Challenged Not Defeated

heavy-paula
In 2010 pre lap band

I’ve been very open about my struggles with weight and my decision to get a lap band over six years ago. With any type of weight loss surgery, there are risks and you cross your fingers that those complications won’t happen to you. Well, I learned a few months ago that I’m one of the 2-9% of patients who suffer from a band slip. This is when the band slips out of place. It can cause all sorts of complications. This slip probably occurred sometime last year and it is most likely that is what triggered my acid reflux (GERD). My symptoms had gotten worse over the past few months and sometimes eating could be really uncomfortable. I put on a few pounds because I couldn’t digest healthy foods like lettuce, lean protein, and etc. There were days where processed foods and high sugar items were all I could tolerate.

When a lap band slips the common course of action is to have another surgery to reposition it. I was hoping to do that as soon as I found out about the slip, but unfortunately,my current insurance has lots of restrictions around bariatric surgery and wouldn’t approve my surgeon because his hospital isn’t what they consider an “Institute of Quality” for this type of surgery.

So the past few months have been spent working with insurance to see who they would approve for this surgery, going through all the pre-op testing, and having to meet with specialists because of other complications. I’ve always been borderline anemic but my iron levels have been so low that I’ve had to have several transfusions.

Monday I finally went for this long postponed surgery. Unfortunately,when I woke up they had more bad news to break to me. It seems my lap band was totally obstructing my stomach and the only safe course of action was to remove it completely.  This has meant a slightly more painful post op experience than the original surgery, due to the incisions.

The real fear for me though is will I be able to maintain my weight loss without a band. My new surgeon said if I gain weight we can look into getting a gastric sleeve, but after this, I really don’t want to go under the knife again.

While curling into the fetal position and feeling sorry for myself seemed like a good idea at first, I knew I couldn’t do that. I would need to be proactive about this from day one. So in addition to following up with my surgeon post op, I’m also meeting with a nutritionist on a regular basis to come up with an eating and fitness plan that is healthy and doable. I’m also in the process of finding a therapist because I found therapy really helpful when I had my first surgery six years ago.

I pride myself on being a self-sufficient single woman but over the years I’ve learned that there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Yes, I’m disappointed but in all honesty, I don’t regret my decision to get a lap band. I’m determined to take this challenge head on.

thin-paula
Post weight loss

Committing to Being a More Conscious Shopper

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I have been trying to live a little more green over the past few years. I do little things like take reusable bags with me to the store and try to find products with minimal packaging. One thing that I hadn’t really paid much attention to is if the products I buy test on animals.

Recently my attention was drawn to this site by Peta and was shocked that a number of brands I use still test on animals. I guess I’ve been living in the ignorance is bliss bubble. I know the argument for animal testing is that isn’t it better to test on animals before people. My counter argument is that we don’t have the same anatomy as a rat or a rabbit and their reaction to chemicals could be different than ours. I should warn you that if you dig around some more on the Peta site you will see extremely graphic images and videos.  What really got to me is that many of the rabbits being tested are the same breed as Milo, my bunny.  

So my next something new is driven by a desire to feel better about where the items I bring into my house come from. This month I’m committing to purging products that were tested on animals and researching kinder brands to replace these items with. I think I’ll have better piece of mind knowing that the items in my home are cruelty free.  

Sorting Through a Lost Loved One’s Belongings without Loosing It

Girlscouts

Going back to your hometown can be nostalgic, stressful, or bittersweet. Often it’s all of those things. For me going back to Cleveland brings up a lot of memories because I typically stay with my sister Sarah who lives in the house we grew up in. It is a little emotional now that both of our parents are deceased.

My dad passed away when I was 11. I can’t tell you how weird it is to have lived more of your life without someone in it than with them. His death was sudden and unexpected. I lost my mom three and a half years ago after a long battle with cancer. I’d like to be able to tell you that there is a difference between losing someone slowly vs quickly, but honestly, a loss is a loss and it hurts just as much either way.  

When you lose someone one of the least fun tasks is going through their personal belongings. In my childhood home we have things that belonged to both of my parents, my mother’s mother who lived with us at one point, and from various relatives who left things to us in the past. The gut instinct is to keep everything, but you find there just isn’t room.  Every time I visit Cleveland, Sarah (my baby sister) and I tackle another box of belongings and are flooded with either memories of our childhood or excited about new things we discovered about our relatives.

At some point in life, everyone will find themselves in this position. Sarah and I categorize things into four categories:

  1. If things are damaged or unnecessary such as my grandma’s pay stub receipts from the 1950’s we toss them.
  2. Things that are in good condition but have no sentimental value such as unopened bed sheets get donated to charity.  
  3. Things that hold no special meaning for my sisters or myself, but may mean something to other relatives are saved and shared when we see them. In this most recent purge, we gave my uncle my dad’s special egg cream cup.  
  4. Things that hold particular sentimental value get split between my sisters and I. The nice thing is we don’t fight over who gets what and are usually able to find good compromises. I kept my mom’s girl scout uniforms because I was the only one that wanted them. Family recipes mean a lot to both me and Sarah so she kept mom’s recipe box and I took my grandma’s.  

Going through your parents’ or other loved ones’ belongings can be sad and a little stressful. I recommend not doing it alone. It is good if someone objective can join you if you’re afraid you’re going to hang on to too much. Just remember that the items you’re hanging on to aren’t as important as the memories of the person you love.

Traditional vs Modern Spinster

PaulaHat

Mod Spinster is meant to be a tongue and cheek reference.  As I mentioned in the welcome post I want to turn spinster into a term of empowerment rather than a put-down.  So what makes a mod spinster different than a traditional spinster?  

The profession of spinster was once an elite one, but now anyone with the correct aspirations and motivations can achieve spinster status.   There are a number of stereotypes associated with spinsters, but now that we’re in the 21st-century spinsters have more options than ever.  

For example, spinsters were once synonymous with the term “cat lady”.  I’m happy to report that all pet lovers are now able to live in spinsterly bliss.  I opted for a bunny rabbit however if dogs, birds, snakes, or guinea pigs are up your ally, have at it.  

Most spinsters in literature in the 19th and early 20th century were depicted as being wealthy.  The ones that come to mind for me are Catherine Sloper in Washington Square and Diana’s Aunt Josephine in Anne of Green Gables.  Women of wealth and stature had the luxury of spinsterdom since few ladies held occupations at this time.  Fortunately, for us all being a spinster is no longer a privilege reserved to the wealthy. We now see spinsters in all income brackets, even ones with student loans.   

Spinsters of yesteryear tended to be depicted as not conventionally attractive and with a homely style.  I don’t personally believe that was the case, but fortunately, that myth has been debunked in recent years. Spinsters are hipsters, boho goddesses, and fashionistas too. FullSizeRender (3)The sexiest woman at the party doesn’t have to be in a relationship.  

Above everything else there are more reasons than ever for a woman to choose the spinster life.  The common reasons of yesteryear were because a woman was either relegated to caring for a relative a la Charlotte Vale in Now Voyager or due to heartbreak, see Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Fortunately, we have less gloomy reasons to elect single status today.  We can choose to focus on careers, remain single because we’re picky and refuse to settle, or because we simply enjoy living alone.

So let us celebrate the strides we’ve made over the years and continue to make progress for future spinsters to come.  

Weight Loss: My Personal Journey

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Today I’m going to share something that is deeply personal, my own weight loss story. I struggled with my weight since I was a child and had yo-yo dieted most of my teens and twenties. In 2010 I underwent Lapband surgery and that in combination with good nutritional choices and keeping physically active have lead to my weight loss and maintenance over the past five years.  

My weight loss surgery isn’t a secret in my life.  My friends, even ones I’ve made post surgery know about it. I’m a freelance writer and I’ve had personal essays about my weight loss published on a few websites so even strangers know about my Lapband.  However, today I’m going to be more vulnerable about this than I have in the past because it isn’t just a physical change I’ve experienced.   

I’ve seen pictures of me as a child when I was “average” weight, but I don’t really remember what it felt like to not be overweight or obese.  I was teased a bit in grade school because after all I was “the fat kid”. What was my defense? I didn’t really cry about it or get angry, instead I killed people with kindness. I know some of my classmates must of thought I was an idiot because I’d hear them talk about me behind my back and then approach them like I hadn’t. Why did I do this? In truth I don’t really know, but I think I just wanted to be included. If being invited to join in with everyone else meant it was okay for them to make aside comments about me then so be it.

By the time I hit eighth grade things had changed. I think it had less to do with my being nice than it did with puberty ended for everyone, but suddenly my weight wasn’t a factor. Classmates didn’t really tease me anymore.  I wasn’t “the fat kid”, I was just Paula.  I went through high school and college that way. Sure occasionally I’d have a run in with someone who just needed to make a dig at me, but for the most part it wasn’t an issue.  

I dated a little during my teens and twenties, but not a ton. I was insecure about my looks and certainly there were times that I felt maybe I didn’t have a serious boyfriend because I wasn’t pretty. I don’t think I can attribute feeling that way to my weight though because I don’t think I’ve had a female friend who hasn’t felt that way at some point in her life even though they’re all beautiful and always have been. Dating wasn’t a priority me. I cared more about hanging with friends, finishing school, and figuring out what I was going to do after grad school.  

Losing weight was something I attempted to do through a variety of diets and exercise programs over the years.  I’d done calorie counting, Atkins, Weight Watchers, had a personal trainer, did Curves, and other fitness programs.  I had success with all of these methods, but inevitably I’d fall into the same pattern.  I’d lose weight, plateau, gain back all the weight I lost plus some extra, and then switch to another diet or program and the cycle would start again.  

I’m going to share some numbers which isn’t my favorite thing to do, but is necessary if I’m going to be as open about this as I intend.  At my heaviest ever I weight 328 pounds and was a size 28. Prior to my Lapband the thinnest I ever recall being as an adult was 238.  For whatever reason that was the number the scale never dipped below no matter how disciplined with my weight loss program at the time. .    

After putting myself through over a decade of yo-yo dieting why didn’t I pursue weight loss surgery sooner?  In truth, I knew very little about it.  I was really only somewhat familiar with Gastric Bypass which is another type of weight loss surgery.  I knew that it had a lot of potential side effects and a fairly high morbidity rate for a common surgery, so I never really looked into it seriously.  

At 27 I noticed I started to get winded when I went upstairs and my blood pressure started to get higher.  I knew that I needed to do something other than yo-yo dieting because that wasn’t working.  I looked into weight loss surgery more seriously and discovered there were other options aside from Gastric Bypass. After reading all the information, I felt that the Lapband was the best choice for me.  I liked that it was adjustable and that it seemed like more of a weight loss tool than anything else.  I had made my mind up that was the only option for me. I even decided to pursue a different surgical practice than the first one I visited because the original surgeon I met with kept trying to talk me into a different weight loss surgery because patients statistically shed more pounds than they did with Lapband.  For me I wasn’t really hung up on a final weight or dress size, it was more about being healthy and doing it in a way that I felt comfortable with.

I had my surgery in summer of 2010.  Sorry, we’re back to numbers again for a minute, on my surgery day, I weighed 277 pounds, five and a half years later I weigh 135.  Sharing my current weight is the thing I’m most self-conscious about. I hesitate to disclose it because weight loss whether surgical or not is different for everyone. My current weight isn’t even my lowest weight. I got down to 125 at one point, but even though it was technically in my BMI range for a healthy weight, it wasn’t for me. I looked gaunt and people that I was sick.  

I try not to be too hung up on numbers because two people can have the same surgery or follow the same diet and have completely different results.  This isn’t the definitive equation of how much weight someone will loose after getting a Lapband.  This is simply my story and that number happens to be where I ended up post Lapband, nutritional counselor, and activity plan.

While I’m on this soapbox, I’d also like to mention that I would never say that Lapband or any surgery or program is the one solution fits all to weight loss. Everyone is different and I believe if someone wants to lose weight she or he needs to figure out what is the best method for her or him.  Was this the right choice for me personally? Absolutely!  

My last little rant while I’m on a roll is this, even though I’ve lost weight and am now a “standard” dress size I still have a major beef with how we are a sizeist culture and discriminate against others based on their weight.  One of the hardest adjustments for me has been being in a group where someone might not know I had been overweight and witnessing them make fat jokes or dig at a stranger because of their size. Fortunately,none of my friends are like that so it isn’t something I’ve experienced constantly.  

A lot of people ask me what was the hardest thing about being obese. For me it was always the social stigma that came with it and experiencing some exclusions from typical activities that most people take for granted. I wasn’t allowed to sit in an exit row on airplanes because on certain airlines the seat belts were smaller so I was required to wear an extender, I couldn’t ride certain coasters at amusement parks because the harness didn’t fit over my chest, I was limited to where I could buy clothes and in fashion options because most stores don’t carry anything above a size 12, and strangers weren’t pleased if I sat next to them on a crowded bus or subway.

Other questions I’m often asked is what is feels like to look in the mirror if I recognize myself, and how has my dating life improved since loosing weight.  Here is the odd thing. When I weighed 328 pounds some days I would look in the mirror and feel unattractive and other days I’d feel pretty. Now that I weight 135 pounds there are days when I look in the mirror and feel unattractive and other days when I feel pretty. I don’t get asked out by better quality men than I used to, I just get asked out by more of them.  I haven’t lost any friends because my body changed and I can’t imagine that any of my newer friends wouldn’t have entered my life if I still weighed more. The important point is getting a Lapband was a decision I made for myself and to be honest, that’s one of the major reasons I think I was successful with losing weight.

Where I have noticed a change in my life is my health and energy.  I have stamina in my 30s that I didn’t have in my teens.  I’ve noticed improvements in my blood pressure and a significant decrease in migraines which I used to experience at least once a week.  

This is probably the longest post you’ll see from me, but I needed to make sure that everything was said.  Moving forward with wellness related content, I’ll be talking about food, fitness, work/life balance, time management, and treating yourself well.  I couldn’t write on those topics without first sharing my story and where I am coming from. Again I don’t advocate that anything I discuss or have tried myself is for everyone. I’m just sharing my experiences and you may take from that what you will.  My final truth that I must share is that I am healthier and happier than I have ever been, which is evidenced by my being able to finally write about this as openly as I’ve always wanted to.  

Welcome

Subway PaulaWhat is a spinster?  If you look up the term in the O.E.D. the definition is a single sentence, “An unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage.”  Seems simple, but this is really a loaded definition.

What is the “usual age” for marriage?  MIc.com has some great stats on marriage in the US The average age for women to get married is 26 (it’s 28 for men), but does that mean you’re a spinster if you’re 27 and single?  According to another study posted on Mic, 28% of adults in the U.S. are not and never have been married compared to 15% 50 years ago. Of course, some of the people in that 28% will eventually get married, but marriage in the U.S. is on the decline every year.  

I named this site Mod Spinster to be a bit cheeky. I live in NYC and in urban areas, it isn’t unusual to be a single 30 something.  However, whenever I go back to the Midwest, where I grew up I’m in the minority. Single men are bachelors, but we really only use the term bachelorette to describe the party a soon to be married woman will have. There is still a stigma against the single gal so she gets referred to as spinster which most people see as a derogatory term.    

Now by calling myself a spinster you may get the impression that I’m a bit of a shut-in who spends my nights alone waiting for someone to ask me out and praying that my cats don’t eat me alive.  That would be a misconception.  First of all, I have a bunny and no cats.  🙂  Secondly, I do date and have relationships, but that part of my life isn’t and has never been my primary focus.  Never say never it could be a priority someday, but for now, I’m focused on other things.  I don’t see myself having children (again never say never), but I’ve not experienced a biological clock ticking or the maternal instincts that so many of my friends who are moms have.  Do I see myself getting married someday; perhaps but again this isn’t a major focus for me or something that keeps me panicky at night, decades from now when I look back at my life if marriage and kids weren’t part of it, I don’t think I’ll feel like I missed out on anything.  However, if in 30 years time I feel like I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to professionally, had the amazing adventures and experiences I’ve been dreaming about, or have a tight-knit group of friends in my life you can bet I’ll feel like a failure.  

This welcome post is going to be one of the few times where I’ll bring up marriage or dating. There are so many things in this world that excite me more than my relationship status. I understand that marriage and kids are a priority for a lot of people, and that’s wonderful for them.  This isn’t a website that is exclusively for the single girl.  I hope that this site can be a platform for anyone: single, married, woman, man, etc.  The point is I want to focus on my passions, which I think are common interests for a lot of others out there.  I’ll be creating and curating content that I would want to read on the topics of style, home and entertaining, adventure, wellness, and my more geeky obsessions.  I hope that it is material you’ll find to be interesting, informative, and fun.