"the last word for 2009"

3 weeks post-op

I've gotten several messages inquiring about my state lately, some expressing some worry, so I thought I would post something quickly to ease everyone's mind.

I'm well. I've officially lost about 25 lbs in the last three weeks. My wounds are almost healed up, I am eating almost any food (still no raw veggies, beef steak and/or crusty bread on the advice of my surgeon for another week) and I'm still skating along with just a little bit of high blood sugar without using insulin. I'm worried about sending myself hypoglycemic if I try to correct my blood sugars with insulin and then bringing on dumping syndrome if I had to eat something sweet in a hurry to intervene. My doctor concurs with my abundance of caution, plus it is nice to not have to hassle with the needles. I have about $700 worth (six vials) of Lantus insulin in my fridge that is probably going to go unused.

There is no hunger. None. I can perceive when my stomach is empty if I pay very close attention, but I am free of the compelling desire to eat that I now know was largely a hormonal response in/by my gut, specifically generated by the part of my stomach that is now gone. I still crave foods, that is, I still have a preference for one food or another at one particular time or another, but it is not accompanied by hunger. I still enjoy eating, perhaps more now, as a sensual experience of taste, fragrance and texture, but the things I enjoy eating have changed.

I've lost my sweet tooth. Many things I used to really like are now just too sweet to eat except on rare occasions. I can still eat ice cream and chocolate, for example, and I still do, but dessert-level sweetness is just another taste in a wide dimension of tastes I enjoy, it holds no special favored position any more. Fresh carrot juice is too sweet. I used to like two teaspoons of sugar in my coffee, now I prefer a half teaspoon, just enough to cut the acid and bring out the savory notes. I used to constantly have to manage my desire for sweet things, no more.

I've found a new preference for foods with complex and subtle flavors like soups, stews and pate. My taste in wine has even shifted a bit towards the delicate and highly-structured complexity of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, the brute force of California Cabernet and/or Merlot now seems too much, except with food.

Finally, grilled/broiled meat has lost some of it's appeal. It's not that I've developed an aversion to it, not at all, but it is no longer favored as the core feature of a menu. Hamburgers are way too much food (one typical burger and fries serving is four meals for me now) and I just don't enjoy eating meat like I used to. I have to be careful to chew it carefully, which turns it into sort of a tasteless mush before swallowing, and if I am not diligent about doing that, well, I now understand what Tammy was talking about with her insightful post about the primitive toilet metaphor. Incompletely chewed meat gets "stuck" somewhere in my stomach and I have to carefully drink water to flush it through. That's just unpleasant and a hassle.

So, things are really changing with the way I eat. I am a cheap date. My food costs have plummeted to almost nothing, I go to the grocery store and spend $20 on food for days and days and days. I have to carry empty food containers with me now, the smallest I can find are still a little too big. I am becoming an expert at re-heating things in a microwave.

I'm eating 4-5 times a day. Once when I get up, another mid-morning, a late lunch, a tea-time snack, and a late-ish evening meal. It seems like I am eating constantly. I've yet to go out with someone and find out what challenges await me at chic-chic Manhattan restaurants vis-a-vis plate-sharing and the like, but my most frequent dining companion has told me it is going to take some time for her to get used to eating a full plate of food across from my saucer-snack.

Having lost the 25 pounds is nice, but this is a weight I've been at before, so it's not terribly unfamiliar yet. I am about 15 pounds from my low weight in the last 15 years (last seen in late 2004), so once I get beyond that it will begin to be a new world. Fortunately, I did hang on to some clothes that were just a little bit small, so I can probably avoid shopping for new clothes for a month or two yet.

My surgeon warned me that I would likely see a period about now of low energy, and he's right. I have enough energy for a sedentary existence, but when I push activity at all, even what I consider a very modest amount of walking (1-2 miles), I really feel it. I still nap every day. I'm sure this is related to the fact that my caloric intake is somewhere between 30-50% of my pre-surgical levels. I'm told this low energy thing will resolve on it's own, I will welcome that.

My friends tell me they can see the difference in my appearance, and I'm sure they can, but I have not yet entered the "shocked expression" zone, which from previous experience happens at about the 40 pound loss threshold. This will be different for me, because people usually are effusively encouraging when you've lost this much weight, and every time before I have accomplished this, it has been the consequence of a very difficult period of diligent discipline. That is, I felt like a richly deserved the praise and encouragement, in fact, I "fed" off it.

Now, I don't know how I am going to react. Outwardly, of course, I will thank anyone who serves up the kindness, that's not the issue, I just wonder how I will take that in, because the kind of discipline I am exercising now is something substantially different. I'm not denying myself anything. If anything I am eating better food and enjoying it more than before the surgery. I am eating as much as I want, in fact, I still too often eat a bit more than I should have, feeling a bit too full. While I acknowledge it took guts to do this (pun intended), it's not the constant epic battle with the hunger demon I've seen before. I'm not worried about this, but I know it will be different.

The surgery did nothing for my binge eating disorder. I still have to manage urges to binge just as I was managing them pre-operatively. I had not binged for about a year before the surgery, but I would have to manage an urge to binge almost every day. That was most difficult to do when the binge urge was accompanied by hunger, because I would have to eat something, and stop myself while I still wanted to eat more.

Now the binge urges are robbed of the power of hunger. Stripped of the physiological power of hunger, they're just desires to manage some emotional discomfort with food, it is plainly obvious to me what they are when they arise, and they are easily dispatched with some relaxation exercise and/or contemplative reflection. I'm good at this, I've been doing it for years, but, my goodness, it is a whole lot easier when hunger is not a factor. It just goes to show the paradoxical truth about binge eating--you overcome it by eating regularly. Hunger is the land-mine there.

Almost every time I've lost weight in the past (with the exception of my 70 pound loss in 2004, 40 of which I maintained), the herculean effort has been motivated in substantial part by a desire to win the approval of some woman (not a specific woman, just one with a heart beat) so that I could couple-up and have a love interest. Earlier in my life, before health problems supplanted it, that was the only reason I wanted to lose weight.

Now, I couldn't care less. I still want to get laid, don't get me wrong, but that is not at all a motivator for the weight loss. This is all about getting off of daily medication and getting back to doing some things I want to do again (bicycle, skate, hike, go to the theater, etc). In other words, it is about me, not social approval. What is unique about this for me is the leaning forward towards my sex machine status is absent. I'm not waiting on some day when I can get back in the game. I'm confident that something will happen some day, and some 40-something woman is going to be happy to be my first lover in 20 years, but it is not the reason I am doing this. I feel like I am probably going to back into that situation by happenstance, not dive forward into it like crossing a finish line. That's new.

So, three weeks out, I'm okay. 2010 is going to be an interesting year.

next - The first rant