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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

My Lap-Band Life: 8 Months In

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

After a bad month, I resolved to pay closer attention to my diet, but as the month progressed, I realized that it was taking more food to fill me up.  Instead of going 5 to 6 hours between hunger pangs, I was only able to go about 2 to 3 hours.  So this time when I saw the Doctor, I was the same weight as last month.  I asked, nay demanded, an adjustment and he cheerfully put in about a quarter of a CC.  I could tell the difference immediately.  Now, three days later, I'm already down 5 pounds and I have my portions back under control.  My wife also pointed out that I had been eating more carby foods, which was undoubtedly adding to my hunger problems. So I'm back on the wagon as far as portions and food choices go, and re-energized after some, if not promising, at least concrete information on my job situation.  Last night, I slept a solid 8 hours, something I haven't done in a couple of months.

I'm still losing inches, and my pant and shirt sizes are going down, albeit much slower for which I have only myself to blame.  I can find most of the wardrobe I need at consignment sales and at Goodwill.  But a nice dress shirt (needed for work) is harder to find, since the shirts that end up at Goodwill are so limp and worn that they won't hold a press any longer.  So from time to time, I've been buying a shirt here, a shirt there, when I find really good sales.  That has helped upgrade my appearance.  My old fat shirts are mostly gone, but the few that are left are beginning to look goofy.  The shoulder seams are a good 3-4 inches down my upper arm and the short sleeves now go halfway down my forearm.  All the excess material around my waist actually makes me look bigger.  When standing up to do presentations, if I turn around, my guests see all that extra material gathered up in the back around the waist. 

Looking sloppy hurts my credibility, so I have to pay special attention as my clothes become looser and baggier.  My co-workers are very nice in telling me constantly how good I look, and going past mirrors and store windows isn't as painful as it once was.  I'm holding off on the suit thing until I get closer to my goal weight, since that requires an outlay of some serious bucks.  I have a barrel chest and skinny legs, which means suits have to be almost custom fit in order to look professional.  An ill-fitting suit just looks bad, whether it's too tight on a fat man, or too baggy on a less-than-fat man.  And that's expensive, my friends. 

Complicating things lately, my lower back, which has been quiescent for over two years, became inflamed.  For three weeks, I haven't been able to exercise at all (even walking has been intensely painful) and at this stage of the lap-band game, exercise is essential to continued weight loss.  I can't take my old silver bullet Aleve (Naproxen Sodium) because of the effect it has on the stomach lining at the band.  I tried to crush one and take it that way, but it set my mouth on fire.  So we got some liquid ibuprofen (children's strength) from the drug store and have been taking that for the last week or so.  It has helped and my pain is slowly going away.

Drug manufacturers probably don't think of us Lap-Banders very much, since we can't take large pills, and some, like Aleve, can actually burn a hole in the lining around the band.  It would be nice to have a liquid Aleve.  The ibuprofen is children's strength, so to get the dosage I need (as dictated by the Doctor), I'm going through this stuff rapidly, and it's not cheap. 

I have to take responsibility for this problem since I had become lax in performing my back exercises before this happened.  Those exercises consist of two regimens.  One involves lying face down and raising my upper body off the floor, in sort of an inverted sit-up.  I concentrate my efforts in isolating the lumbar muscles, instead of the hamstrings.  I was doing about 75 of those twice a day and I guess I got lazy.  That routine is followed up by a about 50 "cat backs," which means while on hands and knees, I arch my back, again concentrating on the lumbar area. 

Humans are funny like that.  We won't fix a leaky roof if it's not raining, we won't fix a leaky tire if we're not driving, and we are less likely to do exercises religiously if we're "feeling fine."  I'll do my best not to make that mistake again.   I have to remind myself that I'm still 56 years old and my muscles and joints need regular attention through exercise.

Lap-Band surgery is a tool to reduce weight, but only a tool.  I know I've said this before, but there are people reading these posts who are considering weight-loss surgery who need to hear the following:

Surgery, whether the lap-band or a full-blown Rouen-Y gastric bypass, is only a tool.  There are many elements to the causes of obesity but the biggest one is our emotional attachment to food.  As I said in my last post, because of some externally-imposed stresses from my job situation, I had fallen back into depending on food for emotional support.  This meant making bad food choices, eating when I really wasn't hungry, and getting portion-creep (watching the portion sizes creep up).  It's so very important that in the run-up to surgery, and in the time afterwards that the patient come to terms with this emotional bonding.  We have to, in a sense, get a divorce  from food.  That doesn't mean stopping eating altogether, but stopping the dash to the refrigerator when we feel depressed, lonely, or stressed out.  There are other activities we can do that don't involve stuffing our faces, and we have to, in those trying moments, make those responsible choices. 

If you can't do that, achieve a healthy emotional attitude towards food, then regardless of which surgery you have, or what diet program you embark on, you --- will --- fail. 

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but those are the facts. 

Obesity feeds and festers two weak and destructive parts of the human psyche: Illusion and self-loathing.  We can wear loose clothes and pretend that we're not fat.  And we can (and do) hate ourselves after packing away a 4,000 calorie meal filled with fats, grease, starch, and sugar.  But neither one will promote weight loss, surgery or no surgery.  The process of curing Obesity the Disease is as much mental and emotional as it is physical.  You can't attack one leg of that tripod, ignore the other two, and expect success.  Taking responsibility for one's own progress (or lack thereof) is critical.

The good thing is this is not an impossible thing to do.  Counseling and support groups help tremendously.  It's so important that you know two things: (1) You're not alone in this struggle, and (2) you must be held accountable by somebody else.  Obesity exists, after all, because we've proven we can't police ourselves.  And admitting that weakness to the very human person in the mirror means we're already halfway home.

Nothing replaces personal courage, and an unwavering commitment to a better life.  And if you struggle with food emotionally, you will need the power of both of those.

As always, you must consult your doctor in this decision process.  And you must have full buy-in from your loved ones, because you will need their help.  I'm not a doctor, merely a patient with some personal experience.  But I am available for questions at Ralph.Couey@gmail.com so feel free to ask. 

Lap Band surgery is a huge step towards better health and a longer life. 

But in the end, it's still all up to you.
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