Keeping it 100 (part one)

In my last post, I had touched on the fact that I got weight loss surgery, and some of the emotions surrounding the decision to do it. Now, I’m going to dive into the process, the work, and what it’s been like to lose 100 pounds.

The process started for me on January 17th, 2018. That was the night that I attended my medical practice’s seminar about Weight Loss Surgery. It was an information session with my surgeon who put on a presentation for about 2 hours discussing the two types of surgery he offered, different insurance questions, and the changes you should expect to make in the immediate future surrounding the choice to get surgery. The two types of surgery offered were Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. To be honest, I still don’t fully understand how your guts get rerouted with the bypass, even though this is the surgery my boyfriend ended up getting in September. Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, VSG or just The Sleeve, is called that because what it essentially is, you have a big portion of your stomach organ cut out from your body, leaving you with just a small stomach pouch that looks like a sleeve. It ends up being about the size of a banana. This surgery is done laproscopically, which means it is minimally-invasive, uses several small incisions instead of opening you up all the way and having all your insides on display. A minimally-invasive surgery with small incisions has the benefits of easier recovery, less pain and less scarring. Surgery is done under general anesthesia, takes 60-90 minutes and has a typical stay of one overnight in the hospital.

I left the seminar that evening with a lot of information and a lot to think about. If I’d get surgery, which one? The sleeve featured less complications possibly than the bypass, though bypass boasted a higher rate of excess weight loss in the first year. The bypass was also ideal for aleviating obesity-related medical conditions quickly, like diabetes and acid reflux. Since I didn’t have any pressing medical issues, I thought the sleeve would be the best option for me. On my way out of the seminar, I had asked the doctor what the next step would be, and he said to just make an appointment with him – that he actually had an opening the next day, due to some cancellations in his schedule. It was January, peak cold and flu season, so it made sense. The next morning, I made sure to call first thing so I could snag that appointment before anyone else at the seminar did.

The appointment was fairly routine. I was weighed and had my vitals taken like at any physical. Then we sat and talked about my health history, my history with weight loss, and my goals. We discussed the two surgery types, and though I had an idea which one would be best for me, I asked his professional opinion on which he’d recommend and he agreed that my choice of the sleeve was the best option. Once comfortable with the thought of “I’m really going to do this,” I asked him “well, what goes into this, logistically speaking?” Would I have to do a pre-operative diet, weight loss plan, subsequent visits and follow-ups? Everyone’s insurance requirements will be different, and I was pleasantly surprised by the prerequisites for my insurance carrier. To get approved for surgery I needed to do the following:

  • Have a BMI over 35% (or if it was lower, a person would need to have an additional weight-related medical issue to qualify)
  • Meet with the nutritionist twice within 30 days (or meet just once, if you have documentation you’ve tried an additional weight loss program in the past year – which I had, by providing my Weight Watchers information)
  • Have my Primary Care Physician write a note that they support and endorse this option.
  • Get cleared as mentally fit for this surgery by a psychologist.

So at my initial appointment with my surgeon, based on my insurance, there was no requirement for an arbitrary time-based waiting period prior to getting surgery approval. There was no pre-surgery dieting program I needed to do. That’s why on the spot, he scheduled my surgery that day. Reserved my surgery date on the books for February 15, 2018. It felt like a whirlwind as though things were happening very quickly, but in a good way. I was ready. He booked my surgery and sent me on my next steps: I met with the nutritionist that same day right after him. The only next step to check off before they can send my file off to insurance for approval was the psychologist visit, which I called and scheduled for a few days later.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at the psychologist visit, and at this point, I wasn’t involved in any online or in-person support groups. This part made me nervous, and I wondered what sort of mental readiness they were looking for. I mean, I’d recently lost my mother and wasn’t dealing with that. I just compartmentalized it and moved on so I could live my life without grief. It wasn’t the healthiest option of “well I’ll have to deal with THAT at some point,” the equivalent of slappin’ a strip of Flex Seal on that part of my brain. Basically, the appointment was making sure I understood the procedure I was getting, that I knew what changes I’d have to make, that I had a support system, that I knew the work I’d still have to put in. There was an assessment to see if you had eating disorders, and they asked about your general mental health, depression, anxiety, coping mechanisms. It was also explained to me that some people exhibit “transfer addictions” once their coping mechanism of over-eating isn’t available. Meaning, some people who had WLS (weight loss surgery) might turn to vices like alcohol or shopping. I disclosed that I’d had depression previously and addressed that with therapy, that I had situational anxiety when dealing with my divorce, and that I don’t see alcohol being a problem for me – I could take it or leave it. I had a firm grasp on what the surgery entailed and I was ready to take on the challenge of changing my life for the better this time, once and for all. We talked about my grief, how I’d tried a bereavement group and it wasn’t for me and I quit after the first session. Then, at the end of the appointment, she added in “oh yeah and I have to ask this, it’s required, are you considering hurting yourself or anyone else” and I laughed and said no, god no, of course not. I mean I’d never murder anyone, we all want to, I’d never do it, though I watch enough murder shows I could get away with it I bet…. I mean no, definitely no, I wish to strike all this from the record. It was awkward, and I really had to be like “I’m normal enough I swear.”

I must have convinced her of my mental readiness because she submitted to the surgeon that I passed my psych eval. Now with all my boxes checked off, my request for approval was sent off to my insurance carrier. All I had to do was wait. There was no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be approved, but I was nervous. “This seems too easy” was the prevailing idea. Or they wouldn’t approve my prior Weight Watchers receipt/attendance for some reason.

a lil meme to break up all the talkie-talky

The final set of pre-surgery things I needed to do were routine physical tests. They took some blood and I had an EKG to determine my heart was healthy. Some people, depending on their risk factors for sleep apnea, also need to undergo a sleep study. But as an obese-yet-bafflingly-healthy person, I didn’t need that either.

At the seminar and the appointment with my surgeon, he stressed that the most successful patients attend the monthly support group meeting, prior to surgery and after. The thought of this made me kind of uncomfortable, but I put that aside and “got comfortable with being uncomfortable” and made my way to my first support group meeting on February 5, 2018. Even though my insurance approval hadn’t come through yet and I was getting more and more nervous by the day, I decided I’d go to the meeting. If this is what successful patients do, I want to be one of them, so I will do the thing. It was a diverse group of men and women of all races, varying adult ages, all at different steps in their weight loss journey. Some were pre-op like me, others had just had surgery recently, and some were long-term, several years out of surgery and at their goal weight. What struck me, is the people who were at goal, looking at them, you’d never know. They just looked like “normal” people. I don’t know if other overweight people feel this way, but it’s like there’s two types of folks – fat people and normal people. Normal people who don’t have to think about every meal, every snack, every calorie burned or consumed. Who don’t have to think twice about if a store will carry their size, if they will fit into an airplane seat, if they should even try fitting on a ride at the boardwalk. People who just live and don’t have to feel like a prisoner to their body. I wanted to be A Normal Body Person like these people. They talked about their struggles, their victories, new recipes they’ve tried, different vitamins they’re taking, and a pharmaceutical rep came in and talked about their mail-order bariatric vitamin services and gave out some information about it. I got a good feeling being there, but mostly kept to myself and observed and didn’t really speak.

Days ticked by and my insurance approval still hadn’t been received. I’d been calling the doctor’s office asking for updates often enough, and while they assured me this is typical of that insurance company, there was still the nagging thought that I was going to be denied. But on February 11, just four days before my surgery, I received my approval letter that was dated February 5th. The surgeon’s office called and let me know my surgery would be at 9:30 am and to report to the hospital at 7:30 am to start checking in. No food after midnight like a gremlin, just “eat light” the day prior.

I was so relieved, and now the nerves set in. I didn’t allow myself to get nervous about surgery before now, because I was half-convinced it wasn’t going to happen. And there’s no sense in worrying about something I can’t control. I did the same tactic before getting a c-section too; I didn’t worry about the idea it could be POSSIBLE to get a c-section, even when the OB said that I was getting one while I was in the hospital, I didn’t worry until the point I was in the operating room getting my epidural/spinal block put in. It’s like I just condense all my worry into one brief panic attack instead of letting it take up a lot of mental space. You can bet the psychologist didn’t ask me about that.

Now all the pre-work and approval was done, stay tuned for Part Two where I talk about actually getting the surgery and the beginning of the work to come…

Check out the gallery below to see how my (redacted) group chat was lit with supportive vibes re: cut my gut


So It’s Been A Year

How many times have I thought “wow significant things have happened, maybe I’ll blog about it.”

 

Then refreshed that thought with a swift “ah, who cares anyways.”

 

Big important things happened to me and I didn’t know how to talk about any of them.  I don’t want to make a big sentimental post, or get emotional about it.  A year ago I lost my mother.  Maybe I’m still processing that.  In my typical, dysfunctional way of dealing with Big Emotions, I took the route of “distraction.”  Taking on a big project or new thing or literally anything else other than acknowledging the elephant in the room.

But I did acknowledge the elephant in the room, myself.  So, in February, I got weight loss surgery.  That’s been my big project: myself.  It’s been a long year, and I’m down 90 lbs.  I’ve found strength in places I didn’t think I had.  I pushed myself harder than I thought was possible. It’s taken me to a point where I have processed some grief along the way.  And realized, for the second time in your life, that this isn’t something you just get over.  The grief gets woven into the quilt of your life, and it’s apart of you in different ways.  I’ve been able to think more about myself, and wonder if I’m just a selfish person.  That my reaction to losing a parent is to go all “new me” about it.  That wasn’t it, necessarily.  But the catalyst of life being short and that I should hurry up and do something to take care of myself now before it is too late was definitely the initial urgent motivator.

 

There’s so many layers and nuances to embrace of myself, my mind and my body and I’m feeling more and more like a whole person with the more weight I lose.  Not because my weight equates my worth, but I am putting work into myself, and making myself feel like a significant priority.


Stocking Stuffers (for the ladies)

Hey there men, how’s it going? It’s holiday time, and though you might have really thought you aced it buy buying a gift ahead of time for your significant lady, did you know that if you live together, you should be stuffing her stocking?  Not a euphemism for givin’ her the ol’ candy cane or a hunk of that yule log, but I’m being very literal in the sense that you should be purchasing small gifts to put in a stocking that she hangs up.  It’s the last minute, so behold, here is a handy list that you can go to non-mall stores that are likely right in your own neighborhood and purchase, like Five Below and Walgreens.  I could have said any drugstore, but Walgreens is 105% my favorite.  It’s up there with Target.  I just love it there, it’s local to my home and work, the employees are nice and I don’t wait on line FOR A FRIGGIN HOUR like I would if I’d gone to CVS.  Or if you’re even more pressed for time and effort, the Amazon prime alternatives.

 

No one knows your partner better than you do, so think about what she likes, or if all else fails see if she has an amazon wish list.  I’ve put together a wishlist of Amazon Prime Stocking Stuffers that you can take a look at as well.

 

Candy

Get some seasonal fun candies and get some things you know your partner enjoys.  You know your lady likes gummies?  Can’t go wrong with anything  from Trolli or Haribo.

Where to get:

Walgreens

 

Face Masks

Sheet masks, clay masks and even peel-off masks are available and always appreciated.  Mint Julep face mask has been popular for decades as a stand-by, but more and more types of clay and sheet masks are available at your local store, so see what selection they have to offer!

Where to get:

Walgreens

Amazon

Five Below

Lip Balm

Eos lip balms are great because they are the only thing shaped like that in your purse, so when you’re just blindly shoving a hand in a purse or diaper bag looking for something, you know you’ve found it.  Check out special edition ones like Disney and holiday sets!

Where to get:

Walgreens

Amazon

Five Below

 

Nail Polish

Local stores will have a lot of colors to choose from.  Sparkly, pastels, shiny.  You cannot go wrong, just pick something.

Where to get:

Walgreens

Amazon

Five Below

 

Bath Bombs

You might not know what a bath bomb is, but they are like compacted spheres of bath salts that you throw in a bath tub, watch fizz around and then relax in while you have one of those cool face masks on.  The best kind come from Lush, hands down, but if you are avoiding the mall, you can get some at other stores as well.

Where to get:

Walgreens

Amazon

Five Below

Lush

 

Headphones

http://a.co/d71fXKW

Most people lose these a lot.  Grab a pair from any store.  They don’t need to be Beats by Dre to be a good gift.

Where to get:

Walgreens

Amazon

Five Below

 

Phone Cases

Where to get:

Walgreens

Amazon

Five Below

 

Other Phone Accessories

Chargers, battery packs, screen protectors – Five Below is THE spot for all of these, for all different phone types.

 

An Ornament

Star Wars: The Last Jedi™ Rey™ Ornament

Pick out an ornament that pertains to your loved one’s interests.  The Hallmark store has some good ones from Star Wars.  Try to make it something sentimental that you put more thought into.

 

A Hot Beverage Mix

Image result for godiva hot chocolate

 

Coffee beans, tea bags, hot cocoa mix – maybe even a cookie or Stroopwafel to go with it!

 

Gift Cards

Image result for starbucks gift card

At Walgreens, there is a whole kiosk of gift cards from different retailers and restaurants.  Grab one for Starbucks and put it in a cute coffee mug!

 

 


Wake Me Up When September Ends

 

There’s always this strange feeling for me that comes with the beginning of September.  It’s bittersweet, it’s sad, it’s something that gives me this empty anxiety feeling.  In a way that people get Seasonal Affective Disorder, I just chalked it up to being that – my mind not jiving well with diminished daylight and the existential knowledge that time is running out.

I tried to think about it more though, why does this affect me so deeply and personally?  Why do I have that sad ache when the calendar changes and I get that first cool breath of wind on my skin as it’s still being warmed by a bright sun?  It’s a muscle memory thing, it’s the way you’re reminded by a scent of someone long gone.  The aching for a simpler time when I put on my crisp new clothes for the first day back at school.  I was the kid that really enjoyed going back to school.  New clothes, fresh notebooks, a clean slate for a new year… all of those things brought out an excited optimism within me.  I miss that.

I miss the days when the whole family would spend chilly autumn days at the football field.  I was a cheerleader for one solid year, my brother played football regularly and my dad was a coach while my mom was either volunteering in the concessions stand or sitting on the chilly metal bleachers with her mom squad.  When I was in high school, Saturday mornings were spent sitting on those same bleachers freezing my literal ass with the rest of the marching band.  Every other morning of the fall was spent early before school started practicing our routines out on the dewy and sometimes frosted football field.  I hated it then, but I wish at this moment I could revisit it.  You never know when the good old days are until you’re out of them.

It’s hard not to think about September 11th when this rolls around.  When I have those bright, warm & clear autumn September days, it’s hard not to think “this is just like that day…”  How I remember on a whim I went to NYC on September 4, 2001 just to be there, and would be the second and final time I’d visited the WTC.

The first of September simultaneously makes me mourn the end of another summer gone and be excited for the fun autumn activities that are to come.  As my daughter gets bigger we can do more things with her that she can enjoy as well.  I’m looking forward to going to the farm, pumpkin picking, baking, hay rides and hikes through crunchy leaves together this year.

As the calendar changes from August to September with intermittent crisp and warmer days, I take this time to acknowledge my nostalgia for days passed, and put my foot forward to embracing all the great things that are to come in the next few months.  Load me up with that pumpkin spice, get me a hot cup of mulled cider and a fresh donut at the farm, and let’s get hella spoopy as Halloween arrives.  I’m ready for you, Fall.

 


My Latest Obsession: Korean Skin Care

I get lots of whims.  If you’re my friend, whenever I get really excited about something, I am giving you all the details about it and telling you how wonderful and life-changing it is.  It’s as though I am your in-person resource for reviews on anything, whether you asked me or not.  That’s also why I always review my purchases on Amazon.  Because if I’m out there relying on other people’s reviews, my opinion needs to get in there as well.  For the people.

The latest thing I’ve been on about for like a year now is a Korean Skin Care Regimen.  I started getting interested in different Korean skin care products after I’d been visiting a local Korean sauna spa, known as a Jjimjilbang 찜질방.  This spa is amazing, I spend the whole day there and leave with all my tension and worries gone, my skin softer than ever, and smelling like heaven.  Initially I had some reservations about going here, because the “wet” part of the spa with the different therapeutic hot tubs, pools & body scrubs is completely naked.  The naked areas are gendered so you’re not in mixed company.  Once you’re in, it’s completely not even awkward.  It’s just a bunch of ladies hanging out.  This is where I first saw someone using a sheet mask, that they sold there for like $3.  This was my initiation into the world of Korean beauty indulgences.

I don’t know if it was just me becoming aware, or if it was suddenly taking off in popularity, but I’d also seen a Buzzfeed video around that time of “I tried a Korean Beauty Regimen for a Week and here’s what happened.”  Then there were a few more articles from the likes of Buzzfeed, Bustle and Hello Giggles and the like about the hottest K-beauty products to put on your list. More American stores started carrying K-beauty products as well, in CVS, Nordstrom and Ulta.

So after a year of dabbling and trying to figure out what works best for me, what my skin needs, and how I can really cultivate My Best Skin Ever, I feel pretty good about the products I’m using.  It seems like a lot, or too many steps, or it will take a lot of time, but honestly I can do my routine in 5-10 minutes, more or less depending on how many extras I’m adding in that day.  All in all, the only time in my life that my skin has looked better is when I was pregnant.  I’ve had acne prone skin since I was 12 years old, and I finally feel like I am at a comfortable place where I can be makeup-free and feel confident about my bare skin.

Cleansing…

The first part of my skin care routine is cleansing.  More specifically, double-cleansing.  I’d always been warned against too much face washing will strip your skin and cause breakouts even further, but this process is actually better for deep cleansing and keeping your skin balanced.

The first cleanser is an oil-cleanser.  This part gets all the gunk off your face, makeup and skin oils.  Oil attracts oil.  I use Mamonde oil cleanser that I purchased at H-Mart.  Initially, I only used oil cleanser at the end of the day if I’d worn makeup.  However after reading some other people’s experience and recommendations, I started oil cleansing twice a day, every day, and it has helped my skin become less oily (surprise!) and my pores appear smaller.

Mamonde Deep Cleansing Oil

The next step is a water-based cleanser.  I have a few that I use depending on the day or what I feel like my skin needs.  Nooni whipping cleanser I like because it’s fun to whip up the marshmallow-like fluff.  Though it’s not a K-beauty product, I like Kiehl’s blue herbal gel when I feel like I might be getting a zit.  Mizon Snail Cushion cleanser is a good foam cleanser, with the added benefits of snail mucin (more about that later).

Another part that has helped get my face extra clean is using a brush.  Either a soft manual brush that is great during the rinsing stage, or once a day (in the evenings), a Clinique sonic brush, that is similar to the Clarisonic. I feel like this has really helped in getting all the gunk out of my pores, which has reduced the appearance of the pores.

 

Toning

After double-washing and drying my face comes the toner.  I used to think toner was just a thing you used to further clean the junk out of your pores, as the stuff I’d been used to was astringent and a little stinging.  Now, toner is gentle and moisturizing, and helps balance the pH of your skin.  Skin with a balanced pH is less likely to break out, and helps the rest of your products work to their full potential.  So far I have tried Mizon Moisture Barrier Toner, Oolu Jasmine Moisture Liquid and SkinFood Peach Sake Toner.  The Jasmine and the Peach smell absolutely amazing, very light and the scent doesn’t really linger more than 2 minutes after applying.  I don’t like heavy fragrances whatsoever, they will end up giving me a headache before long.  Anything that smells too much gets the boot.

Essence, Ampoule, Gels, Serums

This is where it gets interesting.  There are so many specific skin care concern products you can customize to what is bothering you from acne, hydration, anti-aging or lightening dark marks.  I’m currently using a Snail Mucin Ampoule and a Recovery Snail Gel.  Snail secretion is great for your skin.  It sounds a little yucky and people might be grossed out by the thought of putting snail slime on their face, but we use a lot of weird ingredients for all sorts of things.  Think about eggs.  You eat a chicken failed pregnancy, basically.  So why not put some snail goo on your face?  It promotes healing, collagen and cell renewal, and keeps your skin hydrated & supple.  From my own experience, it definitely helps fade acne marks more quickly than anything else.  It has no scent and does not feel any more slimy than other serums you might consider using.

I’m also using a SkinFood Peach Sake Pore Serum, but because of it’s consistency, I’m using it closer towards the end of my routine.  The rule of thumb for applying skin care products is light to heavy.  So use the most watery thing first and use the creamiest thing last.

 

Sheet Masks

Yaaaaasss!  This is probably my favorite part.  If you’re friends with me on SnapChat (add me:  an.alien), you have 100% gotten a weird photo of me in a sheet mask.  These masks are a great way to get an intense dose of a specific serum all over your face.  You put it on and leave it for about 20 minutes.  Afterwards you rub in in and absorb all the rest of it’s juicy goodness.  I’ll even rub the used mask on my chest and arms and not waste a single drop of its serum.  There are a LOT of options to choose from, and range in price from $1 and up.  I bought a big pack of 20 assorted masks at H-Mart one day that had things like lemon (brightening), green tea (soothing), collagen, aloe, royal jelly, placenta, ginseng and much more.  I’ve bought a bunch at a Sheet Mask Store in Manhattan (in Korea Town, after having dinner at a really fun Korean BBQ place Jongro BBQ) and gotten anti-aging, acne, brightening and soothing from several different brands and some with fun animal-face prints on them.  A popular brand is Tony Moly, it’s all over Amazon and in stores like Ulta, and is priced right for you to try a variety of them.  Sheet masks are not something I use every day, maybe one or two nights a week depending if I have time to treat myself.  Hollika Hollika has the fun animal masks, while Innisfree focuses more on clinical, adult-geared packaging & descriptions.

some of my many masks

me as a pug

Emulsions, Creams

Thicker more hydrating creams go in here.  I bought Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream from Amazon after reading it is a cult favorite.  I’m almost finished with my jar of cream, and I gotta be honest, I don’t know if it’s really good for me.  I can’t tell a difference good or bad, and I only use that one in the evening since it makes my skin look shinier if I use it during the day.  I’m walking a fine line of needing to have moisturized, soft skin and trying to not get oily skin.  I’ve found that the SkinFood Peach Sake Emulsion helps, my skin is soft and matte after using this, so it works day or night.  If my skin is extra dry, at night, I use Clinique Moisture Surge cream.

 

Eye Cream…

I’m on the lookout for a good eye cream right now.  I had a bad reaction to one I was using, made my eyes itchy.  There’s a lot of good options out there for anti-aging and dark circle concerns, and I’m leaning towards another Mizon product.  What can I say, I like the brand.  Though I have read that the Snail Essence Ampoule is good enough on it’s own to use under the eyes.  So I’m not sure what I’ll get yet.

Others…

Ideally you should finish your day routine with a sunscreen, which I currently do not.  I’m looking for a good one and I’m probably going to order either Missha All Around Safe Sun Milk SPF 50 or Corsx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50.

About once a week, I use a mild exfoliant, Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel.  I use this in the morning, in the shower, after I wash my face.  It’s very gentle and visibly effective.

I like clay masks for purifying my pores … I just ordered a carbonated clay mask that bubbles, so I’m interested in seeing how that turns out!  It’s been mentioned on a lot of must-try lists lately.

The proof is in the pudding though, so here is a photo comparing me in April and June.  It was to show off my hair, but it is of note I am wearing minimal makeup (only eye) in one photo and no makeup in the other.  My skin really is in a good place right now, I feel good leaving the house without makeup, without waking up with the dread of “having” to do a full face.

 

Where to Buy…

Resources…