Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Health & Weight Struggles

As a child and growing up, I was always a normal weight, if not slightly under-weight.  I could eat more than I needed, and my metabolism was as such that I burned off all the calories.  I played outside, and was a normal, active child.  Even into my teens my weight maintained a healthy level.  I was weight/height proportionate and healthy.

Me at age 16
Once I got out of my teens and turned 20, I started gaining a little.  It was most likely from graduating high school and living a less active life.  I still worked full-time most of the time, but I didn't have P.E. to keep me active anymore, and I didn't do much if I wasn't at work.

Me at age 20, with my sister and my mom's dog, Worf.
It wasn't until I was 21 and got pregnant with my first child, Andy, that I really started gaining weight.  I gained over 50 pounds with that pregnancy, and was very sedentary during and after having Andy.  I decided to stay home with him during his first years, and become a shut-in.  I didn't leave the house much, didn't do much.  I got up to 285 pounds (and I'm 5'8").  That was in 2002.

Me and Andy, shortly after his birth
Then I got pregnant with my second child, Evan.  That pregnancy was hard on me most likely because I already had a hard time getting around due to my weight.  But once he was born in 2004, I dropped a bunch of weight fairly quickly and got down into the 220s.

Me with baby Evan and Andy
Then, within just 3 months, I was pregnant again with my third, Cory.  I gained all the weight back with that pregnancy, and there it stayed.  I got my tubes tied when I had Cory in 2005.  I planned on taking my body back and trying to get back to being who I was before I became a reclusive stay-at-home mom.  That proved to be a very hard and long journey.... since by that point I'd been a shut-in so long that I had severe social anxiety, clinical depression, and a host of other self-esteem related issues.

Me and my 3 boys
I struggled, wanting to take weight back off for many years.  I tried very brief crash diets, where I'd go without one thing or another for a while.  I'd go without soda for a week or a month.  Or I'd cut out red meat.  Nothing ever worked.  And it seemed every time I tried to make something work, I'd actually end up gaining a couple pounds.  It was very discouraging, so most of the time I was in "I give up" mode and just ate and drank whatever I wanted.  I saw how big I had gotten in the mirror off and on, but most of the time I didn't really acknowledge how bad it was.  I had a LOT of body pains.  My back, my shoulders, my hips, and just my muscles overall.  I hovered around in the 260s for a while, and finally when I couldn't take the pain of life anymore, I saw a doctor about it.  

My doctor tried suggesting a few things for a while, and everytime I came back to see her, I'd tell her how unsuccessful I'd been.  Looking back I'm not really sure what I thought I was doing to help.  My doctor told me she'd love for me to see a nutritionist, but my health insurance wouldn't cover it and it was NOT cheap.  And as I was still struggling with severe anxiety so I was unable to work much, if at all.

Finally after a couple of years of this, my doctor had a work-around suggestion for me.  She said if I went to a specialist for bariatric weight loss surgery, the program would include counseling from a nutritionist and if successful, I wouldn't have to actually go through with the surgery.  So that is what I did.  

In January of 2016 I began seeing Stef Noun at Surgical Associates in Grinnell, IA.  At my initial consultation appointment I was 270 pounds.  She got me started down the track to have a gastric sleeve surgery.  She gave me very clear instructions on what foods to eat, and what to strictly limit or avoid.  She told me how to moderate what I did have, and how to drastically increase my water consumption.  She set me up with a psychologist and a surgeon for consultations with them as well.  And I was required to keep monthly appointments and go through their entire program.  At first, I didn't want to actually go through with the surgery.  I thought I could do it myself.  But after a couple months of slow weight loss, I started to be more willing to follow the program on the track to surgery.

Me in 2013 - in the middle of my worst weight struggles
By July 2016, only 6 months after starting my weight loss journey with Stef and the Surgical Associates team, by following their very clear instructions on how to nourish my body, I had lost over 40 pounds and disqualified myself from bariatric surgery.  I was so proud of myself!!

In the 230s range!
Not long after that I went through a breakup that turned into a divorce, and I plateaued.  I got down to about 225 and really didn't lose any more.  But since I had so much loose skin from the quick weight loss, my weight loss team submitted my case for skin removal surgery and I was approved by insurance.  I had a Panniculectomy (the removal of the hanging skin around the waist line) on March 23, 2017.  That surgery alone took approximately 10 pounds off of me just in skin and excess fat.  Once recovered, I was between 210-215 pounds.

Before weight loss - after weight loss and Panniculectomy
In the above photo I was still recovering from surgery so I was wearing my big, baggy clothes still.  The surgery really made a drastic difference.  However, as I healed, I became less and less satisfied with my results.  My bellybutton was off-center, and my belly in general was very asymmetrical, and I wanted it fixed.

I maintained my 210-215 lbs weight for months.  By autumn I was submitted and approved for breast reduction surgery.  I was denied for the Panniculectomy revision so I ended up being stubborn about wanting the fix and paying for that extra part of the surgery out-of-pocket.  That surgery took place on September 1, 2017.

Right around 205 lbs, after my Panniculectomy revision and breast reduction, November 2017
Since that surgery, I have been quite happy with my physical appearance, physical health and comfort, and self-image.  In fact in that last picture, above, I was VERY happy with how far I'd come and my surgical results.  I had maintained pretty well up until the last couple of months, too.  But nothing seems to be permanent with me.  And that's why this post's title sites struggles.  

As of today I weigh 220 pounds.  That is a 20 pound gain from my very lowest weight this past October.  Jarrod and I together have fallen into a very bad pattern of habits surrounding food, and though I'm seeing the results of those poor choices, and I know I need to change, I find that I am severely lacking the willpower to make the change back to the healthy habits that got me this far.  I know I can do it!  That is how I lost so much weight to begin with.  And with the poor habits my body has adjusted to over the last couple months, if I was to just buckle down and eat the way I did in 2016, I know I would lose this 20 pounds (and probly more) rather quickly.  I could easily be down to my desired goal of 185 in 4-6 months.  My problem is, I'm not doing it alone anymore.  I can change my own habits, but I will be exposed to those of Jarrod's several times per day, and my kids' constantly.  Jarrod isn't struggling the way I am, in fact he's still losing.  So he doesn't necessarily need to change.  Its all ME.  

So what I need to do: separate myself emotionally from the food.  I need to refocus on nourishing my body for fuel and function rather than focusing on what tastes good in the moment.  I need to dial down my portions again, even if I am eating in a social situation.  I need to get out of this mindset of "if I don't eat this now, it will be gone later and I won't get any."  With so many people in the house its hard to save anything for later.  But I know that overeating is not going to help me, and I can always buy more if whatever it is I'm wanting is gone.

I CANNOT gain any more of my weight back.  After how far I've come, after the surgeries and recovery time I've put into this, to gain back now would be such a shameful thing for me.  Not to mention how horribly it would crumble my self-esteem.  

So as of today:
  • I will reduce my portion a very considerable amount - like maybe by 1/2.
  • I will not eat Pizza Hut food from work.
  • I will focus more on protein and vegetables and more strictly limit carbs.
  • I will drink a minimum of 80 oz of water per day.
  • I will not eat after 8pm.
  • I will begin again using MyFitnessPal and restricting my calories to 1250 calories per day until I get down to my goal of 185 lbs... At which point I will just track my diet and activity until I know where the balance is to maintain.
  • And ideally I'd like to work out more.  At this point I'm going to have to start at square one again and start going on walks and work up to more.  But ANY more activity than I do now will help, and I know that.
I've been talking about my backslide in some of my Facebook posts and my private journal quite a lot lately, saying I'm going to get back on track and change.  But my weight today being 220 was a huge slap in the face.  I can't go down this road when I know what it takes to stay healthy.  There are no excuses.  

Not to mention, I'm hoping to have another baby soon since I had a tubal ligation reversal this month.  So I need to learn balance in health so I can be as healthy as possible during my pregnancy and take the baby weight back off after my pregnancy as well.  There's no time like the present!

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