Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Half of Me

As of today, I have officially lost 150 pounds. Dayam. Yep, both of those pictures are me. Actually, I've lost weight since the one in the green suit -- another twenty pounds or so. I'd take a more recent picture, but you'd see my red nose and haggard face from bronchitis, and I frankly don't think either of us needs that. And yes, I did lose that last stubborn six pounds from being sick as a dog the last week. Heck, I'll take what I can get. So anyway, I thought I'd discuss the things I've learned about myself and about weight loss the last 19 months.

1.) Gastric bypass surgery is not a magic wand. I thought it was. I thought I'd just plunk down my $26,000 (ACK!!!!) and viola!! Instant skinny woman.

Uh, no. A lot of people think it is that easy. They think it's the easy way out, that Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig is so much harder. Well, yeah, in some ways, it is easier. In all the hanging-over-the-toilet-throwing-up ways, no. In all the I-look-like-I-survived-a-knife-fight ways, no.

(That's my husband's standard line, by the way: I'm his knife-fighting kitty. Right after I had the laproscopic surgery, I was left with five small horizontal cuts at different points on my stomach. Mike, who is a cop, said, "You know, I've seen people who've been in knife fights that had injuries like that." That's when he threatened to punch the first person who said I took the easy way out. He spent a month sniffing bandages and watching me for signs of infection, so he's entitled.)


Let's be clear here: I would never have lost the weight without the surgery. Period. Partly because I didn't believe I could do it. I'd watched my Mom struggle with obesity for my entire life, lose 80 pounds, TWICE, and gain it back both times. I knew I just didn't have my mother's ferocious willpower. I was screwed before I even started.

But you know what? I have a LOT more willpower than I thought I did. I realized that the first week after I had the surgery. I was staggering around the kitchen, sick as hell, hungry. And my husband had made himself and my son toasted garlic bread with butter. I was DYING to eat a piece of that bread, but I knew it would kill my butt if I did. So I didn't. And I thought, Damn, I have more willpower than I thought.

It was never about willpower. It is about consequences. For me, overeating never had immediate consequences. The consequences come later, quietly, in additional pounds, not in ways that you really feel as instantly painful. Gastric bypass gives food instant consequences that are highly unpleasant RIGHT NOW, and that makes it easy to say no. When you know that if I eat this chocolate cake, I'm going to be sick as a dog for the next ninety minutes, you freaking don't eat the chocolate cake, because it ain't worth it. Nothing tastes that good.

So I have plenty of willpower. I always did. I just never wanted it badly enough. Now I do. I have experienced what it's like to walk around without 150 extra pounds on my body, and let me tell you, it's a HELL of a lot easier. I am a devout lazy person. I don't like carrying around 150 extra pounds. It sucks. It hurts. Getting off the toilet hurts. Walking around the block hurts. Not being able to breathe sucks. Now I stride everywhere I go, and I like it.

I was thinking about this today. If you asked me to pick up 150 pounds and carry it right now, there is no way on God's green earth I could do it. And I've been working out. I've got biceps now and everything. I'm a lot stronger. But I couldn't do it.

I always thought I was lazy. People always think that fat people are sooo lazy, they don't want to work out. Well, think about this. Strap 150 pounds on your body and get on that treadmill and carry it for a mile and a half for thirty minutes. I defy you.

No wonder obese people don't want to work out.

Yet I used to do that three times a week, every week. That took a hell of a lot of willpower and determination I never gave myself credit for.

I think a lot of obese people sell themselves short because everybody else sells them short. They just look at the weight and think, "Ah, you're lazy, and that's why you're fat." But we're not. We can do it.

We just don't think we can.

Secrets of the Roux-en-Y Sisterhood

I learned a few things over the past 19 months about losing weight. First off, I learned that protein is key to weight loss. They tell you it's all about cutting calories, but let me tell you, if you ain't getting enough protein, you can't loose weight no matter how you try. Gastric patients only get about 300-600 calories a day those first few weeks, so cutting calories is NOT a problem. And yet sometimes we get stuck. That's because we're not getting enough protein. Without protein, your body doesn't have what it needs to metabolize the fat.

So for us, all the focus is on getting in the 68 grams of protein you have to have every day to live. That's more complicated than you'd think, because your body can only absorb about 25 grams at a time. So you can't just eat one big bar or something. You have to make sure you get it in usable chunks. I found a nifty protein drink I loved here:

It's called Achieve One Cappuccino drink, and it's the only protein drink I was ever able to stomach at 20 grams a bottle. It can be hard to get, but it's worth it.


I also discovered that exercise is my life-saver. For all that I always hated to work out before my surgery, I realized that it was the solution I've always been looking for when it came to stress and anxiety. Unlike antidepressants, it's instant -- you don't have to wait six weeks for it to kick in. A good work out can burn off more screaming stress than anything I can think of, with the possible exception of good sex.

I have come to see it as a necessity for my mental health, not just something I do to look good in jeans. Cause frankly, my jeans aren't a good enough incentive. Keeping myself from going batshit, however, is.


My Weight Watchers leader says this, and it's true. The nerves in your stomach that detect hunger also detect thirst. So if you're hungry, and it's not time to eat, drink something instead. That may be way you really need.

Anyway, those are a few of the lessons I've learned on the way to becoming half the woman I was.

By the way, soon after I started work on this blog, I learned that Shifter, my new anthology, hit #14 on the New York Times list. So I have TWO major things to celebrate today!

So I'm doing the Kermit the Frog dance of ecstasy!


Amber Green said...

Kudos, Julie. You always had it in you, but now you know.

BarbaraK said...

Muchisimas congratulations, Julie.
You've had a very hard battle but you're succeeding. I'm succeeding too with my personal battle against cancer. Exercise helped me tremendously, especially when I got depressed.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Angela, I am so glad you decided to get close and personal about your bariatric surgery. I have been considering it for myself and have done all the preliminary workup but I have not been able to figure out if it was for me or not. I wanted to ask you about it but didn't want to impose on you. So, thanks for talking about it.
I also want to congratulate you on the wonderful success you're having with Shifter. It's well deserved.
All good things to you,
Sarah McNeal

Darla said...

Woo Hoo! Big Big Congrats on your loss!

Dakota Cassidy said...

Congrats, my friend!

DC :)

Jenna Leigh said...

Love the way Darla put it, so I'll add mine too.

AK, I'm very happy for your loss and your win with Shifter! *grins* By the way, you look great!

Angela Knight said...

Awww, ladies, thank you. Barbara K, my favorite Chainsaw -- SMOOCH! Sarah, glad I could offer you some encouragement. The surgery definitely does have some serious risks and should be approached with a lot of thought and consideration, but unfortunately, being morbidly obese also carries an even greater risk of death from a whole range of ugly causes. But I must stress to EVERYONE that if you're considering this, CHECK IT OUT COMPLETELY. Learn what you're getting into FIRST. And most importantly, CHECK OUT YOUR SURGEON. You do NOT want a surgeon who has done anything less than 100 gastric bypass operations. If you've got to travel to find an experienced doctor, do so. If you need more info, write me at angelanight2002@bellsouth. net (no space) and I will give you some pointers about what books to get.


Melissa Lopez said...

(((((((((((AK))))))))))))) what a informative and inspiring entry! Thanks for sharing your story!

And congrats on the anthology soaring!

Kate Douglas said...

Sweetie, I thought you were gorgeous when there was twice as much of you! You always have been and always will be beautiful...and talented and funnier than hell--and that spot on the NY Times list has got to feel SO damned good. I am in awe of all you have done in your life. You are one tough broad, and I'm so proud you are my friend.

Angela Knight said...

Kate -- Considering everything you've been through, that is high praise indeed. I adore you, and have since I met you. As for funny -- you and Dakota keep me in stitches!


Samantha said...

Hugs darlin'! I'm so happy for you and I know how hard this was all the way around! I loved you to pieces when that picture was taken (the bottom one) and I love ya to pieces now. Don't forget we have Lynn's wedding in October. Remember Mike? Yeppers they've finally set a date.
Again, hugs and major congrat's on all fronts.

Eva Gale said...

You're amazing. I knew that before, but now ... I'm so happy for you.

Ava Rose Johnson said...

Wow. You are truly an inspiration to all of us who have dealt with weight issues. Kudos to you :)

Kate Pearce said...

That is amazing-you must feel so proud of yourself! My best friends Mom has just gone through this procedure so I will direct her to your blog!

Crystal Jordan said...

That is amazing. You should be so proud! :-)

Cassandra said...

I am so happy for you, sugar! You look fabulous.

((major hugs))


aprilm said...

Wow. You look fantastic! That's absolutely extraordinary. And I've known woman that have had gastric bypass - not all of them lose the weight. Unbelievable I know... but it happens.

So you celebrate girl! You deserve it.

April Morelock

Natasha said...

Congrats on your success! Thanks for sharing your journey.

Angela Knight said...

Yeah, it's true you do have to work with the surgery. If you nibble all the time, you won't lose.

Sam -- Hey, yeah! I saw Mike and Lynn at my birthday party. I'm planning to go to the wedding. :)

And thank you all for the compliments!


Kristen Painter said...

You look awesome and your story is amazing and inspirational. Rock on!

Christina said...

Hi Angela, we have only met in passing at conferences but I have always admired your work. Big huge congrats on your weight loss and on your willpower in keeping to the plan. I had my gastric bypass the end of July and have lost 100 pounds so far. My doctor did the minimally invasive so I have a 4 inch vertical incision down my sternum instead of the laparascopic stab wounds but I still had those from other surgeries, so I too look like I survived a knife fight, lol. I would just like to add to your comments about it not being the easy way out. Since when is major surgery easy. Or being hideously sick if you eat the wrong thing, or too much of anything? I have heard comments such as this behind my back, heck some people say it to my face because they truly believe that I took the easy way and I quickly set them straight.

BTW, I also drink the Achiev one, I do the Mocha Java flavor. It is an awesome way to get in 20g of protein isn't it? I just wanted to ask how tall you were that your protein requirement is only 68g daily? Mine is like 90g per day and I am 5'6. I can NEVER get that much in, it is hard, especially since I have found that I can NOT drink protein powder in smoothies, etc. NASTY! Anyway, sorry to go on so long, congrats again on your success, both in weight loss and with Shifter. Hope to see you at RT!

Angela Knight said...

Christina -- Hmmm. Maybe you're right on that. Maybe it's 86 grams of protein, and I was misremembering. 'Cause I'm 5'9". Tall woman. AKA Jabba the Romance Novelist, back in the day. :>


Skylar Masey said...

Congratulations Angela! And sorry to hear you're sick.

I too can attest to the rollercoaster of weight loss. I'd lost 60 pounds a year ago, was a svelte size 12 (instead of a 22) and felt like I was on top of the world. A car accident sidelined me, and bad news from my publisher made me depressed...and since I didn't watch what I was eating I've put all that weight back on.

But after seeing a picture of myself (since I've started avoiding mirrors again) I knew I had to get back to the gym, pain or not. So far I've dropped 20 pounds, but it's a hard road. But remembering how I felt, how I had confidence that seemed to ooze from my pores...that makes me want to be that person I was on the outside. Now I have to tap into that part of myself that helped me succeed the first time.

And I don't want to be the fat twin that gets left out :0)

Angela Knight said...

Skylar -- You've done it before, you can do it again. 40 more pounds is not insurmountable -- you've already proven you can do it! Concentrate on the 20 you've already lost. You're a third of the way there!

swenholt2 said...

Congratulations on both fronts! Both are quite a feat.

It's a shame that protein drink is made with 'superior whey product'. For lactose intolerant folks like me, that means Death By Dairy. On the other hand, it's as you said in having the willpower to give up something. When you know that bowl of ice cream will revisit you in unpleasant ways, it's easy to turn away from it.

I do hope the lung ick clears up for you soon. Sometimes the only thing that will stop the hacking cough long enough is a shot of codeine-laced cough syrup. Just make sure it doesn't put hair on your chest!

ilona said...

Congratulations on both your weight loss and your book. Mind you as an addicted reader I am more impressed by the book win :D

Shai PeriHawk said...

Well ma'am, I believe you to be quite the inspiration. I've always loved your books, but now with your blog I see many of the issues I have here as well. Anxiety, depression, and the constant fight with weight. Thank you for the time you've taken to write about these issues, they mean a great deal to me.

Also, I picked up Shifter while I was out being an insomniac today. Very excited.

Diane M. said...

I was reading your blog several months ago after the DH got home from Iraq. He could not believe both pictures were of you.

I sympathized on the hacking crud. I ened up in the hospital for nine days. The first thing I had somebody do after I got home was a copy of Shifters.

Angela Knight said...

Diane -- Yep, both are me. :) Glad you're out of the hospital though. Crud -- BLegh!!! Nasty, nasty stuff.

Shai-- Inspiration -- Thank you, sweetie. What a kind compliment! But it's true -- the depression thing is no fun, and it's haunted my life for years now. Really, I can't recommend exercise enough. And I know everybody hates it, but man, it really does work. When I'm at the point where I'm just about to do something really, really stupid, the ONLY thing that helps me is to go to the gym and run myself into the ground. Half an hour on the treadmill or an hour in the pool, and I feel like a human being again, in control, even feeling GOOD. Antidepressants are often necessary, but I think exercise is actually much faster and more effective.

libri vermis said...

You look fantastic! Congratulations, kuddos, and all those other words of cheer! I agree about the protein. The only way I can drop a pound is to increase the protein intake, but sometimes it is just so hard to say no to the lovely piece of bread and have that piece of chicken instead. Now if bacon was just fat free.....
Hope the battle of the bronchitis ends soon.

Jen H said...

Major congrats!! You look absolutely fantastic. As someone who has struggled with weight issues all her life, I know what an accomplishment this is for you! I just finished Shifter, a great read as always! Thank you for sharing your struggles, it inspires us all! *hugs* Jen :)

Angela Knight said...

Jen, thank you. Christina -- I just realized I didn't tell you how thrilled I am over your weight loss. Congratulations!

Angela Knight

Laurie Likes Books said...

Angela -

Congratulations! I struggled with my own weight for years, losing 100 pounds through diet and exercise, but when we went through a prolonged health scare with my husband that turned out to be much ado about nothing, I'd regained half. So last summer I had lap-band surgery and lost that 50 pounds again. I've got about 25 left to go, and seeing the photo of your before and after really helps. Thanks so much for sharing.


Angela Knight said...

Laurie -- Congratulations on your weight loss! Getting surgery is a courageous thing to do, and getting it to work takes effort and determination. Congratulations, and best of luck on the rest of the weight loss!

Angela Knight

Lori said...


Congrats on your weight loss. My Mom had this surgery a few years ago and I have to totally agree with you when you say it is not an easy or instant fix. It took a lot of work and my Mom looks great and it, also, changed her health. She was able to stop using insulin as her diabetes is pretty much completely gone. You look great!

Also, congrats on Shifter doing so well!

Angela Knight said...

Hey, thanks! And congrats to your mother on her weight loss.


Zoe Winters said...

Congrats on the weight loss! And I'm sorry you had to go through all that. And yeah exercise is WAY better than antidepressants. So is sunshine. :)

charleneteglia said...

Congratulations! Good for you. You look terrific.

Saskia Walker said...

I was just catching up on blog hopping and I when i saw this I had to comment and say WOW! WeLl done you! You look fabulous and you're a total inspiration.

Angela Knight said...

Thanks, Saskia. When I look at these old photos, it's hard for me to believe I was ever that huge. Free Angela!

Lena Austin said...

Congrats, AK! I'll email you privately. My insurance has finally loosened the restrictions on lap band surgery and I now qualify.

This is a big step for me. I don't fear abdominal surgery. I've had that twice in the past few years. It's the before-the-surgery process that has held me back. I'm needle phobic. Guess being willing to do the torture proves I'm serious, at least to me.

You're the third person I know who's taken the risks and their courage in both fists and won the battle of the bulge.

Expect that email.

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