Heart vs Brain

So my heart and brain are currently at war with each other. There is a distinct stigma in our society that to have any kind of weight loss surgery is to take the easy way out. That it’s just as simple as eating better and exercising. My heart can’t seem to let go of the feeling associated with this stigma, of feeling like failure because I couldn’t do this “on my own”. However, my brain knows that I need the help. That if I could have done it on my own I would have done it by now, and that there’s nothing wrong with seeking all the help I can get in whatever form is available to me.

Maybe it’s also a slight case of cold feet. I can’t stop thinking about it, analyzing it. Should I really have it done? Couldn’t I just work harder at dieting? It’s a major surgery and a major permanent change to my life. Is it worth it? Of course I rationalize it all out and I’m not going to chicken out, but at the same time my heart and brain just won’t shut up. I’m one that tends to overanalyze everything anyway, so that doesn’t help. I educate myself as much as humanly possible about a subject, then make a decision and a plan, and then move forward towards whatever the end goal is. I do this with everything, even when my husband and I started talking about getting pregnant way back when. And once I make my decision and plan there’s no going back for me. That’s just the way I am, so I know I’m not going to back out, but at the same time I can’t stop thinking about it. This time I think there’s such a thing as knowing too much….

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One Month to go!

Today officially marks one month till VSG day! Eeek! I only have two things left to do before then. Next Tuesday I have my last appointment with the surgeon and a 3 hour class basically about post-op nutrition. I’ll also get my official preop weight and measurements. Then in the beginning of April I have an appointment with my primary to get clearance and a history and physical done for the records. And at some point I’ll get contacted by preadmission testing and find out if I need to do any preop lab work or if it can just be done the day of. And of course the dreaded 2 week preop liquid diet before VSG day.

By time VSG comes I’ll have done a information seminar, 6 meetings with my surgeon and nutritionist, gallbladder ultrasound, a psych eval, blood work, stool sample, a support group meeting, a cooking class, and had 2 appointments with my primary. If I had any existing comorbidities I would have had to more. For example if I had sleep apnea I’d have to do a sleep study, or bad reflux I’d have to do an endoscopy. Luckily though I’m a healthy fat person.

The Ending of an Affair

So I got my official scheduling reminder of the surgery today, basically saying that I’m officially in the computer. My surgery is going to be at 11am on April 24th. Reading this in actual print made it just a bit more real, a bit more terrifying and yet exciting. I’ve never had any kind of surgery before. My twins were even born vaginally, no C-section. That combined with the fact that I work in surgery so I literally know everything that could go wrong has me just a bit scared. Just a bit. I’ll admit it, maybe more than a bit. I’ve never been on the “other side” of surgery. Medical professionals, especially nurses, are notorious for being terrible patients. I’m curious what kind I’ll end up being, especially while still drugged up and not 100% in my own mind.

I’ve found that the last few weeks I have felt like I’m ending a love affair, mourning the loss of all the yummy, bad-for-me food that I’ve eaten my entire life. I haven’t been policing what I’ve been eating as much as I should be, rationalizing that I’d better eat it now because after I won’t be able to. I’m still portion controlling and getting my protein and water in like I should though at the same time so it’s not all bad. When I’m eating something that’s been an old time favorite I’ll have the thought in the back of my brain that “this might be the last time I ever eat this” and get just a tad sad. I know it’s just food, but it’s also been my coping mechanism for most of my life.

I’ve also decided to have a “last supper” of sorts the weekend before my preop liquid diet starts. There’s a local Brazilian steakhouse that my husband and I love to go to for special occasions. It’s hella expensive though. $50 a person. We only go when there’s a groupon making it a bit more reasonable at $25 a person. It’s literally a never ending steak and meat buffet. There’s guys who walk around with 12-14 prime cuts of meat on spickets and cut off a slice when beckoned, as well as a huge buffet of sides, salads, etc.  It’s amazing. After the surgery though it just won’t make sense financially to go there when I’ll be full after 3-4 bites. Another thing I’m mourning. Maybe there’s a kids menu? One can hope…

Emotional Eating

Continuing the subject from yesterday of what contributes to a food addiction, today I’ve been thinking about emotional eating. “Emotional eating is a form of disordered eating and is defined as ‘an increase in food intake in response to negative emotions’ and can be considered a maladaptive strategy used to cope with difficult feelings.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_eating)

Growing up in my family we didn’t really have effective coping mechanisms in regards to our emotions. Basically if you weren’t happy then my mother didn’t really want to hear about, mainly because she didn’t know how to react to it. Anger was met with punishment, in relation to my mother you’d mostly get the silent treatment. Sadness was ignored pretty much entirely or openly mocked. Very rarely were you actually consoled if openly emotional about something. She grew up with an occasional physically abusive mother, which I’m sure had something to do with her emotional maturity. My dad knew how to talk through things, and as I reached older teenage years and beyond he began to show more of his emotions to us, but growing up he bottled them up with the best of them till they blew up. And thus my brother and I grew up learning to bottle up our emotions if they weren’t positive, and never really learning how to deal with the more intense emotions that are perfectly normal to everyone else. If someone needs consoling, we are at a lost a lot of the time. If someone has a death in the family I often actively avoid talking about it, not because I don’t care but because I’m emotionally awkward and don’t know how to without feeling like robot.

My husband comes from a family that is very big on therapy and talking about their emotions and talking through everything. This was very new to me when I first met him. I didn’t know what to make of it. As our relationship evolved and he learned how to interpret my emotional retardedness for what it actually was, he taught me what he learned from therapy. We took what he learned to better our communication and thus our relationship. He sees when I close myself off and works to pull me out of myself, to force me to recognize what I’m feeling and talk through it if need be. I truly do love him with all my heart and soul. He keeps me sane.

Emotional eating and bottling one’s emotions goes hand in hand. Not knowing how to deal with negative emotions drives one to seek out something to improve the situation, other than dealing with the actual situation at hand. This ties back to yesterday’s post about sugar/food addiction. When eating sugar the brain gets washed in dopamine, the feel good hormone. It stimulates the same areas of the brain that are stimulated by heroin and cocaine. Feel something bad? Eat something yummy and feel better. Only problem is it’s temporary. When the feeling wears off you have a choice: deal with your emotions or eat some more. If you don’t know how to deal then the choice is obvious, to eat some more yumminess.

I fully admit and own that I am an emotional eater. Recognizing that fact is the first step to stopping the cycle. I definitely have more work to do though. I’m starting to acknowledge the beginning of an emotional eating cycle and thinking of ways to stop it before it starts and spirals. With less than 2 months till my surgery this is still a work in progress and I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m working on it.

I very recently “came out” on facebook about my impending surgery, and thus to all my friends, family, and co-workers. As word has spread around work the amount of support expressed to me has been tremendous. I’m finding that having the people around me know makes me more aware of my choices. I know they’re not actually judging my food choices, but seeing someone look at me while I eyeball that donut, or that cookie, makes me take a second to consider why I even want to eat it in the first place. They don’t actually say anything though, which is good. It’s weird. If someone, usually my husband, says something along the lines of “Are you sure you want that fudge?” it makes me want it all the more, and I’m more likely to eat it to prove something stupid to him/myself. I realize he’s trying to be supportive, and I don’t even know what I’m trying to prove. Maybe that I can still make my own choices even if it’s a bad choice? I don’t know. Another thing to work on. Realizing that I do this helps me to recognize when it’s happening and to make a better choice.

Like I said, I’m a work in progress. This surgery, the sleeve, will provide me with a tool to help me on the journey. It’s not the end all be all. I still have to do the work, both physically and emotionally. It’s kind of terrifying to be purposefully shifting your entire thought process and how you react to things. I’m excited though to be healthier, to deal with things healthier. I think this is going to help me obviously physically, but I also think the emotional health rewards I’ll receive are going to be tremendous too.

 

 

Food Addiction

Hello. My name is Breanne and I’m a food addict. Through the preop process and examining what I eat and how I eat, I’ve come to this realization. I actively crave certain foods, most notably sweets and carbs. I’ll think about them for the whole day or sometimes even for several days until I satisfy that craving. If I don’t delay the gratification and satisfy the craving more immediately I am more likely to give into another temptation the same day, and another and another and another. I don’t believe I am a binge eater. You won’t find me eating till the point of getting sick or surrounded by wrappers that could have been for several grown men, but I will admit that occasionally I’ll eat to the point of discomfort.

Scientists have found that sugar stimulates the same centers of the brain that are stimulated by cocaine, gambling, and heroin, and can actually be 10x as addicting as cocaine. With this also comes the finding that when attempting to detox from eating sugars one will go through withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. In a “study it was found that when rats eat sugar, their brains flood with dopamine, the same chemical released during gambling and cocaine use. As the rats eat more sugar, their brains’ reward systems adjust, so the animals need more food to get the same effects.

Studies have found links between sugar intake and higher levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and lower levels of HDL cholesterol. Excess sugar is also associated with inflammatory chemicals that raise heart disease risk.

Countless other studies link our sky-high sugar intake to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers. Sugar interferes with your brain’s satiety signals, which is a fancy way of saying that normally, your brain would tell you that you’re full, but you can’t hear it over the sugar buzz, so you keep stuffing yourself. Excess sugar hinders fat-burning enzymes, encouraging fat storage.” (http://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/sugar-addiction/)

-Completely random side tangent: did you know that cocaine was originally created for medicinal purposes? and that heroin was originally created by the Bayer aspirin company to help wean addicts off of cocaine? –

In today’s prepackaged food industry everything has added sugar in it. We’re taught from an early age that convenience is more important than healthy, that taste is more important. That added sugar gets you hooked and makes you come back for more, very much like the free pretzels in a bar. You eat the pretzels that make you thirsty and thus buy more beer to quench that thirst. Hardly anyone that I know of my generation and below know how to cook as healthy, as good, as our parents and grandparents so we rely too much on the prepackaged, high calorie, sugar laden food. During my childhood my mother only knew how to make a grand total of 4 meals from scratch, or pseudo scratch: scrambled eggs, meatloaf, French toast, and rotisserie chicken from the grocery store  (plus sides). I know even less because I wasn’t taught. My brother broke out and taught himself. My dad is in the same boat. We’re all obese. Meanwhile my mother’s mom cooked multiple meals a day for 10 kids and a husband, all of which were of normal weight until well into adulthood.

So knowing all this why do I still pick up that caramel bullseye and pop into my mouth without even thinking about it till after? Because I’m a food addict, specifically sugar, and I realize that’s just an excuse in and of itself. I am working on it. Some days are better than others, but compared to where I was at the beginning of this journey I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was. My dad, brother’s fiancé, and I actually recently took a cooking class to try to help ourselves in this regard. As they say in AA: one day at a time.

 

My Road of Fat

I wasn’t always fat. At one point I was down right adorably normal. This post will chronicle my road of fat from adorable chubby baby cheeks to not so adorable love handles.

6 months old here. My parents were always of the clean plate club mindset. My mother also had an aversion to all things green due to being forced to eat veggies her entire childhood, so she didn’t even bring them into the house. I didn’t have my first taste of spinach till high school, even then it was on a pizza.

2 years old and already a bookworm.

5 years old

9 years old

12 years old. And then puberty happened. First the boobs. I was the only girl in my 6th grade class that I knew of that had to wear an actual proper bra, or risk knocking myself out in PE.

15 years old. Tried my first strapless bra. Boy was that fun.

Fast forward to 23 years old, graduated with my bachelor’s in nursing.

25 years old. Wedding to the love of my life. I have the distinct memory of being sad because I was the heaviest I had ever been. I never thought I’d let myself get to that point. Little did I know it would keep going.

Honeymoon.

27 years old. 8 months pregnant with twins. Due to losing weight at the beginning due to morning sickness I was actually the same weight as at my wedding. I actually felt skinny here.

The girls were 6 months old here, at their naming ceremony. I had thought “oh I’m breastfeeding twins! It doesn’t matter what I eat, I’ll lose it burning those calories!”. That combined with some probable undiagnosed post partem depression and I ballooned. I felt absolutely disgusting here and on display for all our family and friends.

The girls are 18 months here. I’m 29. Took a beach vacation with some friends. I didn’t even pack a swim suit.

31 years old. The girls are almost 5. I don’t actually have a picture at my heaviest but this would be the closest. My heaviest was in July 2016 at 268lbs. Here I’m 262 lbs. It was in July that I started researching weight loss surgery when I realized how close I was to my father’s weight.

Dad and me at his Christmas party. I’m so glad he’s going to be doing this with me as well. His surgery is going to be on the same day as mine too!

My most recent picture. I’m 254 lbs here. My husband threw me a surprise birthday party for my 32nd birthday nearly 3 months after my actual birthday, on his birthday! I came home with the girls after their gymnastics lessen to a house full of our family and friends, some I hadn’t seen in years. Needless to say I was just a tad surprised 🙂

So that’s my road of fat. There’s many factors that led me to being the size that I am now. I’m working on those that I can change and acknowledging those that I can’t. It definitely didn’t take me overnight to get here and it won’t take overnight to get me to where I’d like to be. I know this. It’s going to take time, but hopefully, thanks to the surgery, I’ll have plenty of time to work on it. My father too.

My first Blog post: Introductions!

Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m not really writing this expecting many people to read it but more so to have a journal of my journey to a healthier self, as well as an attempt to keep myself accountable somewhat. Truth in fact I find it a little weird that I’ve decided to write a blog. I’m not really a very out going person unless I really know you, so this is very outside my comfort zone.  So let’s get to the introductions:

My name is Breanne. I am a 32 years old, a mother to 5 year old identical twin girls, wife to a loving husband of 8 years (together for 13), a nurse, a quilter, a geek,  and I am morbidly obese. For too long I have let my weight hinder and affect my life. I have been overweight my entire adult life, having started gaining significantly in high school and skyrocketing after the birth of my daughters.

My entire family is overweight and as my parents are getting older their weight has slowly but surely negatively affected their health. My mother had a major stroke 4 years ago causing an avalanche of health issues and is now in a wheelchair and is a permanent nursing home resident as a result. Before her stroke she dealt with years of major back pain, mini-strokes, and general lack of mobility. My father is an insulin dependent type 2 diabetic,  has end-stage renal disease (meaning he has dialysis at some point in his future) and hypertension, among other things. I’ve diabetes and heart issues on both sides of my family tree on multiple branches.

As my children have grown out of their oblivious, adorable baby phase into walking, talking mini versions of me I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to pass on my bad habits to them, the same bad habits that I learned from my mother and father. I want to be able to play with them and keep up with them. I don’t want them to have to deal with their mother having major health issues that could have likely been avoided if intervention had happened earlier in life.

For all these reasons and more I am having weight loss surgery to assist in my journey towards a healthier me. Specifically I am having a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. My surgery date is April 24th, 2017. I have been working towards this since July of 2016, having made the decision and starting research after I reached an all time high weight and weighing heavier than my father. The same father with all the medical issues related to his weight. That’s what the turning point of my thought process was I think. I realized that I weighed more than him and if I didn’t do something I would eventually end up like him, and I didn’t want to do that to myself, my husband, and especially my girls.

One of the highlights so far in my journey is that my father has decided to join me in this adventure as well. He is with me every step of the way in an attempt to improve his health and prolong his life as much as possible. By loosing weight he’ll improve his diabetes, hypertension, joint pain, fatigue, and take some of the strain off his kidneys to hopefully delay dialysis for several years. As of right now, we’re even having our surgeries on the same day!

So welcome on this adventure my family and I are undertaking!  I say family because it’s not just me that’ll be changing. Hopefully we come out the other side of this journey healthier and happier and leading a more active lifestyle.