Monday, May 30, 2016

The Memorial Day Minefield

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Since it is the "official" kick-off for summer, we tend to spend some time with our families over Memorial Day weekend. In both of our families, get-togethers mean food - lots of carbs, lots of sugar, lots of alcohol. For Lor and I, this meant that this weekend was going to be a series of excellent chances to really screw things up. Here's how we did.

Saturday was the combination Mother's Day/Father's Day/My Birthday get together at my parent's place. Mom was out of the country on Mother's Day, and both Father's Day and my birthday this year will be taking place during Lor's first week post-op. We decided to place all our early summer holidays into one giant Memorial Day basket. 

Alongside the usual burgers and brats (without buns they work out perfectly for a low-carb diet), I had requested two special things - beer, and Chili Relleno Won-Tons. What the heck is that, you ask? Take a won-ton wrapper, fill it with spices, ground beef, and cheese. Add a seeded and roasted green chile to the center of the mix. Wrap and deep-fat fry. Heaven. These little bombs have been the centerpiece of the High Holy Day of my family's religious observances (that is, the Super Bowl) for years now - my Dad usually has to make 30 - 40 of them, and we wiped them out every year. Obviously, they will be vanishing from our diet after our surgeries, so Dad made us a dozen of them. I managed to only have two and bid them a fond farewell.

We had also planned on bringing one of Lor's homemade sheet cakes, but sanity prevailed at the last minute. We baked a dozen small cookies instead of a birthday cake. I had two and called the whole thing a win. I had been planning for this party to be my final beers ever as well, but 2 beers escaped and made their way into my fridge. Since Lor doesn't drink beer at all, I felt I would not be sabotaging her liquid diet by having them at some point in the future. I decided to hang on to them and drink them later...maybe during the first week of Lor's pre-surgical liquid diet. Everyone I talk to that has gone through the liquid diet phase tells me that I might need them.

Sunday was our gathering with the Lor half of the clan. Same burgers and hot dogs (just wrap 'em in lettuce and your carb levels are perfectly safe), and a metric ton of fresh fruit. Lots of forbidden foods like enchiladas and Rice Krispy treats and potato chips, but we managed to get through without injuring our diets. Well, Lor may have had a 1-inch by 1-inch Rice Krispy treat, but cut a lady some slack - she goes on a month of nothing but protein shakes starting on Wednesday. 

We also got to spend LOTS of time talking about the upcoming procdeures. I described the Vertical Sleeve Gastronomy so many times that I started thinking I should carry a banana around with me to demonstrate the size and shape of the remaining stomach post-surgery. We did hear quite a bit of "I could never do that!", but we also got a few "Tell me a little more about this surgery..." conversations. I am beginning to think we should take this show on the road, trying to bring this whole "surgery to correct obesity" thing out of the shadows and into the light where it belongs. Maybe after both our surgeries - we'll have a lot more energy then.

Nutritional visits, pre-surgical evaluations,  psychiatric appointments, and the beginning of Lor's liquid phase are all taking place within the next 5 days. We have arrived at where the rubber meets the road!

Kinda Happy I Saved Those Last Two Beers,

- Hawkwind

Friday, May 27, 2016

Keeping It Real

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I find it really interesting that I get so much feedback off of my most depressing posts. Whether because of synergy or empathy, or just because the world is a really depressing place, folks talk about, comment on and send me emails about the really depressing stuff happening as part of the Great WLS Experiment. (My readership even goes up by about 25% for these posts. Odd, that.)

I honestly am not trying to be a downer to everyone here with these less-than-cheerful posts. But, this is the experience as I am living it. To create the impression that I do not have doubts, or bad days, or serious problems with the whole thing would be totally dishonest. And it can be very easy to lose sight of victories for short periods of time when overwhelmed by details and defeats. But writing things down and sharing them with the Misdirected family is my way of identifying my issues and starting to work through them. It is as if I have a pool of talk therapists with several hundred people in it. Thanks for the great hourly rates, by the way!

Speaking of therapy, Lor came up with a solution to the whole psychiatric evaluation problem yesterday afternoon. Since our preferred provider is suddenly no longer accepting my insurance, we've just scheduled with an out-of-network provider. Seems simple, right? Cheapskate that I am, it never occurred to me that the problem could be solved by the application of money. But, the cost of a single evaluation when weighed against the total health benefits of the surgery doesn't work out to a whole lot.

I'll probably make the money back just in french fries I don't eat next year.

So, the evaluation is set up for next week, right after my 2nd dietary appointment. Wish me luck - I should have a surgery date by this time next week. I am back today to being excited about the concept - if I can be a little successful without the tools, imagine how much better I will be with the tools, right?

And thanks to everyone who reached out to me, concerned that I was jumping off the surgery train. I am very fortunate in that I am partnered up with someone who wasn't about to let that happen, and was ready to provide solutions to my issues. I hope I can be as supportive to Lor as she is with me.

Make sure you tune back in next week - we've got some exciting stuff coming up right around the corner. I can almost see my surgery date from here!

The Past Is Prologue,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Struggle To Stay On Track

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Ten percent of me is gone.

I mean that in a good way, I suppose. As of Monday of this week, my pre-surgical diet and exercise program has resulted in me dropping from a high of 302 pounds down to 272. My friends and family are all congratulating me. I should be elated. But I am not.

Because now I am having doubts about my upcoming surgery.

The real problem began about a month ago, when I was informed that there was a mysterious "holdup" in processing my claim through my insurance. My (federally required) psychological exam had never been approved by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Upon calling the insurance company, the mystery deepened - my claim was "pending", and had been since the middle of April. No one could tell me why. The insurance reps seemed completely baffled. "Call your doctor." was their advice.

I called my doctor, who said he would get it straightened out. And then...nothing. For two weeks I have been waiting for an approval to move this whole process forward. and have heard not a word. Without the psych eval I can't have surgery - and if it doesn't take place by mid-June, the whole process will be delayed for who knows how long.

Upon talking about the problem to family and friends, I keep hearing a similar train of thought: I am doing great on the pre-surgical diet, so I could potentially stick with that even if the surgery never gets approved.

Did you catch that? It goes by pretty fast. The general thought is, if I am not approved for surgery due to an insurance snafu, I can just press on and lose the weight on the basis of the work I am already doing. Sounds very encouraging, until I ask myself: "If I can do this without surgery, why am I having the surgery?"

It is not as if I haven't tried to lose this weight before. I've been obese for better than half my life, I have had the opportunity to try just about everything. I finally fell into weightlifting in my late 20s and early 30s because I could be obese and functional at the same time.  But, something has always come up that interferes with my success, Seizures. Boredom. Transportation problems. A couple of very bad food intake days leading to frustration after which I would give up. Believe me, I have been there and done that. I have turned to bariatric surgery hoping for a final solution, a weapon to use against my own food issues.

So, what happens if that weapon never materializes? Will I be able to commit to these changes without the physical modifications I was counting on?

If I can't succeed without surgery, how it is going to impact me watching Lor go forward without me?

If I can succeed without surgery, why the hell am I am going under the knife in the first place?

The Wheels In My Head Go Round And Round,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Struggle Against Ignorance

As bariatric patients, we have a lot to deal with. New diets, new exercise regimens, and new ways of thinking. Our insides are being re-routed or removed, depending on the procedure, leaving us with lengthy recovery and relearning periods of time. And ever after we will be forced to make choices that reflect the physical and emotional changes that we have gone through - that or suffer a resurgence of weight as we return to bad habits. Seems like enough to deal with, right?

Not according to a large percentage of individuals out there in the world who perceive obesity surgery as "cheating". If you have surgery to correct obesity, the thinking goes, you are just lazy. One glorious example was related to us in a bariatrics group - a woman who had lost over 100 pounds post-surgery decided to join a local gym, overcoming her self-esteem and body issues. The trainer she was assigned was blunt: "Did you lose that weight through diet and exercise, or just go through surgery?"

This from a physical trainer - someone supposedly educated in assisting people with their weight loss and fitness goals. Apparently she stopped paying attention during class to polish her self-love. There are reams of studies out there demonstrating that obesity is more than laziness. The condition itself prevents us from high-caloric burning activities, which leads us to depression, which leads us to seek comfort in the very thing that caused our condition. It is very similar to drug addiction (another maligned and misunderstood condition, but my soapbox can only reach so high.) All this was apparently somehow missed by this stunning example of physical training at its worst.

"You don't see obesity and food allergies in Africa." wrote another charming individual commenting on an article about a successful bariatric surgery patient. Since starvation exists, he theorized, it was obvious (to him) that the only thing needed to cure obesity was a calorie-restricted diet. It is all about willpower, was his thought.

Such an argument should not even exist outside of an elementary school playground. How many of the starving people in the world (not just in Africa, you budding racist) are choosing malnutrition? Not a single one, I would guess. They, too, would love to exist in a food-rich culture like ours - where they have choices about what to eat on a daily basis. They are not "thin" because they have chosen to not eat. There is no willpower or exercise involved. Where now is your "healthy lifestyle?" This man was too stupid to be allowed on the Internet.

(By the way, this statement is not meant to suggest that there is no hunger or malnutrition within our food-rich societies. That it exists at all is a travesty, but, again, one soapbox at a time.)

Bariatric surgery is not a shortcut to a "slim and beautiful" self. In fact, we not only get the intestinal re-arrangement of surgery, but we then get to do the very same food restriction and daily exercise these bigots claim we are avoiding. We don't go through surgery and then eat whatever we want for the rest of our lives. We go through surgery and then spend the rest of our lives eating tiny amounts, usually sacrificing the foods we loved the most. Food becomes fuel, not necessarily a source of pleasure and enjoyment any longer. And, thanks to the lifetime of bad habits we previously embraced, we will almost certainly never look like supermodels. Does that sound like a "shortcut" to anyone here? 

The ignorance is everywhere. When you encounter it, your initial reaction may be to just run away from it in embarrassment. I would ask you, as a fellow bariatric patient, please do not respond as if you have something to be ashamed of. You do not. You should be proud that you have taken control of your health, and made some very tough decision in the name of caring for yourself and your loved ones by giving yourself the tools needed to return to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Hold your head high, and don't flee from idiots and the misinformed.

Instead, though it may be difficult, educate. Though there are bigots out there who will not be convinced no matter what you say (about anything, really), there are far more people who simply do not understand the procedures, the lifestyle changes, and the commitments that are required to be a success story after bariatric surgery. Take a minute to explain what is really happening to you. Ignorance is only overcome by one good decision at a time.

Sort of like obesity.

Still Wishing I Could Boycott That Trainer's Gym,

- Hawkwind

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Whiskey Point Tribute

Once upon a time, I was in a band.

It is so simple to read, and yet there is a wealth of emotion and history behind that sentence. From 1997 to 2004, I was part of something that I had wanted to do sine I was a little boy - I played in a Rock and Roll band. We did all the usual things: we practiced every week, we drank too much beer, we played gigs all around the Albuquerque music scene (where we drank too much beer), and when we weren't playing we were sitting around talking about the band while we drank too much beer.

It remains the most important period of history in my life. Many people wish they could go back to the good old days of High School. Not me. I wish that I was back in my garage with these people, working out a difficult riff, piecing together a 4-part harmony, sweating through a 3-hour set. Epilepsy was no crueler to me than when it took away my gift to work with other people, making music. I wish I had known at the time that it was a gift - I would have spent less time worrying about making it perfect, and more time just enjoying being a part of it.

I spend very little time here on Misdirected talking about the past. What, I think, would be the point? But after an especially evocative dream last night, I awoke this morning realizing that I have never properly recognized or thanked these people for the role they had in my life. There is no time like the present for righting the errors of the past. Accordingly, I wrote a tribute to the members of Whiskey Point. Though the letter went out to each of the band members as well, most of whom know nothing about this blog, I wanted to share with my new "family" what these people meant to me. Enjoy.

Not pictured: J. Mooney
"Last night, we were all gathered together again. We all sat at a table in a bar somewhere (it had to be a bar), catching up and telling stories about how great we were once upon a time. Jerry had put the whole thing on his tab (of course), and Brandon and Mike were trying to figure out where the whole operation was going to move to after the bar threw us out. I sat back and sipped on my Jack and Coke, soaking it in, trying hard to memorize the faces that I hadn’t seen for so long while we were all under one roof.

It was a good dream.

I am glad that 3 of us (Brandon, Jim, and Mike) have gone on and kept the music going. Every time I get out to see you play, or read your Facebook updates, or hear about your exploits through the grapevine, I am reminded that, for a few years, we shared in something awesome. More than anything, I am proud that you have kept the music alive, and are still sharing your talents with the world around you, day after day and night after night.

I am glad that 2 of us (Jerry and Kristen) have gone on and found fulfillment in other things, building lives around love and service to others. I would like to think that, somehow, playing together was an apprenticeship of sorts for you two, where you learned how much you loved being plugged into something bigger than yourselves, and carried that love forward into the destinies that lay ahead of you.

For me, the music is gone, and I haven’t yet found my place in the world, but I can look at the 5 of you and know that, for a moment, I was a part of something special - with some very special people. Thank you all for sharing not only music but a season of your lives with me. Knowing you all has made my life better, and I am always proud when I get to point at one of you and say “I was in a band with them.”

Keep your dreams alive, whatever those dreams may be.


- TJ "

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Last Stand of Carbohydrates

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We spoke earlier this week about our unscheduled trip to the grocery store due to poor dietary planning on my part. But, what was coming down the pike for today was an even bigger trauma - today is the last "real" trip we will be making to the store. Like, ever. The ultimate food funeral is about to commence.

In 10 days, everything changes. Lor enters her pre-surgical liquid diet, and I pass into my "baked chicken and steamed vegetables" phase. (Unlike some members of the household, I have no problem eating the same thing every day.) While Lor is dealing with the low energy and food cravings of the all-protein-shakes-all-the-time-diet, I am showing solidarity by making sure I don't eat anything Lor would find amazingly tempting.

It's either that or eat in the garage.

Accordingly, Lor is working diligently over our meal planning for the upcoming week, making sure that she inserts healthier versions of our previously favorite meals into the menu. It is still critically important that we maintain the < 45 grams of carbs per meal cutoff, so we don't end up sabotaging ourselves in the process. Weight gain before surgery is a no-no, But, we are still going to be performing one last week-long food funeral, albeit a low-carb one.

It is simultaneously exciting and depressing - never again will I eat sausage lasagna, but I also am able to bend over and touch my toes for the first time in about 20 years. I will never enjoy a few beers again, but I will be able to shop at stores without a "big and tall" section. In life, we make choices. Bad choices got me to obesity, good choices will hopefully return me to a healthier life. It is as simple (and as complex) as that.

In the meantime, we're off to the store for our final week of not protein-centric grocery shopping, One last blaze of glory before life turns into all protein shakes and yogurt, all the time. Everyone have an awesome weekend, and we will catch you all here on Monday.

Regretting That There Is No Such Thing As A Low-Carb Chocolate Cream Pie,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Stand By Your (Wo)Man

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Our surgery dates are getting ever closer, and we are now at the point where we are ticking off days on the calendar before Lor's liquid diet begins. In about a week Lor will have her pre-surgical appointment, and I will have the appointment where my surgery gets scheduled. Tense times in this neck of the woods.

As we've gone through this whole process together, I've had the opportunity to really observe Lor's daily operations in a detail I had not ever been privy to before. The ins and outs of her daily life, her schedule, and her diet have left me with one overall impression.

Sometimes, it sucks to be a woman.

Take our weight loss journeys for example. Lor was chatting with a family member and mentioned how "unfair" it was that, while I have lost about 29 pounds so far, she had only lost about half of that. I mentioned that I started off at more than 30% heavier than her, so why wouldn't I lose more? And then promptly forgot about the matter.

But, during our most recent meeting with our nutritionist, I found out that this is a real, live issue. "Men lose faster than women, and in the places where bariatric patients want to lose,"she told us. "Women tend to lose weight in all the areas we don't want to lose in before we ever start reducing the areas that we want to lose weight from." She went on to talk about how important it was to not compare weight loss, that each journey was our own, etc. - but I had seen the flag of Female Solidarity being raised in that medical office. I was outnumbered and I kept my opinions to myself after that.

The fact remains that Lor has always had a healthier life than me. She has always wanted to eat fruits and vegetables while I wanted crap. She has always wanted to go outdoors and be active while I wanted to stay inside and play video games. The fact that she is having to go through this surgery to manage diabetes is manifestly unfair - but there you have it. Life isn't fair. If you are a woman, apparently less so.

Women are still 400% more likely to undergo bariatric surgery than men.This despite the fact that there are more obese men in this country than women. Sadly, many of these surgeries are not really motivated by health issues like mine and Lor's, but instead by self-esteem. The "beauty cult" in the U.S. tells women that they must be young, slim, and beautiful forever. Men, meanwhile, are free to pile on the pounds - because it represents success, or power, or something. And just spend a little time talking with any group of bariatric surgery survivors, and you will hear the horror stories of men trying to talk their ladies out of having surgery, of sabotaging their partner's weight loss, or even leaving their wives after surgery. Why? Fear of infidelity, mainly - these men believe that once their spouse has reclaimed some self-worth, she will leave them for someone better.

I say if your husband or boyfriend is that much of a prick, you should trade up. Bariatric surgery is hard enough without some insecure man stabbing you in the back at every turn.

A friend of ours was visiting the other day, providing moral support, and she and Lor began chatting about "female problems." With nothing to add, I decided to keep my own counsel. She finally looked over at me and attempted to bring me into the conversation. "What do you think?" she asked. 

I blurted out "I think I am glad I am not a woman," and I cringed the minute I said it, hearing how blatantly sexist and superior it sounded.

No one took any offense. Our friend just patted me on the shoulder and said "And you should, honey. You should."

Thinking I Dodged A Bullet,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

To Market We Must Go

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You know that moment when you realize your household is out of food, and you are 3 days short of the day you were planning on going shopping?

Yeah, we've arrived there.

Don't get me wrong, it isn't as though we can't go to the store. It just means that we are going to have to go today to get us through the next 3 days, and then again on Friday to do our regular shopping for the month. And any week in which you have to go to the grocery store twice is not a good week, in my opinion. I must acknowledge my gratefulness that I have the means to go and buy groceries, but that doesn't make me like the flickering lights, the lines, or the air of impatience in the average grocery store any better.

We have still not completely gotten a handle on shopping for the household now that better than 90% of our meals are prepared at home. We got a lot closer this month (only missing by 3 days), but holy smoke do we go through a TON of food nowadays, We're having to buy things we never used to buy (shrimp and other seafood springs immediately to mind), and we're having to buy daily quantities of items (like fresh produce) that used to only make occasional apperances on our plates. It takes an awful lot of provender to get two people through a month when you are no longer relying on fast food and pizza to supplement your diet.

One thing that has totally improved is food waste. We used to throw away pounds of unused produce and leftovers every month. Now we are scraping the bottom of our crisper drawers looking for one last pepper or cucumber. This makes me very happy - throwing food away every month used to drive me crazy. It feels not only wasteful but insulting given the amount of hunger in the world - a moral failure on my part, if you will. It is an unintended happy side-effect of healthy eating.

But the real kicker here is that starting this month we have to begin planning for 2 months worth of "protein shake only" diets in the next 90 days. (One month each, surrounding our surgery dates.) We're getting lots of help from friends and relatives on the protein shakes already, but 180 protein shakes in the next 3 months eats an awful lot of grocery money. Not to mention that we're going to have to figure out single-person meal planning for whoever is not current going through a pre- or post-surgical diet.

The bright spot? By the end of summer, this will all be behind us. With each of us only being able to handle only 2 - 4 ounces of food at any given meal, our grocery shopping should go WAY down. Leaving us plenty of money to spend on protein shakes, multivitamins, bottled water, dietary supplements...

Damn. I am never going to get out of this going to the store thing, am I?

Wondering If Cardboard Counts As Low-Carb,

- Hawkwind

Monday, May 16, 2016

I Have Been Measured...And Found Wanting

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We're a week into our new resistance band exercise regimen, and someone who shall remain nameless came up with the idea that we should start logging our body measurements.The idea was pretty simple: The scale is not a reliable source of information about our weight loss. But physiological changes will be taking place whether or not the scale moves, right? So why not start tracking that info?

It seemed like a valid idea, and it probably is, but taken as a whole the first set of measurements didn't do anything but make me depressed. Since the baseline is being set now, I have no idea what kind of progress has been made over the last 4 months. Mainly what I have demonstrated to myself is that I have got so far to go that it isn't even funny.

Take my waistline, for example. I clocked in at 47 inches. 47!! I have been shopping for 48-inch waistline clothing in FatLandia for as long as I can remember, so apparently I have managed only a single inch of loss in 4 months. Well, yes, I can now get into 46-inch pants, but only because my beach-ball belly has deflated a bit, and slid further down my abdomen.

My chest was close to what it used to be - 47 1/2 inches. Back when I was attending a gym regularly I used to clock in at a 48-inch chest. The difference is that then I had pecs - today I have breasts. They are not the size that would excite the typical teenage boy, but I really could get away with wearing a bra. After some of my more strenuous workouts, I actually kind of wish I had put one on before I left the house.

But the really depressing numbers were my arms: a measly 12.5 and 13 inches. Back in the day, I had 17-inch biceps. Mind you, this was back when I was doing things like 235-pound bench presses as part of my normal workout routine. Were I to try to bench 235 today I would likely drop the barbell and cut my own head off. I have had big plans for years for a 3/4 sleeve tattooed on my left arm, centered around a scene on a beach. I can't fit a beach scene on this arm. Maybe a single palm tree. As long as it is a skinny palm tree, anyway.

Now, yes, a certain amount of this is nothing more than "The older I get, the better I was." But mainly it is disgust at how far I have let myself slip over the years. I don't think of myself as terribly vain, at least not about my appearance. So it was really surprising to me how strong of an emotional reaction I had to these numbers. It was as if every negative thing I have ever said about the way I look was being documented in black and white - the opinions of those who have tried to encourage me over the years being proved wrong once and for all. See? I have proof.

A month, or 6 months, or maybe a year from now, these numbers will demonstrate something about how far I have come at that point. For now, they've just bummed me out.

Avoiding All Reflective Surfaces,

- Hawkwind

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Story of the Ring(s)

The road to obesity is a gradual one - nobody wakes up one day and finds themselves 100 pounds heavier overnight. But, there are signposts along the road, telling us that things are getting more and more out of control. Despite the fact that I have a very poor memory, I will never forget a certain "signpost" day back in 1996. I was at my desk, typing away, and my left hand kept making the weirdest mistakes when typing. After half an hour of curse-worthy Backspace-ing and retyping, I decided to investigate. My keyboard seemed fine, there was nothing wrong with my software...then I realized that I couldn't feel the tip of my left index finger. The one where my wedding ring lived.

I had weighed right around 150 pounds when I got married in 1988, at 18 years old. I was tiny - at 5'5" I was only about an inch taller than Lor. But, in 1990, something weird happened: the growth spurt I should have gotten back when I was 13 finally arrived. By the end of the year, I was 5'8", and weighed in at almost 200 pounds. I was also pretty lazy and had just discovered beer, so the pounds just kept on coming. And now, at 26, I was so heavy that my wedding ring was cutting off circulation to my finger.

I spent several hours (I was a poorly supervised employee) trying to get the ring off my finger, but had no luck. No lubricant, no amount of time under the bathroom sink, no matter how I pulled and tugged, it stayed embedded between the rolls of fat on either side of it. Almost weeping in frustration, I took myself back to Shipping/Receiving, grabbed a pair of metal snips, and cut the ring off of my finger.

I was so disgusted with myself that I stopped wearing rings altogether. When our 25th anniversary rolled around, Lor and I chatted and made the mutual decision to get our "renewal" rings tattooed, so we wouldn't have to buy new rings. (Now THAT was fun, let me tell you.) I told anyone that asked that it was because I was a guitarist - that rings just didn't work for me. Not only was this a bald-faced lie (plenty of musicians wear rings), but I had also stopped playing back in 2005. I just didn't want to admit that I was unwilling to risk having to cut another ring off of myself.

Fast-forward a few years. In January of this year, I was helping my cousin, a world-class silversmith, with setting up his website at ShaneCasiasDesigns. Working with him gave me a chance to look over all his jewelry up close and personal, and I was totally mesmerized by one of his designs, a Crusader Ring:

Ring by Shane Casias, Photo by Rebecca Lowndes

I could not stop looking at it and playing with it, even while the two of us were supposed to be working. We successfully implemented and published the site after a couple of weeks of work, and I went back to sitting around the house, working on my blogs.

A couple of weeks after the site went live, a box arrived at the front door. As a "thank-you" gift, Shane had crafted me a Crusader ring of my own. $500 worth of custom jewelry, made just for me. I could barely stand the excitement as I unwrapped it and tried to put it on...

...and it didn't fit. The only finger I could get it on to was my right pinky, which made me look like a mob boss. Regretfully, I put it back into its black velvet case, telling myself I would mount it on a chain to wear as a necklace, knowing I never would.

On March 3 of this year, I had my first Bariatric appointment, having topped the scales at 302 pounds a month earlier. Lor and I began the slog toward long-term, permanent weight loss. One of the benefits of the pre-surgical diet is that you do lose some weight on it (which is the whole idea), and just for kicks and grins, after 10 weeks on the program, I decided to try the ring on again.

Guess which picture was taken by a pro.

And THAT, my friends, is worth no coffee, no sweets, and carb-counting till the cows come home. I may not feel like I am making any real progress, but I can slip that ring on my finger at any time to prove myself wrong.

Catch you all next week!

Considering A Skull Ring To Celebrate When I Hit 100 Pounds Down,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dietary Thinking is Painful

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Last night's experiment with a slow cooker, a package of "Buffalo Chicken sauce" and 12 chicken thighs has left us with 3 pounds (no, really - I checked) of shredded chicken and no idea what to do with it. This is after we created buffalo chicken salads for dinner last night, mind you. Surfing through all the different web pages on how to use shredded chicken, I am struck by how many of these recipes are totally not suitable for our current diet. (So far, 100% of them.) Which has me thinking even more about how difficult this transition from "obese eating" to post-surgical diet really has been.

Take breakfast, for example. Used to be we could pour a couple bowls of cereal, maybe top with a little fruit, and call it done. If we were feeling really ambitious we would assemble all the materials for breakfast burritos: you know, tortillas, potatoes, peppers, eggs, chorizo or bacon, shredded cheese, a little salsa. Half an hour's work for pure breakfast bliss.

Nowadays we look in the fridge, completely perplexed. And frequently just settle for cottage cheese with fruit or yogurt for breakfast, because thinking in the morning is so hard. Bagels, toast, English Muffins - all the easy solutions are barred to us unless we want serious carb restrictions for the rest of the day. Scrambled eggs, you say? Scrambled eggs are just so...meh.

The problem with eating just yogurt for breakfast is that you are starving to death (or, at least you think you are) an hour later. But snacking creates some problems of its own. Firstly, snacks aren't regulated very well and are an easy way to slip back up into high-calorie eating. But the real problem is drinking. We're supposed to wait an hour after every meal before drinking again. If we are eating every couple of hours, we have very limited windows for fluid intake (remember, no gulping, only sipping.) And trying to fit 64 ounces of water in every day is tough enough without reducing the amount of time we have to drink.

Lunches, at least, are easier. Our go-to lunch nowadays is deli meat, block cheese, and nuts of some kind, along with a piece of fruit. We had been doing fruit and vegetable smoothies for lunch every day but were "corrected" by our nutritionist. "Don't drink your calories!" has become a familiar refrain during our nutritional visits. I still think we were getting a greater nutritional benefit from all the fruits and vegetables we were putting into our smoothies, but I am not the one with all the fancy letters after my name, so I am forcing myself to pay attention and be a good student.

But dinners...oh, man, dinners are a stumbling block. Used to be multiple times a week Lor and I would look at each other and simultaneously decide "I don't want to cook!". And then we would be off to the closest fast-food joint, ordering (super-sized) value meals and soft drinks. And then wondering why we were hungry again an hour before bedtime.

The era of the value meal has passed. As long as we have planned carefully, everything is ok. But on the days where we forget to plan, dinner time is a furball of frustration, as we attempt to figure out what in the heck we are going to eat when nothing has been thawed out and no meal plan exists. Salads seem to happen a lot. Sounds healthy, but is awfully boring. Not to mention the pile of dishes every single night. (Our dishwasher broke just in time for us to start cooking at home 90% of the time. Of course.)

Don't tell Lor, but I am soooo looking forward to the all-liquid diet around my surgery. For 4 glorious weeks, I won't have to think about food. She is very concerned about getting bored with the constant repetition of vanilla/chocolate/vanilla/chocolate. Me, I couldn't care less. I will be so delighted to not have to plan - it will be like a return to the days of instant gratification at the drive-through window.

Just, you know, liquid. And chocolate or vanilla.

Wondering How To Make Chicken Enchiladas Without Tortillas,

- Hawkwind

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Photo Credit: alcowp via Compfight cc

A brief announcement for the loyal followers of Misdirected: Wednesday is about to be cleared from the publication schedule. Why, you ask? Mainly because there are only so many hours in the day, and I will be using the middle day of the week for publication on my OTHER, other blog.

What other blog, you ask? Why, the one located at, of course! 

No, it isn't really a vanity project. A freelance writer just needs a home on the web - a place to keep his resume, his contact information, and some samples of his writing. I considered trying to add all that here, but the software support of is unfortunately not quite that robust. Hence, a whole new website. The content there will be entirely writer-related, so may be of limited interested to my loyal Misdirected readers, but feel to drop by if you want to take a look at it!

Not to worry, though - the posts chronicling my journey through Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy surgery will remain here on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of every week. Thanks again for your continued readership (is that a word?) of Misdirected, and I will catch you all again here tomorrow.

Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Deviled Eggs

Photo Credit: All that's Jas via Compfight cc

I am pleased to report that we got through our multiple-stress day yesterday. Both the Monday weigh-in and the initial round of resistance exercise were successfully survived. Who knew that exercising with oversized rubber bands would be so challenging? This left us with only one more obstacle to overcome: Lor's final dietary meeting. We have been attending each other's appointments, getting twice the informational  bang for our buck and (I am sure) driving our poor dietitian to distraction. 

But at yesterday's meeting, things got real.

We'll be spending the 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after our surgeries eating nothing but 3 protein shakes a day. (OK, we can also have one yogurt a day.) For the first week or so we can expect to feel sick, listless and irritable. (Sort of like me in the morning now that I can't drink caffeinated coffee anymore) Then will come two weeks of pureed foods (baby food, essentially) with one protein shake a day. Then, and only then, we can begin re-introducing "real" foods into our diets.

Since I was busy considering that this might be a very good time to invest in a protein shake company, I was not prepared for what she produced next: three lumps, the size and shape of deviled eggs.

"This," she said, "will be the size of your meals after your surgery."

Umm..excuse me? I thought you just said I'll be living on the equivalent of a boiled egg and a half for every meal. For, like, ever?

But, yes, it is true: a 4-ounce stomach can only hold so much. It was by far the most shocking information in a process that has been filled with nothing but shock piled upon shock. Looking at the tiny handful of food she was demonstrating made me ask myself: What the heck have I gotten myself into, here?

I mean, seriously, I like devilled eggs as much as the next guy. But I am a person who used to eat half a dozen hard-boiled eggs as a snack. There is no way that tiny amount of food is going to keep me there?

Apparently, yes. But this is why the "protein first" rule and proper supplementation are going to be so important for the rest of our lives. If we slip up, and stop eating dense healthy proteins and nutrient-loaded fruits and vegetables, we could literally start suffering from malnutrition. That is to say: starving to death.

We left the office in a curious shift of moods: Lor was now excited and enthusiastic while I was quiet and reserved. Mainly, the only thing going through my head was some version of "Oh God, please don't let me screw this up." We aren't at the end of the road for our current lives yet, but I can sure see it from here.

Does Anyone Else Remember The Ending of "Thelma and Louise"?

- Hawkwind

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Imaginary Battle

Photo Credit: superexerciseband via Compfight cc

Another glorious Monday morning. While the majority of the world is shaking off the weekend and heading off to work, here we are hyperventilating and preparing for our weekly meeting with the scale.

It probably hasn't been a great week for weight loss. We were dealing with emotional trauma to begin with, then spent a couple days out of town and away from our normal food and fitness routine. Given that we also have a nutritionist visit to look forward to this week, it feels a bit grim looking forward to the weigh-in later this morning. The horror stories of those who gained weight during the pre-operative period and were then unable to have the surgery are never far from my mind.

Something is sure happening to my physiology, though - everything is headed down. My chest, my belly, the undersides of my arms - it is all collapsing, making me look like a fat scarecrow dressed in wet sheets. I hate this look quite a bit - maybe even more than I hated the "over-inflated beach ball" look I had for years. To combat this, over the weekend I bought myself a resistance band set, intending to start on some low-end strength training, and hopefully begin to firm this mush up. I opened up the box, inflated the ball, tested out the bands, and left them in position in the living room, ready to be used.

And there they still sit, 3 days later. I even thought to go hit them this morning before I began writing, but decided to just sit here and worry about my weigh-in instead. Many self-help gurus will tell you that imagination leads to actualization or something like that: visualizing yourself doing a thing helps to actually do it. Well, I have visualized till the cows came home then got up and left again for work the next day, and have still not done a single thing. For me, it is far easier to imagine doing something (and feel warm and fuzzy for my outstanding plan) than it is to actually do a new thing (and discover that this is not warm and fuzzy at all, but is, instead, work.)

I do realize that my own body is working against me here. The body seeks homeostasis - stability in all its operations. In the last few months, I have reduced my diet, increased my cardiovascular excercise, changed my sleep patterns, and replaced daily hours of sitting still with hours of some kind of activity. This does not represent stability, and my body is certainly not interested in adding yet another upset by attempting to rebuild muscle tissue on top of everything else. But I arrived at obesity by not seizing the reins of my body's functions all those years ago, and need to continue to overcome stability and laziness every day.

Sigh. I am afraid I just argued myself into going to the living room and designing an exercise band workout routine. Think good thoughts for me as I am sure I will be quite disgusted with myself for not being able to handle a 3-pound resistance band workout.

Already Feeling The Burn,

- Hawkwind

PS - Thank you to everyone who responded to our loss of Frankie last week. We received literally hundreds of supportive messages, emails, and Facebook comments. Misdirected has the best readers in the world.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Frankie: A Tribute

It has been a dark couple of days here in Frankie's former household. A kind of malaise has settled over me, reminiscent of some of my worst periods of depression years ago when I was first diagnosed with Epilepsy. Vixen, our other Chihuahua, has taken to lying on top of his blanket and not wanting to move. Only Lor seems to be able to function, speaking confidently about Frankie having moved to a better place and not suffering any longer. I can't dispute these things. My motivation is entirely selfish: my dog is missing, and I wish him not to be.

The distant voice of logic, somewhere in the back of my mind,  tells me I am being foolish: he was a 21-year-old, 10-pound dog. Get over it. That voice is being firmly ignored right now. I have had relationships with many people that didn't last as long as the 19 years I had with Frankie. My first marriage didn't last 19 years.  And though my relationships with people are probably more complex and multi-layered, they are also filled with mistrust and doubt. Nobody likes and accepts me for who and what I am as well as my dog did.

This wasn't always the case - he and I got off to a rocky start. Back in 1997, I came home from work one night to discover an 8-pound killing machine at the door, full of fire and fury, ready to tear me apart for entering his new domain. After Lor collected him, the truth came out - he had been found abandoned beneath a truck in a friend's neighborhood. Our friend's dog was a little too big and too rough to coexist with the refugee. Could we watch him for a couple of days while our friend found his owners?

The original owners were never identified, a "couple of days" turned into 19 years, and Frankie became a part of the household. I resented him because Lor had chosen to take him in without ever talking to me about it. He resented me because he thought of Lor as "his", and was not happy that I would move into his turf whenever I pleased. But, eventually, we reached a rapprochement and settled into life at opposite ends of the same house.

This all changed several years after his arrival. Unexpectedly, he appeared and crawled into my lap. And then proceeded to urinate all over me. I stood up, furious, and prepared to throw him out into the backyard, until I noticed that his back was bent almost into a bow, with his head twisted off to one side, saliva dripping out of his mouth.

Frankie was having a seizure.

His development of seizures changed the entire characteristic of our relationship. He and I were no longer jealous pack members fighting over the same resources. He and I were now allies in a common cause, struggling together against an implacable enemy who could not be defeated, whose attacks could only be survived, never defended against. Oddly, he and I fell into sync - if I had a seizure, one was coming for him the same day, and vice-versa. I sought him out for comfort just as much as he did me. Though he was never trained as a "therapy dog", that is precisely what he became.

In 2011, he slowed dramatically. Grey began to appear all through his muzzle, he became listless, and he stopped eating. We took him to the veterinarian, who pronounced that his teeth were all rotting out of his head and would have to be removed. He was delivered back to us after the procedure, tongue hanging out of his toothless mouth (a trait he would have for the rest of his life), and the vet took "the tone" - that special voice a medical professional uses when delivering really bad news. He was old, the vet told us. He would probably not ever fully recover from this. Just take him home, and make his last days comfortable. We solemnly agreed.

Within 48 hours Frankie was bouncing off the walls, running around the house chasing our new dog, and cleaning out his food bowl every night, then begging for more. He put on weight, topping out at a chunky 11 pounds. He acted like a dog half his age.

Thus began the saga of Frankie's immortality. At least once a year thereafter he would slow down dramatically, show evidence of serious medical problems, be unwilling to eat or move. We would tell the family that he was on his way out. And, every year, within 48 hours he would return to normal, baffling us all. We started referring to him as "Amarante", after the seemingly immortal old man in John Nichols' "The Milagro Beanfield War". My brother once made the comment that the human race really needed to put some thought into what kind of world we would be leaving behind for Frankie and Keith Richards to live in.

Unfortunately, no one can throw sevens forever, and Frankie's trip to the table stopped on Tuesday. We were allowed to spend some time with him, to tell him how much we loved him and would miss him, and he was able to leave this world sleeping, within our embrace. The vet's office offered to cremate him for us, to send him home in a box or an urn, but I refused. If I could not be the one to ease my dog's suffering, then I at least would be the one who laid him to rest. I dug his grave with my own hands, not even letting Lor help me, and I put him beneath the soil where he used to bask in the sun in our backyard. At last, he is at peace, even if his loved ones are not.

Though there is not a shred of teaching in my religious beliefs for the immortal souls of dogs, I have to believe that no one with a personality and soul like Frankie's would not be granted immediate access to the afterlife. Pam Brown said it best:

"If there is a heaven, it's certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them."
Pam Brown

Sleep well, my friend. We'll see you when we get there.

- Hawkwind

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Adios, Amigo

Rest In Peace, Frankie Schofield

Today, there are no words.

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Broken Regulator

Credit: New York Times

In my wanderings across the Internet yesterday, I came across a very interesting article on the New York Times website. It seems a study was performed for the Obesity Society Research Journal involving the cast of Season 8 of The Biggest Loser to determine long-term effects of "crash" weight loss programs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each of the contestants, even the winner, suffered from setbacks and weight regain. What is interesting is the apparent reason for these setbacks: in each case, the contestant's resting metabolism shut way down, so their bodies were no longer burning the same amount of calories to lose weight as before their involvement with the show.

Now, the slowing of metabolism during high-speed weight loss is not a surprise to anyone: it is part of our defense mechanism against starvation. The interesting part is that these metabolisms never "re-regulated" - their bodies, it seems, were fighting to be returned to what had been their previous maximum weights. The metabolic system never got a grip on the fact that they were no longer "starving", and never came out of starvation self-defense mode.

Of course, this brought the whiners out of the woodwork across the 'Net. "Of course, they are broken. They went on Biggest Loser." was the main one I saw. Another favorite was "There is something wrong with this science. The Amount of Calories required by Body Weight - Amount of Calories Ingested = caloric excess or deficit. It is simple math." Yes, but the whole point of the study is that the equation is no longer working for these people that have gone through massive weight loss - even years later. And if you want to call these doctors "bad scientists": here is a link to the paper, published yesterday. Feel free to read it, then email me with whatever problems you found in their premises, methodology or conclusions.

This certainly would explain a phenomenon I have seen for years - I would go on a diet, work out, lose some weight. I would fall into bad habits and regain. But, the next time I tried to diet, reducing my caloric load no longer worked with the previous amount of calories. If I had once reduced to 1800, I now had to reduce to 1500 to see any results. And so on and so on. But, have one bad food day, and I would suddenly gain 5 pounds. It always felt like my body was working against me. According to the premise of this study, it totally was.

Now, buried in the details of the article is the following nugget: those of us who go through bariatric surgery seem to break this cycle - probably due to the radical revisions that take place when undergoing surgery. Here the body is no longer attempting to move the dial "up to 11" on hunger and metabolic function - instead, it is trying to make reduced demands due to the trauma of a large portion of our dietary tract being removed. However, once that healing process ends, it seems we get plugged right back into the same old "losing twice is 4 times as hard" cycle as the rest of the world. Falling back into bad habits post surgery could conceivably result in the ultimate regain of all our lost weight, even with the removal of 80% or more of our stomach. Danger, Will Robinson.

I strongly suggest you take a few minutes and go read the article. It can be a little discouraging, but it highlights one point that is super important to all of us: don't allow yourself to fall back into bad habits, or revisiting the weight loss mountain will only grow more difficult with each ascent.

I Suppose The Weight Loss Mountain Is Really A "Descent",

- Hawkwind

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Bittersweet Birthday

Normally what is happening over on Lor's side of the journey to bariatric surgery is closed off from public view: as I have said before, it is not my story to tell. But, this last weekend was significant enough that I have asked for, and received, Lor's blessing to talk a little bit about what I saw over Lor's final pre-surgery birthday.

Lor's journey to bariatric surgery is significantly different than mine. She is active. She is proud of her looks and her shape. She is a fabulous cook, and especially enjoys baking - bread, pies, cakes, you name it, she is the one that gets the call when someone in the family needs a dessert for a special occasion. She is nowhere close to where I am on the BMI scale, and would be perfectly content to stay there. So, why, then, go through the huge life changes that surgery forces a person through? Why give up freedom to choose her own path, and instead be forced into the regimented lifestyle that she will live with for the rest of her life?

One word: Diabetes. It runs rampant in her family, it has killed several of her loved ones, and despite her youth, she has been struggling with it for years. She has taken the high road and chosen a more difficult lifestyle recommended by her doctors (and her family) so that she can remain healthy and vibrant for decades to come.

She was treated to two different birthday meals over the weekend, one by my parents, and another by her best friend. From my parents, she received a life-saving gift: a new digital scale for us to use in food prep. Our old postage scale had been returning suspicious results for quite a while, and verifying weights between the two demonstrated that we had been WAY off in many of our food measurements in daily prep. (2 oz of Kale does not fill a small child's cereal bowl, for example. It overflows the bowl and creates piles on the counter.) Lunch was filled with encouragement and speculation as to how different her next birthday would be. Though she smiled and laughed, 25+ years of experience with her showed me the tension in her shoulders and her face - her surgery does not represent freedom like mine does. 

Dinner was at a local sushi house, and was a whole different experience. Her best friend also suffers from pretty severe dietary restrictions, and here the conversation was able to deal with fears and doubts realistically - with a pro who has been there and done that in having to make changes to her life that were forced upon her by health issues. I am sure the bottle of sake didn't hurt the spirit of full disclosure much. Here, too, was another comforting thing: this was not the last time Lor would ever be able to eat at this particular restaurant. Though California rolls will vanish from the future menu, many other things (sashimi, for example) will not have to. For the first time in weeks, we were not having a "food funeral" at a restaurant. The difference in atmosphere was huge: here was a place we would be returning, not another thing we were waving goodbye to.

All weekend long she was deluged with messages from friends and calls from family members, all saying the same thing: we are proud of you and we support what you are doing for yourself. And, by the way, happy birthday. It was amazing to watch. I am always proud of her, but this weekend I was really proud of the community around her - admiring, encouraging, uplifting. You have made me very proud to also be a member of the "Loralia Fan Club."

Wishing Everyone Had Friends And Family Like Lor's,

- Hawkwind