Thursday, June 30, 2016

Surgery: It's A Thing, Man.

But you should see what the other guy looks like.

It has been noted in the past that significant life events seem to happen in groups. Boy howdy, does that seem to be getting proved out around these parts. Here in our household both of the lovely ladies I cohabitate with, Loralia and Vixen (pictured above), have now had surgery in the past two weeks, and for both of them, the surgery has looked like No Fun At All. Leaving me to speculate on the upcoming surgical procedure that awaits me in 25 days. 

I am not sure where I got this impression that surgery was going to be no big deal. It has certainly not been my experience in the past. My VNS installation and later repair were certainly not life-shattering surgeries, but my knee surgery in 2014 most certainly was - I was in pain for months afterwards, and to this day have to wear a knee brace when expecting to walk anything more than a short distance. Surgery is invasive. It hurts. And it takes a long time to recover from.

Watching my ladies suffer through the recovery from their surgeries has made me hyper-aware of the fact that this train is coming for me too. Once upon a time I had been concerned only with the difficulty of the liquid diet before the surgery and the greatly reduced diet post surgery, not thinking too much about the procedure itself. Nowadays, I find that I am thinking more and more about the surgical process, and wondering what it is going to do to me and mean for me.

Just like Lor, I am going to have 5 holes punched into my abdomen to insert instruments, along with a sixth just below the breast line to work on a hiatal hernia. 80% of my stomach is going to be chopped off, then pulled out of my body via a slit only about an inch wide. (How is THAT for weird?) The hole that remains is then going to be stapled shut, creating a tube-sock looking stomach remnant about the same size of a small banana. My belly will inflate like a gigantic beach ball (again) due to all the gases being pumped into my system. The surgical team will then super-glue the holes on my abdomen shut (not a joke - I have seen the stuff on Lor's post-surgical wounds), and call it a day.

Just like Vixen, I do not respond well to anaesthesia. It takes me longer than normal to recover from the effects, and it occasionally causes me to have seizures in recovery or shortly after surgery. Recovery is painful and takes a few weeks. And I am not a great patient, which will surely test everyone's patience with me.

These are the things that go through my mind as I have been caring for first Lor and now Vixen after their surgeries. I am doing my best to be just as kind and considerate as I can be - trying to develop myself a positive balance on the post-surgical care karma card. I am not exactly afraid of the surgery (though I am still quite afraid of the hospital where I will be staying for 3 days.), but I am no longer thinking of it as a short and easy phase that will be passed through without any trouble.

I just keep reminding myself that this, too, will pass. 2 months from today I will be looking at this whole thing in the rear-view mirror, right? Let's hope that I get through it as well as the ladies in my life have.

Trying Hard To Imitate My Stoic Ladies,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Photo Credit: Antonio Ciriello via Compfight cc

It is a story most of us heard growing up. The slow and patient turtle wins a race against the quick and agile bunny by virtue of putting his head down and continuing to keep moving while the bunny screws off doing a multitude of things that are not related to winning the race. While I always questioned why the bunny didn't finish the race first and then go amuse himself, the example holds true even today, in our pursuit of long-term weight loss.

Consider this: this is not my first rodeo when it comes to trying to lose weight. I have tried Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Atkins and a version of Paleo (back when it was still called "The Caveman Diet".) I was always able to lose 10 - 20 pounds fast. After that: nothing. I would then embrace my guiding philosophy: "If at first you don't succeed, quit." Needless to say, the weight instantly returned.

Now, making dietary and lifestyle changes in preparation for bariatric surgery, we have had more success that ever before, mainly due to the slower speed of our weight loss. Lor's sudden weight loss spike since her surgery notwithstanding, we have actually been  maintaining a pretty decent rate of "healthy body recovery" (also known as "weight loss".) It has been 22 weeks since we started this process with my terrifying discovery that I weighed over 300 pounds back on February 2. As I mentioned yesterday, as of this week we have collectively lost 100 pounds. Do a little math (something like 100 divided by 22 weeks then further divided by 2 people) and it turns out that we have been losing, on average 2.27 pounds a week. According to the CDC, this number falls right into the "healthy weight loss" category.

Other demonstrations of "slow and steady" progress? Back in February, it took me around 25 minutes to walk .44 miles a day (the exact mileage of walking the dog around the block one time.) This would leave me covered in sweat, gasping for air, and exhausted for the rest of the evening. Today, in 45 minutes, I can cover 2 miles. The runners among you may be chuckling at this mile every 22 minutes speed, but remember:  back in February I was managing the brisk pace of 1.05 miles per hour. 4 months later I am almost up to average human walking speed of 3 miles an hour. As far as the 45 minutes goes - that is as far as Vixen's furry little legs will take her. We have discussed, once Lor is back in fighting trim, hauling the dog once around the block, then dropping her off at the house and walking another 45 minutes or so, to get in a full hour of walking a day.

Our walking speed should also increase from not having to stop while Vixen sniffs every bush, bag, and foreign object that looks like it might be edible.

Even Misdirected is showing the results of slow and steady. Maintaining a posting schedule of 4 posts a week, every week, we have grown from about 20 occasional readers to almost 50 daily readers. We will occasionally have really big spikes (like the day of Lor's surgery), but nearly 50 people are checking in on a daily basis to see what is happening here. This is with no marketing as such - any readership increases are coming strictly by word of mouth, people sharing the fact that there is some dude talking about he and his wife going through bariatric surgery.

Patience has not been my strong point over the years. But, maybe, learning to re-adjust to a changing body and diet is what it takes to learn to wait for other positive changes in life. Maybe this is a sign of developing maturity and spiritual awareness?

Nah. I still hate driving in the slow lane.

At Least I Passed That Lazy Bunny,

- Hawkwind 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Century Mark

I have said many times within the pages of Misdirected that weight is not important to Lor and I. That it is only a number, that the importance of weight loss comes from improved health, enhanced mobility and energy, and a better quality of life.

Please allow me to step away from that well-reasoned thinking for a moment, to make an announcement.



You read that right - as a couple, Lor and I have lost one hundred pounds as of our weigh-in today.

When we began this process, added together, our total weight was over 550 pounds. No wonder our bed creaked at night, even lying perfectly still. We were carrying the weight of an extra (tall) adult male between the two of us.

Lor's weight loss was already remarkable, even before the surgery. Since the surgery, she managed to average an additional pound of weight loss a day. I, of course, had a bit of a step back last week, but reclaimed that weight and lost another pound on top of that in the last week. 

Our Nutritionist warned us that those who lose quite a bit of weight before surgery might experience a dramatic slow-down in weight loss post-surgery. But, even if that should occur, I am already within 10 pounds of my original goal of losing "around 50 pounds". Lor has not needed a single dose of insulin since leaving the hospital. I feel better than I have in years. Lor will too, once the holes in her stomach finish healing up and she can re-graduate back to soft foods. (I have never seen a person crave refried beans more.) She has already gained back her mobility, and just needs to start working on her stamina.

I am not sure what to expect from here, honestly. Another 100 pounds of joint weight loss would put us into uncharted waters - Lor would weigh right around what she weighed at 17 years old. I would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. I have never been at a stable weight of 200 pounds, having gone from around 160 to 225 somewhere in my early twenties, the weight arriving as I also grew about 4 inches taller. (Can you say late bloomer?)

Lor and I make sure to keep telling each other: "Now comes the hard part." Losing weight has never been an issue for either of us. Keeping the weight off - now that is where the rubber meets the road. But we have each other to keep us both honest, to enforce workouts, to police one another's dietary habits. Unless we collectively decide to give up on this, I have faith in our success.

Wishing I Could Hug Lor Without Injuring Her,

- Hawkwind

PS - 28 days till my surgery. Not that I am counting, or anything.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Patient Zero

Photo Credit: Small Creatures via Compfight cc

(This special Saturday edition brought to you courtesy of Friday getting away from me!)

Since the beginning of Misdirected's conversion to a full-time weight-loss surgery blog, I have attempted to keep track of everything. How I felt, what I thought, what was happening to me both inside and outside. It was a journaling experience of sorts, that has gradually turned into a journal that gets shared with several hundred people every week.

However, now that we have had a real, live surgery in the family, I have stopped paying a whole lot of attention to what is going on in my life, and am almost totally focused on what is happening to Lor post-surgery. Pain, discomfort, and diet have all been dutifully logged. Her times of energy vs. her times of exhaustion. Her doubts are measured against her optimistic periods. All carefully cataloged, and much of it recorded here.

It is no secret why I am doing this, of course: My own surgery is exactly a month from today, and I want to know what to expect. Our nutritionist laughed during my last visit, and told me I would be the best-prepared surgical patient ever, thanks to my observations of Lor. It seems kind of heartless, really, sending my wife into the trenches before I ever get there. We had a pretty well thought-out plan for why we scheduled things the way we did, but every day I wonder if we chose the correct order. I just know that I am glad to be 100% healthy and able to care for her while she is recovering from surgery and settling into her new life. And if I get to pay close attention to see what is coming down the road for me, surely that is an unintended "bonus", and not my nefarious plan all along, right?

As it turns out, I am not alone in carefully watching this process.

Members from both sides of the clan, Lor's and my own, check in on a regular basis. They are, of course, concerned about her health and recovery. But they are also watching this process very carefully. Obesity is not uncommon in either of our families. Lor's success (and how hard she has to work at it) is being used as the measurement by which many others will decide if they are going to investigate surgery as a treatment option for themselves. "It is like there is a new drug treatment being tested, and I am 'patient zero'." Lor quipped yesterday. Her success will be what convinces a whole lot of people that there is something to this whole weight-loss surgery thing.

In that sense, Lor was the right person to go first. She is a practitioner of alternative medicine, so agreeing to have surgery in the first place meant that she really believed in the process. Everyone who knows her is aware that she is a meticulous researcher, paying special attention to what could go wrong, and never over-estimating positive potential results. ("Counting chickens" is her favorite phrase for being overly optimistic.) If she chose to do it, goes the family logic, there is really something to this.

The surgical prep and surgery have been so successful for one reason: she is stubborn. There is a reason she had already lost nearly 50 pounds before she ever had surgery - once she makes up her mind to succeed, she refuses to fail. She never set a "goal weight" exactly, talking more about the health benefits of losing (and keeping off) about 50 pounds. She already blew through that goal like an oncoming train. Next stop, 60 pounds down. Give her a day or two.

A better ambassador for the benefits of weight-loss surgery could not have been picked. But we will have to give her a few days before we start asking her to make public appearances. kissing babies, cutting ribbons, etc.

The weight of everyone's expectations has kinda worn her out.

Recording The Success Of Patient Zero,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Post-Birthday Hangover

Birthday Card designed and created by Kristina Daniels. know, the one when you wake up and realize you not only have a mile-long list of stuff to do today but also have to catch up on all the stuff you didn't do yesterday because you were busy goofing off? Yeah. that hangover.

It should have been a great day, really. Due to unexpected circumstances, I got to see my parents and my brother, as well as one of my best friends, who made me the card you see above and brought me a bouquet of flowers as well. (Yes, men are allowed to like flowers. I checked.) I got an awesome lightweight laptop from my in-laws, who wanted me to have something to write with while I was in the hospital and recovering from surgery next month. I had dozens of birthday wishes from friends and family all over the country.

So why didn't I enjoy my birthday more?

In a word: food.

I wanted to go have a beer or three to celebrate. I couldn't.

I wanted to go out to dinner somewhere, like I've done for my birthday every year that I can remember. Not only was this a bad idea from a diet perspective, but I couldn't exactly go by myself. (Lor is still recovering and on a liquid diet besides.)

I wanted a birthday cake and ice cream so bad it almost felt like physical pain.

I got through the day successfully, managing to stay under my daily max of 105 grams of carbs with room to spare. But I was miserable all day. I smiled while visiting with everyone, did my best to be nice to Lor, and spent most of the day trying not to think about food. It was hard - probably harder than any day I have experienced since the first week of our low-carb diet switch. As a result, I was probably not as friendly as I should have been, and my nursing care for Lor definitely suffered. As did all the stuff that I should've been doing around the house. Which I am getting to do today. Which is not making me very happy.

See a pattern here?

At the beginning of this pre-surgical process, I was really worried about being restricted from various foods, because fat men love food, right? (And no, I am not afraid of the term "fat", political correctness notwithstanding. That is probably a whole other post.) These days, I am beginning to resent my attraction to food. These overwhelming cravings just drive me crazy - they make me feel like an addict in recovery. Ok, ok - I am an addict in recovery. But that doesn't make me like it any better.

Many post-bariatric surgery patients talk about how their entire relationship with food had changed. They no longer want to eat, but now look at food as nothing more than fuel - the body has to be "gassed up" every once in a while, but otherwise they do not enjoy eating. And that whole idea makes me sad, too. Because deep down, I don't want my love of food to be removed from my life.

Because I love eating so much that it has made me obese.

Someone help me off this carousel - it is making me so dizzy that I want to throw up.

Looking For The Nearest Trash Can,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Another Appointment Closer

Patient Progress: Lor managed a half mile walk last night (logged above by Map My Walk). 5 days out from surgery, mind you. She is setting the bar impossibly high for my surgical recovery, I have to tell you.

In the midst of all the commotion surrounding Lor's surgery and recovery, it has been pretty easy to forget that I am going through this process as well. For example, last week when Lor dropped a whole 8 pounds around her surgery? Yeah, I gained 2 pounds. I am not holding it against myself - I ate more fast food last week than I had eaten in the previous 2 months or so. Hard to make good food choices when you are shuttling back and forth from a borrowed room in your parent's house to the hospital. In defense of the hospital, they did have high-protein, low-carb items available, like omelets and salads. They even had Muscle Milk protein shakes! I should've just stuck with eating there.

These are the lines I am rehearsing, as today I have to go into meet my nutritionist for my final dietary meeting. After today, I will have seen her a total of 6 times - 3 visits with Lor, and now a total of 3 for me. I am not sure there is a heck of a lot left for her to say to me at this point that we haven't covered in the previous 5 meetings in one way or another. But, it represents one of the final 2 steps before I begin my 2 weeks of liquid-only diet to prep for surgery in July, so I want to make sure I make it to the appointment, even though I do have a surgical patient recovering at home.

Luckily for me, another one of our friends has stepped up and offered to come hang out with Lor during the hours when I will be gone today. What we ever did do deserve the support we are getting from our friends and family members, I do not know. I am constantly reading horror stories about bariatric patients being forced to go this alone, due to lack of support from those closest to them. I honestly do not know how they succeed at this, and my hat is off to them.

Tomorrow is also my 46th birthday, which makes me feel a little weird. Why? Because I will weigh less tomorrow (267) than I did ten years ago on my 36th birthday (285). I am reminded of the Bowflex commercials from a few years back: "I am 44, and in better shape than I was when I was 24!" Heck, for that matter, next year at 47 I may very well be in better shape than I was at 27.

How's that for a brain bender?

No special plans for the birthday either, despite all the emailed coupons for free pancakes, free stir-fry, free ice cream and free pizza. This year I will just stay home with my lettuce wraps and chicken salads, and try to work off the 2 pounds I earned last week. I don't want two weeks in a row of bad dietary choices, right?


- Hawkwind

Monday, June 20, 2016

Post-Surgical Reflections

The guest room is empty, the phone has stopped ringing, and calm has descended over the house once more.

Guess we'll call this one a successful weight loss surgery, right?

After a week of chaos and worry, hundreds of communications passing back and forth, and more activity than Misdirected has ever seen, Lor is resting comfortably in bed, binge-watching Heartland and managing almost a whole protein shake a day.  Her color looks good, her bruises are (mostly) fading, and she is doing laps around the house regularly to get back into fighting trim. We might even try walking up and down the driveway this afternoon, just for giggles and grins.

The post-surgical changes are pretty remarkable already. She has no interest in eating at all - her mother and I have been having to remind her to drink water and protein shakes. She has deemed us "water Nazis", and not looked kindly on our attempts to keep her from being re-hospitalized due to dehydration.  Now that her Mom has gone home to catch up on all the sleep she has missed this last week, I am the sole arbiter of hydration and nutritional discipline in the house, a position that has not made me very popular. Lor has vowed revenge when it is my time to go under the knife next month. I tremble in fear.

Her weight is also already dramatically responding - with a total weight loss of 8 pounds in the last 7 days. It is quite humorous to watch her clothes falling off her as she walks back and forth down our main hallway. Next week, when she intends to return to "civilization", I am sure one of our first stops will be at the thrift store to pick up some new clothes. No point in buying brand new, full price stuff just yet, right? This rapid weight loss can last up to a year after the surgery.

Most importantly, her blood sugar levels dropped to normal and have stayed there since the surgery. We continue to hope for a full remission of her Diabetes but won't get official confirmation of that happy state for another couple of months. But so far, so good.

There have been lots of discussions between the two of us about lifestyle changes from here on out. Lor had expected to maybe lose a few pounds, but was mainly concerned about addressing her Diabetes. However, at this point, she is already within shooting distance of her weight back in high school! Similarly, I had hoped to maybe get back down to around 250 pounds when everything was said and done.

Today I am at 267 - and I am still 5 weeks out from surgery.

We are no longer dealing with questions like "Will this work?" We are now moving into "Where will this stop? and "Who the heck will we be when this is all over with?" Neither one of us has any clear idea of what our lives are going to look like 50, or 75, or even 100 pounds from now. It is tremendously exciting and completely terrifying, all at the same time.

One last time - thanks to everyone who stayed plugged in during Lor's surgery. It meant more than you can ever know to have so many people so interested and concerned about her status and well-being. We will keep you all updated with her progress now that her time in the trenches has truly begun.

Able To Breathe Again,

- Hawkwind

Friday, June 17, 2016

It Is Still Friday, Right?

2 PM in Albuquerque, NM. The recovering patient is asleep in her own bed, my mother-in-law is cleaning my house from stem to stern, and I am hiding in my office, "working."

It has been a hectic 24+ hours since I last posted here. Lor was walked around the hospital floor several times last night, discovered the reduced capacity of her new stomach pouch the hard way (no room for error on drinking just a little too much anymore!), and been awakened by hospital staff asking "Are you sleeping?"every two hours.The hospital staff members have been great, but anyone can tell you that a hospital is no place to get well.

So, by 6 AM this morning, Lor, her mother and I were all sitting around the hospital room, waiting for her release. A doctor showed up promising freedom at about 7 AM, and by 11 AM or so (you know, hospital time) Lor was finally out the door and on her way home. She arrived here at noon or so, and is now resting as comfortably as you can with 5 new holes punched through your abdomen, and the MIL and I are doing the best we can to avoid interrupting that rest. 

Lor is actually doing pretty well today, all things considered. Her mobility is good, she has had little interest in pain meds, and her biological functions are slowly returning to normal. Once the post-surgical inflammation recedes a bit we will get a "real" idea of what her new stomach capacity is. Right now she can only have a couple of sips of anything before she is forced to quit for half an hour or so. It seems slow to us, but she is right on target according to her medical team. We are doing our best to not get in the way of the folks that do hundreds of these a year, even when certain things seem weird. Not easy for control freaks like Lor and I.

For this weekend, we plan to just let her recover, walk her around the house (slowly), and get this healing process underway. I continue to hope for a steady recovery for her, but knowing her tendencies it may be necessary to apply the brakes now and again. If she had it her way, she would be ready to run a marathon tomorrow.

I will let everyone know how the process is going on Monday morning. Enjoy your Father's Day weekend!

Very, Very Tired,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, June 16, 2016

There's Got To Be A Morning After

6:00 AM. So early that even the nesting birds are wanting to know "What the heck are you doing up so early, man?" as I walk by their nests.

The good news, since I know you have all been waiting for it, is that Lor came through the surgery 100% successfully. Her surgeon nearly gave us all a collective heart-attack when she emerged after only 45 minutes of surgery, but, no, the news was nothing more significant than that the surgery was completed, and we could see Lor shortly. There was much rejoicing, Facebook posting, telephone calls, etc. Others in the waiting room probably thought we were celebrating an ethnic holiday.

There isn't any bad news exactly. But there were some...surprises.

Post surgery, I think we were expecting a glowing, healthy person who was now totally committed to weight loss. What we got was someone who was in major amounts of pain, and suffering from the effects of anasthesia. Stupid of me to expect otherwise, but I was taken aback by the fact that the preson who went in for surgery was not the person who came out. Though she had returned to normal within a couple hours, it wasn't something I was mentally prepared for, and maybe should be included in the pre-op "training" - "Dont take anything said in the first couple of hours after surgery seriously."

A little later on yesterday, I got to see the reason that Lor was in so much pain. My first glimpse of her post-surgical abdomen gave me a serious shock. She looked, bluntly, like she had been in  a knife fight.

I know, I know - what the heck was I expecting after she had scopes inserted into her abdomen in 5 different locations? What ever I was expecting, it wasn't this. Big bruises surrounding obviously punctured tissues, all across her tummy. I don't know how she is carrying on conversations, or breathing for that matter. I have a certain amount of experience with knife injuries (how is not important here), and these ones look like they are no fun at all.

So, next time someone asks me if bariatric surgery hurts, the answer should be an emphatic "yes". Got it.

We also had some administrative snafus that wound up with Lor finally getting comfortably settled in her bed, just in time to be informed that she had to move to a different room. On a different floor. Of course. Out came the wheelchair, the dance of disconnecting cables and monitors and leg-squeezers, and she was shipped up one floor, to the room literally directly above the room she had already been in. Administrative logic never ceases to confound me.

Lor's Mom took the overnight shift last night, and they are both currently still asleep 5 floors above me. I have camped out here in the cafeteria to jot all this down after sneaking out of my parent's house at 5:30 this morning to drive the 5 miles over to the hospital Lor is at. Thank God for our families - this would have been a nightmare without all the familial help and support we have received.

Thanks also to all of you - Lor was the subject of prayer chains, the focus of positive energy flows, and the receipient of remote healing energy from across the country. I can't thank everyone enough for your care and interest in the well-being of the person who is the center of my life. My heartfelt thanks to all of you.

Wondering If 7 AM Is Still Too Early,

- Hawkwind

PS - No pics for the next few days, my poor Kindle isn't the best tool for blogging.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Surgery Day -1

Photo Credit: pw_tumblr via Compfight cc
After months of planning, preparation, and planning, our first "Life Transition Day" has arrived.

Lor's surgery is tomorrow.

The upheaval is awesome. We have Lor's Mom moving in with us for a few days to help out after the surgery. We have packing to do since I will be staying with family members closer to the hospital. We have drugs to pick up, groceries to buy, and I have a mile-long list of people I am supposed to be keeping informed every step of the way through her procedure. The stress level is high, and I am not even the one having the surgery.

Well, not yet, anyway.

The endless questions are all coming up: is this really going to work? Will we get to a point where this will have all been worth it? Or, six months down the road, will we be wondering why we did this in the first place? We know that a "buyer's remorse" phase is coming, where Lor will be angry that she decided to go through all this in the first place. How long will that last? How severe will it be? What complications might come up? Have we learned to do everything right, so that we don't wind up with Lor re-hospitalised?

Yeah, like that.

Oddly, neither one of us is terribly concerned about the procedure itself. The staff at ABQ Health Partners Bariatrics have done TONS of these procedures - they specialize in them. So we've been spending our time worrying about before and after, not so much "during". Thank goodness they have been so calm, reassuring and collected through all this - if we were worried about the surgery too, I am not sure we could stand the stress.

By the next time you read a post here, we will be a mixed marriage: one pre-bariatric surgery patient, and one post-surgery. I still have 41 days to go before my procedure, which means that I will be able to watch what I can expect to happen to me over the first 30 days after surgery just by caring for Lor. It seems a little odd, and in a way unfair that she is experiencing the process by herself, but I still think we made the right choice. I make a horrible patient, and Lor deserves to have me at 100% while she is making the transition to whatever post-surgical life will look like for her.

She has taken it like she does most everything - bravely, confidently, and making jokes about how, since she was the oldest of 3 children, she is used to being the guinea pig. I admire her, and am very excited to see what a life without diabetes will be like for her. I can only hope that I handle my last two weeks before surgery with as much grace and composure as she has.

But, I probably won't.

If you are moving about your busy life tomorrow and happen to have a free moment, I would appreciate a prayer, a thought, or some positive energy on Lor's behalf. We'll take all the spiritual help that we can get.

See You All On The Other Side (Part #1),

- Hawkwind

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

Image courtesy of

I have spent the better part of 2 hours this morning, trying to get something going on this page pertaining to surgery, weight loss, or life changes. But I have been completely unable to get a clear train of thought, due to a tragic event about 1,500 miles away.

You know - in Orlando, Florida.

I have a pretty broad constituency of friends and family. I know people prepared to vote Republican, Democrat, and Independent. I have family members who are part of the LGBT community, and other family members whose religious beliefs tell them that homosexuality is "sinful" behavior. I have been acquainted with atheists, adherents of all the major religions in the world, and followers of many of the "minor" ones.

I have yet to meet a person who thought it was right to arm themselves, walk into a busy nightclub, and start shooting people because the beliefs or lifestyles of the people inside didn't line up with their own.

The politicians are already talking, like they always do. The voices of the pundits are in fine form this morning, making sure that their particular beliefs are voiced. The forces of division and polarization are at work already, asking us to line up on our assigned side. For or against. Right or wrong. Pro or anti.

We can not even, for a single day, agree that these people did not deserve to be killed and wounded, and try to reach out to them and their loved ones. For once, can we leave the politics out of it - knowing full well that it is we, the citizens of America, who are so divided and polarized that we have created an environment within which this hate can exist and thrive?

Guns did not cause this.

Islam did not cause this.

Homosexuality did not cause this.

Hatred caused this.

As long as we only turn inward to embrace only the members of our chosen communities or ideologies, we will never overcome tragedies like these. It is time to start placing the blame where it belongs - on those of us who are too afraid to reach out to those we don't understand, to find common cause in that which represents us all - our humanity. As long as we continue to place our personal beliefs upon altars of ideology, we will never acknowledge the vailidity of the choices and experiences of others.

Today, I challenge you: reach out to someone whose beliefs you do not agree with. Ask questions. Listen, and do not argue. Walk away knowing that you understand more now than you did a few minutes ago. Ignorance breeds fear. No one attacks what they do not fear. Expand what you understand, and diminish what you are afraid of. Do it today.

Because none of us wants to look forward to fear acting out again like it did yesterday in Orlando.

To Peaceful Rest For The Departed, And Speedy Recovery To Those Still With Us,

- Jeremy

Friday, June 10, 2016

Scary Stories

Photo Credit: Magda's Maggots via Compfight cc
I spend a LOT of time (probably too much) hanging around on message boards and forums relating to obesity surgery. I don't input very much - after all, I am not a "vet" yet, have not earned my surgical scars and all that. Every once in a while, I will put up a link to here on Misdirected if I feel it is especially relevant, but other than that - I lurk.

There are quite a few encouraging tales to be found out there. Formerly 600-pound men who are now avid wilderness hikers. A previously obese woman fitting into her wedding dress for the first time in 25 years. A grandmother getting into a swimsuit for the very first time in her life. The stories can be really heartwarming and encouraging to those of us just getting ready to take the plunge.

But I have recently been paying a lot more attention to those "other" stories": 

  • "I lost 100 pounds but gained it all back..."
  • "I am going through a bad time in my life and can't stop eating..."
  • "My husband just left me and all I want to do is cry and eat..."
  • "After 5 successful years, I am regaining again and I don't know why..."

Entry after entry of people whose surgery is not working out for them for one reason or another. Scary stuff.

I have not gone out of my way to look into relapse numbers. Normally this is the type of research I would be all over like stink on expensive cheese, but here I have held myself back. I couldn't tell you exactly why, only that it didn't feel right to be investigating failure before I have even started the process. I have been wanting to prepare myself for success, not for failure.

But the truth is out there: relapses happen. And it is scary to think that all this work, (and rearrangement of my innards) could go down the drain if I don't watch my step.  So, I have been carefully reading these relapse stories, and looking for common elements. I keep finding 3 common themes coming up time and again:

1. Lack of accountability. Most of the desperate pleas of those I see talking about their failures online are for someone to "straighten them out" or "tell them off." At home, these individuals are not getting the support they need. Maybe they live alone, maybe their family is disinterested, or maybe (most frightening) their support system is working actively to sabotage them. But they need someone to call them out, and tell them to get back on track.

2. Lack of exercise. This seems to be a major issue. I have yet to read anyone's story about how they are suffering from massive regains while they are still exercising regularly. Just about all the horror stories I have read talk about how the pressures of life, or exhaustion, or just laziness have kept them off the street, away from the gym, and placed them on the couch.

3. Emotional turmoil. The big push that starts the plummet of the cliff of a major regain seems to frequently be an emotional trigger of some kind. A lost job, the death of a loved one, the breakup of a long-term relationship (sadly common for those who have gone through bariatric surgery) all seem to be things that have forced these individuals to seek comfort where they have always gotten it in the past - from food.

Lor and I are lucky. She has me to hold us accountable to our diets, and I have her to push us when it comes to exercise. As far as emotional turmoil - we have each other to rely on if something goes wrong in either of our lives. It isn't like we're going to get divorced again. Been there, got the T-Shirt - it didn't fit.

For anyone else, I would encourage them to find a family member, community,  or friend to act as an accountability partner. My other advice would be to do it now - while things are still going well. Looking for help while you are desperate leads to bad, bad choices. Get someone in your corner right away, and keep them there - when the storm clouds roll in, you'll have someone to run to before things get out of control.

This lifestyle change that we have undertaken is hard enough without handicapping ourselves by trying to go solo. Do it with a friend, find a support group, get plugged into a relationship with a trainer - anything you can do to make sure that one bad day doesn't turn into one bad week, or one bad month, or a disastrous relapse to obesity. One thing we know about life - bad times will show up. Make sure that you have planned ahead, and have the tools you need to come out the other side with your "new self" intact.

Being Prepared Aint Just For Scouts,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Leaving the Tribe

I spent some time over the last couple days looking at the Obesity Action Coalition, and listening to podcasts by a couple of their members. Something, I am not sure what, set off the "advocacy" switch in my brain recently, and, just like I did with the Epilepsy Foundation, I am wanting to get myself plugged into the larger world of community and political activity around another issue I am personally invested in.

Here's the thing, though: I feel kind of weird getting involved with the OAC, or any other obesity advocacy group right now. Why? Because I am getting ready to have a surgical procedure to begin correcting the condition in a few short weeks. It is as if I was joining La Raza right before I had a DNA procedure that rendered me 100% Anglo - at best I would be a concerned outsider, no longer a real part of the group. I feel like I am about to lose my "tribal" status.

It is hard to describe the importance of self-identification that comes along with a disability like Epilepsy or Obesity.  In many ways, the condition is larger than the person you are. I am not a veteran, but have heard vets talk about how "if you weren't there, you don't understand." That is exactly how I feel about the conditions I have been fighting for most of my adult life - a small group of people really get it, and the rest may be concerned about it, but they won't ever understand what it is like to be a part of the "outsider nation". They won't understand the constant efforts (and failures) to gain control of your health, they can't have experienced what it is like trying to get help through our fractured medical system, they have never been laughed at or shunned for being different the way we have. It is almost a reverse form of class elitism, looking up from the very bottom rungs of society. 

But, if you haven't been through it, you don't understand.

The crux of my problem is this: I will always self-identify as a person with Epilepsy (or as "an Epileptic", on bad days.) There is no cure for it, no process exists to remove Epilepsy, or place it into remission. Even if I should ever enjoy 100% seizure control, it will be through surgical implants, daily applications of mind-numbing drugs, and constant vigilance - not because I wake up one day and have been cured. I will remain a part of this tribe forever - advising newcomers and their families, staying on top of news about developments and potential treatments, driving my elected representatives crazy by staying plugged into the politics around research and treatment.

What happens, then, when I take the "off-ramp" from obesity via bariatric surgery and the lifestyle changes that accompany it? Am I still suffering from the condition? Am I moved over into a "Veterans" or "Survivors" group - still having something relevant to add to the community? Or am I simply now someone who was a part of the community, but left - a person who joined the ranks of those who don't understand what it is to be Obese?

There is nothing wrong with being active as an advocate for a group you are not a part of. It is an important part of education and empowerment for those whose voices are not being heard. But it still feels to me, right now, that I am going to become external to the experience. American skinny culture, fat shaming, and bullying of obese kids are no longer going to be my issues, but the issues of a group I happen to care about. I will be standing with a group, but I will no longer be a part of it.

One of the first things a good doctor will tell you after your diagnosis of a disability is some version of "Don't let your illness define you." It may not be my definition, but it most certainly has shaped my community. And I feel very strange about potentially leaving the community I have been a part of for 25 years.

Wondering If I Have To Surrender My Tribal Membership,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Choices of the Unwise

Yesterday I made some poor choices.

And no, not the ones you are thinking I made. I did not stop off at Ronnie McDoncald's house then swing by the grocery store on the way home to buy a chocolate cream pie. No, instead, I sort of forgot to eat

The evidence is right in front of me, in the MyFitnessPal app set up on my phone. (An aside - if you are trying to lose weight, embrace MyFitnessPal. Not a kickback in it for me or anything - it is just that good.) Yesterday's breakfast is listed (Decaf, English Muffin with carefully controlled amounts of Peanut Butter and Jam, topped off with trail mix), but then, for the rest of the day...nothing.  Factor in the exercise I did last night and I netted a whopping 469 Calories for the day. Not good.

I can also guarantee that I didn't have enough water - I remember filling my 20 oz. water bottle one time. Tack that on to my 14 ounces of decaf (I have a BIG coffee cup), and I am almost 30 ounces short of my minimum intake for the day.

Far from being a "diet victory" (Yay! Under 500 calories!), this was a loss of massive proportions. For one thing, today I feel like crap. My head is pounding, my stomach is upset, and I could not force myself out of bed this morning. Hangover, anyone? I didn't even get to catch a buzz at the front end in order to earn the day after. 

But, the real problem is that post-surgery, this kind of behavior will get me hospitalized. Both dehydration and malnutrition are major issues for those that have gone through any kind of bariatric surgery. Pulling this kind of stunt after my sleeve is installed will be every bit as bad as binge eating, and more dangerous in the short term.

So, what happened?

To be honest, I am not sure. I diligently prepped all 6 meals and snacks for Lor yesterday, so it isn't like I was never in the kitchen. Since her liquid phase started, I have not been eating my "real food" at the same time she does, or in her presence, out of respect for her pre-surgical process. But yesterday, somehow, I just never got hungry, and never remembered to eat after I had created (blended) a meal for Lor. Despite a busy day,  I had plenty of time. I just never got around to it somehow.

And getting kickstarted this morning will be even more difficult! Ever tried to eat with a hangover? If you haven't, good for you - but the rest of you know what I am talking about. It isn't like I can have a Bloody Mary with an egg in it. I can't even have fruit juice. Instead, I am going to have to re-hydrate until I can eat something, then wait for my day to normalize. Joy.

The lesson we should all carry away from this? If you are dieting, especially if you are pre- or post- surgery, DON'T SKIP MEALS. It creates bad habits, and you won't like the short-term effects either. You have been warned.

Wishing I Could Put My Head On a Shelf Until The Feeling Goes Away,

- Hawkwind

Monday, June 6, 2016

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

The Gathering of Cousins. I am the one with the beard.

This weekend was a special occasion in the family: two of my cousins are hitting their 50th birthdays this year, so a party was organized to get as much of the family as possible together to celebrate. It was wonderful - family members came in from as far away as Georgia to be there, and I got to see people that I hadn't seen in years. It was so nice to see uncles, aunts, and cousins without everyone wearing black for a change.

The problem came when it was time to eat. The aunt who organized the event was very concerned, wanting to be sure that there were items that fit into my diet. I assured her that I could eat most anything that came off of the grill. relieving her concern. No, the problem wasn't that there was not food available for me.

The problem was that everything else look so good.

There were huge bowls of potato salad. Tortilla chips with my mother's family-famous salsa. A beautiful marbled birthday cake with butter cream frosting. There were 3 coolers filled with different kinds of beer!

And here I was, without Lor, who couldn't come thanks to the effects of her pre-surgical diet. Alone and unsupervised, in a wilderness of food. 

I knew I was going to fail somewhere. I am no stranger to my own nature. So, I adapted. I made sure there was always a bottle of water in my hand, so any time someone offered me a beer (which was frequently - my family has watched me in action at get-togethers for 45 years now) I could just wave my water at them to show that I was supplied. I couldn't possibly live without some of Mom's salsa, so when items started coming off the grill I put a healthy dose of it on my burger instead of using chips to eat it. And I did have a single serving (about 2 Tablespoons) of potato salad, which I ate as slowly as I possibly could after I had finished both a lettuce-wrapped burger and bratwurst.

 I didn't go anywhere near the birthday cake.

All things considered, I didn't do too badly. It worked out to only about 10 grams of Carbs (almost all from the potato salad.) This time last year it would have been a couple of fully loaded burgers, a couple of bratwursts, a pile of potato salad, and a bowl filled with chips to go with Mom's salsa. This would have all been topped off with as big a slice of cake as I could've managed interspersed with half a dozen beers.

And I wonder how I got to 302 pounds?

The visits with family members were gratifying, though. Those that don't follow Misdirected all commented on how good I looked. Several that do look in here from time to time thought I had already gone through surgery, on the basis of my appearance. I actually laughed and joked and visited, instead of hiding in a corner, hovering over a plate, hoping no one would talk to me. I even participated in family photos without trying to hide in the "back line", behind everyone else.

Though it was nice to have everyone tell me how good I was looking, it wasn't the 33 pounds I've lost so far that made the difference for me. It was knowing that I was finally making changes in my life and sticking to them. At our next family get-together, I will have been through surgery, further committing to this new lifestyle of not being shackled to obesity. I will not have regained every ounce plus some extra pounds from failing on my latest fad diet. And looking forward to success, rather than anticipating failure, is making all the difference in the world for me.

Looking Forward To The Next Family Gathering,

- Hawkwind

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Psychology of Obesity

Photo Credit: theearlofgrey via Compfight cc
An awfully pretentious title for early on a Friday, right? But today will be my first visit to a psychiatrist in many years, after a couple of very bad patient/doctor relationships - and telling myself to not worry about the visit today has got me thinking about why it is that a person becomes obese in the first place.

Visit any forum or message board dealing with obesity these days and you will find a few trolls - those individuals who have taken time out of their day to drop in and tell us that we are only "fatties" due to a lack of willpower. If we only had some self-control (as, presumably, these individuals believe they do) we would not suffer from this problem. To them, the condition of obesity is a product of nothing more than laziness. Running into an especially obnoxious troll post can infuriate me for hours afterward - which tells me that something inside that post has resonated with me. Apparently I, too, believe at least in part that if I had just tried a little harder over the past 20+ years, I would not be obese.

And here lies the problem with obesity, in a nutshell. The vast majority of us thinks that we alone are responsible for our condition. But, other than being fat, where is the evidence? The majority of us go to work, we raise families, we practice religious devotions, we do chores around the house - we do a hundred things a day that prove that we are not lazy - and yet we accept that the state of our bodies results from a failure in willpower.

Obesity sits in the same corner with drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression - conditions that a person who has never suffered from will never really understand. These afflictions of the mind are easy to marginalize and make fun of because they are invisible to the naked eye. A person on crutches wearing a cast is accepted as having a broken leg. But, in our culture, obesity is not accepted as a sign of a broken mind.

A few years back, Lor and I stopped by a local gym to check into monthly rates, thinking maybe we could get this thing moving on our own. The young and heavily muscled twerp behind the counter took one look at the two of us and suggested that maybe this wasn't the gym for us. We couldn't afford it anyway, so I just let it go. But I guarantee you that I went home and ate something afterward. "Healthy" society had just rejected me and made me feel bad. So, I went home and ate, which made me feel good.

Now, which activity do you think I return to most often? It is called a conditioned response - your mind drives you towards those things that feel good. The mind associates things which are good for itself (eating, sexual response) with pleasure, and things which are not good (being cast out of a social group, hitting oneself with a hammer) with pain. This is Mother Nature at work here, trying to secure the continued survival of a species. What Mother Nature did not count on is that we've now developed a cycle:

  • There are so many things to eat which cause pleasure.
  • Overeating develops obesity.
  • Obesity causes rejection by social groups, which is painful.
  • One retreats from the pain of rejection, by embracing the pleasure of eating.
  • Back to step one.
This is, of course, a vast over-simplification - and I am no psychiatrist. But the logic is clear: why would I endure rejection and exercise (which is initially painful as well) when I could instead feel good by eating? Eating is a short-term pleasure, of course, but there is always another Quarter Pounder or Snickers bar just around the corner. I am not only eating things which are bad for me, then - I am also eating them more often.

See where this is heading?

I am not looking forward to bariatric surgery because the smaller stomach size will force me to eat less. I am looking forward to bariatric surgery because I will finally have the chance to look for "pleasure centers" that do not revolve around food. Weight loss will allow me to finally seek endorphin-releasing exercise. It will enable me to live a life where I am not constantly in pain. It will enable me to have a normal sex life. And, yes, it will enable me to interact with other people without the prejudice against obese people working against me. I am willing to have the majority of one of my internal organs removed and THEN go through all the normal work of weight loss, just to reset my association with food as the sole source of pleasure in my life.

It may seem unfair, but there it is. I have to live in the world as it is, not as I wish it to be.  I can only hope that my psychiatrist today agrees with me, and does not instead want to turn me into a multiple-year case study or something. Wish me luck!

Still Looking For Endorphins That Don't Make Me Fat,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Hunger Games

Photo Credit: Elaine Russo - Delizie! Arte com Açúcar via Compfight cc

Things are strangely quiet here in the household, the kind of silence that descends in a horror movie right before something lurches out of the shadows. Think Rime of the Ancient Mariner kind of calm. We are 24 hours into Lor's "liquid phase", and...

...What's that? The great majority of you have no idea what I am talking about? Let me back up a bit, then.

Any bariatric surgery is surrounded by several periods of time (or "phases") in which diets are radically changed to either prepare for or recover from surgery. We have been in one of those phases for months now - the low carbohydrate phase, where patients are supposed to drastically reduce their carb intake for the 3 months preceding surgery. However, 2 weeks out from surgery, another major dietary shift occurs. The patient is now required to spend two weeks eating (drinking, really) nothing but protein shakes, clear liquids (like broth), and water. Why? In order to shrink the size of the liver, which has to be moved out of the way (laparoscopically, of course) in order to perform any bariatric surgery. The smaller the liver, the easier it is to move around in the abdominal cavity. But the patient still requires high amounts of protein to stay alive, so protein shakes and vitamins it is.

Immediately upon release from the hospital the patient will go back on the "all protein shakes, all the time" diet. This is to give the digestive system time to recover from the traumas that have been inflicted upon it, but also means that the patient will spend 4 weeks on nothing but protein shakes and an occasional yogurt. Many successful patients report that after they are done, they never want to look another protein shake in the face as long as they live.

We are now 24 hours into Lor's protein shake phase. And, while I had anticipated what would be happening to Lor, I hadn't realized what was going to happen to me as well. You see, I will not be eating any food that Lor loves during this 4 week period. Why torture her like that, right? What I had not anticipated is that, cooking boring food for one, I would be really reducing my caloric intake as well. For example, yesterday, Lor got a whole 750 calories in protein shakes. But, I was right behind her, managing only 950 calories in "real food". Plus, she hit her 60 grams of protein target for the day - I actually missed mine.

I am little perplexed as to what to do next, honestly. Do I increase my intake to make sure I stay sane and stable for the next month? Or do I stick it out, suffering in solidarity with my wife like I had originally planned? I feel pretty decent now, I must admit - I have not suffered through the constant hunger that nothing but protein shakes creates. I think I will just wait and see what happens next.

One thing is for sure, though - the next 4 weeks are going to be more interesting than I initially thought they would be.

Hoping Lor And I Do Not Cannibalize Each Other,

- Hawkwind

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Pre-Final Countdown

Photo Credit: ryanredward via Compfight cc

Procrastination is a living, breathing animal that eats your best intentions and leaves you with the remains of wasted time.

I had every intention of producing a blog yesterday morning. When I sat down to write it, it occurred to me that the momentous events of the day were coming up later in the morning, so surely I should just write later, right? But later came and went, and left me in such a dither of emotions that I could never actually get anything coherent down to be published. So, here we are, 24 hours late, with the news that we've all been waiting for.

The day has come, the die has been cast, etc. - I go under the knife (the scopes?) on July 25th, just a hair under 6 weeks from Lor's surgery date. I do still have to pass muster with a psychiatrist, but that evaluation is scheduled for 2 days from now. Barring any catastrophic failures, this thing is a go.

I am not exactly ambivalent about the whole thing. The meeting with the nutritionist yesterday was extremely positive. I've lost a total of 30 pounds since we started the process in February. Lor and I are exercising every day, dietary changes have been made successfully - I've received a glowing report on my pre-surgical prep from the team over at ABQ Health Partners. It seems like I am prepared to succeed at this.

But...(there is always a but) I am still having trouble wrapping my head around where this is all going to wind up. My loved ones are cautioning me to not be overly optimistic about the final results of my surgery -  high blood pressure and sleep apnea, for example, have been a part of my family genetic makeup regardless of size or weight. Thanks to my currently over-sized body I will probably never be built like Hugh Jackman, but will instead be left with an apron of left-over skin reaching down to my knees. I mean, I am happy to accept all those results if it means I can finally walk without being in constant pain. But I was kind of hoping for more dramatic results than what I am being cautioned to expect. No one is trying to talk me down off the ledge, but I seem to be receiving plenty of warnings that the landing won't be as comfortable as I was hoping for.

I am left looking in the mirror now, trying to figure out what (if anything) will be different about me when this process is all said and done. My surgeon airily informed me back in March that the surgery would "Get me down below 200 pounds". I am 30 pounds down now, and I am just not seeing it in the mirror. Granted, I already feel better - I can walk two miles now and carry on a conversation afterwards. This from a guy who 3 months ago couldn't carry groceries out of the car without gasping for air during the process. I guess I was just hoping for something more tangible, and I am kind of afraid that even losing over 100 pounds post-surgery is still going to leave me looking like a deflated balloon. A deflated balloon with high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and excess skin hanging off me everywhere.

Later today is our bi-weekly "measurement" routine. I am hoping for some positive results there, because right this second I could use a win. I am not nearly as pumped up about having a date for my surgery as I had thought I would be.

Curiously Ambivalent,

- Hawkwind