Monday, March 29, 2010

"Oh...She's not eating..."

It has been over 6 weeks since I stepped foot into a restaurant. Six weeks.

Before my surgery, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat like I used to. I knew things were going to be different. But after my surgery, I continue to be surprised by the mental changes I am going through. Currently, it is my irrational fear of food.

Two weeks before my surgery, I made plans with my girlfriends to go out after surgery. I thought going out for martinis would be no problem. Hey…I can sit at the bar and still look fabulous! Just give me a water with a lime. Who could tell it wasn’t a vodka tonic, right? But when my friends called that week to finalize plans…I started to have a panic attack. Food. There would be food there. Food I couldn’t have. And I would smell the food. I would see it. What would I do? Would I faint? Cry? Run out the door without explanation? I honestly didn’t know.

So to save myself the potential embarrassment, I canceled. Lucky for me, I have fantastic friends. They totally understood and we promised to reschedule for sometime when I felt more comfortable. Crisis averted.

But it was in this moment I became very afraid of being around food I couldn’t have. Self control was not one of my best qualities. So, while on this crazy post-op diet, I avoided food at all costs. No restaurants. No parties. And definitely no dinners with the parents. I couldn’t bear the temptation. Instead, I came up with some “non food” activities. Going to the movies, trips to target, getting a manicure. And they worked….for awhile.

Until this one day when I dropped by to visit my friend, Nicole, at work. She invited me to see a comedian with a bunch of her friends on Saturday night. Foodless fun! It sounded right up my alley. I was getting all the details when it happened.

Date: This Saturday. Time: 9:45. Location: Kowloon restaurant.


Now, for all you who do not live near Boston, the Kowloon restaurant has to be the most fantastic Chinese food restaurant in the whole entire world. Well…at least on the north shore. It is delicious and I am addicted. Hence, this was not what I wanted as my first "being around real food" test.

Chinese food just happens to be my personal version of crack. I’m not kidding. The Chinese food place by my parent’s house actually knows us all by name. And when we order, we order big. Enough for breakfast the next morning. If you judge by how many fortune cookies the give us will each order, they believe we are a family of 15.

But I still decided to go, because hey- food can’t rule me forever. My friend knew I wouldn’t be eating, so I thought things would be fine. But when I walked into the door, I could smell it. The food. I felt lightheaded…I wanted to run…but I didn’t. I took a deep breath and walked up to my friend.

After some quick introductions, I encountered my first test. Drinks. I ordered a water…with lemon. Everyone looked at me like I ordered a glass of motor oil. I smiled sheepishly. The waitress wrote it down and walked away. I figured it could have been worse.

Test number 2 came when the group ordered food. I did not participate in the conversation at all. In fact, I think I pretended to be interested in the ceiling and carpet just to avoid making eye contact. But when the food came, the waitress brought me a plate.


She started putting the food on the table. Rice. Pork. Chicken. Beef. I wanted to cry. And as the food started traveling down the table, my heart rate started to rise. I started to think irrationally. One chicken finger? Could one chicken finger really hurt me that much?

One of the girls politely offered me the dish. I looked at her with what I can only assume was a look of sheer terror. Fear that I could not say no. But before I could even open my mouth my friend, Nicole, quickly said to her “oh...she’s not eating.” And the beautiful dish of delicious food went away. It was so simple.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Was I sad? Sure. But no one made a fuss. The food sat on the table the whole night. It was literally right in front of me. But most of the time, I was laughing so hard that my cheeks hurt and I didn’t even pay attention to it. In the end, I had a great time. But, if I had been there alone without the distraction, I know I wouldn’t have done so well.

So, here’s what I learned that night. I still have weaknesses…there is a lot I need to overcome about the food that I want but cannot have. Also, I am lucky to have the friends that I do and I continue to be so thankful for the support that they give me. Finally, and most importantly, if I plan to be around Chinese food ever again…I am DEFINITLY going to need a chaperone!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My new love...Gym

Gym…even the word makes me nauseous.

I have always hated anything even remotely related to the gym…as long as I can remember.

When I was in high school, there was a particular torture they compelled upon us. It was called “the walk/jog.” Anyone who reads this and went to high school with me will understand. The teacher would make us walk for 2 minutes and then jog for 2 minutes in the first 10 or 20 minutes of class. Looking at it on paper makes it seem so harmless.

But, I feared the walk jog.


Well, first off, in high school I had the biggest boobs you had ever seen…no…really. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I was an “I” cup (yes….it’s a real size) and had a breast reduction…5 pounds off each side. Yeah…thank you genetics. So, I never had the cute little bras my friends had. In fact, I couldn’t even buy my bras in a store. I had to order them online. And they looked like something my grandmother would wear. An “over the shoulder boulder holder” sounds sexy, compared to what I was wearing.

I would wait to change in the farthest dressing room in the corner. For class, I didn’t have the cute yoga pants and matching tops they make now. I think I wore my dad’s old sweats and a Winnie the Pooh tee shirt. Underneath, I didn’t wear 1, but 2 sports bras. Despite all that, my boobs still hit my face every time I jogged a step and I constantly ended up with bloody skin tears underneath them from all the “bouncing.”

I was also so out of shape that I could barely breath after jogging for the 2 minutes. I would get extremely red in the face, couldn’t talk, and would sweat so bad I would feel it dripping down my back. I couldn’t even catch my breath when I got to walk. Oh, and if I slowed down too much, I would hear “PICK IT UP, CONNORS!!!” yelled from across the room. That wasn’t even my correct last name.

I can honestly say it was one of the most embarrassing things in my life. And it happened…every other day…for four years straight.

So, one of the points they make when you have weight loss surgery is that you NEED to exercise. It is an important part of the plan. Just as important as protein and fluids. I fought back my “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” from the walk/jog. Ok,…sure…suck it up and deal. But there was one problem.

I didn’t know how to exercise.

I know how dumb that sounds. Who doesn’t know how to exercise? Me. Right here. I was uncoordinated, overweight, and pretty much avoided anything the caused me to sweat at all. But I knew how important it was, so I needed to find someone to teach me…I needed a personal trainer.

So, about a month before my surgery I joined a gym. It wasn’t huge, didn’t have tons of equipment, and it was a little out of the way. So why did I join? Because when I walked in, there were only about 3 people in there. And they were all fat little old ladies. Perfect.

I started pre-op with really just some walking on the treadmill and weights. Beth, the lovely woman who signed me up, showed me a workout plan to help me before my surgery. But guess who passed out the first time she worked out with her? Yeah…one of my biggest gym fears happened…only one day in. But I still went, figuring I really couldn’t do anything more embarrassing.

A few weeks after my surgery, I slowly went back to the gym. Since I was still a little sore, I just walked very slowly on the treadmill. As I lost weight, I found I could go faster and not feel like I was going to die. Awesome.

Finally, this past Tuesday, I started my personal training sessions with Beth. She is a peach. I have never enjoyed working out with someone before, always afraid I was being judged. But I really don’t feel that way when I work out with her. She works me hard, makes sure I’m doing things right, and encourages me to get to my goals. It’s awesome. Beth told me that by the end of our 12 sessions she wants to see me running. I laughed at her, my immediate fat girl reaction…but secretly, I’m just so excited.

Today, I’m sore…but for the first time it feels good.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Before and after...4 weeks post op

Been wondering where I’ve been?

I wish I had great news, like I won the lottery and took a trip to Hawaii…but alas…I had a quick admission to the fantastic Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for nausea and dehydration. It was very unexpected, but the important thing is that everything is fine and I’m home now…but back on a liquid diet. It’s been quite a rough week for me and I still can’t get my head around my emotions about this setback, but as soon as I do, I hope to write about it here.

SO- until then, I want to put up the post I meant to put up a few days ago.

A lot of people ask me to put up some before and after shots, since most of you have no idea what I looked like before I had my surgery. So, I picked a few of my favorites and thought I would share. I am also putting up a picture of me 4 weeks post op…40lbs gone.

This is surprisingly nerv-racking for me. But, here we go…

This is me at my 5 year college reunion...May 2009. When I started college, I remember praying I wouldn't have a skinny roommate. She didn't have to be bigger than me, but please let her have a muffin top or double chin...just so I wouldn't have to feel like a giant whale every time I got dressed. See the adorable blonde on the right? Yeah...god has a weird sense of humor. (But I love that girl to death and wouldn’t have wanted it any other god- it's all good)

In July 2009, I went to Sesame Place with my good friend Ang, and my adorable godson Nicholas. There was a water park. So, the question was- would I wear a bathing suit?


Why? Well, one reason was because I think I had on enough girdle and SPANX to make sure my gut stayed in that skirt, that it would have taken me hours to change...I was bulletproof…seriously.

This is a picture of me in the pre-op area the morning of my surgery…no make-up….glasses on…I was looking H-O-T-T!

Finally- here I am now…4 weeks post-op and 40lbs lighter. I wasn’t feeling too well that day, so please ignore the paleness and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bat Wings...

Got on the scale and saw I was down 40lbs today! Hooray!

Everyday is still a challenge to getting enough fluid and protein into me. I can't complain though, because the weight keeps coming off and I am slowly shrinking down. I’m really excited about getting thinner, but there some things that I know are coming that I’m not really looking forward to. I went into this surgery aware of them and, to me, the “pros” definitely out-weighed the “cons.”

One of the things I am most afraid of down the road are “bat wings.” You all know what I’m talking about…that flabby, jiggling, arm fat/skin that hangs down and waves along with you as you wave goodbye to a friend. Extra skin around my thighs, butt, or stomach…I can hide. (honestly, thats why I plan on buying stock in SPANX) But arms? They’re right out there…BAM. Smacking you right in the face.

There is not much I think I can do to prevent the sagging skin. But I am sure as hell going to try my best! So, I made sure I got a personal trainer before my surgery and I made EXTRA sure she was aware of my arm fears. I’m really glad that I’m going to start working with her next week.

Despite my new positive attitude, I seem to be reminded of “bat wings” everywhere. So, here’s a clip from the show “Family Guy” that I think about while I’m at the gym to keep me motivated. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Well, hello there nausea....

In writing this blog, I figure I should share the good along with the bad. So I’m writing a post this morning because yesterday was just plain awful.

During my almost 4 weeks of recovery, I have yet to vomit. Actually, I can count only 2 distinct times where I even felt really nauseated enough to really consider getting a bucket. This is highly unusual, I think, but heck…I’m not complaining! So I have been just going about my recovery and thanking god every day for my good luck.

That is, until yesterday.

Yesterday I was nauseous…all…day…long. I didn’t do anything differently that I can think of. Despite that, it took everything in me to eat and drink maybe a quarter of what I was supposed to. I really tried my best, but there was a point where I would have literally put in my own IV, just so I wouldn’t have had to put another thing in my mouth.

I was tired, I was miserable, and I pretty much wanted to throw my water bottle across the room. But my fear of dehydration was fierce, so I continued to slowly sip away at my Crystal Light peach tea. (screw you protein drinks…you can go to hell) I can only imagine that this was like the constant nausea my pregnant friends have told me about. To all of you…I’m sorry if I ever doubted your misery. Seriously.

Well…I know that this will not be the last “bad day” I have post-op. And despite the obvious hatred I had of my day yesterday, I truly am thankful for my extremely uncomplicated recovery. (so far...) This morning, I already feel a little bit better. (except for the 4 inches of water in my basement from the 2 days of constant rain here in Massachusetts)

I can only hope today is a better day. Health wise at least.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Whatcha eating?

A lot of people are curious and ask me what I can eat. How that whole thing works. Well, let me share. Basically, once you are post-op, you trade in your regular fulltime job for a new one: getting in enough protein and fluid.

When you go to your pre-op appointments, they tell you that in the first few weeks you are required to take in 60-80g of protein, 64oz of fluid, and 600 (yes, only SIX HUNDRED) calories. They say to try all the different protein drinks they recommend. Pick the one you like, and stock up on them because you will be living on them post op. (an expensive task by the way, but I digress) Being the diligent, order following nurse that I am, I did just that. Just ask some of my co-workers. I made them try them all with me. Things are always more fun in groups.

Post-op day 1, after I passed my swallow study to make sure there were no leaks in my rerouted pipes, I started drinking water out of a medicine cup. I was literally sipping out of something smaller than a shot glass, an amount that I never had trouble throwing back in less that a second before surgery. (Sorry, mom and dad…your little girl loved a good “lemon drop”…)

So, I braced myself and sipped….but no nausea, no vomiting…I just felt full. Like in an I-ate-an-entire-thanksgiving-dinner-but-went-back-for-seconds-anyway kind of way. My family refers to this feeling as being “distressed.” The perfect description, really. But, slowly I had more: from water to crystal light, crystal light to protein drink, 1 medicine cup to 4. sipping every 5 minutes. (Yes, I watched the clock.) I was told I was a "super star" and they sent me home early. Awesome. But I was warned…”get in your fluids and protein or you will have problems.”

On my first day home I knew I wasn’t getting in enough. So I tried to push it…and I got nauseous, I got lightheaded, I got dehydrated, and I passed out. I don’t know what was worse, waking up to my mother nervously saying, “have you come back to me, yet?” or her actually driving me to Boston to get me to the ER. (pot holes and abdominal surgery DO NOT mix) When I got there, I got 2 bags of IV fluid and was told that getting all the protein in was a gradual process. Great. Now you tell me.

Things are much better now. After 2 weeks, my diet was advanced again from mostly liquids to soft, purred foods. Which I have thoroughly enjoyed for the last 10 days. My favorite meal right now is 1oz shaved turkey and 2 Ritz crackers with a little salad dressing drizzled on top. I like broccoli soup with 1oz low fat cheddar mixed in...or 1oz cooked ground beef with 2 tbsp mashed potatoes and gravy. A couple of teeny tiny meatballs with some tomato sauce are really great, too. Everything has to be moist…low fat and low sugar. The weird thing is that I’m not really every hungry at all...and these little bits really do make me feel extremely full. Sometimes to the point that I am doing laps around my living room to get things to move down. (a trick that really works, by the way) My neighbors must think I’m insane.

Post-op I discovered that I really hated my milkshakeish protein drinks…but talking to some of my friends who have had this surgery, I found one called ISOPURE, which isn’t thick and milky, but thin, like crystal light. Sure, it tastes chalky, but I can usually get in 20-40g in this way, so I deal.

Do I always get in all my protein and fluids?...nope...but I try my best…listen to my body…and thank god in heaven that those first few weeks are behind me!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


If you have stopped by because my little blog was mentioned by Paul Levy, e-Patient Dave, or Universal Hub, welcome! I hope you will come back often and submit comments. : )

Dear Food,...Love, Kristen

One of the things I really miss is my relationship with food.

And when I say relationship, I really mean it. As a single, occasionally lonely fat girl, food was my life significant other. I was head over heels IN LOVE with my food. I loved buying it…I loved cooking it…and I especially loved eating it. Everything about my food gave me that warm fuzzy feeling I had when coming home from school to a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. I was addicted to that happy feeling and I was like any other addict…eating to try to relive that high over and over again.

My whole life has revolved around eating. So, going on my pre-op diet was the first step in my break-up with food. I was allowed one low cal “real meal” with 3 protein replacement meals a day…absolute torture. I remember sitting at work with my head in my hands looking at all the different cakes, cookies, and candy…beckoning for my affection.

But once I was post-op (and drinking my protein drink one medicine cup at a time) I really had to cut all ties with food. I thought…oh god…what have I done. My friend…my comfort, my companion…is gone. Once I got home, I cried….a lot.

But, after all the tears and with the support of my friends and family, I have started to re-evaluate my relationship with food. I’m starting to realize I don’t need food to be happy…but I do need it to live. So, now that my diet has been advanced and I am allowed to eat limited solid foods, I will let food back into my life…on my terms.

So I wrote a letter to my food…to invite it back…and to keep it in line…

Dear Food,

I miss you. But I had to let you go because I just couldn’t take your abuse anymore. My problem is…I can’t live without you.

I remember the last time we were really together. It was with that delicious tons-of-fun burger at the cheesecake factory. (one of our favorite places to be together) Yes, it was incredible…as it had been many times before. But I have to admit; I knew it was our last meeting. Unfortunately, I really had NO IDEA what my life would be like without you.

I’m trying to fill your place in my life with someone else. Protein. He is sweet…but boring and very predictable. When I’m with him, I sometimes think of you…and I know that he can never live up to the passion we once shared.

So I’ve decided to allow you into my life again. But this time, I want things to be different. This time, I just want to be friends. You can’t be the focus of my life anymore. The passion is gone…and I want it to stay that way.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The decision...

I didn’t think it would happen this way.

In fact I never make huge, life-changing decisions like this. It honestly takes me a solid 6 weeks to pick out a new cell phone. I sit, I think, I research, I compare, and I think some more. For hours at a time. But this day, the decision was over in a moment…like someone just flicked a switch in my head and was done.

I had just started working at a new job. It was my dream job. What I wanted to do as long as I can remember. I was stumbling my way into becoming a labor and delivery nurse. And I was so scared that I almost threw up every day on my way into work for a solid 6 months. No exaggeration.

Most of it was my fear of harming someone’s newborn. (A feeling that never goes away, but that’s good I think, because the fear keeps you sharp) But as a fat girl starting a new job, you also fear fitting in with your new co-workers. My new ones were fantastic. But by this time in my life, I had perfected my smokescreen for being the fat girl.

I was funny.

“YES! Pay no attention to the fat ass behind the curtain. Look at how fantastically funny and helpful I am.” My display was so flawless it was like watching Martha Stewart fold a bed sheet.

I was at work. The day was extremely ordinary. So ordinary, in fact most of the conversation leading up to one of the most important decisions of my life is kind of a blur. I remember I was sitting with one of my new friends at work. We were all chatting…and she mentioned a surgery she had in the past. I looked at my other work friend sitting at the nurse’s station. It was one of those moments when you look at someone; curious…hoping they’ll fill you in and they look back and realize “oh right, you’re new. You don’t know the back story.” She leaned into me and whispered, “Yeah, she had a gastric bypass awhile ago”

My jaw dropped. I wanted to say in a loud shocked voice, “NO WAY!” but instead, I just whispered back a hushed “wow…”

I remember thinking to myself, “but she’s so…normal.”

Working as a medical nurse for 5 years, my only real knowledge about weight loss surgery came from the patients I cared for that came in with some really horrible complications. The one I will never forget was the woman who was one-year post op and was only ever able to eat eggs and cheese. Anything else made her vomit. Literally, just plain eggs…and cheese. (This is my personal version of hell on earth) She made me swear to never ever get this surgery and told me she regretted it everyday. I was mortified.

Then I meet this woman, who is my age. Beautiful. Married. Two gorgeous kids. I had been hanging, working, and eating with her for 6 months and I had NO IDEA she had ever had a gastric bypass. She was normal. She lived a normal life. She didn’t eat mush…or just eggs and cheese.

It was at that moment I knew. At that moment, I saw the potential for my life to change. And I got really, really excited.

I realized my experience with weight loss surgery was grossly one sided. I had honestly never heard about or seen a successful story before. So I secretly researched weight loss surgery on the Internet for months. I learned about the lap band, the gastric bypass, surgeons, complications, before and after pictures, insurance coverage, and how it changed people’s lives…for the better.

I wanted to know it all and see it all. Inside and out. And by the end, I realized I wasn’t crazy for wanting to do it.

By the fall I started the whole process. I made an appt with a new PCP. Had him refer me to the weight loss surgery service at BIDMC. I then proceeded to go through their grueling application process. It was an 8-page application INCLUDING an essay at the end. Honestly, I think it was easier to get into college than into this program.

Once I was accepted, I immediately started a whirlwind of appointments. I met with a medical doctor, a nurse specialist, a dietitian, and a social worker. They determined I was “a good candidate for surgery” and was allowed to meet the surgeon. That day, I finally set a date for surgery…about 4 months from when I started. The process made me feel like I was on a really weird reality show and I was always waiting to be voted off “the weight loss island.” But…VOILA! Today, I am 3 weeks post op, 30 lbs lighter, and ahead of the curve in the whole recovery process.

My life has “gastrically changed” and here I am, no map, no GPS…just an utterly fantastic fat girl trying to figure out her way down “the road to skinny”...with only friends, family, and humor as her guide.

Come along for the ride. It’s going to be fun.

Confessions of a fat girl...

As long as I can remember, I’ve thought I was fat.

I first realized my fatness when I was in the third or fourth grade. Now, I wasn’t really what one would define as a “chubby” kid. I really started putting my weight on in the early teenage years. But I was bigger (and taller) than a lot of the kids in my classes…and I was quite aware that I weighed more than them.

This tragic day, we were in groups and making those human pyramids in gym class. (A fat girl’s nightmare!) Secretly, I wanted to be on top, but some skinny little 9 year old girl decided we should choose spots by how much we weighed. I had the same panic one has when getting on one of those tiny little airplanes and they ask you your weight. If you lie, the plane crashes. If you tell the truth you imagine them discussing your giant ass at break time or worse…not let you on the plane.

Did I lie?


I knew I weighed over 100lbs and my 9 year old self was suddenly horrified at that three digit number. So I lied about my weight, but I apparently didn’t lie enough and I was still demoted to the bottom tier…with the boys. (Oh, the shame!) There were other times in my childhood where I would realize and panic about my fatness. Pool parties, clothes shopping, and the dreaded presidential achievement test day in gym class. (what a horrible torture device that thing was) I used humor to laugh most of it off, but I realize now that I was starting to have a fat complex and I didn’t even know it.

Food was always a happy thing in my life. My mom can cook. No, seriously, she can REALLY cook. Ask anyone. She was a stay at home mom for me and my sister and was home everyday after school…meaning that I usually walked in to the smells of homemade chocolate chip cookies, banana nut muffins, or something equally scrumptious coming out of the kitchen. (right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, I know…but believe me…I lived it) We never bought lunch or even had frozen dinners. In fact, I can barely remember a night we didn’t eat dinner together as a family. My life was full of good times…and food was always involved.

So the weight came on, slowly but surely. It was almost a game: how much food could I eat without getting caught. Second servings? Large portions? Sneaking food? Guilty as charged. So starting at about age 14, I would gain and diet…gain and diet…gain and diet. But I could never get to look like the “skinny” girls I was friends with.

Regardless of how much I weighed, I always knew I was fat and definitely ugly….and I thought everyone else thought that too. In order to make up for this huge defect, I decided to be perfect in every other realm of my life. Honor roll student?…check. Creative and imaginative?…check. Singer? Drama star? Student Government President?...check check check. I enjoyed doing all these things, of course, but I wanted to distract people from my fatness by making them pay attention to how utterly fantastic I was.

And I lived my life this way. For a very long time. In the last couple of years I flirted with the idea of a lap band or a gastric bypass, but always thought that surgery was waaay to drastic a choice for me. I mean I’m young. I don’t have any other health problems. And really- who wants to eat a tablespoon of mush for the rest of their life, right?

Until the day I decided to get surgery. And what an interesting day that was.