A Few Thoughts

nicole hair blowing in the a/cI’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but not enough on every subject for a full post. How about some bullet points instead of paragraphs?

  • I’ve started dealing with some hair loss. It’s not enough for it to be noticeable to others, but it’s making me paranoid. My dark hair has been part of my “identity” the past few years because I haven’t liked a lot of my features being so overweight. It’s the longest it’s ever been, and I hope I don’t lose it. Last week I dyed my hair a shade darker because it’s supposed to hide hair loss.
  • When I look at myself in the mirror, I like what I see more and more. For a long time I’d stare and myself and not really recognize myself. It feels good to look more like myself than I have in several years
  • I’m having a very hard time being compliant with taking my vitamins and supplements. The smell of a multivitamin alone makes my stomach turn. Today I skipped splitting my MVI in half, and it got stuck in my pouch. I was painfully uncomfortable for hours, and was scared I would need to see the doctor. I finally decided to drink enough water to vomit (yes, gross I know), and felt soooo much better once the vitamin would out. But ugh…regurgitated vitamins taste much worse coming up than they do going down!
  • I’m getting really nervous about making it through the Color Me Rad 5K I’m doing on Saturday. I’ve amped up my exercise, but I’m worried I’ll collapse and pass out. I get so tired so easily since surgery. I’m going to really have to pace myself.
  • My friend Sue wrote a post, “Be Your Own Kind of Average” a few months ago about her weight loss surgery experience. I read it every few weeks. It has a lot of truth in it about life after WLS – especially the part about people start being nicer. People who wouldn’t have given me the time of day are starting to hold conversations with me. More people make eye contact and smile. It feels good, but it sort of feels awkward too.
  • Right now, all I want is a Coke Zero. Must be strong.

Hmmm…I guess I had enough content I didn’t need to use bullet points. Oh well, my thoughts are pretty scattered tonight.

In A Groove And On The Road

nicole and rosie bullockIt’s been 6 weeks since surgery, and I feel like I’ve hit my groove. I’m getting better at listening to what my body needs and what I can safely consume. I’m usually at good energy levels, but still not as high as before surgery. Life feels different since surgery, but it’s a good different.

As funny as it might sound, my biggest complaint is my CPAP mask. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve lost so much chub in my face, or strictly because a TSA agent screwed it up (which wouldn’t be the first time), but I can’t get the mask to seal on my face, no matter how I adjust the straps. It hisses through the night, which wakes my husband up. It shoots dry air up towards my eyes, which dries them out…and has even made my eyelid chapped. The eyelid, right by my tear duct, keeps splitting and bleeding. I’ve been vigilant to apply Neosporin to the area, but it’s just not getting better.

I’m working 20-25 hours a week, and a few days I’ve made it over 7 hours. I usually start feeling fatigued in the early afternoon, and will head home to nap. But if I have a meeting or an urgent task to complete, I truck on through. When I’m lucky, I’ll hit my second wind. It’s SO difficult to get through the sleepy afternoons without caffeine.

One of the happiest things is that I’ve felt good enough to travel a bit. As a pilot wife with flight benefits, I have a hard time sitting still for too long. First I roadtripped to Portland to help a friend move up to the Northwest. The next weekend, our family was supposed to go to Anchorage to visit my brother and sister-in-law. But since flight loads were miserably full, Rosie and I opted to fly down to southern California.

One of the most humiliating things about being an obese traveler is needing to request a seatbelt extender. After losing 5 inches in my waist, I was certain that I’d be in the clear for buckling my seatbelt sans extender. This picture doesn’t accurately show the gap (buckling a seatbelt requires two hands, and I had one on the camera). I was about an inch and a half from securely buckling my seatbelt. Hopefully the next time I’m on the plane I won’t have to make the walk of shame to ask the flight attendant for an extender.

We flew into LAX, but after a one hour ground stop, we decided to grab a hotel and pick up our rental car in the morning. The hotel’s website said they had a “deluxe continental breakfast buffet,” which was actually just muffins, doughnuts, and a few mushy apples. I skipped the free food and went to Trader Joes to get some good food that I could eat on the trip. Afterwards, we drove up Pacific Coast Highway from Dockweiller Beach to Santa Monica. At Venice Beach, Rosie and I got out of the car and took a 40 minute walk on the cool, foggy boardwalk. It’s amazing how the ocean makes exercise SO much easier.

Being in California was tough this time, because I realized how much of my usual Cali experience revolves around food. I have a bunch of favorite Mexican restaurants, donut shops, bakeries, and dessert spots. I did indulge in a few restaurant things (like a little tiny bit of toppings from carne asada nachos from Tijuana Tacos in Pomona), but I avoided most of the places where I knew I’d get myself into trouble. My in-laws carefully watched me as I ate during meals, blown away at how little I was eating.

It was an enjoyable time in LA, but the trip home was tough. Due to a rental car return fiasco, we missed our flight from LAX. We ended up flying to Las Vegas, hoping to get a connecting flight to SLC. We lucked out getting seats in first class to Vegas, but flight loads to SLC were dismal. Instead of waiting 6+ hour for the next flight to SLC, I decided to rent a car and drive up to SLC.

Not only do I love air travel, but I love roadtrips. Unfortunately, I associate a lot of a roadtrip by the drinks and snacks I bring along. But by the time I got on I-15 in Vegas, I was dragging. I broke my 2 month Coke-free streak by getting a cup of Coke Zero, filled to the top with ice. I sipped it for the parts of the trip I was dragging, with Gatorade G2 and water for the rest of the time. But as I drove, I thought about what I wished I could be eating….chocolate Dunford donuts, caramel popcorn balls, and chewy candies like Swedish Fish. I was glad we stopped at a grocery store for some chicken salad at the deli to snack on.

central utah snowstormIt was tough to drive up to SLC without a relief driver, and I had to stop to nap a few times. I hit all sorts of weather…from warm cloudless skies…to sunny snowstorms in Central Utah, to torrential rainfall. When I finally arrived home, I was TIRED. I still feel like I’m recovering from the trip 3 days later.

I’d like to thank the people who checked up on me this week, worried because I hadn’t posted anything new in over a week. It was crazy with travel, and my personal laptop is having major issues. I hope to post 3-5 times a week from here on out.

Oh, and about my weight. I haven’t weighed myself in almost 2 weeks, but I’m guessing that I’m down about 40 pounds.

One Month Of Beauty And The Bypass

It’s crazy to think it’s been a month since I started my weight loss surgery blog. 5 weeks ago I publicly announced that I was having gastric bypass surgery. I’ve talked about what I’ve eaten, the surgery process, emotional struggles with my obesity, post-operative complications, and added pictures along the way. Already I’m feeling healthier and more confident.

It hasn’t always been easy to talk about what I’m going through, and I’ve tried to be as honest about the process as possible. It’s been incredible to see how many people have reached out to me – those who have had surgery, those who are thinking about surgery, and those who purely appreciate sharing my journey. I’ve had some haters, I’ve had some rude and insensitive comments, but overall…I’m SO glad I decided to document the process.

Since I started the blog, my BMI has gone from 53.5 to 49.2, meaning I’ve gone from “super obese” back down to “morbidly obese”. Next step, I’ll just be “obese”. I’m down a little over 30 pounds, and I’m shrinking all over my body. These are my current measurements, with a total of how much I’ve lost:

  • Neck 16 (-.75)
  • Bust 50.5 (-1.5)
  • Chest 44 (-2)
  • Waist 45.5 (-4.5)
  • Upper belly 49 (-4)
  • Hips/butt 59.5 (-2.5)
  • Thigh 31 (-3)
  • Calf 23 (-1.5)
  • Ankle 11.5 (-1)
  • Bicep 18.25 (-1.75)
  • Forearm 13 (-1.5)
  • Wrist 7.5 (-1.5)

Being back to work has been a challenge. I’ve struggled with some major fatigue, some days it’s hard to stay even 3 hours, and I always follow-up my work shift with a hefty nap. I’m not sure how I’ll feel through the next few weeks, but I’m trying to be patient with my recovery. I’m still dealing with a lot of nausea and vomiting, but I’m getting more comfortable with what I’m able to eat (and how much). I’m still craving things that I can’t have (like Easter candy), but there’s reassurance that avoiding those “bad” foods will help me avoid getting sick.

Today’s food diary:

  • Light yogurt
  • 1 TB peanut butter
  • 2 oz marinara sauce, mushrooms, and cheese
  • 2 oz shredded pork, enchilada sauce, and cheese
  • 3 oz Simply Apple juice
  • String cheese

Pushing The Limits

nicole and rosie bullock

This has been a great week, but it’s been EXHAUSTING. Not only have I been back to work, my husband went back to work, so I’ve had to start doing more things independently. I’m still trying to figure out what my body is capable at this point, both in activity and the foods I can eat.

This week I worked 18 hours over 4 days, meaning I worked 4-5 hours each day. Some days were easier than others, but I always left the office as fatigue set in. I had just enough energy to drive home, climb my 3 flights of stairs to my apartment, and get in bed. Every day after work I took a 2-4 hour nap to recover. But I’ve never been one to sit still too long, so I tried to get out and do something every evening. By the time I got home, I was so tired that I skipped the blog posts and went straight to sleep.

I’m trying to work my way up to “legitimate exercise” by walking more in general. As I crunch numbers in my head, 400-600 calories a day doesn’t seem like it’s enough for me to be consuming if I’m exercising. But it’s hard to eat more than that, and I want my body to tone up, so I’m trying to add in walking wherever I can. Because it’s frigid in Utah, I usually do my walking in stores and malls.

venous stasis dermatitisOne thing that’s been frustrating this week is my skin. I have VERY itchy skin around my surgical incisions. The scars are healing nicely, but they are so itchy! I’ve had eczema since childhood, so rashes are not uncommon for me, especially since I’ve been stressed and have been pushing myself to get back into normal life again. I’ve broken out into hives a few times, and have gotten this nasty rash on my feet. I already have problems with venous stasis dermatitis, but this looks and feels different. I’ve been wearing my compression stockings daily and have tried to use the right ointments, but nothing seems to work right. Maybe I’m pushing myself too hard? Thank goodness for Benadryl!

Today’s food diary:

2nd Day Back To Work – Post-Op Day 15

Day 2 back to work was actually more exhausting than yesterday. I felt more tired and had a harder time concentrating. I planned to work a half day, but had a mandatory meeting at 1pm, so I stayed longer than I really had energy for. By the time I got home, I was totally tuckered out. A long nap was necessary.

jack daniels bbq chickenToday’s lunch was so yummy. One of my favorite items from Costco is the Jack Daniel’s pulled BBQ chicken in the refrigerated section. It’s nice and tender, and easy to eat post op. I melted some cheese on top, and it was a great meal. For dinner, my husband made chicken curry, which was also delicious. I had a tiny bit of rice with it, and didn’t have any problem tolerating it.

Food Diary:

  • Light yogurt
  • 1 TB peanut butter
  • 1 oz Creminelli Mocetta
  • 2 oz Simply Apple juice
  • Muscle Milk light shake
  • 2 oz pulled chicken and cheese
  • 2 oz chicken curry with rice
  • A few sips of hot chocolate

Trying To Have A Normal Day

nicole bullockWhen recovering from surgery, a lot of time is spent lounging around the house in pajamas. After so long, you want to get out of the house and just be “normal.” You don’t want to be in your pajamas with your hair in a ponytail. You don’t want to spend hours on end watching “Desperate Housewives,” even though I’ve enjoyed the 80ish episodes I’ve watched while on medical leave. You want to get dressed, do your hair, wear a cute outfit, and get out of the house with your family.

It’s a Bullock Family thing to see movies. We see dozens of movies in the theater every year. Movie time is our favorite thing, but after watching so much TV, I wanted to go out and do something different. I suggested the new Natural History Museum of Utah, and my husband and daughter thought it would be a fun thing to do.

The new NHMU has only been open for a few months, and it’s a really cool place. It was greatly funded by Rio Tinto and is located up next to Red Butte Gardens at the University of Utah,. It’s 5 levels of interactive displays, exhibits, and education on natural life through history in Utah.

Although there were stairs and elevators through the museum, it’s largely a walking facility. You circle and walk through the exhibits, go up ramps, and make it around level by level. For a normal person, it takes over an hour of wandering to get through all of the levels. But I am not a normal person right now. I had major surgery a week and a half ago, and I don’t have the same tolerance for activity and exercise. I had to stop and sit every once in a while.

But I pushed myself and made it through the whole museum. I was able to do a lot more than I thought I could, and I probably burned as many calories as I consume in half a day post-surgery. Not only was I tired, I was ravenously hungry by the time we were done.

Because we were up at the U of U, I wanted to take my family to my second favorite food joint by the U. My favorite is The Pie Pizzeria, but it’s off limits. We went to a little place called Sono Express that I used to eat at often when I was a student at the U. It’s still around, and the owners are the same…but the food is NOT the same. I ordered chicken bento, which used to be a bento box with teriyaki chicken, miso soup, salad, veggies, and a California roll. Instead, I was served a plate of rice, breaded fried chicken, and a little bit of cooked veggies.

I was so frustrated when it was a completely different thing than I was used to. I haven’t eaten there in about 6 years, and I’m guessing the economy has taken it’s toll on the family-run restaurant. But I was hungry, and decided to make the best of it. I used my fingers and fork to break off the thick breading on the chicken, but I couldn’t get all of it off. I ate some of the chicken, and the cooked carrots, squash, and mushrooms with a few sips of water. But it only took a few minutes before I was uncomfortably full. I could tell my pouch was too full, and I started getting some wet burping and regurgitation. But the time we got out to the car, I vomited into a styrofoam cup. It was gross, but I felt much better.

On the way home we stopped at Costco for some meat and fresh produce. But I was already tried from all the walking at the museum, so I had to stop walking and sit down about 20 minutes in. The only place to sit was at the Costco snack bar, where giant portions of pizza, chicken bakes, pretzels, and other convenience foods were served. I used to LOVE getting a slab of Costco pizza, and it’s funny how now the portions seem so gigantically inedible. Weight loss surgery changes your perspective on food so much….especially things that you used to love, and can no longer stomach.

When I got home, I was bushed. I laid down and took a 3 hour nap. I was still tired for the evening, so I’ve been laying in bed, blogging and watching more Desperate Housewives. It was fun to get out and have a “normal day” with my family, but I now know I need to be more realistic with what my body can do. I go back to work on Tuesday, and hope I won’t end the days being fantastically exhausted.

Today’s food diary:

  • Egg whites, cheese, and sliced deli turkey
  • 1/2 string cheese
  • De-breaded chicken, carrots, mushrooms, and squash (which I lost)
  • Thinly sliced Creminelli salami, with 2 fresh strawberries
  • 3oz Hood Calorie Countdown chocolate milk
  • Sugar-free fat-free vanilla pudding


Post-Op Day 10 – Applesauce, Hiccups, and Progress

I have to admit, it’s really nice to be able to report good news. I felt like I really had some downer posts at the beginning of the week, both with Weighty Impressions and my post-op pneumonia. I’m starting to see a little indent in my cheek…can you see it?

Not everything is hunky dory though. I vomited today. It’s the first time since I’ve had surgery. I’m cleared to eat fresh fruit, but it’s not digesting so well. My tiny watermelon chunks come out like mashed watermelon, even though they are well chewed. I was craving applesauce, and had a bunch of apples that needed to be used, so I decided to make my own. I peeled, cored, and chunked 10 apples, and pureed it with cinnamon and vanilla extract. It came out delicious, and I had about 2 tablespoons. Unfortunately, I lost it within 5 minutes. I need to be careful to limit my sugar intake, including fructose (fruit sugar). Maybe my body will be ready for it in a few weeks.

I went to Cafe Rio for lunch, and was happy to eat my beloved pork barbacoa without any problems. Really body…pulled pork over fresh applesauce?

One of the worst things I’ve dealt with since surgery is the hiccups. It happens up to 10 times a day, and it’s usually from drinking water too fast. When I get them, it feels like my insides are being ripped apart, which is not cool after abdominal surgery. I found out that a spoonful of peanut butter helps better than any other remedy, but I have to be careful to not eat too much. Yesterday I uploaded this video to YouTube.

I took my measurements again today, and I’m exciting to see there’s progress beyond the pounds. Nothing drastic, but enough to make a difference. Here are my new measurements, compared to 2/2/12:

  • Neck – 16.25 (16.75)
  • Bust 51.75 (52)
  • Chest 46 (46)
  • Upper bulge 51 (53)
  • Waist 48.5 (49)
  • Hip/butt 60.5 (62)
  • Thigh 33 (34)
  • Calf 22.25 (23)
  • Ankle 11.5 (12.5) – and so much less swollen looking!
  • Bicep 18.5 (20)
  • Lower arm 14 (14.5)
  • Wrist 8 (9)

I Have Pneumonia – Post-Op Day 5

Today was really rough. I knew it would be from the moment that I woke up.

I had a headache more severe than I’d ever experienced, with blurred vision and vertigo. I wake up with a headache fairly often, usually when my CPAP mask hasn’t sealed very well in the night, depriving me of oxygen. But I also had extreme discomfort in my chest, particularly on my lower left side. There was a lot of tightness and shortness of breath too.

I knew I wouldn’t last very long feeling the way I did, so I popped a Lortab and tried to get comfortable and let the pain subside. By about 8am, it wasn’t getting any better, so I called the surgeon on call. It took almost an hour for Dr. McKinley to get back to me, and we discussed my symptoms. He said that my problems could be a variety of conditions, but I’d need lab work, radiology and a full evaluation to know for sure. He advised me to go to the St Marks emergency room right away.

The next few hours were a series of pokes and prods. I first got an IV in my right arm, but it wouldn’t advance in correctly. But it was enough to get my blood drawn and start me on fluids and main medication. I had a chest x-ray, then went to radiology for CT scans. I had to drink some nasty contrast fluid, which was basically radioactive Crystal Light. But because they were doing tests that needed a larger gauge IV, they sent me back to the ER for a new IV.

Little did I know they’d be doing an IV in my NECK! The nurse felt around, and the best vein option was in external jugular, calling it very “juicy.” I went back to CT, drank the radioactive Crystal Light again, and was hooked up to this witch doctory apparatus full of radioactive liquid. Through the CT, they did a chest and abdominal series, then a pulmonary series to rule out an embolism. During they pulmonary series, they pushed in the clear liquid into my neck vein, and it felt like my body was in an oven, inside and out. It was such a crazy and uncomfortable feeling, feeling like I was melting from the inside out.

After several more hours of waiting as doctors and radiologists evaluated my tests, it was determined that I have pneumonia. There is an irritated “solid infiltrate” in my lower left lung, which is likely causing all the chest pain and shortness of breath. After almost 90 minutes beyond my diagnosis, I was finally discharged. The whole process at the ER was about 7 hours.

I picked up my prescriptions, including a generous refill of Lortab elixir, went home and got in my jammies. After being required to fast from food and drink for the day, I was quite ravenous. I fudged my eating guidelines a bit through the evening, trying to get in adequate nutrition. I also added in a new food to my semi-solid food regimen – hummus! Oh, how I’ve missed hummus. It’s just a little strange to eat it straight off the plate with no veggies or crackers, but I gobbled up all 2 tablespoons.

Today’s food diary:

  • 1/4 cup egg whites with melted cheese
  • 3 oz soft serve ice cream
  • 2 tablespoons hummus
  • 2 oz Simply Apple juice
  • 1 wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese
  • 1 sugar-free popcicle


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



Post-Op Aches And Pains

motorized grocery cart

Yesterday I started the day feeling pretty awesome, all things considered. I told Taylor I wanted to go to Wal-Mart and ride the cart around the store to get all the foods that I want. Even though I was riding around most of the time, it was still exhausting to leave the house…especially having to climb 3 flights of stairs to get back to my apartment.

One of the most frustrating revelations that I’ve had this week is that I’ve been taking too much pain medication. I was given a bottle of liquid Lortab to manage my pain after I was taken off my PCA pump in the hospital. Even though the instructions on the bottle clearly state 3 TEASPOONS every 4 hours, I read it as 3 TABLESPOONS. It wasn’t a pharmacy error, it was me being out of it and measuring my meds out in the same little cups as my food and drinks.

As a result, I’ve either been far too medicated, or not medicated enough. When I called the doctor’s office concerned about the amount of Lortab I had left, the nurse told me that “extra strength Tylenol should be perfectly sufficient” at this point. Let me tell you…after major abdominal surgery, 2 days of Lortab is not enough before switching to Tylenol.

I’ve been trying to increase my water consumption to 64 ounces a day. I’m more likely to drink it when there is ice in it, but if I drink too much at once it HURTS. It feels like a punch to the chest, and the pain has to slowly subside as my my pouch empties. I’m also drinking watered down apple juice, broth, and a special chocolate milk drink.  Today I’ve eaten most of a stick of string cheese, a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, and some sugar-free jello. I’m looking forward to being able to eat strained cream soups and pudding tomorrow. It’s getting a little boring.

A few people have asked me to post a picture of what my belly looks like right now. The small bandages are steri-strips over the laparoscopic ports from surgery. The big gauze bandage is covering the hole where my JP tube was. It’s still the part of me that hurts the most, but it’s not as tender as it was the past two days.

cpap LT for her

I’ve had a few visitors since I’ve been home from the hospital. My neighbor Angie came over to bring dinner to my family last night. My Yelp buddy who I refer to as “the other Nicole B.” brought by flowers and a care package. My brother Jacob stopped by for a few minutes, as did my friend Emily. I don’t have much tolerance for long visits, but I do like to see people. Especially when I don’t have to take my flights of stairs to leave the house.

As for rest, I ‘m sleeping 4-6 hours a night, with a nap here and there. Because of my severe sleep apnea, I have to be vigilant about always using my CPAP mask. If I don’t use it when I’m dozing off, I get very light headed and get tingly hands and limbs. It ain’t pretty, but it’s what I gotta do.