Posts Tagged ‘surgery’

How I Got To Where I Am Going

Because it is what has helped me get to this point in my life, I think I want to talk about my surgery and the experience leading up to and immediately following it.

How does one just decide one day “I am going to undergo a major, life altering operation?” Well, for me, I didn’t just up and decide. I started exploring the idea in the summer of 2009 when it became clear that my body was so heavy I could no longer exercise without risking injuring myself. After coming home from Sapphire Joust, a 4 day camping event, with massive sores on my inner thighs from where they had rubbed together all weekend (even with bike shorts on), I could barely walk for a week.

My shame allowed for almost 2 months to pass before I could bring it up with Byram. I figured he would be radically against it, but I was very wrong. He had reservations (and anyone considering this should have some reservations and concerns), but he supported my efforts to go forward.

I went to a required informational “class” in late August 2009 and confirmed that I was eligible and my insurance was in good order to take the next step, which was a visit to the surgeon’s office to meet the surgeon and answer a whole lot of questions, ask my own, and then some testing. Here is the photo they took of me that day in the doctor’s office, September 1, 2009 (it’s really bad because it is scanned from a plain paper copy I have, made into a PDF, then made into a JPEG; I seriously lack in photo wizardry skills, sorry).

Yes, I really am almost as wide as the door in that photo.

That was September of 2009 and I had a lot of things I had to do before I could even hope for a surgery date. I had to spend time with a behavioral therapist, a nutritionist, visit a cardiologist, and my general practitioner. I also was not supposed to gain any weight in the intervening months. They said they would disqualify me if I gained substantial weight as it would disprove my commitment to my long term health.

On November 3rd, within an hour of getting word that a co-worker (who had also undergone RnY gastric bypass) had committed suicide, the phone call came in offering me January 14, 2010, for my surgery date. In a haze of emotion, I accepted the date and the countdown was on.

The 10 weeks that followed are a bit of a blur. I DID commit the “Last Supper” sin, a lot, eating anything I wanted, worrying about nothing. I had actually lost about 10 pounds between September and November, but I put them all back on, and on the morning I began the two week long liver shrinking diet (January 1, appropriately enough), I was 271 pounds.

The morning of January 14, exactly a week after my 28th birthday, Byram and I arrived at St. Mary’s hospital in the very cold, pre-dawn hours. Most of this is a blur as well; my heart was racing and my head was pounding for much of the time. I went to Inpatient Registration first where I was braceleted, and soon thereafter, we were taken to the pre-op waiting room. I was deeply comforted by having Byram so close to that point, but it was abruptly over when after less than 10 minutes of waiting, I was called into the pre-op prep center. I gave my last hug and kiss to my husband before walking down the hall with the nurse. That was a very hard moment.

I was taken to a large room full of other surgical patients, each of us with our own curtained quarters. I given warm socks and a surgical gown to wear, and the poking and prodding began. My veins were nearly impossible to find and it took 4 or 5 sticks to get my two i.v.s in place, but fortunately, the nurse had a standing prescription for novacaine injections, so I got a little numbing dose before each hit or miss with the i.v.

Things were going along okay at that point. I was being introduced to my surgical team, everyone was asking me my full name and date of birth and what procedure I was undergoing. After being asked a half a hundred times, it got a little old, but that was preferable to coming out with a hip replacement by accident or something. Dr. Bautista, my surgeon arrived, and everyone got down to their jobs; papers were being filled in, my vitals were being checked constantly, and everyone was going about their business, very professionally and at the same time, very casually.

This is where I got off track. I felt very insignificant, very small, and horribly alone right at that moment. My hands started shaking. My eyes started blurring. It sank in that this was really going to happen and I was scared to death. Now, all the shaking and tears were very silent; I wasn’t sobbing or gasping, and therefore, it was a few minutes into what was probably a full on panic attack before anyone noticed I was upset (I was trying to avoid anyone noticing, too. I was very ashamed of the tears and terror).

Eventually, the anesthesiologist’s nurse noticed. She was so very sweet and gentle with me. She asked, “Are you okay?” and I shook my head and whispered “No.” She said “Okay. Do you want to continue? We can stop here and you do not have to go through with the surgery. That is okay.” I got myself together a little and said “No, no, I really want to. I am just scared.” And I really was. She said “Okay, then hold on and I will put a little something in your i.v. to make this easier.”

I don’t know what I was given; some sort of valium type drug, I am sure, but whatever it was, I was grateful for it. Within minutes, the shaking stopped. My heart rate dropped back from the 120s down into the 90s. I was able to detach myself from my fear, look at it with some distance, acknowledge that I had good reason to be scared, but no good reason to let that overwhelm me.

Much calmer, and of course, slightly high, time began speeding up. The team left to get the operating room ready, dimming my lights, which allowed me to drowse off. I looked at the clock at one point and saw that the scheduled time for my surgery had passed. Dr. Bautista came in and said the room had to be decontaminated and it would be a little longer. No problem; I just dozed off again.

Right around 8am, they came and got me. It was go time. They gave me more of the calming drug and I remember being moved, but I have no idea what direction I went or how long it took to get from the pre-op prep area to the operating room. I do distinctly remember the operating room. It was smaller than I expected and looked NOTHING like they do on t.v. I remember seeing the daVinci machine they would be using to do my surgery and thinking it was much bigger than I thought it would be.

I helped the surgical nurses get me shifted from the gurney to the operating table and I remember that I was surprised at just how narrow the table was. This was the point where I was very glad they had given me all that happy medicine. I remember them strapping my arms down; I even remember thinking “Man am I glad I am high as a kite because I would be freaking the *bleep* out right now.”

The anesthesiologist was the last person I saw. He put a mask over my face and told me to take some deep breaths. The last thing I said before the lights went out was “I trust you guys.”


Fast forward about 4 hours. I woke up in recovery and the very first sensation I became conscious of was the feeling that my midsection had been perhaps run over by a dump truck; possibly two dump trucks. Immediately following that sensation was “Oh my god, I am going to puke” and in full terror, I started dry heaving (who wants to be dry heaving with a brand new right down to the new car smell pouch for a stomach???). A nurse quickly saw my distress and immediately put something in my i.v. for the nausea and showed me where to find the morphine delivery button.

I clicked that button. A minute later, I clicked it again. And again. And again. And then the lights went back out and I was gone again. And so began several maddening hours of waking up, checking the time on the clock, hitting the morphine button over and over again, and back to sleep. The only things I was conscious of were that much more time was passing than should have (I had been told I would only spend two hours in recovery), that Byram was probably flipping out not having seen me yet (he wasn’t), and that waking up meant hurting and clicking the button meant not hurting, but not being awake either. My five or so hours in recovery bordered on hellish.

Eventually, I learned that they were waiting for a bed to open for me, Byram had been updated about my surgery long ago and had left to get out and get lunch, and that I was doing just fine. I think it was about 4:30 that they finally got me a bed in the bariatric ward and I finally, at long last, got to lay eyes on my husband again. He stayed with me for a long time. He brought me my knitting project I had chosen for the hospital stay and even took a photo of me attempting a few, morphine assisted stitches. I was incredibly weak and constantly slipping into and out of awareness. He stayed until my drill sergeant, I mean, nurse came and made me take my first required walk around the ward.

That was the most exhausting and painful walk I have ever taken. It was maybe a couple hundred feet total, just down the hall and back, but once I was back in bed, I kissed Byram good night and I hit that happy little morphine button and went straight to sleepy town.

The first night was a bad one because I had roommates and I had to get up and walk every 4 hours and had vitals taken even more frequently than that, same as they did, and none of us were on the same schedule, meaning there was no rest for anyone. Around 6am, I got my own private room and finally started getting real rest.

I passed my barium swallow test and was given water to start sipping. Eventually, I was given broth and apple juice to sip for my very first post-op “meal.” That was Friday, the day after surgery, and it is a blur of walking the corridors and talking to various nurses. The morphine button was taken away and I was switched over to Percocet. Percocet was F.U.N.! I am a friendly little lady on Percocet. It turned out for all that I thought I was hitting that morphine button like crazy, I only got 7 doses in the space of 24 hours. There was a 6 minute delay between each dose and apparently it would send me to sleep long before that delay was up.

I was taught how to give myself a Lovenox injection. The catheter was taken out and I was allowed to get up and use the bathroom myself. Slowly but surely, the number of tubes I had attached were decreasing and as I gained more mobility, the discomfort eased.

The most stark moment I remember was meeting a man in the hall who had had his RnY bypass the same day as me, and also with Dr. Bautista, just later in the day. He was coming back from his barium swallow test and he was upset. I asked him what was wrong and he said “I have a goddamn leak, and I am going back into emergency surgery in a couple of hours.”

Whoa. There but by the grace of God went I. Dr. Bautista had done two surgeries in the same day and mine was the one that went flawlessly, not his. I felt scared, horrified, relieved, and guilty all at the same time. I talked to Dr. Bautista shortly before he headed back into surgery. He told me how great I was doing and that my procedure had in fact gone off without a hitch. I acknowledged where he was headed and wished him luck. We shook hands and I thanked him.

That was the last time I ever saw him.

Soon thereafter, I was very unceremoniously packed up and shipped out the door to head home and begin my new lease on life.


The Girl In The Black Dress

My 2 year “surgiversary” is coming up on the 14th, in a little more than a week.

My friends sometimes tell me they forget how I looked before my surgery. Whenever someone says that, I am instantly reminded of this photo, taken almost exactly 3 months before my surgery, because this photo very quickly sums up exactly how I looked and felt.

Now, I look like this.

I haven’t forgotten where I came from. And I know where I could wind up.

When I let my weight run away with me, I felt like my whole life sort of got derailed. It was a horrible death spiral of my weight draining me of my energy, the lack of energy kept me from exercising, the lack of exercise allowed my body to hurt over the littlest things (like walking 2 blocks!) and kept my energy levels low, and I just kept eating.

I tried every diet. I tried supplements. I tried high carb, low fat. I tried low carb, high protein. Weight Watchers. Not eating. Whatever. Everything worked…for about 6 weeks.

I admit that I live in terror that my surgery will not be a long term fix either. Every time I strap on my trainers and go hit the pavement for a few miles, I feel like I am being chased after by that fat girl in the photo above with a dozen hot Krispy Kreme donuts in her hands, yelling at me, “Hey, remember how good these were???” And I do remember how good they were. And I could probably have one and maybe only feel mildly ill. But…and here is the truth about me…I couldn’t stop at one. Not “wouldn’t.” I mean it when I say “couldn’t.”

She is always there behind me, reminding me of how good things “used to be” and suggesting that “just this one couldn’t hurt, right?”

She’s good motivation, that old me. I am running away from her as fast as I can. If she catches me, that girl outweighs me by 120 pounds and I figure she would have little trouble wrestling me down and winning. I just have to keep running.

The scars of being morbidly obese will never fully disappear from me and I understand that now. I didn’t get that way just because I was lazy, or just because of my genetics, or just because I was clueless about what did and did not count as food, or just because of an unhealthy mental state. It was a whole series of things working together in a perfect storm against me. That storm is still raging but I have more tools to help keep it under control. I have more knowledge than I did, I have a better grasp on why I eat and am smarter about what I eat. I have found a form of exercise I enjoy enough to do several times a week, which helps combat my inherently lazy nature. And I put in the hard work I know I need to to help combat the genetics.

I look on that girl in the black dress with pity and sorrow, but also keeping the same distance you would from a friend who is down with the flu. If I get too close to her, I feel like all the sadness, fear, and misery she carries in all that weight will rub off on me again.

That girl in the black dress was me, but is not who I am today.

And my task for the past 2 years, and will be going forward into untold years, is to simply keep out running her.

Rules To Eat By

A dear friend who is chronicling her efforts to lose weight and run the Richmond Half Marathon said to me this weekend that she wanted to talk to me about nutrition because I “know how to eat.” Her comment took me by surprise; everyone knows how to eat right? I do believe everyone basically knows how they should eat, but in a world where every week there is a new “diet” book out and every magazine marketed to women has a new way to eat to “lose that belly fat forever,” it can get very easy to lose sight of the basics.

I will start with Michael Pollan’s “Rules” with my personal addendum in brackets.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly [lean protein and] plants.

That’s it. Simple and common sense. And pretty much everyone knows that stuff whether they have ever even heard of Michael Pollan or not.

So let’s talk about these basics, using Pollan’s Rules as a framework.

Eat food.

What is food? Food is nothing more than potential energy in a form that our bodies can digest and turn into kinetic energy. But it is SO much more than that. Food has deep cultural and emotional roots in most of us, both of which make it more difficult for humans to look at food as simply fuel and make it much easier to over-indulge.

In American food culture, we have the additional problems of what I think of as edible food-like substances. Think Lucky Charms, Kraft Singles, powdered non-dairy creamer, which are just a few examples that come immediately to mind. I am not saying these things are inherently evil (okay, I do think Lucky Charms are inherently evil…), just that they are not good ways to be getting nutrition. I also believe that these food-like substances confuse our bodies, mix up our hormones, and contribute to our obesity epidemic.

An occasional Pop-Tart is not going to kill you or make you fat by itself. But is it going to do anything for you aside from making you not hungry for a short while and fill some empty spot in your brain that said “I have a sweet tooth”? No, of course not.

My suggestion is this: enjoy your pop-tart (or whatever your unfood of choice might be; mine was a dunkin donut this weekend) but don’t use them as a meal or eat that stuff daily. Even better when have a sweet tooth attack would to be to eat a real food treat.

Homemade chocolate chip cookies? That is a much better choice than a Chips Ahoy! cookie out of the bag (I know, I nibbled on one this weekend, then threw it and the remains of the bag of cookies in the trash. Yuck.) A slice of cheesecake is better than a fudge round made with transfats and high fructose corn syrup. Do either options qualify as health foods? No. But I would bet you that the higher quality choice will leave you feeling better.

As for your daily meals, keep them simple and focus on high quality ingredients; higher quality means generally more nutrients and better flavor. The more elaborate you try to get with your meals, the more time it takes to prepare and cook them, making you less likely you are to cook your own foods. Make protein the largest part of your meal (more on this below), make your carbohydrates as complex as possible, and eat a little fat with each meal!

Fat? Oh noes! The Horror!

Fat is NOT the enemy. Fat is essential for the absorption of many essential vitamins like A, D, and K. Fat adds flavor. Fat keeps you fuller longer (actually, calories help keep you full, but what else is fat but concentrated calories/energy). The trouble with fat is it is a key feature in most processed foods (cheap way to add flavor) and most meals in restaurants (more flavor means happier guests, happier guests come back and spend money at the restaurant again!), which is where we get most of the fat in our diets. Eat at home when you can.

Not Too Much.

This is a murky spot for me to offer any advice on. I had to be surgically altered to stop overeating, so maybe I am not the best person to offer advice, but I will give you tips on what I do now, because it is still very easy for me to overeat, just my version of overeating is different from most everyone else’s.

If you are cooking at home and you KNOW you are a late-evening grazer, don’t cook more portions than you need to feed everyone; you say you will take the leftovers to work tomorrow, but chances are about 9:30 there is food right there waiting for you and you end up eating a second dinner.

Start your meal by eating your protein first. Protein is denser, takes more time to chew, thereby slowing your eating, and will fill you up fastest.

Don’t drink liquids with your meal. What’s this you ask? This is one of the rules I have to live by post-gastric bypass. Why? There are separate issues at work for weight loss surgery patients involving mineral and vitamin absorption, but for the normal GI tract, water, tea, or whatever, with your food washes the food more quickly from your stomach to your intestinal tract, and an empty stomach triggers the brain to request more food. Your brain will ask for more calories even though your small intestine will be busy with the ones you just consumed.

Don’t eat at buffet style restaurants very often. It should be obvious as to why. They serve low quality, cheap food, very high in sodium and fat, and often are questionable in terms of food safety (how long has that chicken been sitting under a heat lamp?). These places are designed to get you to overeat. You feel like you need to get your money’s worth out of that bar (you won’t), not like you should eat only until you are sated. Just avoid these places when possible.

In fact, as I said above, it is better to avoid restaurants when you can. Portions are usually too large, and you are out of control of the ingredients that go into your meal. Occasionally is fine. Daily, every other day, multiple times a day, are all too much.

Mostly [lean protein and] plants.

This is where Mr. Pollan and I diverge a bit. Part of his “Mostly Plants” rule, in part, relates to the environmentalism of eating meat. No question about it, industrial farms where meat is raised in mass quantities are horrific places, bad for the animals, bad for the environment, and bad for us. It is an individual’s choice whether to support those Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) by buying industrially-produced meat, milk, and eggs, or not.

I personally believe that animal-based proteins are healthy in reasonable quantities and I am doing what little I can to flex my activist muscles and dollars by buying locally and humanely raised and slaughtered beef and pork. I have not been able to extend that to chicken yet, but we do get eggs locally, almost 100% of the time now. There are lots of non-animal proteins out there, but I feel their quality is not as good and many of them are highly processed (textured vegetable protein, anyone?).

My basic diet is not specifically Atkins, The Zone, Protein Power, South Beach, or any of those plans. My bypass requires that I concentrate on protein because it is very easy for me to develop a protein deficiency; this is not the case for a normal person, but I think my basic diet is still a fairly healthy example.

A typical dinner at my house might be like the one I made on Sunday. I roasted a whole chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and the side dishes were pasta w/ peas (as requested by Grace; it’s one of her favorite things), and a (unfortunately burned) sauté of sweet onion, mushrooms, and asparagus.

Tonight’s offering will be a little different. The remnants of the roast chicken will become chicken pot pie. Pot-pie usually means a billion calories, but because I know how it is being made, that lots of veggies are going in it, I know how the crust is made and what is in it (mostly flour and oil), and I know that this meal will be filling without being the fat bomb that something like the KFC version or the Marie Callender’s version would be. I will eat a little of the crust (because it is delicious) and a lot more of the filling and I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Last week, one dinner was a grilled sirloin steak, with broccoli and couscous.

These are not foods you generally associate with “diet” foods, but I think our mental focus on low-calorie meals rubber bands us back into sudden high-calorie food binges.

This last thing came to me while I was eating my somewhat odd (at least, it was odd to my coworkers) lunch of feta and olives from my favorite Greek deli.

Eat Food You Love

Whenever I hear someone talk about “gagging down a yogurt” because they know it’s “good for me,” I want to ask them to just stop. Eating food that doesn’t taste good to you only screws up your relationship with food even more. If you are gagging down food just because it is good for you, what is your brain going to start telling you about food that is healthy?

The message won’t be a positive one, that is for sure.

Bananas are supposed to be some wonder food; I personally find them revolting and you know what? I am not sure if they cured cancer that I would eat one then.

For every healthy food out there that you don’t like, there is almost always an alternative that you will like.

I hope this didn’t come across as preachy; talking about food and nutrition is something I genuinely enjoy since it is so very essential to my long term health. If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I will see if I can answer it.

Give Me Food and Give Me Freedom

As is no secret to this blog, I underwent gastric bypass surgery in January of 2010, as an option of last resort to help me get my life and my weight back under control. Going through the process of it, I had to do a lot of learning about nutrition, macro- and micro-nutrients, and what really counts as food (hint: large swaths of the typical American diet don’t count). Ten years ago, as a college sophomore, my diet consisted mainly of Mountain Dew, E-Z Mac and Cheese, Ramen noodles, Lucky Charms from the Dining Hall (verboten in my childhood, and now I understand why), and a pack of cigarettes a day.

Is it any wonder that I underwent a life altering surgery before I was 30?

We have a serious disconnect in our country with food. It is a basic necessity. A common factor between all humans. We all have to eat. How and what we eat is an individual choice for each of us. But we also have emotional factors relating to our food. Sometimes we use it as a treat: “I will treat myself to some ice cream after this bad day at work.” Or we punish ourselves with it: “I promise starting Monday, I will give up the McDonald’s drive through and eat oatmeal every day until these last 10 pounds are off.”

In a country with a severe obesity epidemic, with a First Lady who is on a mission to help prevent obesity in our nation’s children, you would think that our top priority would be finding ways to make it easier to get fresh, whole, healthy, and natural foods to more Americans.

You would think.

But our Country is run by money. And big agriculture and big pharmaceuticals have the money. And they have the ear of our government. And you and I don’t.

Our Country allows things like Olestra (a fake fat that also serves as an industrial lubricant and paint additive, aside from a cooking oil for “lite” potato chips) to be legal for human consumption, and despite well documented gastrointestinal side effects, it can be used without a warning label. But heaven help you if you choose to consume raw, unpasteurized milk, which is outright criminal in some states, forbidden to be transported over state lines, and is the target of SWAT-like raids and regular undercover operations.


People have lost their farms, their homes, their incomes, and more for daring to sell or distribute raw milk or cheese products. Here is a new example today of a woman facing felony charges over her raw milk. If she is convicted, Californian tax payers will be footing her “3 squares a day” in some penitentiary. I mean, really, is it worth it to the State of California to incarcerate her?

When was the last time a huge scandal erupted because a lot of people got sick eating a small farm’s meat, dairy, or produce? If you know one, I would be interested to hear about it. I can show you a few cases of individuals with documented illnesses related to raw foods, but only a few.

When was the last time a huge scandal erupted because a lot of people got sick eating meat, dairy, or produce from a large Big Ag company? Well, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey on August 3, only 3 weeks ago, due to salmonella contamination that resulted in one death and at least 76 reported illnesses. Jennie-O recalled turkey burgers for salmonella contamination in March and April. Last year, 2000 people reported illnesses related to the massive 500 million eggs recalled for salmonella.

Anyone else remember when fresh spinach was impossible to find because it killed 3 people and sickened almost 200 in 2006?

You can check Wikipedia for a list of some of the more egregious examples.

How many of those big operations saw people go to jail I wonder? Oh, I am sure a few heads rolled, but did any SWAT teams break doors down and bust in like it was a cocaine raid? I would be sure they did not. And people died in some of those cases.

I am not saying that eating raw foods like milk or cheese doesn’t come with an inherent risk; sure it does. But so does eating food produced and processed by those big corporations, and you don’t see them getting the same treatment — raids, busts, jail time, etc., for the same risks.

My source of frustration is the criminalization of any food, the FDA’s heavy handedness with small farmers selling to people who are 100% aware of the potentials with their purchases, and the FDA’s willingness to overlook “unfoods” like Olestra, HVP (can you imagine any food being boiled in hydrochloric acid being edible?), cheese “analogues”, and so many other things, while demonizing whole, fresh foods, consumed the way humans have been consuming them for hundreds or even thousands of years.

In the intervening 10 years since my “college diet” that I described above, I have learned what really counts as food, and what does not, and while I have room in my diet for some “unfoods,” I believe we as a Country would be much better served if we worked harder to make whole, fresh, raw, and nutrient dense food more accessible, more palatable, and less threatening. We should be able to choose and we should be able to make informed decisions with honest information, not industry-funded studies designed to sway your opinion towards the industry in question. We should not allow foods like sugary and nutritionally devoid cereals to be marketed to children and parents as “part of a balanced breakfast.”

I also support the right of people to eat those sugary cereals if they want them, in the same way I will defend the rights of a smoker to smoke, even if I don’t smoke anymore myself. If someone wants to eat cheetos and a 32 ounce cup of cola for breakfast every morning, they should be free to make that choice, and they must assume the risks of eating such things (diabetes, hypertension, etc.). If I want to eat a slice of raw milk cheese on home baked bread, I should be able to, while assuming the risk of something like listeriosis. (At least the listeriosis would be temporary.) If a vegan wants to eat cheese analogue that should be their right. If I want to eat a chicken raised and processed on someone’s farm that might risk campylobacter or salmonella, I should be able to, and I should be responsible enough to cook it thoroughly, just as I would a bird from Tyson or any other Big Ag farm operation (because, guess what, those Big Ag birds come with exactly the same risk!).

My whole feeling on the matter is that I should be able to choose foods I feel to be healthful and nutritious without worrying that the person selling it to me might be risking jail to do so, or I might find someone knocking on my own door if I committed the crime of sharing such food with my friends. I simply do not trust the people who promise that Olestra is safe to consume to tell me what is not safe to eat.

If the freedom to choose you food and its source matters to you, I encourage you to look more into this issue. Get educated on all the risks and benefits of raw milk, and other raw, organic, and seemingly “risky” foods. In a perfect world, everyone would know where their food came from, what is in it, and what the associated risks are.

If you think the government might be going a little overboard in its prosecution of small family farms serving and feeding their local community, I encourage you to check out Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund to get frequent updates on legal actions.

Whichever side of the matter you find yourself on, I encourage everyone to educate themselves, though. Learn the facts (both sides), and make informed decisions about the food you eat and the reasons you eat it. Try new foods. Try fresh foods. Find new and interesting flavors and textures. But do not let fear mongering by the government and the food and pharmaceutical industry (or supposed miracle cures from the other side either) pigeonhole you into one side or the other.

And every once in a while, enjoy a bowl of Lucky Charms or a Pop-tart, or some other thing that hardly counts as food, because that won’t kill you either. That is what freedom should be.

A Care (Caer?) Package To Myself

This is all strictly SCA and Sapphire related. Feel free to bypass if you came looking for knitting.

I had a funny thought today. When I autocrat an event, I like to set myself up with a little “Autocrat’s Care Package.” It is nothing more than some goodies to get me through an event. For my first ever event, it consisted only of a Whatchamacallit candy bar and a 2 liter of Mountain Dew, but that was a one day event.

The last time I ran Sapphire, my care package consisted of a carton of cigarettes, a 24-pack of Mountain Dew, beef jerky, Oatmeal Cream Pie cookies, and several 32 ounce bottles of blue Gatorade. No, it was not healthy, but health wasn’t a huge concern back then in general, and even less so over a 4 day marathon of activity. It was intended not only to give me lots of energy (calories), but to feed my mood (no one wants to deal with a cranky autocrat), and to be stuff I can eat one handed while swinging a sledge hammer or driving the golf cart. That was not ALL I ate over the weekend; that is why I refer to it as my Care Package.

I was doing a run down in my mind of what I would pack in my Care Package this year, and it really dawned on me that I have to go back to the drawing board now. No soda. I haven’t smoked in almost 5 years (I quit six months after the last Sapphire I ran). Oatmeal Cream Pie cookies (or Fudge Rounds, for that matter) are a one way ticket to Dump Town, and beef jerky, while theoretically the perfect food, simply doesn’t digest well in the pouch.

Since this is the first event I have autocratted since my surgery, I really have to think: What works for me now?

I will keep the Gatorade, as long as it is the low-cal G2. I needs me my electrolytes.

I think I will get some of those Beef Nuggets, instead of ordinary jerky. They are a little softer and easier on the pouch, great for protein and easily can ride around with me all day without fear of spoilage, but higher in sodium and I have deep suspicions about the preservatives used in them.

I think a pack or two of the Starbucks DoubleShots has to come along since there is not a Starbucks within 20 miles of the site. I also really like the Starbucks DoubleShot Energy Drinks. Mocha and Coffee are my favorite flavors. And somehow, they seem less threatening than say a Red Bull.

I will probably pack several Chobani 0% Greek Yogurts in the cooler. They are the perfect breakfast or fast snack. Tons of protein, some sugar (without causing dumping syndrome), and travel very well.

Then I think I will round out my Care Package with some string cheese, and a can of deluxe mixed nuts (no peanuts), or that really yummy pistachio blend trail mix I found last year.

A bag of some kind of good, bite sized chocolate might still make its way into my package. I may be beyond candy bars and oatmeal cream pies, but some extra dark chocolate, perfectly portioned into small servings, will go a long way towards smoothing over ruffled feathers and peaky nerves, all without making me sick.

The last thing in my care package will not be food related. And it might not get touched all weekend. But if I happen to find myself up at 4:30 am, like I did last time, where all I did was get up from my 3 hours of sleep and sit in camp in silence, while chain smoking, I think this year I will get into my care package and pull out my running shorts, running tank, and trainers, and cover a mile or two around the site. Will I have either the time or energy? Chances are good that I won’t. But if I do, nothing, and I mean nothing, no chocolate, cigarettes, caffeine, or drugs, legal or otherwise, would do more wonders for my brain and stress levels than to run in the quiet early morning around the event. And while throwing those things in a bag and dragging them with me costs me nothing, even if they never get looked at, having the time and inclination to go for a run, and NOT having my gear, would put me in a serious funk.

What a difference 5 years makes, yes?

The River Runs Dry

Every year, it is the same. Warm, hazy days arrive and my river of words dries up. Partly it is just that this is always an incredibly busy time of year for me. Work always gets immensely busy with rate case filings, discovery, motions, and such. There has been a noted uptick in FOIA requests too. Busy times at the office.

Then the SCA gets really busy between April and May every year. Every weekend there is some event I could (or should) be going to. I like it; no, I love it. This is the perfect time of year for our outdoor events. It isn’t until June that our season slows down for the heat and for Pennsic preparations. Add in that this year, I am running Sapphire Joust, and I am eating, drinking, sleeping, breathing event coordination and planning almost 24/7.

As a result of the all of this, the knitting falls off. Happens every year. Being mostly a knitting blog, with no knitting, there is little to write about. Remember those lightning fast April socks? The ones that are so incredibly beautiful and fast? I haven’t knit a stitch on them in a week. And the truth is, it doesn’t bother me. There are only 3 or 4 inches left to knit on the second sock and I could have that done in one evening’s hard work, but I just haven’t felt like it. When I have been knitting (which hasn’t been very much), I have been working on the second Serpentine Mitt or adding some stripes to the Son of Not Noro Scarf (as though I need a scarf right now. . . or wool hand warmers for that matter). A few rounds at a time the Serpentine Mitt is coming along. I have less than 10 rows of the cable pattern left to go, then an inch or so of ribbing, then pick up and knit the thumb, and bind off. They will be done soon. Not tonight. Maybe not this week, but soon. And I am okay with that too.

Then there’s the gardening and the running. Every Spring, even before bypass surgery, I found the motivation to take more walks or lift more weights. So far, this Spring is no different. I am just running farther (3.5 miles yesterday) and faster (in 40 minutes!) than any previous Spring. The veggie garden is taking off, just like every Spring, thanks to mild temperatures and lots of rain. Every day there is some weeding, checking the tomatoes and making sure they are climbing their cages right, and every weekend, there is some lettuce harvesting.

I am still hoping/planning on running the Half Marathon in November. I won’t actually register until next month just to be sure this isn’t some passing “I want something to fantasize about aside from Sapphire” thing, since I cannot get my $65 back once I have registered. I am spending a lot of time learning about longer distance running and racing. It can be as easy, I suppose, as lacing up your trainers and hitting the pavement for more than 13 miles, but to prevent injury and to try and make my goal of 2 hours 30 minutes (2:30), I need to know a little more. How to eat for fuel. How to fuel on the run. How to care for my muscles (especially since ibuprofen is verboten for me, and Tylenol really doesn’t help muscle soreness). What does “lactate threshold” mean? Is fartlek a dirty word? (It isn’t). Why do I have so much trouble with intestinal distress and how can I ease it or prevent it? What does one think about while running for 2.5 hours (I can’t spend the whole time chanting “You’re not gonna die” to myself!)? But more than needing to “know” how to run 13 miles, I have to simply get out there and run. My mileage base is still very low. I am trying to run 4 days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I really need to get up to 5 days (I want to add Sundays), but probably until Sapphire is over, more than 4 days a week is simply not in the cards. My target for starting my half marathon training program is Sunday, June 5th. In the meantime, I am just running, adding mileage, and getting used to the practice of running more days than not each week.

I have been very fortunate to stumble across the blogs of two weight loss surgery patients who have transformed themselves into very real athletes. This lady is training for an Ironman competition. She had her surgery just two months before I did. And this lady had her surgery just about 2 years before me and is a regular racer, and in fact just did her 3rd half marathon last weekend, finishing in under 2:20. So inspiring!

These ladies give me hope, particularly on days like yesterday when a 3.5 mile run felt like forever, making 13.1 seem like a pipedream.

I want to tell you how much I appreciate that you come here and read what I have to say, especially at times like this when my blog becomes a desert. I hope that you can take away something from here that is useful, inspiring, or thought provoking. And I am going to try and keep to my post-per-week challenge, even at times like these when I have nothing to offer you other than just random thoughts strung together, or excuses for why there aren’t pictures of knitting to show you. Thanks for stopping by!

Mind Over Mileage

Few things in this world make me quite as giddy as when someone “hearts” or selects one of my projects on my Ravelry Project Page as a favorite. Those little hearts next to the picture of my project just make me smile. It is why I make sure I “heart” other people’s projects (not just the pattern itself). It feels really good to know that someone randomly came across your project and thought it was nice enough that they favorited it; they put it on a list that they can look back on for inspiration and enjoyment of the art of knitting.

Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another individual. When someone favorites my work on Ravelry, leaves a kindhearted comment on my blog, or says something unexpectedly kind and encouraging on Facebook, my mood is instantly lifted and I am reminded that I owe that same kindness to others.

I have received a lot of encouragement this week. A lot. The fire that was lit when I crossed the finish line last weekend is burning away a lot of the fears and insecurities that I have harbored for so long. Conquering the 5k was a big thing, and something I will definitely do again (I have been signed up for the Warrior Dash in October for 3 months already). But now, inspired by the amount of time I have to train for it, the success I had with the 5k, and the very deep seated desire to challenge myself to accomplish something extraordinary, I am planning on registering for the McDonald’s Half Marathon, set for November 12, 2011.

A whole marathon is no joke and hardcore, and also, strangely of interest to me for the future, but just not yet. A half marathon is still serious business without necessarily being the life-consuming business that 26.2 miles can be.

My encouragement came first from my husband, who I had to run this by before anything else. He said of course, he would support me and thought I should do it, recognizing it would be a time commitment and probably an inconvenience. Later, after confiding to one running enthusiast co-worker my thoughts about it, he said “Yeah you should do it. You need to start now, but you can definitely do it.” I appreciated his honesty about needing to start now. He’s right, I do. Another co-worker who I didn’t even know was a runner saw my race number I have proudly posted on the wall of my cube from last week asked me about my race, and then told me he is a regular racer and has signed up for the Chicago Marathon. We talked about the Richmond Half, and he was very encouraging, to the point of offering to train with me, and said if he doesn’t run the 26.2, he will come run the 13.1 with me. Kitty has been thinking of lacing up her trainers again, and has been very encouraging too, and may also sign up to come do it too.

I have a lot of work to put in. Lots of miles ahead of me and below my feet. Lots of questions that need answers; being a unique little snowflake with a surgically “enhanced” gastrointestinal tract, I can’t just pound 120 ounces of water a day or slam back an energy gel every 5 or 6 miles without risking dumping syndrome. I don’t have room to eat 3000 calories or even 2000 calories a day. I have to have a real talk with my surgeon’s office about nutrition and training. She might even refer me to the nutritionist I saw before my surgery; and it might be worth the cost of doing so, given the specific challenges I face.

Beyond that, there is all the training. For every running coach and self-labeled expert, there is a training plan. There are 6 week plans, 6 month plans. More often, 10 week and 14 week plans. Plans for advanced, intermediate, beginning, and recreational (that’s me) runners. Knowing me, I will probably mash a couple of plans together to create something that works best with what I have available to me (I lack access to a treadmill but I have access to lots of hills, etc.) and the time I have to train in. I have access to successful runners in my office and among my friends, all of whom have experience and knowledge to share.

I am looking forward to the challenge. I am even looking forward to the hot sweaty summer runs, the early a.m. runs, the effort of finding ways to squeeze mileage in on weekends spent at SCA events. I would be lying if I said the thought of 13 miles didn’t make me a little nervous, but I will overcome that too.

I am going to do it. I am going to because the Fat Chick (Fat Chick is a state of mind, not a state of being; I know several twiggy thin Fat Chicks) I used to be always wanted to do this, but had one excuse after another, some valid, most were not, as to why I couldn’t do this. I am going to do this because if finishing a 5k inspired this in me, who knows what finishing a half marathon will inspire me to do.

But do you want to know really why I want to do it?
Because of her. Because she inspires me. Because I want to be the right kind of example to her. Because I don’t want her to have to go down the same “surgically enhanced gastrointestinal tract” road that I did. Because I want her to know that while there are a few very real limits in each of our lives, a lot of the limits we think we have exist only in our own minds.