Sleeved Sister: Who am I to….? (Day #184)

I have the privilege of writing this post from a beachside coffee shop in Daytona Beach. The weather is warm; skies are clear blue. Though I can’t hear the waves from here, I will indulge my senses in the sounds of the ocean at sunset before I leave. This post discusses one of the key lessons learned on my VSG Journey so far: Identity what will feed your soul.

In July 2018, I also vacationed in Daytona Beach. Although I was thrilled to enjoy the sun, the pool and views of the beach, my ability to function was severely compromised by my weight at the time. What I remember most was imagining what it would be like to have weight loss surgery and feel better about my health, my body and my future. All of the things I feared about having surgery turned out not to be true. For example, I was able to get out of bed and walk the same afternoon. I was uncomfortable, but I was not in any real pain. So the life I wanted so badly last year is now occurring. I can walk, jog, shop without dropping (in fact I do it often ). Last summer, I had to stop, rest, and navigate around stairs – sometimes carrying an assistive device.

This week in Florida, l’m impressed by my increased awareness of how much bigger my life is and will be due to increased mobility, strength and endurance. While surgery certainly gave me the tools for this positive outcome, I also had to embrace a huge lifestyle overhaul: following instructions, working out and learning about protein, carbs, and vitamins in order to change my diet.

Now 6 months post op, I face new challenges regularly. The proverbial onion has to be peeled back to discover deep layers of a woman who hid 30 plus years using food to deal with every emotion under the sun. Truthfully, I still run to food very often. I can be satiated with smaller quantities, so , I have to stop and say to myself: “what else can you do to satisfy this need?” It’s not usually physical hunger. Eating in large quantities will cause nausea now.

Healthy living begins with getting to know who we are underneath the rituals that numb our emotions.

If it’s anxiety or fear, I have learned to give myself the support or comfort that need. Discernment and emotion management is the first step. I’ve even learned to ask strangers for support. Sales clerks and service people are very receptive because often they are rendered invisible and welcome the chance to engage and offer insight or an opinion.

This afternoon, I was in an outlet store shopping the clearance section for a bathing suit (every woman’s nightmare). But they were 70-80% off, and I’m in Florida right! Can one have too many? After 30 minutes selecting 6 suits in 3 different sizes, I was so confused. The sales clerk who was organizing the‘clearance area’ was warmly encouraging me when I stated that I was dreading the ordeal. Inside the fitting room, to my dismay I could wear the 18, 20 and the size 22. (side note: The don’t even carry size 26 that I wore last summer.) This might be why I was feeling so much angst. Who am I to wear this…. ? Is this me? And if it’s not me, then who am I…?

To sum up, I told the sales associate that I’d lost a lot of weight recently and was feeling insecure about my selection. She shared from her own experience and was quite patient. I ended up getting both the 20 and the 22 because psychologically I’m not yet prepared to buy the size 18. As I left the store, I was suddenly really hungry – crazy hungry for fried chicken: my old faithful companion. (It’s like an old lover that knows all your ins and outs.)

Thankfully it was late; so I ran to a local Starbucks (my new comfort ritual). There, I indulged in a tall peach iced green tea with a shot of sweetener. (Yes, sort of bad). So while some things are different, some habits are persistent. I’m super grateful for the ability to walk and jog on the beach as long as want to in the early mornings.

In closing, we all need comfort. Healthy living begins with getting to know who we are underneath the rituals that numb our emotions. If you literally cannot have the crutch you’ve used for decades, what other options are available? For me, Blogging is one creative outlet that both holds me accountable to my new desired behaviors, and it is a tangible celebration of the progress I’m making day by day.

Where do want to be in SIX months? Or even next summer….

Happy Summer!

Please like, share and comment on this post if you enjoyed it or found it helpful.

Sleeved Sister Day 115: Summer’s Coming!

In this post I share some of the new simple pleasures I’ve enjoyed since surgery and what I’m looking forward to this summer. Spring in Chicago is complicated…. a lot like my life. It can be cold, windy, rainy then sunny all in the span of a 12 hour day. So while this spring was especially cold and windy, it’s provided more time to reflect on what I really was to accomplish when summer weather (not the date) begins to emerge.

Challenging Fear

Additionally, this Spring is poignant because it symbolizes my own ‘new life.’ In fact the decision to apply for and receive weight loss surgery was a victory because it required me to release my fear of surgery.  After a complicated cesarean delivery 26 years ago, I have successfully avoided hospitals. So I’m proud that I persevered and now can think differently about the role of fear in my life. Once I made the decision to work through that intense fear, it was like a new lease on life. I know many overweight or obese people who would agree that surgery could be an opportunity to restart their lives, yet they like me really struggled with translating the decision into action.

One strategy I used was to just apply but to give myself permission to back out later. Like many paralyzing fears, both the head and the heart must commit. Truthfully, I was scared right up until and during the minute I was rolled into the OR. Yet, the team where I did my preparation was so wonderfully effective that I was super excited about the outcome and what was next on the other side of weight loss surgery. While working through the intense fear, I also picked up valuable tools needed to tackle my emotional eating and other bad habits that triggered my eating.

NO judgement

I share this part of my journey to say that I can’t judge anyone. It also took me almost 10 years to go to grad school. So 20 years living a life of obesity (it’s not not quite over either) is nothing to sneeze at. Releasing that entrenched fear was harder than losing my first 20 lbs pre-op.

Currently I am relieved and grateful for the opportunity to have had weight loss surgery; it been just 5 month now. Meanwhile I’ve learned that there are other new things I can tackle since facing this most gigantic fear.

Trying New Things

In fact, I’m intentional about trying new things. I’m suddenly empowered to try other things that I deemed “off limits” for years. The philosophy emerging in my new life is one that requires me to  “try” things and decide afterwards that I don’t like it or will continue it. This new stance also allows me to be more open to new experiences in general. Formerly, I was like the kid who refused to even try Brussel sprouts cause they looked funny. Also something I tried and loved.

So here’s my list of  things tried since surgery that were off limits:

  • Jumping rope
  • Running on the tread
  • Yoga practice
  • Boot camp class
  • Planks
  • Jumping jacks (still hate them)
  • Weight lifting (which I enjoy)
  • A sports bra
  • A swimsuit without a skirt to hide my thighs
  • Crossing my legs at the knees
  • Khaki straight leg pants
  • Skinny jeans
  • Meditation
  • Wigs and hair pieces
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Juicing and Protein shakes
  • Asparagus (still not a fan)
  • Kale salad
  • Fancy high Ph water
  • A meal subscription plan (eliminates grocery shopping)

List of  things I’m excited to try or committed to do this summer:

  • Releasing / Donating my larger clothes
  • Swimming lessons
  • Spin class
  • Zumba class
  • Buying a bicycle
  • Community garden plot (to grow herbs and veggies)
  • Booking an Air BnB Florida vacation
  • Wearing heels again (10 years)
  • Buying a car (been 6 years)

I’ll stop here because I believe you get the picture. The possibilities are endless. I’m encouraging you to think about what you’ve been avoiding. How has your weight impacted the things you allow yourself To do, to buy, or to enjoy?

Consider making a list of “what if’s:” the things you will do or have after getting fit or healthy.  Then start making plans to do it. If not, do it but research it. Start a file; collect pictures or draw up plans. You deserve to try it -whatever it is. Take small steps and enjoy the journey!

As always, please like, comment or share this post with others who will find it helpful. Thanks for reading.

Redefining Birthdays: Sleevedsister (Day 101)

Last Saturday was my birthday, and it was also my 100th day post op. At first I was thrilled at the coincidence, but it turned out that it was also one of Chicago’s nastiest spring storms: featuring snow, sleet and brutal wind gusts.

Therefore, the few plans I’d made to be social were thwarted. Nevertheless I regrouped and spent time serving with some of my favorite church people and focusing on our ministry to women and millennials. While I love my faith community as much as the next baby boomer, this was not my plan A for the weekend.

For years now, I’ve dreamed of an island vacation, and 2020 could finally be the year that I go for it. Truthfully, I have not always felt worthy of that level of fun in the sun. I’m the workaholic type who calls things fun that are really just the more pleasant types of work. For example, I’m an edcator who really loves students and teaching but not grading. So planning for classes (the lecture) is my idea of a good time, but grading quizzes after class is definitely not fun (or real work). So my bar for “fun” is low by most standards. Yet, I’m consciously working of this.

One of the lessons in these first hundred days is that self care is required, and fun is definitely a part of self care. Additionally Self care also can no longer be anything that’s also classified a type of work. I’m learning to allow myself to be happy, to ask for what I need and want, and even more basic…. To reframe meeting my own needs as self care.  Learning how to experience your own needs as a desire that deserves to be filled is also a gradual practice.

Some people and genders are more likely to be born feeling entitled to what they want. Many others of us are socialized to be content, to work hard for less, to be grateful for any attention or recognition of our needs. I would argue that women (and especially women of color) are the least likely to advocate for their needs is almost any setting: a relationship, a family dynamic and especially in the workplace.

So why is this topic of self-care related to weight loss? In a limited economy, we simply cannot do OR be all things to all people. We are human, and we have with human limitations on our time, energy, and mental capacities. When we agree to help someone and think… ‘this will only take 6 min,’ and then use 6 min from our reserves to do it, we have likely sabotaged our own goals.  This nugget was offered to me by my new therapist Dr R who is amazing. She’s another resource helping me to reframe success so that it includes my health and fitness goals as central to my being and not optional. Because am I achieving success if it occurs at the expense of my health, my family relationships, etc?  For me, the answer is a resounding “NO.”


My call to action for this week is: How can you (and I) reclaim time to create more fun (or peace or rest) in our lives? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

In love and health!

My non-weekly blog (Day #97 Post-op)

The irony here is that I don’t have a weekly blog but was trying…

My intention since the inception of Pursue Self Care is for this blog to be one part aspirational, one part chronicle, and one part accountability. From an academic standpoint, there seems to be a gap in the billion dollar medical weight loss industry in that those struggling with obesity are not contributing much in the discussion of the condition. Most levels of the professional medical community – physical, mental or emotional health providers – though well trained in the evidence based protocols, they do not tend to see patients are people beyond the chart.

While my own surgical team was exceptional, they are part of a system designed to treat a symptom; they do not consistently address core issues like food addiction and an inability to cope with negative emotions. Food is such a comfort. If I’ve learned anything in the last 96 days, it is that the rhythms of shopping for food, prepping meals, cooking meals, and serving meals is woven into the fabric of our lives. Even when necessity to persist in these chores is minimized due to #WLS, it does not change our desire to do complete these food related rituals.

In closing, I have time to blog weekly, but I haven’t. I don’t have time to shop and cook meals I can’t eat, but I do because… it’s ritual. I never found comfort in cooking until I didn’t need to do it.

So when you see that I’m blogging weekly, you can infer I stopped wasting time in the kitchen.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share this post if you feel that it would help someone.

In Pursuit of Self Care…


SLEEVED SISTER: Habit Forming (day #61)

Old Habits

Since my gastric sleeve surgery, the theme of changing habits is resonating with me. The motivation for this topic came from an old weight watchers journal from 2015 called “Find your Fingerprint” (Author). One section that jumped out as I was flipping pages reminded me of the steps involved in changing a habit. One particularly interesting exercise asked to reflect on family patterns of eating and on value of food in my upbringing as a child. It was interesting to see how food equated with love, nurturing and support in my family of origin and adulthood. I distinctly remember many experiences in the kitchen watching my grandmother cooking amazing dishes laden with butter and/or Crisco.

Fried Chicken Issues

Crispy crunchy fried chicken was my mother’s legendary greeting anytime company caned. In fact my own kids grew up on a steady stream of it and although she passed more than 10 years ago, this one food remains a trigger for me. To this day I can salivate at the thought of yummy southern style seasoned fried chicken. I have always known that fried chicken is not good for me, but there is an emotional pull causing me to crave this . I know it’s an emotional tie because generally I’m tired of chicken and would prefer fish or seafood in any other instance.

Lately my diet has consisted of a steady stream of chicken breasts. I know chicken breast is low in fat and high in protein, and I will continue to eat them as a nutrient for my body. But it’s hard to get excited about a naked boneless chicken breast; even the color is not that appetizing. However, this decision to have the gastric sleeve was a decision to change my life for the future and for the better. This means I have to develop new habits and I have to rethink the origin of those habits and re-imagine a Context where love, nurturing and support can equal things other than food.

Self Care as a Habit

One area of growth that I’m pround of is self-care; this week I had a pedicure this week and even splurged on a lip and brow wax. Taking care of one’s physical body causes us to nurture, love and care in a way that has nothing to do with eating. So I’m working on this new practice, and while it won’t be easy or happen overnight, I know that it must happen. I’m committed to self care for the future and for my best life forward.

As a psychologist, I’m tempted to discuss phases of change and behavior modification here… but there are so many other places where you can learn what it takes to develop new habits. I won’t digress into that content in this blog post because my purpose is writing for motivation and accountability. Additionally knowing what to do and doing it (that disconnect) was my main issue before surgery and sometimes now. These are two entirely separate issues when it comes to following through; it’s actually a mindset issue. Even the ability to teach behavior modification content or coach someone through it won’t translate to the “teacher.” We all have to do our own work.

Make Up Your Mind

In closing, what I can’t do is allow myself to overthink this. There comes a point when one has to make up your mind and act on that decision. It’s like when Rosa Parks got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and so she decided to sit in the front of the bus. The sleeve decision was sort of like that for me: a symbol of a line in the sand. Moving forward I will eat protein, drink water, move more, exercise with a trainer …and do all the things it takes to make and maintain my success from surgery.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Sleeved Sister: a letter to my former self Day#54

I recently began a decluttering project which means I’m stumbling upon lots of old mementos. One such artifact was a workbook I completed during one of the MANY (dozens) of attempts at weight loss.  This book begins with a May 2015 time stamp and is entitled “Find Your Fingerprint.”

For so many years, I wanted to be where I am now (basically at the number on the scale). Weighing well over 350 a few times in two decades has had a huge influence on how I think about body image and size. In fact, I remember the day I realized I was over 300 pounds the first time at age 31. It was somewhere between my 39th and 40th week of pregnancy with my daughter. During that pregnancy, I knew I’d gained, and I suspected it was about 30 pounds.  However, I also knew I’d lose a lot breastfeeding.

That day in the presence of the nurse, I saw 303 (on a digital scale). I was simultaneously shocked, depressed and rationalizing this reality. While pregnancy is often a time to indulge, it was not okay or even medically necessary to weigh 303 a week before delivering a baby. I also recall that my daughter was 9 lbs on delivery day. Part of me rationalized that through breastfeeding this excess weight (30#) would melt away.  

But that day, I know something shifted in the atmosphere. Once a person crosses a line, it can be hard to see yourself differently.  Another memory of that season was that depression was weaving itself in and out of my consciousness. I tried my best to push it down (with food),  with overcompensating, with education, with church work, and with overall busyness. In hindsight, like most depressed people there was a lot of “fog;” so pinpointing any specific reason was and is challenging. Motherhood and even marriage often left me feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.

These feelings of Inadequacy spilled over into my work, my relationships, my finances and obviously my eating habits.  Out of respect and honor for that woman who was trying so hard to keep up, l have to also acknowledge that some negative experiences with death, grief and emotional pain set me off balance. Perhaps With a different set of genes, I would have turned to drinking alcohol, smoking, visiting casinos, or perhaps had an affair. Okay, that last one is tough when you have a breastfeeding newborn 👶😂. But I digress,..

So today, I want to celebrate the comeback. The road to emotional and physical health. It’s not the destination but the journey that matters, and 57 pounds later (as of this writing) I’m at a place to acknowledge this new road. In fact,one of my main motivations for writing this blog is to chronicle the wins and the losses on the journey ahead. I know that this new blogging ritual will get harder as I proceed. I can see already that this is a hard commitment because it’s “my own thing” to borrow a phase. No one is standing beside me saying you deserve better, you must heal, you must be intentional about your growth.  

This post is also a letter in honor of my mother’s legacy and to celebrate the things she tried to tell me. She left an amazing journal with stories of how her life was impacted my various health experiences. So in some ways, this blog is effort to send a life raft to the twenty something or thirty something aged woman who today used food or whatever she has to cope with what feels like the most unbearable pain, loneliness or isolation.

Whatever it is, I see you. I really see you. And more importantly, I believe in you and your capacity to heal and deal with life.  Intellectually we know that weight and scale numbers in general are symptoms or manifestations of deeper wounds.  Not everyone copes in the same way, but it’s still important to honor people’s journey- and especially your own.

May this next chapter be the one that brings you healing and helps you learn to sing again. Thank you for reading, please comment below if this is helpful or share it with someone who you think would benefit.

In pursuit of health, joy and peace 💕!

Sleeved Sister Day#50: Support for the Journey

This week’s post is about how my decision to have WLS has and is impacting my significant relationships.

Last week, I made a day trip to visit my male BFF or as the old folks used to say, “my special friend.” But his reservations

notwithstanding, this decision also impacted my children, my girlfriends and even my church family and co-workers.

Everyone’s affected

While most would agree that male-female relationships can be fraught with issues of self imposed body discomfort

and self consciousness, this process is no exception. As background you should know that is relationship is longer

than a decade and has been long distance since its inception. Also my BFF has seen me at every size between 20

and 28 in those years. When I began the WLS journey, he seemed excited but his enthusiastic support eventually

waned. For example, he processed one of the many delays by suggesting I’d changed my mind entirely and saying, “It’s

okay for you to not do it, or put it off…” One side benefit of this WLS decision was increasing my capacity for patience

because so much of the timing is beyond one’s control. Now, BFF and I both knew that my health required this surgery,

and I NOT decide to back.

It’s a Necessity

One of the mitigating factors was learning that I was pre-diabetic.  The suggestion that I take medication to control

diabetes was something serious for both of us. As the process continued, we also went through a phase where we

agreed not to talk about surgery directly, but instead discussed only the activities related toqualifying for WLS: doctors

appointments, insurance approval, and opinions about skin removal. I saw these discussions as ways to be involved and

supportive without addressing any fears he had about future negative complications.

Date Night

So our first real date with was fun, wonderful and also a bit awkward. I tried not to let the mechanics of what I

could and couldn’t eat cloud the evening. (Let’s save this for a future topic). On one hand, I’m the same woman. On the other

hand, I’m 32 pound less than when he last saw me. I look mostly the same, but My needs are very different.  I know that

there is nothing I could do to impact the love we share. However, I noticed and enjoyed seeing his positive reactions and

even relief that the surgery was over. I was able to share the experience of my first steak since surgery. Amazing!😊

Another impact of WLS is that BFF and others (including my kids) involve me in significantly more discussions

about bulges, workouts, scales, weight, nutrition and the like. I might add that BFF does not have a significant

weight issue (maybe 30 lbs). However, in the decade we’ve been together he hasn’t mentioned being dissatisfied

with these pounds before my own WLS decision. I’m happy with whatever he decides of course, but we are both in our

50s and metabolism does slow.

Family Concerns

In the family camp, things have also been good, my two adult children were initially reserved and showed quiet concern.

They knew instinctively to act like it was a positive step, as they too had watched me regain a large sums of weight in

their lifetimes. As mentioned in earlier posts, Weight regain is one of the topics that is largely taboo even in close families.  

My children became increasingly active in the educational process and ultimately my post op care starting from the day of

surgery. One tip that I would highly encourage is to make sure children who are 13 and up (mine are in their 20s), have

multiple opportunities to be informed, ask questions and decide how involved they want to be. My close female friends

including one who’d had this same procedure four years prior were very vocal, active and encouraging on all fronts.

Some close girlfriends were recruited for what I called my “support team.” I’m an only child and so this was partly of necessity.  All in all, I can say that we survived through all these difficult conversations because I tried to be very open with everyone who had a sincere need to know. I’m happy to support these folks in whatever way they need, but I don’t want to talk about food and weight all the time. My own life is still largely consumed with vitamins, protein tracking and shakes.

In closing, if you are considering a medical weight loss solution, the earlier you can start the conversation with family and

friends, the better for almost all involved. But remember this it’s a decision that will affect everyone. Thanks for reading.

Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this post, and share it with anyone who you think would find it helpful.