35 days to go

Sadly, there have been several–maybe lots–of cheat days recently. It’s so hard to control the cravings I keep having…sometimes, it takes everything within me to keep myself from giving in. Hopefully my last cheat day was Saturday (2 days ago).

I’m so ready for this surgery. I want the cravings to stop. I want the weight to start coming off. I want to be able to go out and exercise. I want to wear normal people clothes and do normal people things again. I want to quit sleeping all the time. I want to feel like I’m in control rather than powerless.

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So let’s do some catching up…and then there will be surprises!

Good day everybody!

If you know me, you probably know by now that I am not having hernia surgery…I am having gastric bypass surgery.

Since January, I have been going through a process mandated by both The Bariatric Center of Kansas City and my insurance company: a 3-month diet, visits with a dietitian, visits with a psychologist, approvals for surgery from all my doctors, an endoscopy to make sure everything looks good down below and a 2 1/2-hour seminar going over pre- and post-surgery instructions.

This week, my insurance company gave final approval and the surgery date was set today: June 29th.

My feelings at this point are…fuck, can we get this over already?!

I’ve lost 25 pounds with the diet and I do feel better. I also feel like I have more willpower. But every time I eat is a struggle…it’s like my mind and stomach are screwing with me all the time. And there are so many things I can’t do or struggle with because of my weight. I think back to how things were when I was at my lowest weight in 1994 (when I lost 70 pounds)…and I want to be and feel like that again. (I can’t quite be like that again…I’m almost 40…I’m getting old!)

There are going to be some big changes coming. I won’t be able to eat solid food for like 2 months. I won’t be able to eat some things any more. I’ll be recovering all summer, including missing 2 weeks of work. But I want to live a long and healthy life…and at the rate I’m going, I fear being dead sooner rather than later.

I kept this surgery hidden for…2 months, I think? During that time, I wrote some blogposts about the surgery that I was going to release after the surgery. Well, since I let the cat out of the bag early…if you look back to January, you will see some posts that you might not have seen before. I’ll try to label them accordingly.

So…53 days away…

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Hitting the checkpoints as time moves quickly (previously hidden)

No real need to set this up.

Tomorrow marks my second appointment with the nutritionist. I met with the surgeon and my caseworker two weeks ago.

My progress is coming along nicely. I am down 22 pounds since my first visit to the nutritionist just over a month ago. My energy and stamina have increased…going up and down steps is easier. Eating has only been frustrating in that I’m still not getting as much protein in my diet as I should. I will start doing supplements this week.

The only thing that I have been bad about is having carbonated water…I won’t be able to have it after surgery. I don’t drink it as much as I used to, and if this is the worst thing I’m doing, I figure I’m doing alright.

The cravings come and go. They are not as intense as they used to be, but sometimes, they sneak up on me. I think the worst indulgence I’ve done is the buffet at Hy-Vee, which we don’t go to often. And even then, I try not to overdo it.

Hopefully, the nutritionist will be pleased with my progress and I’ll see even more weight loss tomorrow.

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On fighting weight and demons

I have to have a hernia surgery. It has to be done soon, but it is not critical yet. My doctors would like me to lose some weight before performing the surgery…so for about a month now, I have worked with a dietitian.

I’ve yo-yo dieted all my life…I’ve been fat almost all my life. But in recent years, I’ve been trying to sincerely make changes and live a healthier lifestyle–THAT’S a real diet. Sometimes, the changes stick for a while…a long while. Others, not so much. 4 weeks in, this change is sticking so far.

There are a lot of people out there giving advice right now…Big Pharma vs Big Alternative. And we’ve always had it stressed to us that skinny is the “right” thing; now we have some that seem to be advocating the opposite.

Here is what I KNOW: my poor eating habits have led to several health problems over the past several years, and probably play a role in my anxiety as well. It is not healthy for someone of my height to weigh as much as I did.

So I started eating “better”…not doing a bunch of crazy diet stuff, but I focus mainly on protein. I eat some carbs, though not as many as I used to, and I don’t worry much about fats. And I read labels…and I know what corn can be turned into.

Both my primary care provider and my cardiologist approve of the diet. In three months, I hope to be off Metformin…maybe even another medicine or two. I’m down over 20 pounds and feel physically and mentally better than I have in a long time.

Occasionally, I’ll stop in a gas station to use the restroom…very rarely do I buy anything at one anymore other than gas. I am amazed at how much time I used to spend in these places and how much awful shit I used to buy there and put into my body.

It has taken an extraordinary amount of willpower to get to where I am today. Some days are better than others… And it gets better every day. But the temptations are still there.

I hate hearing shit like, “Well, if you care about x, you’d do it.” Or, “You just have to do it…no excuses.” Yeah…that’s a nice fucking Utopia, isn’t it?

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on addictions, but having dealt with two powerful addictions in my life (nicotine and food), I think I have enough insight to speak on it a little. You can WANT to do something so badly…you can WANT to make a change…but, at least for me, it has taken trigger of sorts to finally say, “Yep, I gotta do it.” And once that trigger hits, your mind is in the right direction…and it makes fighting the addiction MUCH easier than before. It’s still a bitch to get through, but the next thing you know, you’re over the hill and fighting less. And that is the greatest feeling.

If you know me and you are a smoker, you know that I have never given you the “Reformed Smoker” riot act…and I won’t. Now, I may not want to hang out at places where there is a lot of smoke, because it causes me physical issues these days. BUT…I know that is a tough habit to break. And when you’re ready to quit, you will. Hopefully, it won’t be too late for your health though.

So, let me wind this up. Yes…you have to want to make a change. But you have to be ready to do it too.

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So, it’s been a while…

If I’m going to keep spending $100 a year to host a website, it seems that I should make better use of it. That’s the problem with social media for me…I just babble there all the time, rather than using blogging to form thoughtful paragraphs of babble.

So it’s been a while since my last post here…almost a year. Here is what you have missed: the closing of my business, another bankruptcy, a real job that I love and…that’s about it. I mean, that’s what life is all about, right? The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Anyway, while I enjoy the easiness of social media, I feel like I need to write more “formally,” lest I forget how. You never know…someone might want me to pen an essay or something. So expect new stuff…regularly…soon.

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Day 22 (previously hidden)

So things are going well thus far…as of Friday, I am down 19 pounds. My GP and cardiologist are good with both my diet and my surgery, though they both need to officially sign off on it. My heart could be better, but it’s not as bad as I thought it might be, and I don’t have that worry anymore…for now.

I actually had a consult with the surgeon today along with my case manager. There is still a lot of work to be done before this surgery can be done…lots of hoops to jump through to satisfy the insurance company. But I guess they want to make sure I’m serious about this. And I am.

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Day 6 (previously hidden)

In day 6 of a lifestyle change, a part of me is feeling the best I’ve felt in a long time. On the scale this morning, I am down almost 14 pounds, which is great. I haven’t had a soda since the 18th and no caffeine since the 19th. I do miss tea, but I will start looking for decaffeinated varieties. We hung out with friends last night and I did not do as well as I could have, but it could have been a lot worse.

Unfortunately, there have been some issues this week…we will call them growing pains. I knew that stopping caffeine cold turkey could cause problems, but I was already into day 2 of a migraine when I stopped. The migraine was gone by Thursday…It had started on Sunday.

Then there was the general feeling of malaise…I knew that would happen too. That was mostly gone by Wednesday, but still lingers.

I’ve reduced my caloric intake by about 1/2…and my body is still getting used to that. Some of the cravings have been pretty intense, but I’ve been able to hold most of them off with healthier food choices, small portions or water.

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Day 2 (previously hidden)

I was expecting more at my appointment with the dietitian yesterday. There are some major changes underway: more protein in my diet, fewer carbs, fewer empty calories and no caffeine. But a lot of the info we discussed was stuff I already know. That’s been part of my struggle with losing weight…I know what it is that I need to do, but I simply cannot seem to do it.

Giving up caffeine is not as difficult as it might seem. I’ve been trying to get rid of soda for a while now, and I don’t drink a lot of coffee as it is. Unfortunately, I am very sensitive to caffeine withdrawal. Fortunately, I’ve already had a migraine since yesterday, so it seemed like the perfect day to stop consuming caffeine for good.

This morning, I found myself having some second thoughts and freaking out a bit. One of the other things I will have to give up is beer. Now while I enjoy beer, I simply don’t drink it all that much. So giving it up really isn’t that big of a deal. But it made me start thinking about things that are going to have to change…and a lot of things ARE going to have to change. I started getting panicky and even teared up for a minute. Should I consider the gastric sleeve instead? Maybe the changes there won’t seem so draconian. Or maybe I should try avoiding surgery, and give weight load a real good push without the knife.

I calmed myself down and put it out of my head for a little bit. After I got to work, I did some quick research on the three common methods of surgery. I had already done research, but couldn’t remember all the specific details. What I learned this morning is that all three procedures require the same kinds of dietary changes. I also learned that they all will allow me to enjoy a lot of delicious food after surgery, along with wine.

And let’s be real here: I have done a lot of damage to my body with awful food…physically, mentally, financially. I am at a point where I believe a drastic change is necessary in order to regain control of my health…my life. And if I have to say goodbye to some things and/or make some sacrifices in order to heal myself, well…it’s gotta be done.

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The first baby step (previously hidden)

So I wrote this not long after my initial post about the surgery. In reality, the costs have been a bit higher than I originally thought, factoring in visits to my other doctors and the endoscopy I had to have in April. Still worth every penny though.

My insurance will cover bariatric surgery…it looks like I will pay 20% out of pocket, which will be about $2500. Well worth it, IMO. My insurance also requires that I do a 90-day supervised diet along with getting a psychological exam before surgery. I go to the surgery office to meet with a dietitian later today (Monday) about the diet. I have no idea what the diet will entail, but it will be followed.

My first appointment with the surgical staff is on February 9th. I assume that I qualify for the surgery…otherwise they would not have scheduled me for either appointment. I’m scared, but also…just ready to go…ready to do this.

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I like roller coasters, but I’m ready for this ride to end. (Previously hidden)

I wrote this the day before I went for my first appointment at the Bariatric Center

I have been fat as long as I can remember. I wasn’t horribly overweight as a little kid, but I knew I was…because I got made fun of. Not a lot, but enough. I was always a bit of an oddball kid, not to mention a sensitive soul…then to be fat on top of it…oh joy!

I’ve gone through a variety of weight-loss plans, starting in 7th grade. I lost about 20 pounds then. I think at the time I weighed about 150 pounds. That diet lasted about a year…then I fell off the wagon. It wasn’t overly restrictive…I just lost the discipline to eat properly, I guess.

In the spring of 1994–my senior year of high school, I joined Weight Watchers. At this point, I weighed 264 pounds. Again, I didn’t feel it was restrictive…I just had to learn how to eat better. I lost 74 pounds in 5 months. During my first year of college, I gained about 20 of it back, which I would say is not too shabby. A year later, it all went to hell.

Shortly after moving to Washington, DC in 1999, I had dropped about 20 pounds, mainly due to walking a lot and being on my own. I was probably at 290 before I moved out there and was back down to about 270.

I first hit 300 around 2003…by early 2005, I was at 340. I went through a variety of “mystery” illnesses in 2004, but also quit smoking in May that year, after smoking 2 packs a day for almost 9 years. I think I gained about 20 pounds after I quit smoking, but then again, I was eating out of control at that point.

In the first days of 2005, I was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy: an enlarged heart with no idea how it happened. I suspect it was due to a chipped tooth that I let sit untreated. After going on a variety of medications, my doctor put me in a cardiac rehabilitation program to help strengthen my heart and to help me lose weight. I went on short-term disability from work in early March of that year. When I started rehab, I was at 336.

After…10 weeks of rehab? I was at 313, walking 6 miles a day through the parks and streets of Philadelphia. Even though my world was going through great change in the spring of 2005–my fiancee of 6 years and I had split and I was in the process of relocating back home to St. Louis–I felt the best I had in many years. After returning home, I was able to keep up the routine…for a while anyway.

I made various attempts at eating right and exercising over the next 2 years…the next 5 years. I was around 360 or so when I got married in 2007. I was at 440 when my divorce started in 2010…and that’s pretty much where I’ve been ever since.

I used to take pride in the fact that I was pretty flexible and could move well for a big guy…and was fairly healthy for a big guy. All that has disappeared over the past 10 years. Of course, I am now approaching my 40th birthday as well, so things start to fall apart naturally as well.

At 39, in addition to my cardiomyopathy, I take blood pressure and cholesterol meds. I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but they helped ease the pressure on my heart and reduce the risk of a heart attack, respectively. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, and started taking medication for it last year. I’ve had acid reflux and allergies for years and have taken medications for them since I was in college. I’ve had anxiety issues probably all my life, and have taken medicine regularly now since 2004. There are also migraines that I’ve had off and on since I was a kid, and have been taking medicine for regularly since last year…the medicine is also supposed to have the side-effect of controlling my appetite, and it seems to do that.

Then there are the various side issues…occasional gout attacks that last for weeks that sometimes require steroids. The back pain that gets so bad that I need to use painkillers. The anxiety that gets so overwhelming that only a Xanax seems to calm me down. Skin issues so bad that I have permanent scarring from scratching and picking scabs.

And then of course, my reclusiveness. My fear of going places because the chair might not hold me…I may not fit in a booth…I’m going to look like shit, even though my clothes fit me fine…I can’t handle being outside for too long, so I wind up spending time in cooler places by myself, looking antisocial…my general shame at letting myself get to this point.

I KNOW what I need to do to get healthy…I KNOW what kind of diet will help me. I KNOW that exercise is good for me and I should do it. I KNOW these things. And yet I don’t seem to have the willpower or strength to do it more often than not.

I have tried to avoid any talk about weight-loss surgery. I don’t knock anyone that has had it done, but I felt like that was an absolute last step…I didn’t think I was at that point. I had seen a few friends have complications with it and didn’t want to deal with those kinds of risks. But I will admit that I was jealous of the success that people were having with it.

About a year ago, my doctor asked me if I wanted to go to an information seminar about bariatric surgery…I was open to that, just to see what the options were and to see if things had changed. Unfortunately, Michelle’s insurance did not cover it at the time, so I saw no point in going. I was actually pretty frustrated about it…it was the first time I had ever considered the surgery, and now it wasn’t even really an option. About 3 months ago, Michelle started looking into it, as her insurance was now going to cover it. Quite frankly, I was mad at her. I didn’t feel like she had done enough to where she should be considering surgery. (Yeah…like I have a right to make such a call. I’m such a dick.) I knew that my insurance with KU covered it already, but still wasn’t feeling right about the surgery. I felt like I was being pressured by Michelle about it, even though no pressure was really being applied. Just being a caring wife and looking out for herself as well. (Again, I’m such a dick.)

So we went to the seminar presentation at The Bariatric Center of Kansas City. Look, it’s a sales pitch…they want you to buy what they’re selling. But I was impressed by their success rates and accolades…and they were honest about the “after” process. I knew Michelle was seriously considering it, and I was not going to let her get it before me.

Yeah…that’s originally how I made the decision. I don’t know why my wife is married to me. But obviously that rationale was replaced by serious deliberation…actually, I didn’t need to give it that much deliberation–something big has to happen. I am falling apart and have been fearful of dying young for the past couple years. It’s like knowing what you need to do to get out of debt, but there’s just so much debt that bankruptcy is the most reasonable option. I don’t think the surgery is going to be the end-all-be-all…but a major lifestyle change has been a long time coming. I want to be healthy, but I’m so overwhelmed at this point that something major needs to be done.

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