Before Photos and Courage

I’ve always been a fan of photos, and I’m never one to shy away from the camera. I’ve gotten so good at using specific angles and filters that I don’t always see myself as heavy as I am.

I definitely know how big I am when I think about squeezing into a booth in a restaurant. ( I just can’t.) I’m also keenly aware of it when I’m a passenger in someone else’s car, or when I’m walking with people in the middle of Summer in New Orleans, sweating while they’re all just a little warm.

IMG_3535 2Sometimes I see myself as heavy as I am, but most of the time I’m not ready to face it. I didn’t gain back everything I lost, but I regained most of it. It doesn’t feel good, but I don’t beat myself up about it either.

I’ve learned to focus on the positive things, which is important. I just focused on loving myself so much for a while that I stopped focusing on other things that matter too. Now, I love who I am as a person, which took some serious effort and reflection, but I also want my body to be smaller.

IMG_3608 2I’ve been taking before pictures everywhere I go. I’ve posted some of them, though I don’t have the courage to post all of them. I’m proud of myself for continuing to live a full life, even as a plus-size person, but now that weight-loss feels imminent I’m facing the realization that my life hasn’t been as easy as it could be if I wasn’t so concerned with little obstacles that most people don’t have to face.

When I think of what life will be like after significant weight-loss I don’t picture a perfect existence, in which nothing bad ever happens. I don’t look forward to the attention I’ll receive from people who might ignore me now, nor do I even look forward to hearing how great I look in comparison. I already know that I’m loved and worthy. I’ve known it for a while now.

I’m looking forward to the feeling I get when I can run a mile or more without stopping. I’m looking forward to walking into a restaurant and not caring if we sit at a table or in a booth. I’m also looking forward to the day I can sit in the chairs at my church without leaving with bruises on my butt and without fidgeting through the sermon because it hurts to sit in the seats.

As you can imagine I’m really looking forward to the day in which I can buckle my seatbelt in coach (not that I want to start sitting exclusively in coach again, but I definitely can’t wait to know that I can!) In fact, I’ll happily fly in coach when I know I can do it in one seat.

IMG_3409

I know those days are coming, and I’m ready to experience them. The changes in the way I look at food and the way I eat it are scary, but I’m not expecting any surprises. I know what has to change, and I’m working on it. I’ve been working on it for a long, long time, and I’m finally getting some much needed help in that area.

I have the best support system I could ever hope to have, and I’m set up for success at work and at home. I believe I can do this, and I’m looking forward to the day that I can look back and say that I proved it to myself.

In the picture on the left I was laughing because I usually stand up straight. I roll my shoulders back just a little and walk with my head high, but I slouched for this “before” photo. I think I look hilarious and adorable in the photo, and I definitely don’t feel like I look as large as I am. I posted the photo because it didn’t make me feel bad about myself, there are many more on my iPhone’s camera roll that do. I’m ready to be healthy and fit. I’m ready to see some results, so the changes have started.

I’m ready for what’s coming, and I’m going to practice patience over the next several months as this new chapter unfolds.

 

 

What Do People Do For Fun That Doesn’t Involve Food?

I wish I didn’t have to ask the question in the title of this post, but it’s an honest question that needs some answers.

When I think about the time I spend with friends we don’t always eat, but i almost always consume calories. If we’re not meeting for lunch or dinner or happy hour, then we usually meet for coffee.

Everyone I know seems to agree that society places emphasis on eating together. I was at the a restaurant over the weekend where the menu stated “Food is Love,” which too often has been true in my mind.

Michael is super supportive, and he loves to go for walks around the neighborhood with me. He only lives a couple miles away, so it’s easy for him to come over and stroll to the Riverwalk with me. He walks my pace even though his is much faster, and lately we’ve enjoyed playing Pokemon Go together as well. There’s really no point to the game, but it’s fun. It’s also a great motivator to walk more. I’m not kidding. On our last walk I even hatched a Pikachu, which was really exciting. Ha

At home I can knit. It’s a hobby that requires both of my hands, so I can’t eat when I’m doing that.

I’m not sure what else to do. I know I can still go to Starbucks, read my Bible or color and enjoy my favorite hot tea, but what else is there to do?

As long as I can remember food has played an integral role in what I do with family, friends and even alone, and I’m ready for that to change. I’m just not sure where to begin.

I am excited about all of the money I’m going to save by not eating out or buying groceries in excess at home. That’s exciting, but I know that I need to replace my old eating habits with healthy new ones. Exercise works a little, but I can’t do that all day. And I definitely can’t expect my friends and family to stop eating and exercise instead every time I feel like going out.

I’m a social lady. I love to be around people. I enjoy cooking for them, baking for the them and just spending time with them. I know that there are people in my life who will not understand that, and I’ll keep them at a safe distance while I adjust.

I’d just love some ideas if you have any. What are some activities I do to replace going out to eat or having coffee with people I love?

Gastric Sleeve Update: Two Weeks Prior To Surgery

Last night I dreamed about having weight-loss surgery, more specifically, I dreamed about the recovery stage. I woke up immediately remembering that it’s going to be a reality soon, then I quickly wondered what level of pain or discomfort I’ll feel when I return home.

I woke up earlier than I needed to this morning, but I laid in bed for nearly an hour contemplating the future, as in, the rest of this month. I’ve already begun praying for God’s strength because it only seems doable by His grace, and when I got up I started making little plans to make it as palatable as possible.

I started by measuring out a week (or more) of the protein powder that I’ll be drinking prior to surgery. I’ll be drinking the same stuff after the clear liquids phase, post surgery, but right now I’m more concerned with everything leading up to the surgery date. (One step at a time, you know?)

Two weeks prior to surgery I will have to drink protein shakes and clear liquids. Two weeks seems intense, but I also know I can do it. I’ll just deal with the hunger and/or frustration if it occurs. I’m not going to assume anything right now because I just don’t know.

The goal at the liquids stage will be to drink 3-4 protein shakes per day, and clear liquids. (More on the latter in a moment.)

Teras Whey

Each container contains two scoops of my favorite protein powder, Tera’s Whey. This stuff is magnificent! I drink it everyday, and I’m not tired of it yet. I’m just going to assume that I can make it through two weeks of only these drinks and clear liquids without despising them by the end. The kicker here is that I’ll be drinking them with water instead of  unsweetened almond milk. They taste okay with water, but the almost milk makes them almost decadent.

I’m also allowed to have clear liquids. The list, which is short, includes:

  • Thin broths or bouillon and bases (no veggies or meat chunks)
  • Sugar-free Jello
  • Sugar-free “diet” juice, fitness waters, Crystal Light, Powerade Zero (They were very adamant that I should stay away from Gatorade.)
  • Sugar-free popsicles (When I saw these at the grocery store last week they looked much more appealing than I thought they would.)
  • Decaffeinated coffee, tea, herbal or flavored sugar-free tea, hot or cold (One cup of regular coffee per day is allowed after Week 5, post-op.)
  • Artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Stevia or Equal)

Almost everything on the list above seems like a chemical storm to me, but I’m following their rules throughout this process. I can definitely appreciate the herbal tea, and I think I’ll allow myself to eat the Jello and popsicles, etc.

The day before surgery I’ll have only clear liquids. I’m thinking that I’ll lose a significant amount of weight prior to surgery just from doing this two-week thing.

As intimidating as this feels in certain moments I’m ready to get started. It’s not quite time yet, and in some ways, I think it’s harder to wait than to just do it.

I’ve decided to give myself a reward when I complete the liquids phase before and after surgery.   I’ve never been a fan of rewarding myself with food (thankfully, since I won’t be able to.) I do enjoy rewarding myself though, so I’m going to buy this laptop backpack by The North Face when I reach my first goal. It will be useful everyday, but I’m looking forward to using it on our trip to Colorado for Christmas.My boyfriend and I are also talking about heading to Costa Rica to in January.

I’m guessing the two weeks prior will be the hardest part, but what do I know? I do know that many people were able to do this, and I believe I will too.

Now I’m going to do my best to stop thinking about the days ahead, and I’m going to enjoy this stormy Monday with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Habits That Make Me Stronger, Happier and Healthier

I enjoy social media and blogging (obviously.) I love seeing motivational quotes, encouraging verses from the Bible when I open my various apps. I also like to read varying  opinions on things that matter to me like body image, loving yourself, etc.

There are so many articles and “life hacks” about how important it is to be happy and to love yourself, and it’s true.  It’s amazing how much better life is when we love ourselves, but self-love does not simply come from within. Sure, that’s a super motivational thing to say, but it’s not true, at least for me.

I began loving myself when I realized that God loves me right now. He knew before I was born that I’d struggle with my weight, but He created me anyway. He doesn’t just love some future, more perfect version of me; He just loves me. My life has improved in every area since that realization, and it makes it easier for me to make practical decisions to love myself.

I created a list of things that have helped me move from feelings of failure and self-loathing to self-love:

  1. Focus on finding ways to help other people as often as possible. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by everything in our own lives, but when we take time to help someone else, just because, it feels good. Open a door for someone, buy someone lunch, surprise a co-worker with a coffee, or leave an anonymous, encouraging post-it on their desk.
  2. Look for the good in someone else, and take time to acknowledge it. People appreciate sincerity. Most of us enjoy receiving compliments too, so when I see a dress I think is pretty, I say it. If a woman at the grocery story has beautiful hair, I tell her. It’s so easy to take 5 seconds to encourage someone who may appreciate it. If they don’t, that’s okay too. (I’m telling you though…they usually do.)
  3. Let go of regret. Remind yourself that it’s okay to forgive yourself for the stupid things you’ve done. Apologize when you can, and do better next time. (I’ve had to do this one a lot, and it’s extraordinarily freeing.)
  4. Exercise. Endorphins are awesome. It’s easy to forget that when we’re not moving, but it helps our attitude, our self image and our overall health.
  5. Figure out what you like and what you’re good at, and do it. I have a few hobbies that I really enjoy. I like reading, knitting, singing and other things. Reading makes me more knowledgable, while knitting allows me to create pretty things. I’m a pretty good singer, and it’s fun to exercise that talent. All of these things are positive, and it’s impossible to love yourself if you’re constantly steeped in negativity.
  6. Be a good friend. If you want to be loved, love them first. Let them in, and let them know you. I used to struggle hard with this, but when I started doing things I enjoyed I started meeting people who liked similar things. It’s so much easier to have friends when you just accept that we all have quirks, and it’s okay.
  7. Replace the negative self-talk with positive truth. I used to beat myself up for being ugly, but the truth is that I’m not ugly. I have a lot of positive attributes, and now I choose to focus on those instead of harping on my imperfections.
  8. Wear a nice outfit, style your hair and take time to be well-groomed. It sounds superficial, but when I take a little time to paint my nails or apply lip gloss, I just feel good.
  9. Look for opportunities to improve. It’s important to improve and evolve, but it’s much easier to do that when you do it out of love instead of hatred.
  10. Make a plan. When we’re aware of the things we’d like to change we can look at them practically. Our weaknesses don’t have to be clouds to hang over our lives, they can be opportunities to progress. Sometimes those struggles become our strengths. (I love it when that happens!)

Being happy is important, but being joyful and at peace is more important to me. Joy is not the culmination of happy moments; it comes from knowing Jesus.

I’m obviously no expert. I’m just a person who has learned some stuff the hard way and makes the choice to love myself everyday. I’m an imperfect woman who takes responsibility for my issues as I strive to be healthy, strong and happy.

 

What’s Your Favorite Brand for Sneakers?

I’m doing my first official 5k race in a few weeks. I’ve walked many 5k’s, but I’ve never received a medal at the end of it. I don’t mind walking, but the idea of paying money to wake up early on the weekend to exercise in the heat has never really appealed to me. Ha

When my boyfriend asked me to do it I said yes without hesitation. I’ve always dreamed of being with a kind, loving man who will show up for races with me, and now I have that. My guess is that he’ll run the race, then wait for me at the finish line. I don’t want to slow him down, but I’ll be happy to see him waiting for me when I finish.

I’ve wanted to do this race every year since moving to New Orleans. Most of the cool races happen in my neighborhood, so it’s convenient, but this one is always appealing because it ends on the 50-yard line inside the Superdome.

I’ve been to Saints games, of course, but there’s something about jogging through the tunnels and onto the finish line, where I’ll receive a metal, that excites me. (What can I say? I have a flair for the dramatic.)

I’m looking forward to walking the race even though it’s going to take me over an hour to finish it. The timing doesn’t matter to me. I just love any opportunity to remind myself that I can do cool things.

I’ve been walking a lot over the last week or so. (Thank you, Pokemon Go!) And I realized even before walking all over town chasing Pokemons that I need new sneakers…badly.

Over the last few years I’ve moved away from Nike to New Balance, Asics, then Brooks. I loved the Asics so much that I wore a hole in one. I’m not particularly fond of New Balance, but the Brooks weren’t bad. I’m just not sure which brand I’ll choose now.

Do you have a favorite, go-to brand for sneakers? If so, which one?

 

Gastric Sleeve Update: Psych Exam, Exercise and Processing My Feelings On All of It

I completed my psychological evaluation for surgical clearance today, and now all of the testing is complete. I’m seeing my doctor on Tuesday, at which point she will have to send in some additional paperwork. If all goes well I’ll be able to schedule a surgery date soon.

If I need to wait until after September to have it, which is a very real possibility, then I’ll plan to do it in January. Either way, I’m ready to know the timeline because I’m tired of thinking about it, talking about it, wondering about it, etc.

I’m also actively trying to shift my focus from my impending surgery because I’m tired of hearing everyone’s opinion about it. I know that I invited the opinions of others the moment I shared the news that I was exploring the process, and I did that for specific reasons.

Weight Loss Surgery is a big deal, and I didn’t want to hide the fact that I’m doing it. I don’t want it o be a secret; I just want people to understand that just because I’m not terrified doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the risks, the difficulty of the post-surgery and the potential for life-altering changes. I do appreciate the support, encouragement and testimonials I’ve heard from many of you, so keep those coming!

If my doctor thinks I should wait a few months to do it I’ll do that. If my doctor and the surgeon give me the go ahead I’ll do that. After a week or so of eating junk that I don’t usually eat (since I wasn’t sure when I’d get to do it again) t’m at peace about the process. It’s ridiculous to think that I ate doughnuts twice last week after eating only once or twice all year simply because of the impending changes. Thankfully, I kicked my own butt back into reality,  and I’m prepared to do whatever my doctor suggests because I want to set myself up to experience the utmost success.

My skin no longer hurts so much that it keeps me from exercising, sweating or moving. It was a rough period of about 7 weeks total, but for the last 7 or 8 days I’ve felt 99% okay. I’m still reminded of the areas that aren’t healed, but sitting down, standing up and stepping into the shower no longer brings me to tears like it did.

I’m preparing for a 5k that I’m doing with my boyfriend and friends on September 10th, so right now my focus is on cardio, cardio, cardio. They’ll all finish in under half an hour, but it’ll take me about 67 minutes. I’m okay with that because they’ll be waiting for me on the field inside the Superdome, where the race ends.

I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, and now I have to wait. I’m more patient than most would expect, and I sincerely do want to do what my doctors think is best. Time flies, so I’m going to enjoy the next few days, weeks and months. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where my health is a year from now.

Until then…

Flooding, Devastation and A Chance To Help

The weather has been stormy for days, but thankfully, I’m safe and dry at home. We didn’t experience the flooding that Baton Rouge did, but some people I love lost everything.

One friend, moved into a house that she bought about a month ago, had water up to there waist inside her house yesterday. And do you know what she did? She left her things, got into a boat and helped rescue families in her neighborhood who were stuck in their attics.

Baton Rouge and its surrounding area has seen some rough times recently, but right now, we’re also seeing love and support coming from people all over. It’s awesome.

My church plans to head over to help clean up as soon as the roads open (tomorrow morning,) so Michael and I are going to make lunches to bring over. It’s not much, but every little bit of food, clothing, sweat and elbow grease will help right now.

I don’t have loads of money just sitting around, but I do know a lot of people. My hope is that together we can make a difference.

I’ve been writing here for over 7 years, and I’ve only solicited donations for one other cause that was close to my heart. I know that there are catastrophes happening around the world, and I know that we can’t fix everything. I also know that little steps produce big results.

My church is raising money to help in the recovery efforts of our church family and families in the Baton Rouge area that we may never even know. 100% of the proceeds they collects are going straight to the victims of the flooding disaster.

If you’re reading this I’m asking you to consider donating $1 or $10, or $100. Every dollar will make a difference, and together, we can help people who are hurting.

Just go to the link, enter the amount you want to done and click on serve: https://nolachurch.churchcenteronline.com/giving/to/offering 

My heart goes out to the people hurt by this devastation. We need to pray, but we also need to take action. If you donate, regardless of the amount, I’d like to know about it. Please leave a comment or send me an email, so I can thank you.

Thank you for supporting my efforts and for continually encouraging me on my journey. If you can’t afford to give, please keep these families in your prayers. If you can spare a few bucks, you’ll receive my heartfelt gratitude.

Regardless, I’m so thankful that the water is starting to recede and for the hope that’s on the horizon.

 

Surgery Progress, Allergy Testing and Sleep

I saw my doctor again yesterday, and I got some great news regarding the next step on my journey toward weight-loss surgery. I’m excited about it, but right now I’m still processing through my thoughts, faxing the paperwork and trying not to let it consume my thoughts.

I also asked to take an allergy test in the hopes that maybe we’d discover the cause of my skin issues. (I knew it was cellulitis, but I asked anyway just to be sure.) I was tested for all kinds of things, and I wasn’t allergic to any of them. My skin feels much better right now than it has in weeks, but I look forward to the day when that pain is a distant memory.

I’ve wondered whether or not I was allergic to soy for years, and I learned that I’m not allergic to that either. The protein powder that I use does not contain soy, but the powder that my boyfriend is currently using does contain soy. They’re both delicious, but his is a little smoother. He has more flavor options too. I’m still hesitant to consume soy on a regular basis, though I can’t explain why.

Now it’s time to get some sleep. Thursday is typically the last official day of my work week, and this week I’m ready to get it done. It’s also weigh-in day for me at Weight Watchers.

The week has flown by so far, but I’m looking forward to having some fun with my mom and Michael over the weekend. I’ve been waking up before 5 am all week, and I’ll continue for the next two weeks as well. Thankfully, I feel pretty rested. I’m just striving to be in bed by 10 pm instead of midnight.

On that note, good night.  Until next time…Zzzzz……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastric Sleeve Update #2

The last 30 hours have been overwhelming in some ways, and I feel so grateful for the support I have in my life. Seriously, God knew exactly what He was doing when He put Michael in my life.

I spoke to the surgeon’s office on Tuesday, and when she heard my story (the weight portion) she encouraged me to complete all of the necessary testing and to see my doctor again sooner than I had planned. She was happy to hear that I’m already a Weight Watchers member and suggested that I speak to my doctor about my food and exercise journey.

cardiologistAfter that conversation, which was encouraging and productive, I made an appointment with a cardiologist and saw her yesterday. My heart is healthy, so my cardiologist ran a few necessary tests and cleared me for the surgery. I still have a couple of remaining steps, and the next big one is coming up on Tuesday of next week.

Tuesday night I experienced a little fear and anxiety over the surgery itself and the aftermath. Everyone tells me it’s the best decision they’ve ever made; they also tell me that it changes everything.

The truth is I definitely want and need to lose weight, but I don’t want it to change everything. I love my life, my family, my boyfriend, my church, my job, my friends, etc. I’m happier than I’ve ever been before, and while I recognize that surgery will make me healthier, I momentarily panicked when I considered the words of people who’ve already experienced it.

Ultimately, I realize that everyone’s journey is different. Maybe their lives needed to change. The fact is that mine started changing drastically about four years ago, and I’m happier and more settled than I ever imagined I would be.

Life is good. It’s not always perfect or easy, but it’s good. I’m so thankful for that, and as I reflected on how many positive changes have happened over the last several years my fear was replaced by faith. My boyfriend, who hugged me and quietly prayed for me, reminded me that God has a plan for  my life, and He’s always faithful.

Now I can rest easily, once again, knowing that I only have to take one step at a time, and I’m thankful for that too.

 

Hydro Flask, Yeti and Ozark Trails

I drink a lot of water, and I should probably drink more now that we’re in the hottest part of Summer in New Orleans. The heat slaps me when I walk outside, so I never go too far without my Hydro Flask. I love it!

Hydro FlaskIt’s pink, it holds 32 oz of water, and it keeps water cold for 24 hours. What’s not to love about it? It doesn’t fit into my car’s cup holder, but the tight lid keeps me from worrying about that. It also fits into the cup holder on the elliptical at my home gym, so I’m a big fan.

I don’t put anything in my Hydro Flask except water. I used it for iced tea once recently, and it just felt wrong. No matter what I’m eating or drinking water is still my go-to, and that’s the only thing you’ll find in this bottle.

Nearly 8 years later I still don’t drink soft drinks. I like sparkling water (plain, unflavored and extra bubbly is my favorite,) but I also drink tea and coffee. I’m obsessed with protein shakes right now too, and I love drinking them on-the-go. Of course, when I learned about the Yeti last year I wanted one, but I didn’t get one until my friend, Ann, gave me a gift last week.

Yeti TumblerI got the Yeti 30 oz Rambler on Thursday, and I love it! Later that day the order I placed for a 30 oz Ozark Trails tumbler arrived. The Yeti, which I bought at Academy, was $39.99. (Thank you, Ann!) And I love it!

The Ozark Trails 30 oz tumbler that I purchased from Walmart was $9.74. They look identical, apart from their logos. I decided to keep them both, so I gave the Ozark Trail to Michael after doing a little side-by-side test. (He wouldn’t use the Yeti anyway.) They both hold ice for hours, and they fit in out car’s cup holders.

They both do the job they claim to do, and I can’t see any reason to spend $40 on the Yeti (unless a friend gives you a gift and demands you to get the Yeti. hehe) I haven’t tried anything hot in my Yeti yet, but I doubt I will while it’s over 100 degrees everyday.

The Yeti Rambler is awesome, and the Ozark Trail tumbler seems to be equally awesome. Neither of them compare to the Hydro Flask though. It’s not even close. My water stays ice cold in the mid-afternoon heat of Summer while it stayed cool in the Yeti, but they’re made for different things.

It’s easier to carry my water bottle to the gym, but it’s easier to keep my protein shake ice cold in the steel tumbler. There’s no way I’d put a shake in my Hydro Flask.

Do you own any of these products? If so, which one is your favorite?