1/5: The Foundation

I'm quite fond of saying that weight loss/health gain has 3 main components (I used to say 4, but I now include it the other categories) that are not weighted equally:

1/5th — Foundation work
1/5th — Exercise 
3/5ths — Diet

I wanted to talk a little bit about the foundation work.  That little slice of the pie can look very different for different people.

For me, the first part of the foundation was coming to grips with why I put on the weight to begin with (suffering the loss of my nana and my mother).  I needed to understand that trauma before I could effect any meaningful change in my life.  Otherwise, I'd be doomed to repeat the coping mechanism of eating over and over again.  I spent a good year in therapy to deal with my anxiety and did more work with my dietician to help understand the relationship between food and my sadness/need for connection.

The second part of my foundation had to do with coming to grips with my health and my body metrics.  I'm still going through this; starting over as someone with Celiac Disease and what that means for my diet and how I need to compensate.  But when I was first starting out, I think I needed to exhaust myself of all the excuses that absolved me of responsibility (such as a thyroid condition).  I needed to accept that my body was the result of my choices.  I needed to know my baselines -- my body chemistry, my body measurements (weight and tape measure) and my physical ability.

The third part was about changing my environment, my patterns, and my relationships.  It's not fun to take a look at your life and realize all the places that are pitfalls.  I had to own all the places in my life where I was able to make better choices but didn't -- because it was easy, it was what I always did, or what everyone was doing.  I had to be selfish and say "If I want my life to change, I need to change these things in my life."  And there was a lot of pain here as well as catharsis.  Doing this created space in my life to add things that would not only benefit me but benefit the people I cared about.

And the fourth part (that used to be its own category) is what I like to call "recovery."  I said that I integrated it into each category -- and it looks different in each category.  Foundation recovery is giving yourself the permission to take care of yourself and to let go of the rest.  Let go of the pain that disables you, let go of the grudge that eats away at you, let go of the people that bring you more sorrow than joy.  And then let go of the guilt of letting go.  Know that you can do these things and still survive.

I've been talking to my dad about his foundation, his path.  I said this to him privately, but I'll say this to you all (and to him) right here -- "I want your heart and mind to embrace this process.  Nothing to fear or avoid."  If you lay the foundation right, everything else becomes a product of self-discovery, of joy, of pride.  And none of it is because you're punishing yourself.  And that's what makes this time different than all the other times.

4 Weeks Post-Op of a L5-S1 Fusion

I don't want to go through the whole story of my surgery except to say that I had a L5-S1 fusion on July 15, 2016.  Today is my 4 week surgiversary.  The x-rays are from my 2-week follow-up (on 7/27/16) and my doctor said everything is looking good.  Last week I was able to get back in the pool.  I am still restricted other ways (bending, lifting, twisting, etc.).

For those who have come here because they're about to have the surgery or similar and want to know what they're getting into, I offer you a few tidbits.

1. Plan & pack accordingly.  There were a few things that I purchased for my home or brought with me to the hospital that were very helpful

-- my file with all of my diagnostic tests and images (I don't go to any appointment without it)
-- my own ice packs because the ones at the hospital sucked (my room had its own freezer; get two so one can be chilling while the other is in use)
-- external batteries or an extension cord (most hospitals have outlets that aren't in convenient places for people with back injuries) for phone/ipod
-- flushable/disposable wipes (I couldn't shower for 3 days and these helped to feel a little more human)
-- 3/4 length bath robe with pockets (long enough to feel covered, short enough to not trip) and some easy-to-put-on, loose-fitting clothing.
-- sleep mask (you'll want to sleep as much as you can, whenever you're not eating or walking)
-- slip-on slippers with good treads
-- if you plan on using a cane (like my folding/adjustable one), bring it so you can practice with the physical/occupational therapists.
-- a fitness/step counter (trust me on this one -- not only did it motivate me to get me out of bed, but it also helped me measure how much was too much)
-- box of chocolates for the post-anesthesia care unit nurses in case you throw up on them (I didn't ... this time)

-- Zero Gravity Recliner (unless you already have a fancy one, this is an affordable alternative -- and it's about the only thing I can sleep in)
-- Reacher/Grabber (you will use this all the time)
-- Toilet Seat Riser (the one I linked to is easy to put on/take off -- if your toilet is in the middle of Siberia, you may want one with handles)
-- Shower Seat (showering can be exhausting and sometimes it's just nice to sit down and take a break)

2. Your posse is everything.  Recovering from surgery is a lesson in humility and I learned that the first time I had to ask a friend help me take a shower, or feeling like an asshole for asking a friend to clean my cat's litterbox. Let people help you, let people love you. Surround yourself with all the people who show interest in either helping you physically (I used a Google Spreadsheet to coordinate visitors/helpers) or mentally/emotionally (I have a Google Hangout with people who are dedicated to keeping my head in the right place). You will need their strength on the days you don't have any.

Don't go it alone -- you will need someone with you at home for a few days/nights as you're still dealing with pain and instability.  This person needs to do a few main tasks:  (i) keep you hydrated (toss a little Miralax in whatever you're drinking) (ii) keep you medicated/on schedule (if you wait until you're in pain, it's too late) (iii) keep you fed (you'll need the strength) (iv) kick you out of bed (get up and walking every few hours).

3. Spine surgery rehab is non-linear.  You'll have good moments and bad moments, good days and bad. Some of it is predictable, some of it is not.  Try to focus on your progress and make adjustments as needed.  If you focus on tiny setbacks, you will drive yourself bonkers. And if you find yourself going bonkers, lean on your posse.

4. Have a good sense of humor.  Like I said above, this can be a really hard recovery both physically and mentally/emotionally. Everything you do will be affected by the surgery (and it already has been by the injury) and it will take time to recover.  Take the smiles when they come, seek them out if there aren't enough. And with that in mind, I present to you, the many faces of Lord Squigglesworth, II: