Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge

gastric bypass dischargeLast week, I visited the Bay Area for the first time. I’ve been to southern California many times, but never north of Fresno. When I had travel plans to go to San Jose for SMX West, I decided to go to San Francisco for 2 days of sightseeing. I did tons of walking, and saw all the sites possible. I did a double-decker bus tour of the city, and noticed all of the bikes around. I saw the signs to ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, and I immediately knew that I wanted to do it.

As I looked into the various bike tours, I realized that it wasn’t just riding a bike 1.7 across the bridge. It was going to be a significant physical event. I ate a very yummy lunch at the pub at Ghiradelli Square (eggs Benedict with brisket on homemade cornbread) and got enough protein and carbs to last me for a couple hours. I packed some snacks…some jerky for protein and peanut butter M&Ms for some quick sugar.

I rented my bike from Blazing Saddles, and picked it up near Fisherman’s Wharf. They offer rentals by the hour, or for a full day. It was $27 for a 24-hour rental, and they gave me the map to get to Sausalito. Everyone gave a little different account of how hard it would be…and how many miles I’d be riding, so I just geared up for a very long 9+ mile ride.

I rode along the bike trail along the Presidio, through the wetlands at Chrissy Field, and enjoyed a gorgeous, sunny day in San Francisco. While I was attempting awkward selfies with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, I met a girl named Cat who was also trying to do the same. We took pictures for each other, including the picture above. We hit it off immediately, and decided we’d ride the bridge together. There were some pretty wicked hills to get up to the bridge itself, and I had to walk a fair amount of the hills. Once we were on top we were ready to ride across one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States.
golden gate bridge biking collage
It was such a sensory experience to ride the bridge. First off, I was sore from the 4+ miles of bike riding I’d already done at this point, and was surprised that it was actually an incline for the first third of the bridge. We were on the far left of the bridge, riding in a narrow lane that also had bikers coming from the opposite direction. So I was sandwiched between other bikers, and oncoming vehicle traffic coming on the right (only separated by an inadequate fence). I had to concentrate to keep up my speed, avoid running into other bikers, but still enjoying the gorgeous view of the bay. It was emotional to see the pure beauty of the misty bay, with my heart racing from the physical exertion, and realize I was in the process of doing one of the most exhilarating things of my life.

Once at the opposite end of the bridge, Cat and I took pictures together. We were so happy to enjoy the experience together. She was on time restrictions, so we parted ways after our pictures. She rode back across the bridge toward Fisherman’s Wharf, and I continued on to do the ride into Sausalito.

When I picked up my bike, the people there said “And then it’s just a 3 mile easy ride down to Sausalito.” Oh, how wrong they were! I was not downhill like I expected.There was a steep and curvy portion to get down underneath the bridge, and it was flat to drive into Fort Point. But then the next 3+ miles were on an incline. And some pretty steep inclines. I found this course on MapMyRide, and as you can see…the elevation rises were pretty significant. Had I known that I’d be doing such tough biking, I would have thought twice about the full ride. And against doing so much additional riding around before I crossed the Golden Gate.

Once I finally got into Sausalito, I was TIRED. And hungry. I just barely missed the ferry back to Pier 39, so I decided to get some dinner and catch the next ferry. I found the bike parking near the ferry, and walked around to find a place to eat. I misread the ferry schedule and missed it by about 2 minutes, which meant I had to wait another 75 minutes to catch the last ferry. Even though my legs were on fire, I walked around Sausalito more until it was time to board the ferry.

The ferry ride was 30 minutes, and I was so worn out I dozed for a lot of the ride. We passed Alcatraz and watched the LED light show on the Bay Bridge. As we were docking, I realized that we weren’t going  to Pier 39 like I thought, but all the way over to the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero. That meant I had an additional mile-plus ride to get back to the bike shop. At that point, my legs were so rubbery and tired I could hardly ride. Especially in the hillier portions of the city. By the time I dropped off my bike, it was after 8 pm, which meant I’d been on a bike or walking for over 7 hours. I returned my gear, hopped the trolley, and got back to my room as quickly as possible. I was totally asleep within 10 minutes of hitting the sack.

Like learning how to ski, riding this course was something I never would have attempted before losing weight. It felt so awesome to be able to enjoy such a physically-taxing activity. My butt and legs were sore for days (even to the point it was hard to stay seated at SMX), but it was so worth it.

Wordless Wednesday: Beehive Cheese Ipanema

Learning How To Ski

park city mountain resortI’ve been embarrassed about something for many years. I’ve lived in Utah for half of my life, but never experienced “The Greatest Snow On Earth” on skis. This all changed last week when I learned how to ski at Park City Mountain Resort.

Now, in full disclosure, this was not my first time on skis. I went skiing, but did not learn to ski. Back in 1999, before I married my crazy ex-husband, he talked me into going night skiing in Idaho. There were a few problems with the situation:

  1. I did not know how to ski
  2. It was night skiing in Idaho, and it was -6 degrees
  3. The mountain wasn’t snow, it was ice
  4. I wasn’t wearing the right clothes
  5. My ex was not a good teacher, and thought that he’d just take me up the lift and teach me to ski at the top

Needless to say, it was an awful experience. I didn’t know the basics of how to actually keep myself upright on skis. I fell when getting off the lift. I fell trying to get to a place to learn the basics, and he still didn’t do a good job teaching me. As soon as I started to move down the hill, I always fell within 30 seconds. I fell and fell and fell. I didn’t know the proper way to take off my skis or get up after falling. I fell so much that Steve got bored and took off down the hill to have some “fun” before dealing with me again. I made it about halfway down the hill in 45 minutes, flagged down the ski patrol guy on a 4-wheeler, and asked to be driven down the hill. With an experience like that, and years of  poor health, I didn’t expect to ever actually learn to ski.

nicole on the slopesMy “learning to ski” outing was a part of a retreat for Social Media Club of Salt Lake City board members.  I said that I’d love to go skiing, but didn’t know how, so our fearless leader Krista set me up to take the Never Ever Half Day lesson. I came prepared, unlike my first time skiing. I had the proper layers, ski pants, socks, goggles, gloves, hat, and jacket.

I arrived at PCMR around noon, got set up with my rental for boots, skis, and poles. I hobbled outside in my boots, found the area with the instructors, and found my group. I learned to ski with a girl from northern California and 3 people from Chicago. I can’t lie…I felt a little embarrassed to be the only one living in Utah who had never  learned to ski.

We started out with “babysteps” – gliding around a flat area on one ski, figuring out how to turn around, and how to balance. Once the second ski was on, it started to feel like something I’d be able to do. We practiced maneuvers in an area that wasn’t too steep or busy, and hopped on these cool conveyor belts to take us back up to the top of the practice area. After about 90 minutes of instruction, we were finally able to hop on the ski lift!

park city never everAfter being on my feet for a while, it was nice to relax for a few minutes riding the lift. And of course, the view was amazing. I lucked out by going on a day with gorgeous blue skies and puffy white clouds. It was windy and cold, but not too cold.

At the top of the hill, I felt inspired to quote the ski scene from one of my favorite movies – Better off Dead.

“Go that way. Really fast. If something gets in your way, TURN.”

The group followed our instructor to a part of the hill that wasn’t too busy, and our first run went well. When I was at the bottom of the hill..I couldn’t believe that I made it down the hill without any epic crashing nor burning. I did it!

During the day, we made 5 runs down the mountain as a group. Surprisingly, I  wasn’t the worst skier in the group, and I was comfortable skiing faster by my third run. But because I was getting ahead of the group, I stopped for a moment to let people catch up. I was admiring the scenery, taking in the mountain air, and then suddenly I was on the ground. I lost focus just long enough for my skis to cross and fall over. It wasn’t easy on my pride to fall over, but at least I only fell once. And I knew the proper technique to take off my ski and get up on my feet.

Skiing is a lot more physically taxing than a regular workout. I typically work out 3-6 times a week at the gym, but skiing just trashes your muscles. Around the 3 hour mark, I was tired. And thirsty. And began feeling symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia. I had plenty of food and drinks in the car, but not with me on the slopes. I asked the group if anyone had food on them, and a girl dramatically whips out a banana and says “I’ve got a banana in my pocket!” I had a few nibbles, and took a break at the bottom of the hill. My instructor had some almonds, so the group took a breather and I gobbled down my snacks. Between the rest and food, I was feeling refreshed enough to do one last run.

At the top of the hill, I had to take a good photo of myself. Victories like this don’t happen everyday.

nicole bullock skiing

I’d like to say “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” But that’s not quite true. If you’re going to learn to ski, make sure that you’re in the habit of being physically active. If you’re fairly sedentary, you probably will get tired quickly and your body will hate you. I’m in the habit of frequent activity, and I was in AGONY for days. For the first two days, I did lots of stretching, loaded up on protein, and guzzled as much water as possible, but there was no way of getting around the pain. Especially because I can no longer take NSAIDs because of my gastric bypass. Tylenol only works so well on inflammatory muscle pain.

If you’re in Utah and want to give skiing a try, I’d love to go with you. Now I feel like I have an essential Utah activity in my skill repertoire.

Now to try snowboarding…

Wordless Wednesday: New Driver’s License Picture

new drivers license photo

Wordless Wednesday: Alone At The Gym

alone at the gym

Losing Inches, Not Pounds

nicole bullock purple dress
Most people who have gastric bypass surgery have very rapid weight loss in the first year. Once the pounds stop dropping, plateaus can be very frustrating.

Not only is it annoying to step on the scale and see the same number (or see a higher number), it’s been tough to deal with the fallout publicly. I’ve been really open and honest about my weight loss and measurements, and I know people are paying attention. When I haven’t posted my current weight on MyFitnessPal for a while, I start getting questions. Some of my favorites:

“Did you give up?”

“Did you decide to have your surgery reversed?”

“Are you waiting to post your weight so you can show off a big number?”

“I noticed that your weight loss stopped. Would you be interested in trying _____?” (insert various multi-level marketing weight loss product)

“Are you exercising? It’s really important to exercise when you’re trying to lose weight.”

belly fat comparison

The last comment is the one which makes me laugh, especially on MyFitnessPal. They have access to my weight losses just as much as they have access to my workout records. Way to be observent, buddy!
The first week of December began my plateau that’s been sticking around for about 2 months. The first week of December was a few days after I began working out at the gym on a regular basis. I try to be really consistent with my workouts. Some weeks when I’m not feeling sick (or completely sleep-deprived), I successfully work out up to 6 days a week. On a busy week, I average between 2-4 workouts. This past week I was sick for 9 days in a row, but I still made it to the gym for some very light walking routines twice.

So. The scale isn’t really budging, but I’m really not worried because my body is toning up. It’s tough to get a good comparison picture (mostly because I only took one fairly poor photo as my “before”), but if you take some time to look, you can see that the definition in my belly is much better. The top picture was taken a few days before Christmas, and the bottom picture was taken earlier this week. Not bad for 7 weeks!

I got some great photos and headshots taken lately, and I’ll be posting those soon…but I wanted to show you how much my body has changed since December 2011.

nicole side view comparisonMy measurements have changed as such:

  • Neck 14.5″ (-2.25″)
  • Bust 42.5″ (-9.5″)
  • Chest 37″ (-9″)
  • Waist 38.5″ (-10.5″)
  • Upper belly 40.5″ (-12.5″)
  • Hips 45.5″ (-17.5″)
  • Thigh 29.5″ (-4.5″)
  • Calf 18.75″ (-4.25″)
  • Ankle 10.5″ (-2″)
  • Upper Arm 16.25″ (-3.75″)
  • Forearm 11.5″ (-3″)
  • Wrist 7″ (-2″)

Wordless Wednesday: Birthday Pedicure

ORLY Miss Conduct polish spa pedicure

Review: KalorieBox Healthy Snack Delivery

kalorieboxWho doesn’t love to get goodies in the mail? I know I do!

I was approached by Kaloriebox to see if I was interested in receiving a box to review for my blog. I love food and trying new things, so it was a no-brainer for me.

The box I received included the following:

Kaloriebox is a pretty cool concept. Quoting their website:

KalorieBox is simple: choose a plan, get your KalorieBox in the mail every month, and discover low calorie, healthy alternatives to the foods you already love.

You’ll start by choosing the plan that works best for you. We have three options you can pick from: monthly, 3-month, and 6-month. You can cancel any time, and we have a money back guarantee.

After you’ve signed up and chosen a plan, you’ll receive your KalorieBox in the mail every month. Each box is shipped on the 15th and will contain five or more low calorie, healthy items. Oh yeah, did we mention shipping is free?

kaloriebox review

On to the review:

Zevia: I’ve tried a few “natural” sodas before, and they’re not very tasty. I’ve seen Zevia at the store before, and I’ve passed it over because I’ve had a hard time finding anything sweetened with Stevia that I actually like. I was pleasantly surprised with the lime Zevia…it’s like a Sprite but more refreshing. And less carbonated, so it’s better for my grouchy pouch.

Cheese Thinnables: Protien and fiber packed crackers have been hit or miss in my experience, so I was least excited to try the Thinnables of anything in the box. They look exactly like Cheez-Its…but taste about half as good. I wasn’t impressed, and after three crackers I set the box aside. I’ll hand them off to my husband for his next mindless late-night snacking spree.

Mango Peeled Snacks: I used to eat a lot of dried fruit before surgery, but not it’s on the no-no list because it’s so high in sugar and can cause dumping. But Dried mango is my favorite, so I was happy that  “Much Ado About Mango” was the fruit snack in the delivery. Peeled Snacks are USDA certified organic with no preservatives. The texture of the mango was kinda tough, so I had to chew it a lot, but it tasted pretty good.

FiberOne Cookie: For a long time I ate FiberOne bars daily because they were a low-point choice on Weight Watchers. But eventually, I started getting all sorts of GI issues from the bars, so I stopped eating them (even though they tasted SO good). The FiberOne cookie is yummy, and tastes a bit more like cookie dough than  an actual cookie. I only nibbled a bit on it because I didn’t want to risk the GI problems from the chicory root extract.

Pacific Almond Vanilla Milk: The almond milk was by far my favorite thing in the box. I have really been digging almond milk, and I like that Pacific sells it in a ready-to-drink pouch. I’m going make today’s protein smoothie with it.

Pirate’s Booty White Cheddar Puffs: Pirate’s Booty has been my “snack crack” for years. I LOVE eating these puffs, but I have so little control over myself with an open bag that I only will buy snack-size bags now. The booty wasn’t listed on the packing list, so it was a nice surprise to have in my shipment.

I’m on the fence about whether or not Kaloriebox would be a good thing to give my endorsement to for bariatric patients. It’s great for people who are trying to make better snack choices and lose weight, but the stuff in the box isn’t necessarily the best for a bariatric diet. I would prefer that more items were higher in protein (like samples of protein powder or jerky/meat snacks). My only complaint about the actual delivery was that the box was filled with scrunchie little red paper things, and they got all over my room. But as for the concept – I love it. I love to try new things, especially if they’re healthy. It was a nice assortment of snacks to try.

FTC Disclosure: I received this box complimentary from Kaloriebox for the express purpose of reviewing the box on my blog. No additional compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

My Size 30 Jeans

gastric bypass dischargeThe last pair of pants I purchased before surgery were a pair of size 30, elastic waisted boot-cut jeans from Lane Bryant. The largest size that they carried in the store.

I was mortified to be at the point that I was wearing the largest size available in local stores. If I gained any more weight, I would have to press my luck with the “large and tall” store (that rarely had anything that big) or order things off the internet (and send them back because they wouldn’t fit).

Utah doesn’t have a lot of options for plus-sized clothing. There are many locations of Lane Bryant, a few CW Banks and Deb stores, and the last Fashion Bug store just went out of business. You can shop at Torrid if you want to look super trendy, but the quality of the clothing is awful. There are no Avenue, Cato, Catherine’s, Woman Within or Ashley Stewart stores. You can get sizes up to 24 at most department stores, but your options are horribly limited after that.

Now I have lost 125 pounds. And I can now put my old size 30 jeans on…and fit into one leg! And my daughter can jump in there with me!

nicole and rosie in size 30 jeans

standing on one leg of old jeansIt hardly seems real that these jeans used to be the ones that were such a tight fit, and only fit on me because they had an elastic waist. They weren’t the most stylish jeans in the world, but they were the ONLY pair I could find to fit me.

Last week on my surgiversary, I decided to buy some new jeans with my birthday money. I’ve been a fan of Lane Bryant’s T3 (Tummy Tightening Technology) jeans, and have purchased them in sizes 28, 26, 24, 22, and 18. My size 18 T3 jeans are getting a little baggy, so I thought I’d just buy some size 16s. But…for the first time in a year, the T3’s didn’t fit me right.

I browsed the clearance rack and found a pair of size 14 jeans on clearance for $22. They looked like they would fit, so I tried them on just for the fun of it. And whoa! They fit! I haven’t fit into a pair of size 14 jeans in nearly a decade.

shopping at lane bryantAnd what is significant about size 14 jeans at Lane Bryant? They’re the smallest sized jeans they carry. That means I just purchased my last pair of jeans from Lane Bryant. I’ve been shopping there since I was 18. And now I have so many other options for clothes, I may never even step in the doors again. I like their bras, but now my band size is too small. I’m in a 38D-DD now, and they don’t have 36’s. I guess I can unsubscribe from their email list now.

Farewell, Lane Bryant! You’ve clothed me well for a decade and a half. At least, as well as a store can…when you have very few other options.

For comparison: wearing my size 30 jeans on 2/8/12 when discharged from the hospital from surgery…and wearing size 14 jeans on 2/8/13!

nicole size 30 size 14

My One Year Surgiversary

nicole bullock weight loss

nicole bullock gastric bypassI cannot believe how much my life has changed in the last year. I knew that embarking on gastric bypass surgery would change many things about my life, but this year has been absolutely life-changing. Surgery hasn’t just changed the way I eat, it’s changed the way I think, act, and do all the little things in my daily life.

If you haven’t read it before, I encourage to read this post: Why I’m Having Gastric Bypass Surgery. Reading this post this morning brought tears to my eyes. I was in such a depressed, unhealthy, and hopeless place. I felt stuck, and trying countless diets and fitness plans over a twenty year period hadn’t given me adequate results. I needed something more drastic.

nicole blue dressObtaining approval from my insurance company was the most difficult part of the pre-op process. Not only had I spend nearly 3 years deciding if weight loss surgery was right for me, I had to wait 12 months for Cigna to approve my surgery.  The weight loss surgery approval process is a frustrating formality, and delayed starting my new life by almost a year. That year of waiting brought a lot of sadness and desperation, and I gained weight, despite being on a physician-assisted weight loss plan.

I finally received approval for my surgery from Cigna on January 20th, and surgery was immediately scheduled for February 8th. I started my pre-surgery diet on January 30th and had my pre-surgery evaluation. On this day I weighed in at 373.3 pounds, the highest I’ve ever weighed. One year later, I weigh 248.0 pounds.

On February 7, 2012, I walked into the foyer of St Mark’s Hospital for my roux-en-Y gastric bypass. My check-in time was 6:00 am, and I did not feel fear. I felt hope and joy. I knew that my surgeon, Dr Sherman Smith, was one of the top surgeons in the industry, and I had total confidence in his abilities. There were no surgical complications, and I was out of the hospital 36 hours later.

I’ve been documenting all of my successes and struggles this year. I have shared my weight loss victories, but also my “non-scale victories.” Sometimes when life was tough, I didn’t want to write about it, or would just put up a picture for Wordless Wednesday. I attended the Obesity Help conference in Atlanta and spent time with my friends from Bariatric Bad Girls Club. I’ve done my best to educate my readers by answering questions about weight loss surgery. I participated in the Color Me Rad 5k. I was featured on the local NBC affiliate as KSL’s Blog of the Week. I’ve been nominated for awards, and will be speaking at my first conference in 2013.

I haven’t done as many vlogs as I’d originally planned this year, but here’s on in honor of hitting the one year mark.

nicole bullock facial comparison

My journey is far from over.nicole bullock My 125 pounds of weight loss has taken me from a BMI of 53 to 36, which is still technically obese. I am at the lowest weight I’ve been since 2005, but I have not stopped my efforts. Even though my weight loss has been slow the last two months, my body is still shrinking. I’ve been in a plateau since the beginning of December, but I haven’t slacked off. I currently am attending the gym (or otherwise exercising) 4-6 times a week, and most days I am still eating under 1,000 calories. My ultimate weight loss goal is 170, but my surgeon has recommended 190. That leaves 60-80 more pounds to go.

my fitness pal workoutI’m doing most of my tracking in MyFitnessPal (username cuteculturechick). The majority of my workouts are done on the track…and are a combination of walking leisurely, speedwalking, jogging, and sprinting. I try to mix things up, and also spend time lifting weights, swimming, spinning, and going on the elliptical.

Here’s a screen shot of what I logged in MyFitnessPal this morning. It seemed like poetic justice that I was in the gym running at 6:00 am today, when exactly one year prior I was walking into the hospital for surgery. A year ago if you’d told me that I would enjoy running, I would have laughed in your face.

So here’s to a great year of successes…and to a future filled with many more!