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Guests and Ghosts

Four Years..FOUR YEARS!!!!!! I can’t believe it’s been that long since I had my gastric bypass surgery. The past three years since I blogged for Fred Parent at Weigh In have had more ups than downs (pun intended). I have gained 20 pounds since hitting my lowest post-surgery weight. But I also have continued to adjust to life as a healthy person with more joy and self-confidence in my appearance than I have ever had in my life. I’ve run 4 half marathons, hiked mountains with my family, and even taken pole dance classes. I declined a tummy tuck and boob job, opting for Spanx and pushup bras to hide my saggy skin. (Though my sagging skin seems to continue to firm up as time goes by!) My healthy life continues to be a journey with unexpected twists and turns.

Michelle progress

My biggest fear post-weight loss success was that I would get injured, stop exercising, and gain weight. That did happen in 2015. I had two separate injuries that stopped me from exercising for most the year. Of course, no exercise and eating like I was running 20 miles a week led to gaining weight. Then in January 2016 I said “Enough.” I signed up and started training for my second Marine Corps Half Marathon.

Michelle running

Then I went back to logging my food and looked at the number of calories and quantity of carbs I was eating. That was a shocker. So, I started watching what went into my body. Reaching out to my online network of weight loss surgery friends was the hardest, because I had to admit that I wasn’t the perfect patient and own my weight gain. Surprisingly, both of my closest friends had the same experience. We all had surgery within 6 months of each other and we all had put on about 20 pounds and were having trouble staying motivated to take it off. In May of this year, I joined an online support group focused specifically on healthy living. Some of the ladies are about weight loss; others’ thing is eating clean. We have a wide range of ages and sizes, but are committed to positive feedback and supporting each other. It is a safe environment to share insecurities about our bodies. There are monthly fitness challenges and we have our very own personal trainer as a member who vlogs training tips for us. I’ve only lost 5 pounds, but my size 2 jeans fit fantastic, so I’m calling it a non-scale victory!

Some things change. I don’t like diet soda anymore. I was the queen of Diet Coke for breakfast. Now I will drink a cup of tea in the morning and rarely ever have a soda, opting instead for Propel water. My love of unhealthy food continues to diminish. Just last night I turned down a slice of Dutch apple pie I made, because I knew the sugar content would make me feel yucky. My hair has returned to its golden glory. I had great hair pre-surgery and then my first-year post-surgery it became fragile, so I dyed it a darker color to cause less damage. I’m thrilled it’s healthy again and I’m back to blonde (it hides the gray much better).

Some things stay the same. I still love ice cream (my latest go to is Sugar Free Klondike bars. There is built-in portion control and the ice cream tastes yummy). Breakfast is always a protein shake (except Sundays). I still weigh my food, especially dinner. Exercise makes me feel better and I try to exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week.

Maintenance sucks. Doing the same thing day after day and not getting any “reward” (looser clothes, lower number on the scale) is a bummer for me. I am a goal oriented/project planning woman. To combat the tedious treachery of weight maintenance I have found ways to focus my energies. Initially, it was running farther/faster. That was great, until I got injured. These days I am relying on my support group and the little challenges that we share. It is a battle for me to stay motivated, especially when my commitments slip, so sometimes I try a daily challenge. (For example, today I will log everything that goes into my mouth.) When I focus on “just for today,” I can rejoice in the little successes.

Head games aren’t fun. As much as I try to stay out of my head, sometimes I just can’t. I will look in the mirror and irrationally see the same fat woman I was 4 years ago. The first thing I do when this happens is try and find a some aspect of myself that I think looks good. It may be my hair or makeup, it might be the way my shirt fits. I also share those nasty feelings with my husband and my support group. They always have my back and help me look at the situation more logically.

Focusing on the positive makes things better. The most important thing I have learned over the past 4 years is to focus on the positive things in my life. I’m not perfect, and really...I would be pretty boring if I didn’t make some mistakes along the way. The reality is my life is so much better now that I’m healthier (both physically and mentally). I no longer sleep with a Darth Vader mask due to sleep apnea, I have helped other women by being honest about my struggles, and most days I like the woman who looks back in the mirror.

Today I am feeling great about myself and weight loss surgery. This surgery was a huge commitment for me and my family; it is not a cure-all or a solution for everyone. I must remain vigilant or deal with the consequences. There are many ways to lose weight and Susan Wanderer from My Stomping Grounds here at Fredericksburg Parent just blogged about her start. You can join her weight loss journey.

Going into the holidays I always find it tough to focus on weight. Let’s be serious, it’s way more fun to bake cookies with the kids, go to parties, and embrace that holiday vibe that usually centers around food. Years ago, when I was attending Weight Watchers the leader commented that not gaining from Halloween through New Years’ was like losing weight. This stuck and I continue to apply it annually. Something new I plan to implement this year came from an article I recently read in Runners World that said even 5 minutes of exercise is better than no exercise. When out shopping I always park far away and walk. The extra steps help burn off that skinny vanilla latte and the reduction in stress from the crazy holiday shoppers is worth the effort. Please share your holiday weight maintenance suggestions in the comments below. Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons!

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Village Fathers is a fatherhood education program and support group sponsored by Healthy Families Rappahannock Area. Its goal is to help fathers improve their parenting skills by promoting healthy and positive attitudes towards fatherhood and parenting.

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