Reflections of a Two-Year Post-Op

nicole bullock 2 year gastric bypass

February 7th was my two year “surgiversary” of my roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery. I’ve been trying to decide how to commemorate this anniversary on my blog for a few weeks, and nothing felt quite right. I’ve got lots of pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and my blog that show my weight loss progress, so I didn’t want to focus on my external/physical changes. I wanted to touch on some thoughts and feelings about how I’ve changed on the inside…and how I’m still the same.

Reflections of a Two-Year Post Op:

I would like to lose more weight, but I am happy with where I am at: When I embarked on my weight loss journey, I had the ultimate goal of losing 200 pounds. On my absolute lowest day, I had a total of 131 pounds lost. That means that I’m still 70 pounds overweight, and I’m not completely satisfied at my progress. But setting the scale aside, I like ME a lot better. I can look into the mirror and like who is smiling back at me. I can find clothes that I feel comfortable and attractive in. My weight doesn’t hold me back from things that I’d like to do (biking, skiing, swimming, 12+ hour days of walking during travel, etc). I’ve got my problem areas that are managed by shapewear, but I’m not horrified by my bulges and loose skin. I like ME, and even if I don’t lose any more weight, I feel like my surgery was a success.

I still have my taste buds: Just because I had surgery to restrict the amount of food I can ingest, that doesn’t mean that I care if it tastes lousy. I do care. I love food, and willingly admit that I focus a lot of time and money on good food. I tried to get into the mindset “Eat to live, don’t live to eat,” but it doesn’t work for me. I have an emotional attachment to food, and I don’t think that any amount of therapy will change that. I like to celebrate with food, I like to be social around food, and I make better food choices when I just accept those truths. I am not as restricted by the types of food I tolerate as I was right after surgery. I can handle a small dessert without dumping. I eat more carbs than an average RNY patient to avoid reactive hypoglycemia. I usually don’t feel sick after having something rich or fatty. I can’t rely on my “tool” to limit the foods I eat by making me feel sick, so I have to think about the foods I eat. However, now that I’m eating more calories per day, I MUST be active. I feel lousy on days that I haven’t exercised, and I know that eating too much will make it tough to keep my weight in check.

Weight loss doesn’t fix everything: Surgery and the subsequent weight loss have helped me get my blood pressure under control, reduced edema and helped circulation in my legs, and has allowed me to be much more active. But the major disappointment with my pre-surgery comorbidities is that I still have obstructive sleep apnea. I had a sleep study in November that revealed that I have significantly improved my apnea, but I’m still advised to use a CPAP machine (at pressure 5). I have struggled with depression and anxiety since my teen years, and weight loss hasn’t changed those mental health challenges. If anything, I think I have more problems with anxiety. I’ve had some nutritional deficiencies that require ongoing management. I had mono last year, which made me feel tired and lethargic all the time. I consider myself MUCH healthier than I was in 2012, but I’m still not normal or perfect.

Forgive regain, to a point: For the first 10 months after surgery, the numbers on the scale went down consistently. But since December 2012, I’ve been in a constant struggle with my scale. On my absolute lowest weight day, I was at 242. But I was working out like a maniac at that point, having RH crashes too often, and I felt weak. Once my RH was under control, I came down with mono. And peritonsillar abscesses. And I had to go on steroids. And I had surgery. And my doctor restricted my from rigorous exercise for 2 months. On my worst day with the regain from surgery and steroids, I weight 261, 19 pounds up from my highest. For the last 2 months, I’ve been hovering between 248 and 252. I could freak out about what I’ve regained, but I have other things to worry about. However, my RED ALERT weight is 260. If I hit it again, I will be fighting it like gangbusters.

taylor and nicole 2 years


Relationships change, friends come and go
: WLS is like a magnifying glass on relationships – it makes the good things better, and the bad things worse. Taylor and I went through some tough times in our relationship prior to surgery, and I wasn’t sure how our marriage would fare post-op. Luckily, he has been an incredible support, I know how much he loves me, and my increasing health has only made our marriage stronger. But not all people can say the same.  It’s been interesting to watch my friends go through relationship changes since WLS: divorces, infidelity, marriages, serial dating, moving across state lines to be with the ones who make you feel loved. Those in abusive relationships tend to finally have the courage to move on, whether it is a romantic relationship or just a friendship. I’ve lost friends, but have gained many more. And some of the friends I’ve made since surgery have already moved on. You have to do what is best for your sanity, and sometimes that means that you rely on different people than you did in the past. It’s hard to move on, and I’ve shed tears over people I no longer have in my life, but I am so grateful to the ones who continually support me.

I’m not ready for plastic surgery: With all of my blogging and social media connections to the weight loss surgery world, I’ve seen some amazing transformations over the last few years. For many of them, they hit their goal weight in less than a year, and have reconstructive plastic surgery soon after. I’ve been fortunate to have minimal skin sagging and need for major reconstruction, but that may change as I lose more weight. And I haven’t ruled out the possibility of having another child yet, so I will wait for any additional surgery until I have a baby or decide to keep my family as is.

I’m not sure where I’m going with my blog next: I’ve had some pretty awesome opportunities through blogging about my weight loss. I’ve spoken at conferences, I’ve been on TV, I’ve been featured on health websites, and have a loyal group of followers online. But I’m in a bit of a “blog life crisis” – I don’t always feel like blogging about my health, I get offers from brands to review products and want to take advantage of those opportunities, but then I get behind with writing for me. I will probably be writing here less and less. I’ve got a time-intensive job that demands my attention more than past positions, and getting back on a computer after work rarely happens. I’ll post when I have something important to say, and not pressure myself to post for the sake of posting.

Wordless Wednesday: Two Year Comparison

gastric bypass weight loss comparison

Wordless Wednesday: Polysomnography Testing

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Wordless Wednesday: Down 130 Pounds

130 pounds lost gastric bypass

Vegas-Bound for WLSFA

nicole wlsfa vegasSo excited.

Leaving for the airport in an hour to fly to Vegas. It’s time for the WLSFA Meet and Greet. I’m going to be seeing my Bariatric Bad Girls, and so many friends who have been helpful and supportive through the last year as I’ve had surgery and lost so much weight.

Oh, and Carnie Wilson is the keynote speaker. She’s been a bit of an idol of mine since my adolescence. Any of you who have been karaoke-ing with me know this – “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips is my go-to song.

If you’re there, make sure to say hi!

Vegas, baby!
WLSFA header

Wordless Wednesday: Am I That Skinny Girl?

nicole bullock weight loss collage

Wordless Wednesday: New Driver’s License Picture

new drivers license photo

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 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

The Last Socially-Acceptable Prejudice: Weight Discrimination

Obesity StigmaABC News recently published the article “Stigma Against Fat People the Last Acceptable Prejudice.” Several elements of this article struck a chord in me, and I wanted to touch on some of them in a blog post. Forgive me for paraphrasing so much of the article…there was so much good research and content.

Earlier this month, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University published a study, indicating that in a courtroom setting, male jurors didn’t administer blind justice to plus-size female defendants. Female jurors displayed no prejudice against obese male defendants, especially lean men, and were much more likely to slap a guilty verdict on an overweight woman. Rebecca Puhl, the co-author of the Yale study, said that “these displays of fat stigma are par for the course.” Prejudice against fat people is pervasive and translates into inequalities across broad areas of life. Puhl continued:

“Thinness has come to symbolize important values in our society; values such as discipline, hard work, ambition, and willpower. If you’re not thin, then you don’t have them”

A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that top-level managers with a high BMI are judged more harshly by peers and seen as less effective than their slimmer colleagues, both in professional and in interpersonal relationships. I can personally attest to the fact that this happens, and I’ve felt held back in my career objectives. People have liked me on paper, but have treated me far less favorably at in-person job interviews than their initial online correspondences would suggest.

As much as HR departments will claim otherwise, weight prejudice in the workplace is real. I’ve experienced it repeatedly through my career. I have been passed over for job offers and promotions. I am applauded for my creativity, not my hard work. Is is just a coincidence that professional opportunities are opening up for me like crazy after losing weight? It’s tough to say.

friends don't let friends fat talkIt’s obvious that weight discrimination doesn’t just exist in the workplace. It happens in our schools and in our families. More than 70% of obese people say that they had been ridiculed about their weight by a family member.

Yet another study by Puhl at Yale found the following results: Fifty percent of doctors found that fat patients were “awkward, ugly, weak-willed, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” 24 percent of nurses said they were repulsed by obese patients. Almost 30% of teachers said that becoming obese was “the worst thing that can happen to someone.” People have few qualms aiming overly cruel comments toward overweight and obese people because there are few consequences. One of the ironies of the treatment of overweight individuals is fat people didn’t get much sympathy, even from others struggling with their own weight.

Fat stigma hasn’t changed much in my lifetime, and every time it becomes a topic of conversation…people get uncomfortable. People want to change the subject. In this sense, weight prejudice is the last acceptable prejudice.

“Overweight people are usually shown in stereotypical ways- engaged in out-of-control eating or bingeing on junk food- and they are often shown as the target of humor or ridicule,” said Puhl. “With the amount of media we all consume, it’s no wonder these stereotypes stick.”Puhl also stated, “There are no federal laws on the books that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of body weight, so on the whole, it remains legal. It sends a message that it’s no big deal.” Public health campaigns which brand obesity as a disease are easily perceived as criticizing individuals, rather than the environmental and social factors that lead to weight gain. People engage in public fat-shaming. She also believes media portrayals of heavy people as fat, lazy and gluttonous do them no favors.

Another article I found in Forbes, titled “The Obesity Police Turn A Solvable Problem Into A Needless War“, also brings up some interesting points. “when it comes to addressing obesity, the most prominent public health activists are intent at making it into a war, rather than a solvable problem.” The reference the following video made by Coca-Cola:

Coca-Cola’s video give scientifically accurate data and is trying to spark dialogue about how obesity is caused by consuming more calories than we burn (including the calories in Coke products). They support programs that advocate healthy living, and make it a point to display calorie counts boldly on their packaging.

However, public health activists are not happy about the campaign. These health activists tend to one-up each other, using inflammatory language and tactics to make the food and beverage industry into the villains, instead of making actually making a difference. For instance, Michael Jacobson from the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that if the company was serious about wanting to help fight obesity, it shouldn’t even advertise full-calorie drinks. “They’re trying to pretend they’re part of the solution, instead of part of the problem”. The solution should be to focus on helping those struggling with obesity, and provide resources to those who feel trapped in their predicament, rather than pointing fingers at companies.

So. Where do we go from here? How can we bring up these dialogues and foster meaningful change?

weight discrimination question

I think the important thing is to talk about obesity, and the ways that people can emerge from the trapped feeling of excess weight. Last week I sent out a tweet and posted in my Beauty and the Bypass Facebook Group, asking for people to share their experiences about weight discrimination.

And what was the response?

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Nobody is comfortable talking about weight prejudice. People are either too scared to talk about their experiences, or they fear retribution for discussing the experiences they’ve had with weight prejudices in the workplace. Or even weight prejudice in general. I have stayed mostly silent on the subject, even though it’s an issue that infuriates me. Last year when I published my post “Weighty Impressions“, there was fallout from it because I mentioned experiences that I’d had in the workplace (at several different jobs). Employers are scared of getting sued, and employees aren’t really protected by anything legally. It’s a really bad situtation.

Where do we go from here? I think it’s time to talk about it. Ideas?