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.

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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.”

CALL TO ACTION

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…

Crystal

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.