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2013 A Year of My Weight Loss Journey Revisited

So before this fitness for weight loss junkie hits the gym it’s time to spend some time reflecting back on 2013. For today, I won’t be talking at all about the things I wasn’t able to do this year that I had said I would work on or accomplish, instead, I will only be talking about the things I was able to achieve and celebrating what this last year has been for those that have followed me.

In January we gave away some CHIKE protein powder to a lucky DSS Reader and my hero, Transformation Specialist Chris Powell responded to a letter that I wrote him and I won and IPad in the video testimonial contest that the OAC had after their inaugural convention in October.

In February, I became a WEGO Awards Finalist in the Health Activists Awards and was selected as the recipient of the Susan J. Sterling Scholarship to the Cooper Institute and started to realize that I had some body image  issues I was going to have to work through this year.

March brought more neat stuff into the mix. A trip to Ohio with Heather allowed us to spend time with her family and friends and I got to run around in new towns, and see P!nk in concert with Heather and Rachel; oh the stories Heather got out of that trip, there will be mileage for years. March also held a nomination in the 2013 WLS Awards in three different categories and though the reasons were bittersweet, took me to Dallas, TX on an emergency basis so that I could hold my best friend’s (she’s my sister no matter what blood says) hand as she took on a difficult chapter in life.  But where one door closes another always opens, and March brought forth the opportunity for her and I to become even closer than ever, and for a few new friends to cement their way into my life and it gave me the opportunity to start spending time with someone I very much consider a mentor, Bobby Whisnand, the creator of the – It’s All Heart – program.

In the beginning of April I spent my first week at the Cooper Institute where I took the Personal Trainers Education Course and started trying to work more on following my dreams of becoming a trainer and transformation specialist.

Heather joined me in Dallas in April and just as we were about to head back to Oregon, life wrote another chapter for her as well and we were jet setting it back to Ohio to deal with a family emergency there.  Heather and Debby, they are my best friends in the entire world, they are the first two women in my life that made me believe that I could have women who were friends, and this year, they both needed me to be there with hugs and support as they went through losing a parent. In April, with my Father in my thoughts, I was grateful for the lesson he taught me when he left our world the year before and I realized just how much fate plays into thing; losing my father was one of the hardest things I had ever been through, but having that life experience under my belt helped allow me to be there for people who were important to me when they needed it and in some strange way, this offered me the closure I needed to move on in the grieving process myself.

May rolled in and proved to be another huge month for me. First I was off to Central CA to spend a few weeks helping my Godfather straighten up his house, and then I was in LA helping my Mother close a chapter of her life and move on with her grieving as she packed up and left the house that her and my Father had lived in for nearly forty years. It was another bittersweet moment for me; it was hard to say goodbye to the house I had grown up in and the place my Dad had always considered home and it was difficult bringing my Father’s ashes back with me. But being in Los Angeles at the right time opened up another door for me and gave me the opportunity to make one of my “Wishes for 2013” come true and I got to meet my hero Chris Powell in person. I got to talk to him and his wife Heidi Powell, and that experience was absolutely amazing. I think we all have that Celebrity that we look up to and think, wow I wish I could meet them, they might like me, and we might be friends. Getting the opportunity to actually meet and talk to Chris and Heidi Powell and establish a line of communication with them that would extend throughout the year, was amazing. Their words of encouragement, wisdom and advice in difficult times have gotten me through a lot of dark places this year and meeting them is one of those moments I just know, positivity impacted my life.

In May I found myself in Las Vegas at the WLSFA Meet & Greet. This time allowed me to; once again connect with friends in the Weight Loss Surgery Community. I got the opportunity to meet some people I hadn’t gotten to meet yet, to reconnect with some people I hadn’t seen in quite a while, and I got the opportunity to meet Carnie Wilson. It was an amazing weekend full of faces that I love and I started to realize for the first time how much of an impact my blog and my sharing my weight loss journey had on others. That trip also gave me the first experience of a speeding ticket and zip lining; I could have passed on the ticket though. Coming back from Dallas in May I spent a little more time with my Godfather and another door opened for me when he decided that he was going to give me the money that it would take to have the final round of plastic surgery I felt I needed to have in order to be happy with my body. This changed the direction the rest of my year would go in and that last round of reconstructive body contouring after massive weight loss took precedence over everything else.

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1012342_676650495694757_382660225_nIn June, I decided that I needed to go back to Dallas, finish up my courses at the Cooper Institute and spend some time really focused on achieving this goal I have of obtaining my personal trainers certification. That didn’t work out quite as I had planned, (I still need to get my certification) but June was full of progress and positivity. I ran my first official 5k with my family at the suggestion of my sister Debby, and that event set a fire under my butt. Two days later I ran my first half marathon in honor of my Dad on Father’s day, and from there, I started adding running events to my already hectic schedule. Again, life puts you in the right place at the right time, because my deciding to go back to Dallas to do all of this and listening to the suggestion of my sister, opened several doors for me. It is where I met Tammy, who would become one of my dearest friends over the course of the next six months that led me to the Tabs event, which lead me to achieving the sponsorship I needed for the biggest contest I have seen done in a blog giveaway within this community. June ended with the launch of the “How do you Celebrate Success” contest and a DSS reader received airfare, transportation, hotel accommodations, race entry fees and a park ticket  to go to Disneyland in Anaheim CA and participate in the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend with me.  There were a couple of other big moments in June too; my sister and I did the NKOTB (New Kids on the Block) Concert, I got to meet every member of the band, and Jordan knight rubbed the back of my head, TWICE! (I’ll be telling this story for years!) I also received my completion certificate in Coaching Healthy Behaviors and Weight Control Strategies, making me a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach specializing in Weight Loss and Weight Management.

July held a few firsts for me; my first Kayaking trip thanks to Tammy, my first color themed 5k thanks to Kevin, my first ride on a motorcycle thanks to Robin. The end of the month was mainly filled with the experience of my fourth round of Reconstructive Plastics after WLS and my spending a lot of quality time with friends and family as I recovered from my surgery. This was a very special time for me, a time filled with people who are near and dear to my heart.

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August came and my body image issues began to creep up on me as I struggled with the scale not bouncing back where I wanted it to be post op reconstructive plastic surgery. It took a very special group of women in my life, and the additional words of wisdom from Chris Powell to get me off the scale, get me out of the panic I was in and help me get through that moment. I owe some big thanks you to the women that saw me through that horrible place in August, Debby, Heather, Tammy, Merril, Kesha, and of course, Joy, I don’t know what I would have done without you ladies except maybe curled into a ball in the fetal position and cried until Christmas. But armed and blessed with the help of my friends I found the light quickly and came back around and by the end of August, with stitches from a quick nip tuck to fix a dog ear between my newly augmented breasts I was off to Phoenix AZ to not only attend, but speak on a panel at the 2nd Annual Your Weight Matters Convention hosted by the Obesity Action Coalition. This event is one of the highlights of my year. It was attending this event in October of 2012 that really cemented the fact that I wanted to become a Transformation Specialist, and though I am not there quite yet, the journey I have been on in the now 14 months since that first convention, what I have done and accomplished since then and where this year is ended me, is definitely all heading in the right direction. Speaking at the YWM2013 Convention was such an honor for me; it allowed me to see this moment where I had come full circle, the first year I was an attendee and the second year I was a speaker. That convention allowed me to spend some time with Joy again; something I really needed; I’ve talked about how the OAC has changed my life, and it has in many ways, it’s helped point me in the right direction several times; what I forget to mention sometimes is that it brought my second sister into my life, it’s where I met Joy, and the instant bond we had is something I’ve only ever experienced with her and Debby, it goes beyond friendship and blood, those women are my sisters though we have no blood ties. We finished out August with a trip to the Oregon Coast to hang out with some very special friends that I owe to the Las Vegas event to and then I spent my 37th birthday having a nice run with my Dad as I started working myself back into exercise and launched the #20Week2Tink Virtual Event as Dawn and I began our five month training for the Tinker Bell half Marathon.

September was all about me getting my run back on. I did a Color Run 5K and the Kiss Me Dirty Mud Run with Jennifer and Kevin Mahoney and the groups they put together and I took a little time to sit back and reevaluate where I was, and where I wanted to be by the end of 2013. I decided in September that I was going in a different direction, it was time to change Desperately Seeking Slender a little, start making plans for what it would be in 2014 and, I needed to get my head space wrapped around some rather personal decisions I had going on in my life.  I had some things to figure out, and when the opportunity to go spend some time doing just that came up in the form of a trip to North Carolina, I jumped on the chance.

I find my clarity when I run. So in October, right before I was about to leave for North Carolina and what would end up being a month of self-reflecting and deciding what was going to happen next, I decided it was time to put another half marathon on my list of accomplishments for the year. Just like I had back in June I set out on a run that morning thinking MAYBE I will just run an entire 13.1 today, I don’t have too, but if I want to I can. I did and I left Oregon mid-October with a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence that I needed.

I spent October and the first part of November surrounding myself with nothing but positivity and doing things that made me happy. I did another color themed 5K at the Color Me Rad in Wilmington NC and took a group of Weight-Loss friends and blog readers with me. I ran whenever the urge struck me. I dressed up for Halloween, I when thrift store shopping, I bought new clothes, I wore high heels a lot, I rode a Ferris Wheel for the first time, I ran on the beach for the first time, I ate Ethiopian food, I went to RenFest, I watched movies, and I feel in love with North Carolina.  I cooked a lot, healthy cooking, and encouraged the people around me to eat healthier and to adopt healthier activities and I met with some people who ran clubs and gyms and fitness centers in the area; and I fell in love with North Carolina.

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When I got home in mid-November it was time for the Holidays, and before I knew it, I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, hunting down Christmas presents, hanging a tree, and pondering one of the biggest decisions I’ve made in my journey thus far. (We’ll talk about that more this coming week) Somewhere in the midst of all of that in the last six weeks I froze my butt off at the Jingle Bell 5k Run with a group the Mahoney’s put together again, did zoo lights with Heather, ran another half marathon, and have started putting together the plans for the next chapter of my life…

I started 2013 at weight of 160 lbs. My weight through the year balanced out at about 165 lbs. and though I’ve struggled with wanting to see lower numbers, 165 lbs. seemed to be where my body is the most happy and after a year of working on body image issues, and being able to accept myself at a Happy and Healthy weight instead of chasing the number on a BMI chart, 165 lbs is what I consider my goal weight and were I consider myself in maintenance.

I could blame the weight gain I experienced in the last six weeks on Holiday eating, stress eating and what not, but I’m pretty honest, and I think that honesty and forwardness is something my readers appreciate from me.  The regain I experienced; came from not following the rules. It came from consuming too much alcohol, (I like beer, beer LOVES my thighs) – I’ve learned a 10 pound lesson about how turning to alcohol as an escape from your problems can cause you more… I had 10 pounds of problems to prove it and my scale showed 175 lbs. at the end of November.

December 2nd the gloves came off and I stood up and took the reins back. I immediately went back to the basics, food tracking, exercise tracking, making sure I get my water and vitamins in and start following all the rules again. I got back down to 169 lbs. right before my friend visited from California and between a week o f eating out and drinking and with far too much sodium on board this morning I’m sitting at 172 lbs.

Some people might look at that and say; it’s okay, so what my weight is going to fluctuate, but anyone that reads my blog knows I have suffered with some obsessive compulsive issues with numbers on the scale and so it’s very important for me to put it in perspective. 2013 has been a full year for me.  I’ve been through a lot. At 165 lbs I am maintaining a 255 lb. weight loss. Knowing I will never stay at the exact same weight constantly and that the number I see on the scale will fluctuate is something I have come to terms with this year. I have learned that I am not defined by the number on the scale, nor am I defined by the number on a BMI chart. My success is defined by the choices I make and what I do with the life I am building for myself. I know that the scale is going to show me numbers that range anywhere from 160-170 throughout the year. When I see a number higher than that I know I need to look at what I’m doing and ask myself if I need to make changes or if I need to do something differently. This isn’t obsession anymore, its weight loss maintenance and accountability. With everything I have accomplished this year, I find no shame in the 7 lbs. of weight gain I need to tackle now, it just means I’ve allowed myself a few too many liberties in my eating and drinking in the last few weeks and it’s time to buckle down again.

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And that my friends, is my 2013 year in review. It’s been an amazing year, and so many things have happened. I want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of it with me. I want to thank each and every one of you that has been a part of the emotional growth I have experienced this year, and I want each and every one of you to know how much you are loved and appreciated for what you have brought to my life and allowed me to bring to yours by being a Desperately Seeking Slender reader.

There is no way that I could mention the names of every person that has touched my life this year in one blog, though I wish I could. But please know that if your name is on my friends list, if you are a DSS reader, if you’ve followed me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social network, if you’ve ever commented, liked, shared, re-tweeted, or repined something I’ve posted; If you’ve spent even the briefest of moments with me this year, been the giver or recipient of a hug or a kiss;  That you have been a part of an amazing year where my journey started to mold and take on the right direction and I came out on the other end of some big obstacles in my journey.

2013 Is almost over, and 2014 is almost upon us. I hope that every single one of you can look back on 2013 and smile and celebrate the accomplishments you have made and hope that 2014 serves as a means for us to all start working on achieving happier and healthier lives together.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

Sex – Excess Skin and Body Contouring After WLS Weight Loss

I’m a Gastric Bypass patient that has lost 260 lb. I’m a WLS Exercise and Bariatric Fitness Enthusiast and I am now a four time Reconstructive Plastic Surgery patient.

I’ve written several articles that approach the concept of Body Contouring Surgery after WLS or Massive weight loss from a couple different directions, the emotional journey, the body image issues, the pain involved, I’ve even talked about body functions and genital relocation. This next topic shouldn’t shock you at all.

totally-naughty-panda-emoticon-12-1Sex. Yup, Sex, because let me tell you Reconstructive Plastic Surgery affected my sex life in epic proportions.

First, let’s talk a little about sex before plastic surgery…

There is a moment in one of Yvonne McCarthy’s [ Bariatric Girl ] videos when she used to do her show that stuck with me forever when I was a post-op gastric bypass patient looking for information about what the excess skin would be like after my RNY and after my weight loss. She was doing an interview with a gentleman [ WLS Journeys: Guest Ramon Lopez ] that talked about how there was a moment after his weight loss where he heard the sound of clapping during exercise and didn’t realize at first that it was his skin smacking together as he ran. I remembered this story probably more than any other that I had heard pre-op RNY because I knew, it was something I was going to go through later and not a lot of people seemed to discuss the excess skin openly.

I had a very similar moment pre-reconstructive surgery. I was in the middle of a very intimate moment, swinging my hips back and forth and when I realized that my movements were causing my stomach to swing forward and make a skin on skin slapping sound as it swung back. It nearly paralyzed me. Of course, I was reassured that this wasn’t an issue “Stop worrying about noises and just be with me,” but once something like that gets in your head it’s hard to get rid of. This was one of those defining moments for me when it came to skin removal surgery. There were lots of other factors in my decision, just like when I decided to have weight loss surgery to begin with, but this was one of those embarrassing moments that I promised myself I would “fix” so I never had to endure again.

totally-naughty-panda-emoticon-6Let’s talk about how my first few surgeries changed my sex life… guess what.. it made it REALLY difficult. My first surgery, I had a lot of swelling complications, I would say that I was easily what we will refer to as “out of commission” for a good 8-10 weeks. There were big changes in my body after that surgery, parts of me that were numb to the touch and it felt strange to have someone touch me there, see that they were touching me and yet not feel it. I had this spot on my upper thighs that was right about the same place the dogs would run up and put their paws on me at when I was sitting down, and to this day, I still have a duller sensation when I am touched there than before. But it took me getting past the complications, pain, and strange feelings my body was experience before I even wanted to be intimate again.

My next surgery in August changed things for me even more. In this surgery, we took the excess skin out of my breasts and did a breast lift which included relocating the nipple and areola. My breasts were so sensitive it was ridiculous. This surgery probably only knocked me out of commission for another six weeks while everything was healing. But my nipples developed hypersensitivity [ Its not Masturbation its exploratory ]and it was like, if you blew on me those darn things got hard and when it happened it wasn’t a “happy” sexy moment, it was painful, sent shivers through me, and felt very awkward. I had to start working on desensitizing them to touch, and to be honest, it never went back to normal. After about six months it got to a point that my nipples could be involved in sexual play again, but in a completely different way than before…  suddenly my nipples were one of the most sensitive parts of my body in bed they required a stamp of “Fragile Handle with Care”

When we did my medial thigh lift a few months later in November all bets were off. You have incisions from your knee all the way up to your groin and from that point forward along the crease between your thigh and your girl or boy bits with that sort of thigh lift, and to be blunt, my legs weren’t opening like that for a while. In this case I’d say it took another 6-8 weeks.

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The time that you’re “out of commission” isn’t the only big changes though. I noticed a difference in my sex life very quickly after that first surgery. A lot of the skin in my mons area had been removed and my girl parts were re-arranged a little. Suddenly I didn’t like the way things felt at times. Positions I used to like, I wasn’t comfortable in anymore, and at every turn I was saying things like “Gently Please,” or “Slow down please,” or “Please move your hand that feels weird,” when I was being touched in a place that still had numbness, and after three surgeries there were a lot of places I felt numbness. Yeah ok, let’s be blunt, when I was a bigger girl I liked things a little fast and rough, maybe I had more cushion inside ( I’d have to ask some doctors about that theory ) but it changed for me a lot after losing weight and cutting my body and sewing it back together a few times. No more Lady GaGa “If it ain’t rough it isn’t fun.” theology in my bed. It was more like, “I really want to do this please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me.” There was a lot of me feeling fragile to myself, and even more of me feeling fragile to my partner who was afraid of touching me the wrong way because really, who wants to hurt the person you love in bed unless it’s in a kinky way, right?

Also while we are being blunt and honest, there was a change in what felt good to me in regards to size. Suddenly things felt “bigger” to me than they were before. As a woman we get used to where things fit inside us, we get used to a sensation where a certain place perhaps gets rubbed at a certain angle. Suddenly, that changed for me, it was like moving my mons around moved my insides around or losing all that weight shifted where things were inside me and things were more sensitive, seemed tighter, and less accommodating to my partner. It was a scary transition too. Suddenly you don’t like things the way you used to like them and if you have been with someone for quite a while, that can be an awkward place of “re-learning.”

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Let me just also give you this little head’s up my friends. A lot of these reconstructive surgeries to do excess skin removal after massive weight loss are done on parts of your body that are very active during times of intimacy. Your thighs, your mons, your abdomen, your breasts, your arms. Imagine taking a few of those out of commission during your sexual activity for a while. It’s changes things a lot. Now once you get past that here is my tip. Keep in mind as you “return” to sexual activity that the first time good things happen and your muscles all tighten and your body gets rigid… it’s going to hurt in a way that makes you want to roll your eyes in not so great way to deal with the pain. Seriously, it reminded me of losing my virginity, I just sort of laid there gasping going “Why did that hurt so bad?”

I have no idea yet how this last surgery is going to change my sex life. I know that I was released and allowed to have intercourse a lot earlier. ( I had the green light after three weeks ) but that doesn’t  mean my body is ready, and I know it isn’t.

After having implants done, I have no nipple sensation at all yet  ( They say it will come back eventually ) my breasts are extremely tender, like, they feel like I’ve been punched in them several times and have the sensitive hurt and achy feeling I used to experience when I still menstruated. Since my surgeon re-cut my bikini line and lifted my pubic area quite a bit ( He made that area of my body look AMAZING really ) there is a lot of painful sensitivity in my mons area and until that goes away I know sex isn’t something in which I’ll be remotely interested.

So if I had to add it up, in the past 68 weeks of having reconstructive plastic surgery, there were about 24 weeks of healing time that I simply could NOT be intimate at all and likely another 24 weeks or so of “Not tonight hun my body still feels weird to me,” that I didn’t want to be intimate whether I could or not.

No matter how you spin it, reconstructive plastic surgery after massive weight loss affects your sex life on an epic level. I’m not sure how many people would really tell you that, but you know I will. I’d love to hear the male perspective on this and see if it follows the same experience mind did. Just to end on a note of humor, it’s a darn good thing that sex wasn’t one of my transfer addictions, because if it had been, I would have been in big trouble when I started the WLS Plastics part of my journey.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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