Friday, February 26, 2016

my work in progress: the decision to have surgery, part two

Last week I decided to start posting excerpts from my future book in an effort to get my head back in the game and refocus.

Continued from last week's post...

The Decision to Have Surgery (continued)

The first incident happened on a flight to catch a cruise out of Florida.  I booked a cruise with my friend, Cindy, and two friends of hers, which was scheduled to depart mid-March in 2013.  It was the Monsters of Rock cruise, which sailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Bahamas.  It was basically 24/7 concerts featuring many 80s hard rock bands. Most of the bands were smaller names; however, there were a few well-known names, such as Tesla, Stryper, and Faster Pussycat.  The ship stopped at Coco Cay and Nassau.  It was a lot of fun and I came back with a very bad sunburn and a few extra pounds—I drank what I imagine was a huge amount of calories in the form of frozen cocktails. (Later I commented to Cindy that I never felt hungry.  Well, that's because I was getting all my calories from booze.)

As I mentioned, the cruise sailed from Florida and I’m in Connecticut, so we had to fly there.  Cindy and I flew together and the two other women flew down together a day ahead of us.  In the months leading up the cruise, I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to buckle the seatbelt on the plane.  I tried very hard to get back on the diet bandwagon so that I would lose a few pounds by time the cruise rolled around. I remember talking to Cindy on the phone, trying to convince her to get back on track with her diet and asking her if she really wanted to be the biggest woman in the group.  The reason I said that was because she was talking about how depressed she was and that she couldn’t lose the weight, and I guess I wanted to somehow shock or shame her into getting back on track. Now that I think back on it, I feel terrible for doing that. I was honestly trying to help and wanted both of us to lose some weight before the cruise, but I now realize it probably had the opposite effect.

The day of departure came around and we got on the plane.  We were both having trouble buckling the seat belt.  I tried several things to get it to buckle:  I pulled with all my might, as though there was an extra three inches of seat belt I could magically pull out of my ass; I sucked in my stomach as far as I could; and I even sat up higher in the seat so the seat belt would hit lower under my stomach.  No dice.  I finally just laid the belt over my lap and covered the buckle with my arm, hoping that the flight attendant wouldn’t notice.  She didn’t.  It’s pretty crazy to think that I would rather fly without a seat belt and risk injury, than just ask for a seat belt extender.  The same thing happened on the flight back, although I was eventually able to buckle it. It squeezed me and made my stomach hurt, so I only buckled it for take-off and landing.

The second incident happened when Bob and I flew out to Las Vegas so I could see my all-time favorite band, Def Leppard, who were playing a residency at the Hard Rock Hotel.  This was about two weeks after the Monsters of Rock cruise.  I was nervous to get on the plane knowing what happened when I flew to Florida two weeks before.  Bob and I got on the plane and when I went to go buckle the seat belt, it wouldn’t buckle.  This seat belt, believe it or not, was even shorter than the ones I had on the plane to and from Florida!  I realized that there was no way I could buckle it, and it wouldn’t be easily hidden like last time.  I decided to ask for a seat belt extender.  Unfortunately, the flight attendant wasn’t sensitive to the fact that I was obviously overweight and was probably embarrassed about asking; therefore, he yelled out to the other flight attendant, all the way at the front of the plane, to get the extender from the compartment.  It was brought back to me and I quickly put it on, hoping that no one noticed.  To this day I don’t remember if anyone saw me or not, but I remember feeling as though every eye was on me, judging me for the “fat cow” they thought I was.  It was incredibly humiliating.  My face was probably bright red and my eyes were tearing up.  I quickly texted my sister, Dorie, to tell her what had happened and how upset and embarrassed I was.  She said a few things to calm me down—she’s great like that—and that helped.  The flight back wasn’t much better, although the flight attendant was very discreet.  She got the extender and concealed it as she carried it back to me; I really appreciated that.

On the flight back from Las Vegas is when I made the decision to have weight loss surgery.  Never in my life have I had to ask for a seat belt extender on an airplane, although I admit there were a few times I should have asked. It was the most humiliating experience I’ve ever had.  Even worse than being asked if I’m pregnant at age 13. I decided then that I would never feel like that again.

To be continued...

Another cat picture, as a reward for reading. Max and Bailey.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

protein bar review: no cow bar

Yes, that's the name of it:  No Cow Bar by D's Naturals

It's a vegan protein bar.  According to their website, they're "all natural, no-sugar added and vegan friendly as well as free of gluten, dairy, soy and lactose."  Rather than whey or milk protein, they use plant-based protein.  These bars don't have any added sugar (just 1 to 2g), and barely any sugar alcohols (just 3 to 4g),which I like. Fat is low, as well, at just 2.5g.  Calories are about 160-170, which is pretty good for a protein bar.

My initial thought on taste was, "Blech!"  I realize now that my initial reaction was more of a reaction to the texture than taste.  That said, though, I don't care all that much for the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough flavor.  I just don't get a lot of peanut butter taste from it. It kind of all melded together to taste like a generic protein bar.  I also tried the Mint Cacao Chip and Blueberry Cobbler.  I think the mint one is my favorite:  it was chocolate-y and minty, and very satisfying.  I also enjoyed the blueberry, which wasn't too sweet tasting.  Something I noticed about the blueberry, though, is that it was a bit oily on the outside.  I don't know if it's because Bob took a bite (he didn't like it) and then I put it away for awhile before finishing it, and therefore the air exposure made it oily, or if it was that way to begin with.  I just didn't notice.

The plant-based protein changes the texture somewhat.  It's not like a Quest Bar that's pretty firm and mostly smooth.  No Cow Bars are softer and a little gritty.  It's not unpleasant, though.  According to their website the texture comes from the plant-based protein; however, I tend to think it comes more from the almonds in it.  They're very small, but they create a bit of a crunch, which I like. 

Overall, I found these bars to be good.  And I like that they don't have a lot of sugar alcohols, which usually make my stomach a little queasy. They're satisfying and taste pretty good.  The fact that they use plant-based protein is one reason why I wouldn't buy them very often, though, since I'm supposed to be sticking to protein isolates.  Isolates break down faster in the body, which is what a gastric bypass surgery patient needs.  But I would have one once in while in a pinch or as a treat.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

my work in progress: the decision to have surgery

Back in October I decided to try the National Novel Writing Month challenge, which is to write a full novel during the month of November.  I didn't make my goal, but I got a pretty good start.

I decided I'll share some of it from time to time, as I'm in the process of getting things back in order. I'm seeing the dietitian at the surgeon's office this week, and I think posting these excepts will help remind me of what I'm trying to accomplish. I've gotten so far off track and I'm at the point where I either give up totally and fail, or suck it up and just do it.  I want to do the latter, not the former; the former I've done my whole life when it comes to my weight.

The excerpts I'm going to share are just a first draft.  I know I have some regular readers, so please comment! I'd love to hear what you think.

And here's a kitty picture--my reward to you for visiting and reading.

The Decision to Have Surgery

It took me many years to decide to have weight loss surgery.  When I was in my 20s, my gynecologist asked me if I had ever considered the surgery.  I told her I had thought about it, but I wasn’t yet ready to throw in the towel.  At that point, I felt that having weight loss surgery meant that I was a quitter, and that it was the easy way out—I now know better.  I felt as though I hadn’t tried everything possible to lose the weight.  That was when I began a 15-year roller coaster of losing and regaining the weight.

Several times over that 15-year span I got close to deciding to have weight loss surgery, but I would always come up with a reason as to why I should try just one more time.  The reason was usually that while weight loss surgery would help me lose a lot of weight fast, essentially fixing the physical aspect, it wouldn’t fix the mental aspect.  So, I continued on to lose weight yet again, only to regain all of it and more.

In early 2010, I was at the point where I was ready to have weight loss surgery.  I scheduled a physical with my new primary care doctor and when he mentioned my weight, I asked for a referral to a bariatric surgeon.  He gave me a look of reluctance.  He asked if I had ever tried Medifast.  I said no. He then talked about the program and said that both he and his wife were following it.  He said he has lost about 20 pounds and his wife has lost much more.  He invited me to an informational seminar, which I attended.  The seminar was held at his offices; I didn’t realize at the time that he was a Health Coach for Medifast, which means he got compensation for promoting the program and supporting his clients. I decided to give it a shot and I ordered my first month of food before I left.

The plan consisted of five of the Medifast meals each day, which were mostly mix-and-eat, and then one meal consisting of protein and vegetables. I did well on the program—I lost about 80 pounds—but I got bored within six months, as usual.    I tried several times, half-heartedly, to go back on the program, but I eventually gave up.  I regained all the weight, plus a lot more.

It wasn’t until early 2013, when I was 38, that I finally made the decision to have weight loss surgery. There were two events within close proximity to each other that finally sealed the deal and made me realize that I needed to do something drastic to end the weight loss struggle once and for all.

To be continued....

Thursday, February 18, 2016

today's lunch

Today's lunch is mixed greens with Craisins  (50% less sugar), pecans, goat cheese, rolled up ham, and Bolthouse Farms raspberry vinaigrette.  This is a take on the salad I had in Sturbridge last weekend. I didn't have grilled chicken, so I substituted ham.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

my 20th anniversary

Bob and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this past week (February 10).  I can't believe it's been 20 years already.  It seems like just yesterday we were going on our honeymoon.  We had only two cats, I had a new job as a bank teller, and we were living with his parents.  Twenty years later, we're in our second house, we both have good jobs, and we have 11 cats. It's been a great 20 years, and I look forward to another 20, at least.

As usual, he sent flowers to me at work.  He never forgets.  Aren't they pretty?  And, of course, they're purple, which is my favorite color.  There was a balloon attached, also.

We didn't go out to dinner for our anniversary this year.  We typically combine our anniversary with Valentine's Day and go out once, and never on Valentine's Day; the wait at restaurants is awful and we prefer not to deal with it.  This year we decided to go to Sturbridge, MA, for the weekend.  We're members of Old Sturbridge Village--an early 1800s village--so we don't have to pay to visit.  They were having some demonstrations of chocolate grinding, and how to make hot chocolate and baked chocolate pudding, and I wanted to see that. 

The weather people were forecasting arctic-like temps for the weekend, so we left Friday afternoon and stopped at Cabela's on the way up so I could try and find fleece-lined jeans; I have nothing warm enough to keep my legs protected in zero-degree, windy weather. I didn't have any luck, since it's the end of the season.  Once we got to Sturbridge, we made the obligatory Walmart trip so I could buy a pair of cheap leggings, which I wore under my jeans on Saturday.

We stayed at the Oliver Wight House, which is part of the Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder Family Lodges.  It's a historical house, which has been converted into a 10-room inn.  The hallways were lit with electric lanterns and the interior doors had the old levers for door handles, which is what our house has. The room was beautiful.  It had original wide-plank wood flooring, which was painted white, a small decorative fireplace, and a four-poster canopy bed, which was my favorite part.  The bed was very comfortable, the pillows were perfect, and the bed was so high we had to climb into it.  Neither one of us slept well, though.  I suspect it's because we're no longer used to sleeping in a queen-sized bed.  Also, it was very quiet.  We're used to having white noise from a fan or heater, but the heater in the room was pretty quiet.  We were provided with robes and slippers, which we loved. It left very luxurious overall and we both really enjoyed our stay. And the price wasn't bad at all.  It wasn't much more than what you would spend on a weekend night at a Holiday Inn or Comfort Inn & Suites.

Looking into the room from the entry.

The bed.  I want this bed!!

The bathroom. It was nice, but they should have used nice switch plates for the light switches, not the cheap plastic ones. There was attention to detail in the room, but not much in the bathroom.

Friday night we ate at Cracker Barrel.  It's nothing special, but the Cracker Barrels near us are always crowded and this one wasn't, so we took advantage.  I had the grilled chicken tenderloins with fried apples and hash brown casserole.  I ate the chicken and a few bites of the side dishes, plus a biscuit.

Saturday was breakfast at Cracker Barrel.  I had eggs, sausage, bacon, and grits.  Most of that went to Bob as leftovers, though.  I didn't touch the biscuits, which was really tough.  Then we went to the Village for a few hours.  I'm so glad we went early, as the wind started picking up quite a bit later in the day. I got to see the chocolate demonstrations.  We took a horse-drawn sleigh ride, which was nice.  Very cold, too.  It was really nice being in the Village this time of year.  Very few people, which means we got to spend lots of time lingering in the buildings and looking at things.  We have an old house, so this helped to give us ideas.

The meetinghouse in the Village.

Saturday night we ate dinner at the Oxhead Tavern.  It's also a historic building, built in 1820, so it was very rustic.  It's heated only by the huge fireplace, so it was pretty cold if one wasn't sitting near the fireplace.  And we weren't.  we were towards the back of the dining room and next to an outside door, so we were pretty cold the whole time.  The food was actually very good.  Bob had the bacon-wrapped meatloaf and I had the Sturbridge Salad, which was greens, Gorgonzola cheese, grilled chicken, candied walnuts and dried cranberries with a raspberry vinaigrette.  The service, however, was very slow.  I believe the kitchen was backed up, as everyone around us was experiencing the same long wait.

Sunday morning we went to brunch at the Oliver Wight Tavern. It's a little pricey, and buffets are definitely a  waste for me nowadays, but it was really nice.  The Tavern is, of course, another historical building.  Wide-plank wood floors, wood fireplaces, and period furnishings. The waiters are all dressed nicely and are very friendly and accommodating.  I started off with eggs Benedict, bacon, potatoes, and some tortellini seafood alfredo.  I ate the seafood, but not the pasta, and had a few bites of everything else. I finished most of the eggs Benedict, although I left some of the English muffin behind.  My second plate was Caprese salad, a French toast stick, a slice of beef sirloin, and some Caesar salad.  I ate a couple bites of each and I was done. I had a couple cups of tea and some water in between.  A no-no these days, but I wanted to be able to eat a little more considering the price; I still have a really hard time wasting food.  On the way out I grabbed a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Then we drove home.  We're only a hour from Sturbridge, so it was a short ride.  Then it was back to life.

Friday, February 12, 2016

introducing tiffany, aka "the diva"

As I mentioned last week, we just adopted a kitten from the Stratford Cat Project and her name is Tiffany.  At first we weren't too keen on "Tiffany,"  but we decided to wait and see what she's like before deciding whether to change her name.  I was thinking:  Emma, Daisy, Rosie, Emily, Audrey, or Penny. ("Penny" because we have a cat named Leo. We figured we could refer to him as Leonard, and then we would have Leonard and Penny from The Big Bang Theory, a show we both love.)  Now that we've had her for a couple weeks, I think the name Tiffany is fitting for her.  She's beautiful and a bit of a diva sometimes, so it fits.

Tiffany is quite the ball of energy, which is to say she's just like any other five-month old kitten. Dead bugs and her own tail are entertainment, as is the toilet bowl.  Luckily, she hasn't fallen in yet. But she does like to dip her paws in the water and then walk all over the seat, which means it's nice and wet when the humans need to use it. Speaking of tails and the toilet, Tiffany thinks it's fun to chase her tail while on top of the toilet tank.

As you can see, she's in training to be a lap cat.  She's not very good at it yet, as she has the attention span of a gnat.  The minute something distracts her, she's gone.  But once she falls asleep, she's there until someone decides to get up.

Tiffany has discovered the wood stove and the fact that it puts out some really nice heat.  Makes for a very toasty cat! Unfortunately, she's also discovered Leia's bed next to the wood stove.  She hogged it for a couple days, but has since learned that there's another bed right next to it that's hers for the taking. She tried to share with Leia, but Leia didn't agree.  The other night she decided to lay behind the wood stove. I have no idea how she was able to stand that heat.  She stayed for about 10 minutes and then had to go cool herself off for a bit.

So, we're loving Tiffany.  She's a real cutie.  She loves people and is affectionate, which is always nice in a cat.  I'm a little disappointed that she doesn't like being held, but many cats are like that.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

last night's dinner

Last night was boneless pork on the grill, along with a little Rice-a-Roni.  Bob also had vegetables with his. 

I used my favorite seasoning, which is Borsari Seasoned Salt (typically sold in Whole Foods or online).  I'm so happy this stuff exists!  I don't have to look online for different concoctions that call for herbs and spices that I'll likely only use once and will cost an arm and a leg. I used to do that, until I ended up throwing away about 95% of my herbs and spices when I moved to the new house in 2014. I had to go out and buy all new stuff.  This time I was smarter about it, though.  I bought the items I use the most and bought the Badia brand when I could. Badia brand is much less expensive than buying the top brands, such as McCormick; most herbs and spices cost under $2.00 each and they're just as good.

I still have a few unusual spices in my cabinet, like lavender and savory.  I bought those in order to make my own Herbes de Provence.  Not sure why I decided on that particular herb mix.  I'm thinking I had found a recipe online using it as an ingredient and then I just never made the recipe--I do that a lot.  I guess that will have to be one of my missions in the next few months:  find a recipe using Herbs de Provence.

Any suggestions for an herb or spice I can try that's outside of the mainstream?  Do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

sunday's breakfast

Sunday morning I decided to make myself a pepper jack cheese omelet.  I had a whole bunch of cheese in the fridge that I needed to use up, so Bob got a three-egg omelet and I got a one-egg omelet.  I can eat a two-egg omelet, but I wanted half an English muffin; I wouldn't have been able to finish both the omelet and the muffin.  It was a bit spicy, but it was pretty good.  I still prefer goat cheese or cream cheese, but pepper jack is what I had on-hand.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

a cat, a fitbit and a chair

Alex, what are things I got this weekend?  Correct!

This weekend I finally got to adopt Tiffany, a very pretty ragdoll mix kitten from the Stratford Cat Project.  I was supposed to adopt her in November, but she contracted ringworm, a fungal infection of the skin that's common among kittens, so I had to wait until it was cleared up.  She was such a good girl on the way home.  She didn't make a peep.  And that's saying something since the ride was 45 minutes.

I bought myself a Fitbit Charge. It was on sale, plus I had a gift card, so I took the plunge.  I drove myself nuts researching fitness trackers, but decided to go with the most popular since it got good reviews.  I was looking at the Garmin trackers, but I'd read and heard that they are a bit too sensitive, so I decided not to get that brand.  I don't want to log 300 steps just by washing my hands (a nurse told me that happened to her with a Garmin, so she got rid of it and got a Fitbit).

I've been wanting a rocking chair for a very long time.  I used to rock in my grandfather's chair all the time when I was a kid; I can still hear the gentle creaking sound it made. I have good memories of that chair.  So, when my dad asked if I wanted the glider I said yes.  It's not a rocking chair, but it's close. It matches perfectly with the wallpaper and carpeting in the den.

As you can see, the chair has become a cat magnet.  Bob brought it in the house and someone got on it right away.  I hadn't even put the cushion on it yet!  This was taken about an hour after I cleaned it and got it set up.  Oscar is in the seat, Leo is on the ottoman, Bailey is in the cat bed (no one had touched this bed for months!), and Themla is in the background waiting for her turn--it never came.

As a bonus, I took home my baby afghan.  My mom's friend, Aunt Bev I called her, made it for me when I was a baby.  I'd forgotten about it until I went into my dad's closet to get some blankets this weekend. It hadn't been used in years so I took the opportunity to take it home with me. I'm so happy to have it back.  And the cats aren't getting it--I want just one blanket in the house to call my own!