seasoned.

We’re getting ready to leave town for longer than a weekend, so I am cleaning out the fridge and cabinets of things that might go bad or get stale before we’re back. We usually have tacos on Sunday night, and have leftovers for a few days; not being here would be a waste of delicious leftovers, so we were trying to decide what was quick and easy, and also wouldn’t have to get tossed when we packed up the car.

“Oh you know what sounds good? Maybe some dumplings and your fried rice, we haven’t had that in awhile!”

“Sure, then you can eat the rice for dinner tomorrow, too.”

My favorite part about the exchange is the reference to the fried rice recipe as “mine”. I mean, it is, I kind of made it up a few years back and I tweak it or change things every now and then but it’s one of his favorites, and even friends who have had it rave about it.

Steve takes every opportunity to tell people what a great cook I am, and compliments almost everything I ever make. People rave about and request my mashed potatoes on holidays, or weekend winter visits. My mac and cheese recipe can’t be duplicated, even if I decided to share it because I eyeball the roux every single time. I make a meat sauce that he has commented wouldn’t disappoint his Italian Nana, and people have been impressed by a broccoli dish that I swear to you I once threw together as a hungry fat girl to add to pasta. I’ve made loaves of bread, googled recipes that I’ve tweaked and made my own, perfected a chili recipe so much that Steve notices if I use a different brand of tomatoes and have made pot roast that floods my senses with memories of my entire life.

No big deal, right? I mean I have been baking for what seems like ever.

Except that was it. Aside from what seems like a life time of eating grilled chicken in eighty different ways at a half dozen different restaurants where I worked, I was always counting calories or carbs or points and so any cooking I did for myself was also, grilled chicken. I was a recovering vegetarian who didn’t eat much meat beyond chicken and turkey and I either ate them with veggies, solo or with salad. Plus I was living in my parents house and my mom is a wonder in the kitchen, so I didn’t even have to cook myself half of what I did.

So here I am, shortly after moving in with Steve and I decided that I was going to make him dinner. Obviously we had been eating but I think it was in the frozen pizza, take out or cereal department. So I decide I’m going to make his favorite thing; tacos! I went to the unfamiliar grocery store and excitedly picked up everything I could imagine needing; ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, a box of crunchy shells.

I’m thrilled to have it ready when he gets in from work and of course I make a grand deal about it, bringing the toppings over and a tray of warm crispy shells stuffed with ground beef.

Like a child who made him a drawing I stare wide-eyed anticipating his reaction, a compliment, and he just nods while chewing.

I take a bite of one of my tacos and it’s not disappointing, but, lackluster for sure, something is missing.

He takes another bite and puts it down. Clearing his throat he says, “What kind of seasoning did you use on the meat?”

Staring at him.

He stares back.

“Oh my God …”

“What?”

“I didn’t … I didn’t even think about it …”

“So, this is just browned ground beef?”

We stare at each other.

I offer to dump all the meat back in a pan and season it up with something, he declines, TO BE NICE I’m sure, and continues to choke them down.

It seems preposterous that a person with the love for food I have always had, fatter or less fat wouldn’t think or remember to season meat. I almost can’t believe it myself.

I don’t know if it’s because I can’t take a compliment, or because I am just impressed with my increased cooking ability, but I tell that story to almost anyone who ever gushes about something I make them to eat.

Every now and then if he says something I make is too salty, or too spicy I remind him what kind of bland browned ground beef meals I could be making, and we laugh about it.

Like I said, we have tacos almost every Sunday.

I wish I could tell you how I season the meat, but it’s eyeballs all the way now that I’m seasoned.

not your people.

For a long time, and even now, I struggled with letting people go. I will go through my friend list on Facebook sometimes and consider cleaning up the scads of people from different phases of my life, and I never really get rid of anyone because “I’ve known them forever” or they’re family, or a friend of family, or the girl I met through someone else who I have about four things in common, never interact with but keep them because their presence is innocuous. I keep her because she likes cooking too, or this girl also had weight loss surgery and we’re sort of friendly … Oh this person knows my mom, or dad or aunt’s cousin’s brother …

I had the same group of girlfriends for most of my life; we didn’t all hang out together, or make plans to grow old together like the Golden Girls, but for many years and boyfriends, moves, celebrations, changes, happy days, crazy neighbors, bad ideas, annoying parents and questionable choices; these were my people.

One of them, also for years, made me feel inferior to her. She made my feel like most of my ideas were shit, my decisions were wrong and like my existence was basically this puzzle that if it weren’t for her, would never be pieced together. She had an opinion about everything that you couldn’t question, and while she wasn’t some awful human being, it turns out, she wasn’t one of my people. She was for a time, and her purpose had sort of run out. It wasn’t until I made the decision to change my life and my health that I fully realized it. I also got older; not everyone you know at nineteen is someone you should still know at thirty-nine.

I always thought of myself as a people person with a big group of acquaintances and full social calendar that diminished only when I moved hundreds of miles away from everyone I knew. I’ve been more introspective (who knew that was possible) in the last few years and have clearer ideas about who and what I want in my life. I felt guilty and sort of selfish about it at first, but I gradually made peace with it, and you can, too.

If you want to.

I was talking to someone recently who was frustrated with their place in their friend group; she felt she had to force herself on others to be included, she felt left out sometimes and as if she didn’t really play a role in her group the way she thought.

I empathized but “then they’re not your people” flew out of my mouth immediately after. “Yea but we always used to hang out….” and “We’ve been friends since we were kids ….”

“Okay, so they used to be, I get it, but for today, for now, for where you are, they’re not for you…”

“I know but I just really want things to be how they were, and …. seriously, we’ve been friends since like first grade…”

So what?

If I have known someone since kindergarten or am related to someone by blood or marriage and they don’t make me feel valued, or like I am “worthy” of their attention, I should let that relationship continue? On the basis of knowing them so long? Illogical.

My grandmother used to say that if someone wants to be in your life, they will find a way. I totally believe this; sure things happen and maybe someone can’t text you back when you want them to, or come to something you invite them to, but when you mean something to someone, when they are grateful for whatever role you play in their life, you will know. And if you don’t, ya gotta go. For you.

I have a love // hate relationship with social media because it gives us a connection to people that maybe we don’t need to be connected to. It makes us think things are a certain way and maybe they aren’t. While people share real things, and are mostly their true selves, it’s definitely convoluted. Being friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t necessarily make them your friend in practical everyday life. Being related to someone doesn’t always mean they have your best intentions at heart, and knowing someone since your childhood doesn’t give them free reign to neglect your feelings. People will treat us the way we let them, and if we stay in relationships with people like this, knowing how they make us feel, and don’t do anything to change it, we can’t complain.

Our perception is our reality, so when I am in my head about who is a keeper, and who is a floater, I ask myself two questions. The first; if I met this person today rather than at birth, or in fourth grade or college, would I still want to be friends with them? And do I like a person or keep them in my life because of their role (lifelong friend / family member) or because of a genuine interest in knowing them? I have always said of my parents, that if they weren’t my parents, and just two people, I’d still like to know them, because outside of their role as my parents, they are genuinely awesome people. As are the people I choose to interact with on a regular basis.

I don’t know where I got the idea that I have to be friends with everyone I ever knew, or that I should hold on to relationships that no longer serves me (and in turn makes me a person who no longer serves their life’s purpose either) but I don’t do it anymore.

I’m not saying that you should grab the hedge clippers and go all Edward Scissorhands on your friends list, or social circle. I’m just saying it’s okay to take inventory. It’s okay to make sure that the people you interact with are invested the same way. Maybe you used to talk to someone every day, and now you just text; or you used to have coffee every weekend but now your schedules only allow for once a month. Totally cool. It’s the quality of the interactions, not the quantity. The quality of the relationship, and how it makes you feel, how it allows (or inhibits!) you to be your true messy and real self that determines, to me, if they are in fact one of my people.

Some people just aren’t.

 

Zumba!

Right before the start of 2016, down about fifty pounds, I tried my first group exercise class after my weight loss surgery. I had only been to a few others before and they were extremely stressful situations that caused my anxiety to skyrocket on the drive over, my stomach to flip flop on the walk into the room and then again when faced with the large mirror that would leave me on display no matter where in the room I stood. Exercise in general gave me the sweats because I was sure anyone who saw me doing it would think it was laughable, I had also felt like my body was unresponsive no matter what I was putting into it or making it do, so exercise was a chore, with no real reward. Even when I felt a little better afterward, I was still fat, and still miserable.

So the first class I go to is Zumba.

Ballsy, right?

I had seen commercials for years about the kits you could get to try it yourself at home, I had seen thin, attractive women shaking their overpriced legging clad butts to tropical sounding tunes and I had never had the courage to try, but I was intrigued, and for once I let that overpower the fear of the group class.

Man. It was something. Huge room at the gym, brightly lit with mirrored walls on two sides. Of course I took a place in the back of the class but there were only about ten people in it. It was a weekday before 9am, and the room was a melting pot. I wasn’t the oldest, or youngest, not the fattest or thinnest. I was just a person surrounded by other people who just wanted to dance and sweat something out – calories, stress, bad luck – whatever it was, we all just wanted to leave lighter.

It was loud and fast and fun. It was like all the shit I was doing in my own house when nobody was looking, but to better music. This was exercise? No exercise I ever knew was enjoyable. “Peace out treadmill” I thought as I shook and shimmied all over the place. Checking myself out in the mirror, not caring (too much) about my arm fat flapping as I danced my heart out.

It was the best morning I had had in a long time.

Even though I almost died. (dramatic)

In fifty minutes, my Fit Bit reported over 7,000 steps, I had sweat pooling in my eyebrows and I had drained my water bottle. Somewhat labored breathing but I staggered out to my car, and when I got home, announced that I was going to Zumba the next day, too.

For a few months, I had the time in my schedule to go to multiple classes a week, sometimes I went five times. I was dancing in grocery stores, looking up Zumba videos on You Tube to dance along to at night. I went to the same instructor’s class, and so I was getting all her moves and routines down, I was friendly with people in the class who also went a few times a week. I couldn’t believe I was exercising, for fun, before my coffee even!

I felt light, and happy and totally energized.

I bought fancy sports bras and new pants to hold in my gut, I didn’t care that I had to peel my clothes off after every class, or sometimes had to sit down slowly when suffering from what I called ‘zumba thighs’. I befriended the instructor, and when she was no longer teaching there, I became friendly with her replacement; talking about becoming a Zumba instructor myself, I was borderline obsessed and she offered to take me under her wing and show me the ropes and gave me info on where to sign up for different things.

I was totally on board.

Before that went anywhere, my schedule changed and I could really only make it to classes in the evening or on Saturdays, and those weren’t ideal.

Time passed and summer was almost over and I had my panniculectomy and spent eight weeks basically living on my couch. Every few days I would daydream about going back to Zumba, how much different it might feel now that this extra belly fat was gone, how I could finally get moving in the direction of becoming an instructor myself and sharing this exercise I actually enjoyed with other people. When the time came that I was cleared to exercise, it was also when I was cleared to go back to work, so again, not really ideal. I went to a few evening classes but it wasn’t the same as starting my day off with that jolt, there were no familiar faces, so again, it faded.

I don’t even know if I like it anymore. I’m sure I do but, I mean, if I truly did wouldn’t I have made the time for it? I don’t know if I used timing as an excuse or if it actually was a real constraint, but at the moment, it’s neither.

I have the freedom right now, and for possibly the next few weeks to get to some morning Zumba classes, so I”m gonna go. No pressure on myself to love it like I did, no idea that I am going to go and know all the moves ( I most certainly will not!), no concern about having the flabbiest arms flailing around or anyone paying attention to me.

I’m gonna take my free mornings, grab my water bottle and my little towel and I’m gonna go dance my ass off in that back row.

Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

 

 

nip // tuck

Earlier today I was trying to figure out how many remaining vacation days I have that may pay out when my current job ends in a few weeks.

In a conversation with a friend, I say “Aside from my sick days, I’m pretty sure I only took one day off this year, the day after I drove to NY. I also took a half day when I went to see my plastic surgeon, but I stayed late a few times to make up for it.”

Possibly the most bizarre sentence I ever uttered.

My plastic surgeon.

I guess it’s not that weird, but the way it just rolled off my tongue like you would say “my mechanic”, “my hairdresser”, or “my mailman.”

I’m like “Hey, you need something nipped or tucked? I know a guy!”

I let him mark me up, knock me out and cut off seven pounds of flabby excess skin and fat on my abdomen; we have plans to do it on other parts another time or two as well.

I’ve questioned my decision a few times, as I never thought of myself as a vain person, and I don’t care so much about how I look, but how I feel.

Last year I had a panniculectomy, which removed the flap of fat that, even after losing 80 pounds still disrupted any outfit I tried to wear, got in the way when I attempted running, hung around haunting me like a scar that wouldn’t fade –  and I was damn sure it almost flung off my body during Zumba once. Add in the rashes and general discomfort and I don’t feel so so bad about it.

Now that it’s gone though? My thighs are in plain sight to me and WOOF. Doughy, flabby, hangy; a little painful and a lot keeping me from shorts and too far above the knee skirts or dresses. Slapping and rubbing together eighty percent of the time.

My upper arms have been a source of frustration, sadness and severe sweating through the summers for as long as I could remember. I think I single handedly kept the production of Old Navy cardigans going because I was always buying them, in every color, year round. As they became smaller, they surprisingly only got worse; loose and hanging, getting pinched during hugs, noisily flapping doing almost anything and I merely traded cardigans for light zip ups and jean jackets.

I’ve thought about it, I’ve put off getting the surgery dates in the books but I’ve decided I’m not vain. I’m not trying to look like anyone else, or impress anyone. I’m just trying to be as comfortable as possible in the skin I worked so hard to deflate.

shhh!

I think everyone has what I refer to as situational anxiety on occasion. Some of us more than others, some of us more severely, or less severely than others. But, I definitely think that everyone experiences mild anxiety sometimes.

Like one morning a few weeks back, when I had to put air in my car tires and my brain played a scenario is which I over-filled the tires and one popped in my face and I died in the Speedway parking lot.

You can laugh, but I’m not kidding.

The whole drive over I was pep talking myself, like ‘Okay, but if you don’t put air in, one could pop while you’re driving on the highway today and you could die, or kill someone, so you really don’t have a choice…”

Or almost any time I use a sharp knife, I visualize accidentally cutting my finger off right before I use it. (Maybe that’s just weird, not anxiety)

I was prescribed medication for my not so situational, more like constant anxiety in 2014 and I took it for about a year, at which point I had lost a good portion of my excess weight, was on the verge of quitting my less than thrilling and somewhat stressful job, and my occasional depression was also under control.

In the first few days that I was taking said medication, I had my first visit with the surgeon who would eventually perform my gastric sleeve. In advance of the appointment, and really with any appointment you have with them, they encouraged you to bring a “support person” if that would ease any tension, or help you stay focused on any concerns or questions.

I never dragged Steve along to any of them, except the actual surgeon appointment. So he could ask any questions, and meet her prior to her removing half of my stomach.

In the days leading up to the appointment, I replayed the routine. Every appointment I had was the same, they weighed you.

Every time.

Every office.

Every appointment.

When I had back to back appointments I would sometimes be weighed multiple times in one afternoon.

I immediately tensed up.

He would be there.

He would see them weigh me.

He would see the giant digital output on the scale.

He can’t come with me.

He can’t see.

He can’t know.

I mean, in retrospect the whole thing was ridiculous, because we had been living together for a few years at this point and it’s not like I was head-to-toe Spanx all day every day and he didn’t know I was overweight.

Also, uhhhh, he was coming to a doctor’s appointment about having weight loss surgery.

Still.

The number.

The fear.

The shame.

The anxiety.

I sent an email to my surgeon’s physician assistant who I had met with before, and expressed my concern.

“I know this is going to sound silly…” I started out

“Don’t worry, it’s more common than you think and we will take your vitals privately” she noted in her response.

Whew.

The day of the appointment we go into the office an I go up to check in. I fill out the usual updates to the paperwork, and again, tell the girl at the desk about my concern regarding Steve learning my actual weight.

She laughs comfortingly, and tells me that they’ll take me in first for vitals, and then for the actual appointment they’ll call us both in.

Relief.

A few minutes later we are called in to meet my surgeon for the first time. I remember how perfect she looked; almost flawless with her pin straight hair, glossy manicure, all smiles and gold iPhone in hand.

We were fast friends, and Steve even teased her about her off the cuff drawing of a stomach. After our getting-to-know-you session, we got down to the facts and planning.

She reviewed my chart, almost gave me a heart attack before clarifying “something that is really concerning” (high a1C, indicative of future diabetes) and said that everything looked great and there were no red flags, so she was approving me.

“You’ll have a forty-eight hour liquid diet before surgery.”

“Not a problem”

“And I see here you have been working with Jill (my nutritionist) and have lost about six pounds, which is great”

Sweet, I thought, this is happening.

Steve and I nod approvingly at each other.

She continued, “Really just another pound or so should do it …”

“We have you at 271 today, so …..”

I cannot tell you anything she said at the end of the sentence because I was probably bell pepper red and if you touched my face it might have singed your skin while I was trying to figure out how to slide all two hundred seventy one pounds of myself off the couch onto the floor and out the damn door.

We walked eighty-seven miles to the parking garage, midway through he said “Are you psyched or what? You don’t seem as excited now that it’s happening”

I’m all “Bro (yea, I called him bro) she outed me! I made sure everyone we saw today knew not to say my weight out loud”

Walk, walk, walk.

“You were worried about that? Pffft, I didn’t even hear her, what’d she say?”

He heard her, he had to have.

I laugh.

“What, 171? I really didn’t hear”

“Yea, 171”

“Who cares, you’re approved”

We high five.

He opens the passenger door for me and kisses my forehead.

Thanks, bro.

 

 

 

easy way out

You don’t need to have been overweight at any point in your life, or even known anyone who was to have heard someone reference weight loss surgery in some way, shape or form.

The truth is, it has become somewhat of a regular thing. Celebrities, presidential hopefuls, grandmas, men, hell, there is even a whole television series about people trying to have bariatric surgery.

I think it’s fair to say that the subject is no longer taboo.

I seem to be, unfortunately, in the minority when it comes to the type of care I received from my bariatric surgeon. She heads a team that includes nutritionists and behavioral health professionals. While I was referred to her by my primary doctor, it wasn’t a one shot deal. I had to have, before almost anything, a full day at the hospital which included labs, an orientation full of presentations and a psychological evaluation. After the surgery, which was about six months later, I was scheduled for a half dozen appointments with each person on my care team over the next two years.

A large portion of the people I have met or come to know on this journey, did not have this same program, or, from what I can tell, any sort of program at all.

They had a doctor, who sent them to a surgeon, who cut out a portion of their stomach, or rerouted some things and sent them on their way.

Some of them are gaining weight, some of them never lost as much as they wanted or had hoped to and in some cases it’s a lack of guidance from the jump. They ask other people for tips, they google, they get a nutritionist, they read a book, they find a new doctor. They put the work in.

In other cases, it’s that they took the easy way out.

I roll my eyes or scoff any time I read or hear someone refer to weight loss surgery as the “easy way out” because so many things I have done in life to try to lose weight were easy in comparison to surgery.

There is however, this idea that having surgery just lets you lose weight; that you don’t have to work hard, or you don’t have to change your habits or exercise or do anything except pay the operating room co-pay. Some of these people – that’s what they thought was happening, they thought the were signing up for a quick magic trick where they can just keep eating like the dumpster behind a mall food court and get skinny.

For starters, if your sole reason for having bariatric surgery is to “get skinny”, maybe get yourself a therapist and work some things out first, because that’s not a healthy goal. (I say this as an aspiring therapist, and a person who loves therapy, not as a dig!) The whole process is really about so much more than just losing pounds; you are resetting your metabolism, you are breaking bad habits, beating cravings, lowering your cholesterol, decreasing your blood pressure and a dozen or so more things; the “skinny”, the feeling good in your clothes, in your skin, not hating seeing yourself in pictures and mirrors? Icing on the cake!

Anyway, these people, the easy way out ones are basically perpetuating the stigma that people like me got a little snip n’ stitch job and that’s why I lost weight.

It’s not. Did that help? Exponentially, because of the reasons above, because I truly wanted to make a change, and where my guidance may have faltered (it didn’t) I was dedicated enough to keep it going.

I mean, I spent a lot of time going to pre-op appointments, a lot of money on co-pays and vitamins and protein powder and I let someone cut out eighty percent of my stomach, why wouldn’t I commit to myself

I don’t care what other people do, honestly, it’s not my business; they’re not hurting me or changing my progress/success. BUT they are  making the rest of us look bad, and they’re possibly ruining it for people who truly want to make the change.

In a year or two when insurance companies are looking at the success rates of these surgeries and see them not being as successful, they will stop covering them or make them harder to get covered. Which is unfair, and inaccurate because it’s not the procedure, it’s the patient that’s not successful.

I’m not saying don’t do it.

I’m probably one of the biggest advocates I know for bariatric surgery; I spill my guts to strangers, suggest it to people who are where I was, I delight in the notification every time I get an email from the hospital about another person I can be a mentor to. I want everyone who wants it, to have the experience I had, I know it’s not realistic, but I put myself out there for it, because it worked, because I worked it. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

What I am saying is, If you’re going to do it, DO IT.

I’m not up on my soapbox like I’m some perfect person who never makes a questionable choice; I eat pretty much everything, but in serious moderation, and I’m also almost three years out.

For 21 days after leaving the hospital I lived on full liquids, I didn’t dare deviate from the plan I was given to follow. I asked for help, I paid for it, I followed the rules. I cringe at posts from people eating chili from Wendy’s 4 days post op, “trying” a burger and fries a month after, eating ice cream as a “liquid” or pureeing foods that just don’t belong in a blender so it fits their current stage of eating.

The truth, as they told me in one of my zillion pre-op appointments is that in the first few months, the “honeymoon” period, the weight will come off seemingly on its own. You could ‘fill your sleeve’ they said ‘with mountain dew and snickers’ and you would still lose something because of the sheer lack of space – but you’d be sorry later.

Sorry when your weight loss stalls, when you’re still addicted to sugar, when you’re almost right back where you started, save for a few dozen pounds.

You’ll be sorry and you’ll say it didn’t work, and you’ll blame some outside factor and  you’ll feel stuck and you’ll want a revision or a different procedure and you’ll try again, sort of.

You’re taking the the easy way out by not following the rules and it will get you nowhere.

 

jae 2.0

I knew this guy once who was a total dick. I mean, he was our friend and we all loved him but he was a dick. Super fun, always up for a good time and totally loyal, but also mouthy, condescending, always joking and button pushing, drinking one too many, miserable half the time; dick.

A few years went by and he started dating someone, came out to his friends and family and wasn’t a dick anymore. Just like that. It was like a huge weight that just made him a miserable prick half the time was lifted and now he was getting to be himself, just loving life.

I get it.

If you asked anyone from high school, or in my slew of waitress jobs over the years to describe me, at least one of their chosen adjectives would be “loud” followed by “crazy” or “goofy” and let’s be frank, “bitchy”.

Really anyone in my life longer than the last five years could tell you about my mood swings, my on and off shitty attitude, my general dislike, of, well, anything.

I spent my twenties and a good portion of my thirties hating things.

Most people, most places, most jobs, most situations.

Everyone was stupid, everything was a chore or a waste of time.

Why the fuck does this woman need extra tomatoes on her burger?!

stomp stomp stomp

Why is the phone ringing?!

slam slam slam

God forbid someone asked me to do anything, WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!

long exasperated sigh

On (more than) one occasion I remember taking my arm and wiping it across my entire desk, or bathroom counter knocking everything to the floor out of aggravation. I once even did it to my brother’s desk.

I had a conversation with a manager at a job one time who told me, and I quote “You have a cancerous tone; you make your coworkers feel small and stupid” and all I could do was agree, and confirm that they were.

I yelled at my now sister-in-law for sitting in “my seat” at the dinner table once.

I have thrown more coffees, fast food burgers and other random food items out of my car window than I can even count; not because I liked to litter, but because I hated everything and god forbid the food or drink I ordered didn’t meet my expectations it enraged me.

I wish I was exaggerating.

I was subconsciously miserable, but brash.

I would get angry over the dumbest shit.

So dumb in fact, when something I had a tantrum over in recent years comes up, Steve and I debate the legitimacy of the tantrum … sometimes the stomping, crying and shouting was justified, but for the most part it usually ends with a “well, you were/I was fat, so that makes sense”

I picture angry obese me as a hunched over hag with silly or annoying things landing on my humpback and literally depressing me.

I’m not saying that I lost a bunch of weight and all of a sudden nobody annoys me or I’m so at peace that everything rolls of my back.

It doesn’t. There are still people and behaviors that bother me, and things that piss me off, but they don’t crush me. They aren’t extra weight now, they’re just fleeting things.

I’m still me, but standing up straight and lighter in so many ways.

I’ve gotta say it’s a much better way to live.

 

 

 

going for it.

I have been obsessed with writing for as long as I can remember.

Brutally truthful things, pieces of fiction, poems that rhymed perfectly (more that didn’t), a collection of sarcastic thank you notes to people who did me wrong or hurt me that I was building into a book.

I mean, anything and everything.

When I was in elementary school and stayed home sick, I would take a stack of loose leaf paper and “work on my book”.  Scrawled in purple pen (that may have smelled like grapes!) I would get about a chapter in throughout the day. Always the same story about a girl who falls in love with her best friends brother and the details of them all hanging out after school.

Sort of a ‘Saved by the Bell’ meets ‘90210’ before either had been a thing.

[Sidenote: I’ve never had a friend whose brother I was interested in.]

[Uh, actually, now that I wrote that I remember it’s not true. Hi, Nicole!]

Anyway, my love affair with writing and chronicling things has gone on since I could properly hold a pen. So, it’s not surprising that in 1996 when I went to college I chose Journalism as my major.

I was going to write books. I was going to publish things. I was going to have my own line of greeting cards. Online diaries and blogs weren’t a thing at that point, but I’d come to have them, too.

So, here I am in the writing studio of my [first] college in New York and I just wasn’t into it. I didn’t want to write what I was told to, or how I was told to, I just wanted to do it. I was only a semester into it and I knew it was my hobby and I shouldn’t make it a career, I should keep it “my thing” and let it evolve organically.

I was also only seventeen and probably didn’t know shit about shit, but I was mostly right about this.

I had some friends and surveyed what they were doing and decided to take a psychology course the following semester as an elective.

Three chapters and a half a dozen assignments later I was hooked. Dr. Heath, who, in my memory looked like Ned Flanders and wore argyle sweaters, was the best. For me, his class was sort of like the feeling you get when you eat for the first time after being hungry all day. He served up the tastiest look at the world around me.

People are ridiculous. People are wonderful. People are assholes. People are selfless. People are fascinating!

I ended up transferring to a community college back at home where I piled on the Psychology electives. I was enthralled; I was diagnosing people in my head, in conversations with others and of course my usual introspection was in overdrive.

When my family moved to Wisconsin and I started school there, I declared Psychology as my major. I had an awesome advisor (Hi CB!) and he guided me to the right path for finishing my degree in a reasonable amount of time (I was ready to “get it over with” it’d been a several years long process at this point) and resources to pursue Psychology after I graduated, with the goal of becoming a therapist.

I love therapy.

I love talking, I love dissecting, I love analyzing.

I love ah-ha moments.

I love self care.

I love the process of unraveling our thoughts and feelings and putting them back together in a neater, but sometimes temporary way.

I love change, I love personal growth for me, for you, for whoever wants it.

I was going to be a therapist.

Oh, wait.

I was someone who wears the same black blouse every day with jeans because it’s the only outfit that feels comfortable and “looks good”.

Who was going to listen to me?

Seriously, if you went to a hairdresser with a bad ‘do, are you letting them near your hair?

Dentist with snaggly teeth? Tattoo artist with shaky hands?

I decided it wasn’t going to be a good fit after all, and decided to embrace a previous path I had considered; law school. I batted it around, took the grueling admissions test and wasn’t accepted into the programs I’d hoped.

More consulting with my advisor. Went for graduate work in Criminal Justice, to boost my applications; to show my stuff, to prove myself. I was going to reapply to law school after that.

It’s 2008, I’m reviewing application requirements. I’m over it. I’m tired, I’m waitressing, I’m fatter. I’m not going to stand up in a court room and be in the spotlight like this, I have minimal confidence (though I don’t show it much).

I don’t know what I’m going to do, who I’m going to be.

I’m just gonna live my life.

I’m a waitress. I’m a nanny. I’m a girlfriend. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I’m a friend. I am many things to many people.

I’m nothing.

Not all ‘woe is me, I’m nothing” but I’m not contributing to the world in a specific way. I keep saying to people that I want to be something.

I’m up and down for years soul searching, trying to figure out who and what I really am.

As I lost weight, I gained perspective.

When I’m just a few months post op from my weight loss surgery, I attend a support group. I am the most upbeat person there, I share everything, I offer insight to others, I am fully me.

I walk to my car ten feet tall, I feel better about me, I helped people feel better about them.

The group leader asks me to keep coming because my “energy is good for others”, so I do.

Then I am asked to partake in a heath expo at the hospital and speak as part of a panel, I jump at the chance.

I’m invited to join the mentor program; I am contacted via email and text by pre and post op patients picking my brain, asking for tips and guidance.

I’m encouraged by my medical team to be as involved in the process which others as I can. At my two year visit my surgeon asks “What next?”

I think for a second, “Dream job? Hang out at the hospital and talk to people about their lives, surgery or not. I mean, that’s not a job, but that’s the dream”

Turns out, it kind of is a job.

And I’m going to make it mine.

In a little over a month I’m starting my first round of classes toward my degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m finally doing the damn thing.

 

 

skin(ny) jeans

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been on some kind of diet for like, eighty percent of my life.

Sometime in 2003 I’m thinking, it was another repeat Induction phase of the Atkins diet. Baggies of pepperoni slices and cheese cubes in my bag for summer classes, flavored seltzer in addition to my water and all the bunless bacon cheeseburgers and sides of broccoli I wanted before and after my shifts at Chili’s.

Chili’s, where I worked more hours than I wanted to but had some good times for sure. I also met some great people, some of whom I’m still in touch with. Chili’s is also where I met my friend Lindsay. Petite, blonde, super smart, runner’s body Lindsay.

We spent countless Friday nights going on dates to the movies and Panera and talking about everything from philosophy to celebrity news. She didn’t have my same boyfriend troubles, or diet woes but she always followed along and offered her advice.

On this particular summer day I am down about thirteen pounds and wearing bright colored plaid capri pants, sitting at a back table at work eating a burger before my shift.

Lindsay walks in, also early with an armful of jeans.

“Hey, I brought you some of my old jeans to try”

I stare at her, replaying the sentence in my head, because she couldn’t have said that.

“Come on, lets go try them on”

“Hah, uhhhh they’re not gonna fit me dude, but I’ll take them home and try them if that will please you” (followed by an eye roll and a laugh)

“No, were both here early, you have to change anyway, let’s just try them now”

I finish my lunch, and bring my plate and cup into the kitchen, Lindsay in tow.

Before I know it were in the bathroom. Me in the stall, Lindsay outside of it, handing me a pair of jeans over the top of the door.

Thirteen pounds down or not, that stall was not conducive to me using it as a dressing room; toilet paper dispenser jutting out of the wall, dark paint, low light, the whole thing is so dramatic feeling.

First pair.

“Dude these are like a size 4, are you crazy?”

“Just try them, they’re stretchy”

“Stretchy enough to fit a size 16?! I don’t think so”

I get the one leg on, up to maybe, my kneecap.

“Nope”

“You’re not even tryyyyyyying

She was right, I mean, I wasn’t. I couldn’t try to stuff two hundred some odd pounds into a pair of jeans that had spent their life being worn by someone seven sizes smaller than me.

It doesn’t work that way.

I fling the jeans over the door “Are you satisfied? They’re not gonna fit”

No reply.

Rustling.

The jeans disappear from the top of the door.

“Linds….?”

Another pair of jeans is flung over the door.

“These are definitely stretchier, try them!”

I don’t grab the pants, they slide a little further over the door, I know she pushed them, so resisting is futile.

This pair, okay, I got them up. To, ya know, the bottom of my thighs.

I shimy.

I shake.

I’m practically Ross in that friends episode with the leather pants.

Sweat is pooling on my forehead.

On my shoulders.

The pits of my knees are hot, moist.

They’re stuck.

This fucking pair of jeans that I have no business trying on are stuck.

My poor ham hock calves are having the life squeezed out of them by “stretchy” denim.

They’re like skin.

Melded to my actual skin.

I don’t know where they end and I begin.

“Oh man”

“Yea, they fit?”

“Noooooooooooooo. Good God no”

She laughs.

“But I think I’ll keep them”

“Oh yea?”

“YEA BECAUSE THEY ARE FUCKING STUCK AND I’LL HAVE TO CUT THEM OFF TO EVER BREATHE AGAIN SO I’D RATHER THEM BELONG TO ME WHEN I DESTROY THEM”

Laughter.

So.

Much.

Laughter.

My sweaty hand tries to grip the wall, while I use my other hand, and foot to peel the now damp denim down my body.

Scratching my skin all the way, it peels down, rolling over on itself.

Slowly.

Soooooo slowly.

One leg down.

I’m so hot.

I mean, I’m getting a workout here in this 2×2 box.

My legs are pink. No, red, and puffy.

I change into my work shirt and my actually fitting size 16 jeans that I brought along from the safety of my own home. I wet my face, blot every part of me dry and still laughing, we go out to clock in.

A group of our coworkers are standing near the computers.

“Oh I thought I saw you earlier, I wondered where you went” one of them says to me.

“Yea, I came after class and had lunch, and then Lindsay wanted me to try on a few pairs of her old jeans”

Silence.

Slow eye movement spread through the group.

Each trying to determine if her jeans would in fact fit me, knowing in their hearts there was no damn way.

“Come onnnnnnnn” I say “Seriously?!”

A final eye roll from me and we’re all laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

let’s [maybe] talk

A friend of mine used to work in a pharmacy and I would tease her for fitting it into any conversation she could; Person opening a cough drop, lady at Bath & Body Works pushing hand sanitizer, cashier in a clothing store.

That’s me now.

I’m so obsessed with the way my life and my opinion of myself has changed since having weight loss surgery that I can’t not talk about it.

I have talked about it with the guys in Vitamin Shoppe, the member services gal at BJ’s, my hair stylist, a cashier at the grocery store and the lady taking my order at Five Guys.

In addition to a slew of people on Instagram, Obesity Help, Real Self and anyone who even hints at being curious. I’m a mentor for the pre-op and post-op patients for the Weight and Wellness Center at my hospital, I’ve spoken on a panel (& will again in October!) at an expo they held. I’m starting classes for counseling in the fall, I’m reading up on taking additional courses for bariatric counseling certification specifically.

I’m into it.

I wanna talk about it.

With everyone.

Well, almost.

Regardless where you went for surgery, or are considering going, there are very similar guidelines post-op. Things like no soda, no drinking while you eat, no solid food for about 2 weeks after; there are stages of eating that you go through and they’re pretty standard.

I can’t hear any more about my girlfriends boss who had the surgery a less than a year ago and a month out was “so hungry” that he had to have a cheeseburger and fries, and complained about how sick he felt after, but continued to eat that way after.

I can’t discuss our progress with a girlfriend who over lunch about a year post-op for both of us got a huge fountain soda and when I (casually) inquired about her drinking soda she said “Oh its fine, they just tell you that but they don’t really mean it”

I can’t offer any more advice to someone who questioned me to death about everything and then four days after their surgery, still healing, swollen stapled up stomach, ate six meatballs, even if “they were really mushed up”.

I sound cold maybe, but these are the people stereotypes come from.

The people who make others think this is “the easy way out”, people who aren’t committed to making changes, people who want a “quick fix”.

To be fair, some may have issues deeper than I am currently equipped to see them through, or deeper than they are even aware of. There’s some leeway there.

It’s been almost three years, but it’s a lifelong thing. On a patient and personal – not yet professional level – I’m serious about my commitment to myself, to the process, to the changes. If you are, or think you are or want to be, or are just curious, we can totally talk about it.

Everyone gets a chance; but some people are just window shopping for advice, and I don’t have time for that.