Monday, May 29, 2017

tummy tuck update: three-month anniverary

(Note:  Ignore the funky spacing and off-center pics. Not sure what Blogger is trying to do to me today, but it's being a PITA.)

It's been three months since my tummy tuck. Three long months. Or three short months, depending on how I feel on a particular day.

I went for my almost-three-month checkup with the surgeon on May 19. That went well. She was happy with the results and said it had healed "beautifully."  She took pictures for the file and asked how my workouts were going. She noted that on each hip where the incision ends, I have little puckers of skin. This gets annoying, as they can be sensitive. I'm always on edge when Bob goes to hug me or run has hand down my hip. It bothers me when I wear certain pants, too. It's pretty common for this to happen, though, and she will be able to fix it quickly in an office visit. She told me to come back at the end of the summer and she'll fix it. If it bothers me a lot, I can come earlier, but later in the summer would be best since my healing will be complete by then.

As for my workouts, I'm working out. I went back to my trainer several weeks ago. He took it easy on me, but he's ramping it up now. I started working out on my own also. I started at two days per week on my own, plus one with the trainer. I'm now doing three days on my own.  Soon I'll be back to four days on my own. It's getting easier, although I find I'm winded faster these days. But that will improve as I build up my endurance more.

Weight. weight.  My weight has gone up about 10 pounds since surgery. There are a few reasons for that.  Most of all it's because I'm just having a difficult time reigning my eating in after pushing so hard prior to surgery. Afterwards it was basically a free-for-all and it's hard to break that mindset.  And some personal things going on have made that harder than usual.  But I'm working on it. If I can stick to somewhere around 1,700 calories a day, I'll lose the extra pounds and get under 200. Although I don't visibly look like I gained weight, the scale doesn't lie and I can feel the difference a few pounds makes.

Clothing has been a bit of a pain. After surgery the only things I could wear comfortably were pajama pants and leggings, provided the elastic waist was loose, stretchy elastic. For a long time I couldn't wear much else because part of my incision was still open and very sensitive, but I can now wear some of my button-and-zipper pants. Jeans are kind of iffy, as they feel scratchy and tight to me. I still wear my compression garment when I wear certain pants, as it helps to eliminate the irritation pants cause my belly button and the ends of my incision on my hips. I really don't need it for anything else. I still swell a bit from time to time, but not so much that I really need the garment. As far as my pants size, I'm still a 16. My waist measurement didn't change; however, with all the extra abdominal skin gone, my pants look and fit better. Do I wish I'd lost a couple sizes? Sometimes. But I'm OK with the fact that I didn't.

Here's the new belly button. It's weird looking to me still, but everyone tells me, "It looks like a belly button." I guess because it's not frowning anymore, it seems like it's weird looking. I've started using scar gel, so it should start looking less red pretty soon.

How do I feel about my new body? I love it. For the first time in my life, I feel confident and not self-conscious. I feel like it looks like a plus-sized model's body looks (although, I think it's pretty stupid that a size 16 is considered plus-sized, and I'm not saying I actually look like a model). I like my shape and my flat belly. I love that I can actually see my feet for the first time. And I can see my whole body when I look down, not just my huge belly. I find, though, that I still act as if my extra skin is there. When I'm washing dishes, I'm usually a little farther away from the sink. When Bob hugs me, I tend to lean in with my upper body only. When I bend over to get something, I tend to spread and bend my legs as though I need to accommodate my extra skin, kind of like a squat. It's weird, and it's taking my mind a little while to catch up.

And as for how I feel physically, I'm almost 100%. It's a long process. I feel like I was over-prepared for the pain during the first week, as it wasn't quite as bad as I thought, whereas I feel I was under-prepared mentally and physically for the long haul.  I feel as though I shouldn't be feeling any weird sensations in my abs, or certain areas shouldn't be sensitive anymore. My trainer keeps telling me, "You're still healing!" I know he's trying to manage my expectations and wants me to go slowly so I don't hurt myself, but it's tough. I want to stop feeling the pulling sensation I get in the same spot in my abs all the time when I turn over in bed, or when I sneeze or cough. I don't want to get tired out so easily when I workout. I'd like for the surface of my skin to not feel so sensitive all the time. But I'm getting there. Before long, I'll start to feel like me again. I just have to remember that I'm only three months out from surgery. In another few months, it will all be just a blip on the radar.

Friday, May 26, 2017

the cost of a rescue cat

Today I want to talk about cat adoption fees. The reason being, people often ask me about the fee charged by the rescue with which I volunteer. The reaction is usually shock. Then they sometimes say that they can get a kitten for free off the street, from a friend, etc. So, I want to explain why, in general, adoption fees exist.

This is going to be long and soapbox-y, so bear with me...

I volunteer with the Stratford Cat Project ("SCP"), a volunteer-run no-kill cat rescue. It's not a shelter, but rather a network of foster homes that care for rescued cats and kittens until they can be adopted. I don't volunteer as much as I used to since I've moved to another part of the state, but I try to help out when I can. People often ask me cat questions, which I try to answer; however, the most often-asked question is, "how much is the adoption fee?" I always inwardly cringe, because I always get the same reaction--shock. I then quickly explain why the fee is what it is, usually in a defensive manner because it frustrates me so much that people don't realize there's work and money that goes into taking in, caring for, and adopting out a cat.

Our rescue charges $150.00 for a kitten, and $125.00 for a cat (one year old or older). This is less than what it costs the rescue for each animal, which totals more than $200.00 per kitten and a bit less for a cat. However, this does not take into account any newly discovered, pre-existing or developing health issues, any catastrophic occurrences that require more vet care (such as being hit by a car, having a broken limb, etc.; many animals come to us in really rough shape and the stories are very sad). As you can see, the rescue makes no money off the adoption fee. And the cost I just mentioned is WITH a discount from the rescue's vet. If you were to take a kitten off the street and go to your vet, the cost would be at least double what the rescue pays.

Can you get free kittens or cats? Of course you can. They're all over the place: ads are on Craigslist or posted on community boards in pet stores; Facebook friends have kittens they need to offload, because they didn't spay their female cat (don't even get me started on that one...), or they have a friend who has a box of kittens that was dumped off on their doorstep; sometimes they're just walking along the street or they show up on your doorstep and "adopt" you. If you're lucky you'll end up with a kitten that is a little bundle of joy, is social, and doesn't have any illnesses or behavioral issues. If you're unlucky, you'll get one that's anti-social or even feral; one that's scared of its own shadow; has feline leukemia or any other illness that gives the appearance of normal; might be flee- or tick-infested; might be sick with an upper respiratory infection or conjunctivitis; might have some serious behavioral issues; or may have the dreaded ringworm fungus. While ringworm is not life-threatening, it is labor intensive to get this fungus cleared up and then disinfect your home. This is how many cats and kittens end up at rescues and shelters, as people generally don't have the patience and/or money to deal with these things.

By adopting a cat or kitten from a rescue, you're typically getting an animal that is up to date on all its vaccinations; has had testing to ensure its disease-free; has had its health issues addressed, if necessary; has been loved and cared for by many volunteers, thus it had typically been socialized well (although there will always be ones that are more timid by nature); and has been spayed or neutered (SCP does not allow the cat or kitten to be adopted out until it has been spayed or neutered).

I'm not saying that all cats and kittens don't deserve to be rescued or that you shouldn't rescue them--they do and you should. What I'm saying is that if you are looking to adopt a cat from a rescue, don't gripe about the adoption fee. The money you pay to the rescue helps to offset--not completely cover--the high cost of vaccinations, testing for disease, spaying or neutering, feeding and housing that cat/kitten until it's time to adopt it out, any necessary medications, and the time that goes into evaluating, monitoring, caring for, and socializing that little ball of fur.   

One other thing I want to say: if you adopt a cat or kitten, give it time to acclimate to your house, family and other pets. This doesn't happen in one day! I see so many people post online that they brought the cat back to the rescue because it was hiding under the bed all day after being in the new home for only a day. (One day! That's not even enough time for ME to adjust to the cat, left alone the cat to adjust to us and our house.) Sure, some will adjust very quickly, usually kittens. Others take a little longer. And still others, even longer. One of my cats took a full three weeks to feel comfortable enough to venture into other parts of the house by herself, and another week or two to fully acclimate to my house. Was it frustrating? Yes. Did I occasionally feel like it would never happen? Yes. But that's how it goes sometimes. And keep in mind, the cat or kitten you're seeing in those first weeks isn't always the cat it will end up being; those first weeks are tough not only for you, but for her, too. If you don't have the patience to deal with this, or don't want to deal with this, then you might want to skip getting a cat.

Hopefully I've helped you (the general "you") understand why rescues charge what they charge for adopting a cat or kitten. In general, this fee is not even covering the most basic vet expenses associated with each animal, let alone the more complex vet services, medicines, food and their time. In other words, they're not "making money by selling cats."

These are the kitties I adopted from SCP over the last few years.

This is Marty. He loves belly rubs and is very affectionate. I wouldn't have guessed he would turn out like this when we first got him, as he took a little while to acclimate. Even today, six months later, he still runs as we approach him sometimes. But then he comes right back; he's a little weird. LOL

Tiffany took no time at all to acclimate. She took the stance that she's the new queen bee of the house and just went with it.

Leia took the longest of them all to get used to us and the house. Although she was in a busy foster home with people in and out all the time, she was a little freaked out by the new surroundings. It took her a good three weeks before she would come out of her bedroom and down the stairs, and then another couple weeks to really feel at-home. There were times when I was ready to call SCP and say it wasn't working out. But I stuck with it because I knew what she was like before. Today, she's a pretty social kitty and loves chest rubs--chest rubs make her coo like a pigeon. As you can see, she's not exactly a lady...

This is Louise (above) and her sister Thelma (below). They are sisters. They came from a hoarding situation and were two of the few cats (out of more than 80) that were able to be saved. They were in SCP for several years before we adopted them. Strangely enough, they had no problems acclimating to the house. It's been about five years and, to this day, they really don't care for the other cats in the house. They're social with us, but not the cats. Although there are a couple they will tolerate.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

weekly cookbook project: oatmeal raisin muffins

I'd said at the beginning of the year that I was going to commit to making one recipe per week from one of my cookbooks; I have a bunch of them and I never really use them.  I was going fine up until my tummy tuck surgery at the end of February. I knew there would be a few weeks where I was out of commission, but I didn't think it would take me almost three months to get back into the swing of things. To be fair, my incision opened up a bit and was quite sensitive for many weeks, my dad died, and then I was sick for over two weeks. So, here I am. It's almost the end of May and I haven't cooked much at all in the last few months.

I was aiming for a recipe for which I had all the ingredients, or nearly all of them. And I wanted a recipe that would make use of a few ingredients that I've had on hand for awhile and just haven't used. In this case it was rolled oats and raisins. I flipped through my King Arthur Flour's Baker's Companion book and found a recipe for oatmeal muffins--raisins optional. It looked really easy and the only thing I needed to buy was buttermilk. And I HATE buying buttermilk. It always seems way overpriced and the carton is way bigger than what I need and will use. But I went for it anyway. Luckily I found a quart container for $1.69, which was a bargain compared to some others I've seen. And if I had to dump the rest, I wouldn't feel like I'd wasted a bunch of money. Worse comes to worse, I can make banana cupcakes or buttermilk pancakes and freeze them.

So, this recipe was super simple. You just put the rolled oats and buttermilk in a container to soak overnight and then the next day you dump in all the other ingredients, stir, fill the muffin pan and bake for 18-20 minutes.  The recipe stated a yield of "12 generous-sized muffins." That tells me nothing. My muffin pans are all standard size, but they certainly didn't look like they would yield a "generous-sized muffin," So, I checked the back of the book, which has a "Tools" chapter. It mentioned the depth of the wells in the muffin pan and according to what it said, the recipe would be too much for my pans. No big deal--I simply got 17 smaller muffins instead of 12 bigger ones. And, actually, that worked out better for me. The smaller size meant I could eat a whole muffin without making me feel stuffed or overloading me with sugar.

I like these muffins. The texture is a little on the chewier side, which I actually like. I can taste the buttermilk and the raisins are very plump, although they pretty much settled at the bottom for the most part.  My only complaint is that I couldn't detect the pieces of oatmeal. I tasted it, but the oats themselves disappeared. If I make these again, I plan to soak the oatmeal for a shorter period of time. Maybe I'll put them in to soak in the morning and then cook them in the early afternoon.

The nutritional content is as follows based on the number of muffins I got out of it (17):  112 calories, 13g sugar, 4g fat, 19g carbs, and 2g protein. Bigger muffins would have been about 160 calories. Obviously these will be tough to eat for someone who can't have a lot of sugar, but they fall right in the sweet spot (no pun intended!) for me. No, I shouldn't be eating them, but this is how I live post-WLS life--in moderation and including treats now and then.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

back to the trainer i go!

Thursday night was my first session with my personal trainer since my surgery in February.

I worked out Tuesday and Wednesday, despite the sore muscles. Same routine as Monday:  20 minutes of walking on the treadmill, followed by three sets of 20 squats, 20 lunges, and 10 dumbbell presses with 10 pound dumbbells. It was a tiny bit easier this time around, but I was pretty tired when I was done. As expected, Monday's post-workout muscle soreness had fully set in by Wednesday and I was VERY sore!  My legs were sore in general, but my quads were really sore. So much so that it was a project to use the toilet. I made sure to use the handicapped stall, because it has railings I could use to lower myself down.  I am SO glad that I started working out on my own earlier in the week. I got the worst of the soreness over with and it got me back into the mindset to workout.

When I went to the trainer Thursday night, he had a ton of questions about how the surgery went, what they did, how I felt afterwards, how I feel now, my range of movement, etc.  He started me off with a warm-up:  three sets of jogging in place, jumping jacks, and very slow mountain climbers. Mountains climbers weren't hard, but I definitely wasn't able to do them the proper way. He then had me do four sets of lunges, with each set being three complete round trips across the studio.  Next were three sets of 10 squats holding a 5 pound weight. I then did three sets of 10 sumo squats with a 15 pound kettle bell. Finally, it was three sets of lateral pull-downs with a very light weight (not sure what it was). I honestly didn't feel anything in my abs until it was time to do the lateral pull-downs. My squads and thighs were killing me, but that's it. The pull-downs weren't difficult, but they tired me out and my abs were sore. Actually, it wasn't pain, really. It felt like a punching when I pulled down on the bar, and like I was being stretched out when bringing the bar back up. After that I was done for the night. He gave me A LOT of rest periods, but I was still pretty beat.

Basically, I'm pretty much starting from almost the beginning again. He estimates it will take me at least a month or more to get back to where I was before surgery. For now, he wants me to work out only three days a week. It will give me plenty of recovery time and will help me to slowly get back up to speed. He didn't make me do any squat jumps (thank you!!), since those bother me right now. It's the combination of jumping up and reaching up with my arms at the same time, I think. And no push-ups. (Darn....)  He said we'll try a push-up in a few weeks once I've gotten back into the swing of things and my ab muscles are healed a bit more. Knowing how I felt last week doing that one push-up, I'm already pretty nervous for the day when he has me try again. Logically, I know I'm not a fragile flower and I'm pretty well healed, but I can't help but worry that doing a push-up will tear apart my surgically repaired ab muscles. It won't--it's just me being a big ol' baby.  And I have to get over it if I want to move forward.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

sore muscles and a bruised ego

Yesterday I went back to working out for the first time since my tummy tuck. I'm sore, and my ego is a bit bruised today.

My last workout was February 24--that's a little over 10 weeks since my last workout. I would have started earlier; however, the middle of my incision separated about three weeks after surgery and it just recently closed up completely. I didn't want to cause any delay in it closing up, plus it was quite sensitive in that area, so I decided to wait until it was closed to start working out again. Could I have done some very basic moves? Yes. But, like I said, I really didn't want to cause any delays in healing the incision.

I made an appointment to go back to my trainer this coming Thursday and decided I should work out a bit before going back. That way I can get the initial soreness over with and hopefully be back in the swing by then. When trying to figure out what I should do for my first workout, I took a look at the ones my trainer gave me when I first started last year. I have to say, I was quite shocked at how little it actually was, but how much it seemed to be at that time: three sets of 10 squats, 10 lunges, 10 jump squats and however many pushups I could do. And that's it. So, I figured I'd do the squats and lunges at the very least. I didn't want to do jump squats given there's still some sensitivity and skin movement (aka "jiggling") in certain areas, and I figured I wouldn't be able to do pushups yet. But three sets of 10 squats and 10 lunges seemed way too easy. And lazy on my part after all I'd been able to do before surgery. So, I decided on three sets of 20 squats, 20 lunges, 10 dumbbell presses with 10 pound dumbbells, and 20 minutes of walking on the treadmill.

How did it go? I did it. I started with the treadmill to warm up. I normally walk at 3.0 MPH or a little faster, but I had to keep it around 2.8 MPH since it was tiring me out. I then started my three sets: lunges, then squats, and then the dumbbell presses. It started out good, although my knees cracked with every lunge. I struggled a little getting through 20 squats, but I did it. The dumbbell presses were pretty easy. Well, halfway through my second set, the muscle soreness set in. Big time. So then I started my third set. I nearly fell over when I started the lunges. That's how sore my muscles got. I rested for a couple minutes and walked it off, then tried again. I got through the rest of it and finished.

I then tried a pushup. I was feeling good because I accomplished something and got a bit cocky about it, I admit. Big mistake. Big. The pain took my breath away for a few seconds and I got up as fast as I could to walk it off. It felt like someone stabbed me in the abs. That's because of all the muscle repair the surgeon had to do. Until that moment, I had no idea how much core strength it takes to be able to do a pushup. Needless to say, I was done at that point. I won't be trying that again until I build the muscles back up.

I was really surprised the soreness set in before I even finished the workout. I was expecting it to happen maybe a little while afterwards or last night. Not halfway through! Today I'm sore, although not as bad as when I first started last year. But, yeah, I feel like a weakling today.

Unfortunately, weight loss surgery didn't magically make me into someone who loves working out. It happens for may WLS patients, but not me. I wish it was different, but it is what it is: for the rest of my life it will be something I do because I need to maintain my weight and stay healthy. But I have to say, although I don't necessarily enjoy working out, I really miss how strong I felt when I was at my best before the tummy tuck. I miss the feeling of knowing I can lift the 40 pound bag of cat litter without struggling, or lug around a wet bag of mulch. I miss knowing I can complete a tough hour-long workout and not drop dead. And I miss pointing out my big quad muscles to my husband; I get a little thrill out of that for some reason. He's not quite as impressed as I am, though.

It's back in the gym today. I'll just have to work through the soreness, just like I did last year when I first started out. (And while at work I'm making sure to use the handicap bathroom stall--it's got the highest toilet and railings on the side. That way I don't have as far to go when sitting down.)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

another attempt at baking powder biscuits

My last attempt at making baking powder biscuits didn't go so well, mainly because I hadn't checked the expiration date of the baking powder; apparently, you need to do that. The biscuits came out very flat. They tasted like they're were supposed it, but they definitely didn't look like a proper biscuit.

I tried again this week, using fresh baking powder. While they rose higher, they were tough. I think I over mixed or over kneaded the dough. They tasted OK, though. The toughness didn't matter in this case, because I also made sausage gravy, which was poured over them to make biscuits and gravy.

I'll have to try again, maybe this weekend. Hopefully the third time is the charm.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

i can wear pants again!

Well, I could wear pants before. What I mean is I can finally, after more than two months, wear pants that have a button and zipper! I know, it's quite the accomplishment. It is. Really! 

After my tummy tuck I could wear only pajama pants because I needed something very soft and loose-fitting. When it was time to go back to work, I really struggled to find pants with either a drawstring waist or a very loose-fitting elastic waist; it was harder than I thought it would be. I ended up putting together a hodge-podge mixture of $5.00 Walmart leggings that just didn't fit right (but I made them work) or decided after the fact I didn't like them; workout leggings from the plus-sized clothing store with a tighter elastic waist, which weren't always very comfortable, and also soft velour leggings; and a few pairs of leggings I actually felt comfortable in. It was a trying time. I wore a skirt a few times, but pantyhose were also a problem so I had to buy stay-up thigh highs, which was a very weird feeling at work knowing I had those on.

During the last two months I tried on my old pants a few times; however, they made my hips feel bruised and the bottom of the zipper landed right where my incision had separated and was still healing. (Plus, a certain body part is now exposed and level with my abs, where it had been barely exposed prior to surgery. Very sensitive!) My old pants are all "skinny" pants leaning strongly towards tailored leggings, so there was no room to breathe in them. Soft and stretchy, but still tight enough to not be comfortable yet. I gave up and decided to wait until the incision was completely closed before trying again.

Today was the day and I'm happy to say my old pants fit and they're comfortable. It feels so good to be wearing regular pants again. Workout capris and leggings were getting pretty old.

I haven't tried my jeans yet. I think I'll wait for the weekend. Baby steps.