Monday, March 10, 2014
Confession: I eat a LOT of extra sugar. More importantly, I didn't realize just HOW MUCH sugar I ate on a regular basis until a few days ago.
Late last week, I didn't feel good. I had been recovering from a cold, and I had this inflamed feeling in my nose, throat, and lungs. It's a similar feeling to one I get when I've had too much sugar, so I felt very sweeted-out. I started looking back through my food logs to evaluate how much sugar I'd been eating.
What I found appalled me - 300 to 800 calories of my daily diet were coming from sugar, and that doesn't include fruit, or foods (like bread and pasta) which are essentially sugar. To be fair, it was my birthday week, so there had been a lot of treats around. I told myself this, and kept going back through February. A few days before my birthday, the sugar dropped off to almost nothing. Relief...until I realized that a good 200-400 calories from those days were coming from potato chips (Salt & Vinegar Kettle chips, to be precise). I was apparently craving salty junk food instead of sugary junk food that week.
So, of course, this is me, and I decided to run numbers. Without getting into the painfully excruciating details, the bottom line is that since the beginning of 2014, anywhere from 20-30% of my daily diet, on average, has come from extraneous junk food. About 90% of that extraneous junk food has come from sugar. Chocolate. Doughnuts. Brownies. Cake. Sugary cereal. Larabars. Cookies. Ice cream. Etc.
I'm having no problem maintaining my weight, even with all the extra calories from junk food. I'm not overeating - I'm in my calorie range most days - but obviously, my calories are NOT coming from the richest of sources. A fifth to a third of calories coming from junk food? That's a LOT of empty nutrition! And that REALLY needs to stop.
Furthermore, while I was number-crunching, I went ahead and looked into some of the times on Spark when I was losing weight unusually quickly (for me, 2 lbs/wk is unusually quick). Every single time, my sugar consumption was significantly reduced, even when my calorie and exercise levels remained constant. By "significantly reduced," I mean that less than 10% of my diet came from extraneous sugar - often even less than 5%. I even found evidence that sugar alone - rather than salty junk like fries and chips - was the real culprit. Back in February last year, about 16% of my daily diet came from junk food, but only half of that from sugar, and I lost weight FAST that month, when I hadn't lost an ounce for months beforehand.
I've never been a big believer in paleo-type diets. I've seen them work for other people, but whenever I've tried cutting out grains and beans and such, I get sick - probably because of a significant increase in protein combined with the fact that I have a high-blood-iron disorder. Also, I just don't believe that brown rice, quinoa, and beans are bad for the human body. However, I DO think there's something to be said about the idea of eating paleo/primal regarding its total restriction of non-fruit sugar, and I wonder just how many of the good benefits of these sorts of diets have their roots not just in discovering food intolerances, but in eliminating sugar from the diet completely.
Either way, for me, this is an addiction that needs to stop. Now. Even if I'm maintaining my weight without a problem, I know that this much sugar in my diet is NOT good for me. Especially as I didn't seem to have any idea that I was eating so much of the stuff. So yesterday, I started a personal six-week challenge (roughly coordinating to the Lenten season, though I'm agnostic and don't celebrate Lent) to keep my sugar levels below 10% daily, if not significantly less than that. There will be exception days - my youngest son's 10th birthday is coming up, for instance - but I will try to keep those as few and far between as possible. I also won't eliminate sugar 100%, because I'll rebel against myself if I try. Best to still allow a Dove Promise every once in awhile! Additionally, while my consumption of other junk, like chips and fries, is far less of a problem than the sugar consumption, I will try to keep this stuff out of my diet during this time as well. The challenge will end on April 19th (the day before Easter).
I don't know if I'll lose weight during this challenge. Personal history tells me that I might, but the emphasis here will be on improving my health and breaking a sugar addiction, rather than on the scale moving. If I lose a few pounds, that'll just be an added bonus. I've opened up my food journal to the public (My Fitness Pal, username pookasluagh just like here) for full transparency during this challenge. Also, I'm happy to say my husband is going to join me on this challenge - though his focus will be on tracking calories in general, rather than eliminating sugar. Still, it helps to have support!
I'll keep everyone updated. Wish me luck! An addiction to sugar is TOUGH to beat!
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Originally, I'd planned to write a recovery post for weeks 4-6, but not much has happened since my last one. My scar grew a little purple there for awhile but has mostly calmed down. I've been putting silicon-based scar cream on it per doctor's orders, which has helped it to lighten a bit. I still have belly-numbness, but my cat can sit in my lap again, which is nice. Also, in my 6th week, I started getting a lot of internal pain on my upper right core muscles. I worried that I'd developed a hernia or something, but it must have just been the internal stitches dissolving, because after about 10 days, it went away completely.
At 6 weeks post-op, I started taking off the abdominal binder for a couple hours at a time, until I felt like I needed to put it back on. I did this for about a week, and then one day I didn't need the binder all day, even when I exercised, and a couple days later, I didn't need it at night anymore, either. So I'm completely free of the binder now! The whole belly area is still tender, slightly numb, and tight around the incision, but it's probably 95% better. I saw my doctor yesterday at 7.5 weeks post-op, and he's happy with my progress, and won't see me again for two months. At that point, he'll see if my skin is ready to have the last little section of skin (the part with the vertical slit) excised, which will be done in office. That's apparently pretty minor, though, and in the intervening time, I'm pretty much cleared to do everything now. I just have to ease myself back into full activity, and keep babying my stomach for a time (still no major core exercises right away). I can do that.
Despite not being at 100% healed, I wanted to put up my "after" post. The swelling in my belly has gone down completely except around the incision, and that bump should eventually flatten as well. I'm pretty much at the size/shape I will be post-surgery, so I can finally take true before/after photos. This post will be long and very picture-heavy, not because I want to show off, but because I want to emphasize just how much of a difference this surgery has made for me, both physically AND mentally. A few people have...hinted...that surgery wasn't the answer, that it was cheating in some way, that I didn't really need it...and I disagree. My abdomen, both skin and muscles, had been severely damaged by my three pregnancies, and this really WAS the only answer for me. Yes, it was a major surgery. Yes, it was extremely expensive. Yes, it was painful and the recovery difficult. But! Yes, it was absolutely, 100% worth it.
First, so others can read about my story up to this point (if they haven't already), I'm going to include links to the other posts in this series. Then, I'll start in with photos.
Part I - Before: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Part II - Surgery: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Part III - Recovery, Week 1: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Part IV - Recovery, Weeks 2-3: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Now, to pictures. I'll start with my body, and the way it has changed through this process.
The most obvious comparison photos are of my belly itself, front and side. Surgery removed 2.5 lbs of skin (no fat, just skin), and moved my core muscles in five inches (!!!). As you can see, very little about the sides of my abdomen changed - I still kept the same shape, and still have some excess fat in that area. It's only the front portion that changed. I've included the scar in these so you can see what it looks like at 6 weeks post-op. It will get lighter in time. The side picture is a bit deceptive with regards to my back, because my arms are up instead of down. It looks as if the skin removal tightened my back skin/fat so that it no longer has that extra fold. It didn't - if I put my arms down, I still have a crease there like in the before picture - but the crease IS diminished. I didn't realize that this surgery would affect my back skin at all, but it did:
It's not a HUGE change, but it's a definite change, and I believe this is one of the big reasons why my wedding dress fits now when it didn't before at the same weight.
I took two photos the day before the surgery. In them, I didn't suck my stomach in, or try to pose in a way that would keep my belly as hidden as possible (two things I normally did for photos). I chose clothes that are particularly prone to show off my stomach, because I wanted people to see what I lived with day in and day out before surgery. I used to have to choose my clothes carefully, and because I never wore body-shapers, I was constantly aware of where my belly was situated. At six weeks post-op, I took photos in the exact same clothes, and again, didn't suck in or anything. Other than the 2.5-lb skin removal, there is no difference in weight between the before and after photos.
This really shows the difference pre- and post-surgery! It was a far greater difference than I expected. I lost 4 inches from my natural waist, at least 4 inches from my lower waist (will likely be ~5 inches after the bump around the incision goes down), and half an inch around my hips. Seeing the difference was...incredible. And it made me want to take some other comparisons, just to see how other clothes fit now, post-op.
Before: Late November, sucked in and positioned to minimize my belly as much as possible, size 12 pants
After: 6 weeks post-op, same weight/shirt, no sucking in, size 8 pants
I actually weighed a couple pounds LESS in the before photos here, but that dress would not zip up any higher than that. Now, it zips easily.
Before: March 2013 after I hit a healthy BMI, sucking in, weighing about 2 lbs more than now
After: 6 weeks post-op, exact same clothes, no sucking in - look at how flat those shorts are now!!!!!
Before: March 2013 - same as previous before photo
After: 6 weeks post-op, no sucking in, same shirt, but these shorts now fall right off if I put them on!
These are some really good comparisons - but they don't tell the full story, because other than those two taken the day before my surgery, all my "before" photos were sucking in, consciously trying to minimize my belly as much as possible. Back in September, however, I took a series of very honest photos in some "goal clothes." I am so glad I did, because those pictures now make for some of the absolute best comparison photos, in terms of really seeing the difference that surgery has made. In all these next photos, I weigh a mere 2 lbs more than I do now. Because they were completely honest pictures, there's no sucking in or manipulating angles or positions. The after photos are the same in terms of honestly - except they look better, haha! :D
This was what I considered my goal shirt. To be fair, it still doesn't fit me. It's WAY too tight across the bust and under my arms, and it looks horrible from the front. However, it fits my belly now! And WOW what a change from the side! I never thought to take honest side photos when I took those two pre-op photos above. I'm glad I have this one, so I can really see the difference from the side.
Size 12 pants. These weren't goal pants, but were my normal pants pre-surgery. I had to wear them high, so my belly-fold wouldn't fall out, and they were still tight depending on the day. I took these pictures with the goal pics because I bought a size 10 and size 8 in the same brand/style, and wanted a full comparison spread. Currently, those size 12 pants might LOOK like they fit in the after photo, but they're actually hanging off me, back pockets on my thighs...
Size 10 pants. In the before picture, they zipped/buttoned comfortably, but looked ugly as it squished up all that extra skin. I NEVER would have worn them anywhere. Currently, they fit absolutely perfectly! They're just slightly loose, which is fine by me as I like my jeans slightly loose, and they sit exactly where I prefer my pants on my waist.
Size 8 pants. To be honest, I was surprised I could button these in the before photos. They REALLY squished my skin up, and they were uncomfortably tight. In the after photo, they seem to fit perfect, though in truth, they're still *slightly* too tight for my liking. I have a feeling once the incision-bump flattens out, though, they'll fit the way I like them! And really, this comparison shows just how much extra SKIN was on my abdomen, more than any of the other comparisons.
This surgery really has just smoothed everything out. I feel like I have a shape now, rather than being a shapeless series of lumps and bumps in the middle. It's a great feeling! I'm also so much less self-conscious now, not worrying all the time if my belly looks okay. The first time I sat down without the binder on and my stomach didn't fall over onto my thighs? Best. Feeling. Ever. I don't care what the naysayers might try to tell me. I'm so glad I finally made this decision and went through with it. As I said above, totally 100% worth it.
Monday, March 03, 2014
I don't usually do a whole lot for my birthday, but there are some years when the day feels significant for some reason. This was one of those years, and so my husband put together a full birthday weekend for me! It was very sweet of him. :)
The weekend started with a walk with fellow sparker and IRL friend Stephanie (INEEDACAT9). Got to get the party started right, with some fitness to balance out birthday treats, right? Jason planned a day of treats I don't normally get to have anymore, because of their inherent gluten-ness. Sausage kolaches, beef empanadas, brownies with cookies-and-cream ice cream and home-made chocolate sauce, all gluten-free varieties! It was fantastic.
At lunch that day, Jason and the boys sang happy birthday to me, and gave me my presents. Apparently, they decided they were throwing me a "vice party" this year - we often have themed birthdays - and bought me fun new k-cups, a new k-cup tray to put under my Keurig, a bottle of sparkling red wine, some Bailey's Irish cream, cookie-dough-flavored peanut butter, lots of chocolates, and a gift card to Victoria's Secret that I'm looking forward to spending now that my stomach is all repaired. :D
In the afternoon, we all went to the thrift store, where I found several new fantastic outfits to add to my budding wardrobe. Note: I was incredibly excited to try on size 8 and size 10 pants instead of 12s and 14s. I was even more excited with most of the 8s fit, but most of the 10s did not, though to be honest, the 10s must have been in strange brands, because the ones that didn't fit were all SMALLER than the 8s...
That's one of the outfits I got - LOVE that shirt, and those are my second pair of skinny jeans, haha! These ones were (bizarrely) incredibly comfortable and soft. I'm not used to the idea of "skinny jeans" and "comfortable" referring to the same piece of clothing! My boys all bought new outfits as well, from a "Talk Nerdy To Me" t-shirt for my oldest, to a formal vest and tie for my middle son, to a green-pants-and-green-sweater St. Patrick's Day ensemble for my youngest. Plus, I got the first of the 12 fun coffee cups I plan to collect this year.
Most of the evening was spent reading, just enjoying some off-time. I managed not to overeat despite the birthday treats. Then, on Sunday morning, the celebrations started all over again. And, as I did the day before, I started the day out with fitness to try to counter-balance the day's treats. I ran my first full mile post-op, just at an easy pace that I knew I could keep up for longer than a mile if I had to. I was surprised that I came in at 11:18, which I think is pretty good for not having really run for two months and for being seven weeks post-op!
The big party began in the afternoon - a spa party! I've never been to a spa before, except for a semi-spa on a cruise, so this was a very new experience for me. The idea has been flitting around my head for the last few months, but it was Jason who took charge of making it happen. He invited everyone, he set up the appointments, everything. I went with my cousin Jen, my cousin-in-law Gina, my stepmom Lauren, and my half-sister Julia. I know it might seem a little weird that I invited all family, rather than friends, but my family is very, very close. Like, I saw my cousins every weekend kind of close. They're my best friends - MORE than best friends. They feel like part of me. I knew this had to be a small party - we don't have THAT much money! - so instead of trying to pick and choose friends and feeling bad about who I could and couldn't invite, I made this a family affair.
Jen, Gina, me (in another of my new thrift store outfits!), Lauren, Julia
It turned out wonderful! We all sat around in a plush lobby smelling of patchouli, wearing fluffy white robes while we waited our turn for massages (except Julia, who as a minor had to get a pedicure instead, though she really enjoyed that). I got a deep tissue massage, while the other three got Swedish massages. It was fantastic! I really enjoyed the experience, and my masseur worked really deep into a lot of the muscles around my hips and legs, which have really needed it! All of us - except Julia of course - came out of our massage rooms with messy hair from the scalp portions, so we all look a bit flyaway in the above picture, haha!
During the hours spent at the spa, the weather turned drastically. We were all wearing short sleeves and flip flops, and very few of us brought jackets. The cold front wasn't supposed to come in until the middle of the night! By the time we left the spa, however, it was in the 30s out. Eek! Jen and Gina had other places to be, but Lauren, Julia, and I rushed next door to California Pizza Kitchen, where they now have a few gluten-free pizzas! Lauren has celiac, so we split a gf pizza. It was delicious! And my first REAL pizza since going gluten-free nearly six months ago. Woohoo! Afterwards, the two of them went to get frozen yogurt, but it was WAY too cold for me, and I could feel that something was blowing in with the cold front, giving me a tingle in my throat.
Alas, I was right, and this morning I have a pretty nasty head cold, boo. At least it waited until my birthday weekend was over!! It was a perfect weekend, absolutely fantastic. I saw friends and family, got to do many of my favorite things, had some great new experiences, and managed to maintain my weight despite tons of party treats. Woohoo! A great welcome to age 35. :)
Friday, February 28, 2014
The end of another month! February went okay for me. I'm keeping up with my 10% goals, and I'm still at 100% for keeping gluten out of my diet this year, at least when it comes to food. I have some suspicion that an OTC medicine I started taking early in the month might have had slight traces of gluten (the company won't say either way), and after a few weeks of mild gluten-related symptoms, I finally switched brands. That's made some improvement in my sleep and skin and such already! For the whole month, I had a deficit of 5794 calories (tracked every day), which should equal 1.66 lbs lost, but I actually gained 0.2 lbs this month. I have a feeling gluten might have been the culprit for that, too, as the scale has started dropping again since switching brands (it was up 1.8 lbs before switching). In any case, I'm still hanging right around my body's happy weight and basically maintained this month, and that's okay by me!
Both my one-year maintenance anniversary and my third sparkversary passed in the last week, so I think it's time to make goals for this upcoming year on Spark. Just to make things easier to track (especially for monthly goals), I'm setting this as a March 1st to February 28th thing. These goals are meant to keep me connected to Spark as I maintain my loss, as well as to keep me strong/fit and help foster my new sense of body-freedom and self-acceptance. They should be both challenging and fun!
1. I would like to get in 20,000 fitness minutes this year. This will ensure I stay active, and give me a challenging but flexible fitness goal. That many minutes translates to roughly 1667/month, 385/week, or 55/day. For the last two years, I've been averaging around 1200/month, so it's time to up my game! I know I can do it, though, because I averaged 2000/month in my first year on Spark!
2. I will host a challenge or meetup on my local Sparkteam every month. My local team is amazing and has been a huge contributor to my success, and I would like to give that back to others as much as I can.
3. I will participate in 4-6 official 5Ks. In the past, I've rarely signed up for official 5Ks because it's hard to justify spending the money when I can just walk/run on my own, but I really do love contributing to causes I believe in, as well as participating in this sort of event. It's time to let go of the money-guilt!
4. I will go to my local thrift story and buy a few pieces of awesome clothes every month. (Yes, I'm one of those people who adores thrift and vintage stores FAR more than regular retailers.) Now that I'm happy with my size, it's time to start building a real wardrobe for the first time in years!
5. I will take new family portraits sometime during this year (perhaps close to Christmas?). I have portraits that were taken at my highest weight, and also from after I'd lost the first 50 lbs, but I've put off a new set because I wasn't at my final goal. No more! It's time!!
So those are my five goals for this upcoming year on Spark, to start tomorrow. Now, because tomorrow also happens to be my 35th birthday (woohoo! I can just FEEL that 35 is going to be a good year for me!), I've made myself a list of 35 fun things to do at age 35. A friend of mine does this every year for her birthday, and I love it! I'm finally following her example. So, before I turn 36, I want to:
- become a level 20 sparker (I'm so close!!)
- post a vlog
- host a dinner party
- attend a street festival
- travel out of state
- meet up with an old friend I haven't seen in a long time
- go to a spa
- shop at Victoria's Secret
- try a new to me restaurant
- attend a play
- get a massage
- play badminton
- explore a new to me park
- go for a challenging hike
- take my kids swimming
- try a climbing wall
- roller skate for the first time in 20+ years
- try a new to me gluten free cereal
- try a new to me gluten free packaged dessert
- attempt to bake a difficult gluten free item (bread, doughnut, etc)
- bake gluten free muffins
- make homemade ice cream
- build a gluten free gingerbread house
- shop at a farmer's market
- make something crafty
- acquire twelve cool coffee mugs
- discover and purchase 35 new songs to love
- draw a self-portrait
- finish reading the Harry Potter series to my youngest
- buy an unknown-to-me book
- read a classic novel
- consider writing a weight loss memoir
- complete a fiction manuscript
- try on a bikini (don't have to buy one!!)
- play in the rain
*jumps up and down, claps excitedly*
This is such a fun way to celebrate a birthday, I think!! This next year is going to be awesome!
ETA: I just realized I forgot to add that tomorrow, in addition to being my 35th birthday, is Ron Weasley's 34th birthday, so the Hogwarts shirt is most appropriate! :D
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Three years ago today, I joined Sparkpeople. I was already 15 months and 27 lbs down on my weight loss journey, but I was starting to slip up on my own. I knew I needed a support system, or I was going to fail spectacularly. A few friends of mine had mentioned Spark, so I decided to give it a try. My first day, I nearly quit! The site had so much on it, I felt overwhelmed and trepidatious. But then, a whole bunch of people from my local San Antonio spark team came by my page to welcome me, and to reassure me that things would get easier quickly. So I stuck around.
(me, not long after I started at Spark, vs now, at my three-year Sparkversary)
Soon, I was hiking and attending fitness classes and walking 5Ks with members of my local team. I met up with some by accident in restaurants, and participated in some of their challenges. It was more than I'd ever dreamed of when I'd sought out a support system. I branched out to other teams, found other support systems here, found other sparkfriends. A few of my non-Spark friends joined the site because of my success here. Every day, I saw something new, met someone new, learned something new.
Nothing has changed in the last three years. Sometimes I've been more present than others, sometimes quieter than others, but I've been here, and there's no other place like Spark. I know that without this site, I would not have accomplished the things I've accomplished.
February 25, 2011 to February 25, 2014. It's been a good journey, with a lot of wonderful achievements. In the last three years, I have:
- reached my goal of losing 100 lbs and maintained that loss for a year
- lost 94 inches in addition to those pounds
- run full 5Ks and 10Ks
- walked/ran a half-marathon with my local Spark team
- fit into clothes I haven't worn for well over a decade, including my wedding dress!
- ridden a bike and gotten on a swing again (both fears of mine)
- come to recognize myself in the mirror again
- learned to eat freggies regularly for the first time in my life
- beat an addiction to fast food
- built strength so that I can do pull-ups and chin-ups again
- improved all my health measurements (blood sugar, cholesterol, etc)
- met so many new friends
- gained a ton of self-confidence
Those are some amazing accomplishments in three years, and I have Spark to thank for helping me to reach each of them. :)
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