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I had gastric surgery, please stop trying to force feed me

For those of you who haven’t had the surgery let me explain, the average stomach can hold about 6 cups of food and has to ability to stretch (like when you’re at the Chinese buffet or for second dinner on Thanksgiving).  After you have the surgery your stomach can now only hold 1-2 cups of food/liquid and loses its elasticity.   Unfortunately, after having the surgery people get worried that you aren’t eating enough and they turn into little Italian grandmothers that are on a mission to spoon-feed you everything on the table. “Oh man, this is really good try some of this!” “You didn’t really eat that much did you not like it?” “Hey, there’s only a couple spoonfuls left of this.  You sure you don’t have room?”  What part of my stomach only holds 10 oz of food do you not understand?  It’s not a choice if I eat that I will throw up all over you.  Please do not get offended when I don’t have seconds and thirds.  I probably couldn’t even eat everything on my plate in the first place and now I feel like I’m going to die because I finished everything to be polite.

To give you a clearer idea of how much food I can fit in my stomach they reduce your stomach to the size of a banana by reshaping the pouch and removing the portion of your stomach that stretches when you eat.  So while other people can continue to eat when they feel full and merely suffer from bloating my food literally fills up my stomach and then begins to back up in my esophagus like a clogged toilet.  I can physically eat one piece of protein about the size of the palm of my hand and be completely full, if I don’t chew it well enough I will become physically ill. So that means no buns, no pasta, no giant heaping bowls of salad, and no bread because I simply don’t have room for it no matter how much I loved it in the past.  On top of that, eating anything carb heavy, very rich, or hard to chew makes me feel like shit.  So if I turn down something delicious you are offering, believe me, it hurts me more than it hurts you.

Now let’s look at it from an addiction standpoint.  I have an addiction to food and I had the surgery to help me curb that addiction.  I try to eat now for nutrition, not to eat for comfort, a celebration, or a coping mechanism.  Do you go up to alcoholics that have been sober for 19 years and try to get them to have a drink with you? “Hey man congrats on 19 years sober, let’s have a drink to celebrate!  It’s only one drink!”  In some way’s it’s really degrading and depressing to have people dismiss your issue because they don’t understand it or they just don’t care. Yeah, I would love to eat that cheeseburger or a whole pie or a giant Cheesesteak again but I can’t.  So the fact that you think it’s so funny to try to get me to eat it is really sad.  Imagine having an addiction you can feed at any time to get high, you can run out to a store 24/7 and buy it without an i.d. for the change in your car, nearly every place with a register offers it, and there is no age restriction or legal limit.  I have to make the conscious decision over a dozen times a day to not indulge it.  I pick something up, read the label, put it down, pick it up, put it down, pick it up, read the label, put it down.  Rinse and repeat, over and over every single day.

Having the surgery has helped me empathize a lot with vegans, vegetarians, and people with food allergies since it’s become clear that as a society we just ignore issues that don’t have an immediate impact on ourselves. We have this really great ability to dismiss things as not a problem if they aren’t a problem to us, which I imagine is a coping mechanism for how shitty the world is and not wanting to kill ourselves all the time because of it.  Sometimes I fantasize about just eating everything and then throwing up all over the person just to see how they like it.  I’m sure that’ll get me invited to a lot of dinner parties.

How to get “unstuck” and going back to basics

Anyone on a weight loss journey, with or without surgery, has experienced those exasperating moments when the scale stops moving, or worse, beings to move the other direction.  Shock turns into dismay which turns into desperation as the scale continues to defy us.  Despite weight loss plateaus being completely natural, it can be hard to escape the feeling of becoming “stuck”.  This is the perfect time to go back basics, here are some steps for how I get “unstuck”:

  1. Go back to your nutritionist’s instructions, make sure you are eating at the right intervals and getting enough protein in.  If you haven’t been making your quarterly check-ins nows a good time to make the call.  Everyone has unique protein requirements and if you aren’t hitting your targets you won’t see your best results.
  2. Don’t be afraid to do a liquid diet reset.  Don’t worry I’m not preaching to go back to 3 shakes a day but moving to a shake for breakfast and lunch may be the perfect thing to help you break some of your bad habits and stop some of those Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and McD’s trips.
  3. Identify your bad habits.  I am notorious for skipping breakfast, for some reason a coffee or a small shake is all I can eat before lunch most days even though I know that breakfast is super important to jump-start your metabolism for the day.  Conversely, at night I constantly find myself wanting to snack and nothing has been able to cure this struggle.  Modify your behaviors and consciously work to correct your habits, get back to what was working for you.
  4. Track your food!  Junk food creep is real, you may find yourself adding in certain junk foods or getting fast food on a more regular basis, forgetting to bring your lunch in once a week can turn into a few lunch’s at McD’s faster than you want to admit.  Those little treats and late night snacks start becoming ritualistic again.  If you are anything like me tracking will help deter some of those cravings, I know I won’t eat certain foods just so I don’t have to log them.

 

Finally remind yourself the number on the scale isn’t why we began this journey, take a look in the mirror, try on your clothes.  Does everything fit right?  Do you look and feel better?  We will all hit stalls, remember you are doing this for you, your well mental and physical well being, not the scale.  If none of that works take the scale out back, run it over with the car, hack it with an axe and shoot it for good measure.  That scale wasn’t good for you anyway, he didn’t deserve you, there are thousands of scales in the sea.

 

Have any tips or tricks for helping you stay or get back on track?  Share them in the comments or on Facebook and I will add them to the list.

How do you feel? Appreciating the little things, 140lbs and counting

“How do you feel after losing the weight?”  That’s a question I get asked on a daily basis, the truth is I don’t feel very different much of the time or maybe it’s that the change has been gradual enough that I don’t notice any specific changes.  Although I do feel like I have more energy I would say the biggest changes are probably a culmination of little things, things average sized people take for granted.  This may come off as a “list of things Tony has broken” but without being overly dramatic this is really what I notice on a day to day basis.

I can sit on folding chairs that I wouldn’t dream of trying to sit on before and although breaking a folder chair or two has been the source of comic relief in my family it makes it very hard when going to weddings or other events where they don’t have full sized chairs.  I had resorted to bringing my own folding chair to most occasions and as you can imagine that’s both a hassle and embarrassing.  There were several weddings and functions where I just stood off to the side instead of risking a chair explosion during an inopportune time.

I no longer need to request a table, or a seat without arms, when dining out at restaurants.  Again this may seem like a little thing but not being able to sit in a booth with a fixed table or in a chair with arms can be incredibly limiting for seating.  Either you get the embarrassment of not being able to fit in a booth, having to ask your hostess to move you, or you have to watch them hunt frantically for the one or two chairs in the venue without arms.  Although we dine out much less often it’s such a relief to not have to worry about special seating arrangements.

That bring’s me to breaking furniture, more specifically toilet seats.  The most embarrassing moment of my life was when I visited my in-laws for the first time and I broke their toilet seat.  There really isn’t a great way to tell someone you just met that not only are you moving their daughter across the country (this in itself is a whole other story) but you’re such a fat-ass you broke their toilet seat.  Couple this with cracking a toilet seat or two at work, a customer’s couch while on an appointment, a few car seats, our own living room couch and chair (twice), and countless desk chairs I knew something had to give.  I’m still leary of lighter weight furniture but it hasn’t been a chronic issue since I began this journey.  (I probably spent about $3,000 and several weeks of construction on my bathroom over 10 years from damage to the tub and tiles from my weight – Thanks Dad for your help and understanding)

Weight limits, for those of you of slighter build you likely don’t face these problems very often but once you hit the 500+ mark you are basically over the weight limit of everything.  I couldn’t even do the stress test at my cardiologists facility because their equipment was only rated to 450lbs.  Most “heavy duty” scales don’t clear 500lbs either, so many of the offices I did my pre-op work at couldn’t even accurately weigh me. Furniture is usually only rated to 250lbs per person, beds included, and if you have ever tried to buy “heavy duty” furniture, exercise equipment or even something seemingly as simple as a bicycle you understand its astronomically more expensive.  Imagine joining a weight loss program and not being able to use any of the equipment, yeah I’ve been there.

This also reared its ugly head when going to events like football and baseball games, the movie theater or anywhere with stadium seating.  I actually had to google seating sizes for different venues to see if they had seats that would fit me and after a while I just gave up going altogether to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to fit in the seats and having to stand the entire time.  As much as I hated it I often had to ask for handicap seating or rooms if they were available, I didn’t feel handicapped and I didn’t want to be “that guy”.  In college this was an issue during lectures, I had to sit in the end seats (they were handicapped seating) to sit comfortably.  When we went on a cruise we had to request a handicap room so I could comfortably shower without having to leave the door to the bathroom open.  I couldn’t dream of flying someplace without buying two seats or flying first class so we drove everywhere, 16+ hours each way to Florida for a long weekend, or I skipped the trip and flew my wife and kid down without me.  (fyi 99% of all motorcycles, airplanes, canoes and boats are not “Tony Sized”, not even cruise ships)

Cars were another pain point, either the seat belts didn’t, my legs were crammed into the dash, or the steering wheels didn’t adjust enough and they were jammed into my legs, groin, or gut.  Climbing in and out of our econo work van was nearly impossible since the seat did not adjust back and the steering wheel was locked in place.  I basically had to squash and meld my self around the steering wheel every time I hopped in and out.  I would come home with bruises on my stomach from cramming my way into spaces or having objects poke my gut while working.  Long trips would generally lead to days of leg and foot pain if I drove or sat in the front and often times it was easier to sit in the back seat so I didn’t run into issues with center consoles or dashboards.  I once was actually pulled over for not wearing a seat belt and when I sheepishly demonstrated that I couldn’t buckle the belt I was berated on the side of the road about either losing weight or getting a seat belt extender, yeah that went about as awkwardly as you would expect.

So I guess you could say that’s how I notice or feel a difference since the surgery.  Although I still struggle with seeing the weight loss in the mirror, as many of us do and which is a topic for another day, I do notice and appreciate all these small changes which help tremendously with not only my anxiety but my overall quality of life.  If you have your own stories or small triumphs please comment and share below, I would love to hear them.

I would also like to thank my incredibly thoughtful friends throughout the years who made sure I had a “Tony Chair”.  Whether they bought special heavy duty folding chairs, considered passenger leg room in their new cars a bit more, bought heavier duty furniture, or set aside a special chair for me at their wedding I greatly appreciated it all.

Recipe of the Week – Creole Shrimp with Andouille Sausage

Creole Shrimp with Andouille Sausage

  • 5 stalks celery choppped
  • 1 ½ onions chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • ½ large red pepper chopped
  • 1 Tb chopped garlic
  • 1 package aidells Cajun style andouille sausage sliced to bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 8oz can plain tomato sauce
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 tsp chopped parsley
  • ¼-1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • 2# shrimp ( I used 16-20 size)

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  1. Over high heat sear shrimp in the olive oil, a little at a time without crowding the pan, and remove them to a plate.  (They won’t be completely cooked yet.)
  2. Once the shrimp is all removed add the sausage and brown it.  (This you can leave in the pan.)
  3. Add the peppers, onion,  and celery and sauté until starting to get soft, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and sauté one minute, then add the Cajun seasoning and the thyme and stir.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and scrape up any yummy bits left on the pan.
  6. Add the tomato sauce and taste for seasoning.
  7. Simmer about 5 minutes then add the shrimp back to pan, along with any juices they have released, while also adding the lemon juice and the fresh parsley.
  8. Cook 2-3 minutes until shrimp are hot.

 

Makes 8 servings my fitness pal

281 calories

34g protein

2g fiber

6g net carbs

Snack Recipe – Cashew Veggie Dip

Cashew Veggie Dip

  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight in room temp water
  • 1 tb nutritional yeast
  • 2 tb fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 tb coconut oil
  • 1 cup cooked assorted chopped veggies.  I used carrot, onion, red pepper, celery, garlic, broccoli, kale and parsley
  • 2 tb sliced green olives

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  1. Soak raw cashews overnight.
  2. The next day, drain and let dry or dry with a paper towel.
  3. Place cashews in high power blender, like a vitamix, or a food processor with the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, lemon zest, coconut oil, salt and pepper.  The mixture gets smoother and creamier in the blender than the food processor, but still comes out delicious.
  4. Blend until smooth.  You may have to scrape down and stir repeatedly to get this as smooth as possible.  Pro-Tip: If you need to add a little extra lemon juice or a little water to keep this moving add very little at a time.  You don’t want to make this too runny so that it stays the consistency of cream cheese.
  5. Once the cashew mixture is to your satisfaction (take your time with it!) add the cooked and cooled chopped veggies and green olives.
  6. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.

Eat with Breton white bean or black bean crackers or fresh veggie strips for extra fiber.

 

8 – 3 Tb servings

Nutritional information (per serving) according to my fitness pal:

113 cal

3.5g protien

1.3g fiber

6g net carbs

Breakfast Recipe – Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats

Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats

  • 4 Tb chia seeds
  • 1 c. oats
  • 1 c. fair life skim milk
  • ½ c. coconut milk
  • ½ c. greek yogurt (I used Fage Total)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

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Mix all ingredients together and split between 4 jars or containers.  Top with the following split between the four servings:

  • 1 banana
  • ½ c. coconut chips
  • ¼ c. semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • ½ c. roasted cashews

Let sit overnight in refrigerator and is ready to grab and go in the morning.

 

According to my fitness pal (per serving):

415 calories

20g protein

14g fiber

36g net carbs

Body to Baby: A Lifetime of Struggle, A Blessing and Now a Curse

For as long as I could remember I was always “chubby”. ‘Oooh my gosh! Look at those chubby cheeks!!’ Is what my mom says was a huge draw for people when I was a baby. When I was older I got into sports but before a softball game my mom would make me a grilled cheese for breakfast, this lasted well into my teenage years. “Balanced Breakfast” was never in my vocabulary except when it was taught in Health class. In one ear and out the other though.

My weight problem would haunt me throughout my childhood. I was into sports but exercise could only do so much. Then I became a teenager. A teenager with too much angst and a mother who wasn’t so much helpful on the emotional end. ‘You’re fat/that doesn’t fit right’ etc., was said to me almost daily, to where I could have become bulimic but instead I hid in large clothes, ate when I was sad and used my “bright personality” as a crutch.

Like any overweight kid there came a barrage of “mean girls” and idiot boys who also liked to point out that I was fat. By the time I got into high school I turned the whole thing into a self-deprecating joke. ‘Oh am I fat? I didn’t realize that, THANK YOU for the memo.” One time I can remember I was helping out as a backstage person for a play our school was putting on. Because I was, and still am, helpful I was putting makeup on for a guy who was part of the cast. Apparently the guys girlfriend, or the girls in the cast, didn’t care for my friendliness and I received a letter written in black eyeliner (black eyeliner I had purchased for the cast to use). The letter basically said that I was a fat cow and I should kill myself. That was one of the lowest points of my high school experience.

I graduated and moved on into being an adult. Adult stressors kicked in, work, college, boyfriends, and I just didn’t pay attention to what I ate, and then there was booze. While I didn’t drink myself into a stupor or anything when I worked the graveyard shift in my early twenties nothing was open except for bars, diners and fast food establishments. I never thought anything of it. I dated on and off and none of my “significant others” thought it was their place to tell me that I probably shouldn’t eat five tacos and wash it down with a beer on Taco Tuesday. I just kept on keeping on all along still using my personality to get me by when mentally I was still that high school nobody that wanted love and acceptance.

I tried so many times to do the gym thing, but when you don’t know what you’re doing and you cannot afford personal trainers or the classes, $10 dollars a month got me nowhere. I tried Slim Fast, Jenny Craig, and TrimSpa, you name it I probably tried it and got sick cause of it. My turning point regarding my weight loss was actually my Dad. While I learned to tune out the negative conversations from my Mom it was my Dad who made a passing comment to me while I was visiting that turned my world upside down.

“You’re getting kind of fat no?”

That was it, my dad thought I was fat…not cute chubby, but fat. It sent me into full on panic mode, I weighed myself when I got home. 290….two-hundred and ninety pounds. I cried and tried to figure out how that could even be. I gave up and gave in. I needed help.

I started my bariatric journey in January of 2013 and had my surgery in July. I remember in group therapy we had to choose one thing we would do in a year we never thought we could. I chose running a Tough Mudder. After I was cleared to work out and was able to actually eat something more than just broth and cottage cheese, I hit the ground running…hard. I signed up for Crossfit and broke myself mentally and physically. I followed my nutritionist guidelines and never stepped on a scale because I knew if I focused on the pounds lost I wouldn’t see the muscles gained. I ran my first mudder, the Dirty Girl, in June of 2014. Over the next two years I would sprinkle in two more mudders, two inflatables when finally a chipped bone in my left foot landed me in physical therapy the summer of 2016. By the time I was benched I went from 290 to 155, a size 22 to a size 8, I could squat press 200lbs. I was determined to get healed and back into the fray.

Then November came. I was still in physical therapy because I’m an idiot who couldn’t sit still and made a few things (besides my foot) worse. I was coming home from a camping trip and realized I was “late” honestly, I thought because I was camping in below freezing temperatures for 2 nights straight I froze my insides. At that point I had been married to my husband for only 6 months and I was a half a pack a day smoker, surely I couldn’t be. I was. We were over the moon excited, until I started gaining that baby weight.

I was a hormonal crying mess my first trimester, partly because of my body rebalancing for growing a tiny human and partly because to me everything that I worked hard for crashed down like a house of cards. I tried to watch what I ate but physically didn’t have it in me to work out any more than walking to and from my car to work and up and down the garage stairs. Oddly enough what I usually ate (or forgot to eat) before I was pregnant wasn’t enough, I had to think of not only myself now, so I ate more, which made me feel worse. It’s kind of hard to accept that “it’s for the baby” when in group therapy “weight was my enemy.” So I went from 165 to 215, needless to say I wasn’t happy about it but wasn’t able to do much to prevent it.

On July 18, 2017 I gave birth to my handsome little man. I am a Mom and it’s exciting and exhausting.

But now…what about me? Last time I weighed myself I was 195, good but I have 30 pounds to go to get back to a weight and a pants size I am happy with. But getting back to Crossfit is not in my cards, sleeping isn’t in my cards either and yet I keep ebb and flowing through my days, my work outs are lifting my son and the walk to and from my car. I’m still not eating great but eating less.

I have to go back to being accountable for my actions, I have to start pushing past the pain and making time for myself. But, how do we do that? How do moms of infants make time to work out? You can straighten out the “eat right ship” again, but man it’s hard when you have had chicken nachos at 2am because the “baby” wanted them.

So I guess my journey starts anew.

Submitted by Jenn M., with light editing by permission.

Quick Breakfast – Overnight Oats

Today’s quick breakfast was overnight oats!  This was the first time we tried them and after getting used to eating oatmeal cold this seems to be a winner cram packed with fiber and protein to start the day.  Full recipe with prep instructions and nutritional info coming later this week!

Quick Snack – Cashew Dip

Today’s quick snack was cashew dip, we brought this to a Halloween party earlier this year and it was devoured.  Full recipe with prep instructions and nutritional info coming later this week.

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