could add up to MANY sittings per day. And what you eat matters, too. If you eat a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, that's about 80 calories and you're full. But if you eat a muffin, that's often anywhere from 300 calories to upwards of 600 calories depending on how big it is. You're still full, but it's way more calories than you should be eating in one meal. (Actually, that's about 1/3 to 1/2 the day's calories for some WLS post-ops.)  So, if you're going back to eat something every hour or two, and it's something loaded with calories, you can very easily gain the weight back. That's why drinking water when you're not eating is important--it keeps you from feeling hungry. Plus, everyone needs water. 

Hopefully you've managed to read this far down. If you've made it, thank you! I really wish I knew if anyone who reads my blog wants to have WLS, or has had it. If so and you want to ask me anything, go right ahead. I'm pretty much an open book.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Def Leppard/Journey concert roadtrip: part two

Sunday I posted part one of the road trip, which was about the concert. Now, here's part two--everything else!

So, after having about three crappy hours of sleep the night of the concert, I was up before 7:00 am the next day. I'd been tossing and turning so much, I just gave up. Meanwhile, my sister was snoring away for another hour and a half. I was ready for the day by the time she got up.  I ate my leftover breakfast burrito from the night before while she got herself ready. We stopped off at Dunkin Donuts and then we were off to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was only about a mile away from the hotel.

Here I am in front of the Long Live Rock sign. It was really tough to get the whole thing in the picture.
We got to the Hall of Fame before 11:00 am. It seemed like a long walk from where we had to park to where we had to go, but what was nice was that we parked in the parking garage and were able to cut through the science center, so we didn't have to walk too far in the heat (it was 90 and humid the whole time we were in Cleveland). 

We spent a little over three hours at the Hall of Fame. It has six floors and is packed with memorabilia spanning decades. They even had a display dating back to the 1880s that contained one of the first Victrola phonographs. Many people say that it takes all day to see everything, but I think it depends on whether you look at every single item and read all the descriptions, or if you just look at certain things more closely while skimming over others. That's what we did. Some things were more interesting than others. For example, I was much more interested in the 1980s and beyond since I was born in 1974, whereas someone who's older might prefer the previous decades.  They had pretty much any kind of memorabilia you could think of:  sheet music, lyric notebooks hand-written by the artists themselves, clothing (some very hideous clothing--I don't know what musicians are thinking when they pick out these outfits...), props used in videos, photos, etc.

The ground floor was definitely the biggest. The exhibits started at the very beginning, The Roots of Rock, which covers blues, gospel, R&B, country, bluegrass and folk.  There was a room for Elvis Presley, the 1960s "summer of love", the Beatles, heavy metal, etc. On other floors you can find the history of music videos,the start of MTV (yes, it was ALL music at one time!), listening booths, short movies about music, instruments, and lots of other stuff. I really enjoyed the music videos, as a lot of them were a blast from the past for me, like Metallica's Enter Sandman. They also had a montage of past induction ceremonies, which featured, among others, Prince and Tom Petty playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Although I'm not a Prince fan, his guitar solo is absolutely amazing. You can see it here on You Tube. And here's a listing of all the exhibits by floor. Here are just a few of the pictures I took.

This was Elvis' double guitar. Elvis had a 
whole room dedicated to him.
Lots of great bands featured here, like AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Dio.
Angus Young's outfit. What AC/DC fan wouldn't recognize that?! There's also the lyrics to "Highway to Hell."

Metallica! Recognize the scales of Justice?
Rob Halford's jacket (Judas Priest). Sheet music for "Holy Diver" by Dio in the top left corner.
Lyrics to "Judas is Rising" on the right.

Rob Zombie's jacket.
Guess who I voted for??
I bought only one souvenir at the gift shop:  a wooden spoon that looks like a drum stick. There were actually two in the package, but I gave one to my sister since she doesn't own a wooden spoon. (Who doesn't own a wooden spoon??)

After the Hall of Fame we went back to the hotel to relax for a bit. We were hoping to find a good Lifetime movie, but no luck. Then we decided to walk around Public Square for a bit. The Public Square area is pretty cool because you can pretty much get everything you need--food, shopping, gaming, banking, movies and other things--and traverse several streets without having to go outside. Plus there are some nice sights outside within the Square itself.  We ventured outside into the heat just to see what's around. Below is the Soldier's and Sailors Monument. It's beautiful and pictures don't do it justice. 

Wonder who this is??
Below is the view looking back towards Tower City Center, which is connected to our hotel.  As you can see, there are water fountains within the Square, and people are welcome to play around in the water. The kids were having a blast on this 90+ degree day.

Below is the inside of Tower City Center. Isn't the ceiling gorgeous? The casino is connected to this building, and there's even a train station downstairs.

Here's the inside of our hotel, another old building. The lobby was beautiful and the staff friendly, but the rooms were definitely a lot smaller than what we're used to.

After walking around Public Square for a bit, we decided to head to the casino again. But not before I made a pit stop at Bath & Body Works to grab some smelly hand soap. They were closing at 7:00 pm so I had only 10 minutes to shop, which was probably a good thing. I could have done a lot more damage, as soaps were buy three get three free. We only spent about an hour and a half at the casino before deciding to grab some dinner to bring back to the room. We then ate and crashed by 10:00 pm.

And then it was time to head home. We left Cleveland around 9:00 am. On the way home we stopped at the beautiful Chautauqua Lake rest area in NY. It was so breezy and the birds were hopping around. My sister left some doughnut crumbs for them to eat. As soon as we got in the car they started swooping in to grab some crumbs. We continued on and got to my sister's house around 3:00 pm. I took a little break and then drove the rest of the way home. It was a very long day and I wasn't sure I wanted to drive home the same day, but I had a lot of things I had to do before going back to work. I'm glad I did, because I barely had time to relax even though I basically got a bonus day by doing it all in one day. I'll admit, my back was in agony the next day and I was really tired, but I was better the following day.

My vacation flew by way too fast, but I had a great time: I got to see my favorite band from the front row and meet them; didn't lose a bunch of money at the casino; got to visit somewhere I'd never been before; visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and spend quality time with my sister. And she got to meet her man after 35 years! That by itself was worth it. (She was a little teary-eyed after meeting him...but then giggled randomly the rest of that night. LOL)

I'm thinking my next vacation will be a staycation. I might actually relax!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Def Leppard/Journey concert roadtrip: part one

This one is going to be long, so consider yourself warned. I'm posting two parts. Part one is the concert and part two, sometime this week, is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

This past week I took a concert road trip with my sister to see my favorite band. Anyone who reads my blog or knows me, likely knows that's Def Leppard. They were playing in Cleveland at the Quicken Loans Arena with Journey. I live in CT and she's in NY, but since she's always wanted to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we decided to see them in Cleveland and make it a mini-vacation.

I drove to NY last Sunday (a four hour drive) and spent the night at her house. We left early Monday morning around 7:00 am in order to get to Cleveland (a five hour drive) check into the hotel and make it over to the arena by 4:30 pm.  When we got to the hotel we were able to check in right away, which was nice because it gave us a couple hours to relax, unpack and change clothes--we had to look nice to meet the boys from Def Leppard!

We stayed at the Renaissance, which is across from Public Square. It's an old hotel, so the rooms were a bit smaller than we're used to.  We had to hunt down the in-room coffee maker, which was on a shelf in the nightstand, and there wasn't room to keep our suitcases out, but overall it was good and the bed was comfy (very important for me!). The service staff were very friendly. My one gripe was that there was only one restaurant in the hotel, which served lunch and dinner only. Kind of a pain when you want some breakfast and don't want to go far. We had to walk out into the mall, which is attached, and head to Dunkin Donuts. I actually liked the mall being there, as it connected several buildings and a casino. You can basically go for several blocks and not have to go outside at all. Actually, we were able to walk from our hotel to the arena without having to go outside in the 90+ degree heat. (And that was especially nice, walking back at 11:00 pm at night after the concert.)

I mentioned having to be at the arena by 4:30 pm. That's because we decided to go all out for this show and buy the front row meet & greet package for Def Leppard. (We had a pretty rough year last year and decided we needed to indulge ourselves a bit.) Check-in time was 4:30 pm and We got to the arena around 4:00 pm.  The check-in tables for Journey and Def Leppard were side by side, and there were many more people for Def Leppard. (Although, Journey wasn't doing a meet and greet so that's probably why.) While waiting in line we discovered we'd forgotten several items that we always bring, probably because I switched purses and we relaxed a little too much beforehand (oh, those pesky Lifetime movies!):  Sharpie markers, just in case we met any band members other than at the meet and greet; my ear plugs, since I'm old and can't take the volume level anymore; and a mirror and lipstick, so we look picture perfect to meet the boys.

We got checked in, got our goody bags and wrist bands, and then went through security. The goody bag was a canvas travel bag with the Def Leppard logo, and inside was a nice set of luggage tags and a travel wallet, along with Def Leppard postcards. We also got a signed poster.

We then waited around until 5:00 pm, when the hostess brought us into the arena for our group photo on stage. It wasn't with the band, just the group of concert-goers. It was pretty cool, though, to be up on stage in front of Rick Allen's drum kit with "Def Leppard" on the screens in back of us. We chatted with the security guys, who were very friendly. (This is always a good thing--butter them up so they don't harass you for taking pictures, or maybe they'll be nice and give you the guitar pick that landed on the floor in front of them.)

We then headed back to meet the guys. For some reason I thought it would be a longer walk when we got out of the seating area, but it was quite close. Seemed like just a few steps, really. While waiting in line they drew the raffle--the prize being the privilege of standing on the side of the stage for the first two songs. Unfortunately we didn't win; however, we preferred to see the beginning of the show from the front anyway, so we weren't upset. Then it was time to meet the guys!! While we waited, Stuart, Vivian's dog, made an appearance. He was trotting around while the band's assistant waited.  I was hoping to pet him, but she didn't let him go too far. It was a treat to see him, though.  Kind of makes you realize that even though the band are rock stars, they're human just like the rest of us. (If anyone wants to follow Stuart on Instagram, he has his own page:  Rockstarstu.) As we got closer to the front of the line, my sister was quite nervous and made me go first, even though we were meeting them together. When we peeked around the corner, it was a little surprising to see just how close they all were to the line for the meet and greet--they were only about three feet away! First up was Sav, then Vivian, Joe, and then Rick. Unfortunately Phil wasn't there because he had to fly home a couple days earlier to deal with a family emergency. I was disappointed--he's my favorite--but I understood. I've met him a couple times before, anyway. I honestly would have been way more upset if Sav wasn't there, as he is my sister's favorite and she would have been devastated to not meet him after waiting 35 years for the opportunity! We each shook hands with them and introduced ourselves. I said my name and then, "Nice to meet you" and that's about it. Oh, and I told them TWICE that she and I are sisters; I'm not very smooth socially. My sister asked for and got a big hug from Sav. We posed for the pictures and then it was over. I don't think it took three minutes from intro to exit, but that's the way organized meet and greets go. Autographs and extended conversation aren't allowed since they typically have about 100 people to push through in a certain amount of time so the band can get ready and get on stage in time.  I knew that going in, though, since I did the meet and greet in Las Vegas in 2013. I still felt it was worth it. They're my favorite band, after all, and I've been listening since I was nine years old. When it was over we went to our seats in the FRONT ROW, right in front of Vivian's spot. For whatever reason, security was having an issue putting on everyone's wristbands so it took a few extra minutes to get there.

We then had some time to kill until showtime so we walked around to try and find Def Leppard's new beer. We wanted to have the can as a souvenir (see below). We found it, but unfortunately the vendor didn't tell us that we can't have the empty can until after they poured the beer. We didn't think to ask, as it didn't occur to us that we wouldn't be able to keep it. The venue's policy is that everything is poured and no cans or bottles, even opened/uncapped, are allowed in the venue at all. Since neither of us drink beer, that was $10.00 a piece down the drain. I later saw online that some people were able to keep the can, but I wasn't about to walk around all night trying to find the right vendor. We checked a few, but was it.

We went back to our seats and watched the countdown. As usual, I spent the time making sure my camera was ready to go.  I always bring my Pansonic Lumix point-and-shoot camera. It's been good to me over the years; however, this time I found that my cell phone actually took better pictures, so I ditched the camera about three minutes into the show in favor of my phone. It was hard letting go since I'm a freak about taking great concert pictures, but I did it.

Finally, it was showtime!  Def Leppard was on first, as they are rotating the opening and closing with Journey. The intro started with the beginning of Excitable.  I was hoping to see the same intro on the video screen as the previous shows, which was kind of a montage of their albums along with sang snippets from each album; however, it just showed the city name and then rose up above the stage when the show started.  From then on, the show was a big blur. The set opened with Rocket and they cranked out the usual hits, one after the other. Sav did his usual bass solo that leads into Rock On, which was followed by the acoustic version of Two Steps Behind. Then came my favorite part, one of their new songs:  Man Enough. Lots of people don't like this song, but it has quickly become a favorite of mine and, man, does it rock live!  And I love the screen graphics for this one, which I posted below. The show ended with Photograph.

Here are a few of the pictures I took. I took 400+! I have to admit that they came out pretty decent for a cell phone camera, but I'm thinking I might look for a new camera next year. It seems like no matter what I use, it just can't handle the light shining off of Joe's blond hair, so Joe is a bit overexposed in a lot of pictures this time around. (Note:  You're welcome to download these pictures for your own personal viewing, but please don't post them on Facebook or other social media, you blog, other websites, etc.)

"Rocket! Yeah!"

I think this is my favorite out of all the pictures. Sav is looking pretty good!

This is one of the best out of the pics I took of Joe.

 These were the graphics during Man Enough.

 Vivian Campbell

 The Thunder God himself, always smiling. He was pretty tough to get a picture of this time.

The guys sounded great, as usual, and had lots of energy. I mentioned that Phil wasn't at the show. Steve Brown of Trixter took his place. Just about everyone had positive things to say about him, and so do I:  he was a great fill-in for Phil, had lots of energy, seemed to be having fun, and was respectful. And the guys treated him like he was a part of the band, which was nice to see. There was one person who said that no matter how good he was, he'd never be a Lepp. Well, he's not trying to be a Lepp. He's a friend of that band and is filling in for a few shows (Phil is now back on tour). I'm guessing that person would rather have seen the shows cancelled...

Next up was Journey. I have to admit, once Def Leppard was done, I didn't have a whole lot of enthusiasm to see Journey. I like their music and I like seeing them...when they're the opener. It just seemed really odd for them to be the closer, and it continued to feel odd even after the show was over. Def Leppard's music is different, as is their overall energy level and feel, and it seemed like a big energy dip when Journey came on. The first few songs were a little slow. Not in the beat, but in getting the crowd going. It picked up soon, though, and they put on a good show. At the end of Don't Stop Believing they shot off confetti and streamers.  It was cool, but I definitely felt bad for the people that had to clean all that up. Arnel, the lead singer, has a fantastic voice and has so much energy. He sounds similar to Steve Perry. Even though the guy has been with Journey for 11 years, people were still saying (online) that "he's no Steve Perry." Well, no, he's not. No one is Steve Perry except Steve Perry. Arnel was the guy they chose to replace Steve 11 years ago and they've continued to perform. Would people rather Journey called it quits?? Arnel was very interactive with the crowd, too, especially the kids. One had a sign that said it was his first concert, so Arnel pulled him up on stage. I think the kid was in shock. LOL.  My only real complaint about Journey was the solos. The drum solo, while absolutely amazing, was LONG. Neal Schon's guitar solo was agonizingly long, too. He always plays The Star Spangled Banner, but it seems more like the Star Mangled Banner when he's done with it.  I know, artists have their own take on things, but I just wish it sounded more like the actual song and wasn't quite so long.

Arnel Pineda. This guy has a ton of energy!

Neal Schon

Steve Smith's drum solo. Amazing!

Jonathon Cain

The end of Don't Stop Believing. So much confetti...

Still more confetti coming down.

And then it was all over. Time to go back to the hotel. It was so nice being able to walk inside and not have to venture outside in the dark late at night. Nothing was open in the mall, so we went over to the casino and hit up the food court. I got a breakfast burrito, which was delicious. I saved half for the following day. I didn't win any money, but I only lost $20.00, so that's not bad at all. We got back to the room around 2:00 am and then I flipped through my concert pictures until I decided around 3:00 am it was time to go to sleep. I tried to sleep, but it wasn't easy with the ringing in my ears! I tried to buy ear plugs at the venue, but they didn't have them. I asked Security, but they weren't allowed to hand them out. Oh well. My hearing got back to normal by Tuesday night.

Part two will be posted later in the week. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

what keeps me going?

Recently I was posting in a comment thread on a website I read regularly. The discussion was about working out and what we accomplished last week, and are planning to do next week. I posted that I work out five days a week: four days on my own and one day with my trainer. My main accomplishment was that I kept up with it, even though my back was bothering me more that week. I had one day where I just wasn't feeling the motivation at all. I still worked out, but I took it easy; I pretty much just slogged through it, though. (My trainer had me do burpees the day before, which might be why my back was bothering me more. I hate burpees, mainly because with my back issues, I’m always worried I’ll hurt myself, but he limits it to about 6-10 reps and makes sure before I do them that I’m feeling up to it. Since I haven’t done them very much yet, I’m pretty awkward at it. Plus I have long legs and it makes it hard to get down on the floor and then back up the way I’m supposed to.) The other accomplishment was that I'd added 10 pounds to the lateral pulldown, for a total of 60 pounds. It was tough, but I did it. I also did some chest presses (30 pounds--I'm a weakling!), which I don’t normally do. I’m hoping that doing them will help me to eventually do a full pushup; it’s been two years of working out and I STILL can’t get all the way down into a full pushup. 

As a follow-up, someone asked me how I stay motivated. I had weight loss surgery over four years ago and then had a tummy tuck last year to repair the abdominal muscles and remove a bunch of excess skin on my abdomen. Between the money I spent for that–insurance wouldn’t cover a lot of it, and the tummy tuck was totally out of pocket– and the money I spend on a trainer, even for once a week, I know that if I don’t work out on my own at least three to four times a week, I’m wasting money and will have wasted a lot of money, time, pain and hard work if I gain all the weight back. I’d be an asshole if I let that happen. Honestly, that’s actually what keeps me going. Now that I’ve been doing it for two years, I just know it’s something I have to do for the rest of my life if I want to stay in shape, help my back feel better (bulging discs and an annular tear, plus scoliosis), not regain the weight and feel good about myself. I’ve just accepted that this is part of my life and daily routine, so I just suck it up and do it. (It took a long time to accept this!) Instead of taking a lunch hour at work, I eat at my desk and then go in the gym from 4 pm-5 pm. I don’t love it, and I barely like it much of the time, but I like feeling physically strong. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I just keep in mind that the next hour is going to tick by whether I exercise or not. It’s inevitable that the time will pass. Might as well just do it and get it over with so I feel better about myself. I spent the first 39 years of my life being overweight (as young as three, I think), then obese (pre-teen through about 24), and then morbidly obese (probably 25 through 39). I’m tired of that and I’m not going back. And in order to not go back, I have to keep up the workouts.

I’m very proud of myself that I’m still working out consistently after two years. I’ve never made it this far before. Normally six months is the point at which I get bored with just about anything I try. Going to a trainer once a week is a huge help–if I don’t workout on my own at least three times a week, it’s a total waste of money, which is mostly what keeps me going. Plus I don’t want to gain all the weight back or wreck the tummy tuck I had.

I don't continue to workout because I love it. I do it because I should and it makes me feel good. It also keeps the back pain under control. I look around at a lot of other people who have lost a lot of weight by whatever means, and so many of them talk about how they just love to workout and they have so much energy, etc., etc., etc. It really annoys me that that didn’t happen to me. I’m still not a high energy person even though I’m no longer morbidly obese, and I don’t love working out and I have to force myself to do it, but I do it nonetheless. I’m proud of myself that I never skip “just because.” If I skip, it’s because I’m sick, super busy, or my back is really acting up. (And travel is not an excuse to skip: hotels have gyms. If not, I can do a bodyweight workout in my hotel room.) I never cancel the trainer, either, without a good reason. Just because I pay him doesn't mean I can cancel last minute because "I don't feel like." That's just rude and lazy. His time, personal and working, is valuable.

So, what's the key takeaway from this long, pictureless post? Just suck it up and do it. Get off your ass and get it over with. You'll feel better and get a sense of accomplishment that you're doing something good for yourself, both mentally and physically. And it won't kill you. Really. (But do make sure you're well enough to exercise before starting!)