Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I have lost 143 lbs

It's been a long time since I've posted to my blog. So much has happened between a new grandchild, a new boyfriend, my son moving home, ongoing weight loss, cycling, job change and the list goes on and on.

At first, I was distracted by my training for another bike ride across Iowa and then my granddaughter Eliza was born. Training continued and in July 2013, I rode my bike across Iowa again. Around that time, I met the man I would eventually fall in love with and the next thing I know, several months have gone by and I still haven't blogged.

Being a relatively private individual, it is hard for me to divulge too much of my private life on a public blog when it comes to other individuals most notably, my children, granddaughter and significant other.  I will always try to refrain from giving too much information about them individually to protect their private lives.

I feel blessed to have found a man who shares my drive to live an active and healthy lifestyle. He has also struggled with weight gain and loss and has currently found a lifestyle that affords him the physical fitness he has desired and he has met his goals. Unfortunately, my journey continues and I still have not met all my goals. Again, I want to say that I feel blessed. I am not unappreciative of the progress I have made and I am grateful that this man has fallen in love with me in spite of my physical flaws.

Recently, I have been hitting some road blocks in my progress that are completely beyond my control. I find it hard to believe that the Universe has brought me this far just to drop me on my ass but I feel the need to vent some frustrations and express the joy of my achievements.

Here is some background. This journey started in 2007. I was morbidly obese and tragically unhealthy and unhappy. I had gained and lost the same 80 lbs over and over again just to gain it back plus another 10 or 15. Eventually, I weighed over 300lbs. A body photo of me is VERY rare but here is a picture of me at about the time I decided I needed to change my life.


In this picture, I am 43 years old and I want to make note that I'm not pregnant in this picture, that is all me. I wish I could say it is some illusion caused by the clothes I was wearing but it's not.

My official BEFORE picture

In these pictures, I was preparing for my journey. I had made a conscious decision to change my life. I'm embarrassed and mortified of these and the shame I feel is indescribable but this is not me now. This person no longer exists. She was killing me so I killed her first.

I knew that fad diets didn't work for me. Well, they worked but not permanently. They had a beginning and an end. I would hit the goal and then I'd have to start eating "normal" and the sad fact was that I simply didn't know what "normal" was so I would eventually go back to my old eating habits and the weight would return with several pounds added. I needed to find a diet that had no end.

I decided to CHANGE my diet instead of go ON a diet. I cut out processed foods almost completely. I had this weird method of monitoring my food which after 7 years, I still follow for the most part. If it's a processed food, I will not consume it if it has more than 5 ingredients. If Water, Meat, Vegetables or Fruits are on the list, they don't count as an ingredient. Spices count as one, no matter how many their are. Too complicated? Not really, after a while, it's easy to figure out. If you want a better description, let me know, I'd be happy to explain it better. Long story short, I was eating a more natural diet.

To me, processed foods are poison. Try to get me to eat a Chili Cheese Frito and see what happens.  We each have a place in the pantry called our "sin bin" which holds some treats that we eat in moderation. My shelf has granola, banana chips, kettle potato chips, almonds and dark chocolate. My boyfriend bought some Chili Cheese Fritos for his sin bin.  The other night we were talking after dinner while standing in the kitchen and he was eating them. I calmly took out the bar-b-que tongs and the bar-b-que lighter and took one of his Fritos and put it in the tongs and lit it with the lighter. He was shocked when I did it. I asked him, "Do you know why this Frito is going up in flames and burning like this?". He said, "No but I think you are about to tell me." (This is why I love this man) I said, "It's because it's full of oil and this fire represents the calories this chip holds." That was enough for him. He discontinued eating the Fritos and, in fact, gave them away.

Along with the diet change, I also started moving. I walked, I eventually started riding a bike, I did Zumba and much to my dismay, I was unable to be too physical because I suffered from Diverticulosis which is a malady of the large intestine. When irritated by physical activity or certain foods such as tomatoes and strawberries, it causes EXTREME pain, infection and for me, hospitalization. I limited my movements to avoid symptoms and eventually was unable to exercise or ride bike until I decided to have a sigmoid resection in 2010 in which they removed 18" of my large intestine. I fully recovered and have NEVER regretted the surgery. I was finally able to ride my bike and exercise as much as I wanted.

I've always said, "I don't look good running or swimming so I don't do either". Ironically, I've started running and swimming. I still don't look good doing them but I do it anyway. It feels good!

The pounds started to come off slowly. Again, I wasn't as much restricting my diet with volume and calories as I was restricting the content of my diet. I was eating more natural foods and I don't remember ever feeling hungry or having my stomach growl. I ate to my hearts content and I wasn't rewarding myself with one large "normal" dinner a week or a "day off" from dieting which had derailed me so many times before. I was rewarding myself with things like a piece or two of dark chocolate at the end of each day.

As the pounds came off, I decided to come up with a larger reward for my hard work. I decided that in the end, if I had changed my body like I planned, I would reward myself with some "factory new" ta ta's.  I dreamed about them for the entire journey but about 100 lbs into my weight loss I began to realize that the damage I had done to my body after carrying around this weight and losing and gaining over and over again was extensive.

My abdomen became a hideous mass of flesh. My upper arms became bat wings. My inner thighs, or "crotch biscuits" as I've been calling them for the last few years have become saggy and droopy. On top of it all, I have a turtle neck. Not a sweater, the neck of a turtle. Oddly enough, the turtle neck doesn't bother me as much as the rest of the mess. I don't know why. It's not that it doesn't bother me, it's just that it doesn't bother me as much as the other issues.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my general physician who has been following me during the weight loss and told him I'm ready to pursue some restorative surgery to remove this excess skin. He was overwhelmingly supportive and made several suggestions on how to proceed.

One thing I did find out that I did not know before was how much I had actually lost. I had never looked at a scale in the beginning but it was revealed to me that I had lost 143 lbs.

I made an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon and I proceeded to have the most humiliating and humbling doctor exam of my life.  They put you in a napkin sized pair of paper underwear and nothing else and start measuring, tugging and pulling and taking pictures.  In the end, the doctor tells me he would rather not do the surgery. The damage is simply too extensive for him. He has referred me to a team of doctors in hopes that they can help me.

To make matters complicated, the company I work for has sold and I'm not certain the new company is going to keep our current structure and I may be unemployed at the end of next month. The date of sale is only 13 days after my appointment with the new surgeon so if I'm terminated I'm not certain I can proceed as planned. The entire time frame and plan has been up ended.

I always say, "Don't pray for money because you don't know where it's coming from if you do get it." I would hate think that I would get the money for this procedure at the expense of anyone else but if there are money elves anywhere who would like to drop some in my lap, please take it from some rich millionaire and not some struggling single mom.

I have worked so hard that it scares me to think I'll be left with all these physical issues. When I work out, I have to wear a body suit to hold the lose skin in otherwise it causes pain, discomfort, rash and other sexy things I will spare you the details of but the body suit is so hot that it causes discomfort and limitations also. And...If I don't wear the body suit it looks like I'm packing a garbage bag of creamed corn under my shirt. It's pretty icky.

This is a picture of me two months ago. I'm finishing a 5k mud run and wearing a body suit to hold it all in. That is my sister-in-law giving me the high 5's. I think I look fantastic!


I know I look better and like I said before, I don't want to act unappreciative for my progress but this road block has my anxiety level way up.

This journey hasn't been easy, it has been full of sweat, pain and tears and I can tell you that the way I feel now is worth every bit of sweat, every sore muscle and every tear drop.

In 10 days, I will ride my bike across Iowa again. If I can perform a feat like that, certainly I can handle this situation.

I will keep you updated with my progress.

Love and Peace,

"It's not pain, it's progress"

Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting my move on - 6 days till RAGBRAI

I know it won't make any sense to you but I was actually afraid to share my weight loss with everyone. It embarrasses me that I was ever that large and when I think about how I felt then, I can't believe I didn't take action to change my life sooner.

Instead of pride I felt shame.

I waited till I was well into my 40's to make a change and by then, revving up my fat burning engine was next to impossible. I honestly had to change EVERYTHING to make myself healthier.

When you are carrying the weight equivalent of a grown adult on your body, you begin to do things in a different way. You find more efficient ways of doing things because the mere act of performing some tasks is absolutely exhausting. Even making the bed is abbreviated. Now, when I make the bed, I may scuttle around the bed four or five times, adjusting the sheets till there isn't a wrinkle in them. The old "Plus Size Liz" had a thick comforter for the bed and I could make it from one side... tugging the sheet up and then smoothing the comforter over the whole mess.

I can remember struggling with any and all physical activity. Even when I was cleaning the house I would take breaks between rooms to get my breath back and cool down. My ankles, knees, hips and back hurt constantly...even when I was lying in bed doing nothing.

I had a treadmill slash clothes hanger in my basement when I decided to start all this. I tried to use this device of torture but I was bored out of my mind. I didn't even have the drive or desire to get on it at all.

When the treadmill didn't work, I started walking outside. I was seeing results and able to add some time and distance to my walks. Winter was making it difficult to stay on a schedule so I decided to buy an XBOX 360 with Kinnect and give Zumba a try. At first, I thought I'd lost my mind and wasted a huge amount of money since I could barely lift my arms above my head and throwing my body weight around the way I was caused so much pain and discomfort that it didn't seem worth the effort.

I continued none the less and eventually became  pretty good at the routines. I'd skimmed off about 20 lbs which was making walking easier and more painless. I did Zumba on bad weather days and I walked outside on good weather days.

Eventually (a year or two later) I started cycling. My first bicycle (a gift from my son) was a fixed speed Next LaJolla which is a story unto itself I will share with you sometime. I was so large that my weight actually bent the peddles down and they had to be replaced. That is another embarrassing admission but this bike was a life changer. It would lead to my life's passion which is cycling.

You don't see me ON the bike because overweight people are masters of hiding from the camera and I don't like body photos so I'm obviously hiding behind my car as much as possible. As you can see, even at that weight, I was a total goof ball.

It wasn't long before I outgrew that bike. I wanted to do more than peddle around on a cruiser so I started riding my son's Mongoose Mountain Bike. It looked cool but it burned my knees. It was too big for me and it was a monster but I figured it could handle my weight...and it did but I was in fear that I would quit riding.

I went on a few bike rides with my brother and his wife and eventually they let me ride her fitness level bike. I was in love and I knew I had to find a similar bike if I was going to continue to ride.

When I bought that Trek FX 7.5 off my sister-in-law (bless her heart), I could not get enough of it. I bought a bike computer and started monitoring my speed and distance and was constantly challenging myself. I would set a goal, reach it and set another goal. I bought gear so I could ride in the cold and I bought accessories and gadgets to make my rides more fun and comfortable so I wouldn't lose interest.
This is a picture of the day I got the bike. It was October of 2011 and I was thrilled. This bike would eventually train me and take me across the state of IOWA in 2012 for my first RAGBRAI. I rode 471.1 miles in 7 days and it wasn't easy on that kind of bike so looking back, I feel an even greater sense of accomplishment.

I actually didn't lose much weight that year but my body changed substantially. I was still learning how to tweak my diet to have enough fuel to perform without over fueling so the scale wasn't too kind to me but my clothes were definitely fitting different. I never lost focus of my goals and I never got discouraged no matter what the scale said.

In June 2013, one month before my second RAGBRAI, I would meet and fall in love with my Specialized (MIDGE). I knew I wanted to buy a different bike and I was putting in the miles to justify the purchase but a good rode bike costs more than my car is worth. (actually that's not saying much, my car isn't worth much) It was still a MAJOR purchase and thanks to my cycling friend Mike, I committed to it.
Me with Midge shortly after I bought her
You can see in this picture taken in June 2013 that my body has changed a lot. I rode 104 miles the day this picture was taken which was my first "century". Every year on RAGBRAI they have one day where they add a thing called the KARRAS LOOP which makes the day 100+ miles. In 2013, I rode the Karras Loop for the first time on this bike and ended the day with 112.75 miles. It remains my longest distance for one day and I'm not going to kid you, it was a long day.

I joined Team Pez that year and rode a total of 444.12 miles in the 2013 RAGBRAI. I feel so blessed to have joined such an outstanding bunch of riders. I love them all.

In 6 days, I will leave for northern Iowa with Team Pez to do another RAGBRAI and I can hardly wait. At a projected 445 miles and being a northern route, it's the second flattest and third shortest route in RAGBRAI history which is a bit of a disappointment but I'm still excited to get out there and ride.

I encourage you to cross train but for me, cycling has become my passion. It took a long time but I found a physical activity that brings me to life. I run, do core exercises, kickboxing, swimming, mud runs, etc. but I simply don't enjoy them like I do cycling.

I challenge you to go out there and try lots of different activities and work through the pain till you realize that it's not pain you're feeling, it's progress.

I hope you find an activity that you love as much as I love cycling.

Love and Peace,

"It's not pain, it's progress"