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″)

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!

Sixty-Four Pounds

Last week was my three month mark from surgery, and I’m down 64 pounds. The first two months, the weight came off fast – about 25 pounds per month. Last month, only 10.

Many people are under the impression that the weight just “melts off” after you have surgery, but the last month was proof to me that if you’re not measuring and tracking every bite, it slows down dramatically. I have to admit, I’m not measuring and tracking what I eat on a daily basis. I’ve gotten comfortable with what’s on my food list, and I can usually “eyeball” the portion that I should be eating. But since I’m not dropping the pounds as fast, I’m back to measuring.

When I look in the mirror, I can see the progress in my body. I’ve lost 8.5 inches in my waist (from 49 to 40.5), 7 inches off my bust (52 to 45), and 8 inches off my butt/hips (62 to 54). When I look at my sideview, I see that my belly is flatter and less pronounced, my butt is smaller, lower and is less bubbled out, and my back is less flabby. My arms are smaller too, so when I have them at my sides, it doesn’t feel so jiggly.

But when people mention my weight loss, I still get a lot of “Wow, I really see it in your face!”

I went bra shopping last week because my bras all fit wrong. I have so much extra space in the cups and my band size is down 5 inches. I’ve gone from being really tight on the last set of hooks to being baggy on the tightest setting. I had three different people measure me and suggest bras, but I got three different sizes. 25 bras later, I didn’t find one that I loved. Guess that means more bra shopping.

This weekend I’m going out of town again. I have another cousin getting married, so I’m starting the drive to LA on Thursday afternoon. But I’ll be stopping in Las Vegas for the night, and meet up with some of my Bariatric Bad Girls Club friends. It’s the Weigh Loss Surgery Foundation of America meet-up, and I would totally stay the weekend if it didn’t conflict with the wedding.


To Be Perfectly Honest…

Today will be one of my not so pretty posts. Even though I’m posting a pretty good picture of me.

April has been a really tough month emotionally. My weight loss has slowed considerably. I traveled out of town three weekends out of the month, and never was fully prepared for all the meals that I should have planned and brought along food for. Being unprepared brings temptations. And this month I’ve fallen prey to several temptations.

What have I eaten, you ask? I’m not telling you this so you can criticize me, I’m telling you so I can be honest with myself. I succumbed to pieces of Easter candy. I’ve eaten some full-fat ice cream instead of frozen yogurt. I’ve sipped on soda a few times. I’ve snacked on Cheetos Puffs a few times (even though I know they’re useless crap with no nutritional value). My portions haven’t been monstrous, obviously since I can’t really consume more than 3 ounces at once, but I know I’m off the wagon.

Most gastric bypass patients deal with a condition called “dumping,” where condition where ingested foods bypass the stomach too rapidly and enter the small intestine mostly undigested. This causes nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, dizziness and fatigue. It usually happens after eating high fat or high sugar foods. But as far as I can tell, I’ve never dumped. My body hasn’t equipped me with the mechanism to make me violently ill if I eat rubbish. I must be crazy for wishing my body did. I seem  to only get sick eating “healthy stuff” like eggs and chicken.

So yeah….bad food choices. In actuality, I’d say that 98% of what I eat is right on track, and 2% is “bad.” I’ve come up with all sorts of excuses why I’m sabotaging my weight loss like this, especially so early in the game. And the biggest source of anger and frustration is all the damn food advice people give me. It messes with me every time.

I’ve always been a pleaser – I want to make people happy by doing what they others ask me to do. But in the case of food advice as a weight loss surgery patient, it’s infuriating. I’ve been tempted to go back to people whose advice has been a catalyst for something bad happening and say “See what you did to me!!” For instance, a certain person has bugged me over and over to try eating a certain food. I had already had a hard time tolerating it, but I knew they wouldn’t get off my back until I ate it and reported back. So I finally ate it, and I violently threw it up. I ran back into the bathroom multiple times to wretch, and I even started vomiting blood. It wasn’t pretty. And the whole time, I was mad at this person who had so persistently advised me to eat it. Honestly, I know I should have stuck to my guns and ignored the advice. I should have been stronger. But I’m feeling weak and vulnerable these days, and now that I’ve had well over 100 people give me advice, it’s really messed with my head.

Unless you are a doctor or nutritionist – PLEASE do not give me advice on food. The only exceptions to this rule are 1) If you have PERSONALLY been a weight loss surgery patient (not your friend, not your family member) AND/OR 2) if I PERSONALLY ask you for advice. However well meaning you are, it is NOT helpful. I have an extremely limited amount of things that I can eat, and can only eat very limited quantities. I need to expand my palate when MY DOCTOR recommends it, NOT YOU. When I get food advice, it confuses me. I makes me want to start to push the limits of what’s right for me to eat. It makes me want to binge on junk food. Often the advice makes me cry. Sometimes it just makes me not want to eat at all, and fasting is NOT good for me at the stage.

Secretly in my head, I want to tell people who give me food advice, “Is it important enough for you that I eat ____ that it could risk our friendship? Okay then….SHUT UP!”

I think it’s time to go into counseling again. I need to grow a thicker skin.

Scale Victory – 45 Pounds Down!

nicole 45 pounds downI’ve had a bathroom scale for a few years that has a capacity of 328 pounds. When I purchased it in 2008, I was right around the 300 pound mark. The scale has been just on the edge of it’s capacity several times, as my weight has fluctuated between 350 and 325 for the last three years. It hasn’t worked for me in 18 months, and it’s been a mini-goal of mine to be able to weigh on that scale.

For the last two weeks, I’ve stood on the sale almost every day, just hoping I might actually get a weight reading other than “ERROR.” Yesterday morning I weighed myself before my shower, and IT SHOWED NUMBERS! I weighed in at 327.5, which is a total loss of 45.8 pounds since I started my pre-op diet on January 30th. 45 pounds in 8 weeks is pretty dang awesome!

I had a hard time deciding what to name this blog post. In Weight Watchers, which I was enrolled in 8 times, we talked a lot about “Non-scale victories” (NSV). Sometimes in the weight loss process, you know you’re doing everything you need to, but the scale isn’t showing the progress. Non-scale victories can be inches lost, addictions overcome, or anything else that is promoting your journey to better health. In my case, I really DID have a scale victory…I had a great loss AND I can use my bathroom scale. I don’t have to weigh in at the doctor to know where my progress is at.

A few people have asked why I haven’t been putting my food diaries lately. My main reason is that I’m not blogging every day, and it gets a little tedious to remember back more than a day. But for those who love my food diaries, here’s what I ate today:

  • Simply Gogurt yogurt tube – 2 ounces
  • String cheese – 1/2
  • 1 TB peanut butter
  • Refried beans with melted cheese and salsa
  • Cinnamon banana protein smoothie – 5 ounces
  • Skinny Cow light ice cream bar

When Do People Start Noticing?

I know that I look at myself in the mirror more than anyone else looks at me. And I think the way I look at myself is more critical than others would criticize. I don’t consider myself overly-narcissistic (only a little narcissistic 🙂 ), but I often wonder if other people are noticing my weight loss. Several times over the last few weeks, I’ve asked myself, “When do people start noticing?” Thirty pounds? Forty pounds?”

Two weeks ago when I went to Portland, I was traveling with my friend Chris, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas time. He was teasing me for my packed lunch of 2 ounces of lunch meat, string cheese, yogurt, and other bypass-friendly items. We talked a lot about my surgery, but I was curious if he could SEE a difference. I stood in front of him I flat out asked him “Can you tell a difference in my body yet?”, he said “Not really, I just look at you and know it’s you.” At that point I’d lost 30 pounds, and was hoping he would give some kind of raving compliment, but he didn’t. And it isn’t his fault that he didn’t see it. But it felt like a little bit of a let down.

But then again, there are people who seem to notice every little change in my body and give me lots of verbal encouragement. My coworker Nick has this crazy gift of guessing how much weight I’ve lost…”So Nicole, you’ve lost about 35 pounds now, right?” And he’s ALWAYS right, it’s uncanny.

With how active I am in social media, I usually have at least one event per week that I attend. This week I went to Social Commerce Exchange, and saw a few friends I haven’t seen since before surgery. One walked into the room, and I stood up from my chair, and he said “Wow, Nicole, you look gooood!” Getting these types of compliments really make me smile, and give me some validation for all the hard work I’ve put into my weight loss. It also helps alleviate some of the social anxiety I have developed in the last few years as my weight spiraled out of control.

I think one of the things that makes it hard for others to notice the weight loss is my lack of muscle tone. I’m losing weight, but I’ve also lost my muscles, especially in my abdomen. If I wear tight clothes that hold me in a bit, you can see my loss much better. But since I spent so much time in bed over the last 6 weeks, and have only walked for exercise, I’m getting anxious to get my muscles toned. I’m going to start some weight training next week…my arms are in desperate need to lose some jiggle.

city creek center SLCI went to City Creek Center, the new mall in Salt Lake City, twice this week to walk, window shop, and wander. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to get in a good walk when there are interesting surroundings, which is why treadmills typically are not my favorite way to get in a walk. As I was about to walk across Main Street, a sweet girl came up to me and asked, “Are you Nicole? I read your blog, and I just want to tell you that you look amazing!” She was someone who is an online acquaintance, and we talked a little bit. She said she loves to read my posts, but doesn’t usually comment. I was happy that she stopped me to talk, because I otherwise wouldn’t have known that she read my blog.

I weighed in this weekend, and I’m at 333.1. I’ve finally hit the 40 pound mark! This is a big step for me because I’ve tried to lose weight in so many ways, but the weight loss typically putters out around 25-35 pounds. I’ve never been able to lose more than 40 (except when I lost 50 pounds and I got rid of an ex-husband at the same time). I told myself that I would celebrate my 40 pound mark with a new pair of jeans. I love getting new clothes, but I’ve kept my purchases to a minimum because I’m changing sizes so rapidly.

Tonight I had a little extra time, so I went over to Lane Bryant to try on some jeans. I bought a pair of 26s a few weeks ago, but they’re already looking too baggy on me. LB has a line called T3 jeans that help tighten your tummy. I tried on several pairs of 24s and 22s…and the 22s fit! I totally jumped a size in jeans! They’re a bit too tight in the calves, but hopefully the jeans will stretch or my calves will shrink.

40 pounds feels like such an exciting accomplishment, I can only imagine how the other milestones will feel!

Post-Op Day 4

The most pressing item of the day was to figure out a way to get comfortable. It was tough to prop up pillows on my bed and couch to get into a position without feeling chest pain. When I had surgery in 2005, my saving grace was my La-Z-Boy recliner. Since we’ve moved several times since then, we no longer have it available to use.

Taylor and I went on a daunting journey to both RC Willey and Furniture Warehouse (which despite months of “FINAL LIQUIDATION” notices, I doubt will ever actually go out of business.) The prices at RC Willey were better than Furniture Warehouse, but to get a recliner that was decently comfortable (and easy to maneuver the lever) was going to cost several hundred dollars. I can’t believe how many times I was able to stand up and down in the stores, and I had very sore abdominal muscles after.

I wouldn’t have minded putting out that kind of money to get comfortable, but there were NO chairs where the color, fabric, and design were right. I didn’t want to spent $289-699 on a chair that I hated looking at, no matter how comfortable it was. I was however, briefly intrigued by what I called the “Words with Friends” chair. Perfect for playing your favorite crossword game!

We ended up asking my parents if we could borrow their recliner for a few weeks, while I get my post-op discomfort under control. After a lengthy afternoon nap, we went to Lehi to have dinner with my parents. I gave them an update on how my recovery is going, talked about the upcoming stages in what food I can eat, pick up the recliner, and then we had dinner.

mashed potatoes and gravy

I read on a forum online that it’s okay to have powdered mashed potatoes at this stage of my recovery, so mashed potatoes has been on my mind all day. My parents made up some leftover meat and I had my little bit of mashed potatoes and beef gravy with some melted cheese. It’s the closest to a meal that I feel like I’ve had all week. This is what it looked like before, and I wasn’t even able to finish it.

As for the rest of the day, I was able to eat a little more than yesterday. I got in my chewable multivitamin twice, and my B-12 drops. Here’s what I was able to eat for the day. I’m putting total amounts consumed because some meals I have a bite or two of something different. I’ve been really digging apple juice, so I have it a few times a day, usually watered down to count it toward my daily water intake.

  • Simply Apple juice (4 oz)
  • 3 Tablespoons cottage cheese
  • 1 light Premium Creamies banana popcicle (half at two meals)
  • 3 Tablespoons mashed potatoes, gravy, and melted havarti
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free fat-free pudding
  • Water intake – 53 oz



Surgery Post-Op Day 1 And Hospital Discharge

One of the hardest things about an inpatient hospital stay is the nighttime. It’s meant to be a time of rest, but really, it’s a chance for everyone who has access to your room to interrupt your much needed sleep. Nurses, phlebotomists, assistants, and orderlies seem to have a knack for knocking on your door between the hours of 11pm and 5am. Last night I had 9 interruptions between these hours. Not cool, hospital!

Fortunately, I was able to get lots of rest during the day. Probably a total of 3 solid hours, which was more than I got during the entire night. Taylor slept at home last night so he could get Rosie off to school in the morning, and he arrived at the hospital around 9am. By the time he got there, I’d been up walking around the floor, had a nap, and met with Dr. Smith for a bit.

Dr. Smith said the incisions were healing well, and I was set for discharge around 5pm. He was concerned that my oxygen saturation had dropped so much in the times I’d been walking around (down to 84% at times), so he was considering sending me home with an O2 tank. He said that he biopsied a small lesion on my liver during surgery…it may have been a scar, could be some kind of benign bump, but he wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. He joked that if I have cancer, I’d be in a much better place to fight it with my lower weight. Thanks doc!

I tried to get up to go for a walk every time that I had to use the restroom. I already had to go through the effort to get OUT of bed and untangle all of my IV cords, so it wasn’t that much harder to take a walk around the floor. I would carefully put on my robe over my IV arm, and I was glad the robe was short-sleeved to allow that.

One of the happiest moments of the day was when I upgraded from water to broth and sugar-free jello. In the morning, I was able to go from drinking one ounce to two ounces of water. Once I was able to do this successfully, I was able to have broth and jello for lunch. I’ve never been much of a broth fan, but that beef broth was delicious. I couldn’t tell what flavor the jello was (lemon, tropical, mango?) but the three cubes in my cup were lovely.

In the afternoon, I napped, watched a movie on my laptop with Taylor, and prepared for discharge. My PCA pump was discontinued and I had some liquid Lortab. I needed to take a shower, which was quite a production. I had to put a rubber glove over my IV hand, then have the top taped tightly to avoid water from seeping in. I had a big gauze pad over my stapled incisions and JP drian, to they had to put this sticky sterile plastic sheet on me. I took a shower and washed my body with special soap. I also washed my hair because I can’t get my incisions wet until tomorrow evening.  After my shower, the IV was removed, my incision staples were replaced with steri-strips, and the JP drain was removed and bandaged.

After I was bandaged and dressed in my street clothes, I got my discharge instructions from my nurse. They outlined what I’d be able to eat and drink for the next few days, gave me my nifty hospital mug, helped me pack up my belongings, and wheeled me down to the valet parking area. We stopped by Walgreens to drop off my prescription for liquid Lortab, and headed home. It was SO hard to walk up to my 3rd floor apartment, but I slowly made it up one step at a time.

Rosie made me some fresh jello and chicken broth, and I ate while they had spaghetti and garlic bread from a ward member. It felt very disjointed to have something so bland while they ate something flavorful, but I knew my body wouldn’t tolerate even a bite. Taylor ran back to Walgreens for my pain meds, at which time I was sobbing in pain. I didn’t realize what my actual body pain level was until I was completely off any medicine, and it wasn’t pretty. I was sobbing as I swallowed it and washed it down with water. He helped me realize that I’d had far too much to drink at once (3T of Lortab with several sips of water to wash it down). He grabbed a mug for me to swish and spit to get the taste out of my mouth. I quickly fell asleep for about 2 hours, at which time I felt much better. I can take the Lortab every 4 hours, which gave me just enough time to write this post before taking my drugs and going to sleep for the night.

Thank you again to all those who have been checking up on me and sending well wishes. It’s been a tough day emotionally, as well as physically, and I’ve appreciated all the messages, texts, and calls I’ve gotten (even when I’ve been too out of it to respond, or to reply comprehensibly – I know I’ve sent some pretty jibberish messages).

Tomorrow I’ll be advancing to a full liquid diet, and I look forward to more than just broth and jello. The plan is to get a lot of rest, but I’ll be going on an outing to the grocery store for some sugar-free Popsicles.

Surgery Timeline

Surgery timeline

Many people have asked me when I’m having surgery, what my recovery time is like, and what I have to do in the time until they cut my gut. Here’s a run-down of my next few days. If you want to get updates as things happen, join/like the Beauty and the Bypass Facebook Page. I will update when I can, and my husband will update the page for the times I can’t.

I’m starting out this morning fasting. I’ll be going to St. Mark’s Hospital radiology at 7:40 for a few tests. I will be getting an upper GI endoscopy to see if I have a hiatal hernia, and then I’ll be getting an abdominal ultrasound to see if I need to have my gallbladder removed. If I have the hiatal hernia or a diseased gallbladder, those will be taken care of at the time of my surgery.

After the radiology work, I can break my fast for a few hours. At 3pm, I can call the hospital to see what my surgery time will be for tomorrow. I’ll need to take a bowel prep drink called Citroma (yay!) and then begin a clear liquid diet. In the evening, I need to shower and wash my abdomen with a surgical prep antibacterial soap called hibiclens, which I’ll also have to use again in the morning. Beginning at midnight, I will be NPO (nothing by mouth) until I go in for surgery tomorrow.

My estimated hospital stay will be a day and a half. I’ll go into the hospital Tuesday morning, and likely be discharged Wednesday evening. I’ll be home recovering for 2-3 weeks. I’m glad that my husband will be home with me as I recover.

If you’re interested in visiting me at the hospital, send me a text, tweet, or Facebook message. I’ll let you know when I’m ready for visitors. If you don’t want to come into the hospital to visit, I’ll be anxious for visitors at home.