Queen of Crop

A Year in the Life after Weight Loss Surgery

Following a year in the life of a Gastric Sleeve patient.

Queen of Crop - A Year in the Life after Weight Loss Surgery

I’m BAAAAACCCCKKKKK!!!! 3 years Post Op – Living a Dream Life…..

Happy to be living a healthy life

Happy to be living a healthy life

Hello everyone! Three years ago this month, I was staying in Amsterdam and woke up one morning to find my husband having an emotional meltdown. As a result of that situation, I made the decision to have WLS (without knowing much about it) and a few weeks later my life changed forever.

I am an American from San Francisco and I lived in Hawaii for 10 years. In 2011 when I was 57, my husband and I sold our home, sold our business, and traveled for one year to figure out the next chapter in our lives. Our life-changing events all happened during this year of travel.

One month before surgery

One month before surgery

I was also 205 lbs (223 at my highest weight). At 5’3″ that wasn’t attractive or healthy, but I had no idea what a huge toll it was taking on my husband and my marriage. I had always been heavy but I had only gained about 2 lbs a year during our time together. Doesn’t seem like much, does it! Well, we had been together over 25 years… that’s 50 lbs! And I was 170 lbs when we met. During all those years, he had worked hard watching what he ate and exercising regularly to maintain his weight; he is tall and weighed around 155-160 lbs during our entire time together.

So here we were in the land of tall, gorgeous, healthy, fit people, all riding bicycles, and I felt like I was the only fat person in the entire country. Plus my knees, feet and hip hurt… so at 57 I was hobbling around like an old lady. And I felt like an old lady! I had never been thin, so I just thought this was who I was meant to be.

Back to the meltdown. My husband was SO frustrated. He loved me more than anything, but he is a very visual and sexual person. (Listen up ladies… most men are!!!! Don’t kid yourself!) He was not attracted to the person he loved most… and now he was surrounded by gorgeous women in a city with lots of sexual energy. So after years of not saying anything about my weight and all the crap that goes along with being heavy, he basically let it all come streaming out in one huge dump. It took me completely by surprise and the next few weeks were like a weird nightmare or dream… a bit of both I suppose.

Looking back, it was like A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” but after lots of talks and tears and (me) being incredibly pissed… I had to admit… he was right. If he had gained 50 lbs (on top of being heavy to begin with) would I want to have sex with him? Would I be proud to introduce him as my husband? I have to say it would be tough for me as well. I like to think I would have handled it a bit more diplomatically than he did, but hey, none of us is perfect.

Like every person reading this blog, I had tried everything to lose weight… nothing worked. Unlike many people reading this blog, I did not have any huge eating disorders, nor was I a closet or binge eater, but I did have a body type that just would not lose weight with a traditional Weight Watcher or other diet plan. I wasn’t perfect by any means, and I have never pushed myself physically or maintained any sort of regular exercise program. But I knew that weight was my single biggest problem (and even without the marriage issues, I had to face the fact that a lot of health problems were beginning, all related to my weight), I knew I needed to do something drastic and non-traditional, and I knew I needed to do it FAST.

As those of you who followed my blog know, I chronicled that first year of WLS each Sunday. I did that because even though it was my personal journey, I thought it was important to capture what happens as you transform from a heavy person to a thinner person, and I thought it would be helpful and inspirational to others. If you have not read the account of my first year and are curious about how it all unfolded — especially if you are about to go into surgery — I think you might find it as inspiring as others have. Start with the About Me page and it will guide you to the beginning.

So let me just summarize that interesting time: We did our research and concluded that WLS was the best option, even though we had barely had a conversation about WLS before then and had never heard of the Vertical Sleeve. We found an experienced and highly rated surgeon in Germany, paid the money, did not have to jump through any red tape or hoops, and three weeks later I was waking up with most of my stomach gone.

WLS was not exactly on our “year of travel” itinerary, but it sure made it more interesting! It changed my marriage. It changed my knees, my feet, my health. It changed the way I live, eat, dress, and how I act with other people. It changed our sex life. It changed how happy I am to be alive. IT SAVED MY LIFE.

Now here I am exactly three years from those days of transition. We are living in Amsterdam permanently now, I will be 61 years old tomorrow, and I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life. I am living a dream life.

In order to stay connected to my weight loss journey, I semi-regularly go onto the Vertical Sleeve Talk forum (now called the Gastric Sleeve Surgery Forum of BariatricPal.com), although I don’t comment as much as I used to. But I have come to realize that even though it was only three years ago, I was one of the early ones to this surgery, and I certainly feel it has been successful. Has it been easy? Not always, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember it being that hard, either. There is little out there for how things work 3–5 years out, so I decided to write my blog again — not every week but when the mood strikes — and share what you might expect once you have lost the weight. But my biggest goal here is to try and inspire others, just as I have been inspired by those before me.

A normal lunch for me now at 3 years out

A normal lunch for me now at 3 years out

Just a brief synopsis of what my weight and food intake looks like three years out. My lowest weight was 134, but the honest truth is that lasted for about five minutes. I have generally bounced between 137 and 142 for the last year. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get back down to 134 but have not been able to do it (and sadly I have about 8-10 lbs of excess skin). Like all of you, I don’t lose weight easily. But because our life is filled with lots (and I do mean LOTS) of company, dinner parties, and a big social calendar, we have lots of wine, food and goodies around. I believe I do eat them in moderation, but even in moderation, this is the weight it keeps me at. I still eat small portions at meals; in fact, most of the time when we go out, I will order soup and then just have a bite or two of my husband’s meal. I’m still a very cheap date! I have just recently joined a gym and that seems to be helping as I am now back down to 139. So stay tuned. The good news is that I can eat anything and everything with no problem… the bad news is that I can eat anything and everything with no problem! Once you lose the weight, you will understand that one better!

I ended my weekly blog in October 2012. I had reached my goal weight of 138 (and have pretty much kept it there since that time). But I realize that I now have an important reason to continue my story. As a result of my husband’s courage to finally be brutally honest with me, and the subsequent decisions we made (having WLS, moving to Europe, and a few other big items), we have designed a dream life that works better than our life has ever worked before. I hope that we can be an inspiration to others to examine their own lives and say, “What do I want my life to look like?” Once you start being honest with yourself and those you love (even if it hurts), and once you get this albatross (your excess weight) off from around your neck, you can start creating the life you want and deserve and become a more genuine and interesting person to yourself and others.

I think I now eat normally, but that’s about the only thing normal about me. My life has never been normal — or traditional — by most people’s standards (as in living in the suburbs and having children and grandchildren; I was in the corporate world, owned a couple of businesses, and do not practice any religion). I admire and respect those who have followed the traditional path, but it has not been my path.

Why do I tell you this? Because in November 2012, our life changed again and became even more full, vibrant, and interesting — and I could never be living it if I had not had WLS. You will just have to wait until my next post to find out the story! I am very proud of my new life, but I suspect many people on this forum might find it odd or even bizarre. Some might even find it immoral! But whether or not you agree with everything I do, perhaps by telling you about it, you might learn something about a different lifestyle and be inspired to have the courage to create your own new world. We all have different backgrounds, qualities and insecurities, and if we don’t hurt anyone and respect the differences, then we can all live in a better world.

Little Black Dress

I love my new LBD!

I will share this much right now: I am going to an erotic masked ball in Berlin next month… a new adventure for me! So for the first time in my life, I bought some very sexy lingerie: a garter belt, stockings, high heels, a little black dress… and a mask!

So consider yourself warned! I would never be crude, I have always tried to be articulate, and even when I was heavy, I tended to be a bit provocative. So if you’re not into provocative and you would rather read about protein shakes, pre-op diets and tests, waiting for approval, paperwork, red tape — the topics I seem to find most often on the forums — then please take yourself off my list. I respect that and you will not hurt my feelings.

But if you want to read more about how someone in her late 50s / early 60s had WLS and is happier than she has ever been, feels healthier — and sexier — than she has ever felt, and is having the time of her life, then stay tuned because that is MY LIFE. It’s been a wonderful adventure and you just never know where the twists and turns might take you…

Queen of Crop

I'm going to a Masked Ball!

Looking forward to my first Masked Ball!

19 Months Post Op – Amsterdam – 60 kilos (134 lbs) – May 2013

Queen in flowersHallo everyone! I’m baaaaaccccck! I said I would post when I had something really juicy to write about after my first year of weekly posts was up. And now I do have something I think would be of interest so I’m here to share!

Just to recap quickly since it’s been several months since I stopped writing weekly. At 58 years old I had the vertical sleeve surgery; this was the end of October 2011 and I wrote each Sunday until the end of 2012. My highest weight was 223 lbs when we lived in Hawaii; when we retired in 2011 and started traveling for a year, I managed to lose almost 20 lbs but at 5’3″ I was still seriously overweight and my knees, feet and hip were all going haywire on me. If you want to know more, take a look at my ABOUT ME page.

The first year after my surgery was truly an adventure of the mind, the soul, the body and many countries! How many people have this surgery in a foreign country (for me it was Germany) then travel for the next six months? As the weight came off, I logged many miles through many different countries and states in the US as we made our way back to Hawaii to get organized for our move to Amsterdam!

In front of our new home in Amsterdam... yes, that is my bike!

In front of our new home in Amsterdam… yes, that is my bike!

Most of you who have followed my posts from the beginning know that my weight loss journey (as well as my traveling journey) was a positive one and that I told very few people about my surgery. The summary of that first year was that I lost over 85 lbs, reaching my goal weight of the mid-130s at about one year after surgery, and I have maintained that weight for the last nine months. Right about that time, we moved from Hawaii to Europe, bought a house in Amsterdam, and spent the winter moving in and getting settled in our new home. The best parts, though, were that not only did I drop the weight, my health issues went away and my husband and I became closer than we had ever been. Life indeed has been great and we love living here and enjoying our retirement and each other!

These are not my boobs, but I found a photo that was close.

These are not my “before” breasts, but I found a photo that was close.

EXCEPT FOR MY BREASTS. No story is perfect, and even though all was going like clockwork for me, my poor boobs kept getting more and more deflated all the time; they were like party balloons… a week after the party! Wrinkled, deflated, and definitely pointing DUE SOUTH!!!! And for some reason, one breast was twice the size of the other. They felt awful to touch (even by me!) and how do you buy a bra with two different sized cups?

So as I mentioned in my entry last January, I went to a plastic surgeon nearby (as in two blocks from our new house!) and in his very fancy office discussed having implants done. I thought that was what I needed, but for a second opinion I decided to go to a surgeon back in Germany who was recommended to me by the doctor who did my WLS. So off my husband I went for two days to meet with him in Frankfurt. He spent two hours with us (and never charged us anything!) and educated us on my options. He suggested that I have a breast reduction in the larger breast and a breast lift in both, but no implants. As he said, “You have enough material to work with!” That sounded like a much better plan to me, but even though he spent a lot of time with us, I didn’t feel like I wanted him to do the surgery. One reason is that he was far away, and I just didn’t like his style. He spent much of the time showing us pictures of the surgery with all the blood and guts and gore, and when I asked him for some “after” photos he looked at me like it was the first time he ever heard a question like that. Imagine if you were having your kitchen remodeled and all the contractor could tell you was what a mess things were going to be during the project — tools, dirt, dust, wires, crap everywhere — and you said… but what will my kitchen look like when you’re done? And he just gave you a blank look… so, we decided to go back to Dr. #1.

So back to the fancy office in Amsterdam we went, explaining that I didn’t want implants, but the reduction/lift. The appointment lasted long enough to convince both my husband and me that this was the right place and the right doctor, so we signed up!

Two weeks and € 4800 later, I now have matching 25-year-old B-cup breasts! I had my surgery done a week ago today and it was a very pleasant experience. He removed 9 grams of tissue from one breast and 150 from the other… so what does THAT TELL YOU??? The private hospital was less than a mile from our house, the doctor and staff very efficient and kind. I went in on a Tuesday morning, the surgery lasted 2.5 hours, after I came out of the anesthesia about noon I had a cracker and some cheese, around 3:00 I had my usual coffee and a cookie, and that night I had a small slice of quiche and a chocolate tarte! I slept well and went home the next morning.

Again, not my real boobs... but these are close to how mine turned out!

Again, not my real “after” breasts… but these are close to how mine turned out!

We are both thrilled with the results! For the first time in my adult life, I have very nice looking breasts with nipples that point forward (and as far as I can tell, still have a lot of sensation). I have to wear a sports bra for the next month (night and day) and there is still tape on them for another week and there is a small amount of bruising. But they are really really nice and a much better fit for my body than the appendages that were dangling and bordering on being a deformity! And hey, not bad for an almost 60-year-old. I am so happy not to have had implants.

So 19 months after surgery this is what my life looks like:

  • I am maintaining a healthy weight with very few food issues: I don’t eat much, but I eat plenty. I don’t count calories or look at food labels and I always have desert every day!
  • Typical meal for me.

    Typical meal for me.

    Food really is a non-issue for the most part. My husband and I often share when we go out; he’s happy about that because then he doesn’t overeat either. We still have a salad every day for lunch and we eat very few carbs by choice. (We save our carbs for deserts!) I can eat almost anything but rice.

  • Even though I can eat anything, I do recognize that my tummy is more sensitive than before so I have to be careful not to overeat. But it just comes naturally now.
  • I don’t get enough protein in and I don’t drink enough water, but my blood work is textbook perfect.
  • I still get a monthly B-12 shot and I take vitamins but no prescription medications.
  • Living in Amsterdam means I walk or bike organically; I’m not currently going to the gym, but I do use 3-kilo weights several times a week.
  • I have some excess skin on my upper arms and upper legs, but I’m going to live with it; it’s not a huge amount and it’s too cold here for sleeveless tops and shorts anyway!
  • I have half the clothes now than I had when I was heavy, but it’s so much easier (and fun!) to get dressed now that clothes look so much better on me. Interestingly enough, I don’t have a big desire to go out and buy a lot of new clothes; I’m so happy dressing in basic things.
  • As time has gone by, I have become less concerned about people knowing about my surgery. I have told other close friends (and often felt guilty that I didn’t tell them earlier). It took me a year to fully grasp that I could never have reached a healthy weight traditionally; as the daughter of one of our dearest friends says, “I just ended up on the wrong side of the gene pool!” So even though I’m not telling everyone (and our new friends here never knew me heavy), I feel much more comfortable letting those I love know.
  • My wonderful husband has continued to be unwavering in his support and love for me through all of the changes. Our relationship is a true love story; it keeps growing and he continues to keep our life interesting and full of surprises.
It has been cold, but Amstedam is still gorgeous!!!

It has been cold, but Amsterdam is still gorgeous!!!

I have nothing to complain about at all… OK, the weather is so damn cold I’m sick of it!!!! As my Irish friends would say, “It’s Feckin’ Fraizin!!!” It’s the middle of May and we’re still wearing thermal shirts, scarves and boots here. BUT, the trees are finally green, the flowers are blooming, and I have two boobs that look like each other!

To all of you who have followed my blog, dank u wel! For those of you who are just starting your journey and have decided to read A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A SLEEVER, start HERE and enjoy your own journey!

TOT ZIENS!

QUEEN OF CROP

15 months Post-Op – Amsterdam – 61 kilos – January 2013

Beautiful Vondelpark in the snow.

Beautiful Vondelpark in the snow.

HELLO EVERYONE! I wrote my last weekly post at the end of 2012 and then was amazed at how many new readers signed up for my blog when I announced I was no longer going to write weekly. So I thought I would pop in at the end of each month with an update on post-op sleeve life, which is a lot different than life the first year after surgery. I’ve really enjoyed the first real winter here in Amsterdam (and first real winter in all my 59 years!)… the snow has been beautiful and I’ve managed to learn how to dress to stay warm.

But as I start the new year in a new country and a new climate, this is how I’m affected by my post-surgery life:

  • My ‘New’ Normal
  • Breast lift is on the horizon
  • Looking for interesting stories
Our lunch every day is a salad...this is lunch in our new house with no furniture yet...note the cut out on the floor where the baby grand piano will go!

Our lunch every day is a salad… this is lunch in our new house with very little furniture yet!

MY NEW NORMAL: I have to say that, for me anyway, it really took a year, maybe even 14 months, to feel fully healed from the surgery. I can’t say that I truly enjoyed eating much for the first year, but it didn’t bother me, either, because the trade-off was so huge. Now, 15 months post-op, I have a pretty good routine down. There isn’t anything I can’t eat; even pasta and rice are fine. When I do have either, it’s just a few bites and I’m satisfied. I never thought I would ‘crave’ protein, but I can tell when I need it. I eat an egg for breakfast 2-3 times a week, often with a piece of toast and a couple pieces of bacon. Other days, I just have some yogurt with a little granola on top or some cheese and a cracker. I always eat a half an apple on my way home from the gym. But of course every morning starts off with coffee and cream!

Homemade cookies from Vienna sent by a couchsurfer friend!  YUM!

Homemade cookies from Vienna sent by a couchsurfer friend. YUM!

Lunch is always a small salad with two rice crackers. Dinner always a little protein with vegetables. And I still have my afternoon coffee and some sweet goodie — I notice sometimes it’s more than one cookie and I have to really watch it or I’ll eat too much — and I even have a sweet after dinner sometimes.

I have to laugh because all those years when I was really heavy I counted calories or points and read labels on everything — and I failed miserably at any diet. Now here I am living in a country that doesn’t require nutritional labels (and even if they did, I couldn’t read them in Dutch!) but now I’m thin! It’s actually really nice because I don’t obsess about what I eat, it just comes naturally. I know I can overeat but I usually don’t because it’s manageable now instead of overwhelming.

I weigh myself every morning… another no-no in the traditional world of trying to lose weight. I would like to lose a little more weight but I think it will happen organically once the weather gets nice and I am walking and biking more. I still go to the gym about 4X a week but I don’t want to push myself too much there because, when I do, it affects my hip. No one suspects anything when we go to dinner with friends, and that’s really nice. I eat like a normal small person.

BREAST LIFT HERE I COME! Never in my life did I think I would have breast surgery… especially implants! I really did understand how women with small breasts would want to have nicer ones, but mine were always big and dense and even though I was fat, they weren’t bad.

This is one of the rooms in the plastic surgeons office...too bad the chandelier doesn't show in the photo!

This is one of the rooms in the plastic surgeon’s office… too bad the chandelier doesn’t show in the photo!

After losing 85 lbs, it’s a completely different story. UGH! I finally have a thin (if not firm) body and I have these two appendages hanging down to my knees… so off I went to the plastic surgeon. His office looked like a ballroom in Vienna — very fancy, high ceilings with crown moldings and chandeliers. I figured there was NO way I could afford this…

First he examined my breasts. Things are so different here in Europe… I’m sitting on one side of his desk telling him my story and he’s nodding and then says, “Well, take off your top and let me have a look!” So just sitting there at his desk I take my top off and he comes around and starts doing his thing… no nurse, no paper robe, just “take your top off”! I was thinking that most men would envy him his career choice!

Then I found out that the cost is only 5400 Euros; you spend one night in the hospital and six weeks wearing a sport bra… sign me up! I need to do a little more research on the product, etc. But I’m hoping after we move into the new house and get settled I’d like to have it done… maybe in May. Stay tuned!

In front of Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen..the hospital where I had my surgery-photo taken at my one year check up.

In front of Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen, the hospital where I had my surgery. Photo taken at my one-year check-up.

DO YOU HAVE AN INTERESTING STORY? I would love to share it. At this point, I have a pretty big following, so you would be reaching lots of people, many who are still deciding if this is right for them. There are so many people out there who are going through this or considering it, and everyone has taken a different road to get to this decision. If you have an interesting story that might inspire someone else (I would love to share a story from a guy’s perspective!) let me know. I was thinking about something along the lines of my ABOUT ME page… something that recaps where you were, how far you have gone on this, and where you are today, even if you haven’t reached your goal. Before and After photos are always welcome. Send a note to queen@queenofcrop.com.

Hope the new year is starting off healthy and happy for each and every one of you. We have some fun adventures coming up this year — one is a bike and barge trip through France. That trip along with our move to Amsterdam would have been much more difficult had I not had this surgery… something I will always be so grateful for in my life.

I’ll make another post in about a month… in the meantime, would love to post about someone else!

Tot ziens!

Queen of Crop

Click on photos to enlarge

LAST POST – Week 63 – Switzerland – 61 Kilos – LOST WEIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS! – December 29, 2012

122712 alpsA YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A SLEEVER. Today I write my last Sunday post after almost 15 months of blogging about my journey. We just spent Christmas week in Switzerland and despite eating lots of sweets and more cheese and potatoes than I care to admit I lost weight during the holidays. So I am at the lowest weight in my adult life as I write my last weekly post and that feels great.

I started writing this blog a few weeks before my surgery in late October 2011. I was like a car careening out of control—my hip hurt, my feet hurt, my knee went out on me, I had high cholesterol and borderline high blood pressure, my clothes didn’t fit, and I felt like crap.

Worse yet, I was in Europe and even though I looked and looked, there were no other fat, limping people to be found anywhere.

OK, that wasn’t the worst part. The careening car crashed into a wall when my thin, healthy husband of 20 years found the courage to tell me how much he hated the way I looked and he just couldn’t live this way anymore. It wasn’t a gentle suggestion for me to lose a few pounds, it was an explosion of emotions on both sides for what seemed like an eternity. We had rarely talked about my weight issues even though they kept getting worse every year; outside of a few comments with my friends about dieting, I just never talked in any depth to anyone about it because I felt like such a failure. So this was an entirely new ball game without any rules to guide us.

So let me recap: 15 months ago I couldn’t walk, I had some serious health risks, I was on medication, nothing looked good on me, I had a sad case of low self-esteem and a very unhappy husband. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also had taken a bad fall on my bike and I got a really shitty haircut just to keep things really interesting. I was so far into denial about my weight I even thought about leaving my husband because then I wouldn’t have do anything about my weight or face another failed attempt at dieting. After throwing myself one big pity-party and assessing my options, I decided it was time to look into weight loss surgery. For me, it was really the only option—I was 58 years old and after trying every diet on the planet since I was 15 I knew dieting was not going be a solution that would work; at least I knew it wouldn’t work for me. I didn’t know if surgery would, either, but it seemed promising and my husband was willing to help me figure it out.

Once again, denial kept me from admitting how far gone I was. I remember thinking maybe they wouldn’t take me because I wasn’t heavy enough at 204 lbs (my highest weight had been 223 lbs). But when I filled out the paperwork, they didn’t even blink an eye. It’s like when you tell people how old you are and you secretly want them to say “Really? You don’t LOOK that old!” But they didn’t say a word, and off I went into the operating room just a few weeks after looking into this as an option. As they say, no time like the present!

I HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK.

I have not had one regret.

I have learned so much about myself.

I feel closer to my husband than I have in years.

I have my health back, no more joint pain, no medication.

My self-confidence has returned.

I enjoy going to the gym.

Clothes look so much better on me; it’s fun to shop and for the first time in my life, my sister and friends give me clothes!

And so many other little things happen every day that are wonderful all because I am now a normal-weight person. (Although I still have a bad haircut!)

When I started writing this blog almost 15 months ago I was emotional, very sad and a little nervous.

By the time I went into surgery, 14 months ago, I was hopeful and curious.

Twelve months ago, I couldn’t eat much at all, couldn’t drink coffee or wine, threw up often, but I didn’t care—I was finally losing weight and my body was changing so quickly!

In March of this year, 10 months ago, I started exercising (even running!) regularly; I felt much younger than my 58 years and coffee and wine came back into my life.

Six months ago, my husband and I celebrated our 21st anniversary back in Hawaii; I was wearing a size 8 dress, a much smaller size than when he married me! I still ate very small meals and, to be honest, still didn’t enjoy eating very much.

Feeling healthy at 138 lbs.

Feeling healthy at 138 lbs.

Three months ago, I weighed in at 138 lbs with a BMI of 24—numbers that (according to the Centers for Disease Control) tell the world my weight is normal and healthy. About this time, food started tasting good again, but I am happy with small portions.

I have maintained a normal weight for the last 3 months and I fully believe that with my new lifestyle I can continue to do this. I now need to watch how much I eat but I feel that I am no longer in an out of control car headed for trouble.

Even still, I feel like a phony a lot of the time. There are people (close friends who say I inspired them!) who have accomplished what I have by traditional diets and exercise and all I can say is WOW. I know surgery wasn’t the easy way out, but I also know I could never have been so disciplined to be on a traditional diet or patient enough to lose a half a lb. a week. I know I would have felt sorry for myself all along the way, and there would have been a good chance I would have just bagged the whole idea like I did many times before. There is only one reason I have been able to become a normal-weight person and that reason is because I had weight loss surgery—I’m not special in any way. But I have had a good positive attitude and that’s made it a lot more fun.

All along the way I drew support, inspiration and information from my husband, my sister, my close friends, plus the forum and the readers of this blog. I thank each and every one of you for coming along on this amazing ride the past year; your comments have meant so much to me and it’s fascinating to hear about your own personal journey.

Fifteen months ago I read another person’s blog—reading her blog gave me confidence and encouragement about making this important decision to have surgery and change my life. I loved seeing her BEFORE AND AFTER photos, which really ‘sealed the deal’ for me. I hope my blog might help someone else along the way. I found this quote recently and I think it sums up what happened when my husband finally came forward and then ultimately what I also had to do:

To be willing to step out of your comfort zone is a courageous thing to do and yet it is essential in order to step into your Authentic Self. 

Although I will no longer post each Sunday, I may post something from time to time if I think it’s relevant, encouraging, or really interesting. In the meantime, for my last trick, I thought I would leave you with 24 photos… 12 BEFORE and 12 AFTER. Each of the two photos is similar in some way but taken a year or so apart. Although I feel a little funny posting photos of me all the time (and I think I’m pretty brave to post some of the earlier ones!), photos have a way of sending messages—whether ones of encouragement to others or just helping to keep me in check. Either way, it’s amazing WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR HAS MADE IN THE LIFE OF THIS SLEEVER!!!

Week 63-1

Week 63-2

Week 63-3

Week 63-4

Week 63-5

Week 63-6

Week 63-7

Week 63-8

Week 63-9

Week 63-10

Week 63-11

Week 63-12

After traveling the US, Canada and Europe for almost two years, we have now settled in Amsterdam. If any of you ever come through this amazing part of Europe, please let me know. I would love to meet you in person!

Dank u wel (thank you) and Gelukkig Nieuwjaar (Happy New Year!)
to each and every one of you!

QUEEN OF CROP

(click on photos to enlarge)

Week 62 – Amsterdam – 62 kilos AT GOAL – December 23, 2012

Lit-treeThis morning we get on a train and cross the snow-covered Alps bound for Switzerland to spend the holidays the way they should be celebrated—with those you love.

Most likely you are busy getting ready to have family or friends over for the holidays or on your way to visit others. For some, this is a difficult or sad time of year; if you know someone struggling to make it through the holidays, try and reach out to them.

Many of you are about to be sleeved, recently sleeved, or like me, a year or so out at this point. From my vantage point, I think most of us can focus on spending time with loved ones and not worry as much about all the food that’s around, but for others it will be harder with all the temptations. For me and many others, we’re no longer worried about how much weight we will gain this Christmas and how we will lose it when we make that inevitable New Year’s resolution to lose weight! Another reason to be grateful this season!

Since many of us are busy and have lots of holiday letters to read, I will keep this short and share two lovely holiday items with you that we received this week. One is a wish that we received from a local Dutch artist and its simple message touched my heart. I don’t think he would mind if I shared it with all of you:

For 2013 we wish you:

Good health

The happiness of satisfaction

Prosperity

Wonderful holidays and trips

Beautiful views

Stunning architecture

Surprising encounters

Warm love

Beautiful moments of reflection

Pleasing eye contact

Fine conversations

Delicious food & drinks

Shared body warmth

Moving music

Unforgettable art experiences

A good mood

Tailwind, sometimes a bit counter current

Invigorating walks

&

A shining sun!

 

Dance_of_the_Sugar_Plum_Fairy_by_AiobhanLastly, I will leave you with this:    Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” played on a glass harp. (CLICK ON LINK.) It’s only 2 minutes long and I hope you will take the time to listen to it; it’s quite moving and a lovely sentiment of the season. I loved watching their gentle hands glide over the glasses… I hope you enjoy it as much as my husband and I did.

 

As I wind down my weekly posts, I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting me (and each other) over the past 14 months. I sincerely wish you a wonderful and joyous Christmas (or whatever you celebrate with loved ones).

Until next week here’s wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS, GELUKKIG KERSTFEEST, FROHE WEIHNACHTEN AND MELE KALIKIMAKA!

QUEEN OF CROP

Week 61 – Amsterdam – 62 Kilos AT GOAL – December 16, 2012

Amsterdam is beautiful in all seasons…

My second week alone was much better than week one. My cold and eye infection cleared up, I went back to the gym, I made an effort to get more protein in my diet, and I got a few projects started at the new house. My husband got our personal possessions in our storage unit in Hawaii loaded in a container and it’s on the way to Amsterdam via Seoul, Korea. With any luck we’ll see our things in about 2 months. The weather has been cold but I’ve gotten out and walked and even rode my new bike—I’m learning how to dress for winter and it’s been fine. I’m actually enjoying experiencing seasons, something new for me.

Some delicious chicken soup and Pretzel Thins that came in a ‘care package’ from my husband in the US!

A reader of this blog made a suggestion that I keep some chicken meat handy to because I wasn’t getting any protein—and I did just that! I bought a cooked chicken and made some chicken salad with some of it, I also cut some up and put it on a green salad and I made some chicken soup. Such a simple thing, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it, but thank you Amy! It made a huge difference and reminded me once again what a great resource the vertical sleeve forum has been for me and how helpful it is to have the support of others.

I  had my first ‘couch surfer’ this week. Just as verticalsleevetalk.com is a great resource for those of us going through WLS, couchsurfing.org is a wonderful resource for traveling. It now has over 5 million members (wow, when I joined they didn’t even have a million!) in over 97,000 cities! Basically, the website connects travelers and locals who who have an extra bedroom (or couch!). Travelers stay for free and the idea is to share cultures, hospitality and adventures. Even if you don’t have space for people to stay, you can offer to show them around or meet them for coffee. Opening up my home to others has always enriched and added some balance in my life; it reinforces the belief that I have that people are good and everyone has an interesting story. Of course, if you’re the guest it’s a great way to meet people and save money when you travel; you just can’t be too picky. Because we are in such a central location in Amsterdam, once I said we were available I must have gotten 10 requests in one week. I hosted a very interesting young lady (a graphic designer) who is originally from Austria but has been living in NYC for the last 5 years. She was evacuated from her 51-story high-rise in the financial district due to Hurricane Sandy and can’t get back in until March, so in typical European fashion she looked at it as an opportunity to travel. She was delightful and I really enjoyed her company. Although I didn’t tell her I had surgery, I did tell her I had lost a lot of weight in the past year; she saw a ‘BEFORE’ photo of me and asked me about it. As she left she told me I inspired her to lose some weight—something I have actually heard from a number of friends—and then I feel guilty, of course, knowing that they will have to do the whole diet routine.

Given the tragedy that just occurred in Connecticut, it seems so trivial to be writing about my week—it just doesn’t seem right to be talking about my life when so many lives have been shattered. There’s no way to make any sense of acts of violence like this, especially during a season when we try to remember to be thankful and grateful for the good things in our lives. It doesn’t matter that I am living in a different country on another continent, this kind of sadness has no borders.

Many years ago I lost my 22-year-old niece in a senseless death right before the holidays (coincidentally, she died in Connecticut) and it’s something that casts a long shadow—one that makes you question life’s priorities.

A reflective time for all of us….

So let me just end with this: one of the reasons we all go through this surgery is to become healthier and live a longer, more full life with those we love. Maybe what happened this past week is a reminder to tell and show those we love how much they mean to us every time they walk out the door, because you never know what might happen and how our life can change in moments.

Tot volgende week, blijf veilig (until next week, be safe…)

QUEEN OF CROP

Week 60 – Amsterdam – 62 kilos AT GOAL – December 9, 2012

No such thing exists here that I can find. Maybe there’s a business opportunity here!

This has been a weird week for me on many levels. My husband left for Hawaii to organize our move here to Amsterdam and I’ve been on my own for the first time since surgery. I’ve learned that eating for one (or less than one person really) isn’t easy. Especially in a place where they don’t have things like Lean Cuisine or any other frozen meals for one person. I’ve been having an egg and 2 pieces of bacon almost every day because it’s the one meal I can be sure to get some protein. For years (even pre-sleeve) we would have a salad every day at lunch, but now, I’m often not home around lunch time so I end up just having an apple or some coffee and a cookie somewhere. I usually just have some soup or a salad and a cookie for dinner. One night I just ate a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner (that I had brought from the US; no such thing exists here). So all in all, my nutrition, especially from a protein standpoint, has been really bad. I need to look for some cookies with protein I guess!

I’ve only made it to the gym twice this week and have gotten very little exercise when I’ve been out because of the weather. I ended up catching a cold, and both of my eyes got infected with conjunctivitis so that put me out of commission for the rest of the week. I even spent one day just laying on the sofa, blowing my nose and watching movies… I didn’t even work on my computer because of my eyes. Very unlike me!

My new bike is very ‘girlie’ looking, complete with leopard prints! I probably should have bought something that wasn’t so loud….

I finally bought a bike but my timing sucked. The day after I bought it, it started snowing. Now I know that’s not earth-shattering news to most people but for me, it was a big deal. Snow is a whole new ball game for this California-born person who’s lived in Hawaii for the last 11 years… looking outside, I didn’t want to leave the house. I did walk the 2 blocks to the store to buy some tissue and cough drops, but I walked like a 90-year old I was so nervous.

Getting the keys to our new house in Amsterdam!

The exciting news is that we bought a house here and we got the keys last Wednesday! So I guess I might be feeling a bit overwhelmed with that project even though it’s wonderful to be on the cusp of making a house into a home for the first time in many years.

 

I also had my first Dutch lesson this week; it was a wonderful class, but I can compare it to being overweight — very humbling. I felt like I was in a Weight Watcher meeting, but instead of a lot of fat people listening to a successful instructor, we were a lot of non-Dutch speakers mangling the words but hoping to achieve something that seems out of our reach. I compare it to how I felt every time I used to start a diet, that it was hopeless and I’ll never succeed… too bad I couldn’t find surgery that would help me conquer this new challenge!

 

I have another 2 weeks before my husband gets back from the states so I really have to get my act together. There’s a Weight Watchers across the street from us (right next door to Domino’s Pizza which is pretty funny). Maybe they sell their frozen dinners there; just thought of that as I was writing this. I also need to get back to the gym; even though I didn’t gain any weight this week I can tell I haven’t exercised.

 

Christmas in Hawaii didn’t look like this!

It gets dark here around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, something else I’m not used to (but the tradeoff is that it stays light until 10PM in the summer!). But it is beautiful to watch the snow coming down. The Christmas lights are up everywhere, skating rinks have popped up in the squares and, well, like they say, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”

An ONLY IN AMSTERDAM photo!

The locals here are just waiting for the canals to freeze over so they can ice skate on them… a sight we can’t wait to see. This is a photo from another year but I wanted to share since it’s not something you see anywhere else. You won’t see me out there, but I am going to try and pull myself together this next week and break out of my state of inertia. I have a wonderful full life with lots of things to do, and as we all know, time goes by so fast (something to keep in mind for those of you who are waiting for approval to get sleeved… your time will be here before you know it!). If it weren’t for this blog, I would probably not even think about my surgery or the sleeve much anymore, a sign I am moving on to a normal life as a normal-weight person. But I never want to take for granted what a true gift this has been in my life!

This is probably the least positive post I have written in over a year. Don’t mean to be a Debby Downer… I’ll be fine by next week. It’s been wonderful to hear from so many readers how they are doing after their surgery. I am grateful to all of you who read my blog and send me quick comments on how life before, during or after the sleeve has been for you. That’s it for Week 60 from cold, snowy Amsterdam!

Ik wens jullie allemaal een heerlijke vakantie seizoen! (Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season.)

QUEEN OF CROP

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Week 59 – Amsterdam – 62 kilos – AT GOAL – December 2, 2012

There were some tough times in the beginning… but the payoff was worth it all.

“WHAT WERE THE WORST PARTS OF THE FIRST YEAR FOR YOU?” What a great question someone on the forum asked me last week. Most of us get so caught up in the excitement of finally being successful at weight loss that we forget about the hard parts.

Thinking back over the past year, here were the hard parts for me:

 

  1. NUMBER ONE is so huge, it made the rest seem easy by comparison. Without a doubt, the time during the days and weeks after my husband and I started talking (for the first time) about how my weight affected our lives, his attraction to me, and my health, was one of the most painful things I have been through. It wasn’t a conversation we eased into, it was one of those that came at me as a surprise one morning and I felt like I was in the twilight zone for the next few weeks. Nothing else about the ensuing year compares to it. It was hard to hear these things from him, hard to admit them to myself, and when we decided to look into surgery, it was such a new option, I wondered if it would be one more failed attempt. I had been fat since the day I was born so I just thought this was who I was and nothing was going to change it. So jumping into the

    I decided on WLS on Oct 1st and dove right in head-first… a few weeks later I joined the club of sleevers!

    unknown (and jump I did!) was scary on top of all the other emotions I was going through. I had lost my strong self-confidence — I wondered if I even wanted to stay married — and I was having a big giant pity-party for myself in a foreign country without the support of friends. It was a tough month for sure. I didn’t really have time to get nervous, though, and once I started reading the success stories on the forum, I then started getting excited and hopeful.

  2. I had never had any major surgery before, but surprisingly I wasn’t the least bit nervous about it. I felt very well taken care of in the 8 days (yes 8!) I was in the hospital (the difference between the US, Mexico and Europe!). Not eating for the next week didn’t bother me as I had no appetite, so that was OK. It wasn’t until I was released and we walked through the train station that I had my first shock about what I had done. I hadn’t eaten in almost 10 days and all of sudden I was seeing food everywhere, smelling it, looking at billboards with delicious-looking food… then a woman and her son stood in front of me eating a Burger King hamburger and fries… it was really overwhelming and I wasn’t prepared for it. I wondered what I had done to myself. I got myself collected and got on the train but felt pretty drained and started to wonder why I did something this drastic. (Looking back on that now, I was STILL in denial about my weight; thinking I wasn’t really as bad off as most overweight people).
  3. Eating this little would exhaust me in the early days! Hard to believe.

    In the first few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, every time I ate something (and if you have been through this you know how little you eat) I would look at my husband after a few little bites, drop my head and tell him I had to go lay down. Eating 100-200 calories would just wipe me out.

  4. OBTM: we came up with this acronym because my husband could just look at my face and say “OBTM?”, which stands for One Bite Too Many. And in the early days, OBTM meant you would be sick to your stomach, or you would throw up the ‘slimes.’  The slimes happen early on when your stomach rejects what you have eaten, but it somehow has put this slimy stuff around it and it comes up in one gentle action and then you feel better. This happened for 2-3 months and I never really minded it. When my stomach healed and I threw up normally (as in barfing) it was kind of sad because barfing is disgusting.
  5. Happy with my wine (and coffee!) now! But it took a while.

    I couldn’t drink coffee or wine for the first few months and I missed both. At some point, maybe around 3 months, I could start drinking both again. Now I can drink unlimited coffee but even a full glass of wine is too much for me and that’s OK.

  6. I still can’t (or don’t… haven’t figured out which yet) eat pasta or rice. I miss it sometimes but I’ve gotten used to not having it so it’s OK.
  7. I don’t enjoy going out to dinner very much anymore unless it’s a family-style meal (such as Asian or something that can be shared easily). I eat so little that I feel it’s wasteful if I can’t bring it home, and my husband won’t order anything until he knows what I’m ordering because he knows he will eat at least half of what I order.
  8. I feel like I’m lying to people when they ask how I lost weight and I don’t tell them I had surgery. But I’ve gotten over feeling bad about it.
  9. Gorgeous HUGE sculpture of Pluto and Proserpina in Vienna; amazing piece of art.

    Watching my body parts sag… so sad. Luckily I don’t have a lot of extra skin on my tummy, but my boobs are pathetic, my underarms are like bat-wings, and my upper legs resemble an 80-year-old woman. I know I could lose another 10-15 lbs but I’m too worried about even more sagging. This is the second-worst thing…

  10. Lastly, the hardest part of the last year for me is wishing I could have done this many, many years ago!

 

So, looking back at the hardest parts of the last year, the one thing that stands out to me is, NUMBER ONE: coming to the decision to do this! It was the hardest because it was the most emotional. The other 9 items are just steps to go through and were temporary, or in the case of the sagging skin, I can either have some plastic surgery or live with it. We all have flaws and challenges to deal with; some are self-inflicted, some genetic, some environmental. And when we can come to terms with those demons and figure out a plan to correct them or live at peace with them and ourselves, then life gets better.

I need to wear a lot of layers to stay warm here, and it’s not even winter!

That’s it from chilly Amsterdam where I’m dressing a lot differently than I did in Hawaii! I’m off to buy a bike today and start living like a true Dutchie… riding a bike in my new boots!

 

Tot die tijd!  (Until then)

Queen of Crop

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Week 58 – Berlin, Germany – 62 Kilos AT GOAL – November 25, 2012

Standing in front Schloss Charlottenburg, one of the royal palaces in Berlin.

BERLIN: After leaving Prague, we took the train to Berlin, the capital city of Germany. One of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities with 3.5 million people, interesting architecture, palaces, lots of culture, and of course a fascinating recent history with the demise of the Berlin wall. It’s almost hard to conceive that East and West Berlin were divided by a wall until 1990. You can still see the difference if you look closely, but for the most part both areas are vibrant parts of the city and people move seamlessly between the two now, happy they are no longer divided by a stone wall or political, social and lifestyle differences.

These brass plates are called Stolpersteines and are placed near the homes to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

Another item of interest that you see all over Berlin is a sad reminder of the Jews that lived there before the Holocaust. As you walk through the neighborhoods you will often see little brass plaques embedded into the sidewalks in front of their former homes with the names and dates as a memorial to them. Germany is very open about the mistakes it made toward mankind; the impacts of the Nazi era are kept very visible with the goal that they never happen again.

 

Entry way to the ArtHotel Connection in Berlin — charming!

HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: Travelers and wanna-be travelers, take note: if you think you might go to Berlin at some point, we highly recommend the hotel we stayed in… loved it. It’s a gay hotel, but very hetero-friendly. It combines old world charm (high ceilings, chandeliers, a beautiful old lift) with very chic decor (modern furnishing, baths, color schemes) and the service and breakfast are first class. Affordable and well-located. File this one away: ArtHotel Connection. (This hotel made up for the really crappy one we had in Prague, complete with a pounding disco in the basement that went until 5AM!)

 

Classy setting for a sensual evening.

THE SENSUAL MASSAGE: We decided one night at the last minute to have a little adventure, something outside our normal comfort zone and something I don’t think I would have done as a heavy person. We decided to get a Tantra massage… and although we signed up as a couple, when we got there, we went into separate rooms. I really had no idea what to expect but it turned out to be a wonderful, respectful, pleasurable (and yes, erotic) experience for both of us. No, there wasn’t any sex, but it was quite sensual; in their words: “there are no bad or good body parts; all of you is sacred and should be pleasured”. That works for me! We were both very happy with the entire experience and felt it allowed us to obtain a deep relaxation in the world of sensual touch (and the warm oil was great!). The place we went, Spiritual Tantra Lounge, was gorgeous… Balinese in decor and tasteful. The people were also very nice looking and welcoming. We felt we were taken to another place physically, mentally and spiritually, and taken there in a gentle, respectful way. I felt very comfortable naked and although I have never been shy about my body, I would have felt weird doing this when I was 200+ lbs. So once again, a new adventure that would not have happened had I not lost the extra weight. If you have an open mind, a willingness to try something different, and are going to Berlin, check it out!

Speaking of weight; I went on a holiday and lost a kilo! We were gone 10 full days and, although we walked a lot, I didn’t do any regular exercising while we were away and I had wine every night at dinner and of course coffee and a goodie every day. So I was really surprised and happy that I had actually lost weight when I got back — I am now at 62 kilos! But I did hit the gym my first day back and it felt good to exercise again. I’m convinced, though, living and traveling in places where you walk all the time is so much better for your health than in places where you get in the car and drive everywhere.

 

TRAIN TRAVEL:  BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS:

BEFORE: At the train in Amsterdam — 200+ lbs and a really bad haircut!

AFTER: Another train, another life. 138 lbs — still working on the hair!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are loving living in Europe for many reasons, and one is that travel to other countries, cultures, and experiences is so accessible by train. As I have mentioned before, we love traveling by train as it adds to the enjoyment of the trip — unlike air travel which has (in my opinion) turned into a cattle drive. As I was putting this week’s blog together I ran across a photo (definitely a BEFORE photo!) of us by a train a couple of years ago. Not only was I really heavy but I had the worst haircut ever. But one of the reasons I write this every week is to inspire others that there is a new life out there and, to be honest, seeing old photos of myself keeps me humble, grateful and focused so I don’t gain weight. For me, seeing Before and After photos of others helped convince me that this was the way to go. What you don’t see in the photos, though, is that the woman in the BEFORE photo couldn’t walk without her feet and hip hurting, wasn’t as open to new experiences, felt self-conscious about her looks (even among her best friends), and packing for traveling was painful. The woman in the AFTER photo wants to walk everywhere and try new adventures, and packs much lighter because she isn’t freaked out about what might fit today! Two pairs of pants, a few basic tops and I’m good to go! I still get bad haircuts but you can’t have everything!

NEW BOOTS!

It’s good to be back at our apartment in Amsterdam. There were a few leaves left on the trees when we got back, but today the wind is blowing so I’m looking out our window at bare limbs and a gray sky. This is all new to this California and Hawaii girl… but for now it’s fun (see how I feel in a few months!). Loving my new boots (here’s a photo for those who asked to see them last week!). They are only ankle high, but my next pair will go over my jeans and up to my knees… couldn’t do that last year!

 

 

As always, thanks for reading my weight loss / travel blog. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you got through all the food without any big issues. Easy for me; there isn’t a turkey to be found anywhere in this land and even if there were, what would we do with it? The refrigerators and ovens are the size of a laptop! So, one less thing to worry about in Europe. Still, I am grateful for so much in my life: my husband, my sister and brother, my dear friends and my sleeve!

Bis zum nächsten Mal (until next time — in German)

QUEEN OF CROP

(Click to enlarge photos)

Week 57 – Frankfurt, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic, 63 Kilos – AT GOAL – November 18, 2012

On the train again; just like last year….but between less luggage and less weight I am over 100 lbs lighter!

Back on the road again… we are practically retracing our steps from last year… Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Prague, and we just arrived in Berlin. Part of it is coincidence that exactly a year later we’re traveling to the same places. This year, though, is a huge difference as now I can walk without my hip and knee hurting, I have a lot more energy, and I can eat almost anything! So this trip I just need to be sure I don’t gain a few pounds, like people tend to do when they go on a holiday!

This sculpture is the symbol of Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen, the place where I had my surgery done late October 2011

I’ll start with our trip to Frankfurt. Our first stop was Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen, the place of my surgery and 8-day recovery in late October of 2011. I had my one-year checkup with Dr. Chandra, who was very pleased with my 83-lb loss, my blood work, and the results of my ultrasound. It was so interesting walking into the hospital where I began one of the most fascinating years of my life. I looked around at all the obese

Dr. Chandra said I passed my one year exam with flying colors! I appreciated the time he spent with me in their new center (with beautiful artwork!).

people in the waiting room and I wanted to look each one of them in the eye, congratulate them on making the decision to do this, and tell them that this time next year they will feel healthy and so much more confident and in control of their lives than they do now. I wanted to tell them not to be scared; it’s a little weird at first, but like so many things, you’ll get used to the changes. I want to inspire them, to let them know they are about to transform into a healthier person without the constant pressure of dieting, and that it all happens so fast that every day has a new surprise waiting for them!

I was disappointed not to talk with Dr. Weiner (known as the ‘rock star’ of gastric surgery in Europe). He was called into surgery but I wanted to thank him personally for the work he has done on all of the weight loss surgery options. Dr. Chandra told me of a huge WLS conference that Dr. Weiner is in charge of; it happens next weekend in Frankfurt. I’d love to go and learn more about this fascinating subject because I truly believe we are in the infancy of what this surgery can do to reverse the obesity problem of so many people. Still thinking about whether or not to attend so stay tuned.

 

The dining car of our train to Prague; so charming!

After two days in Frankfurt, we hopped back on the train to Prague! What a charming train… probably built in the ’50s complete with a dining car. Traveling by train is such a pleasure compared to flying. You arrive 10 minutes (or less) before your train departs, walk to the platform — no TSA security, no weight limits on bags, no extra fees for luggage, no long safety announcements — it’s so civil. Once you are settled into your comfortable seat, someone will come by and ask if you want a cappucino… and the views from the train are always interesting. It’s a lovely way to travel and turns transportation back into part of the fun of the trip, something that has been lost in the days since 9-11.

 

The Charles Bridge Tower in Prague

We met our friend Sarah from Switzerland in Prague, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. We are very close to her and we consider her daughters our adopted daughters, but I decided early on not to let her know about the surgery. I know she would be very supportive and non-judgmental, and her highest priority would always be for my health. But something held me back from telling her; I think it’s just one of those personal decisions and I have no regrets. I do have to say that I feel a little guilty when she (or others) start heaping me with praise about how disciplined I am and how they’ve never known anyone that has been able to lose so much weight at our age. So I feel a bit deceptive at times and I need to figure out how to reconcile that in my mind.

 

I never forgo desert or an afternoon treat… but now, I just eat half and I’m happy!

I love the fact that I can now go out to dinner and socialize without anyone questioning how little I eat; another difference from last year. I usually always have wine and a little desert and I order something small or something to share for dinner, and people just think it’s normal that I am eating such small portions because I want to keep my weight off… and they’re right! But this is much different than a year ago. I remember not being able to eat much in Prague… the food is heavy and rich and even when I would try to eat a little, I would end up running to the ladies room to throw it up. This trip was much more fun!

Click to enlarge this photo of the elegant Art Deco Restaurant.

We had a great time exploring Prague; if you travel to Europe I hope you will put this amazing city on your list of places to visit. Although it has had more than its share of wars and political upheaval, Prague managed to survive major destruction and has some of the most beautiful architecture in all of Europe, from 15th-century castles to amazing art deco buildings. In fact, we had a very elegant lunch at the Art Deco Restaurant, a very special treat. We also went to a very special dinner in a neo-baroque ballroom where we were served a fancy meal and listened to Mozart. I just ate a little of what they set in front of me (the menu had something about a ‘knee’ on it so who knows what I was eating!). But it was just nice to not have to fuss about what I can or cannot eat; this was the biggest change from one year ago when there were so few things I could eat (or keep down).

Sarah and my husband backstage getting to meet guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel!

I do want to share the highlight of the trip. Besides the castles, the architecture, the Charles Bridge, the museums, and music everywhere, Prague is able to attract first-rate talent. We went to see Tommy Emmanuel, in the opinion of many he is the world’s most talented guitar player (in fact, he was the real reason for the trip). Both Sarah and my husband had seen him perform before but this was my first time… all I can say is please, please take a few minutes and watch this YouTube clip: TOMMY EMMANUEL and look at the touring schedule on his website; he travels constantly and if he is coming to a theater near you, run, don’t walk to see this amazingly talented performer. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Yesterday, Sarah (my personal fashion consultant) helped me buy my first pair of boots in over 20 years! (Not just because I was fat, but I didn’t exactly need boots in Hawaii the last 10 years….) For the first time in my life, I had fun shoe-shopping! I had on heavy socks, leggings and jeans, and even with all of that, every boot I tried on zipped up without a problem and it was nice to be able to be flexible enough to take them on and off (I know you all know what I’m talking about here…). So I am now the proud owner of a new pair of boots!

 

It’s much more fun to travel this year than it was last year, from the food to just being able to walk, walk, walk!

We celebrated our last night in Prague with a wonderful dinner at charming little Italian restaurant, and although I’m still not eating pasta, we had a nice salad, and I had a slice of pizza and a wonderful glass of red wine. What’s not to love about that?  Today we boarded our train and had a nice ride to Berlin where we will spend the next few days exploring. Once again, I know it will be a much different visit here this year than last year.

Prague at night

Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride… no matter where you are in your weight loss journey (or any journey) it’s always more fun to share the moments.

 

Až příště  (Until next time in Czech!)

Queen of Crop