Category: weight loss

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Getting weight loss surgery was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. It’s improved my life immensely, and it’s been an incredible tool to help me with living a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been able to experience things I never thought I would be able to do before, and cruises were my perfect opportunity to try things previously impossible.

Back in February, while on Majesty of the Seas, I climbed a rock wall.

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be able to go rock climbing!

On this most recent trip on Anthem of the Seas, I tried the Flowrider for the first time doing some bodyboarding!

It was so much fun!

I also participated in a scuba “Try Dive” experience on Anthem, in which a PADI-certified instructor taught another gentleman and I the basics of diving with scuba gear. After a brief orientation, we put on all the equipment (tank, weight belt, and all) and swam laps underwater in the ship’s pool for about 20 minutes. It was such a great experience, and I didn’t even think I’d get past the stage of putting all the gear on. I thought I’d be too big and wouldn’t be able to proceed, but everything fit, and I even had room to tighten some of the straps. I finally felt like a normal human being. 

Before I started my journey toward being healthier, I would often stand on the sidelines and think “I’m too big to do that.” I then would take pictures of a lot of these activities, as a way to kind of live vicariously through those participating, but I just didn’t want to do that anymore without having those fun experiences for myself. It’s time I “YOLO’d” because after all, as the saying goes, you do only live once.

There are some unavoidable considerations though that those of us with smaller tummies will have to keep in mind:

1. There’s food everywhere.

If you’re easily tempted by a little cupcake here, or a piece of bread there, your temptations may very well have a field day with you on your cruise. But, don’t let that get you down. Always remember that being on vacation you can still follow your budget, and if you want a cookie or two, have them, but don’t have them at both lunch and dinner, for example. Let yourself enjoy food within reason, and be sure to account for it in your budget. Also, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking on ships since they’re quite big, and you’re burning off calories just getting to and from your stateroom!

2. Crew may not be sensitive to those of us who don’t eat as much.

Most crew members may not even be aware of weight loss surgeries, how they work, what they involve, and how it changes all of our lifestyles. To them, we’re just average-looking people who appear to not have much of an appetite, and then are baffled as to why our plates are still mostly full when we tell them we’re done. Don’t let that get in your way; I found the best approach was I would tell servers when they pushed, that “I don’t eat very much.” Most of them understood, and let it go after that. However, be prepared to hear it more than once. In their defense,  most of them may interpret a half full plate as coming from someone who didn’t enjoy their meal. I found that making it clear (and sometimes borderline overdoing it) helped to ease the tension there.

3. Provide feedback (don’t complain) if you don’t have a good experience.

This is a big one.  No change can, or will, be made unless those making mistakes are informed that something is wrong. If a server makes a comment, or does something inappropriate, provide that feedback to the head waiter. Bear in mind the difference between a complaint and feedback; you always catch more flies with honey. Feedback is constructive, where as a complaint is simply stating a problem and expecting something in return.

Complaining really doesn’t get anywhere at the end of the day.

I’d like to share something that happened on my last cruise. This is a paraphrased excerpt of the feedback I provided to Royal Caribbean via their survey:

“Except for dining in the buffet, whenever I had a waiter waiting on me, they would always interrogate me as to why I had food left on my plate when I was finished with my meal. I’d had stomach surgery, so I no longer have the option to eat the same amount as any normal person. I decided to do this for the betterment of my life…I chose to be happier and healthier rather than be able to stuff myself. The crew should be more sensitive to situations like this, and if a passenger says they are finished, they should not be continually pressured to eat something else, as it made for some very uncomfortable situations. In one of the dining rooms, my waiter told me I could eat anything I wanted because “He has a big kitchen.” – I’ve been a big person my entire life (weighing almost 400 lbs at my worst)… I am used to people making comments, but I shouldn’t have to deal with or hear things like that when I’m on a vacation. I’m simply going to dinner to order what I want and enjoy it, and I should not have to explain my situation to someone, or hear their commentary on how big the kitchen is. Statements like that are just unnecessary and inappropriate. I know a big part of going on cruises is enjoying foods one may not be accustomed to eating, but food is not the be-all/end-all part of a cruise experience. It would be nice to see crew be more attentive to and respectful of people when they’re done eating. Even if they take one bite of their food and say they’re done, we’ve all paid the same price for our cruise an we should be able to eat as much, or as little as we choose.”

4. Enjoy yourself: You deserve it.

Cruises are very much a vacation in which you’ll get what you put into it. If you want to go on the ship and sit by the pool while drinking an ice-cold glass of water (who are we kidding…I meant an ice-cold margarita!), do it. If you want to go on and do every activity under the sun, do it! There will always be plenty of choices for activities, and foods as well.

You may have to explain your situation to those unfamiliar with weight loss surgery, but it’s not their fault they’re untrained or unfamiliar.

I recently made a video about this very subject over on my YouTube channel which I’d highly recommend checking out. (Feel free to subscribe if you enjoyed it, as I have lots of other content there and coming soon!)

The most important thing I can say is this: Don’t let anything detract you from taking part in experiences that may have been impossible for you in your old life. You deserve it. You put in so much hard work; weight loss is a lifelong war, not just a battle. A battle can be fought and won (or lost), but a war is ongoing. Think of this as one of many battles in which you were victorious.  Go, and celebrate your victory!

No Caffeine: One Year Later

No Caffeine: One Year Later

Today marks a significant day in my journey that is life: It’s been a full year since I’ve drank anything with caffeine in it. I’m sure there were trace amounts of caffeine in some foods I’ve eaten, but what I’m referring to specifically are things like coffee and soda.

I haven’t had any coffee or any soda in a full year. Do I miss it? Not really.

Prior to having a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (gastric sleeve, or “the sleeve”), I used to drink a few cups of coffee a day, and would also need a few sodas to keep me going during throughout the day. Since stopping my intake of caffeine, I can tell life’s gotten better, especially getting a good night’s sleep. Even getting only 6 hours, I still feel rested and am able to get through my day naturally. By the time 10pm or so rolls around, I’m getting tired and ready for sleep. Around 7am, I’m ready to start my day. It’s a very nice feeling compared to needing various amounts of caffeine to get through my day, and not always having consistent sleep at night.

The only down side is I’ve gotten into drinking mostly water. Every now and then I may have some water, then for some variety, I drink water. If that’s the price I have to pay for what the last year’s been like as a result of quitting caffeine… I’m quite fine with it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a nice tall glass of water.

A Lot Can Happen In 3 Years

A Lot Can Happen In 3 Years

This morning, Facebook prompted me to share the picture on the left, but I couldn’t do that without reflecting on what’s happened, and just how much life can change in 3 years.

On the left was from May of 2014, the right was from February 2017.

In May of 2014,  I was wearing jeans with a waist size of 52, and weighing somewhere around 350 lbs. I could only shop at a Big & Tall store. there were days I was depressed about it, and some days I didn’t even think about it. “It was what it was.”

As I’m writing this, I fit into jeans with a waist size between 38 and 40 (depending on where it comes from). I fit comfortably into a 2X shirt, and haven’t shopped at a big & tall shop in months.

I’m amazed at the progress I’ve made, and grateful for all the support I’d had. I’m having one of those “surreal”  moments sitting here just realizing how far I’ve come.

I’ve felt myself get more confident in life, and have had more energy than I’ve ever had before. I know I’m heading in a good direction.


First Bike Ride in a Long Time

First Bike Ride in a Long Time

It’s been a while since I’d been on a bicycle. I bought one shortly after moving to Austin in 2014, and I rode it a few times, but it then sat in my garage, as bikes can do from time to time.

February 10, 2015 February 10, 2015

As with any regimen to get healthy, exercise is a vital part of success, as is eating right and making better choices. I decided to get my bike out from the garage today, and get it looked at down at the bike shop since the tires had gone flat and it could use a little TLC.

I was in and out in less than 20 minutes at the bike shop, so I decided to take it out for a little ride at a park near my apartment. I didn’t overdo it, but I have a good idea for a benchmark to hit for the next few rides. I’ll work my way up to riding longer, and faster, but for today I was very happy with what I did. I don’t know the exact distance, probably half a mile or so. I felt good afterwards, though, and I guess that’s the best part.

I had one of my little action cams with me, so I made a little video. Why not, right?

A Milestone on a Lifelong Journey

A Milestone on a Lifelong Journey

It’s no secret that I am a big guy.

There are many words often used to describe folks like me, from the innocuous “big” to the more scary-sounding medical term of “obese.”  There’s always the word “fat” – a three-letter word that bothers some more than it does others. I’ve never liked it. For whatever reason, that one always used to make me feel the worst.

I’ve had to battle my weight all my life, but rather than calling it a battle, I’m going to call it a war, because it’s not been just one battle. It’s been a series of battles, a series of ups-and-downs. Some battles I’ve won, some I’ve lost, but today I’m celebrating a victory.

I started this war back in 2007, when I was at my highest weight of 392 lbs. I tried all kinds of diets and exercise to no avail, so I went in for the lap band weight loss surgery. Over the next few years I’d lost 110 lbs and was down to 280 lbs. I felt great, but as they say, “life happened” and I hit a plateau. I couldn’t lose any more weight, so my body decided to “find it again.”

Fast forward to 2016, and I had gotten back up to 348 lbs. I was grateful to not be back where I started, but I wasn’t happy with where I was.

In the above picture, taken June 3 2016, I was wearing size 50 x 28 jeans and a 3X shirt. Previously I had been down to a 46 waist and 2 X shirts at my lowest some years back. I’d grown out of having to shop at the Big & Tall stores, only to be back there again shopping for clothes. I’d go shopping with friends to various clothing stores only to be waiting outside or at the front while they shopped, because I knew nothing in there would fit me. I was bummed, and knew I wasn’t going in the right direction.

It was earlier in 2016 when, I think, my body started giving me signals that something was actually wrong. I started having trouble staying asleep; I’d be woken up in the middle of the night having intense coughing fits. I’d never coughed up blood, thankfully, but I’m sure the blood wasn’t far off. I’d have to pop a few Tums, which would buy me a few hours of sleep, only to be woken up again with coughs a few hours later.

I’d sleep for 2 hours at a time. Tums, sleep, cough…Tums, sleep cough…  That went on for a few months, until I’d had enough. I was miserable, I wasn’t sleeping enough, and I knew it was time to get this looked at. Who loves going to the doctor? I sure don’t, unless the doctor can help fix something that’s just not right.

I’d heard that other folks with the lap band were experiencing similar coughing fits to what I was going through, so I consulted with a bariatric surgeon down here and told him about my experiences. Thus, the next battle in the war was about to begin. I told him about the lap band, and how despite my previous efforts I’m still at war with my weight. I swore to do whatever I had to, in order to ensure victory. This was the, no pun intended, “wake up call” that I needed. (I had to go for the pun since it was waking me up at night..)

The doctor ordered some tests, one of which was an upper Endoscopy. I made a video about it which you can view by clicking here.   After getting those results back, it seemed something had happened to my Lap Band and it had to be removed. The doctor used the word “unsalvageable.” When a doctor uses a word like that, it’s code for “Bro, you’ve got a serious problem we need to fix.”

He was right.

My lap band had slipped, and given me something called a hiatal hernia. Part of my stomach had slipped out of my chest cavity, which was one of the main causes for the bad acid reflux keeping me up at night. The solution: Take the band out. While removing the band would be a solution, it would potentially leave me with a new problem.

I didn’t want to be stuck without something to help me control my weight, because of where I was I didn’t want to get back up to 392 or worse; higher. I didn’t want to crest 400 lbs, or wind up on an episode of “My 600-lb. Life.”  For those unaware, that show follows a morbidly-obese individual over a year of their life while they take control over their weight and start down the path to a better life. It was this show that gave me the motivation and confidence to push through with the surgery to fix my unsalvageable band, and proceed with a different option for weight loss: The Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG), aka “The Sleeve.”

Just about to go in... modeling the latest in hospital gown fashions.  Just about to go in… modeling the latest in hospital gown fashions.

On June 27th, 2016 I went in for the surgery and started the process. The weight came off quickly at first, but as I’m writing this I’ve officially lost 100 lbs since the surgery in June, and am at my lowest weight I’ve been in many years – I’m 248 lbs today, January 16th 2017. (If we start from the original start weight of 392 in 2007, I’ve lost a total of 144 lbs) I’m wearing jeans I purchased from Eddie Bauer; I’ve been only wearing jeans from the Big & Tall shop, so needless to say when these jeans fit me I was overjoyed. I’m just at the cusp of being able to shop at normal clothing stores. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for, and it’s finally here.

I don’t plan on stopping here, I’ve still got a ways to go. After my most recent trip to my doctor for my every-6-week checkups, he said I’ve got about 30-40 lbs left to lose. I have a feeling I’ll be sitting at about 220 lbs or so, and wearing a pair of jeans with a 36-inch waist. When I get to that point, it’ll be time for a new journey, because I’ll need some additional surgeries to complete my transformation.

I’m feeling great; I have energy, and more confidence in my appearance than I can ever remember having. I’m still overweight, but I am far more healthy and in a much better state than I’ve ever been. I am looking forward to the road ahead. I’m sure there will be more battles to fight,  but right now I’m winning the war.


Paradigm Shift

Paradigm Shift

Over the past week or so, I’ve been noticing that my sleep patterns have adjusted, and I’m going to bed/waking up earlier than I used to be….I like it. As far as why this is happening, I have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s great.

For one thing, I know I don’t have any “commitments” to honor on World of Warcraft so I don’t need to be up super late…. I haven’t played in about a month now, maybe even longer, and it’s refreshing. I’m trying to stop thinking about that game so I can get it out of my mind entirely, and not be distracted by it.

The other benefit to being up this early, besides the additional hours of sunlight I get to enjoy, is it gives me some more time to do things before going to work, even on a day like today where I’m due in at 9am. It’s 8:09 right now, and I’ve already had breakfast, showered, and am just about ready to walk out the door. If one were to go back a month, I’d just be getting into the shower right now, having woken up only a few minutes before, and my breakfast options would be somewhat limited due to time.

I’ve also gotten back into tracking my food, thanks to a handy app on my iPhone. If you’re looking for an app to serve this purpose, I highly reccomend the Livestrong app, I think it’s a few bucks but well worth it. It’s a very intuitive interface for quickly adding foods, it also will track exercise and tell you how many calories you may have burned off for it, so you can track your daily caloric intake. I’ve done this once before, awhile back (tracking food), and it helped but for whatever reason I fell off the wagon. I’m back on now and going to keep at it, since I recall hearing positive feedback from those who noticed changes in my appearance.

The other really nice thing about being up this early, is it will give me gym time. Once I’m used to waking up this early, I can get into a daily workout routine in the mornings and get ready for the day. I want to switch my focus from changing my sleep times based on my work schedule. I’d like to be consistent (or close to consistent) with when I go to bed, and wake up, etc, so that way I can’t use my work schedule as an excuse not to work out. I went to the gym the other day and, while I didn’t do anything crazy, I still feel the effects of it and it’s not a “bad” soreness per se, but it’s a reminder not to give it up. Today’s schedule is a bit packed, so I wouldn’t be able to hit the gym til about 8 tonight, hence if I’d gone in the morning before work I’d have gotten it in before the busyness of the day had started.

I apologize for not having posted a blog recently, I definitely need to keep on this as well, I’ll post my thoughts and results on how my workout stuff is doing.

I found my source of motivation from stepping on the scale the other day. I’d fallen off the wagon for too long since I’d had my surgery, and I hadn’t put on nearly as much weight as I thought I did. At my worst, the day of the surgery, I was 392 lbs. Today, I’m still under 300, I plan never to eclipse the big 3 ever again. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Exercise Exorcism

Exercise Exorcism

In the movie Boiler Room, there’s a brilliant scene that comes to mind when I think about the concept of exercising. Basically, Giovanni Ribisi is sitting in his kitchen eating a bowl of cereal and the phone rings. He picks it up, and hears a timid newspaper salesperson on the other end trying to get him to sign up for one of the local newspapers. Here’s a youtube link, watch this before reading any further. Warning, there is some profanity…

So, I know that physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and I’ve tried many times to buy into that, but I have yet to find any personal physical benefit to myself from going to a gym and “working out”. I have never had that “rush” or that feeling of…whatever it is that people get. But I want to. I feel like I would just go into the gym, go through motions, and then leave. Go back the next time and do this that and the other thing, and then leave. Where is this miraculous rush? Am I missing something here?

I thought I was, so I decided to sign up for the “personal training” program at my gym. That was a bad idea, because I was misled to believe it was sessions with a personal trainer, but it’s just sessions in general that are with “any” trainer there. How is that personal? I’m supposed to document everything in this little book, and some random trainer is going to read it and automatically know what I’m supposed to do the next time I go there? I think not. When I want “personal” training, I want someone who knows me. Personally. Someone who actually can make recommendations, give me advice, feedback. I want someone I can trust who I know and am comfortable with. How do I know the advice they would be giving me is apropos to what I’m doing? How do I know it’s not just a preset regimen they give everyone?

Each time I’ve talked to people about exercising, they seem to imply that there’s this blind faith I’m supposed to have that it’ll just “work”. Well, like the clip above, if they want to close me they need to sell me on it. Each time I’ve gone I haven’t felt anything, not then or the day after. Maybe I worked with the wrong trainer? I don’t know. But I realize that in order for me to get to a place in my life where I’ll be a lot happier, it’s just something I have to do. I have to force myself to do it, kicking and screaming as I’d be. (Granted, I’ll be kicking and screaming mentally, I’ll keep that to myself while I’m there).

I don’t want to exercise because the time spent there is boring beyond belief. Walking while on a treadmill, or riding an exercise bike, so horribly boring. Lifting weights is at least mildly cool, but I’ve been told that I have to focus on cardio stuff for the stage I’m at. “Well if you don’t like those things you could always walk or jog” I hear that often. But, I tried jogging, in the spirit of being proactive. I wound up with shins splints for a week afterwards, so that put the kibosh on that so to speak. So much for being proactive!

As the title suggests, I need an “Exercise Exorcism”. I need the demons removed that are precluding me from having the a better mindset. I look at gym rats and scoff at their “motivational” attitudes, but I just need to start buying into it. This is clearly a case for “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. The reality of it is simply this; I don’t do it because I don’t get anything out of it. I need some kind of proof that it’s working, some kind of result or indication, whatever form it comes in. Clearly, by the lifestyle I’m leading now I’m not in any position to beat anyone, and I’m just making myself lose more at this game they call “life”.

I might as well suck it up and join the other team, so I have a much better chance at winning.