Running, Aging, and Prom (WHAT?)

Yesterday was a rest day for me. This morning I got up and went for a 3.5 mile run. It felt pretty darned good, until the last 3 blocks, when my iPod battery died (I forgot to put it on the charger it the last, uh, 4 or 5 times I used it). Then the symphony of complaints that had previously been suppressed by the rockin’ tunes started up. “My legs hurt. My muscles are tired. My armpits are chafing. We can stop now, that’s far enough…!” Things I hadn’t noticed at all with the music jamming were suddenly declaring that running was stupid and way too much work.

A concrete lesson for me that I listen to music when I’m running not just because I like the songs, but to distract and suppress the inevitable physical complaints. And that’s all they are, just whining from my body. The last 3 blocks were a lot more work than the 3+ miles before them because I had to do them in silence.

I was looking at some old pictures recently and I realized that I met my husband when I was at my absolute apex of elegance, beauty, and physical fitness. It’s a good thing he loves me for me because it’s been all downhill since then. I started to get sad and then I realized – that’s how it is for everyone! Us humans mostly meet when we’re young and fresh and vivacious, but the point is to find someone to grow old and slower with. I’m ok with that because I picked a good one despite the fact that at my peak of freshness I might accidentally have picked a shallow jerk who’d dump me as I inevitably aged and sagged. Whew! Bullet dodged!

But, not to be a total downer, yesterday I also pulled out my gown that I wore to my senior prom in high school in 1992. Why?? I hear you ask. Because I’m going to a theme party in early January where the theme is Prom! Prom! Prom! I’m going to wear my actual prom gown – it just needs to be taken in a bit. Interesting side note – it was custom made for me because in 1992 nobody was making nice prom dresses for plus-sized girls. I got to pick out the fabric and the pattern, although at that time I had zero sewing skills so I didn’t make it myself – paid a seamstress. I’m probably the only person on earth who needs to take in their clothes from high school. But hey, I can’t be doing everything wrong if I’m still smaller than I was then!


Blitzing, and a Study on Childhood Obesity

I’m really having no trouble whatsoever staying on target (or “in the box” to use their terminology) with this HMR Blitz! It helps that I have very considerate friends who make socializing easy for me by offering supportive food options for me. That is the greatest.

I’ve been doing my workout DVD every morning. The last two days I haven’t been able to go out for a walk in the evening but I’m going to do that today!

This article caught my eye a couple of days ago, somebody posted it on Facebook, although it’s not particularly new news, I hadn’t seen it before:

Kids with Strict Parents Are More Likely To Be Obese

“Kids with demanding parents who are rigid about rules, stingy with affection and won’t discuss limits are far more likely to be obese than children whose parents practice a more balanced parenting style…”

“Canadian scientists found that obesity rates were about one-third higher in children up to age 11 whose parents used a so-called ‘authoritarian’ parenting style, marked by inflexibility over rules and a lack of emotional responsiveness”

First thing I have to say is wow, who thinks these studies up? It’s fantastic we have this insight, but who sat down and wrote a proposal to study parenting style effect on obesity?

And the second thing is that my personal experience absolutely confirms the findings in this study.

I’ve historically struggled with addressing childhood obesity on this blog for a couple of reasons, one is that I don’t have children myself and, wow, is talking about parenting a dangerous, landmine-laden topic! The second reason is because I was a fat kid from the day I was born. I was a chubby baby, and then as I got older I was mocked and bullied mercilessly (by strangers, acquaintances, and family alike) for it and that only made it worse. But that was when being the “fat kid” was an outlyer! Now it’s becoming more and more common and kids now are obviously dealing with environmental factors contributing to it that I don’t know existed when I was a kid. Short answer, I really don’t know enough to spout off on childhood obesity. All I know is that it’s heartbreaking and baffling and my heart weeps for kids who are dealing with it because I know just how hard it can be to live in that body and be judged by it constantly.

But, all that being said, the article and study authors seem to think there are some basic parenting strategies and behaviors that can help:

“It appears that parents who are more engaged in discussing eating and physical activity behaviors with children — where the child has the ability to participate in making decisions for the family as well as themselves — seems to be the style that has the best impact.”

This makes sense to me. I wonder if I’d have turned out different in a different environment. File that under “things we’ll never know.”

All About Loose Skin After Weight Loss, and Surgery

I’ve had a few questions recently about loose skin due to weight loss. Specifically, loose skin due to large and/or rapid weight loss. I can only tell you what I know, what I experienced, and what I learned from my plastic surgeon.

If you lose a lot of weight, you’ll probably have some loose skin. How much depends on what your highest weight was, what your lowest is, and genetics. I had a lot of skin removed after losing 200 lbs, and my surgeon was really good about explaining to me the mechanics of what you see happening in your skin as you increase and decrease. Basically, if you have a lot of stretch marks that have filled in with that translucent light shade after their initial appearance as red streaks, that shimmery light color is new skin growing to accommodate your body as you gain weight (disclaimer: this applies to Caucasian skin – I don’t know about other skin but I’d welcome the information).

The next question I get is: Should one plan to lose slowly, then, to allow the skin to shrink? Well, the answer I received is that once that new skin has filled in the stretch marks, you have grown new skin. That’s pretty much all there is to it – you now have new skin and there’s nowhere for it to go when you lose but to sag. If you are extremely lucky, you may have extremely elastic skin that doesn’t get stretch marks and bounces back without leaving you with excess folds. But if you are not (like me), you are going to have loose skin no matter how slow or fast you lose.

My philosophy is if you need to lose anyway, then lose it however works best for you, learn to keep it off via maintenance, and deal with the loose skin when you have time.  Personally I’d rather have loose skin than full skin that inhibits living my life.

Now, about my own personal skin: I had two major surgeries to remove loose skin, one in 2005 and one in 2006. The first one was a belt lipectomy. My surgeon took a 12-inch wide strip of skin from all the way around my torso. The surgery involved almost 10 hours under anesthesia and I was off work recovering for a full month, wearing a medical corset for that entire month. I also had some drains which I had to empty several times a day for the first week or two, as well as staples and stitches.

Over the course of the next year the internal dissolving stitches which had been used to secure what some of my friends affectionately call my “skin pants” dissolved and the scar dipped considerably low at each of outer hips, likely because I carry a LOT of my weight in my “saddle bags.” The scar tissue wasn’t able to hold up the weight and so my surgeon decided to do a re-section of my outer thighs to put in permanent internal sutures and pull up the thigh tissue, and while he was at it I asked him to do an inner thigh lift (no wikipedia entry found).

The scar for the resection simply followed the previous scar along the outer hips, however the scars for the inner thigh lift were significant. They include scars in each groin crease and a scar running down the inside of each thigh to a point about 2-3 inches above each knee. The skin and tissue in my groin has been secured to the pelvic bones with permanent internal stitches to keep the weight of my thighs from pulling the groin area down over time. This surgery took less time – 6 hours if I remember correctly – and the recovery was only 2 weeks off work, during which I needed to wear compression pants down to the knee. Unfortunately, because I was unable to find compression pants that were long enough I had some complications which resulted in the formation of a seroma right above the inner knee on my left leg which didn’t resolve on its own despite several visits to have the doctor drain it with a needle. I underwent one more procedure (in-office, local anesthesia only) to cut out the lining of the seroma and a final drain placed for another week or so. This may have been the most stressful procedure for me due to being wide awake.

I have never once regretted the decision to have my extra skin removed. Even during the long weeks of painful Vicodin-fogged recovery, there was never a moment when I wished I hadn’t done it. I had so much loose skin that my body looked like a deflated balloon. It wasn’t going to shrink back – I’d stretched it beyond that capability when I was at my highest weight. In fact, I’d always had an apron pannus from the earliest age I can remember – even as a child. Getting rid of that badge of dishonor was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

HOWEVER. The scars on my inner thighs have been a source of on-going angst over the years. You see, when I gain weight they have to stretch a bit, and when they stretch they hurt. It’s a stinging, pulling sensation that doesn’t feel good in any way whatsoever. So over the last couple of years as I’ve gained back these 50 pounds, my scars have been hurting. And now that I’m losing? They haven’t hurt in weeks.

Couple of interesting articles

I just don’t have anything new to add lately. I’ve written up all my methods and thoughts previously and I stick by them, but when I find something new and thought-provoking, I link it here. Here are two such articles:

Overweight Teens Typically Eat Less Than Normal-Weight Peers. I could have told you that when I was an overweight teen. I could have told you that any goddamned day of my teen years. If anybody had asked. Anyway, my takeaway quote from the article for people try to help a struggling teen is, “Be sympathetic. Overweight children reported eating fewer calories, and to lose weight, these kids have to eat even less. It’s probably even harder for them to lose weight than we give them credit for.” It is.

The 5:2 Diet: can it help you lose weight and live longer? I ran across this article last month and I’ve been giving it a try. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been trying two fast days per week, not because I think it will help me lose weight but because I was curious how it would work out for me. It turns out, I like how it makes me feel, I like the mindfulness of it, and I like that it helps me to maintain my weight and it works to balance out any excesses on my normal eating days. So far, I’m really digging it. I eat normally, I even indulge a little 5 days a week, and Tuesdays and Thursday (they shift around as needed, if something comes up, but usually Tuesdays and Thursdays) I fast. So far, I like it.


Even Thin Girls Have to Diet

Exercise this week:

  • Monday – Ran for 50 minutes
  • Tuesday – Walked for 60 minutes (to work and back)
  • Wednesday – Walked for 40 minutes (around neighborhood)
  • Thursday – Walked for 60 minutes (nature trail near house)
  • Friday – Planning a run later this afternoon

Food was fairly well on track this week, I allowed myself some leeway in the evenings to have a glass of wine or a cocktail on 3 evenings this week. That’s probably all I’ll imbibe this week. My calorie totals didn’t exceed 1800 for any single day (which makes the net even better after exercise is factored in). All in all, a pretty good week so far.

How are your numbers looking? You are tracking, aren’t you? If you’re not tracking…how can you be managing your weight?

I ask because I’m always curious if there are people who can manage a healthy weight without any tracking effort at all. I used to think that some people were naturally thin and didn’t have to make any effort (this was when I was obese) and of course I felt that life was terribly unfair to me since I was naturally overweight. But then as I started managing my weight I realized through talking about it with some of my “naturally thin” friends that they were, in fact, also working at managing their weight. This was a huge revelation to me. I thought it was completely effortless for them and they were just lucky (bastards!). Mostly they weren’t, mostly they were working at it every day. Which made it all the more difficult for them to endure vilification from those who were overweight.

Come on, you know exactly what I mean. When I was overweight I sometimes hated those thin people. They would talk about going on a diet and I would just roll my eyes and think, “Oh please, like you have to diet.” What I didn’t realize, and maybe would have if I had opened an honest discussion with them (which I didn’t because I hated them because I was jealous of them) was that their answer, had I asked the question, would have been, “How do you think I got this way? How do you think I stay this way?”

When I figured this out I felt a lot of guilt and embarrassment for my previous feelings. I didn’t know, because they mostly didn’t talk about it. I mostly don’t talk about it either now (except here, online – almost never in person) because it’s hard not to sound judgmental or preachy, and that’s not the goal, for me or anybody else I know. But what I’ve since discovered is that the only difference between me and those naturally thin people was they figured it out earlier. They knew that having a healthy, fit, active body wasn’t a right we are all born with but an on-going project that requires effort and maintenance. I only wish I’d known sooner.

What I’m reading this week

Best new ways to boost the metabolism – In general, these are all pretty good advice. Good reminder, too.

Mom puts 7-year-old on a Diet in the Worst Vogue Article Ever – Reading this made me sick to my stomach, so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to read the original article written by the mother who did this to her daughter. I was humiliated constantly as a child about my weight, it did NOT HELP.  It didn’t help me to form a healthy self image and it did not help me to develop a healthy relationship with food and it certainly didn’t do a damned thing to help me learn strategies for managing my weight. But, you know, carry on humiliating your kids, horrible parents.

Not that I have any strong feelings about this.

In better news…

Chocolate is apparently good for you again – I would add that since this one keeps coming back around so many times, the best approach is probably to eat only really high quality dark chocolate, and only in moderation. There’s that word again…moderation!

Link Roundup

Here are some stories I enjoyed this week on weight management, the food landscape, and building healthy habits.

Trimming super-size with half-orders, plate colors – Interesting research into helping people choose smaller portions.

Mars has vowed to stop shipping any chocolate products that exceed 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013 – A step in the right direction for sure! Although I have a couple other thoughts about this one. One is that this seems a bit like reducing the nicotine content in cigarettes and putting on a bigger filter. The other is that – hell, I’m not exactly the target market here, I haven’t purchased a candy bar in probably over 10 years. Because I just can’t find a hole in my daily eating plan that 300-500 calories of junk would be a perfect way to fill.

Get your kids into the kitchen and feed them for life – Love this. I wish I’d learned to cook healthy food when I was a kid, I think it’s vital skill everybody should learn. If no other reason than to reduce the heavy reliance so many people in our society have on restaurant eating. It’s almost always cheaper and healthier to make it yourself!