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How do I do it? 

How do I stay motivated day after day, and maintain a 250 pound weight loss since Lap Band surgery in 2004? 

What do I eat? 

These are just a few of the questions I am asked repeatedly.  They are also the very same questions you will see in almost any weight loss surgery group on Facebook.  The answers can be varied.  Mine are not complicated, they have worked well for me and are all part of my daily life now.

Here are a few of them:

  • I Do Not diet – I gave up dieting when I had weight loss surgery.  I eat real food, delicious food and use “bariatric” type foods like protein bars and protein drinks or shakes for emergencies, and for my weight lifting days at the gym.
  • I have a regular fitness routine and very little gets to interfere with it.  It’s simple – Monday and Wednesday I “run” on the elliptical for 30-45 minutes and then lift weights/strength training for an hour.  Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I swim laps for 30 -45 minutes.  Saturday and Sunday are rest/play days.  I may take a hike, do housework, walk on the beach, bicycle ride, or veg out in a chaise in the sun.
  • I have several go to meals that I vary depending on my schedule and that of my family.  I ALWAYS have easy grab and go food in the frig such as cheese sticks, deli lunch meat, cucumbers, pickles.
  • On Sunday I take a look in my frig, freezer and cupboards and put together an egg frittata that will take us through Monday – Thursday; chicken or tuna or salmon salad or have cold cuts on hand also for Monday-Thursday; and I plan a few dinners whether it’s Greek style chicken burgers and a veggie or sausage and pasta sauce over zoodles, or steak and mashed cauliflower, enchilada chicken – I could go on.  If the dinners make more than the servings I need for my family I’ll use leftovers for lunch or with chili or soup or enchilada chicken I’ll freeze them in portioned out servings.
  • I have 33.7 oz bottles of water in front of me always to make sure I stay hydrated.  If I don’t get enough water; besides being grouchy and headachy, I eat too much, and too often
  • I line up my vitamins and take them daily.
  • I weigh and measure my food as I am preparing it.
  • Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are just a little bit different.  I may go out for dinner one or two nights, in which case I check out the menu and decide on my food before I go if possible, otherwise I go to local restaurants that I am familiar with that have bari-friendly meals for me – my sushi bar makes awesome sashimi as well as rolls with no rice – just soy paper, my Mexican restaurant has a killer tortilla soup, or a single shrimp taco with cabbage, cheese, and pico de gallo that tastes wonderful eaten with a fork.  Often on a Saturday or Sunday night I will take the time to make a new creation.  Most are worthy of repeating and that is one of the motivators behind the cookbook I co-authored- https://wlssuccessmatters.com/eat-your-way-to-success-and-learn-how-to-control-hunger-a-weight-loss-surgery-friendly-cookbook/.
  • I try to prepare foods based on what is in season.  Example – it’s strawberry season here now and I will have some salads done with a sliced strawberry or two for garnish and flavor (great with feta crumbles).  Salmon season begins in June and we will have fresh wild caught sockeye salmon as long as the season continues – I have many different ways to prepare that I have already mastered, and a few I am sure, still to learn.
  • I will put one portion, weight loss surgery size, on my plate and that is what I get to eat.  I do not have to finish it, but seconds are my next meal in 3-5 hours, not at the same meal.  I get up from the table when I am done or get the food removed from the table… one us must leave.
  • I remember what it feels like to be large and unable to move and use that memory as needed to be able to say no.
  • I periodically clean my cupboards out of any trigger foods that might have found their home in my house.
  • Probably the most important part of all this nutrition, portion control, fitness, vitamins, water and accountability notwithstanding is that – I NEVER GIVE UP!  I just keep moving forward.  What does that look like you ask?  If I have had a rough day, a choice that didn’t serve my goals, a rough week I KNOW that I have my weight loss surgery tool and that I can use it to help me turn that choice/day/week around and make my next choice one that will serve my goal to live my BEST LIFE.

These are just a few pointers I have to share after nearly 14 years.  Feel free to share yours or ask me questions.

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Turn the clock back 14 + years.  We’re leaving on vacation for someplace warm and (hopefully) sunny.  I start trying on my clothes from the previous warm season and guess what, NOTHING fits.  It’s all too tight, or if it does fit, it’s ugly and makes me look fat.  (Now what wouldn’t when my weight was over 400 pounds) It’s a miserable experience.  I hated every minute of it and it almost makes me not want to leave the house.  But I must go shopping and find clothes and bathing suits that fit.  Ugh…I hate shopping.

Now, let’s time travel forward to 2018.  I’m getting ready to leave on vacation to someplace warm, exotic and (hopefully) sunny.  I need to hit a few stores to get ready to pack.  What?  Are my clothes too tight?  Nope, I need to get sunscreen, a rash guard with sun protection, a good brimmed hat with sun protection and ok, a new pair of sandals…  That’s all I needed; however, I did get a new jumpsuit, size medium, and a new bathing suit top.  Need had NOTHING to do with those purchases.  They were made strictly because I liked them both.  The bathing suit top is black and white polka dots and the jumpsuit is black and off-white stripes (horizontal on top and vertical on the bottom).  They’re cute.  The rest of my shopping will be done in my closet because my size is the same as it was last year, and the year before that and…  well you get the picture.

I’ll decide which sundresses or jumpsuits to take for my evening wear and daytime is simply a bathing suit and cover up…  I have 4 bathing suits I am bringing, several coverups.  Of course, I need my exercise wear as well.  And that’s it.

Not only did Weight Loss Surgery save my life, it also saved me from becoming psychotic as I try to pack for vacation.  Another Non-Scale Victory.

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I have been on this journey to my new life since May 28th, 2004.  The journey continues today, and it is similar regardless of what surgery you chose.  As I read Facebook posts and answer questions in support groups I have found that folks expectations and reality as to their weight loss are often miles apart.  I have also noticed that we tend to look at other people and compare our journey to theirs.  STOP THAT!  All it does is create frustration for you.  Your journey is just that, and if you are losing weight consistently you are being successful.  The keys to this success are to follow your doctor’s instructions, eat your protein, drink your water, take your vitamins, move your body, TRUST the process, and have FAITH in yourself that you are doing it right.

Be sure to have some non-judgmental support around to share your thoughts with, whether it is your Doc’s support group, a friend or group of friends, or go to www.wlssuccessmatters.com and click on FREE telephone support group calls and join in.  The need for education and support never ends.  This is a journey for life.

Have a look at my thoughts from 2014 and let me know if you see a little of yourself in there.

Woke up today excited to visit my doctor for my first appointment with him post op.  Sure he checked me out before he released me from the hospital, but I am not good at discussion when under the influence of narcotics.  Ha! 

Then I thought I have to ask him why I am not losing faster when I am working out, drinking water, eating less than 900 calories a day, and still getting 75+ grams of protein.  I started to get upset about how long this process of losing weight is taking.  I want to be back at my lowest recorded weight since my first surgery in 2004 before the end of 2014.  That’s my goal and I’m sticking to it.

I had a cup of tea as I worked those thoughts around in my mind; allowing the upset to grow and then having a light bulb suddenly go off in my head.  DUH!  I was expecting my weight loss to parallel my initial weight loss in 2004.  I started that process at 424 pounds, and fortunately started this one at 225 pounds less than that.  Why would I lose at the same rate?  I was eating many more calories of poorly chosen food in 2004, and now in 2014 my weight gain was due to a little over a year of not having a working lap band, and definitely some poor choices along the way.  That year did not have the food consumption, nor the lack of movement, that the years prior to 2004 had offered.  A really bad day was probably 2000 calories not 5000+.  Also, during that year I still worked out regularly and was eating healthy foods in reasonable portions, most of the time.  The reason that I knew I wanted to replace my band was, I wanted not to struggle every day with my physical hunger.

My surgery on 11/17/14 solved the physical hunger part.  Now with small portions of well chosen protein based foods I am satisfied for 3-4 hours.  I am back to working out, and I am losing the poundage I put on from 2013-2014.  So why have I allowed myself to get caught up emotionally in that dangerous game called comparing my journeys?  Could it be because I am still my own worst critic?  You bet. 

Today I vow to change the story being told in my head.  I am losing between 2 and 3 pounds per week, and my first goal is within reach.  It is more than enough!  My physical satiety is back and I am grateful for my Weight Loss Surgery Tool.  I am following “the program”, and I know I will succeed.  The two things that I am encouraging myself to do today is to STOP comparing my journey to anyone else’s, including my own 14 year old journey, and to trust myself and the process.

Here’s to reaching all of your personal goals in 2018.

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Today I am reprinting a blog I wrote a few years back – Is Weight Loss Surgery The Easy Way Out? I get angry every time a “newbie” tells me that folks are saying they took the easy way out by having surgery.

It’s not easy. Obesity is a disease. There are medical treatments. Surgeries are one of the recognized medical treatments. “Shaming” people because they chose surgery is absurd… Vent over, have a read, and tell me is weight loss surgery the easy way out? Was it for you?

More and more seriously overweight people are turning to weight loss surgery to assist them in taking off and keeping off the excess pounds that are causing or exacerbating other medical conditions and interfering with their quality of life. Many people worry that they will be criticized for taking the easy way out.

Is this the easy way out?

Here are some views on both sides. You can reach your own conclusions.

Weight Loss Surgery Is The Easy Way Out

  1. Some say it’s easy because it is the only choice that makes sense for them. These are people who have failed multiple times over many years of dieting, people who may have other medical conditions that require them to lose weight in order to stay active, productive members of society.
  2. It has been compared to the “ease” with which a cancer patient chooses chemotherapy. While this may be a bit harsh, it makes the point. It’s easy to choose something that may cure you over doing nothing and letting the disease take over.
  3. It provides hope, where none existed, for a significant population. Many of those who are exploring weight loss surgery have tried every diet out there, had some minimal success, but could not sustain that success. The possibility of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight provides a light at the end of a tunnel that has been very dark.
  4. It confirms that rather than a moral failing, obesity is a medical issue that can be addressed with a medical intervention. This is significant. The obese population has been discriminated against in every area of their life and the recognition that medical intervention is necessary offers another ray of hope.
  5. It is easy because it works. This is true, at the beginning of the journey. Once the surgery “starts working” the patient can learn the behaviors necessary to keep it working. Weight loss surgery is a tool. Screwdrivers work, but only if someone is on the other end of them, turning the screw in the direction we want it to go.
  6. It is easy because the patient, often for the first time in their life, gets the opportunity to physically feel full. The general population cannot begin to understand what it is like to finish a meal and be hungry again two minutes later. Weight loss surgery provides a “stop” that will allow the patient to recognize being done eating and to actually feel a sense of fullness or satiety.

Weight Loss Surgery IS Not The Easy Way Out

  1. Making a decision to have major surgery is not easy. Think about an obese person undergoing general anesthesia. This is not a simple decision. Risks are involved and benefits need to outweigh the risks for those who make that tough decision to go forward with surgery.
  2. It is difficult to make the choice to not use food for comfort or reward. This is probably the first step in permanent lifestyle changes that needs to be made.
  3. It is difficult because it requires permanent life style changes in order to lose the weight and keep it off. The surgery is only a tool and the patient is the one that chooses their food and chooses when and how much they are going to exercise. It takes years to undo the years of poor choices that became regular behaviors.
  4. It is difficult because most weight loss surgery patients have to give up some foods permanently. There are some foods that are physically uncomfortable for weight loss surgery patients to eat and they may actually be among their favorite foods. Again, a hard choice to make and stay committed to.
  5. It is difficult to learn all over again how to eat – to take small bites, chew food thoroughly, and eat slowly. Our culture is one of on the go all the time. Weight loss surgery patients need to learn how to take time out for each meal and pay attention to it so as to be able to avoid mindless eating, or mindless overeating. Drive through would become a thing of the past.
  6. It is difficult to suddenly change a lifetime of behaviors and stay committed to a lifetime of these changes. How long did it take to learn how to sit in front of the TV or computer instead of going for a walk? How long did it take before grabbing something on the way home became the expected meal. It will take years to make the new behaviors part of a standard routine that is as habitual as grabbing a coffee on the way to the office.

What surfaces here is that people who choose weight loss surgery as a means to an end, that end being a healthy, normal weight, have to commit themselves to a lifetime of behavior changes- food choices, portion sizes, exercise, etc, in order to achieve their goals. Nothing about the decision to have surgery, or those changes is easy. The remotely easy part of this process is the knowledge that there may finally be hope for those who have failed year after year at trying to achieve and maintain a normal weight with diet and exercise alone.

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In the last few weeks the following has occurred in my life:

  • My brother was hospitalized multiple times with severe heart problems
  • My 24-year-old granddaughter has moved in with us
  • I found termites in the upstairs bathroom
  • My 17-year-old cat has peed on the floor several times
  • My built-in gas barbecue began leaking natural gas
  • I developed a rip-roaring case of asthmatic bronchitis
  • My refrigerator is freezing everything
  • I have been diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease
  • Ants have begun their annual march into my house

Any one of these situations individually could provide me with the fuel to toss in the towel, give myself over to constant worry and not take care of my priorities while I made each of these a priority that had to be dealt with immediately and in the moment and NOTHING was more important than whichever one of these I chose to focus my emotions on.

I must admit I slipped a few times and began to eat my emotions (old habits die hard and vigilance is called for frequently).

In the final countdown I chose to control that which I had control over.  I:

  • Gave verbal support to my nephew and my brother as the heart issues were ongoing, there was nothing more I could do from 3000 miles away;
  • Set the rules for my granddaughter and her dog to live with us before she moved in and am accepting the reduction in my privacy;
  • I am going to call the exterminator regarding the termites to spray orange oil which is non-lethal to humans and pets in the area
  • Taking extra care and cleaning the litter box more frequently (my husband’s job)
  • Checking out cost of new gas grill vs rebuilding the old one and husband has chosen to rebuild
  • Checked and reset the temperature on the refrigerator to see if it helped…time will tell
  • Realized that my legs and my varicose veins have been a problem for years, caused by my obesity and lifestyle habits, and accepted that I am doing everything possible to keep this under control.  Worrying about a heart attack or stroke constantly would result in me bringing one on.  It is what it is.
  • Purchased ant traps and have placed them where we know problems to exist
  • Spent the last week taking care of ME – resting, taking the meds that I hoped would help me get over this bronchitis thing.  It’s working, I was back in the gym for a short workout on Monday and hope to keep things going.

What’s my point here?  In my previous life I would come unglued at any one of these lemons, using the situation as a reason for “freaking out”, shirking responsibilities or being angry at the world… oh, and eating, constantly stuffing all these feelings down my pie hole with carbs.

I am a weight loss surgery patient.  Those actions don’t serve my long-term health in any way.

Temper tantrums don’t work.  They are excuses.  I don’t need an excuse to eat.  If I choose to eat carbs I am fully aware of the results and accept them.

It’s this living in acceptance of – oh well, this is what it is for the moment, let’s make the best of it and move on that has helped me continue my success as a weight loss surgery patient.  That, and fully accepting accountability for my actions without self-hate or guilt or any of the useless, counterproductive emotions that helped me soar to my highest weight of 424 pounds.

Each day my goal is to live the best day possible.  What’s yours?

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With the advent of Spring comes several “holidays” – be they Spring Break, Easter, Passover, or a scheduled vacation.  Easter Sunday is April 1st this year and I don’t plan on being foolish about it.  So far, no Cadbury eggs have passed these lips, although I must admit when a local grocery store advertised buy 2 get 1 free I thought seriously about going and getting 3 – 1 for each of my grandkids… They are teenagers and beyond.  Who was I kidding?  I was using that as an excuse to go get one for myself, and of course for my husband.  Neither of us need the chocolate, or the sugar, or the calories so I quickly threw away that grocery ad.

I had a client share with me that everything that’s family related is constantly about food.  Guess what?  THAT’s what it’s been forever, and for those that haven’t had weight loss surgery, that’s what they will continue to center the family gatherings around.

So, Easter dinner or Passover Seder, what are you choosing to do?  Will you just eat a little bit of everything or will you make sure there’s something for you to eat that is protein first and meets your other needs?

My choice, because I am currently following a food program to rid my body of winter’s carbohydrate bashes and take off a few pounds is to make sure I bring food that I can eat.

Instead of bringing a dessert to the dinner I am bringing a side dish.  For me it will be roasted asparagus.  I love it and it is a spring vegetable that is fresh and beautiful this time of year.  There is protein in it and I will also bring a poultry, fish, or meat source for myself, just in case there is no meat or fish that fits my plan.  I can keep this in my car in a cooler and only get it if necessary.

I will not be deprived because what’s being served for Passover dinner is nothing I can’t live without, and many things that my Lap Band doesn’t approve of anyway.

I am going to join my family for the company, the gathering, the get together, the Seder, the celebration, NOT for the food.

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Eat less and exercise more.  How many of you have been told just that by your friends, relatives, teachers, doctors over the years?  I know I kept hearing it and I would try, really try.  I’d succeed for a while, having lost 100 pounds several times, but somehow the weight always came back, often with a vengeance.  This happened repeatedly until 2004 when I chose to have weight loss surgery.  The procedure I chose was Lap Band because it was the least invasive and I was one scared puppy at 55 years old and 424 pounds.  The procedure doesn’t matter, the results are what count.  And Lap Band was the right procedure for me.

 

Here I am almost 14 years post op and 250+ lbs. lighter with a life I never could have imagined.  When my jeans start getting tight on me – and over the past 14 years that has happened – the first place I look at is protein.  Am I getting in all my protein or am I snacking on junk that has little to no nutritive value.  I can usually clean this up quickly and get the junk out of my life.

 

The next place I look is, as the title of the article suggests, portion size.  Why do I need to look at portion size if I have had a restrictive procedure that only allows me to eat “small portions”?  Because after 14 years, if I hang around the table for too long somehow I can manage to eat more.  If it’s not on my plate, I can’t eat it because 1 portion is all I allow myself. 

Don’t think for a moment that I am denying myself anything.  Typically we don’t even taste the second serving.  We only eat it because “it’s there” and “we can” as long as we nibble at it while lounging at the table chatting, reading a book, watching TV or ___________(you fill in the blank). 

Same thing happens if I put my food on “normal” size plates…  I have this driving need to fill the plate and this is not good.  It becomes more than a single portion, and once again I can finish it if I give myself enough time with it.

Any of you recognize yourself in this behavior?  The strangest part is that I do measure and/or weigh all my food.  I know exactly what I want to put on my plate, what a single portion is for me, but those few extra spears of asparagus, or the additional slice of chicken are not going to make much of a difference, right? 

WRONG!  Especially when I am dishing up food for my non WLS husband, or have the family over for a while this can become difficult.

The solution is simple- the practice of the solution takes time and patience.  If I want to remain at my comfortable weight it is incumbent on me to use a smaller plate or bowl and put only 1 serving of food in it for me.  I am not the rest of the world, I am a weight loss surgery patient and in oh so many ways, size matters.

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My 17-year-old cat is dying.  It happens to the best of us.  She hides in a dark space and comes out for a few minutes of love and the only thing she will eat now – Kitten Milk Replacement formula.  Sometimes she acts as if she has no idea where her bowl is, and every now and then she gets a spurt of energy when we bring her a fresh bowl of food and pops up from her sleep bright eyed and sort of bushy tailed.

She was a rescue, a feral kitten, and we’ve had her since she was 7 weeks old.  Both my husband and I are sad.  She is the last of our most current set of animals.  We got her at the same time as we rescued a 3-year-old cat who has been gone for a few years. 

This sadness has surfaced in a few interesting ways.  First when we see her struggling we tend to feel bad and ask each other what we can do.  When we conclude nothing but love her, feed her and keep her comfortable we start getting snippy with each other.  I realized this is coming from our desire to “fix” her, and we can’t so we’re angry…  It shouldn’t be at each other, and both of us try not to.

The other way this sadness has surfaced for us both is with the desire to “feed” it.  That’s right.  Eating “crap” will make the sadness go away.  NOT!  After the first round of cookies, followed by some chips the following day I decided to put a stop to this behavior.  It is simply old, well learned behaviors coming back in a time of stress.  It doesn’t serve me at all because it doesn’t make the sadness go away and I just feel lousy after eating sugars or processed carbs.  So – eating my sadness actually makes it worse.

As a child, and young adult, every time I felt and voiced it I would be given food to either celebrate the feeling, or to distract me from actually feeling.

When I feel overwhelmed with sadness I now go and check her food, her water, and what she is doing then pet her and hold her and love her which is much more beneficial to both my cat and me.  The deep sadness passes and I am left sad but still totally capable of functioning.  I have no need to stuff my emotions in to continue with my life. 

My journey continues.  I keep practicing what I’ve learned so I can live my BEST life and not be drowned in anger or sadness.

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I remember being wheeled into the operating room in 2004 with hope in my heart yet my brain was still screaming WHAT IF I FAIL?

I went through with the surgery, have had results not typical since day one, am thrilled that I chose my Lap Band surgery in 2004 so that I could begin living my life again.

Every time I hit a plateau with a week or two of no loss I began to freak as my brain jumped right to THIS IS YOU FAILING AGAIN.

Somehow, I shut it off, got back to it, and as I reclaimed my confidence the pounds kept coming off.

Then I noticed my jeans were a little tight and the scale told me why.  I reviewed what I had been doing and realized my portions were getting a little bit bigger and I was allowing a few too many foo-foo coffees into my life.  I still heard my brain screaming WHAT IF YOU CAN’T LOSE THAT REGAIN?  It didn’t matter that it was only five pounds, that horrible screechy voice in my head was trying it’s best to turn me into the dieter who failed. 

This with the scale down 245 pounds instead of 250 and my head still somehow perceived that as failure.  The reality – it was simply a lack of attention – it was the mindlessness of eating and drinking whatever I felt like in the moment – without any thought to my actions.  Hmmm I remember a statement that goes – “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.  The reaction was my body saying it would not, actually could not stay where I wanted it to be, if I didn’t pay attention to it.  This was NOT failure, it was learning.

Here I am, almost 14 years post-op still learning things about my body and my mind.  One of the many learnings over these 14 years has been that failure is not an option for me!

When that ugly, screechy voice tries to shout in my head that I am failing I merely stage whisper back smiling, and WHAT IF I SUCCEED?

So, you see it’s not the answer that matters at all.  It is the question.  Be sure you are asking yourself the right question.

What might happen if you succeeded?  What would that look like?  What would it feel like?  Are you smiling?  I am.

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I had my weight loss surgery when I was 55 years and 8 months old.  OLD was exactly how I felt.  I had been abusing my body with excesses of food for as long as I could remember, and if you look at my “baby” pictures you’ll see I was a chubby 2 year old and it continued until I ate myself to 424 pounds.  THAT is a lot of poundage to haul around for a few years…  I think I reached that weight a year or two before my surgery.  Before that it had been the low 200’s, then the high 200’s then the 300’s, and you get the picture. 

I went up and down, losing 100 pounds on several occasions.  My point is not my ups and downs in weight.  What I get to live with today, as a 69 years and 5 month YOUNG woman is the result of that abuse that continued for upwards of 53 years.

It’s left me with edema in my right leg due to a blood clot (DVT) when I was about 32, I have had scoliosis for years (it’s a genetic disposition), I have age related macular degeneration, and I walked around with high blood pressure for who knows how long, I have arthritis in many joints, my right knee being the worst of the bunch, and I have recently been diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease.

I sound like a mess, right?  If my back’s not hurting then my knee is, I hate driving at night any more, walking on pavement hurts my legs and my back, and many nights I wake up with pains in my legs, and the outstanding veins in my legs are not a pretty sight.

Wow, I could curl up in a corner and order a rocking chair to be delivered to my front door by Amazon and call it quits, right?

I AM NOT READY FOR THAT

I will NEVER allow a medical condition to define who I am.  I had weight loss surgery to be the BEST me that I could be and because I didn’t want to die.  I choose LIFE.  That means that to stay flexible and mobile I am at the gym 5 days a week, swimming, running on the elliptical and strength training. 

That’s just a little bit of what I can do.

I can swim, snorkel, scuba, kayak, and fish in the ocean and will be mastering Stand Up Paddleboard soon.  I can hike at elevations over 2 miles high for a few miles, not be breathless or in pain because dirt trails (even with rocks to negotiate) do not cause me pain; I can ride a bicycle for miles, I can walk on the beach.  I can work in the kitchen for hours creating new recipes for my next cookbook. 

These are all physical things I CAN DO.  It all started with one lap in a swimming pool at over 300 pounds.

Now my days are filled with fitness and fun activities I can enjoy because of my fitness level.

All because I decided that I CAN.  Life is all about perspective.  I choose to accentuate the positive.

What CAN you do?

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