Crunchy, crispity melba toast (and oh, I lost two more pounds).

The scale has finally started moving. Yesterday, I dropped two pounds (now down to 323). That makes for a 20-pound loss since I had surgery on 2/12, and a 43-pound loss since I started my pre-surgery diet. I lost 18 of my post-surgery pounds in the first two weeks. Then the plateau hit and lasted, gasp, 12 days. That’s 12 days of eating 500 calories or less a day, and exercising 30-45 minutes a day. I’m no physiologist, but that’s bullshit (and further proof that my body wants nothing more than for me to remain a fat fuck).I went to my surgery support group last night and asked my surgeon about this plateau. He rambled on about ramping up my exercise or watching my calorie intake. What??? Christ, even if I was going hog wild and consuming 800 calories a day (which seriously, would be physically impossible at this point), I should still be losing more than 2 pounds in 12 days.

After the meeting, another girl who is one year out said to me, “When you asked that question, the doctor should’ve told you that plateaus are normal, you aren’t doing anything wrong, and all you can do is wait it out.” From what others said, it seems this is the case. Even my surgeon could not explain what physiologically happens during a plateau, where one can be at a standstill for 12 days when consuming 500 calories a day. So we’ll just chalk it up to one of life’s great mysteries and leave it at that.

There were some other people at the support group meeting who were considering surgery. This one guy who was in his twenties was in obvious turmoil, asking questions like “I love food — won’t I miss food?” and “I’m from New Orleans, and my whole family life centers around food.” Since I’m only three weeks out, I didn’t feel qualified to dole out advice. But I felt like telling him, “Son, you will not give two shits about jambalaya or crawdads after you have this surgery.” I don’t know why this happens — the food you used to obsess over is all of a sudden a non-issue, as appealing as dog food. There are moments when I’m like “mmm, that hamburger smells good.” But the thought goes away as quickly as it comes. There’s no more obsession. Poof – it’s gone. Food just doesn’t seem all that important anymore.

So what exactly am I eating each day, now that I am three weeks out? Here’s a sample day for you:

BREAKFAST: 8 oz fat free sugar free Blue Bunny smoothie (plus 1/3 powdered milk, for protein)

SNACK: 4 oz fat free sugar free pudding or yogurt

LUNCH: 3 oz tuna salad with three pieces of melba toast (each piece is a bit smaller than a playing card)

SNACK: sugar free popsicle, 8 oz fat free sugar free Blue Bunny smoothie (again, fortified with powedered milk)

DINNER: 4 oz fat free refried beans with a few melted cheese sprinkles on top

Now you can see why I was so utterly offended when my surgeon suggested cutting more calories. I am lucky if I get in 500 calories a day, and they want you consuming 500-650 per day. Technically, I am not supposed to have melba toast yet. I started it earlier this week, and it has helped immensely with my state of mind. I chew it thoroughly, it doesn’t make me sick and fits well within my calorie limit. So whatever. A lot of this is trial and error, seeing what you can eat (as long as it is healthy).

Eating this amount, I am pretty much full all the time. The tuna salad and melba toast for lunch makes me plumb full. When I see the amount that others can eat, it just amazes me now. Now, if I can only find chewable calcium pills that don’t taste like ass, I’ll be doing just great.

Q-Tips and cravings.

The first two weeks after my surgery, I lost 18 pounds. This third week, I have not lost a single pound. Talk about frustrating. I mean, how can one NOT lose weight when consuming 500 calories or less a day and working out? It’s crazy. Everything I read says this is a common plateau, but this makes it no less frustrating — especially when I go on to the bulletin boards and read about 50 year-old women who had the surgery same day as me and have lost twice as much as I have. You all have plateaus. I have Devil’s Tower. I know you old bitches aren’t working on your fidness, so what gives? I have no choice but to wait it out.

Eating-wise, my doc has me on a full liquid diet (cream soups, sugar free Jello, milk, sugar free yogurt) right now. Three ounces at a time (which is like half a container of yogurt). It does fill me up, shockingly enough. I will be on it for another week, and then I move on to (drum roll) pureeds! Oh, blessed pureeds. I have missed my hand blender (or as untitledhusband calls it, my kitchen dildo). This is the same diet I was on three weeks before surgery, and I bitched the entire time. I’m not going to lie — I really miss food with texture. I miss chewing. Everything I read says the first month or two is a bitch, and they are right. Physically, you don’t get hungry. But mentally, I still want to eat what everyone else can eat. One thing that has changed are my cravings. I crave Subway, not chocolate chip cookies (or any sweets, for that matter). I’m not sure why this is, but hey, I’ll take it. Sweets have always been my downfall.

Here’s one thing they don’t tell you — after they remove your JP drain (about 10 days after surgery), you are left with a hole in your stomach about the diameter of a pencil. And here’s the clincher — they don’t stitch it up. They make you dress it twice a day, which involves sticking a Q-Tip in there, removing the debris and packing the empty space with gauze (so it doesn’t abcess). I shall never recover from sticking Q-Tips into myself and seeing them completely disappear. Thankfully, this hole heals up in one week. Now it’s just a scab. Personally, I think the nurses get off on making patients stick stuff into their bodies.

Being the lucky fuck that I am, I have another hole where one of my incisions became infected. I had no idea it was infected — it looked like any other scab. At my 10-day checkup, they opened up the incision, removed the infected debris and left it open. It wasn’t as painful as it sounds. When they were done, the hole was about two inches deep and the size of a quarter. Fucking christ, people. Couldn’t you have just let it be? I am not a smoker, but I have this urge to stick a cigarette in that hole and see if I can take a puff through it.

In addition to all of this, I have discovered that my belly and adhesives do not get along. This whole time, I’d have red marks after removing the tape. But the other night when was removing my hole dressings, large patches of skin came off with the tape. Holy fucking painful. There are no words. I walked around all night tenting my pajamas away from my skin. The air hurt, anything rubbing hurt. Thank god it has now scabbed over a bit. Bloody hell.

So yeah, there have been a few tiny setbacks and inconveniences. But all in all, I’d still do this all over again. The first few weeks have been a little rough, missing food and all. Sugar-free popsicles go a long, long way in this department. I can’t say enough about my beloved cracksicles. We had a blizzard here, along with a 15-hour power outage. My popsicles were the main casualty. I made untitledhusband hitch up the horses and take my ass to Wal-Mart so I could buy more, blizzard and all. Hell hath no fury like a post-op without her sugar-free popsicles.

The amount of milk (24 ounces) I have to drink each day to get in my protein in unbearable, but I do it. I am so sick of milk. I will be so happy when I can eat solids again and get my protein the old-fashioned way. But it’s amazing, having this control over what goes into your mouth. The hunger is just not there, and the cravings are much less than they used to be. For anyone out there considering this surgery, know that it’s not nearly as physically painful as you’d think. It really isn’t. They show you these diagrams, how they staple this and re-route that. But honestly, from the outside, it feels fine. There is nothing to be scared about. Now if I could just get untitledhusband to look at my belly hole, my life would be complete. Look at my insides. Love my hole. This is your only chance before it heals up!

What a week.

Surgery was on Monday at 8 a.m., and Friday was the first day I felt like a person. In fact, I felt magnificent. I made all the beds, got myself and untitledson dressed for the day, and fixed him breakfast and lunch. I also did some surfing online and one load of laundry. Oh, I also rode my exercise bike for 15 minutes at my target heart rate of 150. I never thought I’d feel this good on day five, after feeling so lethargic, emotional and sore for the previous four days. Pain pills only do so much.

The hardest part physically is sleeping. It hurst like hells bells to lay on either side, or to make the journey from back to side. This sucks ass, because I am a side sleeper. I have learned that I get my best sleep on our sofa sectional, where my back is semi-propped, and I am supported on one side by sofa, and the other side by a big pillow. Ain’t nothin’ right if momma’s not sleeping.

On Tuesday – Thursday, I was having plenty of throat discomfort (very strep throat-like, from the surgical breathing pipe) and stomach pain (like 70 percent of the pain from a c-section, from the five one-inch incisions). The surgery itself (laparoscopic Roux-en-Y) took five hours, from what I’m told, and it went textbook. The found a hernia while they were in there (a by-product of my 2003 c-section), so they fixed that. I never noticed it, because my belly fat protruded more than the hernia. How sad is that? Hernias often lead to bowel obstructions, which can be deadly. I probably would’ve brushed it off as bad Chinese and died on the turlet like Elvis, all because I was so fat.

I made sure to ask my surgeon if I had managed to shrink my stomach and liver down adequately, given I had spent my last three weeks on the bemoaned blended diet. He said there was plenty of room, which instantly made me think what a tool I was for not getting in more “lasts” (french fries, sesame chicken, chicken fajitas with white queso). Oh dastardly trans-fats, why do you mock me so?

One thing that’s kind of bizarre is this abdominal (Jackson Pratt) drain coming from my stomach. From the outside, it looks like 12 inches of small clear tubing with a clear rubber grenade at the end. I empty this grenade twice a day (about 1.5 ounces of what looks like the most disgusting white zin on earth). The rest of the time, it stays tucked into the waistband of my pants. I am strangely intrigued by this foreign pathway to my inner sanctum. I find myself pulling the grenade out of my pants a few times a day, inspecting my juices for pulp and whatnot. It’s the same instinct that forces me to open my Kleenex after I blow or inspect my toenail clippings. I mean, when else do you get to see what’s floating around inside your abdomen? The JP comes out next Thursday, so I have to enjoy the freakshow while I can.

These past few weeks have been bizarre, watching the world eat while I sip. The whole blended diet thing changed my relationship with food (but don’t think for a moment that I wouldn’t re-kindle that love affair, if even for a moment, if my stomach wasn’t the size of a walnut). I have a gamut of emotion, from pride to isolation to sorrow. Normal people are eating PIZZA right now. But alas, normal people don’t weigh 300+.

Before surgery, I would read how people would say this procedure made them “not hungry.” This made me nervous, because I need to be more than “not hungry” to eat. Well, I am happy to report that I am full. Like Thanksgiving Day, god-I-need-to-burp full. I get this full from a few ounces of skim sugar-free chocolate milk, or 2 ounces of broth. Seriously — it’s bizarre. Food still sounds damn good, so I devote a few minutes each day to mentally “eating” anything I want. I find a quiet chair, close my eyes, and actually make small chewing motions. Of course, untitledson views this as his opportunity to ask for the twentieth time if our Jeep is a race car and “Why Not?” “Can’t you see I’m EATING here?” It sounds a little whack, but it does help. I guess it depends on how good your imagination is. Next week, I can move on to full liquids (like tomato soup, etc.). I slowly ramp up my foods until by two months, I am eating a relatively normal food (albeit healthy, and in small quantities). The day I can eat solid chicken sauteed in fajita seasoning, I will let EVERYONE know. There are some foods I may never be able to eat again, but I won’t know what these foods are until they make me “dump” (nee hellacious two-hour bathroom sessions).

Here I am rambling, and you all just want to know the stats and see the “before” photo. Well, here goes (I can’t tell you how painful it is to type this first number):

Original Weight (before pre-surgery diet): 366 (but I was a slim 366, OK?)

Day of Surgery Weight: 343

Current Weight (five days after surgery): 338

Surgeon’s Goal Weight for Me: 212

My Personal Goal Weight: 199

Here is my “before” photo (I weight about 345 here):

untitled - 2/1/07

Here is what I eat right now (this is per day):

24+ ounces of ice water

22 ounces of skim sugar free chocolate milk

4 ounces of fat free low-sodium chicken or beef broth

Here is what I do every day, in the way of exercise:

15-30 minutes of light cardio (walking or recumbant bike)

Due to water gain during surgery (and every month for that matter), I was given the sage advice to pay attention to the tape measure. In five days, have lost four inches around my waist. My body is apple-shaped (OK, Michelin-shaped), so I gain and lose in my abdomen first. I would expect this is where I’d see the most dramatic numbers. But still, four inches in five days. That’s pretty fucking cool. I tell you now that there will be weeks where I loose nothing, and then lose 10 pounds overnight. This is typical. But for now, let’s meditate on those blessed four inches (ohhhhhhhm).

Even though this last week has been physically challening, I am still glad I did it. I feel hope. I feel in control. And I look forward to buying clothes in stores other than Lane Bryant. I find myself wondering why I didn’t do this 15 years ago. I always thought I wasn’t fat enough (even though people around the 250 range have this surgery). I did have an “a-ha” moment at my surgeon’s office after I got all my pre-surgery tests back. My blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate — everything was normal. My nurse told me that biologically, my body is perfectly happy weighing this much (but that it would eventually catch up to me). As a result, my fat cells fight like hell to stay fat when subjected to a diet. They send out heroin-level cravings for food when I deprive them, so they can maintain their lifestyle. They are also extremely efficient at shutting down the metabolism when faced with hunger. For once, I didn’t feel like a weak snod for not being able to simply resist, to push away from the table. I hope this makes it all easier for normal-size people to understand how hard it is for us big people. This surgery gives people like me a tool to fight through those cravings and succeed.

Well, at any rate, I’m glad to be on the losing side of this process. Did I mention that the stairs are already easier?

A big weight lifted.

After over 5 hours of surgery on Monday, I’m happy to report that untitled is doing very well post-bariatric surgery. She can slowly sip down a shot-size cup of water/milk/broth every fifteen minutes. This is considered to be a good amount at this point. The nurses and doctors are pleased with her progress, so she should be coming home on Wednesday.

Before I left tonight we went on a walk around the hospital floor. I thought we’d do one lap. After untitled announced that we’d be doing three, I said “are ya sure?” Her reply was a simple, “I know you can do it.” Her stomach may be the size of a golf ball, but thankfully her sarcasm is still larger than life.

I’ve passed on all of your kind words and thoughts to untitled. It means the world to her that you care.

Greetings and salutations from the land of mush.

So I’m on this curs-ed three-week liquid diet before my Feb. 12th surgery. I just can’t quit talking about it, can I? I will tell you little concerning my last meal, in which I ate three chicken fajitas and an entire basket of chips and queso. But I will share in detail the proof of my struggle and determination that has come to bear itself over the course of this… this… this… hazing.

Today I’ve completed just over one week (almost two!), and it’s all I can do to stop from shaking down the vending machine for some Cheez-Its. Another temptation – the blasted M&M dispenser. I believe the profits (which are considerable when charging 25 cents for six M&M’s – an obscene gesture in itself) go to the Lions Club. I wonder how an organization as benevolent as the Lions Club sleeps at night knowing the treacherous ways in which they procure their money? I’d buy a big bag of my beloved M’s and keep them in my desk drawer, but we all know how that would go.

Anyways… you put in a quarter and out rolls about six M&M’s, gumball style. It’s notorious for shooting the candies onto the floor shotgun-style, and sending one to ponder the most primeval of thoughts. “Should I pick that M&M up off the floor and eat it, or should I lick the soles of hundreds of strangers’ shoes?”. Me, I’m the type to pick up my rogue M&M’s. And I expect you are, too. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this desperate wasteland of a blog. I figure my constitution can handle it, being that untitleddog has been known to sneak up on me and slip me the tongue when I least expect it. A mouth that has indirectly licked dog balls can handle a little street dirt.

Well, I am happy to report that I have hit a new low. For a moment, I considered picking up a STRANGER’S M&M – a solitary brown fellow – up off the floor and eating it. It could’ve been there for days, weeks, who knows. I walked away sans M&M, but you must know that I paused. After I left the scene, I even thought about walking back for it. Oh, the depths one will sink to when you have eaten Potato Buds every day for nine days straight.

I can’t possibly imagine that there are others out there who have survived the liquid diet ritual without thinking such heinous thoughts. So I conducted a little research. Turns out that most bariatric programs require a pre-surgery liquid diet of less than one week. Some don’t require it at all, saying that it is inhumane. SO WHAT IS UP WITH MY HOSPITAL REQUIRING A THREE-WEEK LIQUID DIET? Even death row inmates are given a last supper. The program coordinator just goes about her daily business, handing out these liquid diet orders just because she is skinny and I am fat and she can. She says it’s to help me lose weight before surgery, which will help make it possible to do things laparoscopically. To this, I say “You first, bitch. See how batshit YOU get when reduced to Jello, sugar-free applesauce and cream soups.”

Dear me. Have I gone too far? Have I crossed that line? I see that I have. Well then. In the immortal words of Tim Gunn… carry on!