A Change Is Gonna Come


Hopefully, you know, by now, that this blog is not as much about weight loss as it is about gaining health. In light of that, I celebrate what many in the diet world call “NSV” — or Non-Scale Victory.

In my opinion, NSVs are more important than actual weight loss stats. A few I’ve had over the last couple of months:

  • I feared my knee replacement surgery might be delayed because of elevated blood pressure. To my surprise, my blood pressure was entirely in normal ranges, and obviously, I had surgery.
  • Part of my mile walk yesterday.

    Before surgery, the farthest I managed to walk in one stretch was about a mile. It took me about a year to get to that point. Roughly seven weeks after surgery, I woke up yesterday and walked a mile.

  • I’ve got plenty of really great goals for the rest of this year. I’ve got a lot of work on my plate, a dear friend and I are taking a trip and we’re having a blast planning it, another great friend and I will keep our annual trek to a cabin at the lake to write (this annual tradition has become one of my favorite times), my husband and I are planning to camp during Thanksgiving break, I have a concert to rehearse for, and a bunch of events strewn out over the course of the fall. And it’s only July. There was a day not long ago when I wouldn’t really have been able to consider most of these things.
  • Thanks to working my way down through clothing I have kept until it fit, I’ve now got more drawer and closet space than I’ve ever had.
  • People who don’t know my history with weight actually treat me like a normal person. There is a huge difference in how people treat the morbidly obese from the merely overweight, and at some point, I’ve crossed into normal territory. (Physically, if never mentally!)
  • I no longer feel as if I must explain myself to people that don’t know I spent so much of my life as a morbidly obese and physically limited person. For one thing, if they don’t know, that’s fine with me; I am who I am regardless of my physical appearance. For another, it’s really no one’s business unless, for instance, there’s a medical reason to discuss it. I rather like walking through life as a normal person.
  • Back when I lost weight years ago, I felt like I had a point to prove; and not just to other people, to show them they were wrong about me, but to myself. I never quite lost the idea that I was different from everyone else. I don’t know that I ever will entirely lose that; it’s important that I always carry the lessons I’ve learned with me, but I don’t have so much of a chip on my shoulder these days. I’m much more concerned with my own journey and not so concerned with what other people think.
  • Better clothes. 😛

It’s easy to get lost in physical stats; how much weight, how many inches, how big of a drop in clothing size. The diet “experts” will use these as indicators of success, but the longer I am on this journey, the more solidly I believe that this process is about the changes made and the resulting improvement in quality of life. After all, no one knows my weight, how big my waist is, or what size I wear, unless I tell them. But just about everyone can tell a difference in desire, attitude, and ability.

This journey should be about enjoying life as a healthier person, looking toward the future, and less about self-flogging over small goals not met in this moment. It does you no good to physically improve but mentally slide backward or become obsessed. With effort, change will come.


Sometimes It Rains


I admit that I am pretty horrible at self-care. When I actually do take time, I usually feel guilty for doing it — which, of course, helps nothing.

Between an active recovery from surgery and enduring seemingly endless hammering outside my house, I really needed a break; some time that wasn’t devoted to getting to or from physical therapy, recovery, or listening to construction workers put siding up. I have a ton of work to do and I work from home. I’m one of those people that work best when I have some peace and quiet.

So we took off for the lake, despite regular daily temps in the high 90’s, a drought in the area, and a fire ban at the state park where we chose to camp. We can cook, but that’s the only allowable fire. Honestly, I wasn’t sure this would be any less stressful than the previous several weeks, although I was prepared to spend a good part of every day tackling work projects.

Sometimes, though, when you’re going through a drought and you need some mental recovery, you have to make it rain.

Along with the work, I’ve had time to breathe in, breathe out — and move on. Enjoy a breeze off the lake. Watch geese and ducks on the water. Listen to mockingbirds call to each other in the morning. Watch the clouds float across the sky and reflect down across the lake.

Great Blue Heron by our campsite after the storm.


Taking time to do these things has allowed me to get my thoughts in order for the many things I face over the months to come; lots of work, quite a few events, and eventually, another surgery before year’s end, as well as a new addition to the family. Taking a breather means I have more of me to give to all of these things, and I’ve already been making great strides this week.

I wish I could remember this lesson; I’m much more likely to run myself completely out of gas and then beat myself up for not meeting expectations. This does no one good; not those I serve and certainly not myself. Restoration is vital to growth, and the older I get, the more important it becomes.

Late yesterday, a storm blew up while we were at the lake. My husband had to hold down the dining canopy to keep it from flying off while I held on to an awning support to the camper. Our dog was inside, scared out of her wits; just before I came out, I felt the whole camper rock. Granted, it’s a small camper, but that’s never an easy feeling. We had to wait the storm out and then clean up afterward, but now that the storm is gone, we’re left with moderate temperatures and beautiful weather on the lake. The dog is happy, again, and the sky is blue.

It’s better to take the break and let the rains come than to build up to a storm. Simply put, there are times when we just have to make it rain.


Coming Home


It’s easy to forget the pain.

We all do it. As a woman and a mother, I’m convinced that if more women remembered the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, there would be a lot more only children in this world. But as time goes by, we forget.

The same holds true for my knee surgery. It was only a little over 5 weeks ago, but I set the date for my other knee to be replaced in my follow-up appointment earlier this week. Just like any other choice we willingly make to go through pain, for whatever reason, we do it because there’s a promise of something better on the other side.

Back to the familiar and wonderful feeling of being in control.

Despite going through many years of often excruciating knee pain, that memory is already fading — perhaps because it was temporarily replaced by post-op pain and healing. Before, I knew there was only a limited amount of improvement I could possibly see; now, every day brings a noticeable improvement.

Forgetting pain is a good and natural thing. Forgetting the lessons, though? The things you swear to yourself you’ll never, ever do, again? No. I caused irreparable harm by allowing myself to become so overweight that I damaged parts of my body. Typically, people who need total knee replacements are at least 10 to 15 years older than I am, and my doctor first brought it up with me roughly 12 years ago.

We’re humans, though, and we often tend to forget the lessons learned in times of stress and return to our previous norms. So when, by necessity, I had to change my normal way of eating because of surgery, and I gained weight because of it, I feared that part of me that might see that as a return to normal — the normal I knew for most of my adult life.

I found myself yearning for the feeling I have when I am totally in control. That’s where I feel the best. It’s my comfort zone, and where my body and brain moves toward. The best part? That’s the normal I’ve come to know over the last nearly five years, rather than the destructive normal that came before.

Sometimes, the lessons learned aren’t enough to keep us from repeating mistakes of the past, but every day, this feels a bit more like coming home. The path to home isn’t far away, now, at all.


Am I The Same Girl


My recovery is finally at a point where I’m sick and tired of being cooped up in the house. When I leave, it’s for physical therapy, or for brief trips out; at the moment, I feel caged up and I’m ready to fly the coop.

It’s got me thinking about the things I am looking forward to doing — not just because I’ve got a new knee that doesn’t limit me like the old one did (well, to a point, it still does; I’m not quite at 100%, yet), but because I put in the hard work to lose enough weight and get in good enough shape that I’m on the verge of being able to do a lot of things previously off limits. These are just a few of the things I’m looking forward to doing.

Top of Pinnacle Mountain — I’ve been there.

Hiking. A couple of my friends post photos of their hiking trips. Mountains, waterfalls, woodland trails. These are all things I absolutely loved doing, once upon a time before my body became my enemy. I long for the outdoors, being able to hike without limitation and thought.

Swimming. I grew up across the street from a lake and I spent the vast majority of my first 16 years of life on the lake. Any chance I could, I was was swimming, canoeing, sailing, and in the winter, ice skating. I must have been a fish in a former life; I live to be near water. My best vacations are waterfront somewhere. A gym I used to belong to had a pool, and it was a sad day when I realized that swimming was out; my goto swimming stroke is the breaststroke and the frog kick put sideways pressure on my knee to a point where it buckled.

There’s not much scarier than having to fight the natural reaction to a buckling knee: gasping. You don’t gasp when swimming — not without water in your lungs. For my own safety, I had to stop swimming laps. I hated that; it was like a piece of me, gone. There has always been something ethereal to me in the ability to slice through the water, suspended and floating. I imagine it’s much like flying.

Dancing. I can’t say I’ve ever been a good dancer, but who says you have to be good at something in order to enjoy it?

Thinking less. This is the big one. Until you’ve been physically limited, it’s hard to understand how much active thought goes into just existing. As an example, we were part of a group of friends who played bar trivia every week at a restaurant that set aside their bar area for trivia. It was popular, so unless we got there early, finding a place to sit could be a real challenge.

I hated going there because of the crowd. I felt claustrophobic there. I knew that once I was seated, I wouldn’t even be able to get up and use the restroom, because that would mean asking any number of people to move so I could get out of my seat — and then back to it. I honestly felt like I wouldn’t be able to get out in an emergency. I felt literally trapped.

My physical limitations — both my size and my knees — meant I was constantly having to think about things those without these issues likely rarely think about. Will that chair hold me? The hostess is sitting us in a booth — will I fit? Can I walk that far, and if I can’t, how can I break up the walk so I have a place to sit and rest?

This has been a constant and ongoing process for me, and although I was able to leave the size component behind, the physical limits caused by bad knees are about to be behind me. My right knee was in very bad shape; my left will also be replaced but isn’t as bad. My right one would randomly buckle, lock, or twinge so badly that I’d nearly fall in an attempt to get weight off of it. Not so with the other, and while I don’t know yet when it’ll be replaced, it’s not going to hold me back in the same way the right one did. (I’ll likely schedule the second surgery next Tuesday, at my one month follow-up.)

I am excited to test that out. We’re going camping in a little more than a week; while I’m still recovering and I know I’ll have to take it easy, it’s still going to be different for me. I can actually trust my knee, now, to not do stupid things when I put my weight on it. There’s huge power in just knowing that joint isn’t going to suddenly do something stupid. I can put one foot in front of the other, and unless I’m testing out some dorky dance moves, I should stay upright and moving forward like a normal person would.

Me? Normal? How cool is that?

This is what I wanted: living life with fewer limitations. There are always limitations for everyone, but if I can do something to improve, that’s what I want to do, because handicapping myself was the dumbest, most oppressive thing I ever did to myself.

I’m still that same girl. Just better.




I’m making large strides just about every single day, now — including a return to my normal way of eating.

That’s right. After being off plan for roughly a month, and enjoying it at points, I’ve come to accept that I don’t feel mentally comfortable or physically right when I eat things that differ from the way I’ve been eating for the past nearly five years.

I’ve felt this way for a while; when I’ve gone on vacation, I’ve allowed myself to change what I eat. Those seem to be the real tests; when I come home, will I keep eating in a way that’s detrimental to my body? That’s the time I’m most likely to go off a diet and not get back on.

May this bridge burning be permanent!

These days, I think differently. I may deviate for a bit for specific reasons, but my normal is the way I eat when I feel my best, and that’s the way I eat when I’m actively pursuing health goals. My body feels better. I drop water weight, which is always a relief. This week, five pounds of water have vacated the premises. I still have a way to go before being back at my low weight, but I already feel much better after just a few days of returning to my normal.

It’s a crucial difference from my previous 50+ years on this earth. I always saw diets as temporary things, as punishment in a way, as something to get through and then, of course, stop doing at some point. Mind you, as many of you know, I was quite successful on a previous attempt; but instead of keeping the goal of health in mind, I finally drifted off course and gradually regained all of my weight, including an additional 35 pounds or so.

Failing on purpose is never the answer to finding success. Sure, we all fail, and those failures have something to teach us; I am glad I learned from that experience, so it wasn’t wasted, but we should never choose to fail. I was entirely too hardheaded and unwilling to bend, so I kept trying the same things over and over. And in my mind, my way of eating and my physical exercises were merely a way to get to an end, and I convinced myself I’d eventually be able to stop doing what I was doing.

That’s really not how this works, but it took walking this journey to figure that out. It took truly accepting that my changes needed to be both sustainable and permanent. My old normal was always moving toward how I had been living before whatever diet I was on. My new normal is being in command of my body, being in control of how I feel. It’s not deprivation, which is how I viewed every single effort before this one; it’s the fulfillment of goals, it’s the reversal of damage, it’s the mindset of success.

Over the last few weeks of recovery after knee surgery, it’s been easy to get lost in the process; I’ve been in pain. I’ve been dealing with all the things people deal with after a major surgery. I didn’t concern myself so much with what I ate, especially since I was at the mercy of hospital dining options and then in consideration of what was easy for my husband to fix while I wasn’t able to be up and about. Working through this has reminded me of how important it is to me, both mentally and physically, to be in charge of how I fuel my body.

In a little more than a week, I’ll have my follow-up with my surgeon — and will likely set the date for replacing my other knee. I am proud to have made it this far, and to have tackled the first surgery with gusto; while there is still plenty of healing to do, I think the second surgery will be less of a catharsis, and I’ll be meeting it head-on and strong. I’ve made myself promises I plan on keeping.

I’m over the bridge and I get closer to where I want to be every single day. I work hard every day to burn that bridge and never cross back over it to the other side.


Two Steps Forward – One Step Back


Over the past week, my progress has accelerated somewhat — to a point where my physical therapist moved me from a walker to a cane, and the walker is being tucked away for my next knee surgery.

When you’re in recovery, it seems like the process moves in slow motion. While I saw a little improvement each day, I have spent an embarrassing amount of time over the last 17 days crying, in pain, arguing with myself about whether I’ve been lying to myself about my abilities. Beating myself up for not preparing better before surgery. Wondering if I’m really cut out for this.

Just keep moving forward.

Until this week, anyway. I knew I was making progress when my physical therapist kept trying me on new things to see how I’d do instead of repeating the same training over and over again. I’ve never been quite as happy to be able to step over a plastic cup by actually bending my knee enough to do it, rather than compensating in some way. It’s simple things, but they’re big, too.

Some might see this as a form of regression; I spent a long time using a cane before I could reliably and steadily walk around my neighborhood. And here I am, again, actually happy to be moved back to a cane. I know this time it won’t take me nearly as long to get my stability back, and once the pain from newness wears off my knee, I’ll be able to build back up to the amount of walking I was doing previously — and surpass it.

Likewise, I finally stepped on a scale and I know how much weight I’ve gained. Yes, it’s a setback. No, I’m not thrilled that I’ve put on a few pounds. The good news is that instead of letting the old voices that used to screw with my head convince me that I should just keep eating and ignore weight gain, to my detriment, I know with certainty that I’m in control. I didn’t come this far, after all, to let recovery defeat me.

A lot has changed in 17 days; even more will change in the weeks to come as I learn, train, and test myself on the way back to where I was before I started this process. I know some finding it frustrating to make progress and take steps backward, but I see this as a necessary part of moving forward; even losing one step for every two taken is moving forward.


Baby I Kneed Your Lovin’


One of my knees is 56 years old, and the other is 11 days old.

The last week has been devoted to my nifty new body part, basically giving it an introduction to life at La Casa by punishing it into submission. Its first days of life have been spent being strapped into an apparatus that automatically bends it 6 hours a day, taking it for walks — whether it likes them or not, forcing it to bend more and more in routine sessions, and taking it to visit to people who specialize in making it do things it doesn’t presently feel all that cheerful about doing.

I want my new knee to know this isn’t typical life around these parts. There’s about a week and a half more to go of the bendy thing and the ankle stranglers will be cleaned and relegated to a box early next week, waiting for the next time. After that, we’ll settle into a normal lifetime of exercising, walking, occasionally visiting Those Who Bend and Straighten, as well as letting my brain do other things than calculate how much time I’ve got left to be strapped into the bendy thing before I can chill out with the ice packs. (CPM machines are marvels of therapy, but they aren’t much fun.)

Not my knees, but I don’t take any bologna.

I’ve come to have a nearly zen relationship with ice packs. There is nothing more comforting on my baby knee than to be wrapped in something cold after being subjected to exercise bikes, leg lifts, calve raises, hamstring stretches. It’s the equivalent of a cold beer on a really hot day.

In the opposite direction, my baby knee has introduced me to the wonderful world of People Giving Us Food, which is awesome, but somewhat unkind to the scale. It’s been hard to wrap my mind around that my body currently needs more nourishment than it usually requires, thanks to baby knee; hubby lost weight after his second surgery. I have not done the same. Far from it. But next Monday comes a marking point: as my baby knee and I make the transition in the third week of recovery, I’ll be returning to my normal way of eating.

I have absolutely adored and appreciated the kindness of others, but my hips have been enjoying it far too much, so the shift back to sane eating is now in countdown mode. Goodbye, cruel carbs!

After that? Perhaps a normal life for a bit, working at losing the weight that’s come to revisit in recent weeks, all in prep for introducing another baby knee to the world. But that one ought to be a bit easier.

Be Prepared


So here I am, three days after total knee replacement surgery, surprised that I have relatively coherent thought and even more surprised that I fared as well as I did.

I’ll probably jump around on my observations a bit; I’ll be on some entertaining pain meds for a bit and — well — staying focused on any given thing isn’t my strong point at the moment. (Squirrel!)

I’m always surprised when my weight isn’t an issue, because I’ve lived the majority of my life where it has been, particularly in medical circumstances. If anyone at the hospital thought it was a concern, they didn’t say so, but in my experience, I’d find that unlikely. Any time weight was mentioned, it was me doing the mentioning; I did have an issue where my epidural for surgery didn’t wear off as quickly as expected and I couldn’t lift/feel/move my legs when the physical therapy folks came by. They asked me if lifting my legs had ever been an issue before surgery; I mentioned that yeah, in a way it had been since I used to weigh 371 pounds and mobility was definitely an issue.


But otherwise? No. I got a very kind high five from a charge nurse when I brought it up; after all, I was (a) graduating to the next phase of my physical existence and (b) drugged, and therefore, I don’t recall why I mentioned it.

I was surprised when two women managed to move me around on a sheet. You know, pick me up and move me where they needed me. I know this is one of the more common skills in a medical setting, but I don’t recall anyone ever doing that before, and it felt extremely odd to be lifted. Even odder to not have them call in male assistance.

As for my recovery, I’ve also been surprised. Other than the snafu of the epidural, my pain rarely got over a 4 out of 10, I was in decent spirits (and happy to be alive), the staff at the hospital was great, and not only did the surgery go off without a hitch, but the surgeon used a new method of sealing my incision that’s only been in use for his office for a week. Half the patients got it; I was in the lucky half.

I head to physical therapy next — and this is where the physical and mental work begins. The physical is expected; I just didn’t think it would start before I arrived. My surgeon advised my husband that yes, bone spurs were blocking my range of motion in my right leg; I knew this. I could neither bend my knee to even a 90-degree angle (normal upright sitting posture) or flatten it. I also knew my knee was out of alignment as it progressively worsened over the years, but I didn’t realize it would require straightening my knee.

Sure, that makes sense, but my muscles and ligaments have compensated for years, and now comes not only the retraining of those groups but my own mental blocks regarding what I can and can’t do. I have not climbed or descended stairs normally in decades, just as an example.

In a lot of ways, though, I realize what I’m facing; I’ve been here, before, both with being my husband’s caretaker through two knee surgeries, as well as progressing from temporary wheelchair and cane to around 8K steps a day. That process took years; this one will be accelerated in comparison.

I’ve been both prepared and surprised by this short three days. I’m looking forward to what comes next — and the reassurance that when the left knee is replaced, it won’t be as complicated as the right one. It isn’t as deformed as the right one was.

One final note, I asked what the chances were of getting my removed knee parts as a paperweight set. That was a no-go, but I’m not sure I really wanted to see it, anyway.

I Will Survive, Revisited


If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that for the last year or so, I’ve included a song for each blog. I usually tack it on the end, and whatever meaning you derive from it is up to you. I used “I Will Survive” a little over a year ago, but didn’t include why this particular old disco hit holds special meaning to me.

This time, I’m going to invite you into some of the darkest moments of my young life, when I was scared, furious, disappointed, shattered. I haven’t talked about my Inner Walt in a long time, because that voice has grown steadily quieter; that’s the voice of my (long dead) father, telling me that I wasn’t good enough, not strong enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough, not smart enough.

I graduated high school when I was 17; it wasn’t early — I was just young for my class. I graduated with the full expectation of attending college in the fall, with full academic and music scholarships. I quit my full-time job, packed my things, and just a couple days before I was to leave, my father decided otherwise. Just before the fall semester was to start, he pulled me out of college. I was a minor; he was allowed to do that. His selfish reasons were entirely his own, but I was put in the unenviable position of having to beg for my job back, mostly because he had left his job, and made no effort to find another.

In a matter of a couple weeks, I went from being a kid with a dream to an adult having to help support a deadbeat father.

This song — Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive — became my personal battle cry. I had a 45 single, and I used to play it when he wasn’t around, belting it out. I was furious with him; he was an unstable man, and this was just another event in a series of abuses toward my mother and myself.

You’re not snuffing *my* torch, Jeff.

To make a long and painful story short, I picked myself up and kept working toward my goals. I never gave up on my dream of college. I never gave up on trying to improve my lot. Not long after that fateful autumn, a chain of events led to him deserting my mother and me, which turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to either of us.

That chain reaction started with him walking in on me one day when I was off from work, belting out I Will Survive at the top of my lungs, along with the record player. He was furious and we had a screaming fight, but it was truly the first time I actually fought back; I usually just hid in my room until the storm blew over, but not this time. I stood up to him, and I kept standing up to him until the day he left.

Over the following few years, I managed to fight my way back to college, where I majored in music therapy and music education. It’s no coincidence that these songs I choose have meaning, friends; music is its own behavioral therapy. Although I ended up not choosing that as a career path, music has always been my pulse.

A couple summers ago, when I was in Mexico, the band at the resort played — you guessed it — I Will Survive. Like everyone else there, I sang along, and then the singer handed me the microphone. And I sang it. I belted it out. The meaning for me, now, is different; and victorious.

When I sang along with the resort band, I was sitting in a wheelchair. I was in a prison of my own making. I have fought hard to find my way out, and in just a few short days from now, I’ll take the next step toward breaking the chains that hold me back. Like those days many years ago, I’m in charge of my own fate, and I will work hard to be free of the things that bind me.

In just a few short days, I’ll have the first of two knee replacement surgeries. For a while, it’ll likely seem like I’m retracing the steps I had to take to get out of that wheelchair, walk on my own, build up stamina and control, and move forward — but I’ve done it, before.

I will survive.


Don’t Hold Me Down


At the moment, my weight is all over the place. I had hoped to split the difference before knee surgery; you know, actually weight as much as I’ve lost. I’ve been that close at my low; a mere 3 pounds or so above it.

But I’m letting impending surgery get in my head. I’m carrying both excess water weight and probably a few pounds of just flat out real weight — meaning I have weight to re-lose. I’m nowhere near endangering my surgery, but I’ve noticed that when my weight occasionally drifts up (usually because of something daunting on the horizon), I mentally flog myself for it instead of giving myself a bit of a break.

Making sure I’m not making excuses.

The truth is that I need to eat right now. I’m not eating anything off plan; just more of it, as I work to overcome both borderline anemia and a potassium deficiency. I understand how this came about; I am on doctor-prescribed supplements, but I also need high-quality food. I’ve had to accept that weight fluctuations right now aren’t as important as being healthy enough to meet surgery head-on. I will also have to adapt during recovery — and then I can work on getting back to where I was before all this came about.

I don’t like being patient about anything, but I know patience is what I need, at the moment. I also need to understand that just because my brain does a little flip out any time my weight doesn’t do what I hope for, does not mean that I’ve gone backward. This is, for the time being, part of my process.

There is still a part of my brain that screams at me that my weight loss isn’t legit because I’ve gained a few pounds back. (And by “a few”, I mean I’ve been rambling around 5-10 pounds above my low.) I know most of it is water because of the fit of my clothes and my body’s reaction. But there’s a gremlin that kicks a chunk of my non-thinking brain and tries to insinuate that I might as well have gained back all of a 183-pound loss — which is obviously flawed logic.

I’m staying busy, though. I’m not using this as an excuse to eat bad things. I’ve been keeping up with my step goals and expect to have 8,000 steps/day by the time surgery rolls around. I’m doing everything I can to get to the other side of this, because I know I’m giving myself one of the greatest gifts I can: working hard to get past the things that hold me down.

(Sorry, no video today — I’m short on time.)