Why my most popular post about my weight loss journey should not be as popular as it is.

Like the title says, my most popular post by far is one which I believe is only popular because it details extremely rapid weight loss in a mere two week period. And this is concerning to me, because it indicates that people — especially blogs with “fitness,” “weight loss,” “health” etc in their name are co-signing this approach, and it’s absolutely NOT what anyone should be doing unless they are directed to. It was a medically supervised diet which I, like all bariatric patients in Canada, was required to go on for three weeks before my bariatric surgery on October 19, 2021. The purpose is to shrink the liver so that the surgeon has an easier job accessing the stomach without the possibility of nicking the liver.

On top of that, the liquid diet called Optifast is absolutely miserable. Due to the artificial sweeteners in it, your stomach will not thank you. I’m here to be real and say that you will spend a lot of time on the toilet, either unable to have a bowel movement at all, or in my case, constant diarrhea. And I mean constant; it was to the point where if I had to go anywhere, I would fast for six or more hours beforehand so that nothing happened.

And then there were the headaches, the chills and constantly feeling cold (and I’m a hot blooded person who is always warm, and not just due to extra insulation, so to speak), and the changes in mood and sleep. These are all listed as side effects of the box.

This is not the way to lose weight unless it is medically prescribed to you and you are under the close care of a bariatric team, including a dietician!

I am so fortunate to live in Canada where although it does take up to two years in most provinces just to get accepted into bariatric programs to begin the process toward surgery, you are given constant guidance by highly trained professionals who will not approve you for surgery (ergo, you will not even get to the point of the liquid diet until you have been approved medically and psychologically by the program’s doctor, the registered dietician, bariatric nurse, surgeon, and in some cases, a psychiatrist or social worker). This may take anywhere for one visit with each depending on your health and the commitment you have shown to the lifestyle changes, to many visits with the doctor and dietician until they are confident that you are ready. The appointments with the doctor and the dietician are every three months, so it can take a while before you are referred to a surgeon. I was fortunate in that I had already lost weight and was active prior to beginning the program, and I am still young and healthy, and my tests came back negative for sleep apnea, and my ECG, bloodwork, and everything else were almost perfect (I was just below normal in my level of ferritin, which wasn’t completely unexpected as both a vegetarian and a woman of menstruating age).

There is absolutely no easy way out. You have to put the time, effort, energy, and remain dedicated to the process. Weight fell off rapidly during the liquid diet because that’s where the doctor prescribed diet is meant to do in order for medical procedures to go smoothly. Since my operation almost exactly two months ago, I am down nearly 30 pounds. I journal absolutely everything I eat and drink, and make sure I get at least 70 grams of protein a day. I walk a lot, do yoga, and have recently taken up working with a 15 lb kettlebell. And believe it or not, I essentially stalled for three weeks, with that only coming to an end this past week.

I will have follow ups with the wonderful staff at the program for many months and years to come. I’ve won the lottery, I truly feel like.

So, in conclusion to this post: don’t do the liquid diet. Stop liking the post just because it has rapid weight loss and rapid loss of inches over a short period of time. It was medically ordered.

If you want to lose weight in a healthful way but aren’t looking to have bariatric surgery, I recommend Weight Watchers/WW. Full disclosure: Keto is not much of an option for me as a vegetarian, so this is not meant ti malign that way of eating and the lifestyle: I had tremendous success with WW several times, losing 100 lbs when I was a teenager and about 75 lbs a few years after. Just because I gained the weight back does not mean that WW does not work or is not sustainable for life. Like anything, you have to be extremely diligent, but there is also a lot or genetics and emotional issues at play. The regain cycle and the body’s set point is something I will get into in another post today.

Weight loss is so much more than just losing weight.

This is very personal, but I don’t mind sharing if it helps or inspires someone out there reading this, just as reading blogs, forums, and watching vlogs of those facing similar struggles did before I embarked on my weight loss and mental wellness journey. It’s not pretty, and it’s going to be out there on the internet forever. And that’s okay with me. Because this is reality; the reality that so often isn’t shared in favour of having picture-picture white smiles and exotic locations for likes on social media. Nary a mention of depression and eating disorders is made, because the truth isn’t pretty. But you know what? Life isn’t pretty, but if you fight for health and wellness, you’ll be rewarded with a life that’s happier than you could have possibly imagined prior to dedicating the time and effort to yourself to get well, get healthy, and get back to living!

My mission is to be real. To show you the ups and downs of this all. I’m just a regular person trying my best in this journey called life. And if it helps inspire, then that’s my honour and privilege.

This is what depression versus wellness and health looks like. I felt very alone here in the scruffy pictures and was isolated, and of course piled on more weight during quarantine. I felt kind of like I didn’t belong on this island and took it harder than I should have. I’m someone who has always cared about looking presentable regardless of my size, but I stopped caring. I didn’t even brush my hair most days and hardly went out because I was ashamed of how I looked and how much weight I’d gained. The funny thing is, I was already a month into my weight loss journey when I took those two horrendous pictures. The other one was on my birthday. I still have a ways to go, but I’m miles from where I was. So please, if you’re having issues with depression and/or your weight, know that you’re not alone and there’s help out there. It’s not corny to say that at all. I’m not sharing this for asspats, but rather because seeing my former reality may mirror your present situation. And I want you to know that the nightmare can and WILL end.

December 7, 2021 – (My birthday!) – versus January 21, 2021 – One month into my weight loss journey; 10 months before my VSG. Total weight difference between the two is about 70 lbs.

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Sept 28 recap: Liquid diet day 2 out of 21 in preparation for weight loss surgery (WLS / VSG)

I’m not going to lie and say this is easy. In fact, it’s downright miserable. According to others in the bariatric program I belong to, the surgery where you get 85% of your stomach cut out is the easy part: the hardest is the three week liquid diet! Yesterday was the hardest day so far, because I keep forgetting that I can’t eat anything other than the Optifast or a cup of veggie broth. I’ve not strayed, but the temptation is there. I will not waver, however. I still haven’t taken my “before” pictures nor have I weighed myself as unfortunate the scale is presently out of batteries and I didn’t feel well enough to leave the house yesterday to get new ones. Yes, you feel that badly on Optifast for the first few days.

There is definitely a part of me that mourns the loss of food in the way I’ve always used it (yes, used, as well as consumed – I am addicted to food) and will always. I know that once I get my vertical sleeve gastrectomy that I’ll be able to have tiny portions of treat meals a few times a year after about 18 months post-op. But it’s a slippery slope for me, as I’ve lost significant amounts of weight in the past and have treated myself to “cheat” meals that became cheat weeks, and eventually turned into cheat years. Whilst I’m not as overweight as some of the people who get surgery, I wouldn’t have been approved for this surgery if I didn’t need it. I felt out of control with my eating for so long and I tried absolutely everything, and yes, of course sensible eating and lots of exercise. I always tended to shy away from fad diets like the cabbage soup diet or whatever restrictive diet of the day was, and I’d stick with programs like Weight Watchers, which is tried and true and healthy and balanced. I lost so much weight two or three times on WW over the years, but keeping it off longer than a few years was all but impossible for me. I always felt so ashamed when I’d gain the weight back, as though it was some sort of personal failing and an outward manifestation of some sort of character flaw and weakness.

There’s so much more to obesity than that. It’s so much more than people being lazy, gorging on fast food constantly, and drinking pop non-stop. For me, I ate quite healthy, just too much, and I was a grazer. Always looking for something to munch on, and on a 5’2.5 – 5’3 ft frame, that adds up quickly.

So. We’ll see what today brings. I have a group therapy class about changing eating habits and thoughts/emotions about food this morning on Zoom for an hour and a half — this will be the third week now, and it’s 4 weeks long, which means it will end just before my surgery on October 19. I plan to carry on with counselling after my surgery just to insure long term success. After all, this didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be fixed by a surgery either — I’ll just be given a wonderful tool and what I do with that tool is up to me. And you can bet your ass I’m not going to fail after waiting two years on a weight list, and a further 5 months from orientation to surgery, with a zillion appointments with doctors, dieticians, social workers, phlebotomists, internal medicine doctors, surgeons, bariatric nurses etc etc etc etc.

I’m in this to win it. And I’m in not in competition with anyone but myself, and goddamn it, I’m proud of the woman I’m becoming, and I know that I’ll be shedding weight, but gaining so much more.

Life is about to begin. I’ve been given this opportunity and I will not do anything to screw it up.

Oh, and to those who think this is the easy way out? Kiss my luscious ass. I’d love to see you do this, and then eat tiny portions of mush for a further six months, with protein powder mixed in to absolutely everything you eat, and for the rest of your life only being able to sip water very slowly in small amounts or end up in extreme pain. No straws, no carbonated drinks, keeping track of not just carbs, calories, fat, but making sure you get in enough liquid and at least 90 grams of protein, and timing yourself at every meal so that you take at least 30 minutes with no distractions like your phone, a book, or even much conversation. Just pure mindfulness. Not to mention the pain, the hardship, and the judgment from others. Actually, I don’t care about people judging me — I think it’s worth it to share my story so that it may inspire others who are thinking of having weight loss surgery (don’t do the lapbands though – they are outdated, 90%+ get removed, and they cause health issues, and each removal costs between $3,000 and $14,000, meaning taxpayers are on the hook for up to $33 million).

I’ll have up some pictures and perhaps videos later on today or tomorrow.

Skinny legend diaries entry #2

I’m feeling very grateful for this new lease on life. I got the call for a surgeon consult in Victoria on August 3 (this is the step right before surgery, which usually comes a month or two after the meeting). Today I was deemed “anatomically perfect, with no problems whatsoever” (their words) during my barium swallow test (it was awful and it feels like cement in your stomach). Most of all, though, I feel grateful for being in such great health. At the hospital I did not expect to see so many extremely ill patients in the medical imaging department; I expected people who, like me, walked in for fairly basic tests, or those with sports injuries. No, these were people facing grave health issues, with many visibly terminally ill. To have diametric opposite emotions bubbling inside myself of being both devastated for them but happy for myself was not something I expected to experience today. Just another reminder of how precious life is, and how when we’re give an opportunity to better our life, to grab the bull by the horns.

Skinny legend diaries entry #1

So. I am sharing a secret. I’ve told precious few people and was going to wait. But after two years on a wait list, followed by two months waiting for the program orientation in late May, followed by medical approval from the program’s doctor on my first visit in early June, and then dietician approval this past week on my first visit, I am over the moon to say that my file has been forwarded to a surgeon, and I will be getting weight loss surgery within the next three to six months (the average wait time from the surgeon receiving your file until your surgery). I am a lot smaller now than I was when I was referred by my GP two years ago and have lost a lot of weight since December, however, I have struggled with weight all of my life and it has had a very, very negative impact on my mental health and self-esteem over the years. It’s been very hard for me. I’ve lost and gained and lost and gained an incredible amount of weight in my life and I’m just tired of it. I am beyond grateful and incredibly happy for this opportunity. And for anyone who thinks that this is the easy way out: try having 85% of your stomach cut out and then eat mush essentially for almost a year, and then tiny portions for the rest of your life, and then get back to me. 😂😄😃 This, if anything, is the hard way to do it. And I’m ready for the challenge and more excited for the future than I have been in a very long time.

8 minutes and 46 seconds: The murder of George Floyd and why the battle is one we all must fight

As I sit on the rocks on the beach gazing out at the ocean preparing to write in my journal, I consciously breathe in deeply; the air is familiar, the untamed briny scent mixed with the brilliant perfume of blooming flowers that only fills the air in the fertile late spring. The grass is tall and verdant and bends elegantly in the rich breeze. I can breathe. The din of the late afternoon by the sea is of course the glorious sounds of crashing waves, squawking seagulls, and children laughing as they bravely run into the water. I’m usually so charmed and comforted by the elegant dance of nature, but today, my mind needs to be soothed by my panacea, my lifeblood, my cure all: music. Very deliberately, I put on Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” widely regarded as one of the most iconic civil rights anthems, as well as one of my favourite songs. The emotion is not just in the heart-wrenching lyrics which simultaneously brim with hope whilst also being deeply sorrowful and filled with yearning for a life which is not afforded to people who are not white, but also in the way Cooke so expertly emotes and conveys the true pain of a marginalized existence.`

The song was recorded in 1962, and the fact that it’s 2020 and the present tense to describe the state of racial inequality is what weighs heavily on my mind. Cooke did not live long enough to see the change he sung so passionately about; in 1963, he was murdered in what is now widely regarded as a planned robbery in a lonely motel off a highway by the motel manager who claimed Cooke, who was known to carry large amounts of cash, had tried to sexually assault her, so she claimed to have shot him in self-defence. The evidence did not match her story, but she was believed, because he was black. Guilty until proven innocent, even though the money Cooke had earlier in the evening was missing. That didn’t matter. He was black.

“Then I go to my brother, and I say ‘brother, help me please’ but he winds up knocking me back down on my knees.” 

George Floyd was an African American man murdered on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a police officer who arrested him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill a a convenience store. The owner of the convenience store spoke highly of Floyd, and said that he was a regular costumer with whom he’d never had any problems; he was not there that day and it was a teenage employee who phoned the police as protocol when he thought the $20 bill was counterfeit. Four police arrived, and Floyd was handcuffed, knocked down to the ground, and a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 48 seconds, cutting off his air supply whilst appearing so steely and devoid humanity.

Floyd begged for his life, repeatedly saying that he was in pain and could not breathe. Onlookers tried desperately to persuade the officer to take his knee off of Floyd’s neck to no avail, and the other three officers on the scene failed to intervene. Five minutes in, Floyd, whose mother passed away two years ago, called out to her and said “Mama, I’m through.” He then said his final words “Please, I can’t breathe.” He went limp, and the officer kept his knee on his neck for three more minutes, and his pulse was taken shortly after. There was none to be found, and an hour later, he was officially pronounced dead. Murdered. The police officer’s name does not deserve to be mentioned, and may he forever be known solo as the murderer of George Floyd.

“It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die, because I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky.” 

If there is such a thing as heaven, may Floyd be wrapped in his mother’s arms, enveloped in the love and protection that only a mother can provide. The very protection and love that was so cruelly denied to him in the last moments of his life.

And with that thought, I sigh heavily, close my journal, and wonder how many more will die. I ponder about what such an afterlife may be like, and in it I see all of the victims killed as a result of systemic racism singing songs of freedom with Sam Cooke. We must acknowledge it, speak about it, stand in solidarity, and honour that black lives matter. Systemic racism is a real. This is not just the fight for African-Americans, or for the country of America. This is my fight. This is your fight. This is our fight. This is the world’s fight. Enough is enough, and it’s time for the change that Sam Cooke crooned about decades ago to finally come to fruition.

And here I am. Back again.

I accidentally logged into the wrong email account and was greeted by an email regarding this blog! I’ve had this blog for five years, however, I only blogged rather religiously about four summers ago, and then took the blog in another direction, and then another, and privated all of the posts, and then forgot all about it. “Write more, type less” describes the reticence of the last few years; I write in a physical journal rather than online. But I do believe I shall return to blogging. So hello!