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.


Behind The Lens

This weekend I was at the Breathing Space Blogger Retreat. It was a meetup of 75 bloggers, mostly local to the Wasatch Front area, held at Daybreak. I’ve known about the retreat for several months, and one my factors of motivation was to lose enough weight to look good in pictures.

For a long time, I’ve shuddered at the thought of group photos. I’m usually the largest woman in the groups, and I just pore over the pictures in nit-picky comparison. But this week I hit the 60 pound mark in my weight loss, and I had some cute clothes to wear, and I got into a mindset where I didn’t feel like I needed to stress out about how I looked for the conference.

On Friday afternoon, I went to the salon at Daybreak for a complimentary shampoo and style. The attendees of the conference  got to choose a free service, and I wanted my hair done. I was thinking we could do something fancy, and I wanted to look good for the Stepford Wives party, so I found a picture of a rockin’ 60’s beehive style. I was totally bummed when they said I’d have to pay a lot extra to do it. So I told the stylist to do whatever she wanted with my hair. She blew it out and gave it some wave, and dubbed it my “Kardashian hair.”

That evening was the Stepford Wives party, and I had a custom dress made by eShakti. I’d never ordered a dress off measurements before, and I wanted it to not be too big, so I guessed where I’d be in a few weeks when I bought it in early April. It was very tight when I got it, and the sleeves were way too tiny in circumference. I ended up picking out the stitching to get the sleeves off and wear it with a little jacket. As you can see – I’m regaining my waistline! The party was so fun, and there were so many fun dresses and outfits. The party was hard to eat at though – Corner Bakery catered the dinner, but there wasn’t much I could eat. I am addicted to their tomato basil soup, but dinner was a choice of sandwiches. I ate the meat out of my sandwich, but I was still hungry and faced an army of dessert choices. I nibbled on a few sweets, but resisted the urge to binge on cream cheese brownies and Sweet Tooth Fairy cupcakes.

Saturday was full of classes and ended with a Cinco de Mayo party. As the day went on, Jenny K (the official conference photographer) was snapping away. I started getting nervous about what pictures she was taking of me. When I went through her photostream after the conference, I felt so self-conscious. So many pictures of me from “bad angles.” In the one to the left, I can’t even tell I’ve lost weight, especially compared to the above picture in my green dress. I started feeling really hard on myself. You can’t always control what pictures are taken and shared. But you can try to control the way you think and perceive what you see.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been having a hard time emotionally with my weight loss. I care too much about what other people think, and I’m having a hard time accepting myself. I love getting compliments and attention, but sometimes I have a very hard time believing the things people say to me. I look at photos of myself so critically, and wonder if other people are judging me as harshly as I do to myself. Luckily, I’ve been finding out who really cares about me, and who I can depend on when things are hard. I gained some great new friends at the conference, and felt more accepted by new acquaintances than I have in a long time. I think I intimidate some people, and I’m hoping that I’m becoming more approachable with my weight loss. I know that I’m working on myself physically, spiritually, and mentally, and these doubts and struggles are just part of the journey.

Comparison – Down 50 Pounds

nicole bullock weight lossSeveral people asked me to post a side-by-side comparison of how I look from before surgery until now. After hitting the 50 pound milestone, I thought it was a good time.

Although I’ve lost weight and inches all over my body, people still say to me, “Yeah, I can see it in your face.” So today is a face shot. I’ve gone from a triple chin to one and a half (meaning, I still have a lot of extra skin and fat, but it’s not quite so chubby). My cheeks aren’t so round. My eyes look brighter and I don’t look so tired.

With such a big difference at 50 pounds, I wonder where I’ll be at 100. Or 150. Or 200.

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!

One Week Down

I’m a week post-op, and I feel like I’m healing pretty well. The immediate symptoms of my pneumonia are easing up, and I’ve started taking less pain medication. I’m still not able to be very active, but I get out walking at least once a day. It’s been nice to spend more time at home with Taylor and Rosie, even though I get cabin fever pretty easily.

Finishing up the first week brings with it something very exciting – new foods! I’ve gone from clear liquids to semi-solids to selected solids. I’ve been so happy to eat lean meat again. I can have shaved deli-sliced meat, minced up and chewed thoroughly. Canned chicken, turkey and tuna are also permitted. Other items I’ve added into my diet are cottage cheese, yogurt, egg whites, cooked beans, hummus, and selected soft cooked vegetables (carrots, beets, yams, green beans). Some people buy baby food, but I’d rather prepare my own stuff. Tonight my family wanted to have Mexican food, and I had my refried beans with cheese and a few bites of meat.

My happy news of the day is that I got on a scale, and I’ve had a great loss! I now weigh 355.2, which is down 18 pounds from my pre-surgery diet weight of 373.4 (1/30/12) and down 9 pounds from my pre-op weight of 363.3. Not bad for two weeks!

Today’s food:

  • Protein smoothie with peaches, strawberries, and banana – 3 oz
  • Shaved turkey breast with whipped light cream cheese – 2 oz
  • Refried beans with cheese and a little meat – 3 oz
  • Sugar-free fat-free vanilla pudding – 2 oz
  • Simply Apple juice – 3 oz
  • Water intake – 64 oz (finally did it!)
Thank you to all who commented on my Weighty Impressions post. I’ve had an outpouring of love and support. Many of those who related had been belittled and bullied for reasons other than obesity, and it’s heartbreaking to see how cruel people can be. It’s good to know I’m not alone, and that others have shared their stories.

Why I’m Having Gastric Bypass Surgery

With my extensive social media involvement, I have many people that I interact with who I’ve never met. I post a fair amount of pictures of myself online, and I always pick the pictures where I think I look good. I’ll tilt my head the right way, crop out my arms or belly, and avoid showing my whole body. I hide my problem areas along with my insecurities.

The truth is, I’m very large. Technically, my BMI of 51 puts me in the “super obese” category, which is one step above morbidly obese. I have a plethora of health problems including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, severe obstructive sleep apnea, elevated blood pressure, polycystic ovaries, hormone imbalances, chronic anxiety and depression, edema and circulatory problems. My joints constantly ache, and I have difficulty exercising without injuring myself. I take pills to help with many of these problems, and I’m usually in a doctors office at least twice a month.

Now, you might be thinking “She doesn’t look THAT huge.” I get that all the time. I was blessed with good genes. I’m 5’10”, so my weight doesn’t show as blatantly on my frame as it might on other people. But as stated above, I have a lot of health problems and excess weight. When I stepped on the doctor’s scale last week, I weighed 357. It’s not the most I’ve ever weighed, but close. When I hit 300 three years ago, I could not believe I’d hit that point. But when have disclosed my weight to others, I usually get a depreciating statement like “That’s not possible….you don’t look anywhere near 300 pounds.” As much as I appreciate people telling me I don’t look my weight, the numbers on the scale do not lie. And I’m very self-conscious about it.

I’ve come to hate group photos. All I end up doing is comparing myself to the other people in the picture. Especially arms – my upper arms are 2-3 times as large as a fit woman’s arms, and no amount of toning ever seems to help. I’ve done a fair amount of weightlifting over the years, and all it’s ever done is bulk up my big arms. Or so it seems to me.

I honestly believe I have a more healthy diet than the average American. I’m a pro at the lean protein/whole grain/veggie and fruit way of life. I have been putting myself on restrictive diets to lose weight since age 11, which was when my weight problems began significantly effecting my self esteem. I’ve memorized nutritional information for most foods that I consume, including calories, fat grams, carbohydrates, and protein. Until last week, my main guilty pleasure was excessive consumption of soda and caffeine, but I’m overcoming those addictions and am on day 7 totally soda free.

As I’ve started telling people about my surgery plans, one of the first things that people ask me is “Wait, have you tried _____ diet/supplement/pill/shake?” Honestly, I’m DONE “trying” things. The short list of my weight loss attempts include Weight Watchers (8 times), South Beach diet, Atkins Diet, American Heart Association diet, calorie counting, fat gram counting, high protien diets, liquid diets,  personal training, online diets and support groups, hypnosis podcasts, Curves, Intuitive Eating, Thrive weight loss, and physician-assisted weight loss plans with prescription weight loss drugs (both phentermine and the naltrexone/bupropion combo).

Twenty years of failed weight loss attempts has significantly affected my endocrine and digestive systems, not to mention my self-esteem. I’ve spent the better part of 10 years on a therapists couch, and much of it has to do with my body image issues and addictive behaviors. I have such a skewed relationship with food. Although I do “eat emotionally,” it is not my main issue. I am a social eater. I can stick with a strict eating plan when I’m on my own, but as soon as I’m around other people, I can’t keep up.

I love the experience of indulging in food with love ones. Many of my happiest memories in life include delicious food with friends and family. It’s so easy to lose control when I’m eating with people I love, no matter what the food item is.

So much of my relationship with my husband has included food. When we only have an hour or two for a date, we almost always go out to eat. When we first got married, we ate out all the time and each gained about 35 pounds. While my husband was able to lose it through diet and exercise, my weight has crept up through the 7 years of our relationship, despite my best efforts. My weight and health have affected our relationship, and I know that it stresses my husband out to no end. Because he is away from home for half the month, it’s been hard to come up with a consistent diet/exercise routine that doesn’t stop when he comes back into town.

So, for these reasons and many more, I’m going under the knife. It took two years to come to the decision to have surgery, with the approval process taking another year. I’ll blog about the approval process for me next, but believe me, it was a tough year of paperwork, health histories and exams, appeal letters, and countless phone calls. I’ve been scheduled for laparoscopic RNY gastric bypass surgery on February 7th.

For comparison’s sake…

Last time I weighed 290, I looked like this. Could the scale really be right? I look a lot healthier right now, don’t I.