Brain Progress

So, remember back when I first started losing weight and every single day was an adventure?

Now? Not so much. I pretty much wake up, do my thing, and go to bed.

The thing that’s different though, is what “doing my thing” entails. Most days, back in the What’s for Dinner? blog hey day, my day was very very different than now. Usually, every day (or almost every day) after school involved a trip to the grocery store for dozens of ingredients for some “fabulous” dinner and sometimes baked goods. Hours would be spent in the evenings prepping, cooking, plating, photographing, and finally eating said meal, and then editing the photos and blogging. Not to mention my afternoons were mostly spent completely and totally exhausted, struggling to stay awake past 7:30 p.m. but forcing myself to stay up until 9. But darn it, the blog looked awesome.

Nowadays, I’ve embraced the “plan ahead” method when it comes to food. Early in the week, I purchase enough food for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and spend a bit of time on Sunday (or Monday if I’m feeling slackish) prepping what I need to. Eggs are hard-boiled. Veggies are chopped. One large amount of protein is cooked. The crock pot, even in this nicer weather, has been a really great friend. One pot of chili or pot roast is enough to last the week since someone I live with doesn’t eat leftovers. These basic proteins are great on salads, in low-carb wraps, or even just on their own with my veggie of choice. I cycle through vegetables too…

I did nothing but eat brussels sprouts for the first few weeks I ate real food, with the occasional cauliflower thrown in. Now, I’m very deeply into grilled asparagus and red peppers. I’m sure that’ll pass in favor of tomatoes soon, but I’m really just excited for Summer produce.

Snacks are simple: Quest bars are my new favorite things. They’re delicious, have LOADS of fiber, only a few accessible carbs, and did I mention DELICIOUS?! I’m talking cookies and cream and cookie dough and strawberry cheesecake, and I really look forward to eating one a day. (Quest hasn’t paid me or anything for this mention, I just really really like them!!) I’m also eating raw almonds (26, no more, no less), string cheese, and 2% cottage cheese. Sometimes these are “meals” and sometimes they’re “snacks”, it all just depends on what time I eat.

Weight loss progress has slowed down a bit, though it’s still headed in the right direction. I’m officially down 82.9 pounds, and am inching my way closer to “Onederland”…that mythical spot where my weight number will start with at “1” instead of a “2”. I honestly cannot believe I’ve come this far. I’m not just talking about the scale, but honestly, the “brain progress” is bigger to me than the weight loss. I’m completely satisfied with a simple meal and good company, and know that eating what I used to consider “normal” will make me feel like utter crap.

Some progress photos:

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With my sister-in-law, Rivian, at her baby shower I threw

Progress

Progress

I treated myself to some new (and probably too expensive) hair color.

I treated myself to some new (and probably too expensive) hair color.

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Crazy difference, huh?

Learning to curl the hairs

Learning to curl the hairs

Now, I have a serious question to ask you: I know many of you are still on the OptiFast full-fast. I was thinking about starting to post some of the recipes I’ve been cooking, but I don’t want to upset anyone. What would you all think about that? Should I just start a new page with recipes or would you like to see them here?

For those of you eating low-carb…what are your favorite foods?

Eighty

My day to day routine has gotten very… Routine. Now that I’m eating food all the time now, I have to spend a bit more time planning out my week, and make sure I get to the grocery store every weekend to ensure that my eating is “mindless” during the week.

The mindless thing has been hard for me. Eating was always an event before. Now it’s just something I do so I don’t get crabby. It’s working too!

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-80.9 pounds since September!

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That’s more than my dog weighs. That’s more than many of my 6th graders weigh. I’m down 10 dress sizes and 8 pants sizes. I’m down 11 inches in my bra band. I wore a freaking strapless dress to my friends’ wedding!

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The biggest difference i can finally see is in my confidence. I put myself “out there” more, and am doing things that scare me (like going to the dentist, riding an alpine slide in a few weeks, and joining a boxing gym).

I finished grad school and will have my M.Ed. In Educational Technology as of 3 pm on Saturday, May 10!

It’s been a heck of a year…

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Transition to Food

Oh hey… guess I kind of forgot to update here, huh?

Living not blogging is far more fun 🙂

How about an update then?

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I’m officially down 77.9 pounds which is more than my adorable golden retriever weighs!

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More importantly, I received my bloodwork numbers back from my work health screening. A work health screening was what got me started on this whole thing to begin with, so I was very interested to see what the new numbers would be.

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I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped and I let out a little cheer when I read those results!! I had a few other numbers that were higher (LDL) and some that were a little “off” thanks to my recent surgery. Otherwise though, EVERYTHING was in the “healthy” range for the first time since middle school!

Food-wise, I’ve entered the phase of things that I’ve been scared of since the beginning: all REAL FOOD, all the time. A meeting with the dietitian and a food-centered class and I felt confident enough to start with all food all day. Something my dietitian said really stuck with me: “make your choices as mindless as your Optifast choices were.” So I took a trip to the grocery store.

Breakfast: protein shake made with almond milk, coffee, and whey protein

Snack: two light string cheeses

Lunch: greek light yogurt and 1 serving of raw almonds (25 of them)

Snack: either cottage cheese with sugar-free jam OR a bar OR hummus and peppers (it depends on my schedule)

Dinner: This week, crock-pot chicken barbacoa on a giant salad with cucumber, avocado, tomato, cheese, and light sour cream

Snack: sugar-free fat-free pudding made with 1% milk

Next week will likely be the same or similar. So far, it’s gone well! I am noticing that I’m a bit hungrier, so I may need to make my lunch or snack a little bigger. It’s all a learning process!

As usual, I put together a few progress pictures to keep myself motivated:

Two visits to the Botanic Gardens, a few months and 70 pounds lighter!

Two visits to the Botanic Gardens, a few months and 70 pounds lighter!

At the Botanic Gardens

At the Botanic Gardens

Progress: -77 pounds

Progress: -77 pounds

Progress: -73 pounds

Progress: -73 pounds

OH! And I entered the official Optifast “New You” contest too! Maybe I’ll post my whole essay one day… but here’s my official before and after pictures that I submitted:

Before - Summer 2013, 285 pounds

Before – Summer 2013, 285 pounds

Now - April 2014 - 207 pounds

Now – April 2014 – 207 pounds

And with that, I’m signing off! I’ll check in again soon!

Recovery & Milestones

Ever since I lost my gallbladder, things have been a little bit different around here.

I spent the first week home from the hospital doing a lot of nothing, eating bits and pieces of high-protein foods, and trying to heal. Week two of recovery was spent at work. I noticed that I hit an energy wall at about 1:00 p.m. every day. Apparently, this can be a side effect of having anesthesia (a first for me) and recovering from surgery (another first). Who knew?! I’ve noticed, though, that I haven’t had ONE headache since the surgery, which makes me think that things have been funky for a while… I’d had near daily headaches for months.

The hardest thing has been not being as active as I had been. I never thought those words would ever be a sentiment I truly felt, but seriously, I feel so lazy. I’m still sore on the inside after I eat, and I’m not supposed to exert myself for another 2 weeks, and I can’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for another 4 weeks. Apparently post-surgical hernias aren’t too pleasant…

In weight loss news, I lost 5.8 pounds in the week before and after surgery, and gained one back in the week after. It was hard to not let the gain get to me, but I was reminded time and time again that my body had been through a trauma, and the week before I’d had days where I’d eaten next to nothing. So, my grand total of weight lost so far is…

drumroll please…

74.1 pounds!!!!! I did hit 75 pounds there for a week, and hopefully I’ll be back there this week.

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I’m a lower weight now than I’ve been since 2003. I feel better than I have in years, even with the surgical recovery.

When I hit my 70 pound mark, I knew I needed to do something for myself that I’d wanted for a while. Originally, I’d said I’d get a tattoo at 50 pounds, but since that happened a) quickly and b) in the dead of winter, I opted to hold off until 70.

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I’m in love with it, and am so pleased with how it turned out. I went to Metamorph Tattoo Studio in Chicago, in the Wicker Park neighborhood, and would recommend Zac to anyone who needs ink done. He was awesome!

In other news, the sun finally showed its face here after months of clouds… so I put on my prescription sunglasses. I noticed how differently they fit my face than before, and in shameless selfie comparison tradition:

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I’m hoping to heal quickly and get back to activity soon, and I’m continuing with transition to food, and eating anywhere from one to three meals/snacks a day. I’m supplementing with Optifast products, and noticing the change in my feelings about food. Sure, it’s great to have a great meal… but I don’t need to stuff myself to the point of pain. One big sushi roll with no rice, and I’m good to go. And now I want sushi. But in all seriousness, I’m still in shock as to how different I feel about eating. I’m not going to eat things that don’t taste good, but I’m also not eating ALL THE THINGS!

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I eat some of the things. In small quantities. And only when I’m hungry. This is an important part of this whole resetting thing. Food is fuel…delicious fuel, but still fuel.

The Day I Lost an Organ

Monday, March 17 was an ordinary day.

Ok, that’s not true. It was the first day of a new term, so I had an entirely new batch of students in my class, and I’d had a headache for going on four full days. I figured that it was due to the constantly changing weather, the end of the term, the stress of doing grades and my general malaise thanks to this eternally gray and cold winter.

I’d made this delicious Mexican crock pot pork dish which I’d planned on eating atop giant salads for the course of the week. A bit of relaxation had made my head stop hurting, so I made my salad, and decided to go to bed early to hopefully avoid a fifth day of a headache.

Fast forward to 12:30 a.m.

Have you ever wondered what Iron Man feels like? (I swear I’m going somewhere with this) I’m not talking about his cool gadgets or suit or anything, but that whole “messed up heart so there’s a machine cutting through the front of his chest almost through his back” thing? I woke up feeling like that. There was this intense pain in the very center of my chest right under my sternum straight through to my back. I initially thought it was horrendous heartburn, but then next thing I knew I was sweating, exceedingly pale (according to Adam) and throwing up all over the bathroom (sorry for the visual).

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Adam convinced me that I needed to go to the ER. Pain like that wasn’t something to mess around with. Apparently, I’d picked the “perfect” time to go to the ER, as I was the only one there and seen right away. Within two hours, I’d had pain medication, anti-nausea medication, an ultrasound, CT scan, and more pain medication. They’d determined that I had gallstones which were causing gallbladder attacks, which explained the pain, vomiting, and possibly the general feeling of ick I’d had over the last few weeks.

But, because my blood pressure was super-low (I’m talking 76/54 low) they wanted to admit me for observation before I could be assessed for possible surgery. So up to the 6th floor I went, drugged up for pain and finally slept.

At 8 a.m. I was woken up by my wonderful nurse, who explained that before they would make any decisions about the next steps of my care, I would need to get a HIDA scan performed. There was a catch though: the scan couldn’t be performed until I’d been off of all pain medication for 8 hours. This meant that I had to be pain med-free (as well as food and drink free) until 1 p.m.

I don’t do well when I’m hungry. I’ve eaten every 3 hours like clockwork since I started my OptiFast plan… so seriously? 8 hours without food? It was really good that I wasn’t dealing with too many people. 1 p.m. turned into 2:45, and then the test was an hour (in which I was radioactive!) They determined that it would be in my best interest to have my gallbladder (and its stones) removed. After a major panic and lots of tears, I made the decision that I would rather deal with the surgical recovery than EVER have to deal with the pain and discomfort of another gallbladder attack.

Adam went with me into the surgical prep room, and the anesthesiologist explained what she would be giving me and how anesthesia worked since I’d never had it before. I remember being wheeled into the operating room, then next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery. I asked for Adam and my sister, and they were there in a minute.

So now, I’m sans gallbladder. I have four holes in my belly, one of which is in my belly button and is annoying the crap out of me. I’m sore in my muscles too, as if I’ve done about a million crunches. Apparently they had to shove my muscles around in there when they were removing my gallbladder through my belly button.

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The upside of all this is that I know that I won’t have another gallbladder attack, and it’s in my best interest to continue eating a low-fat, low-carb diet to avoid the side effects of not having a gallbladder.
The downside? I had to cancel my trip to Arizona for spring break. I’ll reschedule I’m sure, but I’m still beyond bummed. The surgeon and general physician both suggested that flying might not be in my best interest. At least I’d thought ahead and bought the travel insurance…
What’s interesting is that when I first signed up for my OptiFast program, I signed paperwork acknowledging that gallbladder problems are a possible side effect of rapid weight loss. I was asked if I regret doing the program and losing the weight so quickly. My answer? Absolutely not. I’m relieved that, if this had to happen, it happened now when I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in years, and not when I was 70 pounds heavier.
I’m on the mend now, and I feel significantly better than I did even 24 hours ago. I’m lucky I have the most understanding principal on the planet who instructed me to stay home for the week (even though I was worried about it) and that spring break is this coming week, so I’ll be up to working once that’s over.
I’m off to rest and recoup… I’ll check in next week!

171 Days

It’s been 171 days of following my plans.

171 days of high-protein, low-carb, completely different eating (and “eating” in those early days).

171 days of avoiding sweets, pasta, bread, potatoes, and other starchy foods I’d come to call friends over the last few years.

171 days of re-teaching myself how to eat for fuel and necessity rather than solely for pleasure and comfort.

I think it’s fair to say I’ve come a long way.

As of this week, I’m down 68.1 pounds.

According to a fun list I found online, and a few of my own calculations, I’ve lost:

  • 68 guinea pigs
  • a baboon plus an average human brain
  • 3.5 automobile tires
  • 4.25 sperm whale brains
  • An elephant’s penis
  • $1,459,519.20 in gold (at $1339.50 per ounce, today’s cost)
  • 3 bags of our dog’s food
  • 1 of the members of our 6th grade wrestling team
  • 272 sticks of butter

I’ve still got a ways to go…but seeing my progress this far has been SO motivating! I get to eat real food snacks starting this week, so I’m down to three meal replacements! I’m counting down the days until Spring Break, since I’m heading to Phoenix for a few days. Warmth is much-needed after this hell of a winter.

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Me and my bestie, Lizz, at her birthday party last weekend

Six Months

Six months ago, Adam and I went to the gun range after my very stressful doctor’s appointment and followed that with a “last meal” at Red Robin. A Banzai burger, regular soda, and french fries laid heavy in my gut when I went to bed that night, anxious about what the next days would bring. One day at a time… that’s what I’d committed to do.

Day 1 was not easy. Believe it or not, Days 2 and three were harder. On those days, I was so out of it (more than I would’ve admitted at the time) that I taught my sixth graders the same lesson twice… and no one said anything. It was 90 degrees outside, I had all sorts of lovely skin issue from the heat/sweat/friction…I won’t get too into it.

By the end of the first month, I was in shock at my own success. Yet I was still apprehensive. I still had SO FAR to go. Sure I’d lost 20 pounds, and my clothes were fitting better, but I was still solidly in the same clothes I’d been wearing. Nothing really new, no size changes, and I was still in the state of disbelief in myself. 20 pounds could be an accident. Or water weight. Surely it couldn’t have been what I was doing.

It’s been interesting to look back and read my old posts, for a multitude of reasons. Some days, when I feel like saying “screw it” and eating a giant cheeseburger like I would’ve 6 months ago, I read those first few days and remind myself how horrendous that detox was. I never want to do that again. Some days, when I want to see how far I’ve come, I read the posts from a month in.

At first, I didn’t want to take pictures of myself. I thought it was weird, I thought it was vain…but in reality, they’ve been the biggest help to my own intrinsic motivation. I bit the bullet and started posting progress photos on Instagram and Facebook, and every “like”, comment, and “thumbs up” boosts me up a little bit, especially on days when I really need it.

I’ve had an amazing external support system: Adam has been beyond supportive, my mom and sister have been my biggest cheerleaders, and my friends at work are more motivating than they will ever know. But in the end, it’s in my own head. And I’m really glad I have photos to look at.

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August ——————————————————————————————————October

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November ————————————————————————————— February
Six months in, and I know I have a long way to go. But, instead of it being this incredibly daunting task that I had no idea how to conquer, I’m learning how to make it manageable. One day at a time, one meal at a time, one minute at a time. Choosing to eat my OptiFast bar instead of the brownies in the lounge. Choosing to have four ounces of grilled salmon and roasted veggies instead of a giant burger and fries. I’m the same person that I’ve always been… yet I still feel like I’m completely different.

Weeks 18 & 19

NINETEEN.

i truly cannot believe that it’s been 19 weeks since I ate a high-fat, high-carb, crazy-caloric day of meals and wondered why I felt like garbage all the time.

NINETEEN WEEKS since I had to gear myself up to get up from the couch.

NINETEEN WEEKS since I looked like 10 pounds of fat in a 5 pound bag. I was pale, pimply, tired all the time, and had so little energy that even walking upstairs was a chore.

My last two weigh ins were rather uneventful. I’m now down a total of 59.9 pounds. I know, I could’ve gone to the bathroom and lost that extra .1, but whatever.

I’ve loved eating one meal a day while still having the security of my Optifast products most of the day. I’m a little nervous to move on to two meals a day, so I’m putting it off for a while longer.

Some things I’m proud of accomplishing (and I need to update my list of goals!)

  • I’m down 5 jeans and dress sizes from a 22 to a 14W
  • My feet are no longer wide
  • I can wear low heels for a whole day (not that I do often with all this freaking snow)
  • I can workout without pain (except the kind I’m looking for!)
  • I don’t reward myself with food, at all

And, finally, I can proudly post pictures like this:

59 lbs gone

The left photo was Western Day in July 2013. The photo on the right was taken Friday, January 31 at the Jean Banchet Grand Chef’s Gala where my sister won Pastry Chef of the Year! 59.9 pounds. I’m still in disbelief.

Week 17: Weigh In

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Down officially 57.9 pounds! WAHOO! I treated myself to some clothes that fit so I could stop looking like a shlub at work… and being me, I made a comparison photo:

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Speaking of, I’ve updated my “Progress” page to show a bunch of “before” and comparison pictures, which really keep me motivated.

The fun thing that’s happening lately is that I can truly shop at “normal” stores. I’m back to a 16 at New York & Co. which is almost where I was at our wedding. In the pictures above, the “before” is a 20/22 from Torrid, and the “now” is a 16 and XL from NY&Co… I’m feeling confident lately! It’s a rather odd feeling.

When hanging out with my sister on Monday, I noticed that people don’t get out of my way the way they used to. I actually got run into quite a few times. It was also quite lovely to walk WITH my sister (who walks at typical Chicago pace, a.k.a. really fast) and not be trailing after her, out of breath. And this was AFTER a run/walk workout!

We had such fun eating beautiful veggies at Eataly,

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It was really the first time I noticed how different I feel doing normal everyday things. And I loved it!

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Week 17: Making changes

The bane of my existence for as long as I can remember has been physical activity or exercise. I mean seriously, why run? Why go lift heavy things for FUN?

I was told when I started my OptiFast journey that exercise and activity were key to not only losing weight, but making the habit of working out was key to maintaining. Damn.

I half-assed the physical activity as soon as I felt up to it, starting with basic Pilates and a class here and there, mostly doing YouTube videos at home. Then, my friend Michele asked me if I wanted to take a boot camp with her, and I figured “sure, why not?”

We bought the LivingSocial deal for a boot camp type place near my house, and went to our first class on Saturday morning. It was a circuit-type workout, and I successfully completed three rounds! I flipped giant tires, I did planks, chest presses, squats, and I ran on a treadmill. RAN!

I felt awesome. Today, I decided to start the Couch to 5K program, and I’m starting Zumba on Thursday. I managed to walk a couple miles with my sister downtown today, and am looking forward to another bootcamp tomorrow!

WHO AM I!? I don’t hate physical activity. I just hated physical activity when I was heavier. I’m wicked sore though. Advil here I come…

The benefits will be worth it though. I’m loving feeling so much better, and definitely loving being smaller…and the clothes are a nice benefit too!